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Who will succeed Robin Eames?

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William Crawley | 23:45 UK time, Sunday, 7 January 2007

armaghcathedral.jpgWe'll know on Wednesday the identity of Robin Eames's successor as Anglican Primate of All Ireland. In my extended interview with Lord Eames on Sunday Sequence this week, he joked that he already knew his successor. True, because the Church of Ireland's tradition is to limit the field to the existing members of the House of Bishops.

Thus, there are only eleven candidates. By tradition (though there is no constitutional provision for this), the Archbishop of Dublin is apparently given first refusal. Whether John Neill will refuse is anybody's guess. He already occupies a significant office within southern society, which he may be unwilling to abandon for Armagh. He's also pretty high church (read: Anglo-Catholic), and his mitre wouldn't play terribly well in the north, where he has no experience as a priest or bishop (but, then, Eames had no experience in the south). On the other hand, Armagh opens influential doors within worldwide Anglicanism, which may tempt the archbishop north.

If the job doesn't go to John Neill, who are the likely candidates in an episcopal election? The House of Bishops is a theologically divided house, and the new archbishop would need to be a bridgebuilder. Who's the likely choice?

Bishop Ken Clarke (57), a traditionalist-evangelical, appears to be well-liked by both liberals and conservatives. He's very personable, a good age, and would probably prove popular with the laity (at least in the north). He would be a safe pair of hands (if that's what you're looking for in a primate) and is probably the most likely choice in the event of an election. This assessment, on the other hand, may have sunk his chances. If he is elected, he'll be hoping his old nickname ("Fanta Clarke") remains a secret. Oops.

Richard Clarke (57), no relation, is very bright, articulate, media-savvy, an author with things to say about the church in a changing Ireland; but he's a liberal with a voice, which will lose him some friends, and his only experience in the north was as a curate. On the other hand, he was the bishop embroiled (if reluctantly) in the heresy trial that never was, when he sought to discipline one of his clergy (Andrew Furlong) for denying the divinity of Christ. Depending on who you ask, that theological involvement could count for or against his chances.

Alan Harper (62) is also known for his liberal approach to some social and theological matters, and although he has lived in Northern Ireland for 40 years his Englishness may stand against him. He is said to be highly regarded by Archbishop Eames, and acted as media spokesman for the bishops recently when they challenged the UK government over its "oppressive" approach to controversial legislation in Northern Ireland.

Michael Jackson (50) is highly respected as an academic, with impressive Oxbridge credentials, but is probably too young (this time round) and sometimes lacks a "popular" touch. He's always been seen as a high-flyer.

Harold Miler (56) is an excellent preacher and communicator, and a dynamic pastoral leader. But he is an outspoken theological conservative, and that may frighten the horses. The Church of Ireland Gazette recently ran a front page story quoting his none-too-subtle claim that "Satan entered the last Lambeth Conference" (which some of his supporters took to be part of a "Stop Miller" campaign).

Also rans:

Richard Henderson (46) is bishop of a diocese with less than ten priests. He's all-Ireland chaplain to the Mothers' Union, but they don't get to vote.

Ken Good (52) is probably too young (though Eames was younger), and does not appear to have many supporters.

Michael Mayes (65) is extremely unlikely, not only because of his age, but also because of his friendly associations with Bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire (Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop).

Paul Colton (46), is also highly unlikely; hyper-liberal; the bishop who officiated at the marriage of Posh and Becks might prove a little too colourful for Armagh.

Michael Burrows (44) has been a bishop for less than a year, having taken over the diocese vacated by Bishop Peter Barrett (who resigned after acknowledging an extramarital affair).

So ... who's your pick?


  • 1.
  • At 03:01 AM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Thanks for the interview Will, I enjoyed it very much.

The bus has left the station. We're next. Will we evaporate one by one or en masse? It looks like Dubya will be the first to go under the waves. Reminds me of a Stephen King novel they made into a 4 hour TV melodrama, I think it was the Langoliers in 1995. The earth kept disapearing behind this plane as the passengers were vanishing a few at a time. They got to be fewer and fewer and then there were n

  • 2.
  • At 01:20 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Helen Hays wrote:

I hope they elect ALAN HARPER. He's a good man, with positive, progressive values. He's intelligent and part of the moden world. The church needs a progressive leader.

