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Withdrawal of appointee to Meath & Kildare

by
24 May 2013

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From the Very Revd Dr Robert MacCarthy
Sir, - The courageous action of Archdeacon Leslie Stevenson in withdrawing from his appointment as Bishop of Meath & Kildare ( News, 3 May) has raised some important questions for the Church.

First, it has shone a spotlight once again on deficiencies in the present method of electing bishops, which dates only from the 1960s. Under the present system, the appointment has to be made at a single meeting of the Electoral College, and there is no provision for prior nominations or prior consent by the persons proposed. This contrasts sharply with the system in force in the Scottish Episcopal Church and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion.

Under the latter, proposed names are circulated in advance to members of the Electoral College. Bishop David Chillingworth, who has experience of both systems, has told me that the Scottish system is infinitely preferable, although it is very hard on the families of defeated candidates.

Second, Archdeacon Stevenson was duly elected by the Electoral College last January, presumably in full knowledge of the facts of his two marriages, and this appointment was duly confirmed by the House of Bishops last February. Why was it not until after the rehearsal had taken place for the consecration on 1 May that Archbishop Jackson and two other bishops visited Archdeacon Stevenson "in a pastoral capacity"? Not surprisingly, Archdeacon Stevenson withdrew his acceptance of the post the following morning.

The honorary secretaries of the Meath & Kildare synod, in their statement, have spoken of "strenuous and adverse publicity . . . that led to Leslie's announcement of his intention to decline the appointment". This is contradicted by Kieron Wood (Letters, 10 May), who says that he merely reported the facts in The Sunday Business Post, and that it was the Archdeacon himself who volunteered the information that he had had an "inappropriate relationship" between his two marriages.

ROBERT MacCARTHY
Former Dean of St Patrick's
Cathedral, Dublin
Suirmount, Clonmel
Co. Tipperary, Ireland

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