Bishop of British Columbia announces retirement

Bishop James Cowan and his spouse, Annette Hubbard, dress up for the garden party hosted by the Queen during the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Bishop James Cowan and his spouse, Annette Hubbard, dress up for the garden party hosted by the Queen during the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Photo: Marites N. Sison
By on February 22, 2013

The bishop of the Anglican diocese of British Columbia, James Cowan, has announced his resignation effective this Aug. 31 in order to retire.

Cowan’s resignation has been accepted by the House of Bishops and the metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia.

Cowan has served as bishop of the Victoria-based diocese for the past nine years.

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“Together we have looked at the realities of 21st-century culture and life as these have an impact on the Anglican church on these islands and we have made some difficult decisions concerning our common life,” said Cowan in a letter to members of the diocese. “There is much to be proud of as we have moved forward.”

Cowan expressed the hope that the diocese “will continue to advance in the seeking of God’s mission in this world and entering into it in creative ways.” Established in 1875, the diocese has 41 self-supporting parishes and five assisted parishes and missions, which serve 8,290 Anglicans in the area covering 12,600 sq. miles.

Cowan has appointed Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, retired primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, as assistant bishop of the diocese. Hutchison will serve as administrator of the diocese following Cowan’s retirement and will remain until a new bishop is elected at a yet-to-be-determined date.

Installed as the 12th bishop of British Columbia in 2004, Cowan worked to transform the structures of the diocese, saying change was necessary in order for the church to be relevant. He emphasized that the restructuring plan was not merely in response to declining membership but was focused on new ministries and evangelism that would engage with lapsed Anglicans and the “un-churched.” As a result, some parishes were closed, others amalgamated and new parishes were established.

“A recent highlight in his episcopacy has been the setting up of an on-line ministry through the diocesan website,” said a press release issued by the diocese.

Ordained a priest in 1977, Cowan has been involved in ministries at all levels of the church. He has been a member of General Synod, the governing body of the entire church, and a member of the provincial and national houses of bishops. He was elected deputy prolocutor of General Synod in 2001, a role that he relinquished when he was elected bishop in 2003. He has also been both member and chair of the now defunct inter-church inter-faith relations committee.

Cowan was actively involved in the work leading up to full communion between Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada. He served as Anglican co-chair of the Anglican-Lutheran joint working group that prepared the way for the Anglican Church of Canada’s full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

He is currently a member of the planning and agenda team for the Council of General Synod, and is the national church’s representative at the executive council of The Episcopal Church in the United States.

For over 20 years, Cowan served three parishes in the diocese of Qu’ Appelle, Saskatchewan, where he began his ordained ministry.

In 1997, he moved to the diocese of British Columbia to become its diocesan executive officer until he was elected bishop in 2003.

Cowan is married to Annette Hubbard and they have two grown sons, Sean and Brent.

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