Former Assembly speaker Lord Alderdice has resigned from the Presbyterian Church in the wake of recent decisions it has taken regarding same-sex relationships.
He is particularly concerned with the church’s decision to stop ceremonial exchanges of moderators with the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church in England, due to views on same-sex relationships in those churches.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has voted to exclude people in same-sex relationships from membership and their children from baptism.
Lord Alderdice is the son of a Presbyterian minister and has been a Presbyterian elder for 30 years.
He told the BBC programme The View: “It is no longer possible for me to defend the position of the Presbyterian Church.
“It is no longer possible for me to feel that it is an appropriate expression of my faith and so I have decided – after 30 years as an elder and a lifetime as a member of the Presbyterian church – to resign from the eldership and membership of the Presbyterian Church.
“That is a very difficult and painful decision, but it is one that has come about over a period of time watching the direction of things.”
He is currently moving to live in England and has sent a letter of resignation to his own church in Belfast.
Former Presbyterian moderator Reverend Stafford Carson, who is principal of the Union Theological College in Belfast, helped to formulate the church’s policy on same-sex marriage.
“What we are saying is that to live in a same-sex relationship does not cohere with the teaching of Christ with regard to marriage and sexuality,” he said.
“We believe marriage is much more than just about love. There is a whole structure, there is a whole purpose to marriage that has to do with family.
“All of us are struggling with regard to our sexuality. We all need the loving support and encouragement of other Christians around us and that happens within the church.”
Former moderator Dr John Dunlop said the issues are complex. “I am not advocating leaving myself,” he said. “I think you can be a dissenter without being a deserter.”