The Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Kingston, Ontario has been elected Bishop of Montreal.
The Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Kingston, Ontario has been elected Bishop of Montreal. On 6 June 2015 the Very Rev. Mary Irwin-Gibson was elected on the third ballot by approximately 180 lay and clergy delegates gathered at a special meeting of the diocesan synod in Fulford Hall at Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral.
Four candidates were put forward by the diocesan nominating committee to succeed the Rt. Rev. Barry Clark (62) who will step down in August: the Rt. Rev. Dennis Drainville (61) Bishop of the Diocese of Quebec, the Rev. Karen Egan (57) director of pastoral studies at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College, Montreal Archdeacon William Gray (60) and Dean Irwin-Gibson (59).
Two nominations were offered from the floor of the convention: Prof. Patricia Kirkpatrick of McGill University and Canon Joyce Sanchez, the incumbent of Trinity Memorial Church in Montreal.
Dean Irwin-Gibson led after the first ballot and following the second ballot, Bishop Drainville, Archdeacon Gray, Prof. Kirkpatrick, and Canon Sanchez withdrew. Delegates were offered two names on the third ballot, Dr. Egan and Dean Irwin-Gibson, with the dean winning a majority amongst the clergy and lay orders.
Whilst the candidates held uniform positions on the doctrinal issues before the church, Dean Irwin-Gibson said she would continue “the diocese’s inclusive policy of ordaining partnered gay people”, the vision statements submitted to the convention by the two finalists had differing assessments of the dicoese’s health.
Since 1975 the Diocese of Montreal has lost two-thirds of its membership, and its current parochial rolls number 11,000 communicants. Sunday attendance figures have not been released by the diocese, but are presumed to be lower. Dr. Egan wrote:
The Diocese of Montreal is challenged by its deeply secular context, and its diminishing membership, which creates stresses in every parish and every level of the diocese. For decades we have watched as numbers and finances have diminished. Far from standing by and idly watching, we have made consistent efforts to understand our situation and to reverse the decline. Unfortunately most of our efforts have met with disappointment. I believe that the time has come to abandon our self-concerned efforts to increase the church in numbers and financial capital, and instead focus on vibrant worship which is open and accessible to the newcomer, and energetic mission in the world. I believe this focus on authentic Christian worship and service will surely lead to something more important than growth in numbers and power, namely, to a healthy and vibrant church that lives the Marks of Mission and is able to inspire future generations with a longing for God’s Kingdom, and the faith to live joyfully.
Dean Irwin-Gibson wrote:
We are facing transitions that challenge us. That is not new for the Church. We have a message of hope, grace and healing to share; that message is rooted in our life in Christ. Although we may wonder what lies ahead, the mission of Jesus Christ is not diminished and there is much remaining for us to do.
My priorities in ministry will be:
• To minister the Holy Spirit, bringing encouragement and hope
• To focus together on building and sharing the Kingdom of God and the good news of Jesus Christ, strengthening our witness of faith, grace and hope in this city and in the province of Quebec
• To unite members of this Diocese in faith, fellowship and shared mission
• To find authentic and realistic ways to be the church in a changing spiritual climate
• To be a pastor who supports and motivates the clergy, who play a critical role as equippers of the saints and leaders in worship
• To continue the Diocese of Montreal’s inclusive policy of ordaining partnered gay people
• To share in the decision-making processes of Episcopal Council, Diocesan Council, and Diocesan Synod as we clarify and carry out the mission of Jesus Christ
• At a practical level, to continue to build a shared vision for ministry in the Diocese, finding ways to manage the financial and other constraints, all the while seizing opportunities for mission
• To build our fellowship ties with other Christian denominations, our partners in mission and within the greater interfaith community
Bishop-elect Irwin-Gibson’s name now goes to the House of Bishops for consent.