In the search for the next Moderator of the General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the candidate for the Presbytery of Derry and Donegal is from Strabane.
The Presbytery had put through Rev Elizabeth Hughes to be the Moderator of the General Assembly 2015, however, Rev. Ian McNie received more votes from the Presbyteries and is the new Moderator Designate.
The Presbytery nominated Rev Mark Shaw, Minister of Strabane congregation as their Moderator for the year 2015-2016.
The Clerk, Rev Robert Buick, reported there was an attempt to gain access to both Montgomery Hall and the Old School Hall of the former Strand Presbyterian Church during the last two weeks of January. Slight damage to the door locking mechanisms was done. He said consideration was being given as to what to do with the former Strand Manse which is now vacant.
Rev Knox Jones informed Presbytery that he had received Mission Plans from four congregations in the South Eastern Presbytery area. He encouraged the remaining congregations to submit their Mission Plans soon. He encouraged all other congregations within Presbytery to submit their up-to-date Mission Plans by March 31.
Rev Lindsay Blair reported that a day conference for ministers of Presbytery looking at the issue of Young People and Communion had been held with Dr .Graeme Thompson as speaker. He reminded members of the forthcoming Closer to Home Conference in Belfast and indicated that if there was sufficient interest it might be possible to re-run this in the North West.
Rev. Dr. Brian Brown informed Presbytery that Raphoe Central National School have made two appointments. They were Paul Dillon for an adoptive leave post and Lorraine McDaid for a maternity leave post.
Rev M Russell reported that following interviews by the Board of Christian Training, two candidates were accepted for training for the Accredited Preacher scheme. They were Audrey Neill, from Ballykelly and Harold Kerr, from Strabane. He said courses for Elders Training were being run twice a year in the Presbytery towards the end of January and the end of October and congregations should take this into consideration when deciding to elect New Elders.
Referring to the forthcoming Referendum on same sex marriage, Rev Tommy Bruce informed the meeting that in May 2015, the people of southern Ireland will be asked to vote on a referendum, which will change the constitution to the following: ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.’
“Ultimately it is for the people of Ireland to decide,” he said, continuing: “But I hope we can have a constructive and respectful debate which will help to inform and engage citizens on this important issue. I would encourage everyone entitled to vote in these referendums to participate fully in our democracy by ensuring that they are registered to vote and to go to the polls in May.
“I am concerned at the legal implications of a yes vote in this referendum, with regard to the church performing weddings and with the spiritual and moral state of a society and about the lack of biblical understanding amongst many within our church, who appear to have received more of their understanding regarding biblical family from Dot Cotton, Sophie Webster, and Aaron Dingle, than the letters of Paul and the words of Jesus.”
The Presbytery decided to set aside a Sunday to pray about this issue, all teaching elders would consider addressing what the bible teaches regarding marriage and family and invite Rev Norman Hamilton from the Church in Society council, to speak on the area of defining family and the implications to society of the proposed changes.