The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has described the former Archbishop of Toronto,Terence Edward Finlay, who has died at the age of 79, as “one of the Canadian Church’s most widely and highly respected leaders.” Archbishop Finlay was consecrated as a Bishop in 1986 and served as Metropolitan of Ontario and Archbishop of Toronto from 2000 to 2004:
It is with great sadness that our Church mourns the death of one of its most widely and highly respected leaders, Terence Edward Finlay. In the course of his ordained ministry which spanned almost fifty-six years, he was known as Father, Archdeacon, Bishop, Archbishop, The Primate’s Envoy for Residential Schools, Co-Chair of the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice, Liaison Bishop to the Mission to Seafarers Canada, and Chaplain to the National House of Bishops. No matter the order of ministry to which he was called, the office he held, or the title he bore, the most distinguishing mark of his ministry was friendship, that friendship into which Jesus called his disciples in The Upper Room on the Eve of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, that friendship into which he calls his followers in every age.
Terry was one of those bishops in whom as Rowan Williams would say, you could see “The Gathering Christ”...“someone around whom it is possible so see what the Church is”, the Body of Christ, each and every one of us, members one of another. Terry enjoyed gathering the Church for worship and fellowship, for dialogue and discernment of the Spirit’s work in our midst. Across differences in theological perspective he gathered people and enabled them to speak and listen to each other with respect. Throughout his entire ministry he upheld the wonders of diversity in unity. He worked hard to help us live by St. Paul’s counsel that we be “forbearing in love”, and “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. Indeed he embodied that long cherished principle among Anglicans of holding one another in “bonds of affection” in Christ.
None of us will ever forget his broad smile and his hearty laugh. None of us will forget those moments when his eyes danced with delight over someone’s happiness or great accomplishment. Nor will we forget those moments when his eyes welled up with tears over the great pain or grief someone was bearing. None of us will ever forget seeing his head lifted up in song – he loved to sing! Nor will we forget seeing his head bowed in shame and contrition for the suffering inflicted upon hundreds and hundreds of children through the Indian Residential Schools. None of us will forget how he gently raised his hands in presiding at the Eucharist and how he extended his hands in celebrating the peace into which Christ calls us. Terry had a handshake and an embrace in which we all experienced something of the fullness of Christ’s love for us all.
None of us will ever forget how much he enjoyed a good story nor how much he enjoyed telling one of his own – and he had plenty!
I know I am but one among so many who can say Terry was one of my dearest friends. I admired him. I learned much from him. I was encouraged by him. I was challenged by him. I appreciated his wisdom borne of many years in ministry. I was grateful for his counsel. And I always had the sense that when he said “I hold you in my prayers daily” he really did. There was about him a genuineness, a modesty, and a holiness that enriched my life and so many others too.
While we all mourn him we know what great trust he had in the promises of Christ. What great confidence he had in the Communion of Saints, what great joy he had in the very thought of being a guest in heaven.
As we remember, our dear friend in Christ, we pray for Alice Jean (“AJ”), and for their daughters Sara Jane and Rebecca and their grandchildren whom he loved dearly.
In remembering the manner of Terry’s living and dying, a prayer written many years ago by Theodore Parker Ferris comes to mind.
“Teach me, O Lord, not to hold on to life too tightly. Teach me to hold it lightly; not carelessly, but lightly, easily. Teach me to take it as a gift, to enjoy and cherish while I have it, and to let it go gracefully and thankfully when the time comes. The gift is great, but the Giver is greater still. Thou, O God, art the Giver and in thee is the Life that never dies. Amen.”
Fred Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate, the Anglican Church of Canada