The Rev. Jake Worley, an Alabama-born priest, has been elected bishop of the diocese of Caledonia.
Worley, rector of the Parish of Bulkley Valley, which includes three congregations in northern British Columbia, was elected on the eighth ballot of an episcopal election held in Prince Rupert Saturday, April 22, in what he described as a Spirit-filled event.
“It was an amazing experience of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “He certainly came there and moved on our hearts. It was amazing. I don’t know what else to say besides we’re in many ways shocked, but also grateful, for his leading.”
Worley said he actually never intended to run as bishop, but was eventually talked into it.
“I was nominated, I was asked a couple of times to let my name stand and I said no,” he said. “Then, finally, somebody else nominated me.”
Worley said he began to change his mind after much prayer and talking with people he trusts.
“They basically said to me, ‘Jake, you believe that God is sovereign God. You need to let your theology touch your life, and let [your name] stand.’ And so I did.”
The electoral synod was held to find a successor for Bishop William Anderson, who announced his plans to retire in December, 2015. Anderson had served as bishop of the diocese for a decade and a half, having been elected in October 2001 and consecrated as bishop in February 2002.
Worley said one of his first priorities as bishop is to meet with, and hear from, the people of the diocese.
“I want to visit all the First Nations, and I want to learn from them,” he said. “And I also then want to visit all the rest of the parishes and the clergy, and express my love for them, and ask for their prayers and ask what I can pray with them for.”
Indigenous people, he said, are an essential part of the identity of the diocese, which covers northern B.C.
“They are part of the church, and they need to be,” he said. “They are our brothers and sisters, and they’re vitally important to who we are as a diocese.”
Worley moved from Alabama to New Mexico when he was five. He studied zoology and botany at Western New Mexico University. He then did environmental consulting work, which included studying the impact of U.S. Department of Defense missile testing on wildlife. Worley eventually felt a call to the priesthood, and graduated with an M.Div from Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. He was ordained a priest in The Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2005.
In 2007, Worley founded a new church in Las Cruces, New Mexico, as a missionary for the Anglican province of Rwanda. The church would later join the Anglican Church in North America, a grouping of conservative congregations that left TEC in 2009. In the meantime, Worley had left. After an interim term as rector at St. Martin’s Anglican Church in Fort St. John, B.C., in 2013, then a year priesting for the Church of Ireland, he returned with his family to B.C., where he assumed his role as rector of Bulkley Valley.
In 2015, Worley told a B.C. newspaper he and his wife felt God calling them to that part of the world. They also fell in love with Canada and its people, he said.
“There is a sweetness and genuineness about Canadians that I really like,” he said.