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Priest must retire at 70

16 August 2013

RODHULLANDEMU/WIKI COMMONS

A PRIEST who was resisting his obligatory retirement on his 70th birthday, on Monday, has agreed a two-month extension to his tenure with the Bishop of Warrington.

Backed by community and faith leaders, the Revd Robert Gallagher, Vicar of St Margaret's, Toxteth, in the diocese of Liverpool, had been pressing for a two-year extension to enable him to lead plans for a new Free School in the parish (News, 9 August).

Mr Gallagher said that he had "felt no option" but to agree to his retirement after a meeting with the Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, and that he "wanted to leave St Margaret's with a celebratory party" for his 23-year ministry.

He said, however, that he welcomes the continued action by local community groups, who are now working with solicitors to look at "ageism" within the C of E's policy. The Ecclesiastical Offices (Age Limit) Measure 1975 requires most ordained office-holders to retire at the age of 70. A bishop may extend a priest's tenure by up to two years if the "pastoral needs of a parish . . . or of his diocese make it desirable".

"I have carefully and prayerfully listened to Father Robert and feel there are strong pastoral reasons to give him a short period of grace to conclude his time at St Margaret's," Bishop Blackburn said.

The Bishop also announced that pastoral care St Margaret's will be overseen by Canon Robert Lewis, a university chaplain in the city, after Mr Gallagher's retirement.

"I am delighted that Bob has accepted God's call to minister at St Margaret's," Bishop Blackburn said. "He will be able to continue the provision of worship as this historic church looks to its future ministry as a church for the community."

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