  • 3.
  • At 01:44 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • David (Oxford) wrote:

I'd like to see Harold Miller get the job. I don't agree with him on everything (especially not moral questions) but he absolutely honest, upfront with his views, and tells you exactly what he thinks. I've had enough of bishops speaking in secret codes.

  • 4.
  • At 01:55 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Christine French wrote:

Much as I admire Lord Eames, I thought he struggled in Will's interview when he was asked about the democratic procedures in the church of ireland. I am a membe of the Church and I think it is a disgrace that the people are not consulted in the election of the archbisop. The American episcopal church have an open election involving priests, laity and bishops. Why can't the church of ireland do the same thing at a general synod? Until that day, the church will be run by a group of white males. A club.

Eames also misrepresented the truth a little when he said that all those bishops were themselves elected. Some of them were. When a diocese is split and unable to elect a bishop, the house of bisops APPOINT. That's what happened with Harold Miller.

  • 5.
  • At 03:26 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Christine French #4
What did you expect him to say? Now that he's retired from the ministry and has given up rearranging your spiritual life, he can devote his time to the House of Lords where he will rearrange your material life. Democratic? Don't make me laugh, this is a man from a different century. I thought the interview was a fascinating insight into his mind. Easily the highlight of this week's program for me.

  • 6.
  • At 03:42 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • franky, andy-town wrote:

If you think the church of irelands undemocratic, check out the way our archibishop is picked by the pope!

  • 7.
  • At 04:03 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

Was anyone else wondering when William was going to raise evolution/creationism - or secularisation - or medical/health ethics etc etc with Lord Eames?

  • 8.
  • At 04:41 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

alan-watson #7
No, that wasn't the point of the interview at all. I'm sure that the Church of Ireland has an officially stated position on evolution and all those issues and I'd expect Lord Eames' views are entirely consistent with them. Frankly I drew a sharp contrast between Lord Eames and the creationists. He seems to me to be the antithesis of Wilder Smith. Eames is a very engaging person whom it is just about impossible not to like. His deep voice with its Irish brogue, his slow clear manner of talking, his openness, and frankness including his own self doubts he expressed, his sense of humor, and his realization that he can't change the world but at most can make small contributions at the margins are very human and endearing. Even though my own philosophical views are worlds apart from his in many ways, he is someone I admire and respect. I think it should surprise nobody that given his background, his views and values are more those of the eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain, hardly democratic but he has managed to grow and adapt to put them to good use solving problems in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. He's a study in human coping. He must have been very good at what he did. I hope Will has him on again and again as he enters the next phase of his life.

  • 9.
  • At 05:13 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

Oh yes Mark - I agree almost totally with your comments.
He's an admirable person but local listeners will have heard most of it before, either in other recent interviews or over the last decades and his views on the usual topics are well known. I thought Will gave him a very easy ride even though Eames is quite capable of dealing with hard questioning and would also have made better radio.

Of course I also have some sympathy with Daniel Dennett's position that even moderate believers are not blameless as they give credibility to the excesses of 'fundamentalists'.

  • 10.
  • At 06:00 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

alan watson #9
At the risk of offending everyone here who is not an atheist like I am, as I see it, one religion is pretty much like another although you could say the devil is in the details. From my point of view, none of the monotheistic religions of the world are any different than the aboriginal beliefs, cults, or the polytheistic ancient religions of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Norway or the like. I regard all of their practitioners as primitives. When I grew up, I enjoyed the Greek and Roman "Myths and Legends" even more than those in the bible. So for me, any system of beliefs which relies on the supernatural has no credence at all. I thought this would be self evident from my posting of "What I believe." As for the way people of one religion feel about those of another and how they treat them, that was also in my "What I Believe" posting.

  • 11.
  • At 06:51 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Christine French wrote:

Alan, easy ride? It was Eames's last interview in the job. Not the time for a paxo style interview I'd say. I was interested to hear about how eames thinks and Im glad the interview didnt get into evolution (that would have been weird) or medical ethics (we've heard him on all that stuf).

