Church of Ireland Synod: Merger of two dioceses approved

24 May 2019

Gregg Ryan reports from the Church of Ireland’s General Synod in Derry

Church of Ireland

Left to right: Bishops Pat Storey, Paul Colton, and Harold Miller

Left to right: Bishops Pat Storey, Paul Colton, and Harold Miller

A BILL to allow the creation of a new diocese within the Church of Ireland was given final approval on Thursday of last week.

The Bill was proposed by the Dean of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, the Very Revd Alistair Grimason (Tuam).

It proposed the amalgamation of the united diocese of Tuam, Killala & Achonry with that of Limerick & Killaloe (which incorporates six other dioceses), in the west of Ireland, into one new united diocese, Tuam, Limerick & Killaloe. The existing two dioceses currently each have a bishop in situ: that of Tuam, the Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, and of Limerick, Dr Kenneth Kearon. Under the new merger, there would be only one bishop, but this merger cannot take place until one of the existing bishops retires or moves on.

Dean Grimason summed up the extensive rounds of talks and explanatory meetings, which he said had allayed the fears of many. It was further complicated by the fact that Limerick was in the Province of Dublin, whereas Tuam was in the Province of Armagh.

He said: “I’m sorry, now, that none of us had the foresight to make a documentary film about the process in a similar vein as Brexit: Behind closed doors; but, if we had, members of synod would have witnessed a series of meetings, over a number of years, of a steering group made up of representatives of both diocesan synods, talking, discussing, debating, swapping ideas in a spirit of co-operation and respect and unity of purpose.

“I doubt whether our film documentary would have made for compelling viewing, though, because, unlike the Brexit film, there was no rancour, no point-scoring, and no bitterness. We recognised the good sense of what we were about, and got on with the job.”

Under the new proposals, one parish, Ballisodare, will move to the diocese of Kilmore, while the diocese of Tuam will move from the Province of Armagh to Dublin.

Given the very long distance from Kerry to Sligo, and that Tuam will no longer have a resident Bishop, the Representative Church Body has made arrangements for accommodation and meetings at the northern end of Tuam diocese, mirroring existing arrangements for the Bishop at Tralee, in County Kerry.

Seconding the Bill, Joc Sanders (Killaloe) said that the Bill represented a carefully crafted, balanced agreement between the two dioceses to unite under terms that both dioceses had wholeheartedly endorsed. “It should not be seen as a package deal, and will require the assent of both diocesan synods before it comes into effect,” he said. “Only after both have done so can the dioceses be united, when next either see becomes vacant.”

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