Knighthood for former Moderator

A distinguished Church of Scotland minister with “outstanding gifts of intellect and leadership” has been given a knighthood in the New Year Honours list.

Very Reverend Professor Iain Torrance has been honoured for his service to the Church, theological education, interfaith dialogue, the British Army and work to combat homophobia.

Rev Professor Iain Torrance
Professor Torrance with dog Cassiopea. Photo by Robyn Torrance.

The 68-year-old, who will become a Knight Bachelor (Kt), is an academic theologian with an international reputation.

He convened the Church’s Theological Forum, which addressed questions relating to same-sex marriage, until May 2017.

Married with two children, Professor Torrance served as Moderator of the General Assembly in 2003-04 and has been the Pro Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen since 2013.

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.

He held the position until 1985 when he first moved into academia at Queen’s College and then the University of Birmingham.

Professor Torrance was the president of Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, USA from 2004-2012.

The minister, whose father Very Rev Thomas F Torrance was Moderator in 1976-77, has also been recognised for his work on interfaith dialogue with Jewish and Islamic communities.

He was presented with the “Friend for Life Award” by Equality Scotland in 2004 and he co-edited the leading academic journal Scottish Journal of Theology for more than 30 years.

Aberdeen-born Professor Torrance was educated at the universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Oxford.

Unique recognition

Very Rev 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.

“Iain has been influential through his work as a Chaplain working on the importance of moral values in military training.

“He has been valued in the university sphere, as Professor of Theology and as an administrator when Dean of the Faculty of Arts in Aberdeen.

“Iain has helped the Church to combat homophobia and has tried to hold the centre of the Church together.

“He thoroughly deserves this unique recognition.”

Well deserved

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen – where Professor Torrance first started teaching in 1993 - welcomed the news.

“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,” he said.

“We are hugely privileged to have him as our Pro Chancellor.

“He has worked tirelessly in this role both as an ambassador for the University and also as a source of wise advice.

“Professor Torrance also serves as a member of our Development Trust, supporting all aspects of the work of our University and the delivery of our ambitions.

“His knighthood is fitting recognition and thoroughly well deserved.

“It will bring immense pleasure to all who know him and have worked with him.”