Bishop Ron Cutler has been elected as the new coadjutor bishop for thediocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, where he has beensuffragan bishop since 2008.
Cutler was elected with a simple majority in both the houses of clergy and laity on the first ballot.
Immediately after the election, he told the Anglican Journalthat he felt honoured by the election. “It was an honour to be electedas suffragan; it’s an honour now to be elected as co-adjutor,” he said.He will begin his new role on April 1 when Bishop Sue Moxley begins herretirement.
In the meanwhile, Cutler will be on sabbatical from Jan. 1 to March15, as he had planned before Moxley announced her retirement. Thesubject he had planned to focus on, discernment, appears to beappropriate preparation for his new role and its challenges.
“I had already decided to look at discernment processes, particularlyhow we do discernment as groups,” Cutler said, noting that part of hisjob as suffragan bishop was to oversee discernment training andformation for individuals determining a call to ministry. He considersgroup discernment to be quite different from the process of visioning,which many parishes use to discuss and plan their future directions.
“Now, with the election, it will be an opportunity for me to dodiscernment in my own right about where I feel God is calling thediocese, and perhaps [hone] skills that I might use in that ministry,”Cutler said.
Discernment at the parish level may be very relevant because, Cutlersays, one of the biggest challenges the diocese faces is finding theresources to support ministry, particularly in rural parishes. “We stillhave lots of Anglicans here, lots of faithful people engaged inministry, but the challenge is going to be finding a structure that’sgoing to be sustainable for those ministries going forward,” he said. “Isuspect that means we are going to have to change the way that we havebeen church for so long in this diocese.”
When asked if that might mean amalgamating parishes, Cutler said anumber of parishes have been discussed as “vulnerable,” but he said hedid not know at this point what should be done. “We went through aperiod when we amalgamated a number of parishes in the diocese, and I’mnot entirely sure that that was a real solution to a number of theproblems we had, so I’m not of the opinion that wholesale amalgamationsare the solution.”
Cutler added that the question of how parishes and the dioceses couldbe church in new ways generally doesn’t fill him with anxiety but with”a kind of enthusiasm for how we can be faithful in new ways.” A numberof different ideas are being floated about new and effective ways to doministry, he said. Nevertheless, it is still going to be a realchallenge for individual parishes to discern what God is calling them todo. “I want to be a part of that. I think that’s going to be a focusfor us as we go forward,” he added.
Other challenges the diocese faces are questions about how best toengage with children and young people. “It’s interesting….you go toplaces in our diocese where people will say we don’t have children inchurch, we don’t have children in the community, but we do. We’ve stillgot lots of children in the school system in this province, so how weconnect with young people and younger families is a challenge for us,”he said.
Cutler added that stewardship will also have to be a key focus,”providing sufficient resources in terms of individuals and finances todo the mission [that] God’s calling us to do here,” he said.
Cutler grew up in Montreal and earned his bachelor of theologyat McGill University. He was ordained in 1981 and began his career inthe diocese of Central Newfoundland, where he served the parishes ofTwillingate and Smith’s Sound. When he moved to Nova Scotia, he servedthe parish of Trinity, Sydney Mines, N.S., and the churches of St. Peterand St. John in Baddeck from 1991 to 1996. He became the rector of St.John the Evangelist in Lower Sackville in 1996, where he served untilhis election as suffragan bishop in 2008. He is married to MarianneBlair-Cutler, and they have two adult children, Victoria and Stephen.
The synod voted to give consent to a request for the electionof a new suffragan bishop or the appointment of an assistant bishop, butit is conditional on the report of a task group that is examiningepiscopal ministry in the diocese. The task group will report todiocesan council in Feb. 2014.