Hutchison is new primate

Published June 1, 2004

Newly-installed primate Archbishop Andrew Hutchison (left) accepts the primatial cross from Archbishop David Crawley, who had been acting primate (national archbishop) since February.

St. Catharines, Ont.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal was elected the 12th primate of the Anglican Church of Canada by lay and clergy delegates at the General Synod held at Brock University here.

Archbishop Hutchison was elected on the fourth ballot from a final slate of two candidates (including Bishop Ronald Ferris of Algoma), receiving 68 votes from clergy and 97 votes from the laity. There were 117 clergy and 144 lay members who voted in an election that lasted nearly five hours.

“I’d really been looking forward to retirement,” Archbishop Hutchison said, with a touch of irony, after long applause and a standing ovation greeted his formal announcement as primate-elect by Archbishop David Crawley of Kootenay, the acting primate. “The good news is that it’s not for a long haul.”

Archbishop Hutchison, who at the age of 65 is only five years shy of the church’s mandatory retirement age for bishops, later told a news conference that “it was quite likely” that he would only serve one three-year-term.

But he told members of General Synod gathered at the university’s Sean O’Sullivan Theatre that he was accepting the primacy “with a profound sense of both responsibility and accountability in this wonderful Anglican Church of Canada.”

Only moments after he was announced as new primate, Archbishop Hutchison was bombarded with questions by the media about whether he was in favour of same-sex blessings – an issue that has dramatically divided the worldwide Anglican Communion.

“I personally have difficulty with same-sex marriages and it’s not something I’ll be able to take on and I’m not sure I can support that theologically,” he told a news conference. “But when two human beings active in the life of the church and the body of Christ commit themselves to each other for life and ask their faith community to bless that, I have no problem with that.”

He later voted against deferring a motion that would affirm dioceses’ right to decide if they wish to bless gay couples.

When asked what he would do to restore unity within the fractured church, he said, “The way I hope to do that is to remind us of our history of unity within diversity.” He said that the church has survived similar crises involving such issues as the ordination of women and re-marriage of divorced persons.

Archbishop Hutchison is also bishop ordinary to the Canadian Forces and metropolitan (senior bishop) of the ecclesiastical (church) province of Canada. That province includes dioceses in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. He has had a long career in the Anglican Church of Canada, having served 15 ecclesiastical offices. A native of Toronto, he was ordained a deacon at St. James Cathedral in 1969. He was installed as bishop at Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal, in 1990, and elected metropolitan in May, 2002.

Archbishop Hutchison and his wife, Lois – a diocesan employee in Montreal – have one son, David, who joined his parents at the news conference, with his wife Jillian and seven-month-old daughter Jessica, on the day of the election.

The other candidates on the first two ballots were Bishop Ferris and Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee. Another candidate, Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton, withdrew from the race after she was diagnosed with breast cancer (see story p. 21). Bishop Ralph Spence of Niagara was added as a candidate after the second ballot when the members requested the bishops to add more nominees to the position.

After the first ballot at 11:35 a.m., Archbishop Hutchison emerged with the most votes (48 clergy and 72 laity), but fell short of the required majority (at least 59 votes from the clergy and 73 laity).

Bishop Ferris received the second highest number of votes (clergy 36, laity 31) and Bishop Lawrence ranked third (clergy 25, laity 38).

During the second ballot held at 11:55 a.m., Archbishop Hutchison received a majority from the order of laity with 78 votes, but only received 55 from the clergy. Bishop Ferris again emerged second, with 39 votes from clergy and 34 from the laity. Bishop Lawrence received 20 votes from clergy and 28 from laity; as the candidate with the least votes, his name was removed from the ballot under canons governing the primacy.

The order of clergy then passed a motion asking the bishops to provide more nominees. The bishops, who were in a reception room on the campus called Alphie’s Trough, nominated Bishop Spence.

The bishops’ first choice, however, was Archbishop Crawley, who declined the nomination. “I’ll be 67 in July. I’ve worked hard for a long time and I’m tired,” he said in an interview. He also said family considerations were a factor. “I’d miss a big chunk of my (12-year-old) daughter’s life and I didn’t want to disrupt her schooling.”

Bishop Spence emerged last during the third ballot and was dropped as a candidate, leaving only Bishops Ferris and Hutchison in the election. Once again a clergy member submitted a motion seeking more nominees. The motion was defeated, as was a similar attempt by a lay member, leaving only the names of Bishops Hutchison and Ferris on the ballot.

The final ballot was cast at 3:35 p.m., and at 4:05 p.m., prolocutor Dorothy Davies-Flindall announced, “We have an election.”

Ten minutes later, the bishops arrived at the theatre to a standing ovation.

In a speech before the delegates, Archbishop Hutchison offered thanks to his fellow candidates, saying that becoming a candidate for primate, was “a step of courage…a step of risk.” He also gave special mention to Bishop Matthews.

In an impromptu address, he addressed the issue of unity: “One of the great challenges before our church is certainly its unity. But it is simply not unity for its own sake.”

As dictated by tradition, the new primate gave a blessing, which in this case, the bilingual Archbishop Hutchison offered in French and English.


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