A leading Church of Ireland cleric has turned down the job as Bishop of Meath and Kildare just days before his ordination – after admitting to an affair with a woman on the eve of his own wedding.

Archdeacon Leslie Stevenson is currently the rector of Portarlington in County Laois and was due to be ordained in an elaborate ceremony at Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral on Wednesday.

The Irish Independent reports that the 53-year-old only told church leaders of his decision on Sunday.

In a statement released by the church, he said: “My concern for the church leads me to decline the appointment. I wish to broaden and deepen my ministry in the parish and diocese in which I have been called to serve.”

The archdeacon had admitted on Friday that his relationship with female parishioner Tracey McRoberts, who has since been ordained a Church of Ireland minister, was wrong.

He said: “Upon reflection, the relationship should not have arisen in that context and represented a falling short of expectations.”

Stevenson was involved with McRoberts, now rector of St Matthew’s Church in Belfast’s Shankill area,  when he was rector of Donaghadee, Co Down.

The relationship ended just days before his second wedding in 1998.

The paper reports that he had previously wed in 1984 when he was a curate at St Mark’s Church in Dundela, east Belfast, and divorced in 1992.

Stevenson resigned from his Belfast post in 1999 but returned to Portarlington several months later after undertaking ‘a period of personal discipline’.

The report says he was appointed archdeacon by then-bishop Dr Richard Clarke, now the Archbishop of Armagh, 10 years later.

News of his affair, which broke while he was on his second honeymoon,  and his status as a divorced cleric has caused deep division within the church according to the paper.

A church spokesman said: “Different groups have in the past raised concerns both publicly and privately concerning the moral behaviour of clergy.”