Statement of 3 May by the Archbishop of Armagh relating to Archdeacon Stevenson’s Decision to Decline Appointment as Bishop of Meath & Kildare
Added on 03/05/2013
Statement by The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh, relating to Archdeacon Stevenson’s Decision to Decline Appointment as Bishop of Meath & Kildare – and Addendum from the Archbishop of Dublin
‘Although fully aware that what follows may invite further comment, I believe it is important in my role as Primate, acting for the benefit of the entire Church of Ireland, to make the following Statement.
‘The decision of the Ven. Leslie Stevenson, Archdeacon of Meath and Kildare, to decline consecration as Bishop, has aroused much comment and speculation within and beyond the Church. At a time when prayer and reflection were called for, incorrect statements of fact and unfounded allegations have caused much hurt and distress. As Primate, I am concerned there appears to have been a rush to judgment by some in the Church and beyond, distorting facts and attempting to rewrite past events. This has added to the concern and pain of many people.
‘The decision of the Electoral College to elect Archdeacon Stevenson as Bishop of Meath and Kildare in January 2013 subsequently came before the House of Bishops for acceptance. This meeting was informed of circumstances in 1998 which led to the Archdeacon, then incumbent of the Parish of Donaghadee in the Diocese of Down, resigning his office. The Archdeacon has publicly referred to his relationship with a female parishioner, which he acknowledged, both by his resignation, and in recent statements, he should not have allowed. The nature of this relationship has been the subject of considerable speculation which does not accord with accounts given to me by Mr Stevenson at the time of his appointment in Meath and Kildare (and subsequently).
‘Following his resignation, the Archdeacon undertook a period of personal discipline, during which he did not exercise parochial ministry. At the end of a period agreed within the House of Bishops, and following discussions both within the House of Bishops and between the Bishop of Down and Dromore and myself (then Bishop of Meath and Kildare), I subsequently instituted Mr Stevenson as incumbent of the Parish of Portarlington in the Diocese of Kildare, and some ten years later as archdeacon.
‘In our deliberations in February 2013, members of the House of Bishops reflected on events from the past and the Archdeacon’s ministry as incumbent and archdeacon in the Dioceses of Meath and Kildare. The decision taken was that it was appropriate for the bishops to accept the decision of the Electoral College.
‘Subsequent to acceptance of the Electoral College’s decision, events surrounding the resignation of Archdeacon Stevenson in 1999 have come under further scrutiny. Notwithstanding that certain claims have been inaccurate or unfounded, Archdeacon Stevenson considered the effect of such claims on his future episcopal ministry and on the Church. Mindful of the mounting speculation to which the Archdeacon and his family were being subjected, three bishops met with him in an individual capacity to offer pastoral support. The bishops expressed their personal concern for the family in the face of intrusion into their lives. On 28 April 2013, the Archdeacon announced his decision not to proceed to be consecrated as Bishop of Meath and Kildare.
‘Public scrutiny of past events has resulted in other persons connected with events being named in published articles and online. Articles have included incorrect statements of fact regarding these individuals whom I understand to have acted in good faith. I recognise their anger and hurt. The Church has secured the removal of inaccurate articles on the Internet as far as is possible and continues to monitor media coverage, ensuring pastoral support is in place to address these concerns.
‘I recognise and accept that Archdeacon Stevenson’s decision has come as a shock and a great sadness to many people within the Church of Ireland and beyond. I urge the Church to continue to hold all persons affected by these events in their prayers at this time.’
+ Richard Armagh
Addendum from The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson:
‘The bishops who visited the Ven. Leslie Stevenson on Saturday evening in Portarlington Rectory did so in a pastoral capacity, without the expectation of a predetermined outcome to the conversation.
‘The bishops expressed their personal concern for Leslie in the situation of escalating distress as a result of intense media and other interest in the face of his forthcoming consecration as a bishop.
‘The bishops were not representing the House of Bishops, nor were they seeking to revoke the decision of the House of Bishops who had previously confirmed his election to the bishopric of Meath & Kildare in good faith. Archdeacon Stevenson, by his own decision, withdrew from the forthcoming consecration due to have taken place on 1st May, the Feast of St Philip and St James.’
+ Michael Dublin
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