The Presbyterian moderator has refused to declare if he believes it to be a sin to practise homosexuality, in an interview with a daily newspaper.
Dr Charles McMullen was quoted as saying he was “not going to answer” when asked the question directly as part of a wide-ranging Q&A article, published today.
The interview comes after a particularly high-profile general assembly during the summer, when the church voted to bar gay couples from full church membership (though not from attending church) and bar the children of gay couples from being baptised.
It also voted to distance itself from the Church of Scotland over its acceptance of gay marriage.
In the Belfast Telegraph interview, Dr McMullen said the church would “continue ... to reject homophobia in all its forms”.
The paper said he was asked this question: “Do you personally believe that someone who is a practising homosexual is committing sin?”
He was quoted in response: “I would pivot that question and say that all of us, everyone, has fallen short of the great glory of God and that we all receive the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I’m not going to answer that question specifically here. People matter to God and it’s important to me to sit down and talk to people one to one.
“I’m not going to identify one kind of sin and not another here. People matter to God and there’s the importance of sitting down and talking through all of this with them on that one-to-one pastoral level.”
The interview also covered areas including the political impasse at Stormont and Brexit, with Dr McMullen quoted as saying these pose a risk of “us drifting back into the past”.