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Day 1

Bill Dealing on Future Patterns of Episcopal Ministry in West and South West Introduced at Synod

A Bill dealing with the future patterns of episcopal ministry and structures in the west and south west of Ireland came before General Synod this afternoon (Thursday May 10). The diocesan councils of Limerick and Killaloe and Tuam, Killala and Achonry have agreed, in principle, to unite both dioceses at a future date, subject to the successful conclusion of conversations and the agreement of General Synod and of the respective diocesan synods. This 2018 Bill would defer any episcopal election should a vacancy occur before 30th September 2019 whilst those deliberations are in train.

If agreement is forthcoming a Bill for alteration of diocesan boundaries will be brought to the General Synod. In proposing the 2018 Bill, Joc Sanders (Limerick and Killaloe) said that it was envisaged that the union would take effect when the next episcopal vacancy arose in either united diocese. However, if a vacancy were to arise between now and General Synod passing such a Bill in the future, the Constitution would require an episcopal election which could delay progress to the uniting of the dioceses.

“We have been assured that neither bishop intends to depart anytime soon – but none of us knows the day nor the hour,” he said. “The purpose of this Bill is to be an insurance policy against such an unexpected episcopal vacancy.  If passed, it will temporarily suspend the constitutional requirement for an episcopal election in either united diocese until September 2019. It also permits Standing Committee to extend the suspension at the request of both dioceses, but not beyond September 2020.” 

Prof Johston (Tuam, Killala and Achonry) said the Bill was another step in the long process of structural adjustment. He said that the agreement to unite has come from the roots in both dioceses and they were now pleased to bring this Bill.

The Bill passed its first and second phases and will receive its third reading on Saturday morning.

Bishop Michael Burrows paid tribute to the people of both dioceses for the work they are doing to build their relationship.