Incoming Presbyterian Moderator the Rev Ian McNie has expressed his concerns about a woman taking on the leadership of his church, but the Ballymoney cleric said he could foresee a time when it will happen.
The 64-year-old moderator-designate’s comments were made in the context of north Belfast minister the Rev Liz Hughes failing to get elected for the second year running in a contest involving three church colleagues, including Mr McNie, who received the backing of 12 of the church’s 19 presbyteries across Ireland.
Mr McNie said many people’s view on a female moderator were based on theological grounds, and their interpretation of the Bible.
“They hold that position from the point of view that as they interpret the scriptures; the leadership role within the church is not necessarily the leadership role within society – that men and women complement each other.
“I would have a conviction, like many other people within all major denominations, that there are concerns about that issue, and I would share that conviction as well,“ said Mr McNie, in an interview yesterday with the BBC.
Later, speaking at a press conference at Church House in Belfast, Mr McNie acknowledged that women were the backbone of the missionary side of Irish Presbyterianism.
However, he added: “There are those who are not just completely comfortable with the ordination of women. That is not to say that women don’t have a most prominent part to play in the life of the church. Our own Presbyterian Church opened its doors to the ordination of women and during my year as moderator if women ministers invite me to preach in their pulpits I will.
“I believe the time will come when there will be a woman moderator in our church.”
Antrim-born Mr McNie has spent 37 years in church ministry, moving from assistantship at Alexandra church in north Belfast to Kilkeel church in Co Down, to his present position at Trinity church in Ballymoney in 1991.
Mr McNie said he was “greatly humbled” by his election as moderator and the theme for his moderatoral year will be “A Caring Fellowship”, with the emphasis on welcoming strangers into their midst and supporting each other pastorally.
“We are a broad church and, with God’s help and the prayerful support of the wider church, I would trust that during my year in office, lives will be impacted by the gospel.
“Throughout my ministry, I have sought to preach the gospel with clarity and conviction, in such a way that people will be moved by God’s spirit to make a positive response to become Christians,” said Mr McNie, who succeeds the Rev Dr Michael Barry.