“Being a bishop in the Church of God is a humbling and deeply rewarding experience,” writes Bishop Harold Miller.
“It is a real privilege and joy to lead the Diocese of Down and Dromore at the beginning of the 21st Century. The diocese is made up of 75 parishes, each with its different geographical setting and identity, and the diocese is served by more than 100 ordained clergy. If you were to ask me about my own vision and passion for the church in this generation and diocese it is this: That we should see the Kingdom of Heaven revealed in each of those churches in a tangible way. That people who are followers of Christ would become fully disciples, and that those who meet the church in any way, would know that they have come in touch with a new dimension of living. A bishop is there to encourage that, to develop the church in a whole range of new and different ways, to care for the pastors, to give a lead in mission, and to ensure that the Gospel is passed on faithfully to the next generation.
“One of the most moving moments for me as bishop is to hear the formal documents of the Church read at occasions like institutions. There is a part, after the date is read out when the Registrar reads these words about the bishop ‘of his consecration the 22nd’. I find it hard to believe how quickly those years have passed, but the calling on my own life is greater than ever, and the great pleasure of being a Father–in–God to 64,500 people is both immense and frightening. When you pray for me (as every church in the diocese prays each Sunday), pray that my own spiritual life would be constantly refreshed, and (as is engraved on the back of my Episcopal cross and ring, speaking of King David) that God would give me a skilful hand and integrity of heart. Psalm 78:72. Please also pray that for all the pastors of our diocese.”
Bishop Harold Miller has written a worship guide for Holy Week and Easter Day called Week of All Weeks and compiled a prayer book of the same name to be read and used alongside it. The books were launched on Shrove Tuesday, 17 February 2015. Find out more here
Harold Miller was born in Belfast on 23 February 1950, the only son of Harold and Violet (nee McGinley) Miller. He was baptised in Jennymount Methodist Church (the same church in which the father of Archbishop Robin Eames had been minister, and possibly the only Methodist church to provide an archbishop and a bishop!), grew up on the Shore Road, and attended Lowwood Primary School and Belfast High School. In those years, the Boys’ Brigade was a very important part of his life, and he had the privilege of being part of a ‘double whammy’ when the 95th Belfast Company won both the Squad and Company drill competitions in the same year. It was through the Boys’ Brigade, at a camp in the Isle of Man in 1965, that he had a life–transforming experience of Christ. Harold had always a keen interest in playing the keyboard, whether the piano or organ, and still finds music a good way to relax.
He went to university at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1969, just as the ‘Troubles’ were beginning in Belfast, and studied mainly English and Philosophy. That was a very important time, not least because he met Liz, who was later to become his wife, in the first week at Trinity. The experience of being in Dublin during the early years of the Troubles was very important in seeing the political situation in Ireland from differing angles. During the long vacations, he also developed a lifetime interest in travel, by visiting and working in a whole range of places, not least the States and what is now the Czech Republic, but was then Communist Czechoslovakia.
It was also at Trinity that his call to ordained ministry in the Church of Ireland began to be focussed, not least through the experience of leadership in the Christian Union at university, and through an experience of charismatic renewal in the very early days of its influence in Ireland. After Trinity he then went to St John’s College Nottingham for ordination training, under the leadership of the famous evangelist, Michael Green, where he pursued a degree in theology at Nottingham University, and a Diploma in Pastoral Studies for his third year. In that third year he had the privilege of living out in the Parish of St Ann with Emmanuel in Nottingham, where at that time Roy Williamson, later to become Bishop of Southwark, was vicar.
Harold was ordained deacon on St John the Baptist Day in 1976, for the Parish of St Nicholas, Carrickfergus, and presbyter a year later in Belfast Cathedral. During his curacy, on 2 January 1978, Harold married Liz (nee Harper) in St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. After three years in Carrick, he was persuaded to return to his old theological college to join the staff there as Director of Extension Studies and Chaplain, where he developed Theological Education by Extension in its early days from about 200 to 2000 students. The very course built up at that time, though revised many times since, has been used over many years for the training of Non–Stipendiary Students for the Church of Ireland Ministry, and units of St John’s Extension Studies continue to be used in the Foundation Course at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute for those considering ordained ministry. During this time at St John’s, there were many important experiences and opportunities for ministry, but none more important than the couple’s first two children, Kevin and Ciara (later to be joined by Laura and Niall) being born. It was also a time when he was involved in co–editing his first book on Liturgy, Anglican Worship Today.
