Hutchison e-elected metropolitan of Canada

By on June 1, 2002

Andrew Hutchison succeeds Arthur Peters as metropolitan.

Bishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal has been elected metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Canada in what is likely the Anglican Communion’s first electronic election.

It took just one ballot for Bishop Hutchison’s election; out of 31 provincial council members eligible to vote, only three failed to do so, including one bishop who objected to the electronic process.

Archbishop Hutchison was elected Bishop of Montreal in 1990 and became Bishop Ordinary of the Canadian Forces in 1997. Before becoming a bishop he served as dean of Montreal from 1984-1990. He also serves on the national church’s information resources committee, which oversees the work of the national church Web site, the Anglican Journal, General Synod archives and other departments.

The ecclesiastical province of Canada includes the dioceses of Fredericton, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Montreal, Quebec, Western Newfoundland, Central Newfoundland and Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.

Archbishop Hutchison succeeds Archbishop Arthur Peters of Nova Scotia who retired last February. While the election of a metropolitan normally takes place at provincial synods, Canada did not have a scheduled synod until the fall. Church law calls for the election of a metropolitan no more than six months after the retirement of the predecessor.

Technophile Rev. Alan Perry, of Pierrefonds, Que., suggested an electronic election – where members could vote by e-mail or fax. He estimates the process saved some $20,000 in travel costs.

Bishop Donald Harvey, of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, was the lone episcopal holdout, having objected to the process as early as last fall, when the provincial council discussed, then approved the electronic election.

He was concerned that the secret ballot, which he calls “sacrosanct” in the church’s democratic system, was being abandoned.

Voters had a window of two days to send their ballots by e-mail or fax to two scrutineers; the voters’ e-mail addresses and fax numbers were verified prior to the election. Only the two scrutineers knew the results of the individual ballots. The result was announced – by e-mail – to council members on May 9.

Bishop Harvey agreed that travel costs made an electoral synod impractical, but suggested that the election could have been held using traditional “snail mail” – with a double envelope system so that ballots could still remain secret in their inner envelope.

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