One of the youngest members of the Church of Ireland, Rev. Canon William Paul Colton, is elected Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross on January 29, 1999. He succeeds the Rt. Rev. Robert Warke.
Colton, born March 13, 1960 and known as Paul Colton, is perhaps best known for being the bishop who officiates the wedding of footballer David Beckham and Spice Girl Victoria Adams on July 4, 1999 at the medieval Luttrellstown Castle on the outskirts of Dublin.
Colton attends St. Luke’s National School, Douglas, Cork, Cork Grammar School and Ashton Comprehensive School, Cork before being awarded a scholarship to the Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada where he completes the International Baccalaureate in 1978. He studies law at University College Cork, part of the National University of Ireland, and is the first graduate of the university to be elected to a bishopric in the Church of Ireland. He studies theology at Trinity College Dublin. In 1987 he completes the degree of Master in Philosophy (Ecumenics) at Trinity College, Dublin and a Master of Laws at Cardiff University in 2006. His LL.M thesis is on the subject of legal definitions of church membership.
In 2013 Colton completes, and is conferred with, a PhD in Law also at Cardiff University. His academic areas of interest are: church law, the law of the Church of Ireland, law within Anglicanism, the interface between the laws of religious communities and the laws of States (particularly in Ireland and Europe), human rights, education law, and charity law. In 2014 he is appointed as an honorary research fellow at the Cardiff School of Law and Politics of Cardiff University, and its Centre for Law and Religion.
Colton is elected Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross by an Electoral College on January, 29, 1999 and consecrated on the Feast of the Annunciation, March, 25, 1999, in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. He is enthroned in Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork on April 24, 1999, in St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cloyne on May 13, 1999, and in St. Fachtna’s Cathedral, Ross on May 28, 1999.
Colton is married to Susan Colton, who is deputy principal of a primary school, and they have two adult sons. He is the first Church of Ireland bishop to openly support same-sex marriage. He is involved in education debates and in charity work. He chairs the board of directors of Saint Luke’s Charity, Cork, which focuses on the elderly and dementia sufferers. He is also chairman of the board of governors of Midleton College.
At the episcopal ordination of Bishop Fintan Gavin as Catholic bishop of Cork and Ross in June 2019, Colton presents the crosier at Bishop Gavin’s own request.
As of June 2020, Colton is the longest-serving bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross since bishop William Lyon in 1617 and also the longest serving bishop still in office in the Anglican churches of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. He is the author of almost a dozen book chapters, mostly in the area of the interface between religion and law.