The Portadown Presbyterian minister in the centre of the same-sex marriage controversy will tomorrow (Friday) face close questioning by the Armagh Presbytery, consisting of clergy from various parts of the county.
Rev Christina Bradley, minister at Armagh Road, has rocked the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) by supporting the recent ‘yes’ vote – she is the only minister on the island from the denomination to openly support the Republic’s referendum.
And a commission has been set up by the Presbytery to consider her opinion, which proved contrary to the official views of the PCI at the recent General Assembly in Belfast.
The Armagh Presbytery has already spoken to Mrs Bradley and they had a hastily-convened meeting during Assembly week. The PCI’s opposition to same sex marriage was confirmed by former Moderator Norman Hamilton, although another ex-Moderator John Dunlop stated that gay and bisexual people remained full members of the church.
Neither Mrs Bradley nor the Armagh Road elders are commenting, but it is known that they met together on Sunday morning for an update. She underlined that her comments were purely personal, and her statement to the Portadown Times a fortnight ago on the referendum was a comment on civil rather than Christian marriage. She added she saw it as an equality and anti-discrimination issue.
Her original statement said, “This warm-heartedness is good to see in a world which often is a cold place as much for women in leadership as it is for gay and lesbian people in churches.”
There is opposition within the Armagh Road congregation, and the attendances at the church since the statement have been down.
The commission will meet on Friday morning at Hill Street Presbyterian Church in Lurgan and it is understood that the minister Rev Nigel McCullough, from the evangelical wing of Presbyterianism, will chair the meeting. The elders of Armagh Road will be consulted afterwards.
A spokesman for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said, “Ultimately, a minister or an elder is answerable to their Presbytery for matters of life and doctrine. This is an internal matter for the Church, and the Armagh Presbytery has indicated it would be inappropriate to comment further.”