Two Former Primates Reflect on the Church's Top Job

By De Santis, Solange | Anglican Journal, May 2004 | Go to article overview
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Two Former Primates Reflect on the Church's Top Job


De Santis, Solange, Anglican Journal


Later this month, the meeting of General Synod will convene in St. Catharine's, Ont. One of the first responsibilities of the delegates will be to elect a primate from a slate of four candidates (featured on these two pages), as chosen by the house of bishops. The election will take place on May 31. The last two men to bold the job, archbishops Michael Peers and Edward (Ted) Scott, served the church for the last 33-years. Anglican Journal features some of their thoughts on the job of the primate.

PASTOR Manager. Executive. Leader. Spokesperson. Guide. Priest. Conciliator. The next person to hold the position of primate, or presiding bishop, of the Anglican Church of Canada needs to fill all these roles--and mould the job according to his or her passions.

As the two previous holders of the office--archbishops Michael Peers and Edward Scott--amply demonstrated, it is a multi-faceted job.

The canon, or church law, governing the office of primate sets out the scope of the job: maintain a "pastoral relationship" with the Anglican Church of Canada, lead in the development of policy and strategy for the national church, implement the decisions of General Synod (the governing convention), function as chief executive officer to the national staff in Toronto, speak in the name of the church, and be, ex-officio, a member of all committees, councils, boards and commissions.

Some aspects cannot be controlled by the incumbent, noted Archbishop Peers in a recent interview. "Circumstances and the opinions of others mould it," he said. "For instance, the life of the church in Cuba was relatively stable in the time Archbishop Scott was primate. That wasn't the case for me," he added. (Since 1967, Canada's primate has served as president of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba, which ceased to be part of the Episcopal Church in the United States in 1967, due to political tensions between the U.S. and Cuba. In the last 14 years, due to divisions among the clergy, the Cuban church has not been able to elect a presiding bishop.) Archbishop Peers was primate from 1986 to February 2004. Archbishop Scott served from 1971 to 1986.

Archbishop Peers' facility with languages--he is fluent in French and Russian and was able to preach in Spanish to the Cuban church--was an advantage since the international aspect of the primate's job has grown over the years. The primates of the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces--many of whom speak English as a second or third language--have in recent years met annually, more often than they used to. In his day, Archbishop Scott was also asked to be a member of the so-called Eminent Persons Group that helped bring about the end of apartheid in South Africa.

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