Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate of Canada, has announced that he will step down from his role on the final day of the province’s General Synod’s next meeting, on 16 July 2019. Last year, Archbishop Fred marked 40 years of ordained ministry in the church – 23 of them as a bishop and 10 as Primate. In a letter to the Church, he said that he had wondered “if I might not be coming very close to the ‘best before’ date in the leadership I am providing”; but said that, after a process of prayer and discernment, he “felt more than a little sense of solemn obligation to see General Synod through the next round of conversations over a few very significant matters.”
The July 2019 meeting of Canada’s General Synod will debate and vote on the second reading of the amendment to the Marriage Canon; and on plans “to honour the dream of a truly Indigenous Church within The Anglican Church of Canada.” In addition to discussions on tackling human trafficking and climate change, it will now conclude its work with the election of a new primate. “It will be a day when I pray we will all say with a resounding heart soul and voice, ‘This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it’”, Archbishop Fred said, in reference to Psalm 118.
Yesterday (Tuesday), Archbishop Fred invited staff from the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office to join him in their chapel, where he read aloud his letter which was later published on the province’s website. The Anglican Journal’s Joelle Kidd reports that the archbishop paused his speech at times, as he was overcome with emotion. Some staff were similarly upset, and cried at the announcement, while many paused to embrace him as they left the chapel at the end of his announcement. He told staff that expects to return to parish ministry following his retirement.
“I have endeavoured to fulfil the duties required of me in the best interests of our Church and its commitment to God’s mission in Canada and as a loyal partner in the life and witness of the worldwide Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Fred said in his letter. “It has been an enormous privilege and a great adventure with blessings beyond number.”
He said: “For the decision I have made I ask your understanding and respect. In the work we still have to do together I ask your patience and perseverance. Know that I remain ever grateful for your prayers and for the multitude of ways in which you have and continue to support me in my ministry. Know that my prayers for our beloved Church are very much in accord with the affection with which St Paul held the Church in Philippi.”
Archbishop Fred will celebrate his 65th Birthday on 3 December this year. The Anglican Church of Canada’s Canons require the primate to hold office until the age of 70, or earlier resignation. “In the natural order of discourse around such milestones, questions arise with respect to one’s intentions about retirement,” he said, as explained the timing of his announcement. “I believe it is incumbent upon me to help move us all beyond whispered speculations to clarity about my intentions.”