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New Presbyterian Church Moderator formally installed in Belfast


The Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick spoke to the church’s general assembly

The Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick spoke to the church’s general assembly

The Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick spoke to the church’s general assembly

The new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has been formally installed in Belfast.

Born in Limavady, The Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick (65) was selected as the next moderator back in February, and made his opening address at the Opening of the Church’s General Assembly on Wednesday night.

As a minister for Portrush Presbyterian Church, he has previously spoken about his love for motorbikes as well as the stigma of growing up in a single-parent family in 1960s Ballymena.

Dr Kirkpatrick has also said he would be willing to see a woman moderator of the church in the future.

During his address, he told church members: “If God’s grace works in the hard places then it is seen to stand a real test.

"The message that I will try to share this year is neither new nor is it complicated - it is the story of Grace not Works.

“This is the story of every Christian and we need often to be reminded about it, to reflect and meditate on it.”

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On contentious issues, such as how same-sex relationships are treated by the church, he has previously said he hopes to use his term to build bridges with the wider community.

In 2018, the Presbyterian Church denied people in same-sex relationships full membership and their children were not allowed to be baptised.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph in February, he said he hoped to rebuild trust with those who felt hurt by the policy.

“I think those people need to know that even though we may not agree with them we still love them,” he said.

“I don’t mean that in any trite, fancy way. For a person who is really genuine and has pain, not someone who is just trying to make an issue of it to cause trouble… if I can reach out to those people I think they would understand I’m really genuine.

“I think it would be a part of the healing… I can’t fix anybody, I can’t even fix myself. That’s where the hope is really.”

The outgoing Moderator, the Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, was the first to serve two terms in over 100 years because of the disruption of the pandemic.

He listed numerous major events that took place during his time in office, including Brexit, Covid, centenaries and the “imposition of ever more radical social policies”.

Stepping down after “a deeply turbulent period of our history,” he said much of his second term had been about helping the church to readjust.

Dr Bruce said the church had been portrayed during his term as “rigid, unchanging and even unloving” over social policy issues.

“We have been described as a people who exclude rather than include; as a church which judges sinners rather than offers grace; as a people who do not mean what we say when we advertise that ‘all are welcome’.”

He said that some in the media even had adopted “a position of overt opposition” towards the church.

Despite this, he called the church to be confident in the “standards which define us” especially when doing so means “swimming against the tide”.

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