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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 January, 2005, 17:21 GMT
Avoid rows, says retiring Primate
David Hope
Dr David Hope is preparing for life as a parish priest
Debates on gay marriages, gay clergy and women bishops must not be allowed to dominate the Church of England, the outgoing Archbishop of York has warned.

Speaking at a farewell service at York Minster, Dr David Hope said the Church should be focusing on the widening gap between rich and poor nations.

And it must work to support the victims of the Asian tsunami, he added.

Dr Hope is leaving his job as the Church's second most senior clergyman to go back to being a parish priest.

During the special service at the historic cathedral, Dr Hope told the 3,000-strong congregation: "There are certainly huge challenges before us as a Church and I don't mean current debates around human sexuality and the ordination of women as bishops.

"These two issues must simply not be allowed to become the sole focus of our agenda."

Dr Hope has made no secret of his anger about how such issues have come to dominate Church debates, once stating that the "fundamental Christian message" was in danger of being lost amid disagreements that were "neither here nor there".

Dr Hope with well-wishers
Some 3,000 people attended the farewell service

However, he said there was still much from which Christians could "take heart", despite the "doom and gloom merchants".

Dr Hope is to stay in his position until the end of February, before taking up his appointment as vicar of St Margaret's, in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

He is taking a pay cut of around 40,000 a year and is swapping nine-acre Bishopthorpe Palace for a humble vicarage.

'Glad to downsize'

However, Dr Hope told Breakfast with Frost last month he would be glad to "downsize" to becoming a parish priest.

"Increasingly these days we are weighed down with bureaucracy and that is as true in the church as anywhere else, " he said.

"I think I shall be quite glad to be rid of all that."

Towards the end of Saturday's service a presentation was made to Dr Hope on behalf of the churches of the Diocese of York.

He handed his pastoral staff to the Bishop of Hull, the Right Reverend Richard Firth, who will take responsibility for the archdiocese until a new archbishop is appointed.

Among the many paying tribute to the archbishop on Saturday was the Reverend John Tallant, from Bainton, East Yorks.

He said: "He's a no-nonsense Yorkshireman. He says what he means and he means what he says. He does not sit on the fence, which makes a change."

Chris Colwich, chaplain for York City Council and football club, added: "I think he's very much a man of the people, who works closely with local communities."

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