‘Bishop did not overrule rector on Royal Black service’: Church of Ireland

The Right Reverend Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore (left), with Rev Alan Kilpatrick
The Right Reverend Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore (left), with Rev Alan Kilpatrick

The Church of Ireland on Monday insisted that a church rector made his own decision to allow a Royal Black Preceptory service to go ahead in Co Armagh.

On Sunday, Bishop of Down and Dromore Rt Revd Harold Miller said he would be conducting the service at Knocknamuckley near Portadown this Sunday.

The development followed friction between some St Matthias’ parishioners and minister Alan Kilpatrick, who they accuse of breaking with tradition on important church matters.

A CoI spokeswoman said “the bishop did not overrule” Rev Kilpatrick’s initial refusal to host the service.

“It was the rector’s decision, taken after prayer, listening to God, consultation with the bishop and in response to his request for ‘gracious provisional judgement from all parties’,” she said.

In a statement released on Sunday, Rt Revd Miller said the well-publicised difficulties in the parish had caused a “great deal of pain and hurt”.

Bishop Miller said the rector “has agreed on this particular occasion, to give permission to the Tandragee District of the Royal Black Preceptory to use St Matthias’ church on Sunday May 10,” and added: “I had already planned to be at the evening services on that Sunday, and have decided that, as bishop, in the context of this painful time, I will also conduct and preach at the afternoon service.”

He added: “I grieve to see division and will help in any way that I can.”