THE Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster has a new Moderator – Ballymena cleric the Rev John Greer.
The leadership change was confirmed at a meeting of the church’s Ulster presbytery in Lurgan on Friday night, with 58-year-old Mr Greer taking over from Newtownards minister the Rev Ron Johnstone, who was Moderator for four-and-a-half years, after succeeding the denomination’s founder the Rev Dr Ian Paisley.
Mr Greer, a Ballymena man, has been in the Free Presbyterian ministry for 34 years, having been installed in Sixmilecross, Co Tyrone, in 1978.
In 1983, he moved to Philadelphia in Pennsylvania to establish another branch of the Free Presbyterian Church in the United States and spent 17 years of meaningful ministry there.
He returned to Northern Ireland in 2000 to take charge of the thriving Ballymena congregation on the retirement of the Rev James Beggs, a brother-in-law of Dr Paisley.
There are 60 Free Presbyterian congregations in Ireland, with an approximate worshipping membership of 15,000.
Three congregations are located in the Republic. Ballymena is one of the foremost churches, with 300 families.
Mr Greer, father of six children – three boys and three girls – says he sees his Moderator’s role as essentially being chairman of the Ulster presbytery, fully representative, as it is, of the various Free Presbyterian congregations around the country.
“My ministerial and moderatoral goals are entirely spiritual and Biblical, with a concentration on missionary and youth work,” he said. “Our aim is to advance Christ’s kingdom through our active church witness.”
His daughter Joanne is a Free Presbyterian Church missionary in Liberia, West Africa.
The new Deputy Moderator is the Rev Alan Smylie, minister of Ballygowan church.
Under new rules adopted by the Free Presbyterian Church, a Moderator can only seek re-election over three years and serve three consecutive yearly terms.
Tributes were paid at Friday night’s meeting to the service of outgoing Moderator, Mr Johnstone.