The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) recently announced the names of the two ministers that the Church’s 19 regional presbyteries will consider when they meet across Ireland early next month to determine who they would like to see as PCI Moderator for 2023-2024.
The two ministers who have agreed to let their names go forward this year are contemporaries of each other. Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney of Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church in Dublin and Rev Richard Murray of Drumreagh Presbyterian Church, near Ballymoney in County Antrim, attended PCI’s Union Theological College at the same time and were called to their first congregations in the same year – 1997.
The process of choosing a new Moderator of the General Assembly, who is the most senior office-bearer of the Church and its principal public representative, starts in the late autumn when presbyteries begin to suggest the names of ministers who they would like to see considered in February. Having been sent the names, 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 confirm that they would be willing to have their names go forward to the next stage.
“The way in which we select our Moderator is a relatively simple process and one that is, in the best sense of Presbyterianism, a democratic one as well. This year we have two names for presbyteries to prayerfully consider and each one may be proposed, seconded and voted on at February’s meeting,” Mr Gribben said.
“The candidate who has received the majority support of those voting then becomes the person for whom that presbytery has registered their vote for, and the person with the backing of the most of our 19 presbyteries becomes our Moderator-Designate. They will then be formerly nominated for election as Moderator to our General Assembly in June and elected by its members.”
Whoever succeeds the current Moderator, Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick, will be the ninth holder of the office that Mr Gribben will work closely with since becoming Clerk in 2014.
“I always look forward to the first Tuesday in February as this annual event is part of PCI’s denominational DNA and there is always a sense of anticipation in Assembly Buildings that evening as we wait for each presbytery to phone through their vote. Whoever is selected, I very much look forward to working with them when they take on their new responsibilities in June.”
Mr Gribben continued, “As they step away from their congregations to lead and encourage the Church, playing an important role in the life and ministry of PCI, much of which is often unseen, one thing will remain unchanged however; they will continue to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the sole King and Head of the Church, albeit from a bigger, national stage.”
The name of the Moderator-Designate should be known around 9pm on Tuesday, 7th February and will posted on PCI’s website www.presbyterianireland.org and communicated via the denomination’s social media channels.