Sunday, April 22, 2007

Candidates for Canadian Primate Announced

From the Anglican Church of Canada:

Canadian Anglican bishops have nominated four from among their number to be candidates in the election of a successor to Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Archbishop Hutchison, who was elected 12th Primate in 2004, has announced that he will retire after the Anglican General Synod in June. The synod, the Anglican church’s chief governing body, will chose the next primate on June 22 in Winnipeg.

The procedure to elect a Primate, or national leader, is that bishops nominate no more than five candidates at their last meeting before a General Synod. The bishops, however, do not vote in the actual election. Primates are elected by clergy and lay members of the synod.

Bishops nominated for the election of the 13th Primate are:

  • Bishop George Bruce of the diocese of Ontario
  • Bishop Fred Hiltz of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
  • Bishop Bruce Howe of the diocese of Huron
  • Bishop Victoria Matthews of the diocese of Edmonton...
  • Most Episcopalians are embarrassingly ignorant of what goes on among our neighbors and most staunch allies to the north. In light of that, I contacted someone who left a comment here recently who I thought might be able to assist us by offering some background regarding these candidates. He is an Episcopal priest serving and studying for a Th.D. in Canada. He writes the following under the pseudonym "Trinity Matthew":

    Election for Primate of All Canada

    The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada have recently released their nominees for the 13th Primate of Canada. The election is to be held on June 22, 2007 during the triennial General Synod due to the retirement of Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, who has served since 2004. The nominees are: George Bruce, Diocese of Ontario; Fred Hiltz, Diocese of Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island; Bruce Howe, Diocese of Huron; and Victoria Matthews, Diocese of Edmonton. Both Hiltz and Matthews were expected to be top contenders for the position in 2004. Matthews withdrew due to her breast cancer diagnosis, and Hiltz declined the nomination. While each candidate will have support, Matthews is perceived to be the odds on favorite and most of the interest and speculation will likely center around her.

    Victoria Matthews is the first woman bishop in Canada, elected suffragan in Toronto in 1994, and diocesan in Edmonton in 1997. She is perceived to be a skillful theologian and is doctrinally orthodox when it comes to a matter such as the divinity of Christ. Notably, she was chair of the Primate’s Theological Commission which wrote the St. Michael’s Report on the issue of same-sex blessings. In essence, that report deemed same-sex blessings related closely enough to marriage to be considered “doctrine” but not “core doctrine,” i.e., not pertaining to the theological truths expressed in the Nicene Creed. (Remember that the Walter Righter trial court also made a distinction about “core doctrine” in the U.S., deeming that Righter did not violate core doctrine by ordaining a gay man). The St. Michael’s Report also determined that while very important, the issue of same-sex blessings should not be church or communion-dividing. Rather, regardless of decisions made on one branch of the Anglican family tree, limbs should not be broken or cut off. It remains to be seen how Bp. Matthews would handle the issue of same-sex blessings should the General Synod vote to allow them on a diocese by diocese basis this summer. She holds her cards very close to her chest. My best guess is that she is enough of a “churchwoman” (not a term we use generally, but it seems apt here) that she will express support for what the Canadian church decides, while diligently striving to maintain Canada’s place in the Anglican Communion.

    Bp. Matthews is a past patron of Affirming Catholicism; although, I suspect she would be hesitant to line up 100% behind the fully inclusive view that Affirming Catholicism generally takes. When Rowan Williams recently spoke in Toronto and received honorary doctorates from Trinity and Wycliffe Colleges, Matthews was deemed the best person to represent both colleges (Trinity being high church and generally liberal, Wycliffe low church and conservative) and read a joint citation, saying that Williams is exactly the leader that the Anglican Communion needs at this time. Matthews is on record as being enthusiastic about Katharine Jefferts Schori’s election as Presiding Bishop, and has said that women’s ordination to all orders of ministry must be accepted as normative and consistent with the Anglican tradition.

    Of the other candidates, Fred Hiltz would be deemed the most liberal choice and many will rally around him, in part because he is not from Ontario and because he will be seen to stand in the tradition of the last three Primates who have been progressive: Ted Scott, Michael Peers, Andrew Hutchison. That said, Hiltz would not be considered the most liberal diocesan bishop in Canada by any means. Michael Ingham, New Westminster; Ralph Spence, Niagara; Colin Johnson, Toronto; Bruce Stavert, Quebec, are all probably more liberal. I suspect, though I don’t know for certain, that Hiltz would be sympathetic to efforts to approve same-sex blessings, at least on a diocese by diocese basis. He disappointed many when he declined to stand for the primatial election in 2004, largely due to family concerns. These concerns resolved and progress in his diocese allow him to be nominated this year. With Matthews, Hiltz would have been a strong favorite in 2004. The same is true today. I suspect that ultimately it will be a contest between Hiltz and Matthews. Both are the same age at 53 and could serve until 70, making for long primacies of up to17 years.

    Bruce Howe of Huron, Canada’s second largest diocese, is perceived to be fairly moderate and likely will stand where the church stands. George Bruce of Ontario, having a strong military background, is most reliably conservative of the nominees and has been critical of the Diocese of New Westminter’s move to allow same-sex blessings. Even they, however, would not be as conservative as many bishops in the United States, and by no means are they the most conservative in Canada. For example, both regularly ordain women and neither have called for a parallel conservative province in Canada. From my vantage point Howe and Bruce seem to have less name recognition than Matthews and Hiltz, and appear unlikely to be elected. But as we know from the Presiding Bishop election in the U.S. in 2006, surprising and even unlikely things can happen.

    The electoral process for Primate of Canada is the exact opposite of the process in the U.S. The candidates are nominated by the House of Bishops, without the consultation of the clergy and laity. Nominees require unanimous support of the House. The election, however, is held by the clergy and laity only at General Synod, requiring a majority in both orders on the same ballot. The bishops are not and may not be present. Therefore, they will not know how the voting goes until the result is announced. The Synod, however, may ask the bishops to send more nominees if it cannot elect one from the slate, or if more choices are desired. (This happened in 2004. However, the Synod eventually chose Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal, who had been on the original slate).

    The Primate-elect, upon accepting the election, is required to immediately resign his or her See. It is my understanding that Matthews had hoped that the canons could be suspended to allow her to maintain her position as ordinary of Edmonton if elected, in similar fashion to the British primates. The House of Bishops defeated that request. The new Primate will be invested at the conclusion of the Synod, not several months later, as is the practice in the U.S. and elsewhere.

    I write this as an American Episcopal priest serving and studying for a Th.D. in Canada. So, I am something of a very interested, although outside, observer. This will be an interesting election on many fronts. As a liberal, Hiltz would be my first choice; however, I would think that many liberals would be willing, ultimately, to compromise and vote for Matthews if Hiltz doesn’t carry enough votes. Many moderates and conservatives will stand with Matthews from the start. If the center holds, I would predict that Matthews would be elected. But anything could happen....

    Trinity Matthew


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