Caretaker primate elected in Ireland

 

Caretaker primate elected in Ireland

Author: 

George Conger

The Irish House of Bishops has elected the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, the Most Rev Richard Clarke as the 105th Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
The 4 Oct 2012 announcement elevates the church’s senior serving bishop to the top post, and postpones a potential North/South split within the Irish Church over homosexuality. Considered a liberal churchman within the House of Bishops, Dr. Clarke has moved to the center in recent years, supporting the course taken by his predecessor, Dr. Alan Harper in avoiding a clash between the liberal and conservative wings of the church.
Bishop Paul Colton of Cork, Cloyne and Ross and Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel and Ossory broke with their colleagues at the last meeting of General Synod and have called for a revision of church teaching on homosexuality.  Bishop Burrows’ brother in law, Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin and Bishop Patrick Rooke of Tuam, Killala and Achonry have expressed sympathy for the liberal stance, but have not openly supported change.
The North/South divide in Ireland is doctrinal as well as political as the evangelical bishops of Ulster, Bishop Ken Clarke of Kilmore, Elphin, and Ardagh, who retired in September, 2012, Bishop Harold Miller of Down & Dromore, Bishop Alan Abernethy of Connor, Bishop Ken Good of Derry & Raphoe, and Bishop John McDowell of Clogher have opposed altering the church’s teaching on homosexuality.
Dr. Clarke of Meath and Kildare – who by virtue of his office is traditionally styled the Most Rev. due it having been an independent province before its amalgamation with the Province of Dublin in 1833 – along with the Bishop of Limerick have sought to mediate between the two wings. 
The House of Bishops must now fill vacancies in the Diocese of Meath and Kildare and the Diocese Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh.  The results of these elections, will likely determine whether Dr. Clarke can preserve the status quo and avoid a show down over gay blessings and clergy.
Following the announcement of his election, Dr. Clarke said “I truly feel neither worthy of the heritage into which I am to enter nor adequate for the tasks that lie ahead. The God of Christian belief is, however, a God of grace rather than a god who looks for human self-sufficiency. All I can pledge is that I will give this task the very best of which I am capable, and the prayer of all of us must be that God in his grace will enable some good to come from this.”
I look forward to fresh challenges and joys, along with new friendships and discoveries, in the “phase of ministry in the Gospel that now lies ahead, both in the Diocese of Armagh and within the wider fellowship of the Church of Ireland and beyond. Please pray for the Church of Ireland and for me in these weeks ahead as I prepare to take up this new responsibility.”
The Church of Ireland Press Office reports the new archbishop is 63 years of age, and is a widower with two adult children.  His wife, Linda, died in 2009.
The Archbishop designate is 63 years old; his wife, Linda, died in 2009. Educated at Wesley College, Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin and King’s College, London, Dr. Clarke served as a parish priest in the dioceses of Down, Dublin and Cork before being elected Bishop of Meath and Kildare in 1996. The new archbishop takes up his post on 15 Dec 2012.