Northern Ireland’s First Minister, the Rev Ian Paisley, was forced from his position as head of the Free Presbyterian Church, sources claimed today.
It is believed that the 81-year-old resigned from his post after decades as moderator to avoid the “humiliation” of splitting fundamentalist followers.
Mr Paisley entered power with Sinn Fe’in in the Northern Ireland Assembly on May 8th.
One insider said: “It became very obvious that if he did stand he would lose and in those circumstances he pleaded with them not to humiliate him and just let it run to the end of the year and just walk away.”
Mr Paisley has made no official comment on the alleged dispute, which centres on the separation of religion and politics.
He founded the Free Presbyterian Church in opposition to church practices like ecumenism and has championed strict moral standards.
The watershed decision came at an annual meeting of the church in Belfast which received a committee report on the matter.
Delegates were believed to have overwhelmingly voted to separate church and politics. It is unclear if the planned reshuffle for January will affect his position as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.
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