In 1984, Harold returned to Ireland, where he felt most of his ministry was to be. This time it was to be chaplain at Queen’s University, Belfast, for a five year period. Living just a mile or so from the city centre at this stage was an interesting experience, as the ‘Troubles’ were still around; and influencing generations of students for Christ and for ways of reconciliation was both a challenge and a privilege. It was a time of growth in congregations at the university Church of the Resurrection, and of great joy for the whole family.
Having never done the same thing twice, at last in 1989, Harold became a rector of a parish, this time in Co Cork. The parish included Blarney and was situated five miles west of Cork City. During this time he was made a canon of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, and of Cloyne Cathedral, and later, a canon of St Patrick‘s, the National Cathedral, in Dublin. He was to stay in Cork for nearly eight years, and had actually planned to stay for much longer, as one of the churches had just been completely renovated and re–ordered, when, on 18 February 1997, he was asked to come to Down and Dromore as bishop, by the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland. Down and Dromore is one of the two biggest dioceses of the Church of Ireland, with about 64,500 Church of Ireland people, 100 clergy and 77 parish units, and has been both a challenge and a joy since that time. During the first five years of the new millennium, he led the diocese in a programme called Think again, which focussed on the three key priorities of reconciliation, outreach and young people.
Involvements in the Church of Ireland
- Member of General Synod, Standing Committee and the Representative Church Body
- Chair of the Liturgical Advisory Committee (including during the time when it produced the new Book of Common Prayer)
- Member of the Hymnal Revision Committee which produced the 2000 Hymnal
- Words editor of the new hymnal supplement
- Chair of The Covenant Council from its inception until 2008
- Member of the Commission on Episcopal Ministry and Structures
- Member of the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue and the Anglicanism Working Group
- Member of group which gave the response to the Oireichtas All–Party Committee on Abortion
- Member of group which produced the Church of Ireland Response to A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and also the group which produced the Church of Ireland response to Cohesion, Sharing and Integration
Involvements beyond the Church of Ireland
- President of Summer Madness (the largest Christian Youth Festival in Ireland, with which he has been involved since its inception 25 years ago)
- Board Member of Tearfund UK
- Diocesan Links with Albany Diocese in New York State, Maridi Diocese in Southern Sudan, and the Diocese of Northern Argentina, all of which he has visited
- Has attended the two Lambeth Conferences in 1998 and 2008
- Co–chaired AMICUM (The Anglican Methodist International Commission on Unity in Mission) from 2009 to 2015
- Has represented the Church of Ireland at eight of the meetings of The International Anglican Liturgical Commission in Italy, York, Toronto, Dublin, Germany, India, California and the Czech Republic
- Co–editor of Anglican Worship Today Collins, 1980
- Whose Office?– Daily Prayer for the People of God Grove, 1982
- Finding a Personal Rule of Life Grove, 1984
- New Ways in Worship CIEF, 1986
- Making an Occasion of it CIP, 1994
- The Desire of our Soul, Columba, 2004
- Build your Church, Lord, D&D, 2005
- The Making of the Church of Ireland Book of Common Prayer 2004: Yale Institute of Sacred Music: Colloquium: Music, worship, arts, 2006
- Week of All Weeks, 2015
- Editor: Thanks & Praise (Church of Ireland Hymnal Supplement) A&M, 2015
Harold’s interests include: music, travel, phillumeny and winemaking, and he does a little bit of gardening and exercise in the local gym to keep fit.
Bishop Harold announced his decision to retire at the Diocesan Synod on 20 June 2019. He will step down as bishop on 30 September 2019.