The next leader of the Presbyterian Church has said he has “no problem” with worshipping alongside Catholics.
Reverend Ivan Patterson from Newcastle — who won yesterday's election by a convincing margin — will take over from the Right Rev Dr Norman Hamilton on June 6.
In a poll of the church's 19 presbyteries across Ireland, Rev Patterson received 12 votes.
Rev Roy Patton of Ballygilbert received three, Rev Joseph Andrews of Ballee two, and Rev Roy Mackay of Second Comber and Rev Rob Craig of Kilfennan, Londonderry, one nomination each.
After receiving just four votes in last year's election, Rev Patterson told the Belfast Telegraph last night that he was surprised at |becoming Moderator-elect.
“I am very grateful to be asked to serve and to feel that the church trusts me in this way, but I am somewhat daunted by what lies ahead,” he said.
“I am not familiar with all the duties and responsibilities of a moderator, but no doubt this will all be revealed to me.”
Rev Patterson, who has been at Newcastle Presbyterian Church for the past 20 years, said that he had “no problem” in worshipping with other denominations, including Catholics.
He said: “We have regular services together in Newcastle, and there are very good relations |between members of the main churches.”
One of Rev Patterson’s themes for the coming year will mark the 400th anniversary of the King James-authorised version of the Bible. He said: “I will be reflecting on how it has affected society and how we must listen afresh to what God is saying.”
He also underlined the need for pastoral care for those who had been distressed by the demise of the Presbyterian Mutual Society.
Rev Patterson (62) was ordained in 1980 and served as assistant in First Bangor before becoming minister of Bushvale, near Ballymoney, in 1982.
Nine years later he was called to Newcastle. He described his ministry as “conservatively Biblical with a strong evangelical outlook”.
“We cannot expect people to come and find us, so we have to be open to be found,” he said.
“That means being active in our communities, in making our Christian voice heard and having confidence in Christ to share our faith through being involved in what is going on outside the walls of our church as well as inside.”