The Rev. Canon David Harrison

Ordination Dates

Deacon:  May 16, 1999  Diocese of Toronto
Priest:     March 19, 2000  Diocese of Toronto

Age: 52

Academic Background and 3 most important Professional Qualifications

Doctor of Ministry (DMin) in Congregational Development (Bexley Seabury Chicago, Begun in June 2016 – Ongoing) Focus on leadership skills and innovative and effective ministry.  

MDiv (Trinity College, University of Toronto, 1998), MA (York University, 1990) & BA (University of Toronto, 1989)

Other professional development opportunities: Formative and life-changing Sabbath leaves – walking the Camino de Santiago in 2017 and in the Diocese of Grahamstown in South Africa in 2009. Supervising Staff Teams & Consulting for Vital Congregations (Alban Institute), Preaching (St. Clement’s College for Excellence in Preaching).

Parish Placements and Ministry History

Incumbent, Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto, 2010 to present Focus: Strategic leadership to balance tradition and innovation, to equip a new staff team and lay people to diversify the parish’s programs and ministries to embrace growth and mission to our local community and beyond.

Incumbent, St. Thomas’, Brooklin, 2001-2010 Focus: Growth into a program-size parish and creation of a $5 million green building to add new liturgical and program space.

Assistant Curate, St. John’s, Port Hope, 1999-2001 Focus: Pastoral care to shut-ins and new programs for spiritual growth and exploration, including the Alpha program.

Describe your spiritual journey and your prayer life:

I am a “liturgical omnivore” who is fed by a wide variety of liturgical and musical expressions. My relationship with God has been nurtured and deepened by being part of Christian communities of all different shapes and sizes. It has been the regular rhythm of worship and prayer which has disciplined (discipled!) me to encounter the risen Jesus in scripture and in the sacraments of the Church. It has also shaped me to experience the sacramental presence of God in all of creation. The daily office and being an associate of SSJD sustain my prayer life, as do regular celebrations of the eucharist. Leading the weekly Wednesday discussion group at my parish continually renews me through my encounter with a diverse group of faithful and inquisitive people who are also on the Way. As a bishop, I would continue to participate in regular group study and prayer with others, and keep sabbath time (weekly, annually) in order to be sustained and re-created by the grace of God.

What is the most significant leadership role you have played in your Diocese?  What was your role and how did it contribute to your development and the mission of the Church?

Although I have served the diocese in many capacities (including Council, Executive Board, co-leadership of the post-ordination Momentum training program), my most significant leadership has been as a parish priest, where I have led parishes to grow in faith, attendance, outreach and lay ministry. Parishes are where the “rubber hits the road” and the mission of the Church is lived out. I see episcopal ministry and the diocesan structure not as the summit of an organizational structure, but rather inverted to be the roots which nourish parish life. This inversion would cultivate the conditions for people to form and grow healthy communities centred around scripture and sacrament. As diocesan bishop, I would focus on nourishing Christian community in its different shapes, sizes, traditions and cultures.  

What is the most significant challenge you have faced as a priest or bishop to date?  How did you address that challenge?

The challenge of leading change. In both of my incumbencies, I have helped lead congregations to build on their strengths while embracing new possibilities for growth – in the breadth of ministry, in how they see and understand themselves as a Christian community, in encouraging and deepening lay ministry, and in welcoming and integrating newcomers. There have been joys in this – deep and profound joys. But also stresses and strains because change is difficult, sometimes messy and even conflictual. Facing those challenges as a leader has, at times, been difficult. But I have learned – and am still learning – how to meet them with greater equanimity gained through experience, prayer, the advice and counsel of trusted guides, and by laying hold of something very simple that my first area bishop, Douglas Blackwell, often told me: “It is God’s Church.” And, indeed, it is.

Describe what you intend to do in your first 100 days as the Diocesan Bishop (between January 1, 2019 and March 31, 2019) to address the vision of the Diocese of Toronto and Growing in Christ, the strategic plan?

“Trust and Culture” would be my first priority. I envision a flatter organizational structure in which all the area bishops would have offices in their areas, and in which the diocesan bishop regularly spends time with lay people and clergy. This outward movement toward parish life will create an environment for the people of this diocese to meet the strategic plan’s mission of building healthy, missional communities. I would convene town hall meetings (and other innovative ways of engaging conversation) to deepen our common understanding of the breadth of the diocese. As a sign and symbol of this new, flatter, approach, I would introduce changes to the Renewal of Vows service during Holy Week. All of us present (ordained and lay) would, first, renew our baptismal vows. In addition to priests and deacons renewing their ordination vows, the bishops would be asked by (say) the most newly-ordained priest, deacon or a lay person, to renew theirs. And some years the preacher would be a priest, a deacon, or a lay person, as a symbol of our common ministry.

Given the realities of numeric decline in congregational participation and the need to steward our resources (including people and capital resources), how would you address the present situation?  What do you see as the future of an Anglican presence in the geographic area of the Diocese?

I do not have a “last one out turn off the lights” perspective on our future. To be sure, change is constant and challenging decisions will continue to be made. But I see and experience great hope and vitality in our diocese. We need a strategic approach to our resources (people, buildings and money) and this is an area where the strategic plan doesn’t provide a concrete vision. We need to be proactive in discerning where to invest for growth. How best can we invest in the formation of children and youth to lay a foundation of Christian spirituality? What administrative tasks can be done at the diocesan office to free lay leaders and clergy to focus on ministry? Could we establish a fund to enable freer movement of experienced clergy to parishes (which would benefit from their skills but cannot afford them) and to allow all clergy sabbath time for growth and renewal? I believe the role of the diocesan bishop is to create a culture of trust, openness, and possibility.

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