Lord Alderdice quits Presbyterian Church over same-sex row
Former Stormont Speaker Lord ALderdice has quit the Presbyterian Church over its controversial decision not to allow those in same-sex relationships to be full members.
He said last night that he and his wife were going to live in England in the near future "and it would have been easy to go away and say nothing".
"I have never courted controversy but there are times when you do what you have to do," he said.
"I was baptised into the Presbyterian Church, I became a communicant and I was an elder for 30 years.
"The Christian faith is central to my life, but I have been hurt and am deeply hurting by what has happened."
He said he had been concerned by the "trajectory" the Presbyterian Church had been on for quite some time.
However, he was particularly upset about the decisions made by the General Assembly last week, which included denying baptism to the children of gay couples.
The Irish Prebyterian Church will also no longer send its Moderator to the Scottish General Assembly, nor invite its leader to the annual Belfast General Assembly because of the Scottish Church's more liberal attitude to same-sex marriage.
"I felt that it was terrible the way that the Presbyterian Church in Ireland was severing links with the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church," he said.
"It implied that 'we have the pure truth' rather than saying 'we do not agree with other points of view'.
"I think that this was totally the wrong message.
It all makes me feel despondent and down."
Lord Alderdice is the son of a Presbyterian minister, the late Rev David Alderdice.
"My father was not a separatist. He was good at holding together people with different points of view. He too would be deeply hurt at the decision to sever links with the Scottish Church and the URC," said the former Alliance Party leader.
He has sent a letter to the minister and session of Knock Presbyterian Church confirming his decision to resign as an elder and as a member of the Presbyterian Church.
At the weekend Lord Alderdice issued a scathing criticism on Facebook. "The Presbyterian Church is no longer rhe spiritual heir of the Protestant Martyrs of the 16th century, and is instead becoming more like a present day representation of those who lit the fire that burnt them," he said.
He claimed that theologically it would soon be difficult "to make any differentiation between the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church".
Last night Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk of the General Assembly, said that any resignation from the Presbyterian Church was "regretted".
He paid tribute to Lord Alderdice's distinguished career and said: "He has a right to his own opinions, even when they differ from the clearly-agreed position of the Presbyterian Church through our General Assembly.
"I also wish him well as he moves to England and trust that he will quickly find a new Church family close to his new home."
There has also been strong criticism of the Church's harder stance from retired Presbyterian minister Rev Roy Simpson.
"I feel incredibly saddened for the many forward-thinking ministers and the thousands of decent, sensible people who have to live with the Church being destroyed by arrogant fundamentalists," he said.
"The Presbyteroian Church has lost direction in its teaching. I'm reading a lot of absolute rubbish. Even God would not pass their theological tests."
The Very Rev Dr Stafford Carson, a former Moderator who is currently the principal of Union College, said earlier this week that there would be no backing down on current policy.
He said: "Since the days of the early Church, the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord has often placed Christians at odds with their surrounding culture."