Bishop-elect confirms support for women's ordination

Archdeacon David McClay, bishop-elect for the Church of Ireland Diocese of Down and Dromore

THE minister elected to lead the Church of Ireland's largest diocese has confirmed that he supports the ordination of women after a group of clergy accused him of opposing the practice.

Archdeacon David McClay, who is currently the rector of Willowfield Parish in Belfast, was earlier this month chosen by a 51-strong electoral college to succeed Bishop Harold Miller as the Bishop of Down and Dromore.

Confirmation of Archdeacon McClay's appointment is due to be discussed by the Church's bishops today.

But in advance of that meeting, 36 other Church of Ireland clergy wrote an open letter to the Irish Times to insist that the bishops should "not confirm this appointment".

Their demand that the archdeacon be barred from the episcopacy is largely based on his involvement in Gafcon - the 'Global Anglican Future Conference' - which was established by the leaders of the majority of the world's Anglicans in 2008.

It was set-up in response to what they described as "moral compromise, doctrinal error and the collapse of biblical witness" in parts of the Anglican Communion, including departures from traditional teaching on marriage.

However, the letter writers, all but one of whom are based in the Republic, said that Gafcon's policies were themselves antithetical to the "principles of fostering unity, care for the oppressed, and building up the people of God in all their spiritual and sexual diversity" that bishops ought to uphold.

They went on to ask: "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?"

In response, a Church of Ireland spokesperson last night said that Archdeacon McClay "confirmed that he supports both the ordination of women and the consecration of women as bishops and this has been borne out in practice during his ministry".

"The election of a bishop is the outcome of a constitutional process whereby an electoral college - itself composed of elected members - elects a new bishop after a process of discernment," said the spokesperson.

"The final step is the confirmation of the election by the House of Bishops. This is a legal process and no comment can properly be made in advance of their decision."

  • A report yesterday incorrectly stated Archdeacon David McClay had been elected as Bishop of Down and Connor.

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