The Anglican church is set to select a new bishop next month to fill a long-vacant post.
The House of Bishops, comprised of senior clergy, will meet on September 19 to pick the new top cleric for the Diocese of Meath and Kildare, it was announced yesterday.
Question marks have hovered over who will head the diocese since the past postholder, the Most Reverend Dr Richard Clarke, was chosen as Archbishop of Armagh on October 3, 2012.
He was enthroned last December.
But efforts to fill the role within the diocese since then have been fraught with problems.
Original choice Archdeacon Leslie Stevenson was selected in January, but then declined to take up the role after acknowledging an “inappropriate relationship” with a female parishioner in his past.
This was said to have taken place well over a decade ago, when he ministered in Donaghadee, where he had been in post between 1992 and 1999.
He said in a statement at the time that he was “honoured to have been elected”, but went on to add: “My positive concern for the Church, to which I remain loyal, now leads me to decline the appointment.”
Back in May, after the news broke, a spokesman for the Church said that the involvement with the parishioner “represented a falling short of pastoral expectations”.
Meanwhile Canon Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, described the events as being “emotionally and spiritually exhausting for all concerned”.
But the shock move to decline enthronement as a bishop meant nobody knew quite who would take the reins at the diocese.
Following this, there was another meeting of the Church’s Electoral College in May, involving lay members of the diocese as well as clergy.
But they failed to reach agreement on who the new bishop should be.
Now it is expected that a decision will be made next month by the House of Bishops, made up of all the bishops and the two archbishops.
Asked about the length of time it was taking to fill the post, a spokesman for the Church said simply that the delay was “due to the clergyman appointed in January this year having declined his appointment in April, and the reconvened Electoral College in May having failed to appoint a new bishop, thereby requiring the election to now pass to the House of Bishops which will meet on September 19”.