Northern Ireland news

Naomi Long speaks of `unwelcome coolness' in Presbyterian Church

Ms Long said the claims from the head of Union Theological College were "insulting and hurtful"

ALLIANCE Party leader Naomi Long has said she feels uncomfortable with an "unwelcome coolness" among the Presbyterian Church hierarchy.

The east Belfast assembly member said comments by Reverend Dr Stafford Carson, that the purpose of marriage was procreation, were "wounding".

Ms Long said the claims from the head of Union Theological College were also "insulting and hurtful".

Dr Carson said there was a whole purpose to marriage that had to do with family.

"That has to do with procreation. That has to do with God's will for us," he told the BBC's the View programme.

He was speaking after the Church last week ruled that people in same sex relationships could not be full members. Same-sex couples can no longer take communion and their children cannot be baptised.

Ms Long is a member of the Presbyterian Church. She has been married for 23 years and does not have children.

"Increasingly, I feel that there is an unwelcome coolness in the Church hierarchy that makes me feel uncomfortable," Ms Long said.

"When I was wrestling with the issue of equal marriage and how the state should approach this, one of the things that influenced my decision was precisely this argument, that marriage was only about pro-creation.

"For the first time in my life, I realised what it was like to be a gay person, where the main personal relationship in your life is judged by those outside it and treated as less worthy and valuable."

Asked by BBC Talkback if she was thinking of leaving the Presbyterian Church, she said she "didn't know".

She added that she had "great concern" about what was happening and often left services feeling angry.

This week, former assembly speaker and Alliance leader Lord Alderdice resigned from the Presbyterian Church saying he disagreed with a series of its recent decisions.

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