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The Consecration of Kenneth Kearon as Bishop of Limerick & Killaloe

Posted on: January 26, 2015 10:23 AM
The Laying on of hands
Photo Credit: Church of Ireland
Related Categories: Bp Kearon, Ireland, Limerick & Killaloe

The Service of Consecration and Ordination of Kenneth Kearon as the new Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe took place at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, this afternoon (Saturday 24th January) – the Eve of the Conversion of St Paul.

The preacher at the service, The Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, said: ‘Life as a bishop is like a ride on a zip wire … Just as zip wire riders need someone to launch them at the start and haul them in at the end, so too a bishop sets people off on their sometimes daunting journeys of faith and holds them safe as they travel.’ More than that, though, he added, ‘a bishop is someone who climbs onboard the ride first – to lead by example’.

(Further extracts from the sermon follow below.)

As well as Archbishop Morgan and a number of serving and retired bishops of the Church of Ireland – including The Rt Revd Sam Poyntz, the new bishop’s father–in–law – Bishop Kearon’s consecration brought together a large number of attendees from across the Church of Ireland, the wider Anglican Communion and, notably, the Methodist Church in Ireland also. The President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Revd Peter Murray, along with the Revd Donald Ker, former President and General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and former President and Co–Chair of the Covenant Council, the Revd Winston Graham, joined with other bishops in the laying on of hands on the new bishop – the first time that participation by Methodist leaders has taken place. Since the decision of both the General Synod and the Methodist Conference allowing for the inter–changeability of ministry, Methodist Presidents are now regarded as Episcopal Ministers and as such can participate in a consecration service.

The service was led by the Archbishop of Dublin, The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, and the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, The Most Revd Pat Storey, and the Bishop of Tuam & Killala, The Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, were co–consecrators.

The first reading from Numbers 27: 15–20, 22–23 was read by one of the new bishop’s three daughters, Rachel Kearon; the second reading from 2 Corinhtians 4: 1–10 was read by the Revd Gillian Wharton and the Gospel, John 21: 1–17, was read by The Rt Revd Dr James Tengatenga, Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council. The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral sang Mozart’s Coronation Mass during the Eucharist. 

Bishop and familyBishop Kearon was also surrounded by many family and friends at the service, including his wife, Jennifer, and two of his three daughters – Alison and Rachel (pictured right); his daughter Gillian is living in New Zealand and was unable to attend. Bishop Kearon’s mother, Mrs Ethel Kearon, was joined by his sister, Mrs Lynda Goldsmith. 

Born in Dublin in 1953, Bishop Kearon attended Mountjoy School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied Philosophy. Following further study at Cambridge and in Dublin, he was ordained a priest in 1982 and served as curate in All Saints Raheny and St John’s Coolock before his appointment as Dean of Residence at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1991 he became Rector of Tullow before becoming Director of the Irish School of Ecumenics in 1999 and Secretary General of the Anglican Communion in 2005, the role which he performed until late last year.

Canon Kearon is no stranger to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, having been a member of the Chapter since 1995 and served as its Chancellor from 2002. In September 2014, he was elected Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe following a meeting of the Episcopal Electoral College which took place at Christ Church Cathedral, and he succeeds The Rt Revd Trevor Williams who retired as Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe in July last year.

Enthronement services in the cathedrals in his new dioceses will take place at later dates.

Extracts from the Sermon given at the Consecration by The Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales 

Dr Barry Morgan compared the role of a church leader with a ride on a particularly scary new tourist attraction in North Wales – Zip World Velocity. 

‘Be prepared for an exhilarating but often uncomfortable ride’, Archbishop Morgan told the new Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, Kenneth Kearon.

The Archbishop said, ‘The thing about the zip wire is that to start you off someone has to help you on your way by giving you a gentle (or not so gentle push) because it looks quite terrifying and then as you end the journey, somebody hauls you in with something resembling a shepherd’s crook, to make sure that you land safely on the other side, assuming of course you haven’t had a heart attack in between. The more I think about it, those two actions of launching and hauling in sum up the work of a bishop. We try to launch people on their journeys of faith and persuade congregations and parishes to do things they might not want to do and we try to hold them safe as they journey, because that is what pastoral care is all about.’

He added, ‘Bishops, as well as being pastors, need to be like the person at the top of the zip wire in North Wales – the people who give the church a push or a prod. Indeed, they need to get on the zip wire first themselves to lead by example… 

‘In partnership with others, we have to take responsibility for strategies for church growth, for outreach to the communities which we serve, and for mission. And that is not always easy or comfortable… Pastoral care sometimes has to be tough and robust. Hard decisions may need to be taken which will not please everyone but that too is part of exercising pastoral care. It is about looking after the interests of the church as a whole, not just a particular group within it.’

Dr Morgan said the challenges facing the Diocese were ones confronting us all – how to convey the message of the gospel ecumenically and to a world which is becoming increasingly secular and to do that sensitively in a multi–cultural society remembering that we are part of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church.

