London, Ont.’s Huron University College presented three honorary degrees to three distinguished people at its theology convocation on May 9. Governor General David Johnston received a doctor of divinity degree, while Archbishop Thabo Makgabo, primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, both received honorary doctorate degrees.
Before being appointed governor general by the prime minister in 2010, His Excellency David Johnston had a distinguished academic career as a law professor, dean of the faculty of law at the University of Western Ontario, principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University and president of the University of Waterloo.
Speaking at the ceremony, Archbishop Terry Finlay pointed out that the governor general is already the recipient of honorary degrees from more than 20 universities, but only one other doctor of divinity degree. Another was in order because “at the heart of all that His Excellency has done through his life is a profound commitment to public service and the common good,” he said. “This is one of the foundational pillars of the Christian calling. To know divinity in service in our secular culture is to see divinity within humanity.”
The Right Rev. Thabo Makgabo was elected as the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town and the metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in 2008 and is the youngest bishop in Southern Africa ever to be elected to this office.
Makgoba served in various parishes before becoming the suffragan bishop of Grahamstown in 2002 and bishop of that diocese in 2004. In 2009, he earned his PhD from the University of Cape Town. His thesis on the spirituality of South African miners has since been published as a book. He also received an honorary divinity degree from the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York in 2009 and accepted it on behalf of “all South Africans who were denied access to education.” In February 2012 he was inaugurated as the chancellor of the University of the Western Cape.
Introducing him at the London, Ont. ceremony, Huron’s dean of theology the Rev. Canon Dr. Bill Danaher praised the Archbishop Makgabo as “an excellent bishop and pastor…[who] has mediated conflicts between miners and management, protested against sexual violence, and advocated for the rights of immigrants and minorities.” He added that the primate has been a reconciling presence in the wider Anglican Communion, “where he has courageously proclaimed that the mission of God is greater than what we can ask or imagine.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz began his ministry in 1978 in his home province of Nova Scotia and served in several parishes, as well as on several diocesan committees and the diocesan council. From 1987 to 1988, he also served as director of the Anglican formation program at the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax. Hiltz was elected suffragan bishop of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in 1995 and then as diocesan bishop in 2002. He was elected primate of the Anglican Church of Canada in 2007.
In his remarks at the convocation, Bob Bennett, bishop of the diocese of Huron, said he suspected that it must have been very difficult for the archbishop to leave his home on the Atlantic coast and move to Toronto to take up his work as primate, but he believed that it was God’s will for him. “The challenge of being a bishop is far, wide and deep,most especially for the primate. Bishops are to proclaim and interpret the gospel, guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church, be faithful pastors and wholesome examples to the communities they serve,” Bennett said. “I believe that Fred Hiltz has been and continues to be all of those things for the church, and that’s exactly why we call him Fred and not Frederick; for he is in deep relationship with all those he is called to serve in the name of Jesus.” He noted that a 2010 task force concluded that Anglicans in Canada wanted a spiritual leader who is both prophetic and caring. That “describes Fred Hiltz perfectly, for when he uses the phrase, ‘our beloved church,’ he means it,” he said.