Clarke elected as Archbishop of Armagh


DR RICHARD CLARKE, the current Bishop of Meath and Kildare has been elected the next Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, succeeding 68-year-old Archbishop Alan Harper who retired on Sunday.

Dr Clarke said in Belfast yesterday, where his election was announced, that the most “important challenge” that Christians faced in Ireland and Britain was the “secularist agenda” that “faith is a kind of bolt-on” to natural life.” The Archbishop-designate said at St Anne’s Cathedral that he was on a “steep learning curve” in taking over as primate.

“I am overawed but if I was not overawed I would be a complete idiot.” Dr Clarke said he would be facing many challenges but that overall he saw his leadership duty as enabling and encouraging Christians to uphold the gospel. “We are in an age in Northern Ireland and the Republican of Ireland of increased secularism and increased secularisation,” he said.

“It is very important that we have the confidence as Christians to meet the world, to listen to the world, but also to be able to speak to the world as well,” he added.

“The most important challenge of all is that we have bought into a secularist agenda that in some way the default human position is to be without faith and that faith is a kind of the bolt-on and add-on extra to . . . the natural person,” he said.

“If we can do a good thing for our fellow Christians it is to say that faith permeates every part of what you are and that it is not the bolt-on extra, it is not the add-on extra – it is what you are and you should not give that ground away as we do.”

Dr Clarke added that Christians in many respect had bought into that “utter fallacy” and countering that conviction was the “fight we have on our hands”.

Dr Clarke hoped that divisive issues such as homosexuality and gay marriage would not cause a split in the Church of Ireland. “I would believe there is the will within the Church of Ireland, north and south, to find a way through.” He said he was “not a radical” in relation to the area of sexuality and homosexuality.

“We are not talking about an issue, we are talking about people. And we are talking about people made in the image and likeness of God. And we must now see where does their relationship and their relationship possibilities – where can that find a place, and will it find a place within the full life of the church? We have to work on that. We will inevitably come from different perspectives,” he said.

On the issue of gay marriage he was in full agreement with the church position that “marriage refers to a man and a woman”.

Dr Clarke said he has ecumenical interests “in every direction” and co-chaired the Inter-Church Meeting ecumenical forum with Catholic Primate Cardinal Seán Brady whom he regarded as a friend.