The 57-year-old minister received 9 votes from the Church’s 19 presbyteries and will be the Church’s fifth Moderator to come from Bangor and the 174th Moderator since the election of the first in 1840. Known as the Moderator-Designate, Mr. McMullen will officially take up office as the Church’s most senior office bearer and principal public representative when he is formally elected and installed as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at the Assembly’s Opening Night in June.
An exciting, challenging and enriching year ahead
Speaking after the result, Mr. McMullen said, “I am simply overwhelmed to have been elected Moderator-Designate and commit myself to the Lord for His help and guidance over what I am sure will be an exciting, challenging and enriching year that lies ahead.
“I know I can draw on the prayers and good wishes of the entire denomination and much further afield. I hope I can be involved in a ministry of building relationships and offering encouragement, both within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and with others as I reach out in Christ’s name.”
The presbyteries met independently across Ireland this evening to elect a successor to the current Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Noble McNeely, from a list of three ministers. The election takes place annually with nominees needing to receive a simple majority of votes from the 19 presbyteries to become Moderator-Designate.
Along with Mr. McMullen, Rev. Brian Boyd of Kells and Eskylane and Rev. William Henry of Maze Presbyterian Church were also nominated. They received the following votes:
- Rev. Charles McMullen 9 votes: The Presbyteries of Ards, North Belfast, South Belfast, East Belfast, Carrickfergus, Coleraine and Limavady, Derry and Donegal, Dublin and Munster, Monaghan
- Rev. Brian Boyd 6 votes: The Presbyteries of Ballymena, Down, Omagh, Route, Templepatrick, Tyrone
- Rev. William Henry 4 votes: The Presbyteries of Armagh, Dromore, Iveagh, Newry.
Born in Omagh, Mr. McMullen attended Omagh County Primary School and Omagh Academy, where he was Head Boy. Along with his family he worshipped at the town’s Trinity Presbyterian Church.
With a lifelong interest in languages, Mr. McMullen graduated with Joint Honours in French and German from Trinity College Dublin in 1982 and was awarded his MA in 1985. In 1982 he went to St. Antony’s College, Oxford where he studied Modern European History and completed his Master’s Degree by thesis in 1987. In the meantime (1984-1987), he attended the Church’s Union Theological College in Belfast.
Sharing the love of Jesus Christ
On leaving Union, he was licensed in Trinity Presbyterian in 1987 and ordained as assistant minister in Harmony Hill, Lambeg in 1988, before being called to Legacurry Presbyterian Church near Lisburn, where he was installed in 1991. In 1999 he became minister of Bangor West.
Talking about his call to the ministry, he said, “There is nothing as satisfying and fulfilling as sharing the love of Jesus Christ with others. A definite call to the ministry began to take shape in my late teens during the ministry of Rev. Bill Clarke, who involved me in church services allowing me to read lessons and prepare prayers and talks.
“By the beginning of my graduate studies I was unsettled, almost as if I was running away from a sense of call to the full-time ministry. I remember very clearly yielding to the Lord and a profound sense of peace enveloping me which has never left.”
In describing his ministry, Mr. McMullen said, “the key word for me is ‘relationship’, our relationship with God in Christ, our relationship with one another in Christian community together and the sense of building relationships as we share the love of Christ with outsiders.
“Christian love is very central to my ministry, it is inclusive and encouraging in the hope of bringing people to an encounter with the living God and the truth of His Word.”
Bangor West, which was established in 1961, is a large congregation on the outskirts of the town, with some 1,100 families of around 2,700 people. With four morning services on a Sunday the church has a strong, vibrant and growing children’s and youth ministry with over 150 teenagers attending Young West on a Sunday morning.
Describing his congregation, Mr. McMullen said, “West Church is characterised by loving relationships, deep spirituality with an emphasis on prayer, the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the simple joy of life itself. A diverse place that is home to traditionalists, evangelicals and charismatics, as well as people from many different Christian faith backgrounds. It is not a perfect place by any stretch of the imagination, but many continue to find a personal faith in Christ, healing, restoration and renewal, which is wonderful.
“There has always been a pioneering spirit in the congregation and we recently launched a fresh expression of worship at our evening service with specific appeal for those in their 18-30s. The addition of Café Church, a more informal environment, has grown to over 100. There is also a Sunday school for children with special needs and the Sycamore Club for adults with similar needs,” he said.
Thinking about his year in office, Mr. McMullen said, “I have no doubt that I will have a very steep learning curve over these next few weeks, but I am looking forward to experiencing life throughout the denomination and beyond. While it is true to say that in ministry you receive far more than you give, I want to spend as much time as possible drawing alongside people, listening to them and encouraging them.
A passion for renewal and timeless truth
“At West, my overall passion is to see renewal come to the traditional Church, finding new ways of expressing timeless truth to people of all generations so they can find fullness of life in Jesus Christ. I believe very strongly that the Christian life rises and falls at the point of the devotional and, as Moderator, I hope to bring this emphasis to the wider Church.”
He is married to Barbara (they met at the 1990 General Assembly) and have three adult children. Keen walkers, Mr. McMullen and his wife enjoy walking around the North Down and Antrim coasts and walking trips overseas. He enjoys reading and current affairs, watching Ulster play rugby with his son, following Chelsea Football Club and keeping fit. As a writer he has contributed to denominational magazines and BBC Radio Ulster’s Thought for the Day.
Mr. McMullen will be officially nominated to this year’s General Assembly at its Opening Night in Belfast on Monday, 4th June.