Billy Kennedy on Churches: Four clergy seek to become Presbyterian moderator

Four nominated clergy will contest the election to become the next moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

By Billy Kennedy
Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 7:29 am
Updated Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 8:30 am
Four nominees for Presbyterian moderator, clockwise from top left: Rev John Kirkpatrick; Rev Colin McClure; Rev Alastair McNeely and Rev Trevor McCormick.
Four nominees for Presbyterian moderator, clockwise from top left: Rev John Kirkpatrick; Rev Colin McClure; Rev Alastair McNeely and Rev Trevor McCormick.

The 19 church presbyteries will make their choice for moderator to succeed the Rev Dr David Bruce, the present occupant, at a series of meetings of ministers and ruling elders on Tuesday February 1.

Dr Bruce became the first moderator since 1894 to serve a second consecutive term, his having been the only name forwarded by presbyteries for formal consideration.

The incoming moderator, who will be installed at the church’s general assembly in Belfast on June 22, will serve one year.

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The four moderatoral nominees are:

• Rev John Kirkpatrick, minister of Portrush Presbyterian church.

• Rev Dr Colin McClure, minister of First Larne Presbyterian church.

• Rev Dr Trevor McCormick, minister of First Kilrea Presbyterian church.

• Rev Alastair McNeely, minister of Richhill Presbyterian church.

Reflecting on the last time presbyteries met for this purpose, Presbyterian assembly clerk the Rev Trevor Gribben said: “In February 2020, when presbyteries ‘met normally’ and nominated David Bruce for what was to be his first term as moderator, no one knew what was just around the corner, and how the pandemic would impact so much of our lives, including the process of electing our moderator the following year.

“I genuinely give thanks to God, that the rhythm of our church life is gradually returning, and once more ministers and elders from our 500-plus congregations the length and breadth of this island can come together to prayerfully select a colleague to be nominated as our next Moderator.”

The Rev John Kirkpatrick, 65, has been minister of Portrush Presbyterian church since 1993. He was ordained assistant minister of Megain/Mersey Street Presbyterian churches in East Belfast in 1985, before being installed as minister of Garryduff church, Co Antrim in 1987. Mr Kirkpatrick is a keen motor cycle sports enthusiast - he rides his own bikes - and, as minister in Portrush church, has been chaplain at the annual North West 200 races. He officiated at the funeral services for the late Joey and Robert Dunlop and Robert’s son William in Garryduff church. All three were killed in races.

The Rev Dr Colin McClure, 59, a former policeman, has been minister of First Larne Presbyterian church since 2003, He was ordained assistant minister of Fisherwick Presbyterian church, Belfast in 1990 and installed as minister of Loughbrickland and Scarva churches in Co Down in 1993. Dr McClure, considered to be on the liberal wing of the Presbyterian church, has served as convener of Presbyterian personnel/planning committee and the state education committee.

The Rev Dr Trevor McCormick, 63, was installed as minister of First Kilrea Presbyterian church in 1986 and with Boveedy Presbyterian (stated supply) in 2009. He was ordained assistant minister of First Carrickfergus church in 1984 and has served as convener of the Presbyterian residential trust committee and the Presbyterian council for social witness. Dr McCormick is theologically considered a conservative.

The Rev Alastair McNeely, 59, was ordained assistant minister of Ebrington Presbyterian church, Londonderry in 1991. He was called to Richhill church, Co Armagh in 1993, where he has served as minister of a very active congregation for nearly 30 years. He too is considered to be on the conservative evangelical wing of the Presbyterian church.

Since the establishment in 1840 of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, which today administers for 19 presbyteries in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, there have been 174 moderators with six moderators serving two terms of office during the 19th century.

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