Archbishop John Clarke announced on Oct. 14 that he will act as interim bishop of the diocese of Calgary, assisted by several teams, as the troubled diocese prepares for an episcopal election next spring.
Archbishop Clarke is diocesan bishop of Athabasca, which covers the northern half of Alberta, and is metropolitan, or regional bishop, of the ecclesiastical (church) province of Rupert’s Land, where both Athabasca and Calgary are located.
Archbishop Clarke met with clergy on Oct. 14 and announced his plans there and in a letter to the diocese. “I will be assisted by (retired) bishops Barry Curtis and Gary Woolsey. Together we will form a team to provide the episcopal leadership the diocese of Calgary needs during this interim period,” he wrote.
He also said that he would be meeting with Archdeacon Derek Hoskin, currently Calgary’s diocesan administrator; Archdeacon Barry Foster, the executive officer, and Stephen Koning, finance director, to discuss a plan for a bishop’s commissary, or administration team.
“I will plan to be in the diocese of Calgary at least once a month for a period of two days. I will be focusing my energy on the support of the clergy with regular meetings of the regional deans and archdeacons,” Archbishop Clarke wrote. His office in Athabasca’s see city of Peace River is nearly 800 kilometres from Calgary.
Communications with Calgary’s synod office will continue as usual, he said, with confirmation arrangements directed to secretary Kelly Burnie, finance questions for Mr. Koning and parish leadership and building questions to Mr. Foster.
On Sept. 27, Calgary’s executive committee asked Archbishop Clarke to appoint an interim bishop so that the diocese could take longer than usual to prepare for an episcopal election. The previous bishop, Barry Hollowell, stepped down last August. Under the canons, or church laws, of the diocese, an election must be held within 30 days after a bishop’s resignation, unless an interim is appointed. The executive committee planned for an election in June, 2006.
At the time of the executive committee meeting, Archbishop Clarke spent three days in Calgary. In a pastoral letter dated Oct. 9, he wrote that he was “very impressed with the calibre of leadership of the people involved in serving your diocesan family. They are a committed and dedicated group of people who want to see their church thrive in one of the fastest growing areas in Canada.”
Leadership in the diocese was a source of distress earlier this year, when Bishop Hollowell, 57, announced in March that he intended to resign. In late June, he reported to the diocesan executive committee that no agreement had been reached on a separation package and he would not therefore resign, but requested a three-month sabbatical.
They reached agreement on a package in July and Bishop Hollowell resigned Aug. 31.