A high-ranking Church of Ireland cleric who admitted having an affair with a woman just days before his own wedding has bowed out just before he was due to be installed as a bishop.
Archdeacon Leslie Stevenson (53), the rector of Portarlington, Co Laois, was due to become Bishop of Meath and Kildare in an elaborate ceremony at Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral on Wednesday.
But yesterday, he told church officials he was declining the appointment. In a statement released by the church, he said: "My concern for the church leads me to decline the appointment. I wish to broaden and deepen my ministry in the parish and diocese in which I have been called to serve."
The archdeacon told 'The Irish News' on Friday that he was wrong to have had a relationship with female parishioner, Tracey McRoberts, who has since been ordained a Church of Ireland minister.
He told the paper that the relationship "upon reflection, should not have arisen in that context and represented a falling short of expectations".
The relationship with Ms McRoberts, rector of St Matthew's Church in Belfast's Shankill area, occurred when the archdeacon was rector of Donaghadee, Co Down. It ended just days before his second wedding in 1998.
He had previously wed in 1984 when he was a curate at St Mark's Church in Dundela, east Belfast, and divorced in 1992.
He resigned from his post in January 1999 but returned to Portarlington several months later after undertaking "a period of personal discipline".
He was appointed archdeacon by then-bishop Dr Richard Clarke, now the Archbishop of Armagh, 10 years later.
But his admission to the affair – news of which broke while he was on his second honeymoon – and his status as a divorced cleric has caused deep division within the church.
A church spokesman said last night: "Different groups have in the past raised concerns both publicly and privately concerning the moral behaviour of clergy."