Irish rector resigns over flag flap

The Church of Ireland’s rector of Newry has resigned in the wake of the controversy over his removal of Royal British Legion Standards from the parish churches of St Patrick’s and St Mary’s. On 22 Oct 2015 the Rev. Kingsley Sutton offered his apology and resignation for “unwisely and forcefully” removing the flags from the church. “In my misguided thinking and zeal,” he wrote, “ not only did I remove the standards, but I also made my decision irreversible by destroying them.” Mr. Sutton acknowledged he had “completely underestimated the depth of meaning and present day value of the Royal British Legion Standards.” On 9 Oct 2015 the Belfast Telegraph reported that members of the congregation had written to the newspaper complaining their rector was ignoring the will of the congregation by modernizing the parish. Mr. Sutton was charged with closing the church to the Apprentice Boys — a loyalist group — and adopting a modernist folk liturgy. In his parish newsletter Mr. Sutton said he was going to replace the RBL flags with white banners with a heart affixed in the center. “We must make a resolute break from the past, lest we be dragged back,” he wrote. On 11 Oct 2015 the Diocese of Down and Dromore announced Mr. Sutton had agreed to a voluntary suspension after he disobeying his bishop’s counsel not to act precipitously. On 22 Oct 2015 the Rt. Rev. Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore released a statement saying the incident had “been very painful indeed”, welcoming the rector’s apology. “The rector also offered me his resignation and sadly, I feel I must accept it.” He added that he had “in touch with the Royal British Legion, the Select Vestries and the Apprentice Boys of Derry, to arrange to meet with them as we seek a way forward, and would like to thank all concerned for their helpfulness and graciousness.”

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