Church has lost voice in society, says Matthews

Published May 1, 2004

Victoria Matthews

Bishop of Edmonton

Age: 50 A native of Toronto who broke new ground for women in episcopal ministry, Bishop Victoria Matthews believes the primate “must be a deeply committed disciple of Christ” who also finds joy in ministry. Internationally, the primate needs to be sensitive to other cultures and have a deep understanding of the complexities of the Canadian church, she said.

“The primate is an ambassador for Christ and for the church,” she added. Within Canada, the primate can help the church regain a voice in Canadian society, since churches have to a certain extent “lost their voice” in society, she believes. “The voice of the gospel needs to be heard in Canada,” she said. “Churches are in danger of becoming little clubs.”

When she was elected in 1993, she was the first female bishop of the Canadian Anglican church, serving the Credit Valley area in the diocese of Toronto. Since 1997, she has been bishop of Edmonton and is still the only female diocesan bishop. She would be the Anglican Communion’s first female primate, but said her style is to assume people are reasonable and not to go in “with guns blazing.” All her fellow primates would have to do is “accept me as a bishop,” she said, and she found that level of acceptance at the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Going back to Toronto “would be difficult,” since Edmonton has become home, she said. She has faced opposition even in her own diocese from clergy who are against female priests and has negotiated graceful compromises. “You must be very evenhanded and listen to everybody,” she said. Recently, she believes, the church has been “selective” in its listening, ignoring, for instance, staff who worked in native residential schools and “weren’t monsters.”

Internationally, she worked in inner-city schools in Haiti before and after her ordination in 1980 and she has traveled widely. She most recently chaired the house of bishops’ task force examining alternate episcopal oversight. She has also served on the Primate’s Theological Commission and has special interests in theology, history and prayer. Often chosen for national committees, she has also served on the Council of General Synod and the faith, worship and ministry committee. She was on the Book of Alternative Services evaluation commission and the planning group for the 1998 Lambeth meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world.

She earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College in 1976. From 1976 to 1979, she was a recipient of the North American Theological Fellowship and attended Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, Conn. From 1980 to 1984, she was priest advisor to the Anglican Youth Movement in the diocese of Toronto and was also involved in the Christian-Jewish dialogue for young people. She is from a large family ? three brothers and five step-siblings ? since her mother died when she was young and her father remarried. She is single. In her youth, she greatly enjoyed horseback riding and now wishes she weren’t too busy to take it up again.


Related Posts

Skip to content