Belfast Telegraph

Retiring bishop Harold Miller in parting shot at Northern Ireland political process

harold miller
harold miller

By Gillian Halliday

A Church of Ireland Bishop has spoken of his frustration at the state of Northern Ireland politics, as he said that he plans to retire after more than two decades in the post.

The Rt Rev Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore, made the announcement during his address to the diocesan synod yesterday.

The 69-year-old Belfast man assumed the role in 1997 and when he steps down after 22 years in the role in September, he will have been the Church's longest-serving Bishop of Down and Dromore since 1886.

Yesterday, Bishop Miller said it had been a privilege to serve the diocese during his tenure.

"The calling to be bishop of Down and Dromore was one which I didn't expect," he said.

"The diocese was one which, at the time, I didn't really know but which has now become my home.

"Those 22 years have provided me with both joy and pain, comfort and challenge, success and failure, as is true of any ministry in the history of the church.

"We have loved one another as a family, and it has been a joy to call this wonderful diocese my home."

The cleric will also celebrate 43 years of being ordained next week.

Reflecting on his decision, he explained that he felt it was time to "hand over the reins to someone fresh and new".

He added: "I don't think I ever imagined continuing in active ministry to the age of 69.

"On a few occasions I thought of retiring earlier, but the Lord seemed to close the door. I am grateful that he has given me the health, strength and refreshment of continue to now."

In 2017 Bishop Miller spoke publicly about his battle with prostate cancer, which until then had not been widely known. At the time he said that it had "taken a little bit out of me" but stressed that his prognosis was good and his energy levels were returning.

He also thanked those who had prayed for him during his treatment.

Addressing Northern Ireland's political landscape yesterday, he expressed frustration to the synod at the ongoing impasse at Stormont.

He added: "During my first year as bishop, on Good Friday 1998, the Belfast Agreement was signed. It was, in my view, quite miraculous. What had seemed impossible for the preceding 30 years of pain and division, now became possible.

"That we in this troubled province might find ourselves at peace with one another, and walking together into the future with hope, mutual respect and imagination."

The Bishop continued: "I wish that we had progressed further by now, 21 years later. It saddens me that we are still unable to move forward confidently with our devolved government.

"It saddens me that we are not able to deal effectively with key issues of health, education, infrastructure, business and social cohesion. Sadness can quickly become frustration and even anger, but... we do need to recognise that we have come a very long distance indeed, and that hope is still a vital element."

Bishop Miller will give his farewell address to the diocese at the annual Bible Week in Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan, in August.

He grew up in the Shore Road area of north Belfast before studying English and Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin where he met his wife Liz (nee Harper).

They went on later to have four children.

He was baptised a Methodist in Jennymount, Belfast, where the father of Archbishop Robin Eames had been minister.

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