Report of the Joint Inter-Diocesan Working Group on Episcopal Ministry and Structures

A meeting of the Inter-Diocesan Working Group was held in Gullanes Hotel, Ballinasloe on Wednesday 10th January. Fourteen members were present, including both bishops, seven members from Tuam, Killala and Achonry and five members from Limerick and Killaloe.

The meeting was opened with prayer by the Revd John Godfrey.

Reports were submitted by the two sub-committees appointed on Wednesday, 8th November:

Sub-committee ‘A’ had been charged with looking at various options for Area Bishops in the Anglican Communion. Three examples in the United Kingdom, one in New Zealand and one in Canada were being examined and it could be two months before the sub-committee would be in a position to report. The point was made that numbers and circumstances in the examples being considered were very different to our own and it would not be easy to find one to replicate in a united diocese of Tuam and Limerick. The question was posed ‘what would the united diocese look like with a single bishop?’

Sub-committee ‘B’ had been charged with making the case for an Area Bishop and had produced a written report. Their report recognised the progress that had been made to date and noted the similarities between the two dioceses. They faced similar challenges in ministry and mission and both laity and clergy in the two dioceses see their future as being together, although some parishes closer to Sligo might seek to explore closer relationships with Elphin Diocese.
There was a great deal of discussion on the sub-committee’s observation on the difficulties for a Diocesan Bishop in the new amalgamated diocese. It was felt that it was unrealistic to talk of travel time from Skreen to Tralee but rather from Limerick to Skreen or Limerick to Tralee. The possibility of accommodation being available to the bishop in the Tuam, Killala and Achonry portion of the new diocese was discussed. It was also emphasised that there was no need for the Bishop to be in attendance at every minor event in the Diocese. The importance of the Bishop’s ‘civic’ role in the City of Limerick was also emphasised. There was a consensus that it was most unlikely that an Area Bishop was a real possibility. It was unlikely to gain the support of the House of Bishops and General Synod.

The meeting then went on to consider what was needed to make progress at General Synod 2018. Bishop Patrick and Bishop Kenneth would be having discussions with the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin and the Assessor of General Synod. It was hoped that these discussions would lead to the drawing up of two resolutions to be put before both Diocesan Councils in February and approval for a Draft Bill to be put to General Synod 2018.

At the meeting of the Diocesan Council of Tuam, Killala and Achonry on Thursday, 1st February 2018 Bishop Patrick, Dean Grimason and Archdeacon McWhirter reported on the discussions at the Inter-Diocesan meeting.

Two resolutions were then put to the Diocesan Council. The first was an agreement, in principle, to the amalgamation of the two united diocese at a future date, subject to a successful conclusion of the conversations. This resolution was passed with 21 members voting for the resolution, none against, and three abstentions.

The second resolution dealt with the possibility of an episcopal vacancy occurring in either diocese before the work on an amalgamation was complete. This would allow the relevant Archbishops to be empowered by General Synod to delay calling an Episcopal Electoral College. Such a delay would allow for the completion of the Joint Inter-Diocesan Conversations and for their recommendations, endorsed by both Diocesan Synods, to be brought before General Synod, potentially in 2019. This resolution was put to the meeting along with a Draft Bill which would give effect to such a delay to be brought to General Synod in May 2018. 21 members voted for this resolution, none voted against and three members abstained.

Members were informed that the Diocesan Council of Limerick and Killaloe will consider both resolutions and the Draft Bill at their meeting later in February.

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