On Saturday, October 31, the synod of the diocese of Brandon elected Canon William Cliff, rector of the Collegiate Chapel of St. John the Evangelist at Huron University College in the diocese of Huron, as its seventh diocesan bishop.
Cliff said he was “surprised, but…very grateful” to have been chosen, and that his priorities include the “recruitment and training of clergy” and providing “support and love” for the Indigenous Anglicans in the largely Aboriginal northern regions of the diocese.
Cliff was one of six candidates considered for the position, alongside Archdeacon Peter John Hobbs, the Rev. John Dolloff, Dean Iain Luke, Archdeacon Kim Salo and Pastor Rebecca Graham, a Lutheran serving Christ Church Anglican in The Pas who was nominated from the floor. Cliff was elected on the third ballot with 17 votes in the house of the clergy and 41 in the house of the laity.
A native of Wyoming, Ont., in the diocese of Huron, Cliff has been rector at Huron University College in London, Ont., for almost 14 years. In an interview with the Anglican Journal, he said he expects to see a degree of continuity between his ministry as rector and his mission as bishop.
“I have loved my time at the university. I have loved the students-they are my life and my joy-and it is a deeply pastoral ministry, and I am hoping that will translate into a deeply pastoral ministry as a bishop,” he said.
Cliff’s involvement with the diocese grew out of his work in youth ministry, particularly the Ask and Imagine program and Canadian Lutheran and Anglican Youth (CLAY). Through these initiatives, he met and became friends with Anglicans from Brandon, and when outgoing Bishop Jim Njegovan announced his retirement earlier this year, they encouraged him to stand for election.
He also pointed out that the dioceses of Brandon and Huron have a lot of similarities, insofar as both have similar geography and a large number of small, distant communities, and the ministry challenges that go along with that.
To many Anglicans, Cliff is best-known as one of the Three Cantors, a vocal trio that has been active since 1997 and that also includes Archdeacon David Pickett and Dean Peter Wall, both of the diocese of Niagara.
Cliff said he hopes the group, which has played hundreds of concerts across Canada and sold thousands of records, will be able to continue, but acknowledges that this might not be possible.
“I have loved that ministry deeply and I have enjoyed it immensely and I don’t want to see it go,” he said, “[but] I know that my good friend Peter Wall is a candidate in Quebec, and if he’s elected, then I think it will be a near impossibility unless we do a concert around House of Bishops meetings.”
As for his own episcopal ministry, Cliff said he doesn’t want to create any elaborate plans before he has a better sense of how things are on the ground.
“I’m going there to listen first and see what needs to be done, and let them show the way forward,” he said. “In the end, I’ll be choosing and making some decisions, but I’m going to let them speak first.”
An earlier version of this story wrongly identified Dean Peter Wall as Canon Peter Wall, and Dean Iain Luke as Canon Iain Luke.