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Presbyterian minister resigns over same-sex marriage policy

by Kelly Valencia

A Presbyterian minister in Northern Ireland has resigned over the church's policy to reject full membership for same-sex couples. 

Rev Ian Carton shared the news with his congregation at Whitehead Presbyterian Church over the weekend 

"Many of you will know that June (his wife) and I have been far from comfortable with the current direction that the Presbyterian Church seems to be going. We have found it painful and hard. It seems to be in our view and to our mind, to be excluding people that we would like to welcome," Rev Carton said. 

Currently the Presbyterian Church of Ireland denies full membership to anyone in a same-sex relationship which also means their children cannot be baptised. 

Having been born, raised and called for ministry in the Presbyterian church, Rev Carton said he will step down in September, having led the Whitehead congregation for 14 years, as he feels God is calling him to be "strong and courageous" and to look after those "who certainly feel cast out, who feel rejected, who feel unloved".  

"The decisions taken by our denomination mean that they can never belong and that's a hard thing to have to say to anybody," he said. 

"I've tried to keep going but it's become a bit like trying to ride two horses at the same time that are going in two different directions." 

The policy was decided in 2018, after the Presbyterian Church cut ceremonial ties with the Church of Scotland given its more liberal stance on same-sex marriages within the church. 

The Church of Scotland is currently debating whether or not to allow ministers to marry same-sex couples if they want to do so. 

A spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church told Premier: "We are aware that Rev Ian Carton has indicated that he would be seeking the leave of his Presbytery to be released from his charge as Minister of Whitehead Presbyterian Church. 

"When that point comes, we would want to wish Ian well for the future and thank him for the service that he has given, particularly to our congregation in Whitehead, over these past years."

Rev Carton said he did not know what was next for them but believed God had "called us to this first step".  

To end his emotional address to the congregation, he described leading the church as "a great privilege". 

"You have become more than a congregation, more than a church. You became family. I hope you know [that] my love for you [and] June's love for you has not faded one inch," Rev Carton concluded. 
The Presbyterian Church has more than 220,000 members in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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