Rev Mervyn Gibson has been elected as the new Grand Secretary of the Orange ordern, following a meeting of the Loyal Order’s ruling body in Co Londonderry.
The Belfast Orangeman, and Presbyterian minister, succeeds the late Drew Nelson in the senior role. The Dromore solicitor passed away earlier this year following illness.
Rev Gibson, 58, will work at the head of the Institution alongside Grand Master Edward Stevenson and Deputy Grand Master Harold Henning, who were also both re-elected at the Grand Lodge meeting in Eglinton.
Mr Stevenson, now commencing his seventh term, has been grand master since 2011. In that time, the Tyrone man has overseen the opening of the Museums of Orange Heritage in Belfast and Loughgall, and the restructuring of the Institution’s administration.
Speaking after his election, Rev Gibson said: “I am extremely honoured to be elected the grand secretary by my fellow brethren at Grand Lodge, but humbled to be following in the footsteps of those who have served in the post previously.
“Words are inadequate to describe the dedication and commitment of my predecessor the late Drew Nelson. His legacy and influence will live long within our ranks.
“I think of two family friends John McCrea and the late Walter Williams who also previously held the post, serving the Institution faithfully. I am looking forward to following in their footsteps and serving the Orange Institution as they did.”
Mr Stevenson said: “On behalf of our entire membership, I would like to congratulate Mervyn on his election to office.
“He is a man of great faith and integrity, who voices the strong Christian principles of the Order, and has worked tirelessly with numerous stakeholders in Belfast to promote the Orange cause.
“As a former grand chaplain and assistant grand master, Mervyn is well placed and will bring great experience in furthering the ideals of the Orange Institution.
“It is also appropriate at this time to pay tribute to the contribution of Mervyn’s predecessor, Drew Nelson, who played a pivotal role in the ongoing development of the Institution for more than a decade as grand secretary.”
The grand master added: “I have absolutely no doubt Mervyn will bring great expertise and enthusiasm to his new role, and will be a strong advocate for Orangeism.”
A special memorial service was held during the Eglinton meeting in memory of Mr Nelson, 60.
In other senior appointments, both Rev Alistair Smyth and Rev John Noble were elected as grand chaplains. Robert Barr and Norman Henry were elected as grand lecturer and deputy grand lecturer respectively. Brian Dorrian was re-elected as grand treasurer.
The event was hosted by the City of Londonderry Grand Lodge.
The election of officers follows the recent appointment of a new chief executive for the organisation.
Iain Carlisle, 43, a former director of the Ulster-Scots Community Network, is responsible for leading the development and execution of the Institution’s long-term strategy, as well as managing the operation of the Loyal Order’s Belfast headquarters and administration, serving more than 1,100 private lodges.