Church of Scotland Announces Candidates for Next Church of Scotland Moderator

The Church of Scotland will choose between a dentist, an ex-senior civil servant and a female minister to be the next Moderator of the General Assembly after it announced the three candidates earlier this week.

The Rev Sheilagh M Kesting, Secretary of the Committee on Ecumenical Relations, the Rev Dr. Norman Shanks, Minister of Govan Old Parish Church, Glasgow, and the Rev William F Wallace, Minister of Pultneytown and Thrumster Church, Wick, were announced earlier this week as the candidates for the next Moderator.

The Rev Sheilagh Kesting, 53, who gave the sermon at Balmoral when the Royal Family were in residence last month, would become the first female minister to hold the post if she wins the vote on 31 October.

Dr Alison Elliot became the Church of Scotland's first female Moderator in 2004, but in this case she was a Kirk elder and lay member, not a minister.

Kesting, a Stornoway native, spent her early probationary period in St John's Renfield Church in Glasgow, before moving to St Andrew's High in Musselburgh, East Lothian.

Since 1993, she has been secretary to the committee on ecumenical relations in the Church of Scotland, involved in liaison between the Kirk and other churches.

The second candidate, the Edinburgh-born Dr Norman Shanks, 64, is a former leader of the Iona Community and has been minister at Govan Old Parish Church in Glasgow since 2003.
He was also private secretary to the Scottish secretaries Willie Ross and Bruce Millan between 1975 and 1977.

Dr Shanks is a vocal opponent of Trident renewal, an issue that has seen the Church of Scotland recently join forces with the Catholic Church in Scotland in protest.

The third nominee is the Rev William Wallace, 67, the minister for Wick for more than 30 years.

In 2004, he campaigned against the closure of the Wick baby unit and in 1990 spoke out against the liberalisation of Scotland's licensing laws, The Scotsman reports.

On 31 October, members of the Committee to Nominate the Moderator will hear proposers and seconders speak to their nominations before voting to nominate the person who will be presented as Moderator Designate to the General Assembly on 19 May 2007.

The new Moderator will replace the outgoing Rt Rev Alan McDonald in holding the responsibility for chairing meetings of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

The Moderator also leads daily worship, keeps order, rules on points of order and signs documents on behalf of the Assembly.

The role is an honorary one, held for 12 months. After the Assembly, the Moderator generally travels as a Church representative in Scotland, other parts of the UK, Ireland and overseas in an 'ambassadorial' capacity.