Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: New Moderator William Henry will prove a steady hand

Rev William Henry
Rev William Henry

Editor's Viewpoint

The past 12 months have been a tumultuous year, in relative terms, for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The fall-out with the Church of Scotland over its more liberal attitude towards same-sex marriage, anger within the Presbyterian ranks over the Church's views on this issue, and a row between the Union Theological College and Queen's University are hardly the background new Moderator the Rev William Henry would have wanted for the start of his term of office in June.

But if he continues in the vein displayed in his first major interview in this newspaper today, he may well be a healing balm in an institution in need of cool heads and strategic thinking.

He may have bested a woman minister, as well as two other males, for the post, but he believes that it will not be long until the Church elects its first female leader.

In the meantime he, at 50 one of the youngest Moderators in the Church's history, represents a breath of fresh air.

As would be expected, he upholds the Church's teachings on same-sex marriage but is insistent that there should be no trace of homophobia within the Church and that all should be made welcome. And as a father of three children, two of whom are still at school, he is more aware than some members of the Church of both the benefits and the drawbacks in the explosion in the use of social media by young people, and how bad online experiences could affect their mental health.

He is canny enough to use moderate language when answering questions on issues like the split between the Presbyterians and the Church of Scotland, which now means neither leader will be invited to each other's General Assemblies.

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He prefers to describe the split as a recalibration of relationships between the two, and insists they can still have a working relationship.

Even on the issue of same-sex marriage he displays a welcome attitude. He is opposed to it, but would accept it with a heavy heart if legislators decided to introduce it to Northern Ireland.

The year-long tenure leaves little scope for the incumbent to become a reformer, but at this time the Presbyterian Church needs a steady hand at the top, someone who will seek to heal divisions and assure everyone of a place within it. It may just have found the right person.

Belfast Telegraph


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