“Editor’s note: This is a revised version of a March 22 story. The last sentence of the ninth paragraph has been corrected.
Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate (national bishop) of the Anglican Church of Canada, is receiving letters nominating candidates to be his successor, under a new process that gives bishops more time to consider the prospect of leading the Canadian church.
Only the 39 currently-active (not retired) bishops may nominate one of their number for the position of primate, but Archbishop Hutchison declined to say how many nominations he has received or who the candidates are.
When the house of bishops, at their regular meeting last fall, changed the nomination rules, it was agreed that the process would be confidential. The bishops will choose the candidates in a closed-door session at their April 16-20 meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont. and the new primate will be elected by the lay and clergy delegates at the General Synod governing convention in Winnipeg, to be held June 19-25.
(The Anglican Journal will post the names and profiles of the primatial candidates on its Web site, anglicanjournal.com, during the meeting of the house of bishops.)
Additional nominations may be made at the bishops’ meeting or at General Synod, where the convention may ask the house of bishops for additional candidates. Archbishop Hutchison was elected at the 2004 General Synod in St. Catharines, Ont. According to church canons (laws), the bishops must nominate a minimum of three candidates.
The new nominating process is intended to be easier on potential candidates and their families.
“In the previous system, no bishop could say, ‘I will not accept the nomination,’ and if nominated, could not decline without a motion being passed by the house of bishops. The point of that system is that the primatial election is not about you, it is about the church and its needs,” said Archbishop Hutchison in an interview.
However, that meant that candidates were given only a few minutes during the nominating election to consider the position, unable to contact family members. At the house of bishops meeting in spring 2004, Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island declined the nomination.
(The house of bishops nominated four candidates last election: Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton, Bishop Ronald Ferris of Algoma, Archbishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee and Archbishop Hutchison. Bishop Matthews bowed out of the election after falling ill. 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.)
Under the new process, a nominator must contact a candidate to secure his or her consent and the candidate has time to pray and consider all aspects of the situation, said Archbishop Hutchison. “The nominee can discuss with me questions such as, ‘Do I have to move to Toronto? Is there a house?’” he said.
The primate is chief pastor of the Canadian church, chairs meetings of the house of bishops, Council of General Synod and General Synod, represents the church at home and abroad and oversees the operation of the national office, also called General Synod, in Toronto.