Niagara Falls, Ont.
“IT’S NOT A dream book for a publisher,” said Archbishop Michael Peers, former primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, of his latest book, the fourth volume of The Anglican Episcopate in Canada.
Still, he acknowledged that the book, launched at the spring meeting of the House of Bishops, is one that will be invaluable to libraries, diocesan offices and researchers interested in hard archival data about Canadian Anglican bishops over the past 33 years.
Published by the Anglican Book Centre (ABC), the book provides details on 105 bishops elected into office between 1976 to 2008 and also includes what Archbishop Peers calls his observations on Episcopal ministry over a 27-year period, or from the time he became a bishop in 1977 up to his retirement as primate in 2004.
“I decided that I’m not qualified to write a theological reflection on Episcopal ministry. I’m not a theologian,” said Archbishop Peers. “I didn’t want to get into the business of too much interpretation of what was going on because, 25 years later, long after you’re dead, you’ll be sorry you wrote that. So I call them ‘observations’ because they are things I have seen over the passage of time.” And “they are fair,” he added, drawing laughter from the bishops at the launch held at the Mt. Carmel Spiritual Centre.
The changes, which he describes in the book as having arisen “partly from within the church and partly from outside, partly at Episcopal initiative and partly from pressure from others,” have been profound. They include the ordinations of women and aboriginal bishops, the move towards “greater openness” in electing bishops, the greater emphasis on baptisms and lesser on confirmations, which has altered a bishop’s role considerably, and even changes in “episcopal vesture” (e.g. cape and mitre instead of roche and chimere) and titles (“My lord” is rarely used and heard when speaking to bishops). Archbishop Peers also notes a rise in “litigiousness,” or bishops being summoned in both secular and ecclesiastical courts for various matters, the extent of which was “unknown in previous generations.”
It took Archbishop Peers, a small army of archivists from both the national and diocesan offices, clergy and volunteers from dioceses well over two years to painstakingly gather data for the book. A database for the register of bishops was created and maintained at the General Synod archives, but it wasn’t an easy task. “Things don’t stand still. And so bishops write books and do some study and get another degree. All kinds of things happen,” he said.
Each bishop’s entry includes a photograph, some biographical information such as date and place of birth, educational background, ordinations, elections, and in the case of someone who has retired, the date of resignation from office.
In his remarks at the launch, Archbishop Peers paid special tribute to archivists, calling them “an undervalued resource.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, thanked Archbishop Peers for writing the book, calling it “a labour of love” and “a gift to our beloved church.”
The Anglican Episcopate in Canada was also made possible through a grant from the Canadian Church Historical Society and donations from 14 dioceses.