Bishop Morse Robinson, known to many as a “servant bishop” and strong advocate of mission and ministry, died on December 7 after a brief illness. He was 92.
Robinson was a “creative visionary who served generously,” according to Marilyn Malton, director of the Renison Institute of Ministry in Waterloo Ont. Robinson founded the Renison Institute in 1987 in response to the need for skilled lay ministries, and served as its director until 2001.
“He envisioned the whole faith community making, supporting and renewing Christians as the backbone of parish life and work,” said Malton in an e-mail interview. Robinson’s priority was strengthening and equipping parish ministry teams through mentoring, and “pastoral and practical” courses/workshops. His mantra, recalled Malton, was, “Shepherds don’t make sheep, sheep do.”
Robinson was also known in church circles as a conciliator, according to a July 1987 article published in the London Free Press. The article went on to recount an incident in which, shortly after Robinson was ordained in 1944, his church at Wellandport, Ont. was “stolen.” The entire wood frame structure was uprooted and later found 50 miles away, as part of a parish power struggle. Robinson found a way to mend the rift and when he left, the parish was flourishing.
He did not employ any special techniques at mediation, he told the London Free Press. “I’m conscious only of reminding myself in each case that these are adults I’m dealing with, people with a lot of experience and a lot to say after they blow off steam.” He described himself as a good listener “who has been willing to take advice before making decisions.”
Robinson worked in the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada in various capacities from 1960 to 1966. He was responsible for missionary education in his capacity as Canadian coordinator of the Anglican World Mission. He served as associate general secretary of the department of missions and general secretary of the Missionary Society.
Before he joined the national office, Robinson served at parishes in the diocese of Niagara and also did missionary work in Quebec.
Robinson left the national office to become rector of St. John the Evangelist in Kitchener, Ont., in 1966. In 1969, he moved to London, Ont as rector of St. George’s, and examining chaplain to the bishop of the diocese of Huron. He also served as chair of the spiritual advance program, as a member of the diocesan council of social service, and on the diocesan executive and the Huron Church News committee.
As the first program officer for Huron, Robinson equipped clergy and laity with skills for a vibrant parish community, said the diocesan newspaper, the Huron Church News. He introduced events such as the Children’s Festival, the Bishop’s Holy Spirit Conference, Christian Leadership Effectiveness workshops and the Bishop’s Social Action.
On Sept. 21, 1974, he was consecrated suffragan bishop of the diocese of Huron, where he worked until he retired and founded the Renison Institute of Ministry. A quote from St. Augustine that was printed on the cover of his service of consecration summed up his view of episcopacy: ” What I am for you terrifies me; What I am with you consoles me. For you I am a bishop; But with you I am a Christian. The former is a duty; the latter is a grace received. The former is a danger; The latter is salvation.”
Robinson and his wife, Joan, are survived by their two daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
At Robinson’s request, a memorial service will take place at St. Mark’s Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, on May 25, 2013, at 2 p.m. It is a time when “orchards are in bloom” and it falls on the feast day of Venerable Bede, Robinson, favourite saint, said an online obituary published by Morgan Funeral Homes.