Huron’s Rev. Canon Bill Cliff elected bishop of Brandon

Bill Cliff featured imageBy Sandra Coulson

Rev. Canon Bill Cliff, rector of St. John the Evangelist Chapel at Huron University College, has been elected bishop of the Diocese of Brandon.

He was chosen during a Synod on Oct. 31.

Although he has no formal or family ties to the diocese, which covers the western half of Manitoba, Bishop-elect Bill is known to many people there.

In an interview with Huron Church News on the evening of his election, he 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 College.

“They approached me (about running for bishop) . . . and I started to pray about it,” he said.

Neither Fr. Bill nor any of the other five candidates were in Brandon for the election. Fr. Bill said they each sent a video and answered questions sent to them.

Brandon diocese has had some difficult times in recent years.

Its 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 $190,000. The case is next due in court on Nov. 5.

The case has had an impact beyond the financial on the people of the diocese, Fr. 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 Church in North America has been active in the diocese. An earlier bishop has joined the ACNA.

“The general idea is we wish them well and hope for reconciliation,” Fr. Bill said.

The diocese has a striking geographic layout — stretching the entire north-south length of Manitoba. While the south tends to be the descendants of European settlers, the north is largely aboriginal, said Fr. Shane Bengry, the editor of the diocesan newspaper, The Mustard Seed.

Fr. 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.”

Fr. Shane described the election as “a wonderful, Spirit-led event”.

“The atmosphere was very joyful and hopeful.”

Going into the Synod, there were five candidates. A sixth was nominated from the floor. Fr. Shane said Fr. 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 Fr. Bill by the third ballot. A majority was required in both houses for a candidate to win the election.

In Huron, besides his position at the college chapel, Fr. Bill also serves as Huron’s canon precentor, diocesan liturgical officer, chaplain of Huron College and Anglican chaplain of Western University. He is also widely known across Canada as one of the Three Cantors.

Sandra Coulson is editor of the Huron Church News.