You may have heard that the Anglican Primate of Canada is due to retire following the meeting of the Canadian General Synod in June. Unlike the Church of England, the new primate will be democratically elected by the clergy and laity in the General Synod from a short list of candidates drawn up by the bishops. It’s also a pretty rapid turnaround too – the election will take place on June 22nd, with the new primate being installed on June 25th.
So why is the choice of a new primate important to the rest of us? Precisely because it’s the Anglican Church of Canada who although they’ve been somewhat in the shadow of the Episcopal Church in the US recently, have also been pushing ahead with a more liberal position on sexuality, particularly with regards to same-sex blessings.
Alongside this, according to a review of the candidates over on Father Jake’s Blog, the favourite is Bishop Victoria Matthews, current Bishop of Edmonton. She was the first female Bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, and also chaired the commission that examined the issue of same-sex marraige that determined that whilst it was important, it was not core doctrine and should not be seen as a church, or indeed communion dividing issue. Having said that, she is has consistently toed the line with regards to the issue in her diocese, coming out against the Diocese of New Westminster when they moved ahead with same-sex blessings. So she is certainly not the most liberal Bishop in the church, nor indeed in the field of candidates.
Of course she may not win the election, but it will be interesting to see what the reaction of the more conservative provinces will be if the liberal Anglican Church of Canada also has a female primate. Certainly the other candidates may be more personally acceptable to the anti-women provinces – but theologically her actions with regards to the sexuality issues appear to mark her out as much more the kind of person they would want.