Belfast Telegraph

No end in sight for Ballynahinch Congregational Church row

BY COLIN FRANCIS

Sunday marked six months of protests at a Co Down church, with little sign of a resolution to a rift over how it is run in sight.

Police were first called to Ballynahinch Congregational Church last September to break up a heated dispute during the morning and evening services.

At the centre of the row is the claim members voted to remove Rev George Speers and his ministerial team from office over a year ago, and that they refused to leave.

The dispute has split the congregation in two. Since then there have been regular protests outside the church, with protesters holding banners containing lessons from scripture.

They then adjourn to the church hall for a separate service.

In November, the cost of policing the protests had reached nearly £12,000 according to the PSNI.

Speaking yesterday, Samuel Graham, one of the church trustees, said almost 90 protesters gathered outside the church that morning, with just over 50 supporters of Rev Speers attending the main service.

Mr Graham said they had "probably not" expected the protests to last six months when they first started last September.

He said: "The man has not seen sense to leave. He has split a church. He has split families."

Mr Graham said they were following a legal process in a bid to resolve the matter. He added: "The police have not been near the place for a long time."

Rev Speers was unavailable for comment.

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