Most Presbyterian clerics who protested against LGBT policy retired - no sign of further resignations after Rev Ian Carton
There appear to be no signs of any other clerics about to follow a Co Antrim Presbyterian minister who resigned over his church’s position on same sex relationships.
Rev Ian Carton, of Whitehead Presbyterian Church in Co Antrim, announced his resignation at the weekend - thought to be the first cleric in his denomination to do so.
In 2018, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) voted to deny full membership to anyone in a same-sex relationship - and not to baptise their children.
Rev Carton told his congregation on Sunday it was “excluding people we’d like to welcome” and after much prayer, he felt he and his wife had to leave.
“It’s a call to leave the church of my birth, the church that I’ve grown up in.” He added that God was telling him to be courageous but he and his family had “no idea what our next steps are going to be”.
The cleric is in his mid-fifties and was ordained in 2001, serving at Whitehead for 14 years.
In the wake of the church’s move in 2018, over 230 ministers and elders signed a public statement which spoke of their “hurt, dismay and anger”. However enquiries yesterday found no evidence of any further organised action by them. At the time the 230 were a small fraction of the 6,400 ministers and elders in the church.
One high Presbyterian source said yesterday the 2018 decision was “an unnecessary, heavy-handed re-stating of settled policy”. He told the News Letter: “I’m certainly not hearing any rumours of resignations in the offing. Most of the clerics signing the letter seem to be retired.”
Church of Ireland cleric Rev Andrew Rawding from Co Tyrone, who campaigns on LGBT issues, thought Rev Carton was an isolated case.
“Sadly I’ve seen other Presbyterian ministers back pedal on the LGBT issue when it got too hot,” he said. I’m not currently aware of any others willing to put their heads above the parapet.”
He said it was sad that the church in Whitehead is losing “a very effective and caring minister of the Gospel”.
However he acknowledged that the Church of Ireland has a similar position on same sex relationships but does not formally exclude the children of LGBT people from baptism, prompting him to question his own position.
A PCI spokesman said: “We are aware that Rev Ian Carton has indicated that he would be seeking the leave of his Presbytery to be released from his charge as Minister of Whitehead Presbyterian Church. When that point comes, we would want to wish Ian well for the future and thank him for the service that he has given, particularly to our congregation in Whitehead, over these past years.”
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