Four ministers have been nominated for the moderatorship of the Irish Presbyterian Church, for a contest that is due next month.
The successful nominee will succeed the present moderator, the Rev Dr Frank Sellar.
The successful candidate will serve a period of one year from next June.
On February 7, the church’s 19 presbyteries will meet independently at different locations around Ireland to select the next moderator.
The four nominees are the Rev Brian Boyd, of Kells and Eskylane Church, Co Antrim; the Rev Tony Davidson, First Armagh; the Rev Charles McMullen, Bangor West, and the Rev Noble McNeely, First Holywood Presbyterian.
The Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk of the Presbyterian General Assembly and church general secretary, confirmed: “The first Tuesday in February is always an important day in the life of our Church, as ministers and elders from our 539 congregations in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic meet in respective presbyteries to nominate our next moderator.”
Mr Gribben explained the vote in each presbytery is by simple majority, meaning that whoever receives most votes within a particular presbytery – local regional church bodies made up of a minister and an elder from each congregation in that particular area – receives the single vote of the presbytery. The person who receives the majority of these votes from the 19 presbyteries becomes moderator-designate and is formally nominated for installation to the General Assembly in June.
“Democracy is one of the strengths and hallmarks of Irish Presbyterianism,” said Mr Gribben.
• The Rev Brian Boyd, aged 58, has been minister of Kells and Eskylane since 1992. He began his ministerial career in High Kirk church, Ballymena in 1986 and also served as minister of Culnady and Swatragh church in Co Londonderry.
• The Rev Tony Davidson is 60 and was has been at First Armagh since 1994, having previously served as assistant minister at Stormont and as minister of Christ Church, Limerick.
• The Rev Charles McMullen, 56, was ordained as assistant minister in Harmony Hill, Lisburn in 1988 and became minister of nearby Legacurry church in 1991. He has been at West Church, Bangor since 1999.
• The Rev Noble McNeely, 62, was ordained as assistant minister of Fisherwick Presbyterian Church, Belfast, moving on to First Ballymoney in 1984 where he ministered for 13 years before moving to First Holywood in 1997.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has 235,000 members belonging to 539 congregations in 19 presbyteries.