Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Election time again ... more voting tonight!

Northern Ireland likes to vote, and March's Assembly election will provide a much-needed fix of electioneering. But voting isn't limited to the world of politics.

January saw the Ireland's bishops elect Lord Eames' successor, putting Bishop Alan Harper in the post of Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.

Tonight it's the turn of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Ministers and representative elders from congregations across Ireland will gather at 21 regional Presbytery meetings to nominate the next Moderator. Now the CofI bishops had it easy as their voting list only had 11 names on it - the names of the bishops in the room.

However, tonight each Presbytery can in theory nominate any Presbyterian minister in Ireland to take over from the current Moderator Dr David Clarke at June's General Assembly.

Even with no official campaigning, the chance of a tie with 21 people each receiving a single vote is unlikely. Instead, the informal grapevine will have been working and each Presbytery is likely to nominate one of three or four people.

The normal pattern is that a runner-up from the previous year will often receive most votes the year. But with Jimmy Johnston - one of last's years two runners-up - ruling himself out, that leaves the 2007 race wide open.

Alf McCreary, the Belfast Telegraph's religious columnist, is well known for keeping his ear to the ground, and suggests that the names in the frame this year include:

  • John Finlay (Harryville, Ballymena)
  • Donald Patton (Old Church, Randalstown)
  • Wifred Orr (St John's, Newtownbreda)

We'll know the answer by 9.30pm tonight … unless it goes to a tie like in 2004 when Ken Newell and Harry Uprichard both received 11 nominations.

Update: the results are out


Anonymous said...

Can women become moderator? I note the candidates are all men. Is this simply because no women came forward who were suitable or is it a case of discrimination under the 'friendly' guise of religion once again. If so, let's all rejoice in an election which acknowledges only 50% of the potential electorate.

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

Nothing to stop women being moderator. PCI require the moderator to be a minister - and there must by 10 or so women ministering up and down Ireland along with several hundred male colleagues.

The Church of Scotland allow elders as well as ministers to be nominated. Alison Elliot became their first female moderator (and first "lay" elder too) in 2004 - a runoff between two women candidates.

This year, their Moderator Designate (taking over in May/June) is Rev Sheilagh Kesting.

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

Results now out

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification - not too hot on the presbies and their ways. As someone brought up with GB and Baptist meetings forced upon them, unsurprisingly organised religion appeals very little.
Keep up the great blog!