Montreal bishop set to retire

The Bishop of Montreal, the Rt. Rev. Barry Clarke, has announced that he will step down from office at the end of August.

The Bishop of Montreal, the Rt. Rev. Barry Clarke, has announced that he will step down from office at the end of August.

 

In his 12 April 2015 pastoral letter to the diocese, Bishop Clarke said the decision to retire had not been an “easy” one, but “it is the right one for me and it is a good time for a new direction in the diocese.”

 

The Francophone dioceses of Canada have seen a sharp decline in numbers over the past few decades. In recent years the Diocese of Montreal and Quebec have held talks about merging the two French speaking dioceses. The depopulation of rural Quebec coupled with the flight of English-speaking Anglicans out of the province had taken its toll. In 2009 Quebec Bishop Dennis Drainville said his diocese was “teetering on the verge of extinction” and of the diocese’s 82 congregations, 50 were childless and 35 congregations had an average age of 75. These graying congregations often had no more than 10 people in church on Sundays, he said. “The critical mass isn’t there, there’s no money anymore,” he said.

 

Between 1961 and 2001 the Anglican Church of Canada lost 53 per cent of its members, with numbers declining from 1.36 million to just 642,000. The rate of decline has increased in recent years, according to an independent report given to the Canadian House of Bishops in 2006 by retired marketing expert Keith McKerracher. Attendance statistics for recent years have not been released by the church. Canada’s Anglican ecclesial structures are not alone in facing a cash and attendance crunch.

 

Church work and steady attendance among the dioceses’ First Nation people and in Montreal had softened the blow in Montreal, giving it a stronger base of support than Quebec. Bishop Clarke wrote it had been “a busy episcopacy with many challenges of stabilizing finances, leadership, ministry, theological issues and challenges of buildings, whilst continuing to do God’s mission and ministry as we see it in our area of God’s world.”

 

The bishop’s letter also acknowledged personal trials. He thanked the diocese for its support during his wife’s illness and after her death in 2012. “You have supported me with your prayers through Leslie’s health challenges and death,” he said in the letter. “For this I will always be grateful and give thanks to God.”

Elected bishop in 2004, Bishop Clarke was educated at McGill University and was ordained priest in 1979. He served as a parish priest in the diocese and as archdeacon of St.

Lawrence before his election.

An election for a new bishop has been scheduled for 6 June 2015.

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