The Primate of All Ireland, Dr. Alan Harper, has announced that he will step down by 1 October 2012.
In a statement posted on the Church of Ireland website, the Church of Ireland Press Office said Dr. Harper “will continue to carry out all the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland as normal until 30 September 2012.”
“The Church of Ireland House of Bishops will consider in due course the selection of a successor,” the press office said.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, said: ‘In responding to the Archbishop of Armagh’s announcement of his forthcoming retirement, I wish to pay tribute to his strong commitment to fairness and steadfastness in office.”
“Across the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Harper has sought to enable a wide range of voices to be heard on a broad spectrum of topics. He has worked systematically with the leaders of the other main Churches in Ireland and has shown personal commitment in ecumenical relations and in the outworking of the Church of Ireland Methodist Covenant. He has also worked tirelessly in the development of a fresh understanding of community in Northern Ireland in the years of peace. Together with all my fellow–bishops, and the Church of Ireland at large, I wish Archbishop Harper and Mrs Harper everything that is best in retirement,” Dr. Jackson said.
Born in Tamworth, Staffordshire in 1944, Dr. Harper was educated at Leeds University and worked for the Archeological Survey of Northern Ireland until he entered Trinity College Dublic to train for the ministry.
Ordained deacon in 1978 and priest in 1979, Dr. Harper began his ministry in Northern Ireland in Connor diocese from 1978-1980. In 1980 he moved to Derry diocese to be incumbent of Moville and then became incumbent of Christ Church Londonderry from 1982-1986. Returning to Connor diocese Dr. Harper served as incumbent of Malone from 1986-2002.
On 17 December 2001 Dr. Harper was elected Bishop of Connor and on 9 January 2007 he was elected Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland by the Irish House of Bishops.
Tensions over homosexuality and church have dominated the deliberations of the Church of Ireland during the last few years of Dr. Harper’s tenure as primate. The outgoing archbishop has sought to engender conversation over this issue, while maintaining the current church teachings on human sexuality.