Protests continue as congregation is split over support for minister

Ballynahinch Congregational Church
Ballynahinch Congregational Church

A spokesman for protestors at a Ballynahinch church says they are still continuing despite a break on Christmas Day.

Church members at Ballynahinch Congregational Church have been divided over the continuing presence of minister Rev George Speers.

In September the church made headlines when police had to be called to intervene during a service.

It was reported that Rev Speers used a megaphone at one point as protestors chanted against him during the service. Some church members say they voted him out of office last year, but his supporters deny this.

Yesterday Samuel Graham, a deacon and trustee who believes Rev Speers should go, said that contrary to reports they did not protest on Christmas Day.

“We had our own service in the upper room in the church,” he said. “It was very well attended, with about 85 people. There were about 30 people attending the church service at the same time.”

Mr Graham says that protests are still continuing each Sunday, before and after the morning service.

“We had upwards of 90 people in our service today and they all protested,” he said yesterday. “There were 62 people in the church service.

“Rev Speers has not been paid by our members since he got his p45 and p60, directly after being dismissed. It was the members of the church which dismissed him, not the trustees.”

It is reported that supporters faithful to Rev Speers may be supporting him financially.

The row centres on the position of the Rev Speers and his management of the church, Mr Graham claims.

“He has been dismissed but he has failed to leave and failed to speak to us.”

Mr Graham said there have been several offers of mediation, from two church organisations, the local ministers’ fraternal and other private offers.

While his side of the debate is open to mediation, he says, he claims the other side has not accepted the offers.

Mr Graham said the original problem was a change of government in the church.

“He put himself and two others in as elders,” he said.

There has been no police presence at the church since September, he said.

The congregational church does not traditionally have elders. Instead it has deacons elected by the congregation. However, every member of the church normally has a right to vote on decisions.

He added: “I feel very sad that our church has been brought to this situation.”

Rev Speers could not be contacted by the News Letter last night for comment.