He paid tribute to Bishop Kenneth’s experience in international relations, ‘Your new bishop brings to you his vast experience from the Irish School of Ecumenics and as Secretary–General of the Anglican Communion and will help you to maintain your vision and links.’

The Archbishop added that bishops had another important responsibility – speaking up for people on the edges of society, those who are often despised. He said, ‘If bishops are to be true shepherds they have to bear witness to that God revealed by Jesus. That means having a particular duty of speaking up for those who are marginalised and ostracised in our country. And world and heaven only knows there are plenty of people – refugees, the poor, and those who are enslaved in one way or another in our broken world.’

Bishops were shepherds, but not ‘lone rangers’, he said: ‘As the Ordinal makes clear, we exercise our ministry, not as lone rangers but in partnership with our fellow bishops, with our fellow priests and indeed with all God’s people. Sheep and shepherds work together.’

Bishops, he concluded, ‘are called to ensure that they and the church which they lead are truly friends of God by reflecting the glory of that God made manifest in the face of Jesus Christ. That’s an enormous privilege and, like the zip wire, a totally exhilarating ride.’

Sermon at the Consecration of Kenneth Kearon in Ireland 24th January 2015 

North Wales has a relatively new tourist attraction called Zip World Velocity.  It is advertised as the adventure of a lifetime in the heart of Snowdonia in a place called Bethesda.  It consists of a pair of zip lines, a mile long, where riders can exceed 100 miles an hour, 500 feet high flying over an old quarry.  It has been so successful that another zip line has opened not that far away from the first in Blaenau Ffestiniog.  This time it is a four person zip line called The Titan.  The Titan and Velocity make North Wales the zip line capital of the world, according to the adverts. 

I am not here to plug the Welsh tourist industry, though Wales, like Ireland, is a wonderful country.  I have just remembered however that it is the turn of the Welsh Bishops to host the next Celtic Bishops Conference so who knows, we might take the Irish and Scottish bishops there to try it out.  Just a word of warning however, my fellow bishops, there are age and weight restrictions. 

But back to the zip wire.  The thing about it is that to start you off someone has to help you on your way by giving you a gentle (or not so gentle push) because it looks quite terrifying and then as you end the journey, somebody hauls you in with something resembling a shepherd’s crook, to make sure that you land safely on the other side, assuming of course you haven’t had a heart attack in between.  The more I think about it, those two actions of launching and hauling in sum up the work of a bishop.  We try to launch people on their journeys of faith and persuade congregations and parishes to do things they might not want to do and we try to hold them safe as they journey, because that is what pastoral care is all about. 

We are all used to the image of the bishop as chief shepherd of the flock of Christ. Bishops carry pastoral staffs in their own dioceses resembling a shepherd’s crook, to remind ourselves and others of our pastoral care for people.    

(The point about a pastoral staff as an image of care has however been totally lost on my five year old grandson who claims that it is a big stick – I shudder to think what he thinks I do with it.)

The ordination service highlights the need to serve and care for God’s people and to watch over them, following of course Jesus Christ the good shepherd Himself.  And if you look at the Old Testament, God too is referred to as the shepherd of Israel.  And this image of the shepherd recalls to many of us a familiar childhood picture of a shepherd carrying on his shoulder the lost sheep, safely recovered. 

And heaven help us if we, as bishops, forget that we are meant to be pastors to our clergy and to the wider church.  In exercising our office, and in the way we lead our lives, we are meant both to preach and to embody the fact that the world and every individual in it is God’s, loved and cherished by Him. 

That goes to the heart of the gospel of Jesus and I am constantly astonished by the number of Christians who have attended church all their lives, who do not really believe that God loves them with an everlasting kind of love.  But that is the meaning of the life, ministry and death of Jesus.  That message needs to be heard in a world where there are people whose image of God is one of an angry, capricious, vengeful, violent God.  That is not the God of Jesus. 

As Bishop Michael Burrows says, in that wonderful illustrated History of the Church of Ireland, which your Church has produced “The church exists only to preserve in the very best sense, the haunting, disturbing and loving memory of Jesus in the world”.  We as bishops and all of us as Christians are meant to reflect that love of Jesus and God summed up in the image of the shepherd.  Pastoral care is important.

You will have realised by now of course that there is a “but” coming and there is.  Whereas former Anglican services of ordination put all the emphasis on shepherding, your new Ordinal, like ours, contains these words uttered by the Archbishop to the Bishop-Elect.  “You are to lead and govern the church and promote its mission.”  Bishops, as well as being pastors, need to be like the person at the top of the zip wire in North Wales – the people who give the church a push or a prod.  Indeed, they need to get on the zip wire first themselves to lead by example. 

Shepherds in biblical times walked ahead of their flocks and often led them to places they would rather not go.  Bishops then, as well as exercising pastoral care, have to do much more than that.  In partnership with others, we have to take responsibility for strategies for church growth, for outreach to the communities which we serve, and for mission.  And that is not always easy or comfortable but as someone put it,

“It is a mis-placed understanding of good pastoral care to regard it as assisting people in not coming to terms with the realities of things as they are”. 

