Former Presbyterian Elder Files Police Complaint

A long simmering dispute in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland has resulted in a former Ruling Elder filing an official complaint with the Gardai over having been removed from office after he entered a same-sex marriage.  Mr Stephen Smyrl was a Ruling Elder at Christ Church, Sandymount in South Dublin from 2007 until 2019.

In a long, self-penned article on the website ran by Ms Jane Ozanne, Mr Smyrl outlines his complaint against the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.  He asserts that homophobia is very much alive within the denomination.  According to Smyrl, he and his partner, Roy, had married in November 2018 after first having entered into a Civil Partnership in 2011. 

Earlier in 2018, the PCI had changed its Constitution and specifically barred those in same-sex marriages from full membership in the church.

In the 11 May 2021 defence he made on the website, Smyrl wrote:

“The way I have been treated by the Commission has convinced me that PCI is a church deeply infected by personal and institutional homophobia, which leads it to act in a fundamentally unchristian manner. I have sought justice and accountability from church authorities, but have been rebuffed at every turn. I therefore felt I had no option but to make a formal statement of complaint to the Garda (Irish police) under hate crime legislation. At the time of writing, my complaint is under active investigation”.

In January 2020, in a letter to the Belfast Telegraph, Revd Jim Stothers, Deputy Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland publicly answered assertions that had been made in the matter by Mr Smyrl and his supporters.

He wrote, “The Church has been attacked for both its decision, and for its silence”.  He then said, “Nobody denies that Mr Smyrl has the 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”.

An Garda Siochana have as yet to make a determination regarding Smyrl’s accusation under Irish hate crime legislation.