William Cliff—bishop of the diocese of Brandon and new bishop-elect of the diocese of Ontario—has been inhibited from performing the duties of his office following an allegation of misconduct said to have been posted on social media.
A majority among both lay delegates and clergy elected Cliff over the Rev. Bradley Smith of St. John the Evangelist Church in Peterborough, Ont. at an electoral synod April 29, according to a statement released by the diocese the same day. The resignation of Bishop Michael Oulton, Cliff’s predecessor, was to become effective at the yet-to-be-announced date of Cliff’s installation.
However, Oulton said in a May 2 email to the diocese of Ontario that “a situation has arisen following the Electoral Synod” and an allegation had been received regarding Cliff.
“This allegation has been received by our Metropolitan Anne Germond and she has informed the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of its existence. The proper authorities have been informed,” Oulton wrote.
While the allegation is under investigation, Cliff is inhibited in the ecclesiastical provinces of Ontario and Rupert’s Land. Reached by the Anglican Journal, Germond said she could not comment on the matter. On Wednesday, May 3, Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson, metropolitan of Rupert’s Land, told the Journal in an email that after Cliff’s election was announced, “an individual in the Civil Province of Ontario posted on social media an allegation of misconduct against Bishop Cliff. The nature of the allegation is such that an investigation is required—which will be conducted in Ontario by the Eccl. Province there (as that is where the alleged misconduct took place).” The investigation, he added, required Cliff to be inhibited.
“The Inhibition does not imply, or presume guilt on Bishop Cliff’s part, but is enacted in keeping with our church’s commitment to take all allegations seriously and to facilitate transparency in the investigation process,” Kerr-Wilson wrote. “I have issued that Inhibition and it is effective immediately. The Inhibition is equivalent to a suspension with pay—meaning that +William while remaining a bishop of the Church and continuing to be remunerated, is unable to exercise the ministry of his Office within the Anglican Church until notice otherwise.
“Please do keep the complainant, +William, the Dioceses of Brandon and Ontario and those responsible for this investigation in your prayers.”
In his email about the allegation against Cliff, Oulton said he could not discuss any details of the allegation itself, but asked for prayers for the complainant, Cliff and the diocese of Brandon.
Ordained priest in 1992, Cliff is chair of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Communications Committee, and is a former chair of the Anglican Journal Coordinating Committee and the Council of the North. He has also served three terms as a human rights commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission and as a member of the Three Cantors, a singing group who have sung in over 200 concerts and raised more than $1 million for the Primate’s World Relief and Development fund. He has been bishop of the diocese of Brandon since 2016.
In a letter introducing himself before the election, Cliff wrote that he hoped the diocese of Ontario would find him a match for their needs. “I love this work, and I love being a bishop because I am excited about what God is doing in the church and I am optimistic about what Jesus can do through us,” he wrote.
In a video addressing the diocese, Cliff described the church as going through a difficult time in ministry and membership. “We work for the kingdom while social forces that are beyond our control limit people’s willingness to listen both to the Gospel message and the wisdom that the church might have to offer.
“A bishop’s job is to speak the gospel message into our communities and both reveal their deepest needs and then energize the church to address those needs and heal.”
He described himself as “teachable,” willing to work with the diocese to understand and identify its needs and then work to find the best ways to serve it.
The diocese of Ontario, which ministers to about 13,000 Anglicans, is located along Lake Ontario and covers Kingston and five counties in the civil province of Ontario.
Clarification: In his May 2 email, Bishop Michael Oulton asked for prayers for the complainant, Cliff and the diocese of Brandon. Incomplete information appeared in an earlier version of this article.
Updated May 3