Knocknamuckley church row: 'Family and friends' relationships are broken over this... the flock needs a new leader'
Pressure is growing on a Church of Ireland rector to leave his church after a group of protesting parishioners issued a statement calling for him to go in order to help heal a "broken" congregation.
The row at St Matthias Church at Knocknamuckley outside Portadown has escalated with a group of around 100 concerned church-goers now calling for Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke to intervene.
Rev Alan Kilpatrick (47) has been at the centre of a bitter dispute over his ministry style and teachings.
The Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Millar has already intervened to help deal with parishioner complaints by holding three meetings to hear the views of the women's group, vestry and general parishioners.
However, despite the church's "process of listening" still being undertaken by the diocese, a new protest group has been formed calling itself the Knocknamuckley Concerned Parishioners Group.
A statement issued to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday said: "Alan Kilpatrick is quoted as saying: 'I'm waiting for it all to die down'. This will certainly not be happening whilst Alan Kilpatrick remains as rector of Knocknamuckley Parish Church."
Last night a spokeswoman added: "We need a new leader to lead the flock, a new person to draw the people together.
"Relationships within families and friends are broken over this with some people considering leaving the Church for the Presbyterian Church.
"This is not vindictive or a personal thing to Rev Kilpatrick as a man or to his family."
The group also called for Archbishop Clarke to investigate its claims that the Church has forged links with the controversial Bethel Church based in California. Its statement added: "It is important that the findings and the Church of Ireland's stance in relation to all aspects of Bethel Ministries and teachings are made clear.
"This will clear up a lot of concern and confusion that Bethel is causing within our church."
A Church of Ireland spokesman said that the Archbishop felt that it was appropriate for Bishop Millar to deal with parishioner concerns.
He added: "A process of listening to concerns from people in the parish of Knocknamuckley has been put in place by the Diocese of Down and Dromore.
"It must be allowed to take its course and the response will be communicated with the worshippers of Knocknamuckley as soon as possible.
"The Rev Alan Kilpatrick says that he is working closely with the diocese to bring about resolution where there are concerns and healing of relationships in the parish."