Electing a new Primate for Canada

Archbishop Fred Hiltz announced January 9 that he will resign as primate of the Anglican Church of Canada in July 2019. At that time, a new primate will be elected to lead the national church and represent it internationally. But how will this process unfold?

Hiltz has stated that he will resign July 16, 2019, the final day of the General Synod. Voting for the new primate will take place that same day. But before that happens, Canadian Anglican bishops must choose between three and five nominees for the office of primate.

According to Canon III of the Handbook of the General Synod, these nominations must take place between 30 and 120 days before the primatial election. In 2019, nominees will be chosen at the House of Bishops meeting, April 29–May 3, 2019, in Niagara Falls, Ont. Any active (not retired) bishop is eligible for nomination.

The waiting period after nomination is a relatively new addition to the election procedure. The 30- to 120-day timeline was adopted by the 1998 General Synod in Montreal. Before that, in primatial elections, candidates were nominated and elected on the same day.

Prior to the House of Bishops meeting, each bishop may nominate between one and three candidates, with those candidates’ consent. Until the 2004 election, nominees were chosen at the bishops’ meeting, but this gave candidates little time to consider their nomination, pray and consult with family. Now, nominations are sought by the primate approximately six months before General Synod—though additional nominations will be received until 10 p.m. the night before the vote at the House of Bishops meeting.

Voting by secret ballot will determine which three to five nominees will move on to the primatial election.

Though bishops nominate candidates from among their own number, they do not vote in the actual election. The primate will be elected by clergy and lay members of General Synod.

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