Arctic appoints American dean

Published November 7, 2006

Rev. James Barlow, with son Justin and wife Ligaya.

In an unusual move, the diocese of the Arctic has appointed a cathedral dean who most recently was a priest at a church that is not in communion with the Anglican Church of Canada.

Rev. James C. Barlow arrived in Iqaluit, Nunavut, with his family on Aug. 1 from Estes Park, Colo., where he was priest-in-charge of St. Francis church, a member of the Anglican Church in America, which is part of the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC).

According to St. Francis’ Web site, the American branch was formed in 1977 “to preserve traditional Anglo-Catholic doctrine and forms of worship in the face of rampant changes in liturgy, morality and order by liberals within the church.”

The Traditional Anglican Communion does not ordain women, opposes revisions to the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer and opposes ordaining homosexuals or blessing gay couples. TAC claims about 400,000 members on six continents.

The Anglican Church of Canada is in communion with The Episcopal Church in the U.S., which has about 2.3 million members, and both churches belong to the global Anglican Communion, with 70 million members.

The U.S. and Canadian churches have ordained women since the late 1970s, use modern prayer books as well as the Book of Common Prayer and are engaged in passionate debates about liberalizing attitudes toward homosexuality.

Mr. Barlow, in an interview, described himself as “middle of the road” on such contentious issues. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with female ordination. As for same-sex blessings, as a priest, you take your marching orders from the bishop. I don’t really have an opinion on the issue; it’s up to the bishop to decide. It’s a complicated and grave matter for the church to decide. My opinion doesn’t matter,” he said.

The diocese has gone on record as opposing homosexuality. At its 2005 governing synod, delegates voted to deny employment with the diocese to homosexuals, bisexuals; employees must sign a declaration that states, in part, that “homosexual unions are intimacies contrary to God’s design; it cites “homosexual partnerships,” along with divorce, child abuse and rape as reflecting “weakening of the family ideal.”

Diocesan bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, in an interview at the fall meeting of the house of bishops, said the diocese expects clergy “to affirm what our synod said,” also noting that it is “more or less a verbal thing.”

Normally, clergy who come from a church not in communion with the Canadian church would be expected to be ordained in Canada, since the receiving church would not recognize the validity of their orders. However, Mr. Barlow was ordained in 1992 in the Philippine Independent Church, which is in communion with the Anglican Communion.

Mr. Barlow, who is 55, grew up in Wisconsin and has previously worked in Canada, serving as rector of St. Timothy’s parish in Rigolet, Labrador from 1995 to 1997.

He and his wife, Ligaya, who is Filipino, liked the North and he applied for a parish vacancy in Kugluktuk. Earlier this year, however, Arctic suffragan (assistant) bishop Larry Robertson called Mr. Barlow and asked if he would let his name stand for the dean’s position at St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, a position made more complex by the fact that the igloo-shaped church burned down in November, 2005.

A search committee interviewed Mr. Barlow by phone and he was their choice, out of about five candidates, Bishop Robertson said. His work with a church outside of the Anglican Communion was a concern, he said. “That made us nervous,” said Bishop Robertson. “I made it very plain that he was coming back to work in the Anglican Church of Canada. He had to sign a statement that he would be obedient to his bishop and to the Anglican Church of Canada. I was quite emphatic that he knew what he was getting into. He said one of the problems he felt in his current church was that the church was too narrow in scope and he was looking pastorally to broaden his horizons.”

Once he got to know Mr. Barlow, Bishop Robertson supported his appointment. “He is experienced. He seems to be a people person with a willingness to listen. I like what I see,” he said.

As a dean without a cathedral building, Mr. Barlow faces the challenge of participating in a $6-million fundraising drive to rebuild, which he is meeting with optimism. “It’s exciting. Our ancestors would take three, four, five hundred years to build a cathedral. They went at it generation by generation. With patience, all things are possible,” he said.

He is currently engaged in developing the cathedral parish’s soup kitchen, thrift shop and bookstore, a project that will benefit the growing territorial capital and will be supported by $1.3 million of federal funds, he said.

He, his wife and their 13-year-old son are living near the parish hall, where church services are being held.

News of issues surrounding another cathedral emerged at the October house of bishops meeting, when Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island said All Saints’ Cathedral in Halifax would not be getting a dean for about 18 months. The most recent dean, Glen Burgomaster, retired in August. “I have decided not to appoint a new dean. The congregation and diocese need to do some visioning and I do not intend to appoint a new dean until the visioning process is complete, which means probably around 18 months,” Bishop Hiltz said. The current priest in charge is Rev. Robert Richmond.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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