Nicholls to retire Sept. 15; Germond to step in as acting primate

Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (left) will retire September 15 with Archbishop Anne Germond, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario to step in as acting primate. Photos: Anglican Communion Office; Kevin Doonan
Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (left) will retire September 15 with Archbishop Anne Germond, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario to step in as acting primate. Photos: Anglican Communion Office; Kevin Doonan
Published May 31, 2024

Metropolitans all agree on Germond as acting primate, though seniority questions linger

Note: An earlier version of this story appeared on April 10.
Archbishop Anne Germond, bishop of the dioceses of Algoma and Moosonee and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, is to become acting primate in September once Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, retires Sept. 15.

“In the fall of 2024 I will complete thirty-nine years of ordained ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada. Although it had been my hope to continue until General Synod 2025, I will also reach our mandatory retirement age,” wrote Nicholls in an April 9 letter to the church. “I have therefore written to the senior metropolitan Archbishop Anne Germond, to offer my resignation as of September 15, 2024.”

In a news release published the same day, the church’s national office announced that until a new primate is elected at the next General Synod in the summer of 2025, Germond, “who is … the senior provincial metropolitan by virtue of having the longest current term of office, will serve as acting primate.”

Metropolitans are senior bishops with authority over ecclesiastical provinces, of which there are four in the Anglican Church of Canada.

A resolution which would have allowed any sitting primate to finish out their term until the next General Synod meeting if their 70th birthday—the retirement age for Anglican bishops—falls less than a year before the next election was put to General Synod in 2023. Most members of General Synod voted in favour of the resolution, which would have extended Nicholls’ term to the 2025 General Synod. But the resolution needed to pass with a minimum two-thirds majority in each of the orders of clergy, laity and bishops. It failed to clear that bar in the Order of Bishops. This made it necessary for Nicholls to announce her retirement sometime before her 70th birthday in October.

Church canons call for the primate in such cases to be succeeded by an acting primate until a primatial election can be held, and stipulate that the acting primate be the church’s senior metropolitan by election, as long as that person is able and willing.

Germond confirmed by text message to the Journal that she would accept the position if it came to her. “If I am able to serve as acting primate I am willing to serve—God being my helper (and lots of support from the church!)”

Born in South Africa and raised a Roman Catholic, Germond described, in a 2016 Anglican Journal article, the nuns at her Johannesburg high school as role models for her when they took a stand against apartheid and opened the school to Black students in 1976. She joined the Anglican church while still in high school, she said, after having fallen in love with Evensong and other elements of the Anglican liturgical tradition. Since then she has had a career as an educator, first at South African primary schools and then at the Johannesburg College of Education, where she taught religious studies and English teaching methods. In 1986, she and her husband moved to Canada, where she taught ESL as a volunteer until she had completed her honours degree in religious studies through the University of South Africa and a bachelor’s degree in theology from Sudbury’s Thorneloe University.

Germond’s career in the church has been marked by rapid and sometimes unexpected advancement. In 2000, then-Bishop of Algoma Ron Ferris invited her to serve as short-term lay incumbent at the Anglican Church of the Ascension in New Sudbury, Ont., where she became a deacon in 2001 and a priest in 2002. The congregation asked her to stay on as rector, which she did for the next decade and a half, also serving as territorial archdeacon for Sudbury/Manitoulin beginning in 2010. She was nominated from the floor on the sixth ballot of the 2016 Algoma synod and elected bishop. She was elected to become metropolitan of Ontario just two years later.

Nicholls’ announcement that Germond was her temporary successor followed a March 22 letter to Germond by the chancellor of General Synod, the officer tasked with advising the primate on legal matters. In her letter, Chancellor Clare Burns explained why, in her opinion, Germond was “senior by election” to the other three metropolitans. In the same letter, Burns also said she understood the primate and metropolitans had agreed Germond should serve as acting primate whether they agreed with her interpretation of the canon or not.

Of the Anglican Church of Canada’s current metropolitans, the longest-serving is Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson, voted in as metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land in 2015. Germond was elected to a six-year term as metropolitan of Ontario in 2018. However, Kerr-Wilson was re-elected in 2022, setting him back in seniority, according to the opinion given by Burns.

“In my opinion, a bishop is only a provincial metropolitan by virtue of the most recent election which has resulted in them taking office,” Burns wrote. “This must be the case as it is, for example, possible for a bishop to be elected at a provincial synod in year one thus becoming provincial metropolitan, not be elected at the next provincial election thus ceasing to be a provincial metropolitan, and thereafter be elected again to take office a second time.”

