A leaked internal review has recommended Queen’s University Belfast ends its long-standing link with the Union Theological College.
In December Queen’s announced it was suspending links with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s ministry training college due to “concerns regarding the breadth and diversity of the teaching and curriculum”.
UTC trains a number of students for the Presbyterian ministry and a number of Queen’s students complete theology degrees at the college.
Queen’s announced a review of the link in the wake of the Presbyterian Church voting last June to withhold membership from anyone in a same-sex relationship.
Following that review, Queen’s formally suspended its links with UTC in December, citing concerns about “diversity and teaching”.
The BBC has now reported that an internal university review has recommended a complete end to the arrangement, which has been in place for close to a century.
The BBC report that this latest review recommends the collaboration with UTC should be “discontinued”, citing “serious concerns” that “remain unresolved and are contributing to an increasingly unsustainable and unsatisfactory position”.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland said it has been “awaiting the final outcome” for some time and is “disappointed” the full text appears to have been “given to journalists”.
The church declined to offer further comment, saying it would be “inappropriate” to do so without having seen the findings.
Prominent DUP member Jim Wells said that while it was “a shame” and “disappointing” the link between UTC and Queen’s appears to be coming to an end after nearly 100 years, he said the Presbyterian Church and UTC would “continue to thrive”.
The South Down MLA, who has previously had the DUP whip withdrawn from him by the party, believes the problem is closely related to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s stance on same-sex marriage.
“This is not unexpected and it seems to be around homosexual issues,” he said. “What do they expect a Presbyterian college to do other than teach a strongly reformed Biblical view of marriage?
“Is it not valid to argue that point of view, as it is for those who argue a different view? It is a perfectly logical and coherent viewpoint to argue the traditional view of marriage.
“To say that you will no longer support or endorse a college that teaches that is totally wrong.”
Mr Wells added: “It is very unfortunate, it is a shame, but I have no doubt the college will continue to provide excellent education and the Presbyterian Church will continue to thrive.”
Mr Wells also repeated calls he had made in December for Queen’s to explain why it was not carrying out a similar review of its ties with the Catholic St Mary’s University College, which he said adheres to the Catholic teaching that marriage is “between one man and one woman”.
Queen’s declined an invitation from the News Letter to respond to those comments.