Today is the first Tuesday in February and that means it is the day that the nineteen presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland each gather and vote for their choice for the Moderator of the upcoming General Assembly.
This year, from a field of four candidates, they have nominated as the Moderator-designate for the 2015 General Assembly the Rev. Ian McNie. Rev. McNie received the endorsement of twelve of the presbyteries.
Rev. McNie is the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney where he has led that parish for the last 23 years. From his brief bio we know that his previous position was at Kilkeel Presbyterian Church for 11 years. He has served the wider church as Moderator of the Synod of Armagh and Down and as convener of the Youth Centres Committee for seven years.
He was educated at Belfast Royal Academy and Queen’s University in Belfast, receiving his Bachelor of Divinity from the latter. He continued his ministerial training at Union Theological College. He and his wife Anne have two sons, one of whom is also a PCI minister.
In his comments following his election he spoke of his ministry:
“As a conservative evangelical, I recognise that we are living in the 21st Century and therefore seek to steer the congregation in such a way that we do not cling to the traditions of the past, but seek to be relevant today. At the same time, I also recognise that the truth of the Gospel has not changed and we should not allow society to pressure us into departing from the core values of the Scriptures.”
In talking about the year ahead he said
“During my year of office I would hope to be given the opportunity to present the Gospel in many different situations, both within the church and community, to learn from the experiences of others and to encourage congregations to be pro-active in their presentation of the Word of God. I would also look forward to the opportunity to encourage ministers and their families, particularly those who have just started their ministry.”
It is worth noting that in this election there was once again some anticipation of whether the church might get its first female Moderator. But while the Rev. Liz Hughes of Whitehouse did come in second in the voting, it was a distant second with four votes. She placed similarly last year peaking at six votes last year and in both rounds she tied with Rev. McNie. There were three presbyteries that voted for her again this year and while losing three to other candidates did pick up one new one. As the old sports cliché goes, maybe next year.
But for this year we congratulate Rev. McNie on his nomination and offer our prayers as he prepares for the Assembly and Moderates it. His installation will be on June 1 and we wish him the best for his moderatorial year.
UPDATE (4 Feb 15): Well this got interesting really fast…
Rev. McNie started making the media rounds this morning and speaking on a BBC NI broadcast he said:
“Those who are not all that in favour, if you want to put it like that, of women’s ordination don’t hold that point of view from the position of personal preference,” he told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster.
“They hold that position from the point of view that as they interpret the scriptures, the leadership role within the church is not necessarily the leadership role within society – that men and women complement each other, and consequently, possibly that’s why many people have taken the view that they take and that’s why the church has not embraced the election of a woman moderator.
“I would have a conviction that, like many other people within all major denominations, that there are some concerns about that issue, and yes, I would share that conviction as well.”
Needless to say, that generated headlines really fast. At the traditional news conference later on he did qualify his remarks saying “that if the church was to vote in a women moderator in the next few years, the church would have his ‘full and complete and utter support'”.
On Twitter, Alan in Belfast lets us know that at the press conference the Principal Clerk Trevor Gribbon expressed his considered judgement that the PCI will have a female moderator before there is a woman as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The other headline grabber was the Moderator-designate’s comment that well know atheist Stephen Fry is “spiritually blind” responding to comments Fry made in a TV interview last week. I won’t rehash it here but you can get the full context from an article in the Independent.
And finally, in another tweet Alan in Belfast gives us some critical information about Rev. McNie
The important Q has finally been asked at the close of the press conference – Rev Ian McNie supports Man Utd