Toronto elects Linda Nicholls suffragan bishop

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The diocese of Toronto elected Canon Linda Nicholls, 53, as a suffragan, or assistant, bishop on the third ballot in an election held Nov. 17 at St. Paul’s church, Bloor Street.

Her consecration is set for Feb. 2 at St. James’ Cathedral, Toronto.

She is the fourth female bishop in the Canadian church, joining bishops Victoria Matthews, Ann Tottenham and Susan Moxley.

“I think that it was quite obvious that the diocese was ready to elect another woman and to indicate that we have a shared ministry that encompasses men and women,” said the diocesan bishop, Colin Johnson.

“Linda is an enormously gifted candidate. I’ve known her for a very long time, and we have actually shared parishes together, so it’s quite marvelous,” he said.

Ms. Nicholls said she considered it a great privilege to be invited to share in the leadership of the diocese. “I look forward to that with joy,” she said. “I take great delight in being an Anglican, in expressing our faith through our Anglican heritage, and in the knowledge that this church can and will find ways to look into the future with energy and compassion and joy.”

She said she is most excited about the chance to work with parishes. “Parishes are the grassroots level of our church,” she said. “Nothing happens at any other level if it isn’t happening at the parish level. The work of the church begins there. That’s what I love to do. I’ve loved my time at the national church, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to working with parishes again.”

Ms. Nicholls will likely become the area bishop of Trent-Durham, based in Whitby, Ont., east of Toronto. However, Bishop Johnson noted that episcopal area assignments still need to be confirmed. Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones, who is currently the area bishop of Trent-Durham, will retire in February.

“I think Linda will make a wonderful addition to the team,” said Bishop Johnson. “She brings liturgical skills, theological skills, musical skills, and she has an experience of the wider church, having served both in the Diocese of Toronto in small and large parishes, at the national church level, and has had international experience.”

Since 2005, Ms. Nicholls has been co-ordinator for dialogue in the faith, worship and ministry department of the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office in Toronto, and is chaplain to the staff. She is also a talented musician and is often at the piano for worship services at the office’s chapel.

“We rejoice in the work of the Spirit in choosing a wise pastoral leader for the church and we will sorely miss her at church house,” wrote the director of the department, Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, in an e-mail to staff.

Ms. Nicholls’ work includes inter-faith relations, research on ethical issues and congregational development.

In inter-faith relations, she is a member of several organizations, including the Canadian Christian Jewish Consultation and the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee. Her work on ethical issues such as stem cell research includes a staff position with the Human Life Task Force of the Canadian Anglican church.

In congregational development, she coordinated a symposium last March called Nurturing Healthy Parishes.

From 1991 to 2005, she was rector of Holy Trinity in Thornhill, Ont. Before 1991, she served parishes in Scarborough and Sutton, Ont.

Ms. Nicholls earned a bachelor of music in 1976 and a bachelor of education in 1977, both at the University of Toronto. She taught music and mathematics from 1977 to 1982 at the Woodstock International Christian School in India.

She was ordained a deacon in 1985 and a priest in 1986, the year she earned a master of divinity degree at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. In 2002, she earned a doctor of divinity degree at Wycliffe.

 

With files from The Anglican

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Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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