CoI consecrates first female bishop

William Scholes Religious Affairs Correspondent

THE first woman bishop in Ireland and Britain started work in her diocese yesterday after being consecrated in a historic ceremony in Dublin.

Pat Storey, rector of St Augustine's in Derry since 2004, is the Church of Ireland's new Bishop of Meath and Kildare.

She said she was still getting her "head around the fact that it's a history-making thing".

For traditional reasons, the role is regarded as the third most senior in the Church of Ireland behind the archbishops of Armagh and Dublin.

The Church of Ireland agreed that women could not only be ministers but also bishops in 1990.

Despite the ordination of many women ministers since then, it took until September this year for Rev Storey, a 53-year-old mother of two, to blaze a trail as its first woman bishop.

At the time she said she was "excited and daunted" by the call.

She was appointed by the Church of Ireland's other bishops after a body called an electoral college, made up of lay people, clergy and bishops, failed to agree on a candidate.

Meath and Kildare became vacant last December when Richard Clarke was made Archbishop of Armagh. An electoral college had put forward the diocese's archdeacon, Rev Leslie Stevenson, to be bishop.

But in a dramatic move in April on the eve of his consecration, he declined the appointment following questions over his suitability for the post after revelations in the Irish News about a relationship which fell "short of pastoral expectations".

After Saturday's service in Christ Church Cathedral, which was led by the Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, the new bishop said she was still coming to terms with the significance of her appointment.

"It's great to be the first woman and it's great to be a bishop, I hadn't expected it at all," she told RTE.

Her husband Earl is also an ordained Church of Ireland minister.

Bishop Storey grew up in Belfast and studied French and English at Trinity College, Dublin, before training at the Church of Ireland Theological College.

She was ordained in 1997, serving a curacy in Ballymena, working as a team vicar in Glenavy, and as a part-time youth worker coordinator.

The preacher at the service was the Rev Nigel Parker.

"Pat, it has been our privilege over the years to see you respond to our Father's love with love, trust and obedience," he said.

Mr Parker said the new bishop's hallmarks included "teaching the Scriptures and pastoring with that disarming directness... which speaks the truth in love, with a ready laugh and delightful sense of humour".


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