An election to choose a successor to Bishop William Anderson, of the diocese of Caledonia, has been cancelled after a parishioner complained it was in violation of the canon law of the diocese.
In a letter dated August 31, Anderson told parishioners he had decided to cancel a meeting of the diocesan synod he had called for October 14, after learning of the unnamed parishioner’s concerns. The synod would have included a vote to pass a new canon (church law) to allow for the election of a coadjutor bishop, followed by the election itself. The point of the election, Anderson wrote, would have been “to reduce the lag time between my retirement and the choosing of a successor.”
Last September, Anderson said he would retire in fall 2016, “barring the unforeseen.” However, in another letter this July 12 to the people of the diocese, he announced his intention to push his retirement to December 31, saying he wanted to help the diocese and its members discern how they ought to respond to the recent vote by General Synod to allow same-sex marriages. In the same letter, Anderson announced his intention to hold an electoral synod to pick a coadjutor bishop as his successor.
In his August letter, Anderson wrote that the parishioner complained the process of voting both to pass a canon allowing for the election of a coadjutor bishop and the actual election itself at the same synod would not have provided the required 90 days’ notice of an electoral synod.
In an email to the Anglican Journal, Anderson said that by announcing the electoral synod three months in advance, he had provided the 90 days’ notice required by the canons of the diocese.
The bishop also wrote that he believed the parishioner who complained was in fact motivated by concern that the electoral synod as originally proposed was intended to allow him to influence the election-a notion he strongly denied.
“It is my personal opinion that the opposition to the proposed path was based not on a concern about lack of notice (for we followed the same time frames as exist in the present canon), but rather a cynical belief that this was an attempt by me to have a hand in choosing my successor-something I would find absolutely abhorrent,” his letter stated.
He decided to cancel the electoral synod anyway, Anderson said, to avoid even the appearance of any impropriety.
“I believe it is important for the next bishop to be able to begin his or her ministry free of any question as to the legitimacy of their election, which is why, after being advised of the complaint, I chose to cancel the synod and let the process restart on January 1st when I am retired,” he told the Anglican Journal.
One parishioner who contacted the Anglican Journal, but did not wish to be named, said she was concerned that Anderson and other clergy in the diocese opposed to same-sex marriages may have hoped that Anderson’s presence at the vote would sway voters to pick a coadjutor bishop with similar views.
“I’m thinking perhaps that there’s a sense that they want to get another bishop in of the same mindset of Anderson, to carry on the legacy,” she said.
In his August letter, however, Anderson said he decided on the electoral synod at the request of the diocesan executive committee, and that he also consulted with the metropolitan of British Columbia and Yukon, Archbishop John Privett, as well as the diocesan and provincial chancellors. They endorsed his decision, he wrote.
The bishop also questioned how his presence at the synod could have influenced its results.
“I had arranged for the metropolitan to preside at the electoral synod so as to ensure impartiality,” he told the Anglican Journal. “Given that nominations come from any Anglican within the diocese, and that parishes elect their synod delegates, I fail to see how I could influence the synod, especially since I have been scrupulous about offering no opinions on what is needed in my successor or any of the nominations that had been received.”
According to the canons of the diocese, the metropolitan assumes responsibility for the diocese and appoints an administrator upon the retirement of a bishop. The canon also calls for the metropolitan to fix a date for an election of the retired bishop’s successor. Because of the 90-days’ notice requirement, the diocese’s electoral synod can be expected around April 2017, Anderson said.