Bishops greet news of nominations with humility

Published May 1, 2007

Niagara Falls, Ont.
“Overwhelmed” was a word that cropped up several times when the four candidates for primate were asked how they felt at the prospect they might be called in June to lead the Anglican Church of Canada. Due to a new nomination process, each bishop had agreed several months before to allow a nominator to put forward his or her name, so they had had time to consider the situation.

Nevertheless, “you don’t think it’s going to happen,” mused Bishop Bruce Howe of the diocese of Huron. “There are a lot of fine people in that house (of bishops). It’s overwhelming when your colleagues say, ‘We want to put your name forward to General Synod.”

The primate needed now, he said, is “a pastor, a shepherd, a teacher, a servant. What is important is that the primate challenge the church to do its mission to the best of its ability.” When asked whether he found the idea daunting that he might become a leader in a time of division over sexuality issues, he noted, “I’m a lifer (in the church). I went into seminary very young. I was a deacon at 21. I love this church.” He added that the church has faced challenges in every century.

Bishop Fred Hiltz, of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, declined the nomination in 2004, when the current primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, was elected. Saying he felt “humbled and overwhelmed” by his colleagues’ support, he said several things have changed at the outset of this election. His diocese has completed a visioning process and successfully raised $2.8 million toward a $3-million capital campaign. The leadership in the diocese is also on a surer footing.

“Last time, we had just elected a suffragan bishop (Susan Moxley),” who has now had several years in office, he noted. In addition, he and his wife, Lynne Samways, have “taken a lot of time to think and pray about it and we are much more at ease with entertaining the possibility” (of accepting the position and moving to Toronto) and he also sought guidance from his spiritual director.

The primate needs to have “the heart of a pastor,” he said, and must “be a person who builds relationships.” The primate also needs to travel throughout the church to exercise a ministry of presence and “help people have a sense they belong to a family.”

As the only second-time candidate, Bishop Victoria Matthews recalled that in 2004, “I had a rising sense of panic that I wasn’t up to it.” Subsequently, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and realized the source of her lack of energy. She withdrew from the process and underwent surgery, but has made a full recovery.

“The church prayed me back to health,” she said, adding that she “feels fine” about being a candidate. “The Holy Spirit has spoken to the house of bishops and will speak in a much clearer way to the General Synod.”

The primate needs to be a “reconciler, teacher, person of prayer, theological thinker, and a person who will be absolutely committed to staying in touch with Anglicans in Canada as well as in the Anglican Communion,” she said.

Bishop George Bruce, meanwhile, experienced a bittersweet day when news of his nomination reached the church; his daughter-in-law, Margo, died the same day after a batttle with cancer. Reached by telephone, he acknowledged a “sense of humility” about being one of four candidates on the June ballot. Accepting the nomination meant putting his trust in the Holy Spirit. “For me, it wasn’t a question of me saying ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but ‘Is this what the Spirit wants me to do?’ and then we go from there and see how it unfolds.”

The church needs a primate who reaches out and listens to people, particularly considering the uncertain outcome of contentious issues at General Synod. “There may be a need for some healing. I would think those are the key things.”


  • Solange DeSantis

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

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