From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS - Montreal bishop elected metropolitan in first-ever E-lection

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Mon, 03 Jun 2002 17:58:36 -0700

ACNS 3002 - CANADA - 31 May 2002

Montreal bishop elected metropolitan in first-ever E-lection

by Leanne Larmondin

[The Anglican Church of Canada] Bishop Andrew Hutchison, of the diocese of
Montreal, is now Archbishop Hutchison after being elected metropolitan of
the ecclesiastical Province of Canada in what is likely the Anglican
Communion's first electronic election.

It took just one ballot for Bishop Hutchison's election; out of 31
provincial council members eligible to vote, only three failed to do so,
including one bishop who objected to the electronic process.

Archbishop Hutchison was elected Bishop of Montreal in 1990 and became
Bishop Ordinary of the Canadian Forces in 1997; prior to becoming a bishop
he served as Dean of Montreal from 1984-1990. He also serves on the national
church's information resources committee, which oversees the work of the
national church web site, Anglican Journal, General Synod archives and other

The ecclesiastical (church) province of Canada, which includes the dioceses
of Fredericton, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Montreal, Quebec,
Western Newfoundland, Central Newfoundland and Eastern Newfoundland and
Labrador, needed to elect a metropolitan - or head bishop - after the
February 2002 retirement of Archbishop Arthur Peters. While those elections
normally take place at provincial synods, Canada did not have a scheduled
synod until the fall. Canon rules call for the election of a metropolitan no
more than six months after the retirement of the predecessor.

Technophile Revd Alan Perry, a priest in Pierrefonds, Quebec, suggested an
electronic election - where members could vote by e-mail or fax. He
estimates the process saved some $20,000 in travel costs.

After the election, Mr. Perry said, "I'd say the process worked, with only
three failing to vote. Where else do you get a 90 per cent participation

Bishop Donald Harvey, of the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador,
was the lone episcopal holdout, having objected to the process as early as
last fall, when the provincial council discussed, then voted for the
electronic election method. He was concerned that the secret ballot, which
he calls "sacrosanct" in the church's democratic system, was being

Voters had a window of two days to send their ballots by e-mail or fax to
two scrutineers; the voters' e-mail addresses and fax numbers were verified
prior to the election. Only the two scrutineers would know the results of
the individual ballots. The result was announced - by e-mail, of course - to
council members in late afternoon, May 9.

While he applauds Bishop Hutchison's election (and even publicly endorsed
the Montreal bishop at the same time last fall as he argued against the
election process) Bishop Harvey says he had to stand up for the principle of

"I didn't mind who knew whom I was supporting," said Bishop Harvey, who said
he couldn't think of a better candidate for metropolitan. "But I thought if
I was serious about it, I had better stand up for my beliefs."

Bishop Harvey says he does not question the integrity of the scrutineers,
one of whom was Ronald Stevenson, a retired New Brunswick Supreme Court
judge and the chancellor of General Synod. He is concerned that once one
electronic election has taken place, it may become the norm for episcopal
elections, primatial elections (which elect the primate, or head of the
church) or even votes on contentious issues, like sexuality.

He agreed that travel costs made an electoral synod impractical, but
suggested that the election could have been held using traditional "snail
mail" - with a double envelope system so that ballots could still remain
secret in their inner envelope.

The ACNSlist is published by the Anglican Communion Office, London.

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