Protest over Presbyterian actions


Sir, – I welcome Senator David Norris’s comments before the Upper House concerning the extraordinary and disappointing actions taken by a Commission of the Dublin and Munster Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) to remove Steven Smyrl, a beloved and respected elder from his ordained position in our church (Home News, November 20th). Although Senator Norris praises “many churchmen, including Bishop [Paul] Colton in Cork, who are leaders when it comes to inclusivity and equality and welcoming diversity”, he seems sadly unaware of the many voices raised in protest in the PCI, both North and South of the Border.

The commission’s conduct was called into question not only during the subsequent meeting of Presbytery (November 5th, 2019) but also before the members of the commission even got inside the door.

I was one of the Presbyterians present at the silent vigil on the steps of the building, where we met to protest against the PCI’s betrayal of its own code of practice. We carried posters reminding the commission that the code expressly states that it is the “privilege, right, and duty of every individual to examine the Scriptures for herself or himself, and each individual is bound to submit to the authority of those same Scriptures”.

We were stonewalled by many, and also verbally abused by one individual attending the meeting. But by no means by all. For the most part, ministers, elders and members of the PCI simply want our church to embody the unity in diversity that is our hard-won heritage. Some of their and our voices continue bravely to be raised within PCI, and at a price, as I write. Is it too much to ask that a church should lead the way in showing respect to all human beings? – Yours, etc,