Right Rev Dr. Gordon McMullan fondly remembered in Clogher Diocese


Archbishops John McDowell and Michael Jackson and Bishops Robin Eames and Ian Ellis have paid tribute following the announcement of the death of Bishop Gordon McMullan, at the age of 89, which took place last Sunday, 15th October.

Bishop McMullan served as Bishop of Clogher from 1980 to 1986 and as Bishop of Down and Dromore from 1986 to 1997.

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell, who was Bishop of Clogher from 2011 to 2020 said; “Bishop Gordon McMullan was a conscientious pastoral bishop with a lifelong love for learning and scholarship, each aspect of his ministry enlivening and informing the other. Gordon was my sponsoring bishop when I went forward for selection for ordained ministry, and I will never forget the quietly searching interviews that I had with him before being sent off to the Selection Conference.

“When I first went to live in the Diocese of Clogher, following my election as bishop, one very experienced clergyman who had served with Gordon, when he was bishop there, told me: ‘Bishop McMullan, he could see round corners’, meaning he had the gifts of wisdom and foresight which allowed him to be well-prepared for what was experienced by those around him as an unforeseen crisis.

“Gordon had a cool and measured intelligence and an insatiable curiosity about the spiritual life as well as the realities of life around him. He never forgot his roots in working class Belfast. He understood the people he ministered to whether in St Brendan’s, Sydenham, leafy Knock, or rural Fermanagh and Monaghan. His scholarship helped him understand more deeply the great movements and upheavals of life in the twentieth century, but his trust was always in the Lord of History, who Himself had hurried on events on a world scale.

“He had a deep sense of the distinctive role which the Church of Ireland could play in the religious and civic life, particularly of Northern Ireland, and never tired of proving good relationships and a sense of hope.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Gordon’s sons, Philip and Stephen, as they mourn the loss of a wise and caring father and grandfather, just as we in the Church of Ireland mourn the loss of a great bishop.”

The Archbishop of Dublin and Bishop of Glendalough, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, who was Bishop of Clogher from 2002 to 2011 also paid tribute; “Having lived in Clogher Diocese when Bishop Gordon McMullan was bishop, I remember with affection his own care for the people of the diocese in what were troubled times. He is remembered for facilitating an administrative structure for the diocese that stood the test of time and enabled both parishes and the diocese itself to flourish with calm confidence. His untiring work ethic and attention to detail ran hand-in-hand with his commitment to learning and the education of others. It was an honour and a pleasure some years later to succeed him as bishop.

“His sons, Philip and Stephen, and their families are in our thoughts and in our prayers as they mourn a devoted servant of civic society and of the Church of God.”

The Bishop of Clogher, the Right Revd Dr Ian Ellis stated; “Bishop Gordon McMullan is remembered fondly here in Clogher Diocese. He was a very pastoral bishop who was across the detail of diocesan life and kept an attentive watch over the flock in his care. His deep interest in learning meant he gave considerable time to young people and education in this diocese.

“We offer our sincere condolences and the assurance of our prayers to his children and the wider family circle at this time of loss.”

Bishop Robin Eames, who was Bishop of Down and Dromore (from 1980 to 1986) and subsequently Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland (from 1986 to 2006) said; “I am very saddened to learn of the passing of Bishop Gordon McMullan and express my deepest sympathy to the members of his family.

“As a colleague for many years, I saw at first hand his devoted pastoral ministry firstly as a parish priest and then as a bishop in Clogher Diocese and then in Down and Dromore during years of suffering and violence for the community. His gifts of pastoral compassion for so many people will be long remembered. In particular I recall his support and care for clergy in those years.

“He brought wisdom and personal strength to his calling as a bishop and contributed so much to the leadership of the Church in difficult times.”

The Right Revd Dr Gordon McMullan was born in 1934 and grew up in the parish of Willowfield, in East Belfast and worked in the aircraft manufacturing and petroleum industries prior to his ordination in 1962.

He initially served as Curate in St Patrick’s, Ballymacarrett (1962-1967) and subsequently as the Church of Ireland’s Central Advisor on Christian Stewardship (1967-1970). His ministry continued in the Diocese of Down and Dromore as Curate in St Columba’s, Knock (1970-1971), and Bishop’s Curate of St Brendan’s, Sydenham (1971-1976), before he returned to Knock as Rector (1976-1980), during which time he was also Archdeacon of Down (1979-1980).

He was elected as Bishop of Clogher in June 1980, and was consecrated in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, in September of that year. Bishop McMullan was subsequently elected as Bishop of Down and Dromore in March 1986. He was deeply involved in cross-community bridge-building and mutual understanding, pastoral care, and active concern for the unemployed and people living in areas of social and economic disadvantage. He retired in 1997.

He was predeceased by his wife, Kathleen, in 2006 and is survived by their two sons, Philip and Stephen.

Bishop McMullan attended Belfast Technical High School and Belfast College of Technology before studying at Queen’s University Belfast from where he graduated with a BSc in economics in 1961. He then studied for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

Bishop McMullan was considered an authority on the history of the white-collar trade union movement in Ireland, and held three doctorates �' a PhD in Irish economic and social history (Queen’s, 1971), a ThD in the interaction of doctrine, politics and economics in the Church of Ireland in the mid-19th century (Irish School of Ecumenics, 1987), and an honorary D.Min from the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1995.

Bishop McMullan also completed an MPhil in peace studies, through Trinity College Dublin, in 1990.

He was an accomplished author on Christian discipleship whose publications included A Cross and Beyond, We are Called …, Everyday Discipleship, Growing Together in Prayer, and reflections on the gospels of Mark and Luke.

Elected Bishop of Clogher on 13 June 1980, Right Revd McMullan was consecrated on 7 September 1980 in Armagh Cathedral, on the same day as the consecration of Right Revd James Mehaffey as Bishop of Derry and Raphoe.

He served six years in Clogher Diocese before being translated as Bishop of Down and Dromore in 1986 where he served until his resignation in 1997.

He continued to reside in the Diocese of Down and Dromore.

Bishop McMullan always kept in touch with events in Clogher Diocese and was a postal subscriber of the Clogher Diocesan Magazine since leaving the diocese.