Bishop Henry Hill ‘devoted years of study and dialogue to Orthodoxy’

By on October 25, 2006

Bishop Henry Hill

Henry Hill, who served as bishop of the diocese of Ontario from 1975 to 1981, and who was known for his contribution to furthering dialogue between Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches, died Oct. 21. He was 84.

Prior to his election as bishop, he taught history at the University of Windsor.

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In 1980, Bishop Hill was appointed by then Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie to succeed him as co-chair of the international Anglican-Orthodox joint doctrinal discussions. He was the first Canadian and the first bishop outside the Church of England to be named to the post, a move that “stirred some critical comments from within the English church,” according to the Canadian Churchman (predecessor to the Anglican Journal). But, as the Churchman pointed out, while Bishop Hill had not been well-known throughout the Anglican Communion at that time, he had already “devoted years of study and dialogue to Orthodoxy” and had, in fact, been honoured by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church for his work.

After accepting the appointment, Bishop Hill resigned as diocesan bishop and moved to the Roman Catholic Benedictine Priory, where Christians of Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Protestant traditions shared a life of prayer through silent meditation. Silent prayer, said Bishop Hill, “unites us more deeply than our schisms can divide (us).” He added: “I am convinced that the association with the priory can provide yet another precious link between Western Catholicism, Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy in the Benedictine tradition withs its roots in the undivided church.”

While at the Benedictine Priory, Bishop Hill also served the diocese of Montreal as assistant bishop.

In 1983, Bishop Hill moved into an apartment at the convent of the Sisters of St. John the Divine (SSJD) in Toronto, citing a need for an Anglican base from which to do his work involving Anglican-Orthodox dialogue and to receive his many foreign guests. While at the SSJD, he served as the sisters’ warden. When asked by the Churchman about the unusual arrangement, the bishop laughed and said, “Most things that I do are unusual. But it was more unusual for an Anglican bishop to live in a Roman Catholic monastery.”

In an obituary released by the SSJD the sisters noted, “Bishop Hill’s most profound gift as teacher, preacher, bishop, and ecumenist was undoubtedly the gift of prayer and spiritual friendship. He was a spiritual mentor to the Sisters, broadened their international and ecumenical vision, and brought to the Convent many friends from across Christian and other faith traditions.”

In 2002, Bishop Hill moved to the Anglin House, a residence for retired priests at the Basilian Centre in Toronto. There he reunited with some Basilian fathers he had met during his early years as a priest; he had served as vice-principal of the Anglican Canterbury College in Windsor, Ont., where he taught medieval history with the Roman Catholic Basilian Fathers. As bishop, he also founded the Scholarship of St. Basil the Great (administered by the Anglican Foundation) to promote friendship between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Assyrian Church of the East.

A native of Kingston, Ont., he also served as parish priest in rural eastern Ontario and as a chaplain at St. John’s College, Cambridge University, England.

A graduate of Trinity College, Toronto, he was ordained as a deacon in Kingston, Ont. in 1948, and priested by the Bishop of Ely, England, for the Archbishop of Ontario, in 1950.

There will be a visitation on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2:30-4:30 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at St. John’s Convent, 233 Cummer Avenue, Toronto. Please check the SSJD Web site at www.ssjd.ca for a map and directions.

There will be a requiem Eucharist on Friday, Oct. 27, 10:30 a.m. at St. James’ Cathedral, Toronto. Interment has been set for Friday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m. at York Cemetery, 160 Beecroft Road, Toronto. A memorial service is planned by the diocese of Ontario at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Anglican Foundation for the Scholarship of St. Basil at 80 Hayden St., Toronto, Ont., M4Y 3G2.

 This story has been revised.

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