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Anglican Church of Canada elects its first female archbishop

Posted on: May 15, 2018 3:35 PM
Archbishop Melissa Skelton
Photo Credit: All photos: Diocese of New Westminster

The Bishop of New Westminster, Melissa Skelton, has been elected as Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon. She will continue in her role as Bishop of New Westminster while taking on responsibility for the internal province. She is the first woman to be elected an Archbishop in the Anglican Church of Canada and only the second within the Anglican Communion. Earlier this year Bishop Kay Goldsworthy was elected as Archbishop of Perth in the Anglican Church of Australia. Archbishops Melissa and Kay are responsible for internal provinces, and so are not primates.

There has been a female primate in the Anglican Communion: Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori became the first – and so far only – female Primate when she was elected as Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church in 2006, a role she held until her her term expired in 2015.

Archbishop Melissa was installed as diocesan bishop in March 2014 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and Christ Church Cathedral. The Ecclesiastical Province of BC and Yukon is one of four Provinces that comprise the Anglican Church of Canada. In her new role, the new archbishop will have responsibility for six dioceses: Yukon; Caledonia in northern British Columbia; the Territory of the People in central British Columbia – formerly the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, and prior to that, Cariboo; Kootenay in the eastern part of British Columbia, including the Okanagan; British Columbia – Vancouver Island and the coastal islands; and her own diocese of New Westminster, which covers the urban and suburban communities of Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley including the Sunshine Coast, from Powell River to Hope.

She was elected in the first ballot when 21 of the 24-member Provincial Electoral College gathered for a telephone conference and electronic vote. “This vote was historic not only because the first woman was elected Archbishop it was also the first election held entirely by electronic means,” a diocesan spokesman said.

She will succeed Archbishop John Privett, who stood down as Metropolitan at the end of April, and who will complete his ministry as Bishop of Kootenay at the end of May.

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"I’m thrilled and deeply grateful for the support of so many in this process: the Provincial House of Bishops, Executive Council members, and those who worked diligently to create the electronic/phone balloting process that we used today,” Archbishop Melissa said. “Succeeding Archbishop John Privett is a humbling task. My hope and conviction is that we’re now embarking on a time of increasing cooperation and purpose in the life of our Province that will build on Archbishop Privett’s good work over the past nine years.

“About being the first woman Metropolitan in the Anglican Church of Canada, all that I can say is thanks be to God for the privilege.”

The new Archbishop takes office immediately and will be installed formally at the commencement of the Provincial Synod at Sorrento, BC, in September.