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Female makes shortlist again for role of new Presbyterian Church leader

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Rev Mairisine Stanfield, Minister of First Presbyterian Church, Bangor

Rev Mairisine Stanfield, Minister of First Presbyterian Church, Bangor

Rev Richard Murray, Minister of Drumreagh and Dromore Presbyterian Churches

Rev Richard Murray, Minister of Drumreagh and Dromore Presbyterian Churches

Rev David Bruce, Secretary to the Council for Mission in Ireland

Rev David Bruce, Secretary to the Council for Mission in Ireland

Rev Dr Trevor McCormick, Minister of First Kilrea Presbyterian Church

Rev Dr Trevor McCormick, Minister of First Kilrea Presbyterian Church

Rev Mairisine Stanfield, Minister of First Presbyterian Church, Bangor

A woman minister has been nominated for the second year running to be the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church.

The Rev Mairisine Stanfield again features on the shortlist for the election, which will take place on February 4.

Other candidates are Rev David Bruce, Rev Dr Trevor McCormick and Rev Richard Murray.

Rev Stanfield has been Minister of First Bangor since 2013. She received three of the 19 votes from Presbyteries throughout Ireland in last year's election, which was won by the Rt Rev William Henry of Maze with 11 votes.

The Presbyterian Church has yet to appoint a woman as Moderator despite the key roles played by generations of women in the Church.

Rev Stanfield, who was born in 1965, was ordained in 1990 as assistant minister of Regent Street in Newtownards. She was then Minister of First Ballynahinch from 1993 before being called to First Bangor 20 years later.

She is the third female minister to be nominated twice as a candidate for the Moderatorship.

The others are the Rev Dr Ruth Patterson, director of Restoration Ministries, who was the first female minister in the Presbyterian Church and also the first woman to be ordained in Ireland in 1976, and the Rev Dr Liz Hughes, the former long-time Minister of Whitehouse Presbyterian Church and currently the chair of Christian Aid in Ireland. Dr Hughes was joint runner-up in the 2014 election.

Rev Bruce, who is also standing in this year's election, was a candidate last year when he received four votes. He is currently secretary of the Church's Council for Mission in Ireland.

Born in 1957, he has served in Wellington Street Ballymena, Clontarf, Ormond Quay, and Scots Presbyterian Churches in Dublin from 1987.

In 1992 he became general director of Scripture Union Northern Ireland. He was convenor of the Church's Social Service Committee from 1987 to 1993, and was co-convenor of the Board of Social Witness from 1990 to 1993.

Rev Dr McCormick, meanwhile, was installed as Minister of First Kilrea in 1986 and with Boveedy Presbyterian in 2009. Born in 1958, he was ordained in First Carrickfergus in 1984.

He was convenor of the Presbyterian Residential Trust Committee from 1996 to 2003, and has been convenor of the Council for Social Witness since 2015.

Rev Murray, the fourth candidate, has been Minister of Drumreagh and Dromore Presbyterian Churches since 2016. Born in 1965, he was ordained in Hilltown and Clonduff in 1997, and served in Connor Presbyterian Church from 2005 to 2016.

The successful candidate will be installed at the opening night of the General Assembly in June when the current Moderator Dr Henry ends his term of office.

The new Moderator will take over in June after several challenging years for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI).

It has been embroiled in controversy since the confirmation in 2018 of its unswerving policy on same-sex issues, and its dismissal of Stephen Smyrl recently as an elder in Dublin because of his same-sex marriage.

Belfast Telegraph