Presbyterian minister Rev Ian Carton is to step down over the church’s exclusion of allowing same-sex couples full membership.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) voted on the policy in 2018, meaning anyone in a same-sex relationship cannot be a full member of the church and their children cannot be baptised.
At the time the PCI also decided to loosen ties with the Church of Scotland as a result of the latter approving same-sex marriage.
Rev Ian Carton has been a minister the Whitehead Presbyterian Church for around 14 years. In a message to his congregation entitled “A time to leave”, he said the church was “excluding people we’d like to welcome,” the BBC reported.
"The decisions taken by our denomination mean that they can never belong,” he said.
"I am informing you that I intend to request the Presbytery of Carrickfergus to release me from my charge as minister of Whitehead on the 30 September this year.
"I wanted you to hear from me first and not after I have made the request.
"I just have found it incredibly difficult.”
Referring to his wife June, Rev Carton said she decided in October she “didn’t feel comfortable coming to a Presbyterian Church anymore” over their policy.
“Many of you will know June and I have been far from comfortable with the current direction that the Presbyterian Church seems to be going in” he added.
“We have found it painful and hard. It seems to be in our view and to our mind, it seems to be excluding people that we would like to welcome.
“Over the last couple of years, we have tried to the best of our ability to continue to minister.
“But the time has come when we are going to have to leave.
“You’ve seen how I have been, you know how June has been. June took the decision last October that she didn’t feel comfortable coming to a Presbyterian Church anymore.
“She felt if it was a church that was saying to anybody that ‘you are not welcome, you are not invited’ on the basis of gender on the basis of your sexual orientation, that that wasn’t a place she could be.
“I have tried to keep going I really have. It has become a bit like trying to ride two horses at the same time when they are going in two different directions.”
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland said they “want to wish Ian well for the future and thank him for the service he has given”, according to a spokesperson.