THE Ven. Leslie Stevenson, who was to have been consecrated this
week as Bishop of Meath & Kildare, in the Irish Republic,
withdrew on Sunday after a press campaign against him.
His decision to step aside followed two newspaper articles. One
in the Dublin-based Sunday Business Post noted that he
would be the first divorced bishop in the history of the Church of
Ireland, and that he had had a relationship after his first
The second appeared last Friday in the Belfast-based Nationalist
daily Irish News, which suggested that Archdeacon
Stevenson's consecration was in doubt. It named the woman with whom
he had had a relationship, who is now a serving priest in the
diocese of Connor.
Archdeacon Stevenson has said that, after the break-up of his
first marriage, while serving as Rector of Donaghadee, in Northern
Ireland, he had had an "inappropriate" relationship with an
unmarried parishioner which, on reflection, should not have
happened, and which represented a falling short of pastoral
He resigned from the parish in 1999, and undertook a period of
personal discipline. He was subsequently appointed Rector of
Portarlington, in the Irish Republic, where he intends to
The Church of Ireland Electoral College chose Archdeacon
Stevenson for the see of Meath & Kildare when it met in January
this year. The appointment was subsequently ratified by the House
It is understood that on Saturday, after a rehearsal for the
consecration in Christ Church Cathedral, where the consecration was
to take place on Wednesday, Archdeacon Stevenson was met at his
home by a delegation of three bishops, led by the Archbishop of
Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson. It was after this meeting that the
Bishop-elect announced his decision to withdraw.
In a statement on Sunday, Archdeacon Stevenson said: "I am
honoured to have been elected Bishop of Meath & Kildare, and
appreciate the support and goodwill offered to me by many people
from the dioceses and the wider Church of Ireland over recent
"My positive concern for the Church, to which I remain loyal,
now leads me to decline the appointment. I wish to broaden and
deepen my ministry in the parish and diocese in which I have been
called to serve."
The reaction among clergy and laity in the diocese has ranged
from incredulity to annoyance at what is seen as outside
interference in an episcopal selection. The relationship, from 14
years ago, was known to those who chose him, and there is anger
that hostile publicity has been allowed to inform the direction of
the Church of Ireland.
One serving cleric remarked: "Some people believe in
forgiveness; others obviously do not."
A statement from the honorary clerical and lay secretaries of
the dioceses, representing the diocesan synod and council
membership, expressed dismay and regret at Archdeacon Stevenson's
"Strenuous and adverse publicity, such as that shared in some of
today's newspapers, led to Leslie's announcement of his intention
to decline the appointment. Leslie generously withdrew his name to
shield and protect the dioceses of Meath and Kildare, and for the
general well-being of the Church.
"This is a hallmark of Leslie's vocation and loyalty to the
Church he serves. While we regret his resignation as Bishop-elect,
we accept and respect his decision."
Dr Jackson is expected to summon a new electoral college for the
end of May. Meanwhile, he has appointed Canon John Clarke (Navan),