The new leader of Presbyterian Church has criticised homophobia and spoken of his admiration for ministers he knows who are attracted to people of the same-sex.
57-year-old Coleraine man, Rev Frank Sellar, minister of Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in east Belfast, was elected to succeed Rev Ian McNie as the next Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland when he received 18 out of a possible 19 votes from presbyteries across the country.
Rev Sellar described himself as a Calvinist and a “gospel radical”. He spoke up for gay people and for women in the church. “Currently, about seven per cent of the clergy are female and it would be good to see that number increase. However, entering the clergy is not something to be forced on people, they have to hear the call and want to follow it,” he said.
“In my role I have come across many situations that people without a calling would find quite difficult. But for me, my faith in Jesus guides me, knowing that I am doing his work because I felt the call to do it.”
He also said that he believed it was possible to be same-sex attracted and still to live by biblical precepts. He mentioned two well-known evangelicals, Ed Shaw and Vaugan Roberts. They are both part of the “Living Out” project, which promotes the lifestyles of Christians who are same-sex attracted but abide by Church teaching.
The new Moderator added: “It might sound surprising, but some of the people in the clergy I admire, and indeed some of the people within Christian ministry that I respect most, are same-sex attracted and it’s vital that people hear that.
“I believe there is no place in society for homophobia. In the cases of these two members, they have chosen to place their sexuality under the authority of the Lord and decided to live within the parameters the Bible sets.”
On the Asher Bakery controversy, he said: “Certainly, a business should not discriminate against customers because of their ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation that would be quite wrong. But it is a much wider issue.
“If a customer were to request a Muslim printer to print a cartoon of Mohammed, it would not be right, and there would be ramifications.
“But that’s quite different to coercion to participate in political campaigning, which is what I think is happening at the moment.”
Brought up in Coleraine, the father-of-three initially trained to be a teacher before becoming a minister in the 1980s. He was ordained assistant minister in Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, Bangor, in 1988.
In 1990 he moved to Dublin and ministered at Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church in the heart of the city for 17 years. He moved to Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in 2007.
Mr Sellar completed a Masters of Ministry degree from the Presbyterian Theological Faculty Ireland in 2013.
“It has been a huge privilege to have been involved in a lifetime of leadership in local congregations, north and south.
“I’m humbled that the wider church has trusted me with this responsibility, granting fresh opportunities of mission, which this year as Moderator of the General Assembly will bring, not only serving the wider church, but society throughout the whole of Ireland and further afield.”
He is intensely proud of his family’s military tradition, rooted around Aberdeenshire. “My grandather Sellar had three brothers, two of whom died in action in the First World War, serving with the Royal Scottish Highlanders. The third brother won the military medal in the war and survived,” he recalled.