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First woman bishop chosen for Ireland

27 September 2013

CHURCH OF IRELAND

THE first woman bishop in Britain and Ireland has been appointed in the diocese of Meath & Kildare.

It was announced by the House of Bishops that the Rector of St Augustine's, Derry, in the diocese of Derry & Raphoe, the Revd Patricia Storey (above), had accepted the nomination to the see of Meath & Kildare, left vacant after the translation last year of Dr Richard Clarke, who is now Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland ( News, 5 October).

Mrs Storey said that she was "excited and daunted" by the appointment, and that it was an "enormous privilege".

The appointment of the new Bishop passed to the House of Bishops after the Episcopal Electoral College, which met on 28 May, failed to make an appointment (News, 31 May). The College had reconvened after the Archdeacon of Meath & Kildare, the Ven. Leslie Stevenson, stood down as Bishop-elect of the diocese ( News, 3 May).

Announcing the appointment, Dr Clarke said: "Having known Pat Storey since she was an undergraduate [when] I was chaplain at Trinity College, Dublin, I very much welcome her as a new bishop. She is a person of great warmth, intelligence, and spiritual depth, and I am certain that her ministry in the diocese of Meath & Kildare, and the wider Church, will be a blessing to many. We remember her and her family in our prayers."

The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, said that the appointment "brings delight to many within the dioceses, across the Church of Ireland, and throughout the Anglican Communion".

Mrs Storey said: "To be appointed bishop is amazing, and to be the Church of Ireland's first woman bishop is equally amazing. I am both excited and daunted by this new adventure in our lives."

Reform Ireland issued a statement on Monday saying that the appointment marked "a sad day" for many in the Church of Ireland: "The Church of Ireland has in effect discriminated against those who hold to a biblical position. This decision will not only prevent those who believe in God's agenda for man and woman being able to serve in Meath diocese, but also impair fellowship throughout the Church of Ireland."

The united diocese is, however, showing no early signs so far of being concerned at the appointment of a woman, and Mrs Storey does not see it as an obstacle. "Gender is not an issue for me, although I appreciate it may be an issue for other people," she said on Monday.

"I am a woman - and I am delighted to be a woman - but gender is a secondary issue, and while I am not trying to negate the problems that it may bring for some people, I am first of all a person, then a minister, and then after that comes gender. I realise some people will be uncomfortable with that, but I believe this is the right thing to do."

Born in Newtownards, Co. Down, the new Bishop-elect has served in both jurisdictions, and has a long association with youth work. She was ordained in 1997, and served her first curacy at St Patrick's, Ballymena. Then, while Team Vicar at Glenavy, she was also youth worker co-ordinator for the C of I youth department. She has been in her present post since 2004, and also serves on the Select Committee on Human Sexuality within the context of Christian Belief.

Mrs Storey, who is 53, is a board member of the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland, and formerly chaired the NI Alliance. A mother of two grown-up children, she is married to the Revd Earl Storey, who is closely identified with the "Hard Gospel" project for reconciliation, and serves as diocesan communications officer for Derry & Raphoe.

She describes herself as a "very optimistic person". "Churches, whether they be urban or rural, can grow - sometimes in numbers, or in spirituality, or in outreach."

On ecumenism, she recounts the many good wishes she has received from Roman Catholics, and clergy of other denominations in the Derry diocese.

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