Pastoral care sometimes has to be tough and robust.  Hard decisions may need to be taken which will not please everyone but that too is part of shepherding.  It is about looking after the interests of the church as a whole, not just a particular group within it.  Oversight means more than a benign kind of chairmanship.  It at times requires asking people to change direction drastically.  The united Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe knows that to be the case, since it includes eight of the historic dioceses of the Church of Ireland and the issues that confront it are issues that confront all of us – how to convey the message of the gospel ecumenically and to a world which is increasingly secular and to do that sensitively in a multi cultural society remembering that we are part of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. 

The Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe has a special relationship with the Anglican Church in Swaziland, with the Diocese of Saldanha Bay in South Africa, as well as with the evangelical church of Anhalt in East Germany.  Your new bishop brings to you his vast experience from the Irish School of Ecumenics and as Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion and will help you to maintain your vision and links.  (It is obviously a very healthy diocese – five of Kenneth’s predecessors are still alive – must be a record).

But there is an ambivalent attitude to shepherds and shepherding in the Old Testament as well as a positive aspect.  Shepherds led totally unsettled lives, out with their flocks in all kinds of weathers as they moved from place to place.  It was a dirty job and they were regarded by their fellow Jews as being ritually unclean because out on the hills they could not turn up for worship and did not wash regularly.  They were not held in high regard.  When God therefore says that He will be the shepherd of His sheep, perhaps He is saying that He usually works on the margins of respectability. 

It is the shepherds who come to Bethlehem, dirty as they are, and Jesus the Good Shepherd spent His life with those who had been marginalised because of their gender, their occupation, or their race.  He spent it outside the religious institutions of His day and paid great attention to women, children, sinners, tax collectors, the sick, the frail and the poor – all of whom were regarded as of no worth by the society of his day. 

Ursula Fanthorpe, who won the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, wrote a poem called “The Wicked Fairy at the Manger” and this is what the Wicked Fairy says about her gift to the baby:

“My gift for the child:
No wife, kids, home;
No money sense.  Unemployable.
Friends, yes, but the wrong sort –
The work shy, women, wogs,
Petty infringers of the law, persons with  notifiable diseases,
Poll tax collectors, tarts:
The  bottom rung.
His end?
I think we’ll make it
Public, prolonged, painful.
“Right” said the baby.  “That was roughly what we had in mind.” 

We forget sometimes that that is the man we follow.  He says to us “See me in the lives of those you despise.”

If bishops are to be true shepherds they have to bear witness to that God revealed by Jesus.  That means having a particular duty of speaking up for and being on the side of those who are marginalised and ostracised in our country.  And heaven only knows there are plenty of people - refugees, the poor, and those who are enslaved in one way or another in our broken world – and sometimes when you speak out you will be accused of being political 

But as the Ordinal makes clear, we exercise our ministry, not as lone rangers but in partnership with our fellow bishops, with our fellow priests and indeed with all God’s people.  Sheep and shepherds work together. 

Through baptism, a bishop’s primary call is to be a co-worker with all the baptised in proclaiming and living out the Gospel. 

St Augustine summed it up thus: “With you I am a Christian.  For you I am a bishop; one is an office accepted; the other is a gift received.  One is danger; the other is safety.  If I am happier to be redeemed with you than to be placed over you, then I shall, as the Lord commanded, be more fully your servant.” 

The primary sacrament at the end of the day is not ordination but baptism and the Gospel read to us from St John reminds us of our common Christian discipleship.   

Jesus asks Peter three times whether he loves Him.  The Greek word used the first two times is the Greek word “agapao”.  In all three of Peter’s replies, and Jesus’ third question, the word used for love is “phileo”.  Both words mean love but “phileo” can also mean friendship.  Twice Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him and gets the answer “Lord you know that I am your friend”.  The third time Jesus asks him “Are you my friend?” and Peter replies that yes he is Jesus’ friend. 

Peter has remembered Jesus’ words to His disciples as He washed their feet at the Last Supper “No one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.” 

Being a Christian is seeking to be God’s friend and a bishop helps people to find friendship with God.  Friendship is not something less than love, for as the 4th Century Bishop Gregory of Nyssa puts it “The one thing truly worthwhile in life is to become God’s friend”.  The late Bishop Michael Ramsay once went into a shop run by a Muslim to be asked what his job was.  Michael Ramsay said that he was a priest and bishop.  The shop keeper looked a bit puzzled and suddenly he smiled as he said “Ah, you are God’s friend” and Michael Ramsay was heard to utter as he went out into the street “Ah I am God’s friend – that’s what I am. I am God’s friend”.  

That is what we are all called to be – God’s friends, because God has befriended us in Jesus Christ and continues in that friendship whatever we do.  Bishops are called to ensure that they and the church which they lead are truly friends of God by reflecting the glory of that God made manifest in the face of Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd of the sheep.  That’s an enormous privilege and, like the zip wire, a totally exhilarating ride.