The voting ran as follows:
- 10 - Stafford Carson (First Portadown)
- 5 - Norman Hamilton (Ballysillan)
- 6 - Derek McKelvey (Fisherwick)
Minister of First Portadown, Stafford was born in 1951. He was ordained as assistant in High Street, Antrim in 1983 and was called to Kells and Eskylane in 1984. In 1991 he became minister of Carnmoney before leaving to take up a post at Westminster Theological Seminary, USA, in 2000. In 2005 he became minister of First Portadown. He was convener of the Review of Theological Education Committee between 1992 and 1996, the Committee re Deacons from 1992 until 1995 and the Studies Committee between 1997 and 2000. He currently convenes the Resourcing Christians for Ministry Committee. (PCI press release)
Congratulations. It'll be an interesting, challenging and exhausting journey that he takes as the becomes the public face of the denomination at June's General Assembly - a meeting likely to feature the fallout from the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS) going into administration. And given the financial uncertainty across Ireland, it would be hard to imagine that prioritisation, pensions and funding won't be on the agenda too.
In his acceptance comments, he said:
"I am very surprised but greatly honoured by the way in which the Church has chosen me for this important task."
He describes himself as 'theologically conservative' and sees one of the major challenges of ministry today as introducing change within the church to help it connect with people in relevant and meaningful ways.
"Outreach and mission has to be one of our main priorities. In First Portadown we are trying to develop that aspect through various initiatives. We are involving ourselves more in the daily life of the local community so that the practical side of our Christian faith is clearly seen while on Sundays the introduction of a contemporary style makes our worship more meaningful to people new to the congregation."