The Bishop of New Westminster (Vancouver), Michael Ingham, announced his retirement last week. At his installation he promised his flock ten years of service but gave twenty.
British Columbia has a reputation for electing Anglican bishops who push the envelope — Ingham is just the last in a procession that has marched through BC history from its beginnings in 1860 to today. In fighting for equality rights, many became mirrors of, or change agents for, society’s attitudes. Two risked their careers because of their public positions on social justice, one was at the centre of the only Anglican schism in Canadian history, and one was voted the sixth most important person of the twentieth century whose world view transformed society. All experienced praise and significant abuse for their reforms, and gained some fame in the secular world.
But it was Ingham who gained the most celebrity and lost the biggest prize for his position on full equality of gays and lesbians in the Church. The Bishop of New Westminster was repeatedly front page news from 1998 to 2002 when his diocese became the first in the world to approve blessing of same-sex unions.
Julie H. Ferguson’s book, Sing a New Song: Portraits of Canada’s Crusading Bishops, chronicles Ingham’s story and those of three other groundbreaking bishops who changed the world — George Hills, David Somerville, and Douglas Hambidge — while delving with compelling insight into their personal and spiritual lives.
Hills fought for Black equality when Victoria was a muddy village; Somerville ordained women when most of the world Church was strongly opposed; and Hambidge supported the Nisga’a First Nation’s fight for self-government and increased the number of indigenous clergy by developing a world-renowned training program.
These biographies are inspiring to read, whether you’re Christian or not, whether a churchgoer or not. Sing a New Song’s four bishops were all leaders of unusual courage and integrity in world filled with change and confusion.
Blog post written by Julie H. Ferguson who is the author of Sing a New Song: Portraits of Canada’s Crusading Bishops, James Douglas: Father of British Columbia, and many other books. She is a sought-after professional speaker and instructs at a community college. She currently lives in Port Moody, British Columbia.
The Markerting Coordinator at Dundurn, lover of books, tea and dancing in the rain.