Presbyterian clergy from all over County Armagh met on Wednesday at the Church’s General Assembly in Belfast to discuss the pro-same sex marriage stance by Portadown minister Rev Christina Bradley.
The clergy – members of the ultra conservative Armagh Presbytery – heard that a representative had already spoken to Mrs Bradley on her controversial views, which support the Republic’s 62 per cent ‘yes’ vote. And there will be further consideration at the next monthly meeting of the Presbytery.
The Armagh Road minister went against the Church’s policy that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman and that any change would be seen as a redefinition of marriage.
In a personal statement last week to the Portadown Times, Mrs Bradley said, “The referendum wasn’t a debate on the institution of marriage as the basis of human society as we know it, but about ending discrimination. 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. I welcome the ‘yes’ vote.”
Mrs Bradley was not at the first three days of the General Assembly, where Rt Rev Ian McNie was installed as Moderator on Monday night. And the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has not commented on her lone stance.
Mrs Bradley – who conducted her Sunday service as usual - has not been available for comment. She has not answered phone calls or emails from the Portadown Times.
Meanwhile, the PCI has trodden lightly on the SSM fall-out. Former Moderator Dr Norman Hamilton, said, “While saddened and disappointed by the result (of the Republic referendum), we will continue to reach out to all people, whatever their situation.”
Another former Moderator John Dunlop – the minister of Mrs Bradley’s former Church, Rosemary in Belfast – told the Assembly, “Lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people are equal members of the church, as they have an orientation about which they can do nothing. I am partially left-handed and there is nothing I can do about that.”
There is anger, though, within Armagh Road Church, even though Mrs Bradley underlined she was giving a personal view. It is a mature congregation and of 10 members the Portadown Times contacted, all were opposed to her views.
A typical response was, “We agree with the PCI view that marriage must be between a man and a woman. Civil partnerships are understandable, but Mrs Bradley gave a view that is contrary to the feelings of most people at Armagh Road.
“While it may have been a personal statement, people will connect it with our members.”