Canon John Organ, whose career as a rector and military chaplain has taken him across Canada and the world, is the new bishop of the diocese of Western Newfoundland.
Organ was elected on the fourth ballot at a diocesan synod Saturday, April 28.
“It’s humbling to be a bishop of the church…That is a tremendous honour, and there’s something about that that’s really important and inspiring for me,” says Organ. He says it feels like a homecoming for he and his wife, Irene, who are both from the diocese of Western Newfoundland. “Both our home parishes are there in the diocese.”
Organ says his priorities as bishop will be the health and well-being of the clergy and support for parishes. He also hopes to provide pilgrimage opportunities for clergy, and perhaps ministry through parish partnering in other parts of the world.
The “future of the Church will require us being creative with our limited resources,” Organ had written in a reflection that each episcopal candidate was asked to submit before the election.
Organ, who is currently rector of St. Martin’s Anglican Church, Ottawa, wrote that his parish experiences have taught him the “the importance of a consultative and collaborative leadership style.”
Organ was ordained as a deacon and priest in 1987 in the diocese of Western Newfoundland. After serving as rector of Fortreau Parish in Labrador (1987–1988) and St. Anthony Parish in Newfoundland (1989–1992), Organ became a chaplain to the Canadian Armed Forces.
He served as a military chaplain for 20 years before becoming chaplain to Archbishop Suheil Dawani in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in 2012.
He says that his time with the military prepared him for the role of bishop, both through his experience with congregational development and leading other clergy, as well as “the sense of camaraderie and working together…and having a national and international focus.”
In his reflection, Organ stated that his approach as bishop will be to lead by “serving, listening, caring and supporting.” He says he will work closely with the diocesan leadership team and consult broadly in the diocese, “seeking input from laity and clergy, holding focus groups and town hall meetings, listening and assessing, and having a decision-making process, guided by prayer…”
He is “hopeful” for the future of the diocese, the Anglican church worldwide and Christianity, Organ said. He promised to work to ensure the sustainability of the diocese, to encourage and care for its parishes, “support the health and well-being of our clergy” and to “creatively proclaim the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ.”
The diocese of Western Newfoundland “has demonstrated its capacity to adjust and successfully meet challenges as they arise,” Organ added. “The changing demographics and the costs of ministry, for example, have generated fresh approaches to the deaconate and other models of ministry.”
In a 2015 interview with the Anglican Journal, Organ called his time in the diocese of Jerusalem, living amongst Palestinian communities, “a precious gift,” and said that it changed his understanding of the people’s leaders. “I have been given a front-row seat here to experience up close religious and political leaders. I am moulded by the biblical prophets’ cry for justice on behalf of the poor and the oppressed…Servant leadership could do so very much for the people here.”
Organ earned a bachelor of theology from Queen’s College in St. John’s, Nfld., and an MA in clinical pastoral counselling from Saint Paul University, Ottawa. He was a member of General Synod’s Companions of Jerusalem and is a participant in a Jewish-Christian dialogue group.
Though excited for this new role, Organ adds that leaving the diocese of Ottawa is “heartbreaking,” noting that the diocese has “contributed so much to my own wholeness and happiness, and the happiness of my entire family.”
Organ will succeed Archbishop Percy Coffin, who postponed his retirement following the death of Archdeacon John Meade, who was elected coadjutor bishop of the diocese in June 2017, but fell ill later that year. Meade died in November, before he could be consecrated as bishop. The diocese has set up an annual scholarship in honour of Meade.
Organ’s consecration is scheduled for June 25.