Presbyterian Church picks youngest Moderator in living memory
The Presbyterian Church has elected the Reverend William Henry to be its next leader.
From Maze Presbytarian Church, the 50-year-old will be the youngest Moderator in living memory when he is installed at the opening night of the annual General Assembly on June 3.
He will take over from outgoing Moderator the Rt Rev Dr Charles McMullen.
He received 11 of the 19 votes cast by the Presbyteries across Ireland.
Rev David Bruce was runner-up with four votes, followed by Rev Mairisine Stanfield with three votes, and Rev Albin Rankin with one vote.
The Presbyterian Church has not elected a female leader since its establishment in 1840.
The first woman ordained as a minister was Rev Ruth Patterson in 1976.
Since then she has received nominations for the position, as did the Rev Dr Liz Hughes and Rev Stanfield this year, although none have been successful.
The new leader said shortly after his election that he was deeply honoured.
He added: "Countless times I have been overjoyed when I see members of my church showing compassion and respect to those people who are in need - whether that is shown to neighbours, work colleagues, prison inmates or to the homeless.
"Thankfully that story is repeated in church after church up and down the length of Ireland.
"For me it comes down to this experience of 'enjoying God', and perhaps that is what I'd like to develop into a theme for my year in office.
"I would wish to use the year ahead to speak about this message and explore with people what it means to 'enjoy God' both to the Church and wider society.
"I want to bear witness to what I might call the unsettling presence of God - the one who offers fullness in Jesus."
He said that having observed the examples of the faith of young people in his own congregation, "I will want to highlight many more demonstrations of this throughout our wider Church".
Rev Henry has 240 families consisting of 600 people in his Maze congregation, while Ballinderry Presbyterian Church, which he also serves, has 100 families of around 200 people.
Mr Henry was educated at Mallusk Primary School, Antrim Grammar and Queen's University, where he graduated with a chemistry degree. He was offered a sponsorship for further study in chemistry or a career in finance, but he chose the Christian ministry.
He served as assistant at Whiteabbey, and was installed as minister of Maze Presbyterian in 1997.
In 2001 he took on the additional responsibility as the stated supply minister at Ballinderry Presbyterian.
He is married to Mona and they have three children.
Rev Henry has a passion for travel and an active interest in gadgets and devices.
As Moderator he will face a challenging time in trying to build bridges and relationships following a bruising year for the Presbyterian Church, with controversies over its policy on same-sex issues, and an end to visits from the Scottish moderator to the Irish Church's General Assembly and vice versa.