The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) announced today (24th January 2020) a shortlist of four ministers, from which one will be selected by ministers and elders next month to be the formal nominee to be the Church’s next Moderator.
The ministers, who have agreed to have their names go forward for consideration by the Church’s 19 regional presbyteries on 4th February, are:
- Rev David Bruce, Secretary to the Council for Mission in Ireland
- Rev Dr Trevor McCormick, minister of First Kilrea Presbyterian Church
- Rev Richard Murray, minister of Drumreagh and Dromore Presbyterian Churches and
- Rev Mairisíne Stanfield, minister of First Presbyterian Church, Bangor.
Made up of ministers and elders drawn from local congregations in a particular area, each presbytery meets between five and eight times a year and is responsible for overseeing those congregations in their local area. While undertaking other important tasks, the annual selection of the formal nominee for Moderator takes place, by convention, on the first Tuesday in February when presbyteries meet independently at different locations across Ireland.
The process begins in the late autumn when members of presbyteries begin to suggest the names of ministers who they would like to see considered. The Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev Trevor Gribben, then approaches those on this ‘long list’ to see if they would be willing to have their names go forward to the next stage.
“In all that we do, at the heart of the Church is our central calling to proclaim and live out the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in a constantly changing world. Our constitution clearly states that ‘The Lord Jesus Christ is the sole King and Head of the Church…’ so as a denomination our Moderator is not the ‘head of the church’, but the most senior office bearer and principal public representative. As such, he or she plays an important role in the life and ministry of PCI across Ireland and further afield,” Mr Gribben explained.
“As I have said before, there is a wonderful rhythm to church life, and the first Tuesday in February is always a significant day for the denomination. From Malin, County Donegal in the north, to Galway in the west, across to Portavogie in the east, and south to Aghada in County Cork, ministers and elders representing our 500-plus congregations will come together in their presbyteries to consider prayerfully, and select their choice for nominee to be our next Moderator.”
Mr Gribben continued, “In this democratic process any of the candidates may be proposed, seconded and voted on in a presbytery. If more than one candidate is proposed and seconded the presbytery will continue to vote until one candidate has received the majority support of those voting. That candidate then becomes the person for whom that presbytery has registered their vote.
“The minister who receives the most presbytery votes in total becomes our Moderator-Designate, until they are formally nominated to the General Assembly in June and elected Moderator by its members,” Mr Gribben said.
Having ‘moderated’, or chaired the General Assembly, the Moderator will then step aside from their own congregation to focus on their busy year ahead. On average a Moderator will undertake over 300 engagements, preaching most Sundays – often twice in different congregations – representing PCI at various public and State events, undertaking an overseas tour and four presbytery tours to encourage local churches in their work and witness.
“I very much look forward to working with our new Moderator in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ as they lead us into this new decade and beyond, with all the blessings and challenges that it may provide. As always, whoever is elected, will certainly be deserving of our prayers,” Mr Gribben said.
The name of the Moderator-Designate should be known around 9pm on 4th February 2020. However, should there be a tie on the first count, which last happened in 2014, presbyteries continue to meet that evening and vote until one minister is clearly ahead.
The Moderator-Designate will succeed Rt Rev Dr William Henry, who will continue to serve as Moderator until the opening night of the week-long General Assembly, which takes place from Monday 1st June to Friday 5th June 2020.
Read more PCI news on their website here.