By Sandra Coulson
Rev. Canon Bill Cliff will be leaving Huron to become bishop of the Diocese of Brandon in western Manitoba.
A columnist with Huron Church News, Bill writes in his farewell below, “I am deeply grateful for my years as a priest in this diocese and at the college.”
Although Bill has no formal or family ties to Brandon, which covers the western part of Manitoba, he said he is known to many people there.
In an interview with Huron Church News on the evening after his election on Oct. 31, Bill said he spoke at Brandon’s Holy Spirit Conference a few years ago.
As well, some young lay people and some clergy from that diocese have participated in Ask or Imagine, a discernment program run by Huron University College, where Bill is chaplain.
“They approached me (about running for bishop) . . . and I started to pray about it,” he said.
Neither Bill nor any of the other five candidates were in Brandon for the election. They sent videos and written answers to prepare Synod delegates.
Rev. Shane Bengry, editor of Brandon’s diocesan newspaper, The Mustard Seed, described the electoral Synod was “a wonderful, Spirit-led event” and added, “The atmosphere was very joyful and hopeful”
Brandon diocese has had some difficult times in recent years and Bill anticipates there is work to be done in reconciliation and healing in his new diocese.
Brandon’s former executive archdeacon, who is also the son of the just retired bishop, has been charged with fraud in relation to using diocesan funds for personal expenses. Some reports put the amount at $200,000.
The case has had an impact beyond the financial on the people of the diocese, Bill observed. “They are in desperate need of a lot of healing and reconciliation — and when we get deep into the Gospel, there’s a lot of that,” he said.
As well, the Anglican Network in Canada has been active in the diocese. An earlier bishop has joined the ANiC.
“The general idea is we wish them well and hope for reconciliation,” Bill said.
The diocese has a striking geographic layout — stretching the north-south length of Manitoba. While the south tends to be the descendants of European settlers, the north is largely aboriginal, Shane explained.
Bill said he looks forward to learning from the aboriginal communities. “I’ve been very clear they need to teach me. They say they are looking to be heard and involved and loved.”
Going into the Synod, there were five candidates. A sixth was nominated from the floor. Shane Bengry reported Bill had a majority among the laity from the first ballot and that support grew in subsequent rounds as clergy support moved to a majority for Bill by the third ballot. A majority was required in both houses for a candidate to win the election.
The consecration of Brandon’s new bishop will take place on March 1 at 4 p.m. at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Brandon. Bill plans on arriving in the diocese at the beginning of the new year.
In Huron, Bill is rector of St. John the Evangelist Chapel at Huron college, chaplain of the college and Anglican chaplain of Western University.
Appointed to the Cathedral Chapter of Canons in 2003, Bill remained active in the Diocese of Huron and the wider church through liturgy.
He also serves as Huron’s canon precentor, a position that calls on him to plan and organize diocesan worship services such as ordinations and the Synod service. As well, he is diocesan liturgical officer.
Bill works with music and liturgy to enrich the worship life of the Church, and has spent a great deal of time supporting youth programming.
He is widely known across Canada as one of the Three Cantors.
He is also a chaplain of the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem and a fellow of the National College of Music and the Arts in the United Kingdom.
Sandra Coulson is editor of the Huron Church News.