Rev Liz Hughes, Minister of Whitehouse Presbyterian Church, and Rev Frank Sellar, Moderator-Designate of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, were honoured recently by the church’s Union Theological College with the degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Union Theological College holds its graduation service in Assembly Buildings and awards honorary degrees to recognise notable ministries each year. Alongside the doctorates at the ceremony, 13 students were awarded Postgraduate Diplomas in Ministry and Certificates for Licensing, along with nine students who received Diplomas and Certificates in Youth Ministry.
Dr Hughes has been minister of Whitehouse since 2000. On her ordination in 1986, she was the seventh woman to be ordained into the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. In his citation, Professor Laurence Kirkpatrick acknowledged her work overseas as a mission worker in the Caribbean, and her ministry in building her congregation in Newtownabbey, especially after a devastating arson attack that reduced the church to a shell.
He also acknowledged her work in community relations in and around Whitehouse that “…meshed with Catholic, Anglican and Methodist congregations listening and sharing experiences with each other. The process was painful and challenging at times but also rewarding and led to a collective vision of wanting to be relevant in the locality…”
Moderator-Designate of the General Assembly, Rev Dr Frank Sellar, will be formally elected and installed as Moderator on the Opening Night of the 2016 General Assembly that starts on Monday, June 6. He was called to Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in 2007 after spending 17 years as Minister of Adelaide Road in Dublin.
Professor Drew Gibson read the citation and in speaking of his forthcoming year as Moderator, said of the east Belfast minister: “In almost unanimously choosing Frank as the next Moderator of the General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has recognised a man of stature, with a pacific temperament, who is wholly committed to Jesus Christ and to His Church. We know that he will represent our church well, with great dignity and we look forward to his leadership in the coming year.”
The Presbyterian Theological Faculty, Ireland awards degrees by the authority of its Royal Charter, which was granted by Queen Victoria in 1881. Speaking at the ceremony, the Principal of Union College, Professor Stafford Carson said: “This is a very happy occasion for the successful students and for the whole College community.
“Union College seeks to prepare students for effective ministry in Ireland and across the world, and we are excited for our students as they begin their full-time ministry. Our prayer is that God would use them in significant ways to contribute to the advancement of His kingdom.”
The Graduate Diplomas in Ministry are awarded to students preparing for ordination within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, indicating that they have completed all the requirements set out by the General Assembly and are now qualified to be licensed by their local presbyteries.