The primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has asked the Council of General Synod (CoGS) to help him consider what the future of the primacy is since he is scheduled to retire in 2008 and General Synod meets a year earlier, in 2007.
“The question is whether there will be a primatial election at General Synod or not,” Archbishop Andrew Hutch-ison told CoGS during its meeting Nov. 17-20. “Any comments you might have in the next year or so will be helpful.” He said that the General Synod planning and agenda committee had asked him for his thoughts on the matter.
Archbishop Hutchison told national church staff at a briefing Nov. 23 that there are at least three options being considered: to elect a new primate in 2007, to extend his term until 2008, or to extend his term until General Synod meets again in 2010.
“For me to go through until 2008 will allow me to attend Lambeth and take my comeuppance on all this stuff we’ve been going through, and then retire,” he told staff. The Lambeth Conference, which happens every 10 years and is next scheduled for 2008, gathers all the bishops of the Anglican Communion. “That will leave you with a non-elected primate.” (In that case, the church’s senior metropolitan of the day would serve as acting primate for two years until 2010.)
He said all three options are “open to me and it’s my call, I guess.” He added: “I simply put that out to council (CoGS), and you – and my wife – have to give some thought on this so that you can advise me so that I can decide.”
Archbishop Hutchison said that he has been advised by Ronald Stevenson, General Synod’s chancellor (legal adviser), that it was “legally possible” to extend his term for two years.
During a discussion at CoGS, Archbishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee, asked whether the church’s canon can also be changed to allow a primate to serve past the mandatory retirement age of 70. Mr. Stevenson said the canon could be changed in a single session of General Synod with a two-thirds vote of clergy and laity.
Asked whether it was possible to elect a co-adjutor primate in 2007, Mr. Stevenson said, “not under the present canons, no.” Some dioceses, anticipating the retirement of a bishop, elect a co-adjutor bishop who has automatic right of succession when the incumbent steps down.