Canadian Anglicans have elected their 12th Primate. On the fourth ballot, more than 300 members of General Synod, the church's chief governing and legislative body, elected the Most Revd Andrew Hutchison, the Archbishop of Montreal. Archbishop Hutchison, 65, is also Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada and Bishop Ordinary of the Canadian Forces.
Members of General Synod took almost six hours and four ballots to reach their decision and, at one point, asked the Order of Bishops to send more names from which they could choose. Under church law, the Order of Bishops nominates candidates to the primacy while the orders of clergy and the laity elect.
Other candidates for the primacy nominated by bishops last month were the Rt Revd Ron Ferris, the Bishop of Algoma, and the Rt Revd Caleb Lawrence, the Bishop of Moosonee. A fourth nominee, the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, the Bishop of Edmonton, withdrew shortly after her name was put forth for health reasons. She is to undergo surgery for breast cancer this week.
To be elected to the primacy, a candidate must receive a majority of votes from both the orders of laity and clergy. On the fourth ballot, Archbishop Hutchison received 68 of 117 clergy votes and 97 of 144 lay votes. Bishop Ferris received 44 and 41 votes. Bishop Lawrence's name was removed from the slate after the second ballot.
In response to the request for more names, the bishops nominated the Rt Revd Ralph Spence, the Bishop of Niagara. He received 25 and 40 votes on the third ballot, after which his name was removed.
Andrew Hutchison was ordained a priest in 1970 and elected bishop in 1990. In 1999, he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize by the Canadian Jewish Congress for his support of the non-use of the Good Friday Collect, which is seen as offensive to the Jewish community because of its reference to Jews as "lost sheep."
He received his licentiate in theology from Trinity College, University of Toronto in 1969. He also received honorary doctorates from Montreal Diocesan College, Trinity College and Bishop's University, Lennoxville, Que.
He has chaired the national stewardship and financial development committee, was a member of the National Executive Council of the Anglican Church of Canada and president of Montreal Diocesan Theological College. He has served on the Communications and Information Resources Committee and the Board of Directors of the Anglican Journal.
The Primate is the spiritual and corporate head of the Anglican Church of Canada, acting as a symbol of unity and pastoral care and the ambassador to the church overseas. He directs national staff and chairs meetings of General Synod, the Council of General Synod and the House of Bishops.
At a news conference shortly after his election, Archbishop Hutchison said that 'one of the great challenges for this church in the next triennium will be unity. But unity isn't important for its own sake. We need unity so that we can reclaim our purpose and so that the world may see and believe.'
He said his main priority would be '"or our church to redirect its energy, rediscover our purpose and reclaim our mission. Circumstances outside the church have forced us in recent years to become introspective and to focus on who we are as a church and on our church structure. I want to see us look outward and refocus our attention on our mission so the world will see the church and say 'see those Christians, see how they love one another' and want to be part of it. The church exists for the world, not for the church."
Asked about his views of same-sex blessings, one of the most controversial topics General Synod members are grappling with during their nine-day meeting in this Southern Ontario city, Archbishop Hutchison said that the concept of such blessings were much less of a problem for him than the idea of same-sex marriages.
Nonetheless, he added, the diocese of Montreal has abided by bishops' guidelines that do not condone such blessings.
In a "vision of the primacy" prepared by all the candidates, Archbishop Hutchison described the Primate as "the servant of the whole church & both an agent and a symbol of its unity."
Archbishop Hutchison and his wife Lois have a son and a grandson. He will be formally installed as Primate at a service at Christ's Church Cathedral in Hamilton on Friday. He succeeds the Most Revd Michael Peers who served as Primate for 18 years and who retired in February.