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Primate to resign in 2019: A Changing of the Guard

Fred Hiltz resigning as Primate but not until July 16, 2019. 

 (Photo: Anglican Church of Canada)

Four other bishops stepping down [CAD News]

By Sue Careless

FIVE SENIOR LEADERS in the Anglican Church of Canada, including its national pastor, are stepping down. All five men are retiring – the Primate Fred Hiltz not until 2019 but the other four bishops this year.

This January Archbishop Fred Hiltz marked 41 years in ordained ministry. For 23 years he was Bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Then in 2007 he was elected Primate, in a close race with Victoria Matthews, then Bishop of Edmonton and currently Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand.

The Primate turns 64 this December and on Jan. 7 wrote in a letter to his flock:

“At some length, I have considered how much longer I should remain in office. In all honesty, there are days when I wonder if I might not be coming very close to the ‘best before’ date in the leadership I am providing.”

Canon (church) law in the denomination requires a bishop to retire by the age of 70. (A priest can be consecrated bishop as young as 30.) 

After much prayer and consultation, Hiltz has decided to resign as Primate on July 16, 2019, at the conclusion of General Synod. On that day the Synod will celebrate the election of a new Primate. So his retirement is still a good 18 months away.  

The retirement of the other four bishops is more imminent.

Clockwise from top left: John Privett, Michael Bird,

Colin Johnson and Donald Phillips.

Two, John Privett and Colin Johnson, are Metropolitans, which means they oversee not only an individual diocese but also one of four ecclesiastical Provinces. (A province is a group of dioceses.) 

The Most Rev. John Privett (Archbishop of Kootenay and Metropolitan of British Columbia and Yukon) plans to retire in May 2018. A new bishop for Kootenay will be elected during the Diocesan Synod to be held April 20-22.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Bird will step down as Bishop of Niagara on June 1, 2018. His successor will be elected as Co-Adjutor at an electoral synod on March 3.

The Rt. Rev. Donald Phillips, Bishop of Ruperts’ Land, plans to retire one or two months after a Co-Adjutor Bishop begins his or her work. This bishop would be elected during an electoral synod on June 16. 

The Most Rev. Colin Johnson oversees two dioceses: Toronto and Moosonee. Johnson will retire as Archbishop of Toronto at the end of December 2018.  An electoral synod for the Diocese of Toronto will be held on June 9 to select his successor.

 The Diocese of Moosonee is a Mission Area of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario.  As such and under canon law, the Metropolitan of the Province becomes Archbishop of Moosonee.  So when Archbishop Johnson retires as Metropolitan, the new Metropolitan will be installed as Archbishop of Moosonee in October.

All five men are considered to be theological liberals and at General Synod 2016 all five voted in favour of amending the Marriage Canon to allow for same-sex marriage. (A second vote is required at General Synod 2019 for the change to come into effect.)

There are 40 active bishops in the ACC. Thirty-seven oversee 30 dioceses while three pastor on a national scale: the Bishop Ordinary of the Armed Forces and the National Indigenous Bishop, as well as the Primate who oversees them all. They meet collegially twice a year in the House of Bishops, as well as at the triennial General Synod along with clergy and lay delegates.  

While the ACC is not the only Anglican denomination in the country, it is the largest and oldest and has about 1,700 congregations. The denomination no longer releases attendance figures or the total membership on its parish rolls. 

It remains to be seen whether a 12.5 percent change in the House of Bishops will actually reverse the denomination’s trend toward liberalism or only accelerate it.   TAP

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