The Irish Presbyterian Church will next week select a new moderator from three nominees – ministers from Armagh, Ballyclare and Belfast.
The Rev Tony Davidson, minister of First Armagh church, the Rev Robert Bell, minister of Ballyclare church and the Rev Frank Sellar, minister of Bloomfield church in east Belfast. are in a contest to succeed the present moderator the Rev Dr Ian McNie.
Nineteen presbyteries from across Ireland meet next Tuesday to make their choice.
The presbyteries are regional church bodies made up of a minister and an elder from each Presbyterian congregation in a particular area, who will meet independently at different locations in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
The Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk of the Church’s General Assembly and general secretary of the Irish Presbyterian Church, explained that the vote is the second stage of an annual process that began last autumn.
“Democracy is one of the strengths and hallmarks of Irish Presbyterianism. Around November each year members of presbyteries throughout Ireland suggest the names of ministers they would like to see considered for the office of moderator,” said Mr Gribben.
The new moderator will be installed on the opening night of the church’s General Assembly on Monday June 6, when the Rev Dr Ian McNie will stand down after his year in office.
• Rathfriland-born the Rev Robert Bell, 62, was ordained as assistant minister in Second Comber in 1980 and installed as minister of Leckpatrick in 1982, before moving to his current role in 1989. He is considered a conservative middle churchman.
• Dungannon-born the Rev Tony Davidson, 59, was ordained as assistant minister in Stormont church in east Belfast and installed as minister of Christ Church, Limerick in 1986, moving to First Armagh in 1994. He is on the liberal ecumenical wing of the church.
• Coleraine-born Rev Frank Sellar, 58, was ordained as assistant at Hamilton Road church, Bangor in 1988 and installed as minister of Adelaide Road, Dublin in 1990, moving to Bloomfield in 2007. He is an evangelical conservative.