Top Christian academic appointed knight in New Year Honours

One of the country's most outstanding Christian academics and a chaplain to the Queen has been given a knighthood in the New Year Honours.

Professor Iain Torrance, pro-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, has been honoured for his service to the Church, theological education, interfaith dialogue, the British Army and work to combat homophobia.

Professor Torrance with dog Cassiopea. Pic by Robyn Torrance via Church of Scotland  

Professor Torrance is dean of the Chapel Royal in Scotland, honorary professor of early Christian doctrine and ethics, University of Edinburgh and president and emeritus professor of patristics at Princeton Theological Seminary in the US, where he worked from 2004-2012.

He served as convenor of the Church of Scotland's theological forum, which addressed questions relating to same-sex marriage, until May 2017.

At its most recent meeting, the church's General Assembly approved an apology to gay people for the history of discrimination they have faced in the Church, and also approved a report which could pave the way to allow some ministers to conduct same sex marriages in the future.

Married with two children, Professor Torrance served as Moderator of the General Assembly in 2003-04.

He said he was "literally speechless" when he received a letter from the Cabinet Office stating that Prime Minister Theresa May was recommending to the Queen that he should be knighted.

Professor Torrance said: "It is an honour and a privilege to be recognised by Her Majesty the Queen for a lifetime of work that has been, and continues to be, a deep passion."

A former Territorial Army Chaplain, Professor Torrance was ordained as a minister of Northmavine Parish Church, Shetland in 1982.

Dr John Miller, Moderator of the General Assembly in 2001-02, said: "Iain Torrance has outstanding gifts of intellect and leadership. It is very unusual to find a church minister exercising these gifts both in the church and in society at large."

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, where Professor Torrance first started teaching in 1993, said: "Professor Torrance has made an enormous and outstanding contribution to higher education, both as one of the UK's leading theologians and also as a university leader in Scotland and in Princeton, USA."

Other awards related to services to the church included William James Keith Fleming of Lisburn, Northern Ireland, appointed an MBE for services to young people through the Church Lads' and Church Girls' Brigades and The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.

Gareth Jones was appointed BEM for services to Church communities in Skewen and Neath, South West Wales, Lisa Mariane Turner was appointed BEM for services to the community in the Four Churches Benifice, South Cambridgeshire and Graham John Wadley of Wivenhoe, Essex was appointed BEM for services to Church Music.

Ex-Beatles drummer Ringo Starr was knighted in Queen Elizabeth's New Year's honors list, along with Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb and author Michael Morpurgo, while ballet dancer Darcey Bussell becomes a dame.

Ringo, 77, real name Richard Starkey, joined the Beatles as a replacement drummer for Pete Best in 1962 and occasionally sang lead vocals, notably in "Yellow Submarine" and "With a Little Help from my Friends."

 The biannual honors list is released on the Queen's official birthday in June and at the end of each year. 

Additional reporting by Reuters