A Presbyterian minister who has been removed from his congregation claims he has been forbidden from preaching by his own denomination.
The Rev Stephen Dickinson was speaking yesterday after confirming he had received a letter from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) on the matter.
In April he was stood down by the judicial commission of the church from the Cairnalbana and Glenarm congregations.
In a highly unusual development, 12 church elders at Cairnalbana were also removed following a long-running quarrel between some members of the congregation and the minister in what has been described as a clash of personalities.
The Rev Dickinson said yesterday: “Now they are seeking to ban me from preaching the gospel; that is what I am, I am a preacher of the gospel.
“But now I have been banned from preaching outside the Presbyterian church. What about civil and religious liberties? What about the great commission?”
He confirmed that the letter had been written to him after he began preaching at New Dawn Evangelical Fellowship in Broughshane.
The fellowship had been created by supporters who left his previous church, he said.
He confirmed that PCI had provided him with a salary and that he was allowed to stay in the manse for a maximum of 18 months after his removal from his ministry. In that time he was required to find another church in PCI to pastor, or an alternative ministry or take a secular job.
“I don’t see how I have broken any of those conditions,” he said.
A PCI spokesman said that following his removal in April from the congregational ministry in Glenarm and Cairnalbana, an arrangement regarding salary and accommodation was put in place.
This ensured he would be paid an appropriate salary until he was called to another congregation within the Church, began an alternative ministry or took up employment when the arrangement would cease, up to a maximum of 18 months, he said.
“The Church considers any discussion concerning the terms of this arrangement a private matter with Mr Dickinson. Mr Dickinson remains a minister in good standing with the Presbyterian Church and eligible to be called to a congregation.”