By Stuart Mann
Archbishop Colin Johnson has been re-elected Metropolitan, or senior bishop, of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario.
Archbishop Johnson, who is the bishop of the dioceses of Toronto and Moosonee, was re-elected for a second six-year term at Provincial Synod, held at St. Paul, Bloor Street on Oct. 14-16.
Two other people from the Diocese of Toronto figured prominently at Provincial Synod. Laura Walton, a member of Christ Church, Batteau in the episcopal area of York-Simcoe, was elected prolocutor, or vice-chair, of the group while Canon Christopher Riggs, a member of the Church of the Redeemer, Bloor Street, retired as its chancellor.
“I’m delighted that Laura has been elected,” says Archbishop Johnson. “She’s had long experience with Provincial Synod, General Synod and our own diocesan Synod, so she brings a wealth of experience. It’s also good to have someone who comes from a smaller community, representing a different voice in the life of the church.”
As chancellor, Canon Riggs provided legal counsel on a pro bono basis for the past six years. “His work has been a great gift to the church,” says Archbishop Johnson. “He brought together the chancellors from all the dioceses in the province so they could have an interchange of ideas and also work together on common policies and procedures. Building up those relationships is really important.”
Ms. Walton succeeds the Rev. Canon Rob Towler of the Diocese of Huron and Canon Riggs is succeeded by Jean Bédard, the former vice-chancellor of the Diocese of Ontario.
The theme of Provincial Synod was “Re-imagining Church in the Public Square” and a number of speakers reflected on that, including Premier Kathleen Wynne. She praised the Anglican Church for creating “communities of belonging” and advocating for the poor and marginalized.
“You don’t just witness the harsh realities of marginalized peoples, whose struggles are often ignored – you take on their struggles as though they are your own,” she said. “You help them find a voice. You help them find support, and that tightens the bonds among all of us. You help them find a roof over their heads and ensure there is food on their plates, and you provide access to economic opportunities so they can build a future for themselves and their families.”
Other speakers included Hugh Segal, the former Conservative senator and current master of Massey College, Archbishop Fred Hiltz and Dr. William Cavanaugh, a professor of theology at DePaul University in Chicago. Several dioceses showed videos about how they were reimagining church in the public square.
Archbishop Johnson says Provincial Synod’s work over the next three years will focus on three main areas: theological education and vocations, advocacy with the provincial government, and developing cooperation between the seven dioceses that make up the ecclesiastical province (Algoma, Huron, Moosonee, Niagara, Ottawa, Ontario and Toronto.)
“In terms of advocacy, we’ll continue to work in the areas of poverty and homelessness,” he says. “We are big providers of services to those who are poor. We’re significant stakeholders in the conversation, so we’ll bring our expertise to the table with the government.”
Other areas of advocacy and conversation with the government will include increased funding for palliative care, a response to the issue of physician-assisted death, and school curriculum that accurately reflects the First Nations experience, particularly in regards to the residential schools.
The ecclesiastical province has worked with the government on a number of issues over the years, particularly ones that affect churches. This includes laws and regulations that govern heritage buildings, cemeteries, water use, land registration and funeral services. Much of the work is done with ecumenical partners. “It means that Anglicans, Roman Catholics and United Church members in the whole province can go together to the government on a particular issue and represent a large chunk of the electorate,” says Archbishop Johnson.
More than half of all Anglicans in Canada live in the ecclesiastical province, which falls almost entirely within the geographic boundaries of the civil province. “We’re in very good shape,” says Archbishop Johnson. “The seven dioceses that comprise the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario are all strong. In a sense, it’s the engine of the Canadian church.”