On April, 6, Archdeacon of York Peter Fenty, who has also been serving as executive officer to the bishop of Toronto, was elected as suffragan bishop for the diocese of Toronto.
Once he is consecrated as bishop on June 22 at the Cathedral Church of St. James in downtown Toronto, he will be the first bishop of African descent in the Anglican Church of Canada.
While bishop-elect, Fenty, who grew up and was ordained in the diocese of Barbados, made it clear that as a bishop he intends to serve “all of God’s people, irrespective of race, class, disposition in life.”
Fenty also acknowledged the historic significance of his election. “For me, it really is an honour, and a moment that I know represents for many of our people, a joy that one of their own is now a bishop in the church,” he told the Anglican Journal.
He added that he thought it was important “for people of African descent, for blacks in the Anglican church but also for blacks in our communities, especially in these days when there is so much negativity in the city of Toronto about what is happening with violence among many of our young black persons.”
The bishop-elect said he hopes to offer support and encouragement with other leaders, political and otherwise, to help address such problems in the community and to look for ways that might “enable our people, particularly our young men, to have a pride in themselves and to seek alternative ways in which they can deal with the issues that confront them.”
Fenty came to Canada in 1992 to be rector of St. Lawrence church in Montreal, a parish that had a significant Caribbean population. Prior to that, Fenty said he had always envisioned living out his life as a priest in the diocese of Barbados, where he was ordained in 1975 and served as the rector of three parishes. In 1997, he became the incumbent of St. Joseph of Nazareth in Brampton in the diocese of Toronto. He has served as the archdeacon of York and the executive officer since 2004.
Fenty said he will be working with the other bishops in the diocese of Toronto, in whichever area the archbishop assigns him to, to continue to increase the focus on the missional dimension of church. That includes many types of outreach, encouraging parishes to look at new ways of living out ministry and to be more resourceful with regard to stewardship, and encouraging more church plants in areas where an Anglican presence is needed, he said. For some parishes that are really struggling, this might mean shifting their ministry to a location where it can be more beneficial according to demographics, he said. “It is really about the mission rather than about the building.”
He noted that the diocese is very concerned about poverty and has been “in the forefront of advocating for government and all of us to be mindful of being appropriately responsive to the poverty that exists in our diocese and in our city.”
The bishop-elect, who said he felt called to be a priest since childhood, added that his ministry has always emphasized social justice and will continue to do so. “I really feel strongly that we must stand by persons who are poor, who are marginalized, who are discriminated against, because that, for me, is what our mission and ministry is about as well.” In the national church, he has served as co-chair of the partners in mission and eco-justice committee.
Another experience that has helped prepare him for his ministry as a bishop, he said, was his responsibility over the last 10 years to assist those seeking ordination in the diocese of Toronto. The role involved not only encouraging and supporting postulants but also administering the process and helping the committee to discern who God was calling to be a priest. He has also overseen the Momentum program, which supports newly ordained clergy.
The election was a close one that went to a seventh ballot. The Rev. Canon Andrew Asbil, the incumbent of the Church of the Redeemer in Toronto, was the runner-up. Other nominees were the Rev. Canon Stephen Peake, the Rev. Canon Allan Budzin, the Ven. Gordon Finney, the Rev. Canon Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa, the Rev. Mark Kinghan, the Rev. Warren Leibovitch, the Rev. Canon Jennifer Reid, the Rev. Nicola Skinner and Major the Rev. David Warren.