Sunday, June 09, 2024

President of Methodist Church in Ireland Rev Dr John Alderdice: To most people today church is 'entirely irrelevant to their daily lives and circumstances'

The church today is "entirely irrelevant to their daily lives and circumstances" of most people, according to the new President of the Methodist Church in Ireland.

That is the frank admission from Rev Dr John D Alderdice when installed at the opening of the 2024 Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland, in the Presbyterian Assembly Buildings in Belfast on Wednesday night.

Currently Circuit Superintendent of the recently amalgamated Belfast Central and South Circuit, Rev Alderdice is also an Ecumenical Canon of Down Cathedral. He is married to Ruth and they have two children, Hannah and Daniel.

His theme for his twelve months in office is ‘For the transformation of the world’ during which he will be sharing with the church "how the Holy Spirit transforms people and communities".

However in his inaugural address, he will say: “We are divided ourselves about all sorts of issues. Mission strategies and initiatives might help, but they won’t take us back to where we were in a previous generation.

"Let’s be real and understand that many people view the church as entirely irrelevant to their daily lives and circumstances.

"Broadly, the cultural landscape is changing right in front of us, we need to be real. For many this changing context might be a threat, however, I would humbly suggest that is only if we have lost sight of God’s call to his people. Our context today provides so many opportunities to share the transforming message of the good news of Jesus.”

The Methodist Church in Ireland website says it now has 212 churches with a total membership of around 50,000 people. However the World Methodist Council says the membership is only 15,000 with 19,500 people in communion.

An active member of Twitter/X since 2009, he has 1,300 followers. He regularly tweets or retweets on topics such as Christian discipleship and leadership, often citing US author Carey Nieuwhof.

He occasionally retweets political columns by Alex Kane, and is a prolific tweeter on Ulster Rugby and rugby at his old school, Methodist College Belfast, where he played.

The cleric also frequently retweets humorous messages about introverts but appears to avoid any controversial messages on theology, social issues or politics.

Of his own upbringing, Rev Alderdice says he was born into a Christian household in Ballymena in 1974, his father, Rev Duncan Alderdice, having also been a Methodist Minister.

Educated at Fivemiletown Primary School, Malone Primary School and Fullerton House Preparatory School, Belfast before attending Methodist College Belfast, he later studied Modern History at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

Soon after graduating from QUB, he was accepted for ministerial training at Edgehill College in 1995. There he studied for three years before being stationed on his first circuit in Richhill in 1998, being ordained at the Methodist Conference in Belfast in 2000.

He has served as a minister at Movilla Abbey in Newtownads, Comber and in the QUB chaplaincy for five years, before being appointed as the Director of Ministry for the Methodist Church in Ireland between 2014-21.

Mrs Elaine M Barnett has also been designated as Lay Leader of the Conference for 2024-2026.