In the first election of its kind, Col. the Ven. Nigel Shaw, director of chaplaincy operations for the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force, was chosen as the new bishop-elect of the Anglican Military Ordinariate March 5 via an electronic electoral synod.
“It’s very humbling, at one level, to realize how much trust has been placed in you by the people of the Ordinariate,” Shaw said in an interview. “The thought of being able to continue to minister with the community that I’ve been a part of and loved so dearly for so long is really exciting.”
Shaw said that one of his priorities as bishop is the expansion of lay people’s role within the Ordinariate in the wider church.
“One of the things I’ve never been completely satisfied with is our ability to really empower Anglican laity within the Ordinariate,” he said. “I really want to take some time and evaluate how we can best create space for our lay readers to be a gift-not just to the military communities that they may be living within, but also a gift to the dioceses of the church they are resident in.”
Shaw is the first bishop ordinary chosen through election rather than primatial appointment, a shift that he said is part of a longer process of evolution in the office, from being a largely symbolic position held by retired bishops to being an active and independent role analogous to the one played by diocesan bishops.
As bishop ordinary, Shaw will be responsible for supporting Anglican chaplains in their ministry to the Armed Forces and the recruitment of new chaplains. He will also deal with governance issues pertaining to the Ordinariate, and serve in the House of Bishops and on the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy.
Shaw said the interfaith component of chaplaincy work is one of the most important gifts it offers the wider church.
“I’m absolutely passionate about the interfaith work we do, and the model that military chaplaincy provides to the world about how people of faith can be agents of positive change and not engage in distrust and violence towards one another in the name of faith,” he said.
The son of a Royal Air Force serviceman, Shaw was raised in a military family. His father served in Britain and Malta before eventually settling in Canada.
Shaw holds a BA and an MDiv from the University of Toronto’s Trinity College. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1984, priested in 1985 and became a chaplain with the primary reserve shortly after. In 1986, he transferred to the regular forces, where he has served ever since.
His consecration will take place May 28 at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa. He succeeds Bishop Peter Coffin, who has served as bishop ordinary since 2005.