Archbishop to be chosen by e-mail

By on February 1, 2002

In a move designed to save thousands of dollars in travel expenses, eliminate an extra meeting and preserve summer vacations, the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada plans to vote for a new metropolitan by fax and e-mail.

The idea came from Rev. Alan Perry, an Internet-savvy priest from Pierrefonds, Que., who also set up and maintains the ecclesiastical province’s website at http://www.province-canada.anglican.org.

Mr. Perry figured the province would save more than $20,000 in travel costs alone by taking the electronic route in the election to replace Archbishop Arthur Peters of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, whose retirement as metropolitan becomes effective this month (February).

The province was founded in 1860, and predates the national church by three decades. It includes seven dioceses: Montreal, Quebec, Fredericton, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Western Newfoundland, Central Newfoundland and Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.

Timing also motivated Mr. Perry, who said in an interview that Archbishop Peters’ scheduled retirement date would have forced either a summer meeting of the provincial council, or an extra one in May ahead of the regularly scheduled provincial meeting usually held in September or October. The e-mail election has tentatively been scheduled for May.

(A metropolitan must be elected within six months of the retirement of his predecessor, or, in this case, by the end of August.)

The metropolitan chairs the house of bishops of his province, and presides over both provincial synod and provincial council meetings. He also serves as pastor to diocesan bishops.

“Someone suggested we try to do it by conference call, but that would mean we’d have 30 people on the (telephone) line,” Mr. Perry said. “It also sets up logistical problems around how we would organize the scrutineers and how to preserve the anonymity of the ballot, because it’s a secret ballot.”

The suggestion of a conference call got Mr. Perry thinking, he said. “And so I suggested a combination of e-mail and fax.”

The thorniest problem was how to set up a protocol to protect the anonymity of the vote. That was addressed with the planned introduction of two scrutineers, both from outside the province and neither a member of council, with e-mail and fax capabilities. “For less than the cost of a council we could buy them each a computer and a fax,” Mr. Perry said.

Each voter will submit a ballot to both scrutineers, he said, who will in turn check with each other. People will have three days to submit their vote after receiving a list of candidates. In order to be elected, a metropolitan candidate must receive a majority in each of the three orders – bishops, clergy and laity.

Mr. Perry said scrutineers preserve the anonymity of the vote by destroying faxes and erasing e-mails after the voting is over.

The response to the idea, he added, “has been generally enthusiastic. There were some concerns, and we know that a certain element of trust is required.”

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