Archbishop Finlay was 10th Bishop of Toronto

Posted on March 20, 2017

The Most Rev. Terence Finlay died early this morning, March 20, in Toronto. He was 79.

Archbishop Finlay at All Saints, Sherbourne St. Photo by Michael Hudson.

Ordained deacon in 1961 and priest in 1962, he came to the Diocese of Toronto from the Diocese of Huron in 1982 and served as Incumbent of St. Clement, Eglinton. In 1986, he was elected a suffragan bishop in Toronto and served in the area of Trent Durham. He was elected Coadjutor Bishop in 1987 and installed as the 10th Bishop of Toronto in 1989. He was elected and installed as Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario in 2000.

After his retirement in 2004, he served as Chaplain to the National House of Bishops, episcopal visitor to the Mission to Seafarers in Canada, and was the Primate’s Envoy on Residential Schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He continued to serve as Interim Priest-in-Charge for several parishes in the diocese, most recently retiring this past Christmas from All Saints, Kingsway.

Throughout his ministry he was ably supported by his wife, Canon Alice Jean (AJ) Finlay, who also has served in many international organizations, including the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.

“One of the things I remember most about him was his smile and laughter,” says Archbishop Colin Johnson, the Bishop of Toronto and Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario. “Essentially, right at the heart of things, he was a joyful, hopeful, happy person, and deeply faithful.

“He had a very good sense of humour,” he recalls. “I remember when he was the rector of St. Clement’s and he had a trumpet in his office, and every once in a while, just for fun, he would go out into the hallway and blow the trumpet. He loved people and met them from all walks of life.” 

He says Archbishop Finlay ushered in an “engaging, consultative” style of leadership in the diocese’s episcopacy. “He had an ability to draw people together into consultative groups. In spite of huge controversies that took place, he was able to engage people across a wide spectrum of theological and social issues. That allowed conversations to happen during a highly polarized period of time.”

One of Archbishop Finlay’s most important contributions was leading the Diocese of Toronto’s support of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. After he called a special session of Synod in 2003 to discuss the issue, the diocese went on to provide $5 million to the fund. “He was totally engaged and had a great heart and passion for the truth and reconciliation ministries,” says Archbishop Johnson.

He says Archbishop Finlay loved being a parish priest and, since his retirement in 2004, had helped many churches as an interim priest. “He really helped build them up,” he says, adding that he served in interim ministry right up until last Christmas.

In his farewell sermon as diocesan bishop in 2004, Archbishop Finlay spoke about some of the things he would miss. “When I have the opportunity as bishop to lobby government ministers about child poverty and affordable housing, I shall miss that. When I sit in a circle with our Indigenous brothers and sisters at James Bay and listen to the wisdom of the elders, I shall miss that. When I sit with a homeless person who is having his battered feet cared for at a church drop-in centre and that person talks to me about finding authenticity in the church, I shall miss that.”

He spoke about his love for his fellow Anglicans, no matter how trying some of them could be. “I love them all, because even with all their Anglican eccentricities they have formed and shaped me. They have enriched and nurtured my spiritual journey and I shall miss them, every last one of them.”

The funeral will take place at St. James Cathedral on Saturday, March 25th at 10:00 a.m. A visitation and vigil will take place the night before. Find the details here.