Our History

The Diocese of New Westminster from 1859 to the present

The formation of the Diocese of New Westminster predates Confederation. It is known for its progressive policies on the ordination of women in the 1970's and the full inclusion of LGBTQ/2S  persons in the life of the church in the first decades of the 21st century. More recently, it has been at the forefront in support of Reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

 

The Diocese of New Westminster from 1859 to the present

1859: The Diocese of British Columbia is formed, comprising the entire Pacific Northwest colony of the British Empire. George Hills, Vicar of Great Yarmouth and Canon of Norwich, is consecrated Bishop at Westminster Abbey.

1871: British Columbia joins the Confederation of Canada.

1879: The diocese is divided into three: British Columbia, comprising Vancouver Island; northern British Columbia, named Caledonia; and the lower mainland, named New Westminster (then capital of the province).

1879: Acton Windeyer Sillitoe, chaplain to the British Legation at Darmstadt, is named first Bishop of New Westminster.

1880: First ordination: Charles Blanchard, deacon.

1882: First Diocesan Synod.

1889: First service held in what would become Christ Church Cathedral.

1890: St. Luke’s, Vancouver’s first hospital, founded by Henry Glynne Fiennes-Clinton, rector of St. James’.

1892: Holy Trinity Church, New Westminster, first built in 1859 by the Royal Engineers, designated Cathedral Church of the Diocese.

1904: Father Clinton’s Seamen’s Institute becomes part of England’s Flying Angel Mission.

1905: The Columbia Coast Mission, a seagoing hospital and chapel, begins serving communities from the Gulf of Georgia to Queen Charlotte Sound

1909-10: St. Mark’s and Latimer, rival theological colleges, are established. In 1927, they merge as the Anglican Theological College, which, in 1971, will become one of the founding members of the Vancouver School of Theology.

1914: First Provincial Synod meets in Victoria. Frederick Du Vernet, Bishop of Caledonia, elected Metropolitan (Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon).

1915: Diocese of Kootenay established, separating this area from New Westminster.

1925: Diocese of Cariboo (now Territory of the People) established, further reducing the boundaries of New Westminster.

1929: Christ Church, Vancouver, declared Cathedral by Archbishop Adam de Pencier. Rector Robert J. Renison appointed Dean of New Westminster. Holy Trinity, New Westminster, allowed to retain “Cathedral” as part of its identity.

1968: First coadjutor bishop of the diocese, David Somerville, is elected. Becomes Diocesan Bishop later that year. (A coadjutor bishop succeeds the Diocesan bishop upon the Diocesan’s retirement.)

1976: The first ordination of women priests in the diocese—Virginia Briant and Elspeth Alley—is conducted on St. Andrew’s Day (Nov. 30) at Christ Church Cathedral by Archbishop Somerville, chairman of the Committee on Ministry which presented the resolution on women’s ordination at General Synod in 1973.

1980: Douglas Hambidge translated (a church word for transferred) from the Diocese of Caledonia to New Westminster. During his term Hambidge has to deal with diminishing finances.

1994: Michael Ingham elected bishop from 17 candidates.

1998: Synod votes by a narrow margin to ask the bishop to authorize the blessing (not marriage) of same sex unions. Bishop Ingham withholds consent, instead initiates a three year program of study of the issue.

2001: Synod again votes to ask the bishop to authorize the blessing, but not sufficiently to gain the bishop’s consent.

2002: Synod votes for a third time and the request for same sex blessing passes with a 63% majority. The bishop announces his consent. Delegates from nine parishes (of over 80) stage a walkout, and several parishes refuse to support the Diocese financially. The first same sex blessing is held the following year at St. Margaret Cedar Cottage parish in Vancouver.

2010: After several years of litigation, the BC Court of Appeal rules that four dissenting parishes that sued the Diocese to retain their properties must return their church buildings and other assets to the Diocese. Several other dissenting parishes earlier had vacated their properties.

2013: Melissa Skelton of the Diocese of Olympia (Seattle) elected bishop.

2017: Diocesan Synod changes financial structure of the Diocese to put more emphasis on local parish renewal and development.

Bishops of New Westminster

  • Acton Windeyer Sillitoe: 1879-1894
  • John Dart: 1895-1910
  • Adam de Pencier: 1910-1940 (Metropolitan 1925-1940)
  • Sir Francis Heathcote: 1940-1950
  • Godfrey Gower: 1951-1971 (Metropolitan 1969-1971)
  • David Somerville: 1968-1971 (as coadjutor), 1971-1980 (Metropolitan 1975-1980)
  • Douglas Hambidge: 1980-1993 (Metropolitan 1981-1993)
  • Michael Ingham: 1994-2013
  • Melissa Skelton: 2014-present (elected Metropolitan in 2018)