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Diocese of Toronto: Upcoming Election

Photos: Diocese of Toronto 

By Sue Careless

ON JUNE 9th a Coadjutor Bishop will be elected for the Diocese of Toronto to assist and ultimately succeed the Most Rev. Colin Johnson as Diocesan Bishop when he retires on Dec. 31st.

Currently there are six nominees including a Canadian bishop who has served for ten years in New Zealand, the Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews.

The three area (or suffragan) bishops, who will have been in office for only 17 months by the time of the election, are all letting their names stand: the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Andison, the Rt. Rev. Kevin Robertson and the Rt. Rev. Riscylla Shaw.

The Rev. Canon David Harrison, the incumbent of St Mary Magdalene in Toronto and the Very Rev. Andrew Asbil, Dean of St James Cathedral, are also on the ballot.

Asbil recently made the news  when he attended the medically-assisted double-suicide of an elderly couple. He told the Globe and Mail that he had “without hesitation” supported the couple’s wish for their funeral to be held at the cathedral. 

All the nominees, except for Matthews, who was still serving in New Zealand, and Andison, voted at General Synod 2016 in favour of changing the Marriage Canon to allow for same-sex marriage. Robertson is himself living in a same-sex relationship. Andison abstained during the  vote and the motion only passed in the order of clergy by a very slim margin.

Matthews became the first woman to be elected bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada when in 1993 she was elected suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Toronto. She was elected Bishop of Edmonton in 1997, becoming the first female diocesan bishop in the denomination.

In 2004, she would have been the first woman nominee for primate, but withdrew her name from the ballot after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Three years later she became a candidate for the primatial election in 2007, and finished a very close second behind the current Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz. The following year she was elected bishop of the Diocese of Christchurch.

To qualify, a nominee must be nominated by ten members of the Toronto synod. Nominations may be submitted to the Chancellor at any time up until the final ballot.

Whoever is elected as the next diocesan bishop of Toronto will face real challenges. The Diocese stretches from Mississauga to Brighton and north to Haliburton. Nearly five million people live within its boundaries, 376,000 of whom identify themselves as Anglicans but only 54,000 people are on the parish rolls and fewer still pray in the pews on any given Sunday. 

Currently there are some 216 congregations in 189 parishes. But when one compares the figures in the official Anglican Church Directory of 2005 with those of 2017, there has been a loss of 29 parishes in just 12 years. And there are over 18,000 fewer Anglicans recorded on the parish rolls in that same time period as well as 91 fewer active clergy.   

Two years ago Archbishop Johnson publicly announced that by 2026 as many as 80 parishes might need to close.   TAP


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