Philip Poole, suffragan bishop of the diocese of Toronto and area bishop of York-Credit Valley, has announced that he will retire effective Sep. 30, 2016.
“When I was first elected, I thought I might do this for 10 years,” Poole, who has been bishop since 2005, said in an interview. “It just feels like it is time for someone else to have the opportunity to serve the church episcopally.”
Although he was elected when debates about human sexuality were raging, and declining membership was causing deep anxiety about the future of the church, Poole said he has always found reasons to be optimistic.
“It’s been a challenging time, but it’s also been a remarkably creative time,” he said. “We have seen an enormous increase in missional ministry across the church. I think there’s been a real emphasis on social justice ministries from coast to coast to coast…We’re finding ways to speak to a society that is very different from the one I grew up in.”
Poole plans to take some time off to relax following his retirement, but said that, at 65, he still feels he has a lot to offer the church. He will continue to serve as a pension fund trustee and work with the Compass Rose Society, an international charity that supports the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion. (Poole helped establish the Canadian branch in 2003.)
He also hopes to take up music again, a lifelong passion that took a backseat during his years as bishop, and looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Karen, and his children and grandchildren.
“I don’t think I’ll be in a rocking chair rocking my way into eternity,” he said, laughing.
Poole, the son of a priest, was raised in an Anglican rectory, but his original plan was to become a music teacher. After completing an undergraduate degree in vocal music at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., however, he decided to pursue an MDiv at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College out of a desire to “delve more deeply into the Christian faith.” He was ordained a deacon in 1977 and a priest in 1978. He went on to complete a MTh in 1988, and served in a number of roles in the diocese of Toronto, including as Holland Deanery’s regional dean and as honorary canon at the Cathedral Church of St. James.
Being bishop has been one of the great joys of his career, said Poole. “I love getting up every day and doing my job. I just feel enormously grateful to have been a bishop in the church-it has enabled me to experience the church locally, nationally and internationally in ways that I’d never thought possible.”