Dean of Toronto elected coadjutor bishop

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An important priority for the diocese of Toronto, said Bishop-elect Andrew Asbil, is to “create circles of discipleship and communities that are not afraid of sharing their faith in the public square.” Photo: Michael Hudson

Andrew Asbil, who has served as dean of Toronto and rector of the Cathedral Church of St. James since 2016, has been elected as the diocese’s coadjutor bishop.

Asbil, 57, will succeed Archbishop Colin Johnson as diocesan bishop of Toronto when Johnson retires at the end of 2018.

Asbil was elected on the third ballot at an electoral synod held in Toronto Saturday, June 9, according to a news release from the diocese of Toronto.

Reached by the Anglican Journal Monday, June 11, Asbil said he was “still in a heightened state of excitement and bewilderment.”

He added, “I feel honoured—deeply honoured—to be elected, and moved that so many of my colleagues and lay leaders in the church have confidence in my leadership.”

Asbil said he was looking forward over the coming months to learning about the role of bishop and about the diocese, by spending as much time as he can with Johnson, and with its other bishops, clergy and lay leaders.

Among the biggest priorities facing the diocese, Asbil said, are the need to support parishes that are thriving, and learning from their experiences, as well as “working with parishes that are really struggling to find what the next chapter might bring for them in their faith journey—and, I think, restoring a sense of hope for a lot of parishes that may be feeling somewhat on the edge.”

Another, he said, is to “create circles of discipleship and communities that are not afraid of sharing their faith in the public square.”

Asbil said he believes strongly that the church has an important message to bring to secular society.

“So often churchland feels like it has been pushed to the side, but we have a prophetic voice to share, and a prophetic insight of what brings joy and purpose in life,” he said.

This insight, he said, is the vision of a fuller life than what consumerism can offer.

“It’s really finding grace and hope in joyful relationships, and faith, and also living in a biblical way what it means to be a neighbour” at a time when many people don’t know who their neighbours are, he said.

Asked in a question-and-answer session posted on the diocese of Toronto’s website how he would vote on a resolution to amend the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriages, Asbil said he would vote in favour.

In the final ballot with Asbil in Saturday’s election was Victoria Matthews, former bishop of Christchurch in the Anglican Church in Aoteaora, New Zealand and Polynesia. Asbil received 167 votes from the clergy and 198 from the laity, with Matthews receiving 120 clergy votes and 106 laity votes.

Matthews had previously served as area bishop of Credit Valley in the diocese of Toronto from 1994 to 1997, as well as diocesan bishop of Edmonton from 1997 to 2007.

Also nominated were Jennifer Andison, area bishop of York-Credit Valley; Canon David Harrison, rector of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, in Toronto; Kevin Robertson, area bishop of York-Scarborough; and Riscylla Shaw, area bishop of Trent-Durham. All withdrew after the second ballot.

Ordained a priest in 1989, Asbil earned an MDiv (honours) from Huron College University. He has held posts at a number of Ontario churches, including Toronto’s Church of the Redeemer, where he was incumbent from 2001 to 2016. He served on the diocesan council from 2005 to 2009, and was chair of the Anglican Church of Canada’s faith, worship and ministry committee from 2010 to 2016 and a member of General Synod in 2007, 2010 and 2013.

Once his election is confirmed by bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, Asbil will be consecrated as coadjutor bishop at the end of September, and will automatically become diocesan bishop Jan. 1, 2019, on Johnson’s retirement.

Johnson, who has served as diocesan bishop of Toronto since 2004, announced his retirement in September 2017.

The diocese of Toronto has 230 congregations and 54,000 Anglicans on its parish rolls, making it the most populous diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada.

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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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