Archbishop Colin R. Johnson has announced that he will retire as bishop of Toronto at the end of December 2018.
Johnson has requested the election of a coadjutor bishop for the diocese next year, and plans to step down from his role as metropolitan (senior bishop) of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario at the next provincial synod, which will take place in October 2018.
For Johnson, who will turn 65 in November, the decision partially came from a consideration of the years ahead. The Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod in 2019 and the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference of bishops in 2020 will be a time to plan for the future and build relationships between bishops, he said.
“It seemed inappropriate to leave directly after Lambeth Conference. The bishop needs to be in place long enough to have a good solid experience of his or her own diocese before going to the Lambeth Conference.”
But he said there are personal factors at play as well. “My wife has been retired for seven years and we have a new grandchild on the way, so it just seemed to me that it’s an appropriate time to consider retirement.”
Johnson was elected suffragan bishop of Toronto in 2003, diocesan bishop in 2004 and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario in 2009; he became bishop of the diocese of Moosonee in 2014.
In this time, Johnson said he developed a team of volunteers to work as coaches and facilitators with parishes, ran a successful campaign to fund the diocese’s ministry and increased the diocese’s commitment to intercultural ministry and social justice.
During his tenure, Johnson has focused on advocacy, calling on the civil provincial government to address poverty and attend to the needs of the marginalized. His diocese has also been one of three that have offered same-sex marriages since 2016.
Johnson recently celebrated his 40th anniversary of ordination, the entirety of which has been spent as a cleric in the diocese of Toronto. “It’s certainly been home,” he said.
Johnson praised the opportunities he has had throughout his time in the episcopacy to work with gifted laity and clergy, including bishops from across the country and the globe.
In the diverse diocese of Toronto, Johnson welcomed the opportunity to work with others whose multicultural experiences, theological viewpoints and personal perspectives spanned a wide gamut, “and yet finding a place where we can all continue conversation and continue the work together in the Gospel.”
Johnson plans to stay in Toronto, and is looking forward to being an active part of the church. “I am open to a lot of possibilities, but I’m not going to take on anything right away,” he said. “My wife and I will take some time, and we’ll sign up for ballroom dancing lessons.”
Going forward, Johnson believes the church must continue to adapt, and shift from a hierarchical model of leadership toward a “more inclusive, transformational model.” Johnson helped develop a strategic plan, approved in 2016, called “Growing in Christ,” which will guide the diocese in the coming years. The plan lays out five “focus areas” that the diocese will concentrate on: leadership and formation, trust and culture, innovation based on evidence, governance and decision-making, and stewardship of resources.
Johnson says, “What I’ve learned over the past 40 years is that people do forget their history. Not everything is new. We’ve been in really quite difficult situations before, and the church thrives, because it’s not our church—it’s the church of Jesus.”
Johnson was educated at the University of Western Ontario and received his master of divinity from Trinity College in 1977. He was ordained in 1978 and served in several parishes in the diocese of Toronto. From 1992 to 2003, Johnson served as executive assistant to then-bishop of Toronto, Archbishop Terence Finlay.