A minister who helped the Church of Scotland to combat homophobia has been knighted.

The Very Reverend Professor Iain Torrance, a former moderator of the General Assembly who visited British troops in Iraq, was “literally speechless” to have been given the award for services to higher education and theology.

The 68-year-old, who was born in Aberdeen, convened the Church’s Theological Forum, which addressed questions relating to same-sex marriage, until May 2017.

A former Territorial Army Chaplain, during his time as moderator in 2004 he visited every British unit serving in Southern Iraq.

He was originally ordained as a minister at Northmavine Parish Church, Shetland, in 1982, a position he held until 1985 when he first moved into academia at Queen’s College and then the University of Birmingham.

He was the president of Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, USA from 2004-2012 and has been the Pro Chancellor of Aberdeen University since 2013 - some 20 years after he started teaching there.

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, welcomed the honour, saying: “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.

“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.”

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

Former Moderator the Very Rev Dr John Miller added said his colleague had" 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.

He added: “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.”