On Palm Sunday, Bishop James Njegovan of the diocese of Brandon announced in a pastoral letter that effective July 31, 2015, he will be retiring after 13-and-a-half-years of episcopal service.
“For some this announcement may come as a surprise,” he said in the letter. But, he added, without elaborating, that for others “as much as I may regret it-it will not be entirely unwelcome news.”
In an interview with the Anglican Journal, Njegovan said there was no connection between his decision to retire and the diocesan lawsuit currently underway involving his son, Noah Njegovan. Bishop Njegovan’s episcopacy has faced challenges in the last two years since his son was charged with fraud for his alleged use of a diocesan business credit card for personal expenses during his time as diocesan archdeacon from 2009 to 2012. Although the Crown withdrew its charges against Noah Njegovan in 2014, the diocese subsequently launched a $350,000 civil lawsuit against him, claiming damages of $250,000 for fraud, breach of trust, breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation, and $100,000 for punitive and exemplary damages. The bishop has refrained from involvement or comment on the case, citing his personal relationship with his son.
The bishop, who was on sabbatical from January until March of this year, said that this time of reflection “convinced me that the time has now come for me to step down as your Bishop and begin my season of retirement.”
And while he faced challenges during his term, Njegovan said the ministry “has for the most part been my joy, honour and privilege,” adding that he has been “richly blessed through my visits to the parishes and in the celebrations of confirmations, ordinations and other special events.” He also said his involvement with First Nations communities in the north of his diocese has been “a wonderful experience, and just the generosity of church people and their support and care has been a real highlight.” He added, “it is the richness and diversity of God’s people that I really celebrate.”
He did, however, note that “the challenges of this ministry have also had an impact on my family.”
After having been ordained for over 37 years now, Njegovan said he felt it was the right time to retire. “I’ve been active in ministry that whole time, and beyond that actually-I took my first funerals when I was 19 years old,” he said in the interview.
After retirement, Njegovan said he and his wife plan on moving east to be closer to their daughter.
Elected a bishop on Oct. 19, 2001, Njegovan previously served the diocese as diocesan administrator, dean and rector of St. Matthew’s Cathedral. He was ordained a priest in 1979 in the diocese of Rupert’s Land and served parishes in Winnipeg before becoming rector of the cathedral in Brandon.
Njegovan received a bachelor of arts and a master of divinity degree from St. John’s College at the University of Manitoba.