A distinguished politician from the Republic of Northern Ireland has officially left the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in response to recent decisions by the denomination against homosexuality.
Lord John Alderdice, former leader of the Alliance Party and a former church elder, sent a letter of resignation, noting his opposition to the Presbyterian Church's recent decisions to bar individuals in same-sex relationships from full membership and to weaken its ties with the Church of Scotland over its pro-LGBT stance.
In an interview with BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra program, Lord Alderdice explained that it was "a very difficult personal decision."
"It's no longer possible to defend the position of the Presbyterian Church or for me to feel that it's an appropriate expression of my faith so I've decided that after 30 years as an Elder and a lifetime as a member to resign from the Eldership," said Alderdice.
"That's a very difficult and painful decision, but is one that has come about over a period of time watching the direction of things."
Earlier this month, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's General Assembly received the Doctrine Committee's report and announced that same-sex couples could not become full members of their denomination nor could their children be baptized.
"We believe that their outward conduct and lifestyle is at variance with a life of obedience to Christ," stated the Church's Doctrine Committee, as quoted by the Irish Times.
"... homosexual activity is not consistent with Christian discipleship since it does not accord with the will of God expressed in his moral law."
The Very Rev. Stafford Carson, convener of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's Doctrine Committee, defended the decision in a column for the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday.
He explained that the Doctrine Committee's report was not about "preventing anyone from attending worship, coming into church, receiving communion, or having access to pastoral care. Neither was it about being attracted to someone of the same sex." The report was designed to provide guidance to ministers "with particular reference to couples in same sex relationships."
"It is important to remember that marriage and sexual behaviour are not the only areas where Christians may fall short of God's will for their lives, and our report was very careful to point this out," he added.
"We recognise that following Jesus Christ as Lord often challenges us at the deepest level of our beings. That is why many of the personal issues of Christian discipleship are best discussed confidentially with wise and godly pastors and friends rather than being made a matter for public debate and comment through social media."
Recognizing the criticism over the denomination's decision, Carson said, "Looking on and reading much of what has been said and written, it may seem that the Church is out of step with society.
"That's not surprising, since the days of the early church, the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord has often placed Christians at odds with their surrounding culture."