Iain Torrance tops church people honoured in the New Year list

30 December 2017


In recognition: the Very Revd Professor Iain Torrance, who was knighted in the New Year Honours list, at the Kirk’s General Assembly in 2017

In recognition: the Very Revd Professor Iain Torrance, who was knighted in the New Year Honours list, at the Kirk’s General Assembly in 2017

A FORMER Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is among the church figures to be recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours.

The Very Revd Professor Iain Torrance, a Kirk minister, pro-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, and theologian served as Moderator from 2003 to 2004. He has been awarded a knighthood for services to higher education and theology.

His year as Moderator is best-remembered for pushing the Church of Scotland closer towards accepting the presence of gay clergy. He declared that he was “utterly untroubled” by the ordination of gay people as clergy at the time of the furore over the nomination of Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading in 2003.

Asked for a response to his knighthood, Sir Iain said on Saturday he was “utterly speechless”.

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, 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, in the United States.

“His knighthood is fitting recognition and thoroughly well deserved. It will bring immense pleasure to all who know him and have worked with him.”

The Revd Professor Bernard Silverman, an eminent statistician and, until earlier this year, the chief scientific adviser to the Home Office, has also been knighted. Professor Silverman, who is the Emeritus Professor of Statistics at the University of Oxford, was ordained in 2000 and has twice been an honorary curate in the dioceses of Bristol and then Oxford.

He was knighted for services to public service and science and currently his main area of research is modern slavery. As the Home Office’s adviser he was the first person to estimate how many people are presently enslaved in the UK.


Sir Iain and Professor Silverman were just two of the 1123 people named on the New Year’s Honours List.

The majority given honours are recognised for their services in their own communities and to charities or other institutions. Among them are Lieut-Colonel Margaret Burn from the Salvation Army, who was given an MBE for services to vulnerable people, and Iain Ball, who was awarded an MBE for services to cathedral choral music and young people.

Also awarded MBEs were Jane Clarke, who worked for 28 years with the Churches Housing Association, Dudley and District (CHADD), for her services to vulnerable women and children; and Wendy Coombey, community partnership and funding officer at the diocese of Hereford.

Ms Clarke said: “This honour is for everyone who works at CHADD, quietly changing people’s lives for the better and making a difference to those who are most in need in Dudley.”

A trio of bellringers have been honoured: Thomas Metcalfe has been awarded an MBE for services to bellringing in Cumbria, Alan Regin has been given an MBE for services to the heritage of bellringing, and Bryan Birkitt has been given the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to bellringing in Nottinghamshire.

The founder of the London Community Gospel Choir, Bazil Meade, was awarded the MBE for services to the development of Gospel music in Britain. Also recognised in the field of music with BEMs were Graham Wadley, who has been the organist and director of music at St Mary’s, Wivenhoe, in Essex for more than 50 years, and Doris Williams, who chairs the North-East group of the National Association of Choirs.

One of the commonest citations in the Honours List was services to education. Included in that field were Patricia Boyd, who was given an MBE for services to religious and moral education in Scotland; Professor Joy Carter, the vice-chancellor of the Anglican-founded University of Winchester, who was awarded a CBE; and a number of head teachers and governors of Roman Catholic schools.

Other recipients of the BEM included Joyce Carter, for services to Durham Cathedral; Lisa Turner, a church administrator in South Cambridgeshire; and John Cox, chairman of the Friends of Holy Trinity, Bradford-upon-Avon, who led the fundraising for a major re-ordering of the medieval church in 2016.

Beyond the Church, the headline awards from the New Year’s Honours were knighthoods and damehoods for the former Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb; the former ballerina and Strictly judge, Darcey Bussell; and the former Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr.

Also knighted were the former Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, and the children’s author Michael Morpurgo.

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