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'Womangate' for church Assembly

By Victor Gordon

The Ulster Presbyterian minister in the eye of the 'woman clerics' storm has vowed to end discrimination once and for all.

The Rev Christina Bradley has been barred from taking part in a Christmas service in Portadown - because she is a woman.

And last night she said she would take the issue all the way to the General Assembly.

"The first woman minister in the Presbyterian Church - the Rev Ruth Patterson - was ordained 31 years ago, and yet this discrimination still exists. It should have no part in any Christian church."

Mrs Bradley is minister of Armagh Road in Portadown, and for at least 60 years, the church has alternated a united Christmas Day service with sister church, First Portadown.

Until now, all ministers of both churches have been men, with the 'home' minister conducting the service and the 'away' minister preaching the sermon.

But this year, the Rev Stafford Carson of First Portadown confirmed he could not "in conscience" permit a woman minister into his pulpit.

"We sent an invitation to Armagh Road to attend the service," he confirmed. "Based on the letters of St Paul, I have difficulties with the ordination of women. It is nothing personal against Mrs Bradley. There are excellent relationships between the two congregations on a personal level. Sadly, they have turned down the invitation."

Mrs Bradley commented: "I am a properly ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. God created man and woman equally. I was called by God, not by man. The Presbyterian Church allows an opt-out clause in situations like this. I feel discriminated against and embarrassed."

Said Mrs Bradley: "It is a wider issue.

"I will be taking it to the local Armagh Presbytery, hoping for support and after that I will take it to the Assembly."

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