COMMUNITY and faith leaders have joined together to campaign
against the decision by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James
Jones, not to extend the tenure of a priest beyond his 70th
The Vicar of St Margaret's, Toxteth, the Revd Robert Gallagher,
is facing obligatory retirement, with effect from his 70th
birthday, on 19 August, after Bishop Jones rejected his request to
stay on for a further two years.
The Black-E community and cultural arts centre in Toxteth has
attracted more than 600 signatures on a petition calling for Fr
Gallagher to remain in his post. The General Secretary of the
Liverpool Muslim Society, Sister Catherine Odita, has co-signed a
letter to Bishop Jones in support of Fr Gallagher, alongside a
Black community leader, Maria Paul, and a churchwarden, Ste
The letter states: "We cannot believe that you wish to retire at
a moment when your decision to enforce the retirement of the Revd
Robert Gallagher . . . goes so strongly against the . . . publicly
expressed wishes of his parishioners, of extensive members of
Liverpool's Black community, and of extensive members of
Liverpool's Islamic community."
The director of the Black-E, Bill Harpe, described Fr
Gallagher's ministry as "unique and remarkable": "The Bishop is
very noted for his input into regeneration, and his view that the
wishes of local communities must be paramount. We would hope that
the Bishop would take the same view in this case."
Fr Gallagher said that he was taking legal advice, and would
wait until Bishop Jones retired on 18 August before applying to the
Suffragan Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, for
permission to stay on in the parish on a house-for-duty basis.
He was "humbled" by the "very moving" response of the community,
he said, and he wanted to stay on to support an application for a
free school that will be presented to the Government next
A spokesman for the diocese said that Bishop Jones was "very
grateful for Fr Roberts's ministry at St Margaret's, but the law
says it is time for him to retire . . . and there are no
exceptional circumstances for his tenure to be extended."