Bishop Ronald Ferris
The recently-retired bishop of the northern Ontario diocese of Algoma, Ronald Ferris, has left the Anglican Church of Canada to become one of the leaders of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), a group of breakaway parishes opposed to such issues as the blessing of same-sex unions. ANiC has placed itself under the jurisdiction of the primate of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Gregory Venables.
Bishop Ferris, who now resides in Langley, B.C., relinquished his licence to Archbishop Terrence Buckle, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and the Yukon.
“After 28 wonderful years as bishop, first in the Yukon and then in Algoma, I am delighted to embark on a new challenge – new church development,” said Bishop Ferris in a press statement. “My decision to relinquish the licence I held for so many years within the Anglican Church of Canada was not taken quickly or lightly.” He added that he and his wife, Jan, “deeply value our many years in Algoma and the Yukon and are thankful that during our time in Algoma, the diocese remained united as a ‘communion partner diocese’ and committed to upholding the teachings and disciplines of the Anglican Communion.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, received the news of Bishop Ferris’ departure “with regret,” said Archdeacon Paul Feheley, principal secretary to the primate. “Bishop Ferris has served the Anglican Church of Canada well. He has a long-standing service and dedication as bishop.”
Mr. Feheley said that while the church met Bishop Ferris’ decision with regret, it nonetheless “respects and understands when people follow their conscience.” He said that Bishop Ferris “has always been a strong conservative voice in terms of his beliefs and he has held on to that.”
Bishop Ferris is a known opponent of same-sex blessings and was one of 13 bishops who signed a statement of regret when the diocese of New Westminster synod approved a motion asking its bishop to allow the blessing of same-sex unions in 2002. He also voted against motions allowing same-sex blessings at the church’s 2004 and 2007 General Synods.
Mr. Feheley said Bishop Ferris had called the primate’s office on Thursday, Jan. 22, but was unable to talk to Archbishop Hiltz, who was on his way to visit parishes in Labrador.
In a news release, ANiC said that Bishop Ferris will focus on church planting in the Lower Mainland of B.C. and will also assist Bishop Donald Harvey, the former bishop of the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, in exercising episcopal ministry. Bishop Harvey, who left the Anglican Church of Canada in 2007, is the network’s moderator; another retired bishop, Malcolm Harding, formerly of the diocese of Brandon, also joined the ANiC in 2007. The ANiC said it now has 66 priests and deacons and 26 parishes with about 3,200 Canadians attending church on an average Sunday.
The Anglican Church of Canada has about 2,800 congregations and 641,000 members on parish rolls.
“Bishop Ferris has been an unwavering advocate of orthodox Anglican and Christian beliefs and practices within the Anglican Church of Canada’s house of bishops,” said Bishop Harvey in a press statement. “He has always supported the stand taken by the Anglican Network in Canada, even when the vast majority of his peers opposed us.” He added: “Bishop Ferris is a gifted man of God who is highly respected in his former diocese and throughout Canada. He has a true pastor’s heart and is wholeheartedly dedicated to Christ’s ministry and service. I am grateful for the privilege of ministering together.”
A native of Toronto, Bishop Ferris, 63, retired last September after having served for 13 years as bishop of the diocese of Algoma, which is based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. He previously served as bishop of the diocese of the Yukon from 1981 to 1995.
In 2004, Bishop Ferris was nominated in the election for the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Bishop Ferris holds a doctorate in sacred theology from Thorneloe University in Sudbury, Ont., a doctorate of ministry from Pacific School of Religion in the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and a doctorate of divinity from Huron College in London, Ont.