Archbishop Andrew Hutchison addresses the house of bishops meeting about his decision to retire. Looking on is his principal secretary, Archdeacon Paul Feheley.
Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, the primate, or national archbishop, of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he will step down at the 2007 General Synod governing convention because there are times he is “absolutely exhausted.”
Speaking at the opening of the regular spring meeting of the Canadian church’s bishops, Archbishop Hutchison said that when he was elected at the 2004 General Synod, he said then that he would be a “one-triennium (three-year) primate.” Since then, he said, some had urged him to stay through the 2008 Lambeth Conference of the world’s Anglican bishops, a year in which he would reach the mandatory retirement age of 70.
“Your prayers and God’s grace have given me energy and strength, but when I get home (from travelling), I am absolutely exhausted. My wife is rattling around alone for a week or two in a big house and when I get home, I crash,” he said, adding that “a chance for me to enjoy retirement has come.”
His voice, hoarse from a cold, underscored his remarks and his emotion intensified when he continued, saying that being primate is “very trying and very challenging and you do take some bruises,” but the best part is “the privilege of seeing the church in all its variety from around the world.”
Looking toward 2007, he said that he will preside at the meeting of General Synod but that there will be a primatial election. According to church canons, or laws, the house of bishops will choose candidates, likely at their spring meeting in 2007, and the full convention will elect the next primate.
He said he will not be a lame duck, but “will continue to give this my very best between now and the General Synod” and said he had written to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Canadian Council of General Synod, informing them of his decision.
In an interview after his announcement, he said he had pondered his decision over Holy Week, then consulted with his family. Archbishop Hutchison and his wife, Lois, have a son who lives on Vancouver Island with his wife and daughter. When he was elected, Archbishop Hutchison was aware that the position would be taxing, with a great deal of national and international travel, but really came to feel it physically in the past two years. Now that it was announced, he said, he felt “a sense of relief,” but emphasized that the decision was purely for personal reasons, adding, “I love the job.”
The bishops were momentarily caught off guard, with Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster saying he had hoped Archbishop Hutchison would stay on, but calling it a “great and courageous decision on your part.” Bishop Ralph Spence of Niagara complimented Archbishop Hutchison on his leadership of the bishops. “You have modeled for us good relationships at a house that was strained at times. You have built bridges,” Bishop Spence said, referring to tensions over issues involving homosexuality.