Rathgar Presbyterians object to church threats to dismiss minister in same-sex row

Sandymount church council refuses to back down over appointment of gay member

Presbyterians in Rathgar, Dublin, have expressed dismay at threats by the Presbyterian Church to dismiss Sandymount minister Rev Dr Katherine Meyer and to discipline the Sandymount church council for allowing a gay man to become a council member.

Rev Meyer and the Christ Church Sandymount council have been ordered to recant following the appointment of Steven Smyrl, who is in a same-sex marriage, to the council.

A commission of the church’s Dublin and Munster Presbytery gave Rev Meyer and the council until December 20th last to back down or face disciplinary proceedings on January 18th.

The minister and the council have refused to back down.


At an emergency general meeting on Tuesday last, Presbyterian members at Christ Church Rathgar passed resolutions expressing “our distress and dismay over the situation within the Dublin and Munster Presbytery regarding our sister congregation in Sandymount”.

They said “we stand with their minister, the Rev Dr Katherine Meyer, the Sandymount church council and the Sandymount congregation in the belief that they have been treated unfairly in this process”, and “respectfully request [the] presbytery to review its position and to reconsider the implications of their actions”.

‘Greatly troubled’

The Irish Times understands that in its response to the Dublin and Munster Presbytery on December 20th last, the Sandymount church council robustly defended its decision to admit Mr Smyrl as a member and said it was “astonished and greatly troubled” at the treatment of Rev Meyer.

It also responded to an assertion by the Dublin and Munster Presbytery that Rev Meyer and the Sandymount church council “supported” and “endorsed” a homosexual relationship between two of its members that “[the presbytery had] characterised as ‘sexually immoral’” through a reference to scripture.

“We believe this conclusion to be completely unsubstantiated and therefore unjustified,” the council said. The conclusion belonged “only to the realm of conjecture” and was therefore “without foundation”.

For its part the church council had “no evidence of any ‘sexually immoral’ behaviour” in the case and pointed out that “under the terms of the Irish Constitution any enquiry or challenge regarding the nature of any couple’s relationship would amount to a breach of their right to privacy in family life and is therefore unlawful”.

As members of the church council, “in common with the ordinary folk in the pews, we have a responsibility to bring our own informed consciences and pastoral insights to our understanding of scripture and its outworking in our daily lives, and we cannot accept that the message of Christ our Saviour provides a mandate to marginalise and exclude”, they said.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland “has been left trailing in the wake of ordinary members who feel they can no longer countenance teachings which exclude and marginalise”, they said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times