The following press release has been given to us ahead of tonight’s opening of this year’s Presbyterian General Assembly (2019)
The 180th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will open this evening (3rd June 2019) with a special service in Belfast that will see the formal election of Rev Dr William Henry of Maze Presbyterian Church in County Antrim, as Moderator. He will be the 174th person to hold the office since 1840 and the youngest since 1931.
Rev Dr William Henry will be installed as the next Presbyterian Moderator at the opening service.
Around 800 church members, civic dignitaries and overseas guests from Europe, Africa, Asia and closer to home, will witness Dr Henry’s election, after which he will unveil his theme for his year in office in his opening address. Before that, Rt Rev Dr Charles McMullen, will perform one of his last duties as the current Moderator when he will give his address and review his year in office.
When Dr Henry was first selected by the Church’s 19 regional presbyteries in February, he said that he was “deeply honoured” and “thanked God for the opportunity to serve Him in a new way over the next year” saying that he would “trust Him for the way ahead.” Hinting at his theme for the year, he also said, “When we enjoy God, prayer and worship become real and meaningful because there is a sense that God has come near. That will result in practical service for Jesus.”
Tonight’s annual event, in the Church’s Assembly Buildings, takes place ahead of four days of worship, prayer, Bible study, celebration and debate in the Church’s principal decision-making body. Around 1,000 ministers and elders from the Church’s 500-plus congregations across Ireland are eligible to participate in the 26 scheduled sessions – the vast majority of which are open to the public – involving 110 reports, along with over 100 resolutions on a diverse range of public issues and church-related matters.
The General Assembly will hear, for example, an update on a major 3-year project that explores how Presbyterians responded to the Troubles, it will also receive a significant report on Human Rights, which seeks to establish a frame work, based on biblical principles, that will assist the Church in responding to rights based issues.
Reports on the outworking on decisions taken last year will be debated along with relationships with other denominations. Candidates for the ordained ministry will be received by the Moderator, while new courses at Union Theological College will be unveiled along with initial plans for the College’s future. Members of Assembly will also discuss church planting, chaplaincy and hear from its overseas representatives. Several new resources and initiatives, which will help to develop the outward face of congregational witness, will also be launched.
A busy week ahead for those attending the Presbyterian General Assembly
Speaking ahead of the week’s business, Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said, “Presbyterians from across Ireland, ministers who have been called by their congregations, elders who have been elected by their brothers and sisters in Christ, will meet in General Assembly this week to listen, question, debate, often robustly and take decisions jointly.
“The discussions that we have, and the decisions that we take, will set the direction for the life and ministry of the Church for the coming year and beyond. It is not only a collective and prayerful process, but a democratic one in the best sense of Presbyterianism,” he said.
Along with the reports and debates, there will be a number of special presentations. On Thursday, for example, Life Always Matters will seek to speak into the professional world and public square on the dignity of human life. Through specially commissioned video, a presentation and an informal panel discussion involving three Presbyterian elected representatives, the General Assembly will look at dementia care, end of life care and child and adolescent mental health services.
On Wednesday, the General Assembly will hear first-hand from partner churches and guests from overseas talk about the displacement of people that has been caused by natural disasters and conflict. In the Listening to the Global Church session, other global voices will also be heard from people who have had to leave their homelands and now live in Belfast.
Dr Henry’s installation service is open to the public and will also be broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster 1341 Medium Wave from 7pm and live streamed on www.presbyterianireland.org.
Business commences at 10.30am on Tuesday with proceedings closing on Friday, 7th June at 1:30pm.