Farewell tribute to Michael Clarke


Michael Clarke and Archbishop of York at General Synod

The Archbishop of York gives a short speech to honour the long service of one of its most distinguished lay members - Michael Clarke. The speech follows in full:

While it is traditional to mark the retirement of diocesan bishops – which we shall do in a few minutes – we only do so sparingly in respect of other Synod members. But I am in no doubt that this Synod should honour the long service of one of its most distinguished lay members – Michael Clarke, as he stands down from his role as Chair of the Dioceses Commission.

Michael has served on this Synod for 28 years (with the exception of a short 2 year break from 1993-5). In this time he has played a very active part. He was for many years a much-valued member of its Panel of Chairs, bringing his calm professionalism to bear on many tricky debates. Most notably, back in July 2010 during the debate on the Revision Stage of the draft Women in the Episcopate Measure, when the order paper ran to 37 pages! Surely a record.

The bewildering kaleidoscope of amendments made it quite unclear what the outcome might be. Michael chaired the debate with consummate skill, articulating succinctly the effect that each amendment was intended to achieve, so that members could vote with understanding and confidence.

Many working parties, such as Talent & Calling (the review of Senior Appointments chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling) also benefited from his wise counsel.

Latterly he is best known for his work with the Dioceses Commission, where he was able to bring his deep experience of local government to the service of the Church.  He served as a member of the Commission from 2008 and as its Chair since 2011. In this time he played a major part in the creation of the new Diocese of Leeds – the most radical restructuring of our dioceses since the 1920s. Only in February he helped put the finishing touches to this work with the renaming of the See of Richmond as Kirkstall.

Michael has been an active lay member of the Diocese of Worcester, where he has been a Canon Emeritus since 2010 and is chair of the Cathedral Council.  

It was in recognition of all he has done for the Church that Michael was awarded the Canterbury Cross by the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year.

In addition to his contribution to the National Church, Michael is a former Vice-Principal of the University of Birmingham, and was Deputy Chair of the Local Government Commission and then a member of the Local Government Boundary Committee.

Michael will be a hard act to follow but I wish him well-earned respite from National Church responsibilities. Our prayers go with you.  

I should like Synod to express its appreciation to him in the usual way…