Belfast Telegraph

Belfast theological college professor fired over BBC radio comments

Laurence Kirkpatrick has been dismissed by Union Theological College
Laurence Kirkpatrick has been dismissed by Union Theological College

A professor at Belfast's Union Theological College (UTC) has been fired due to comments he made on a radio show.

Reverend Professor Laurence Kirkpatrick, who worked at UTC for 22 years, was found guilty of "gross misconduct" by a disciplinary panel of the Presbyterian Church, who run the college, the BBC reports.

In June 2018, Prof Kirkpatrick featured on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback show to discuss the Presbyterian Church's decision to loosen its ties to the Church of Scotland, because of the latter's more liberal attitude to same-sex relationships.

During the show, the Professor of Church History said he would be "horrified" if students were taught that same-sex relationships were sinful.

He was subsequently suspended by the Presbyterian Church and now it has emerged he six charges laid against him have been upheld by the disciplinary panel, resulting in his dismissal.

The Union Theological College in Belfast

Two of the charges relating to his radio comments were judged to constitute "gross misconduct", according to Prof Kirkpatrick's dismissal letter.

"Your contribution to the Talkback programme on 13 June 2018 brought Union Theological College and by association, your employer, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland into disrepute," the letter read.

"Your comments on the Talkback programme had a significant and material adverse impact on PCI's relationship with Queen's University Belfast and caused hurt and damage to the faculty's relationship and cohesion."

"You stated that you would be 'horrified', using that word twice, if a student at Union Theological College was taught that a same-sex, sexually active relationship was sinful, knowing full well that was the doctrinal position of your employer."

The letter also stated he had made no attempt to defend UTC when another guest questioned its link to Queen's University.

In December 2018, it emerged that Queen's would not admit any new students to UTC following a critical review by the univeristy.

A Queen's spokesperson said it had concerns about the "breadth and diversity" of the teaching and curriculum being delivered.

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