New primate a born peacemaker

Published June 1, 2004

“We have a new life,” said Archbishop Andrew Hutchison upon greeting his wife, Lois, for the first time after he was elected primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

St. Catharines, Ont.

Three months before he was elected the 12th primate, or national archbishop, of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal did not intend to be a candidate for the office. Now, he said, he is enthusiastically looking forward to the challenges of leading the Canadian church and being a spokesman for Canada to the world.

“I’m going to be using it (the office of primate) to promote the need for healing and reconciliation in the church (around the same-sex blessings issue), the need to get beyond introspective matters, to redirect our energy to the mission and ministry of the church in a world that is experiencing genocide, AIDS and a new militarism,” he said in an interview. He was elected on May 31 on the fourth ballot by members of General Synod, the church’s national triennial meeting.

But last April, when Canadian Anglican bishops met in Regina to choose candidates for the primatial election, Archbishop Hutchison, who is 65 and five years from the church’s mandatory retirement age of 70 for bishops, was looking forward to retirement and did not intend to be on the ballot. However, he said, he came to see the need for a candidate who would be an interim primate in times of great change.

An urbane, sophisticated man with a genial manner and a resonant baritone voice, fluent in French and English, Archbishop Hutchison said he anticipates serving three years, until the next General Synod in 2007. However, he noted in the interview, to work on the church’s most contentious current issue, the blessing of same-sex relationships, and not attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference “could be an oversight.”

He could serve five years, until he reaches retirement age in 2009, at which time the senior archbishop by election would become an acting primate until the next General Synod, and primatial election, in 2010.

He is well connected with provincial and federal politicians, counting Prime Minister Paul Martin as an acquaintance and the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as a neighbour and friend.

He will not continue as Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces, supervising military chaplains, since that job, in addition to the primacy, would be “just too much.” He said he anticipates serving the Forces for another two months, then appointing a successor.

Bringing people of diverse, sometimes conflicting, views together is his passion, said Archbishop Hutchison. Elected the bishop of Montreal in 1990, he has worked toward healing rifts between English and French in Quebec and between Christians and Jews. He was awarded the Jerusalem Prize by the Canadian Zionist Foundation and the Alan Rose Award for human rights by the Canadian Jewish Congress.

His interest in peacemaking goes deep, he said. “When I was six, I was shipped off to boarding school. My mother was dying of cancer, my parents’ marriage was falling apart and my sister was losing her sanity. … (Another) sister became very angry and I became the healer in the family, the one who made things better. (Later), Archbishop Lewis Garnsworthy said to me, ‘You get along with the oddballs in life.'”

His concern for Christian-Jewish relations sprang from arguing with his father and grandfather, who had anti-Semitic views.

Regarded as a moderate liberal on the question of gay relationships, he said, “I can’t take on board same-sex marriage, probably for cultural reasons rather than theological or biblical ones.” However, he added, “When two people are drawn to each other and commit for life, then blessing them should not be a problem.”

Born in Toronto, Archbishop Hutchison’s family has deep roots in Ontario, emigrating from Britain in the 1830s. A family residence, Hutchison House, is a historic site in Peterborough, Ont. He counts as an ancestor Lancelot Andrews, translator of the King James Bible.

He earned a licentiate in theology from Trinity College, University of Toronto, in 1969 and has received honorary degrees from Montreal Diocesan College, Trinity College and Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Que.

Ordained in 1970, he served a variety of parishes in urban and rural settings in the diocese of Toronto over 14 years. He was named dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal in 1984. In 1995, he was named Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces and was elected metropolitan (senior bishop) of the ecclesiastical province of Canada in 2002. That church province includes dioceses in Quebec and on the east coast.

He has served on such national church committees as National Executive Council (the forerunner to the current Council of General Synod), stewardship and financial development and Anglican Journal’s board of directors.

He and his wife, Lois, will be moving to Toronto, as close to the General Synod office in downtown as possible, he said. They have one son, David, who teaches in Vancouver. He and his wife, Jillian, seven months ago had a daughter, Jessica – the Hutchisons’ first grandchild. By coincidence, the family were all in St. Catharines during the primatial election due to David Hutchison’s participation in a rowing event.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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