Tuesday, February 05, 2008

PCI Moderator Designate = Rev Dr Donald Patton

Rev Dr Patton Donald

The votes are in … and Rev Dr Donald Patton is the Moderator Designate for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, taking over from Dr John Finlay on the night of 3 June.

Before being installed (2002) in his current charge in Old Church, Randalstown, Rev Patton previously spent the previous 14 years of his ministry in Lowe Memorial, Finaghy (in south Belfast). Ordained in 1975, he also worked in congregations of Greystone Road (Antrim) and First Dromore. Will and Testament filled in some of his background in a post yesterday.

One coincidental biographical note is that as well as being a student of Portadown College, he attended Armagh Road Presbyterian Church - the congregation where Rev Christina Bradley ministers, and also where Portadown Times journalist and sometimes Belfast Telegraph contributer Victor Gordon sings in the choir! (Update - Wednesday's Belfast Telegraph contained his comments on the matter, along with a piece by Victor Gordon on Thursday.)

With a PhD in Religious History, Rev Patton will be aware of the stresses and strains that come with his year in office - beginning with the ordeal of chairing the denomination's General Assembly in the first week of June - as well as the joys and pleasures of celebrating with individuals and congregations.

Rev Dr Ruth Patterson

With the election of Rev Patton as Moderator Designate, there'll be none of the drama that would have surrounded the election of Rev Dr Ruth Patterson - though the issue of the denomination's approach to women in minstry is likely to surface in June.

Unlike the US presidential candidates biting their nails during today's Super Tuesday voting, Rev Patton didn't have to spend twelve months touring the country with his stump speech before being elected. No. He gets the twelve month tour and speaking engagements as soon as General Assembly ends.

The Presbytery voting broke down as follows:

  • 11 votes - Rev Dr Donald Patton (Old Church, Randalstown) - Armagh, Ballymena, North Belfast, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Down, Dromore, Newry, Omagh, Templepatrick, Tyrone.
  • 6 votes - Rev Dr Joseph Fell (Ebrington, Londonderry) - East Belfast, Derry/Strabane, Donegal, Foyle, Iveagh, Monaghan,
  • 2 votes - Rev Derek McKelvey (Fisherwick) - Ards, South Belfast.
  • 1 vote - Rev Norman Hamilton (Ballysillan) - Route.
  • 1 vote - Rev Dr Ruth Patterson (Restoration Ministries) - Dublin/Munster,
  • 0 votes - Rev Willis Cordner (1st Bangor)
  • 0 votes - Rev Wilfred Orr (Newtownbreda)

Rev Patton will bring his experience of both rural and urban life to his role, describing himself as

"a warm evangelical teacher and pastor intent on reaching out with the Gospel to the wider community on issues that are relevant to them."

Ahead of tomorrow morning's press conference and media interviews, he commented:

"I am very honoured by the way so many in the Presbyterian Church have asked me to fulfil the role of Moderator. While I am awed by the responsibility I look forward to the challenges ahead."

Update - Thinking back, I remember Donald Patton coming to speak at our Youth Fellowship in Lisburn when I was a teenager. Having finished leading his own congregation's evening service, he'd rush down in time to spend 40 or so minutes talking to us. The fascinating thing were the small slips of folder paper which held his notes for the talk. Miniscule neat writing packed an enormous number of words on something half the size of a sheet of A5 (that would be A6).

Quick off the mark, he's already announced his motto for the year - A heart for Christ and a heart for people - a clear (and timely) reference to the interlinked commands of Jesus in Matthew 22 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... Love your neighbour as yourself". (Though another report has his theme for the year as Making a Difference.)

(You heard it here first! Ahead of BBC News NI and Will & Testament which have now caught up!)

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