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Presbyterian Church to probe decision to allow gay elder Smyrl to stay in post

Steven Smyrl

The Presbyterian Church has launched an investigation into the leadership of a Dublin church which allowed a man in a same-sex marriage to be an elder, it has been reported.

Steven Smyrl (53) lost his position of 12 years with Christ Church in the city's Sandymount area in October after complaints that he was in a same-sex marriage.

Mr Smyrl and his partner Roy Stanley, who have been together for 20 years, entered into a civil partnership in 2011 and got married in November 2018.

Now the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has launched in inquiry as to why Christ Church leaders allowed Mr Smyrl to remain in his position for a year after his marraige, the BBC reports.

In the wake of his dismissal, Mr Smyrl claimed that the Presbyterian Church commission which investigated his case acted in an "oppressive and vindictive manner" and he felt bullied.

After news broke of his dismissal in October, Presbyterians in Dublin staged a protest outside a church meeting over the decision.

The Presbyterian Church, however, defended its decision, after initially staying silent on the issue until last month.

Rev Jim Stothers, the Church's Deputy Clerk, said much of the criticism was "uninformed".

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Rev Stothers said that, while no one was denying Mr Smyrl's right to enter into a same-sex relationship, "it shouldn't come as a surprise that it was found to be contrary to the Church's clear and settled position that being in a same-sex marriage is not compatible with being in the ordained leadership of the Church. Jesus teaches that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman".

On February 7, the PCI's judicial commission overturned a previous decision not to take any further action against the minister the church council of Christ Church, Sandymount, and ruled an inquiry should take place.

In a statement, a PCI spokesperson said: "Following consideration of matters connected with the congregation of Christ Church Sandymount in Dublin a number of questions remain.

"The Presbytery of Dublin and Munster, the body responsible for overseeing congregations in that area, will be putting those questions to the leadership of the congregation.

"A representative small group will review the answers provided and then report to the full presbytery for detailed consideration and any necessary decisions."

Belfast Telegraph