Diocesan theological college sold to McGill

By on September 1, 2008

Montreal-based McGill University has bought the century-old neo-Gothic building of the Anglican Diocesan Theological College on University St., north of Sherbrooke St., for an undisclosed amount.

The college, which finalized the sale in May, said it could no longer afford the cost of maintaining the building, which has been designated a heritage property by the Quebec government.

Canon John Simons, college principal, also said the building was being sold “in the interest of carrying forward into the future our essential heritage, which is to be a community of theological reflection and pastoral formation.”

Canon Simons said the building once represented an era “in which the Anglican Church enjoyed social eminence (in the city) and was enriched out of the material prosperity of its lay benefactors.” Today, he said, Montreal is no longer the financial capital it once was of the Dominion of Canada and the Anglican Church no longer has the same influence and position it once had.

Local Anglicans, Canon Simons noted, “represent less than one per cent of the population of the area covered by the diocese of Montreal, and, while we still own much valuable real estate, the question as to how long we can continue to maintain our buildings is one that won’t go away.”

Founded in 1873 by the second bishop of Montreal, Ashton Oxenden, the college was affiliated with McGill University in 1880. Its present building, built in 1896, was a gift from Andrew Frederick Gault, the “Cotton King of Canada.”

In a statement, Canon Simons said the college can accomplish its mission of providing “theological education that is ecumenical, academically excellent and field-based,” without maintaining a building, managing student residences and providing a campus meeting place.

“The latter services are not unimportant, but they are not our primary function as a theological college,” said Canon Simons. “Moreover, since our personnel resources are limited, the need to act responsibly as proprietor, landlord and activities co-ordinator diverts time and energy from our primary task.”

The college, which currently has more than 30 students, will lease the north wing of the building from the university. “We will not have less space than we currently use in the present building. We will have the space we need in order to be a theological college,” said Canon Simons. “And, we will be free to be a theological college for the 21st century.”

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