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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

Sometimes it’s a confirmation service or an ordination. Sometimes it’s simply a parish visit. No matter the occasion, we bishops take great delight in visiting parishes on a Sunday morning, and to do so in person is a real joy. I particularly love marking significant anniversaries in the life of a community. Whether a congregation is celebrating 25 years, 50 years, 100 years or more, the celebrations are always observed with joyful worship, a delectable feast, laughter, stories, pictures, skits and more. And each occasion is also tinged with a mixture of grief for what has been lost, for those who have died, and for the memories that are rich with emotion. At the heart of the festivities is gratitude. Gratitude to God for bringing us safely to this moment in time.

Anniversaries are important. We commemorate years of marriage, of partnership, of sobriety, of work, of graduation, of ordination, of being cancer-free, of surviving an accident, of friendship, of embracing our faith in Jesus, of baptism, of confirmation, of singing in the choir, of tending the church property, of being in the ACW, of serving the poor, of being a warden … and the list goes on. Some anniversaries are deeply personal and private, while others are widely shared.

On Monday, Oct. 31, Canon Clare Burns celebrated 20 years as Vice Chancellor and Chancellor of the Diocese of Toronto. For 20 years, Clare has offered her considerable time, talent, wisdom, legal perspective, pastoral heart, thoughtful reflection, humble leadership, interpretation of the canons and heartwarming humour as our Chancellor. Deeper still, she has been present alongside the bishops, the Synod and Synod Council when hard decisions had to be made and difficult changes put into place.

The Chancellor’s chief role is in advising the bishop on canonical and procedural matters, as well as being a trusted confidant. The amount of responsibility and the workload is enormous. An officer of the Diocese, the Chancellor is a member of Synod with special responsibility for advising the chair, an ex officio member of Provincial Synod, a member of Synod Council, chair of the Risk and Governance Committee, chair of the Nominations Committee that oversees all episcopal elections (which in Toronto are many!), chair of the Constitution and Canons Committee, and heads up our legal team.

Canon Clare was named our Vice Chancellor in 2002 by Archbishop Terry Finlay on the advice of Chancellor Bob Falby, to augment the team. At that time, she was Ontario’s Children’s Lawyer, in charge of issues of trusteeship with children, including custody and access disputes and child protection cases. In 2008, she joined the firm of WeirFoulds as an expert litigator in the field of wills and trusts. She was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese by Archbishop Colin Johnson in 2015.

Beyond our own Diocese, Clare was appointed Vice Chancellor of General Synod and is often consulted for her wisdom and expertise by chancellors of other dioceses. She took a lead role in bringing the Canadian chancellors together for ongoing learning and consultation. Clare has taught at the University of Toronto, Osgoode Hall and Western law schools. For her many voluntary associations, she received an Ontario Volunteer Award in 2002.

In addition to her professional and volunteer roles, she is a wife and mother, and in her “spare time” she is active in her parish. She completed a Master of Theology degree through Trinity College and made a pilgrimage on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. She is first and foremost a disciple of Jesus Christ. Faith matters to her, and she loves this Church in all its complexity, brokenness and beauty. In recognition of her ministry, she was made an Honorary Lay Canon of St. James Cathedral in 2013.

Canon Clare will retire as the Chancellor of our Diocese at the end of 2022. While this moment of transition is tinged with sadness, it is notched with deep gratitude.

Thank you, Chancellor – and happy anniversary!

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto