Bishop of Algoma
Age: 58 The second-longest serving active bishop, Bishop Ronald Ferris believes the primate must be “an ambassador for Christ and for the whole community.” The national bishop represents Canada to the Anglican church worldwide and must also “comprehend and appreciate all the different parishes and neighbourhoods that make up the Anglican Church in Canada.”
He has been to two decennial Lambeth conferences of Anglican bishops from around the world and describes himself as a “great enthusiast for the international Anglican community.” Canadians, he said, “view their church as aging, diminishing and Caucasian but the Anglican church is black, under 20 years of age and expanding. I am excited to participate in that expansion.”
He is, he says, “very conservative on moral issues,” including the question of same-sex blessings, but also says he “values comprehensiveness” and should not be pigeonholed as right-wing. In his first diocese as bishop, the Yukon, he established the Bishop’s School for Native Ministry, which provided education and training for indigenous people wanting to work in ministry. “I have lived in the native communities and been a priest there,” he notes.
As part of his doctoral studies, he says, he visited and studied a wide variety of churches. “I’ve been involved in ministry that is comprehensive,” noting his support at one parish for a variety of ministry styles from folk drama to puppetry.
A native of Toronto, his father died when he was six and he and his brother were raised by their mother. He met his wife, Jan, at a church youth group and he graduated from Toronto Teacher’s College in 1965. He was an elementary school teacher in Toronto, then in 1966, he and Jan moved to the Yukon where he taught and she was a nurse at the Carcross Indian Residential School.
He earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1969 from the University of Western Ontario, London, Ont., and was ordained priest in 1971. Returning to the Yukon, he began his ministry as incumbent at St. Luke’s Mission. He went to Ontario once again and in 1973 earned a master of divinity degree with honours from Huron College in London, Ont. From 1973 to 1980 he was rector of St. Stephen’s in London, Ont., a large suburban parish, and was elected bishop of the Yukon in 1981. While bishop in the Yukon, he piloted the diocesan Cessna aircraft to visit the vast diocese.
Elected bishop of Algoma in 1995, he earned a doctor of ministry degree from the Pacific School of Religion in the Graduate Theological Union, Berkley, Calif. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Thorneloe University and Huron College.
He has served on the National Executive Council (the predecessor to the Council of General Synod) for two terms, been a delegate to seven General Synods and served on the nominating committee at two General Synods.
He and Jan have six children, all adopted, three of whom are of South Asian heritage. “They are my best friends,” says Bishop Ferris. They have three grandchildren. Bishop Ferris enjoys nature walks, writing poetry and oil painting.