Made up of ministers and elders drawn from congregations in the area covered by the presbytery, they meet between five and eight times a year and are responsible for overseeing the local congregations in their particular area. While undertaking other important tasks, by convention the annual selection of the minister who will be proposed to the General Assembly as Moderator, takes place on the first Tuesday in February.
The two ministers who have agreed to let their names go forward this year are contemporaries of each other. Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney of Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church in Dublin and Rev Richard Murray of Drumreagh Presbyterian Church, near Ballymoney in County Antrim, attended PCI’s Union Theological College at the same time and were called to their first congregations in the same year - 1997.
Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney MB, BCh, BOA, BD, (QUB)
Sam Mawhinney has been the minister of Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church in Dublin since 2008. Born in 1962, Sam was ordained in 1997 as minister of the joint charge of Fermoy and Cahir Presbyterian Churches, in Counties Cork and Tipperary where he served for 11 years before being called to Adelaide Road. As part of his ministerial training, Dr Mawhinney was also the assistant to the minister of Old Park Presbyterian Church in north Belfast in 1995 for two years.
Rev Richard Murray BA (QUB), BD, (QUB)
Richard Murray has been the minister of Drumreagh Presbyterian Church in County Antrim since 2016, originally a joint charge with Dromore Presbyterian Church, County Londonderry, which amalgamated with Drumreagh in June 2022. Born in 1965 Richard was ordained as minister of Hilltown and Clonduff Presbyterian Churches, County Down in 1997, having spent three years assisting the minister in Terrace Row Presbyterian Church in Coleraine as part of his ministerial training. Before coming to Drumreagh, he was installed as minister of Connor Presbyterian Church, County Antrim 2005.
The process of choosing a new Moderator of the General Assembly, who is the most senior office-bearer of the Church and its principal public representative, starts in the late autumn when presbyteries begin to suggest the names of ministers who they would like to see considered in February. Having been sent the names, the Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev Trevor Gribben, then approaches those on this ‘long list’ to confirm that they would be willing to have their names go forward to the next stage.
“The way in which we select our Moderator is a relatively simple process and one that is, in the best sense of Presbyterianism, a democratic one as well. This year we have two names for presbyteries to prayerfully consider and each one may be proposed, seconded and voted on at February’s meeting,” Mr Gribben said.
“The candidate who has received the majority support of those voting then becomes the person for whom that presbytery has registered their vote for, and the person with the backing of the most of our 19 presbyteries becomes our Moderator-Designate. They will then be formerly nominated for election as Moderator to our General Assembly in June and elected by its members.”
Whoever succeeds the current Moderator, Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, will be the ninth holder of the office that Mr Gribben will work closely with since becoming Clerk in 2014.
“I always look forward to the first Tuesday in February as this annual event is part of PCI’s denominational DNA and there is always a sense of anticipation in Assembly Buildings that evening as we wait for each presbytery to phone through their vote. Whoever is selected, I very much look forward to working with them when they take on their new responsibilities in June.”
Mr Gribben continued, “As they step away from their congregations to lead and encourage the Church, playing an important role in the life and ministry of PCI, much of which is often unseen, one thing will remain unchanged however; they will continue to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the sole King and Head of the Church, albeit from a bigger, national stage.”
The name of the Moderator-Designate should be known around 9pm on Tuesday, 7 February and will posted here on this website and communicated via the denomination’s social media channels, Facebook and Twitter.