Germond is up for re-election at Ontario’s provincial synod Sept. 24, but she will be senior by election, according to Burns’ interpretation of the canon, as of the date of Nicholls’ retirement, Sept 15.

The Journal requested an interview with Kerr-Wilson, but as he was on vacation at the time, Karen Webb, chancellor of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, spoke on his behalf. She said Kerr-Wilson believed himself to be senior by election, but confirmed he had no interest in the position of acting primate.

“Greg does think he’s senior, but he said, ‘I don’t want to do the job,’” which would mean an additional substantial role on top of his current ones as bishop of the diocese of Calgary and metropolitan of Rupert’s Land, she said.

Webb is a member of the Anglican Journal’s editorial board, but she recused herself from a discussion the board held on how to handle this story.

Burns declined a request for an interview on how ‘‘senior by election” had been interpreted in prior cases or whether the canon’s original intent was to select the metropolitan with the most total experience in office. Burns’ predecessor as chancellor, Canon (lay) David Jones, also believed re-elections would reset metropolitans’ seniority.

The Anglican Church of Canada’s four provincial metropolitans (L-R top): Archbishop David Edwards, Archbishop Anne Germond, (L-R bottom): Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson and Archbishop Lynne McNaughton. Photos: Gisele McKnight, George Cribbs, Arianne Tubman, Hilite Studios
The Anglican Church of Canada’s four provincial metropolitans (L-R top): Archbishop David Edwards, Archbishop Anne Germond, (L-R bottom): Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson and Archbishop Lynne McNaughton. Photos: Gisele McKnight, George Cribbs, Arianne Tubman, Hilite Studios

Archbishop Lynne McNaughton, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon, said the metropolitans had asked Burns to give an opinion on the interpretation of “senior by election” at a meeting this spring. Since Kerr-Wilson had already said he was not interested in filling the acting primate role, McNaughton said she thought the opinion would be useful to have on the books to help resolve any questions that arise when future acting primates are selected.

Canon Iain Luke, prolocutor of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, said he had no concerns about the selection of Germond as acting primate, but was concerned about Burns’ interpretation of “senior by election” as a new standard for future cases. He said the practice of re-electing metropolitans is comparatively new, and each province has its own rules about how long a metropolitan is in office and whether they need to be re-elected. This makes it awkward and complicated to base the national system on the last time they were elected, as opposed to simply the number of years they have held the office, he said.

In the April 9 news release, Archdeacon Alan Perry, general secretary of General Synod, said it had been a privilege for him to work with Nicholls. “In addition to her keen insight and her love for and breadth of knowledge of the church, she has brought care, compassion and joy in the Gospel to her various roles. Staff will miss her singing voice as much as her preaching voice in our regular chapel gatherings. I will miss a friend and mentor who has constantly supported me and encouraged me to grow.”

In her announcement, Nicholls said she would welcome the time of rest without the responsibilities of leadership that would follow her retirement.

“The greatest joy has been to share in the relationship between God and God’s people through pastoral care, preaching, teaching and sacramental ministries and advocate for justice and compassion for all,” Nicholls wrote. “To see God at work bringing healing and hope in the midst of the sorrows, pain and joy of daily life for individuals, families, communities and our wider world is a privilege that cannot be measured.

“I will enjoy walking with God’s people, not as a leader, but as a friend, teacher and mentor alongside opportunities that allow my soul to sing—literally and figuratively. Thank you for the privilege of serving our beloved church. Thank you for your prayers, care and support through the good times and the difficult ones.”

At an April 10 dinner held by the national House of Bishops, Germond announced that the house would create a fund to provide educational funding in Nicholls’ name. The Archbishop Linda Nicholls Theological Education Fund will provide bursaries to fund theological education for women across Canada, Germond told the assembled bishops, according to a news release from the Anglican Foundation of Canada (AFC).

The House of Bishops will provide the initial funding of $20,000, and the fund will be managed and disbursed by the AFC.


  • Sean Frankling

    Sean Frankling’s experience includes newspaper reporting as well as writing for video and podcast media. He’s been chasing stories since his first co-op for Toronto’s Gleaner Community Press at age 19. He studied journalism at Carleton University and has written for the Toronto Star, WatchMojo and other outlets.

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