Canon Todd Townshend was elected 14th bishop of the diocese of Huron at a diocesan synod Oct 26.
Townshend was elected on the third ballot by the diocese’s orders of clergy and laity at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Ont. There were four other candidates.
Townshend is the dean of the faculty of theology at Huron University College, a position he has held since 2013. He has also worked as a university instructor and associate professor, as well as a parish priest.
Townshend says he feels excited and grateful to have been elected, and “eager to get going.”
Among his top priorities as bishop, Townshend says, will be finding creative ways to organize the church as numbers and finances decline. “We are, as a church, everywhere, getting smaller numerically, and we try to hold up everything that’s ever been going on around. So I think there’s creative ways to reshape the church and change the sort of imagination part of the model of how we do things.”
He also says that reconciliation and discipleship will be themes to his upcoming work.
“I think that…constantly learning, in whatever way we like to learn, about what God is like, what kind of God are we dealing with here, in our lives, to keep a real focus on learning about Jesus, about God, the Spirit—it sounds like a perfectly obvious thing for churches to be doing, but we don’t spend as much time doing it as we should,” he said. The church talks a lot about “disciple-making, and bringing people into the Christian life who are not in it, young and old. I think I’ve learned…some pretty good theories over the years in the seminary and my work as a theologian about that, that I think can become more practically useful.”
Townshend says he will be transitioning out of his position with Huron University College after the current semester ends. However, because the bishop of Huron is a member of the school’s board and the chair of its corporation, he will still have some involvement with the school. “[That] makes me happy. It’s a place that I love, and it’s been a big part of my life.”
Townshend is a third-generation bishop in the diocese: his father, Bishop Robert (Bob) Townshend, and grandfather, Bishop William Townshend, both served as suffragan bishops of Huron. While he is inspired by these two men he admires, Townshend notes that the church today looks different than the church of his grandfather’s time.
Townshend says he is excited, in his role as bishop, to see what God is doing in the diocese and be able to share those stories widely. “I think the thing that has always excited me about ministry is to see the kind of thing that God is doing in people’s lives, to find out what struggles there are, what hurts, but also to hear people talk about what living a life of faith has done for them, and is for them,” he says.
Townshend served as the chair of General Synod’s Theological Education Commission and is a member of its pension committee.
He was ordained as a priest in the diocese of Huron in 1992 and became the diocese’s canon theologian in 2009.
Townshend will be consecrated at St. Paul’s Cathedral Jan. 25. He succeeds the previous bishop of Huron, Linda Nicholls, who in July was elected the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.