Q&A: Nova Scotia-based priest elected as bishop in Mexico

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The Rev. Julio Cesar Martin has been elected bishop coadjutor of Southeast Mexico. Photos: Imelda Bejar

On March 15, the Rev. Julio Cesar Martin was elected bishop coadjutor of the Anglican Church of Mexico’s diocese of Southeast Mexico.

Bishop-elect Martin, 54, who in 2015 became rector of the Parish of St. John the Baptist in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, has spent the past 10 years of his career in the Anglican Church of Canada. Born in Mexico, Martin has served as a priest in both countries and has written a Spanish-language book about Anglican theology.

In addition to English and Spanish, Martin is fluent in five other Western European languages—and, he says, he intends to lead services in Indigenous, pre-Columbian languages of Southeast Mexico. He is married with one child.

Following consent of his election from the National Synod of the Anglican Church of Mexico, Martin took a few minutes to respond to emailed questions about his upcoming position from the Anglican Journal’s Matthew Townsend.

When do you depart for Mexico?

The middle of August. The consecration will take place on September 21. Bishops Kevin Robertson, William Cliff, Ron Cutler and Michael Oulton (among others) have all been invited, and Canadian-educated bishop for Europe, David Hamid, will be co-consecrator and preacher. The service will be multilingual.

How has your working in the Canadian church shaped your ministry?

First of all, after three years of studies at two Mexican seminaries (one theologically dominated by Barthian neoorthodoxy; the other liturgically low church), I entered Huron College in 1990. There rational-liberal theological stands dominated, and I had as classmates people like Kevin Robertson and William Cliff—in a graduating class made up of more women than men as candidates for ordination.

While there I lived with undergraduate students—mostly Anglican themselves—and therefore was influenced by people almost 10 years younger than myself and whose “secular” ideas are now common currency, even in our church here in Canada: seeing LGBTQ behaviour as a natural expression of human sexuality and [welcoming] women in leadership positions (the first woman ever to be president of the students’ council took office in my last year there). I feel very comfortable with the way we Anglicans are here in Canada.

This strong influence continues: I am enrolled in a M.A. program with Atlantic School of Theology, where my research and professors are having a profound impact on the way I perceive liturgy, spirituality and the role of leadership in the Church. This, coupled with my experiences here as member of our diocesan council and of the college of clergy, makes very fitting that in social media the news about my election is being treated as “an Anglican Church of Canada priest elected bishop for Mexico.”

What did you learn in Cape Breton?

The parish here is challenging, complex and generous, all of which offers plenty of opportunities to grow as a person and as a priest. It has been a great preparation and experience, and it certainly has enriched my ministry and made me a better person by knowing my limitations—and my strengths, too! Of course, having as bishop someone who has nearly 30 years of experience as a priest previous to the episcopate is a contributing factor to my success in tackling some long-standing issues the parish had. So, I learnt one or two things about how to be a bishop, too! 

Do you have plans to connect ministries between Canada and Southeast Mexico?

You bet! Southeast Mexico can be the mission field of the Anglican Church of Canada! The Anglican Diocese of the Southeast is a pioneer in social outreach programs and self-sustainable projects, such as water purification plants, bakeries, after-school programs, community kitchens, etc. We will still be in great need of technical and financial support to sustain and expand our projects. [At the same time], we could offer to help in mission trips to Mexico for small church groups, training for seminarians and ordinands within a different cultural expression of the Christian faith as inherited by Anglicanism, and even opportunities for research in the field of religious studies, liturgy, spirituality and linguistics in worship, praise and public prayer.

I want to implement an “adopt a clergy” program by which Canadian parishes can support the stipend of our priests, since currently their stipends are a meager $500 a month, which even in Mexico does not take you far! My two priorities will be the well-being of priests and spirituality. The help of our church and its individual parishes can make a huge difference in the mission of the church in Southeast Mexico. At the same time, the diocese of the Southeast can bring our church here in Canada to not only feed the hungry and clothe the naked but to revisit its original mandate: feed the spiritually hungry, clothe the spiritually naked, and offer living waters of eternal life to those spiritually thirsty.

How can Canadian Anglicans pray for your work, as you prepare for this new task?

Anglicanism everywhere is either tempered or reinforced by local circumstances: Anglican ethos might have to compete with the local political culture, for example. So pray for more transparency, accountability, democracy and collegiality, not only for the Mexican church but for the church in all places, even in Canada.

But I will not only pray; so, watch me.

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Matthew Townsend
Matthew Townsend has worked in editorial, journalistic, and web development roles with a variety of organizations, including the The Living Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY, and the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida. He is a member of Episcopal Communicators and has consulted with a variety of ecumenical organizations, including Atlantic School of Theology, the Presbyterian Endowment Network, and the Associated Church Press.

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