SIX elders at troubled First Lurgan Presbyterian have until Monday to decide their future role in the church.
The church has been torn apart by a series of grievances between the elders and the minister, Rev David Henry and clerk of sessions Mr John Spence.
It is claimed 16 members of a 30-strong committee have resigned their posts within the past three weeks following a ruling by the Presbyterian Church’s top authority on the long-running dispute.
However at the time of going to press, we were unable to confirm this with the Presbyterian Church press office or with Rev Henry.
Former Moderator Dr John Finlay has been called in to try and resolve the row which has seen Mr Spence being removed from office and strong criticisms made of the Minister.
Six elders, in particular, are at odds with Rev Henry and Mr Spence and have been asked to either work with the Minister or resign.
A source close to the congregation said at least one elder has already resigned while others are considering remaining in post.
Last week the Mail received a copy of a top church document of which a shortened version was read to the congregation earlier this month. It detailed a breakdown in relationships among the leadership and church congregation.
The document contained the findings of the highest committee of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Judicial Commission, following a year-long attempt to resolve the disputes.
The commission described the situation at First Lurgan as “deeply disturbing”, detailing how it is “now fractured by breakdowns in relationships” with some hurts “unlikely to ever heal”.
Sources have told the Mail that three elders resigned their posts two years ago, as did a former clerk of sessions, following disagreements with the Minister.
A number of people have contacted the paper following last week’s article concerned at the situation at the church. Two individuals claimed that more than 20 families have left the church since Rev Henry took up his post in 2007.
They also claimed that a youth leader had resigned and a praise group had also folded as well as a number of other groups within the church.
Dr Finlay has been appointed initially for a year to “observe and advise” the minister. Mr Henry has also been asked to take “immediate steps to heal wounds” and, along with the session, undergo training on peacemaking and conflict resolution and visit those who feel “disaffected and hurt by recent words and actions”.
Mr Spence has been removed as clerk of kirk session but will remain as an elder.