THE House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland has chosen Dr
Richard Clarke, Bishop of Meath & Kildare, as new Primate of
All Ireland, after an all-day meeting in Armagh on Tuesday.
He becomes the Archbishop of Armagh, succeeding the Most Revd
Alan Harper, who retired at the end of last month after
five-and-a-half years in office.
Dr Clarke, aged 63 (above), is a widely respected
theologian and noted author, with much international experience.
Apart from a two-year curacy at Holywood, in Co. Down, his ministry
has been in the Irish Republic, at posts that include a second
curacy at St Bartholomew's, a high church in Dublin, Chaplain to
Trinity College, Rector of Bandon, and Dean of Cork. He has been in
his present post since 1996.
Under the C of I constitution, the 11-member House of Bishops
elects a Primate from among its own number. The key is to choose
someone who will be seen to represent the Church in two
jurisdictions: Northern Ireland, where the majority of Irish
Anglicans live, and the more sparsely populated Republic - which,
paradoxically, claims to have a higher number of regular Anglican
churchgoers per capita, and where the headquarters of the C of I
are based, along with the national Cathedral, St Patrick's.
Archbishop Clarke inherits a Church that has changed in recent
years. There has been strong growth in many parishes, particularly
in the Republic, caused by a mixture of factors including
immigration and an influx of disaffected Roman Catholics. In
Northern Ireland, an already strong Evangelical culture has been
vocal in the controversy over the Church's position on
Bishop Clarke's age is thought to have been an important
ingredient in the choice. The 20-year term served by Lord Eames led
some, rightly or wrongly, to identify the Irish Church more closely
with the Northern Irish establishment than perhaps was fairly the
case. This was reinforced by the appointment of Archbishop Harper,
an Englishman, and left some in the Republic uncomfortable with the
perception of a Church tied to the UK - though many would say this
was unfair to a man who did his utmost to be chief shepherd to all.
His time in office was relatively short, however.
He is father to two grown-up children, Nicholas and Lindsay,
both medics. His wife Lynda died some years ago.
Should the Church of England adopt
the Irish system of appointing an archbishop?