  • 12.
  • At 09:06 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

He actually left the job Dec 31st. but don't know when it was recorded?
Anyway he will continue in 'public' service in the 'unelected place' so we deserve to hear his views on the subjects which predominate in this forum at least.
Did you learn anything new?
It was, certainly to me, rather incongruent to listen to Will having a banter with Mac one minute and then after the news a totally diff conversation with his lordship!
Don't get me wrong - I respect him for his broadly 'human rights agenda' despite his self-delusional world view.

  • 13.
  • At 09:08 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • X man wrote:

who really cares WHO succeeds him?

they're all stuck in the middles ages

time to move on guys

embrace the modern world

  • 14.
  • At 09:21 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Sarah Shields wrote:

Incongruent?? Have you scanned that sequence programme, as i just did, online?

From capital punishment, to thermodynamics, then into a movie about orgies ... then the news ... then Lord eames ... then the polish archbishop-spy ... then a comedian reviewing the papers.

What's incongruent about that!!??! :-)

  • 15.
  • At 09:49 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

I listened live - well - reasonably awake!
I'm just talking about the different interviews with two supposed CHRISTIANS - not the whole programme!!

  • 16.
  • At 12:38 AM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • frankie wrote:

i dont get u either alan .... why should all interviews sound similar? Duh ...

  • 17.
  • At 02:14 AM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Now I know who Robin Eames reminds me of, Fr Peter Lonergan played by Ward Bond in the movie "The Quiet Man." Anyone know that movie? Takes place in Innisfree. One of my favorites and very popular among fans of old American movies.


"He'll regret it 'til his dying day, if ever he lives that long." --Will Danaher

"Is this a courtin' or a donnybrook? Have the good manners not to hit the man until he's your husband and entitled to hit you back." --Micheleen Flynn

  • 18.
  • At 12:22 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Stephen Green Newtownabbey wrote:

I think Ecumenical Eames will be succeeded by the Roman Pontiff! After all they both preach the same gospel - "Works"! Galatians 1
His has been a ministry of ecumenical compromise and shameful betrayal of the gospel. He substituted the light of the gospel of grace for the darkness of the message of works. He has laboured long and hard to return Protestants to the superstition and blasphemy of idolatrous Romanism.
As his retirement approaches I say good riddance to this false prophet and challenge Anglicans to separate from the apostasy of their own denomination.

  • 19.
  • At 12:48 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Stephen Green Newtonabbey #18

I'll get the cross, you get the nails. We'll show this false prophet and servant of the devil how real Christians do things around here.

  • 20.
  • At 01:31 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • ChrisM wrote:

William. I am pleased to see that someone has at last pointed out there is no constitutional provision for the Archbishop of Dublin to have first refusal. However, I am interested in where the idea comes from that it is 'tradition'.

I, for one, hope that the bishops will take an equally bold step as they did when they elected a 49 year-old high flier 20 or so years ago.

  • 21.
  • At 08:53 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Jon Trimble Mossley wrote:

I am in total agreement with stephen Green Newtownabbey Eames has done more to destroy the Gospel of Christ in Ireland than all the priests of rome put together C O I rejection of John Chpt3 Ye Must Be Born Again is in agreement with popery and the bishop of rome His good works wont save him when he is kneeling in front of the judgement seat He needs to repent from the dark road he is on and come to salvation offered freely by Christ

Jon Trimble Mossley- Are you out of your mind?

  • 23.
  • At 08:51 PM on 10 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

John Wright #22
I've observed for most, old prejudice and bitter hatred dies a slow and hard death. Sometimes it only takes a spark to rekindle it.

  • 24.
  • At 01:02 PM on 11 Jan 2007,
  • Stephen Green wrote:

John Wright#22 What you need to realise is that in this day and age, we still have Pharisees in pulpits across the world, including Ulster! Apostate protestant ministers who have departed and fallen away from the faith, who have never been born again themselves! Blind religious leaders, that dont know the Gospel of saving grace. Unregenerate ministers of religion who deny the virgin birth!!! The Lord Jesus Christ said :Matthew 5:20
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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