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Anglican Church of Canada elects its first female primate – Bishop Linda Nicholls

Posted on: July 15, 2019 3:50 PM

[ACNS by Rachel Farmer] The Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) has elected Linda Nicholls, the Bishop of the Diocese of Huron, as its next primate. She will become the first woman to hold this position in the ACoC and only the second female primate in the Anglican Communion.

The election, held during the Church’s General Synod at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver on 13 July, began with five nominees. Bishop Linda was elected on the fourth ballot, with 64 per cent of lay votes and 71 per cent of votes among the clergy.

Speaking shortly after the election, Bishop Linda said: “you have bestowed on me an honour that I can hardly imagine, and it is terrifying. But it is also a gift, to be able to walk with the whole of the Anglican Church of Canada from coast to coast to coast.”

Bishop Linda plays an active role in the leadership of the Anglican Communion. She is a member of ARCIC and is part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Primates’ Task Group on restoring relationships in the Anglican Communion.

The Task Group has adopted a rotating chairmanship of its meetings. Speaking last year following a meeting which she chaired, she said: “I have great confidence in the capacity of Christians to sit down and listen to one another and to wrestle deeply with the core concepts of what it means to be a person in Christ. And that these conflicts do cause pain and they cause rifts, but they also drive us to listen more deeply to what calls us together.”

As primate of the Church of Canada, Linda Nicholls will have to steer the Church forward following repercussions over the divisive vote to allow same-sex marriages, which failed to get its required two-thirds majority in all three houses at the General Synod this month. The vote on Friday (12 July) came after a years-long debate.

The Bishop told members of General Synod she believed the church was capable of the task that now faces it, of overcoming its divisions.

“We have reconciliation to do. And we have deep healing to work at. And I know that this church can do it,” she said. “I have seen this church rise to the challenge of its diversity; I’ve seen this church act in remarkable ways that the rest of the world does watch. And even though we at times can cause each other deep hurt and pain, I’ve also seen us rise to the challenge of that healing work of coming together around God’s table where our first calling is in Christ.”

Bishop Linda, who has described herself as a “cradle Anglican,” grew up in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. She gained degrees in both music and education at the University of Toronto, where she was active in the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada. She then taught music and mathematics at the Woodstock International Christian School in northern India for five years, which said was an experience which deeply shaped her spirituality.

Ordained a priest in 1986, she served in a number of parishes in southern Ontario, and completed a doctor of ministry degree at the University of Toronto’s Wycliffe College in 2002. Linda Nicholls was elected suffragan bishop in the diocese of Toronto in 2007, becoming the Anglican Church of Canada’s fourth female bishop. She was elected coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Huron in February 2016. Bishop Nicholls has been part of numerous church bodies in the ACoC, including the Commission on the Marriage Canon and the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee. She has also served as co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue of Canada.

Bishop Linda lists her interests outside the church as wilderness canoeing and walking, choral singing and music.

She will be installed as Archbishop and primate tomorrow (Tuesday) and suceed Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who is retiring.