Move to block election of conservative Irish bishop defeated

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David McClay
The Irish House of Bishops meeting in Dublin on 20 Nov 2019 confirmed the appointment of the Ven. David McClay, Archdeacon of Down, as Bishop–designate of the Diocese of Down and Dromore.  His consecration is planned for late January in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.

The announcement follows an unprecedented move by liberal Irish clergy to persuade the bishops to block the election of Archdeacon McClay on the grounds that his support of the GAFCON movement made him unfit to be a bishop.

In a letter published in the Irish Times on Monday, accompanied with a supporting news story, the liberal clergy wrote:

Dear Members of the House of Bishops,

Archdeacon David McClay has been elected as potential Bishop of Down and Dromore, the largest diocese in the Church of Ireland. His election will need to be confirmed by the House of Bishops on Wednesday, 20th November, to come into effect. The following does not impugn his sterling work in parochial ministry, but raises real concerns regarding the appropriateness of his membership of the Council of Gafcon Ireland (Global Anglican Future Conference) in relation to his election as bishop.

In the rite of Consecration of a Bishop, bishops must commit to:

“share with their fellow bishops a special responsibility to maintain and further the unity of the church

“promote unity, peace, and love among all Christian people

“guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church

“help the oppressed

“unite its members in a holy fellowship of truth and love

“use one’s authority to heal, not to hurt, to build up, not to destroy

(Book of Common Prayer pp.574- 583)”

The policies of Gafcon are antithetical to these principles of fostering unity, care for the oppressed, and building up the people of God in all their spiritual and sexual diversity.

Gafcon, founded in 2008, is a movement to outlaw same-sex marriages, the ordination of LGBTQ+ people, proclaiming itself as the unique upholder of biblical orthodoxy and systematically undermining the global diversity and unity of Anglicanism.

1. As recently as June 2019, in a taskforce on Women in the Episcopate, it recommended that “the provinces of Gafcon should retain the historic practice of the consecration only of men as bishops”.

2. In Ireland, all extant Christian practice is under question. Gafcon Ireland has stated that Gafcon Ireland has Theological Education and Church Planting as its two main objectives. On an island of approximately 6.6 million people, vast swathes are without faithful gospel witness. We seek to train and deploy those who will preach and build churches. Is ecumenism to be replaced by proselytisation?

3. Thirty years ago the Church of Ireland voted for the ordination of women as deacons, priests and bishops. Is this now to come under question? How could Archdeacon McClay possibly accept a woman as his colleague in the House of Bishops or uphold the doctrine of the Church of Ireland on women in the episcopacy?

4. Who will decide the agenda of his episcopacy, Gafcon or the General Synod the Church of Ireland? One cannot serve two masters.

5. We urge the House of Bishops to exercise spiritual leadership and not confirm this appointment.

Signatories:

Revd John Ardis, Revd Canon Dr John Bartlett, Revd Grace Clunie, Revd Eileen Cremin, Revd Andrew McCroskery, Revd Canon Prof Patrick Comerford, Revd Canon Ian Coulter, Revd Olive Donohoe, The Very Revd Dermot Dunne, Revd Victor Fitzpatrick, Revd Canon Barbara Fryday, Revd Jane Galbraith, Revd Mark Gardner, Very Revd Susan Green, Revd Canon Sonya Gyles, Revd Cathy Hallissey, Very Revd Maria Jansson, Revd Canon Virginia Kennerley, Revd Jason Kernohan, Very Revd David Mac Donnell, Revd Canon Arthur Minion, Revd Dr Christine O’Dowd Smythe, Revd Dr Anne-Marie O’Farrell, Revd Ása Björk Ólafsdóttir, Revd Canon Katharine Poulton, Revd Charles Mullen, Revd Canon Elaine Murray, Revd Canon Ben Neill, Revd Stephen Neill, Revd Lesley Robinson, Revd Canon Marie Rowley-Brooke, Revd Canon Nigel Sherwood, Revd Aisling Shine, Very Revd Niall Sloane, Revd Nigel Waugh, Revd Canon Paul Willoughby