08 February 2006

Moderator elect calls for loyalists to disarm

Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine minister to lead Presbyterians

By Alf McCreary
08 February 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The new Presbyterian Moderator elect, the Rev David Clarke, has called for loyalist paramilitaries to decommission their weapons.

He was elected yesterday by 14 of the 21 Presbyteries in the Church throughout Ireland.

The runner-up was the Rev Jimmy Johnstone from Larne, with six nominations.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, shortly after his election was announced, Mr Clarke said: "There has been progress in Northern Ireland and I believe that the Provisional IRA carried out a significant decommissioning last autumn.

"It would help the situation greatly if the loyalists decommissioned their weapons and I cannot see any reason why they should hold onto them."

Mr Rev Clarke also said that he would be prepared as Moderator to take part in joint worship with Catholics.

He said " My instinct is to represent the Presbyterian Church in whatever arena I am required to do so."

This is in contrast with the present Moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Harry Uprichard, who has theological difficulties in sharing in joint worship.

Some years ago Mr Clarke visited several North American cities on a "Rev Tour" with a Catholic priest Fr Sean Rogan, now in Downpatrick.

He said " I regard him as a friend, though we haven't met for some time."

Mr Clarke also said that he would participate in inter-faith events.

"Where we are able to preserve our Christian integrity, I would participate. We have to respect the point of view of other people. Part of the Christian approach to life is that we should be sensitive to the feelings of others."

Mr Clarke (59), is minister of Terrace Row in Coleraine. This is the first time that a minister of this church has become Moderator.

He is one of a family of eight, and two of his brothers Arthur and James, are also Presbyterian ministers. Another brother, Norman, formerly played football for Ballymena United and Sunderland.

He is married to Hazel and they have two daughters, Ruth and Sarah.

The Moderator elect will take up office during the opening night of the General Assembly in June.

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