Archbishop Robin Eames will step down as primate of the Church of Ireland on Dec. 31, capping 20 years of leadership that has seen him play the role of troubleshooter in the conflict-riven Anglican Communion and as a strong advocate for peace in Northern Ireland.Archbishop Eames’ resignation, reported by the Belfast Telegraph, took many by surprise. He confirmed to the Telegraph that he was ready to “move on.”
Elected primate in 1986, Archbishop Eames, 69, led the Irish church through some of the worst years of the “Troubles” between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland. Archbishop Eames, the senior primate in the Anglican Communion, recently headed the Lambeth Commission created by the Archbishop of Canterbury to search for ways to prevent a schism within the Communion, which had been triggered by disputes over sexuality. In 1988, he was named chair of another crucial commission that monitored Anglican provinces that ordained women.He displayed his skills for trouble-shooting at last year’s contentious meeting of the primates (national bishops) when lines were drawn between supporters of the North American churches and those opposed to them. Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, the Canadian primate, said a split was prevented when Archbishop Eames intervened and asked what the divided primates needed in order not to walk away. Archbishop Eames suggested the temporary withdrawal of the North American churches from the Anglican Consultative Council, which appeased those opposed to more liberal views on sexuality; the North American churches received acknowledgment that they had not acted illegally.