New Bishops’ Appeal Education Advisor appointed

Hilary McClay has been appointed as the new Education Advisor for the Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal for World Aid and Development. The Bishops’ Appeal exists to encourage members of the Church of Ireland to engage with, walk alongside and support those people groups and parts of the world who are dealing with the impact of poverty, violence, climate change and suffering.

Through the generosity of members across all the dioceses, Bishops’ Appeal supports life–changing development work which helps people to live more of their lives to the full.

For over 20 years Hilary worked in community development in Northern Ireland, supporting local churches to engage with issues of poverty and deprivation as part of their Christian mission and outreach. She has also visited several countries where extreme poverty and climate change has had such a severe impact on the lives of people, and has seen what churches in countries such as Ethiopia and Nepal are doing and how the support of agencies working on the ground such as CMS Ireland and Tearfund makes such a difference.

Speaking about her appointment to Bishops’ Appeal, Hilary said: “Taking up this role at this time, when the media is reporting on how cuts to the UK’s overseas aid budget will hold back the potential of people living in poverty, is a stark reminder that all our actions have consequences.  As Christians we have a particular responsibility to campaign, advocate, respond, give and walk alongside the most vulnerable in our world – which is what Bishops’ Appeal is all about.

She added: “I am looking forward to learning more about what Bishops’ Appeal does to support the work of Christian agencies on the ground, and to bring positive change to people’s lives.”

Welcoming Mrs McClay to the post, Bishop Ferran Glenfield, Chair of the Bishops’ Appeal Advisory Committee, said: “Hilary comes with a passion for the Church, a track record in community development, and wide experience of the global south. She is ideally placed to be the advocate for the vital work of Bishops’ Appeal in the Church of Ireland.”

Bishops’ Appeal has been operating since 1972, when it was set up by the Church of Ireland’s bishops in response to the commands in the Bible to bring good news to people living in poverty and relief to the suffering.

In 2022, Bishops’ Appeal paid out €788,704 in grants (equivalent to around £675,000) with 78% of donations going toward disaster relief.  The most significant recipient country was Ukraine, in response to appeals by Christian Aid, Tearfund and Habitat for Humanity, although sustained support for projects in Africa continued, especially in East and Central Africa.  Bishops’ Appeal also supported projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Nepal, Bangladesh, Haiti and Honduras.

It is a registered charity in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and its aims are to:

  • educate the Church at home about the needs and concerns of people in the less developed world and the causes of poverty;
  • encourage Church members to examine the reasons for the problems facing the less fortunate in the world and to consider what we can do to change conditions;
  • reach out in God’s name to those who need our help;
  • encourage informed prayer and prayerful action aimed at strengthening the poor; and
  • raise the funds needed to allow Bishops’ Appeal to support development projects and alleviate the suffering caused by disasters, both natural and man–made.

The role will involve clarifying, strengthening and supporting Bishops’ Appeal’s strategic vision and aims, consulting with the Advisory Committee regarding best practice when funds from the Bishops’ Appeal are to be allocated, and liaising with and advising aid and development charities supported by the appeal as they make funding applications. Hilary McClay succeeds Lydia Monds who moved to a new position in the Church’s Ministry of Healing: Ireland in January this year.