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Newry rector Sutton who burned British Legion flags given new parish in Co Cork

By Rebecca Black

Published 20/02/2016

Church of Ireland minister Kingsley Sutton
Church of Ireland minister Kingsley Sutton
Rev Kingsley Sutton said it was ‘blatantly wrong’ to take flags from St Patrick’s and St Mary’s churches in Newry
Rev Kingsley Sutton

A Church of Ireland minister who sparked outrage after burning two Royal British Legion flags has secured a new parish, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The Rev Kingsley Sutton caused a storm last year after removing and destroying two standards at St Patrick's and St Mary's churches in Newry.

Mr Sutton resigned after it emerged that he had defied the orders of Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller.

The controversial cleric was never disciplined by the Church of Ireland, and has secured a new position at a parish in Co Cork just four months later.

He has been appointed the rector of Kilgariffe Union of Parishes in Clonakilty and will take up the new post in April.

The Bishop of Cork, the Right Rev Dr Paul Colton, confirmed the appointment this week.

The service of institution will take place on April 19 at Kilgariffe Parish Church.

A statement from the Church of Ireland Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross said: "Having recently resigned his incumbency in Newry, in the Diocese of Dromore, the Rev Kingsley Sutton currently holds a general licence in that diocese, and he has been looking for a new opportunity for ministry."

Bishop Colton said they were pleased to give Mr Sutton an opportunity.

"I know that he will receive a warm and encouraging welcome in Kilgariffe Parish," added the bishop.

"We also look forward to welcoming him and his family to the diocese, and to supporting Kingsley in this new beginning in ministry."

Concerned parishioners in Newry contacted this newspaper last October after Rev Sutton removed Legion standards that had been hanging in St Patrick's and St Mary's churches.

He replaced them with white flags featuring a red heart from the Global Day of Prayer event in the ground of the Stormont Estate in 2006, explaining that his actions were to try and "make a break" from the past.

It then emerged that he had insulted members of the Apprentice Boys in September during a sermon for their annual Ulster Covenant service and parade, telling them repentance should be sought for those who signed the anti-Home Rule document.

The discomfort of some of the parishioners began over Mr Sutton's attempts to modernise services at the two Newry churches during his 13-year tenure.

It later emerged that he had defied a direct order by Bishop Miller by removing the flags - and that he had not only removed them, but also incinerated them.

Rev Sutton chose to resign after his actions were revealed by the Belfast Telegraph.

Bishop Miller described the destruction of the flags as "very painful indeed".

Rev Sutton issued a public apology to his church, Bishop Miller, the Royal British Legion and the Apprentice Boys.

He explained that in his "haste to provide worship areas in Newry that are more accessible to all people and free from what I perceived as the vestiges of the past, I completely underestimated the depth of meaning and present day value of the Royal British Legion standards".

Rev Sutton said then that he had "fully resubmitted myself to the structures of authority within the Church of Ireland", and that he had committed himself to learn from his mistakes.

The Royal British Legion described the destruction of the flags as "unfortunate".

A spokesman for the Church of Ireland yesterday told the Belfast Telegraph that no disciplinary action was ever taken against Mr Sutton, and that because he had resigned from his post in Newry, he was consequently free to seek a new position.

He added that the local churches in Newry and the bishop offered to help the Royal British Legion to replace the standards, however they were replaced by the body's central organisation.

Mr Sutton is originally from Co Wicklow, while his wife is from Cork.

He previously served curacies in St Matthew's Parish in north Belfast and at Willowfield Parish in east Belfast, before being appointed the rector of Newry in 2002.

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