Archbishop Fred Hiltz announced Tuesday, January 9, that he has submitted his notice of intention to resign as primate of the Anglican Church of Canada on July 16, 2019, at the conclusion of the 42nd General Synod.
Hiltz called national church staff to a gathering at the chapel of the church’s national office in Toronto and made the surprise announcement.
Reading aloud from a pastoral letter to the church written January 7, 2018, the primate recounted the baptism of the Lord, and Jesus’ 40 days and nights in the wilderness. “Many biblical scholars speak of it as a time of spiritual discernment to the nature of his mission. It was clearly a time of spiritual wrestling,” said Hiltz. These stories of baptism and discernment, Hiltz said, are reminders of “what our work is in our own communities and in the world…
“Sometimes those commitments take the form of thoughtful and prayerful discernment with respect to making way for new leadership,” said Hiltz, who at times in his speech paused, overcome with emotion.
“Now, dear friends, is such a time for our beloved Church, a time for me to make plans to conclude my years of service as Primate, and time for the Church to make the arrangements necessary for the election of a new Primate,” Hiltz read.
His announcement brought tears to the eyes of some Anglican Church of Canada staff, and many staff members paused while leaving the chapel afterward to embrace the primate.
Hiltz explained he had considered the decision to resign for quite some time. “In all honesty, there are days when I wonder if I might not be coming very close to the ‘best before’ date in the leadership I’m providing,” he said, adding, “I have experienced more than a few restless nights.”
The primate said he “tried to abide by St. Paul’s counsel not to be anxious but prayerful,” as he wrestled with his decision.
“I confess too that out of a deep and abiding love for our Church I have in these last several months felt more than a little sense of solemn obligation to see General Synod through the next round of conversations over a few very significant matters,” he said. Hiltz then referenced the second reading of the amendment to the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage and the next steps toward a self-determining Indigenous church, which will feature significantly during General Synod in 2019.
As a result, Hiltz said, he has decided to resign at the conclusion of General Synod, on July 16, 2019: “On that day the 42nd Session of The Meeting of General Synod will conclude its work and will celebrate the election of a new primate.”
Hiltz noted that 2017 marked his 40th year in ordained ministry, as well as his 40th anniversary with his wife, Lynne Samways. For 23 of those 40 years, he has served the church as bishop, and for 10 of those 23, as primate, he said.
On December 3, 2018, Hiltz added, he will be 65. “It think that is probably no secret in our Church!,” he wrote. “And in the natural order of discourse around such milestones, questions arise with respect to one’s intentions about retirement. I believe it is incumbent upon me to help move us all beyond whispered speculations to clarity about my intentions.”
The church’s Canon III, relating to the primacy, states that the primate shall hold office until age 70 or until the effective date of resignation.
Prior to announcing his resignation to staff, Hiltz said he had informed Archbishop John Privett, provincial metropolitan senior by election, of his decision. He also submitted his notice of intention to resign as primate and consulted with other metropolitans (senior bishops), the chancellor, the prolocutor and deputy prolocutor of General Synod, about the date of his resignation.
The primate told Anglican Church of Canada staff that he will likely return to parish ministry after his resignation.
“As you well know, this was not an office to which I aspired,” Hiltz said. “Nonetheless, I have endeavoured to fulfill the duties required of me in the best interests of our church and its commitment to God’s mission in Canada and as a loyal partner in the life and witness of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It has been an enormous privilege and a great adventure with blessings beyond number.”