Archbishop Melissa Skelton announces retirement, episcopal election


Brenda Still

Archbishop Melissa Skelton, bishop of the diocese of New Westminster and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of BC and Yukon will retire February 28, 2021. Photo: Bayne Stanley

Archbishop Melissa Skelton, bishop of the diocese of New Westminster and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of BC and Yukon will retire February 28, 2021.

Skelton announced her retirement in a letter to the diocese of New Westminster, posted to the diocesan website April 21.

In the letter, Skelton wrote that provincial canons specify that bishops must retire by age 70.

“When I first became the Bishop of the Diocese, I reminded all of you that…I would have seven years to serve as your bishop. I turn 70 years of age in mid-March 2021, and with a mixture of sadness about leaving as well as excitement for the future of this Diocese, I inform you that I am calling for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor for the Diocese of New Westminster on October 3, 2020,” she wrote.

Skelton acknowledged the that some members of the diocese might find the announcement “a great deal to absorb” in the time of COVID-19. “What I want to assure you of is that we are up to completing all the work that is needed to prepare ourselves for a new bishop,” she wrote.

In an email interview with the Journal, Skelton said, “Like everyone else, I have no inside track on what will happen with COVID-19. What I and others are dedicating ourselves to is trying to find a way to work on this transition in an orderly way that serves the people and parishes of the diocese.”

The bishop’s request, which was approved by the diocesan council, was to elect a coadjutor bishop, meaning there will be an overlap between the new bishop’s election and Skelton’s retirement. Along with allowing time for orientation of the new bishop, this “avoids a period of time without a bishop (something that I don’t think is advisable in times such as ours),” Skelton wrote in her letter.

Skelton will also have to retire as metropolitan. “The good news is that at that time, we will as [a] Province have made all of our significant episcopal transitions, which means the Provincial Synod will have a good, fresh slate of bishops from which to choose,” she told the Journal.

The election of the bishop coadjutor is slated for Oct. 3. The consecration will be held Jan. 23, 2021, and Skelton will retire Feb. 28, 2021.

“Honestly, if I had my choice, I would never leave this diocese and its people. So I suppose it’s good to have an ‘age by which’ of some sort,” said Skelton.

When asked about plans for after retirement and highlights from her time as bishop, Skelton said it was “impossible” to reflect on the past at this moment in time. “I’m honestly not in the ‘looking back on the past’ mode at all. I’m working harder than ever during this time that requires all of us to respond productively and faithfully to a new situation almost every day…. I’m very much living in the present these days, and, in the company of the finest people I have ever worked with, I’m very much about co-creating a future that I hope will advance the mission of God here in this place,” she says.

“I continue to be deeply committed to what we’re doing here in New Westminster, especially during this time when parishes have been very creative in their responses to the pandemic and in which the Synod Office staff has been stellar in supporting those at the local parish level. So I suppose what I should say here is that I’m not retired yet!”

Skelton was elected bishop of the diocese of New Westminster in 2013 and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of BC and Yukon in 2018. She was the first woman to be elected bishop of that diocese and the first woman to be elected metropolitan in the Anglican Church of Canada.

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Joelle Kidd

Joelle Kidd

Joelle Kidd joined the Anglican Journal in 2017 as staff writer. She has worked as an editor and writer for the Winnipeg-based Fanfare Magazine Group and as freelance copy editor for Naida Communications.

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