Presbyterian Church goes after reverend for ‘endorsing gay relationship’

Presbyterian Church leaders told elder Steven Smyrl his marriage was 'incompatible' with his role

A Presbyterian minister and a church council in Ireland are facing disciplinary sanctions for “endorsing a homosexual relationship”.

The Rev Katherine Meyer and the Christ Church, Sandymount church council, were found to have justified “approval for that which in scripture God condemns” by a judicial commission of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI).

Steven Smyrl, who was part of the Dublin church for over 30 years, became an elder in 2007 and went on to marry his partner of 20 years in 2018.

Smyrl was then sacked as a church elder in October 2019 and the Presbyterian Church decided to investigate the leadership that allowed him to become one.

Steven Smyrl and his husband

Steven Smyrl and his husband (Twitter/Steven Smryl)

Christ Church, Sandymount has a united Presbyterian and Methodist congregation, but Meyer is a Presbyterian minister.

The church has long held anti-LGBT+ policies, which it has reinforced in recent years.

A judicial commission of the PCI in Belfast ruled that the Dublin and Munster Presbytery could set up a “Par 161 commission” to investigate Meyer and the church council.

According to BBC News, the investigation found that the “words and actions of both minister and church council demonstrate their persistent deviation from the confessional standards of the Presbyterian Church”.

It said that this was “to the extent of justifying approval for that which in scripture God condemns”.

The report also claimed that “the minister and church council have caused scandal injurious to the purity and peace of the Church.”

The PCI’s Dublin and Munster Presbytery then found that Smyrl had been co-opted to the church council after the PCI had sacked him as an elder.

The Presbytery instructed the church council to reverse that decision, and said that if Meyer did not accept their findings, the presbytery would “initiate disciplinary proceedings” against her.

Meyer then appealed the decision of the Presbytery investigation to a judicial commission of the church.

BBC News NI reports that Meyer’s appeal was rejected and the commission ruled that the reverend and the church council should accept the findings of the investigation by 20 December, or the Presbytery could initiate “disciplinary proceedings” against them.

Speaking to BBC News NI, Smyrl claimed that the charges were “aimed only at publicly diminishing the lives of gay Presbyterians”.

He stated: “The Dublin presbytery has charged our minister, Rev Katherine Meyer, with supporting and endorsing me in a ‘sexually immoral’ relationship. Yet despite being challenged they have failed to produce even a shred of evidence that I have been involved in any form of sexual immorality or indeed sexual activity of any kind.

“Their aim is to squash dissent and to attack and remove anyone who voices even a modicum of support or empathy. Unless reason and fairness prevail, this sorry affair can only end in a grave injustice against a blameless pastor and teacher.”

The commission also said that the church council should remove Mr Smyrl from the council.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said it was “highly disappointing that an individual, or individuals, has sought to go out of their way to comment to a journalist on a sensitive internal church matter and, we are led to believe, even pass on papers that are private to that process.

“While some issues have been considered, matters are still ongoing and further decisions are still to be made. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to comment further…”