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The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (referred to in older documents as the Primate of All Canada) is elected by the General Synod of the Church from among a list of five bishops nominated by the House of Bishops. The role of diocesan (or assistant, suffragan or coadjutor) bishop is relinquished upon his or her election, as the Primate assumes the role of Chief Executive Officer of the National Church Office, which is located in Toronto. Additionally the Primate serves as the President of the General Synod, the Chair of the Council of General Synod and the chair of the House of Bishops. The Primate holds the title "Archbishop" and is styled "The Most Reverend (Name), Primate of Canada."
The Primate, while not holding the responsibility for a particular diocese, has a pastoral responsibility for the entire Anglican Church of Canada. This requires a great deal of travel throughout Canada and abroad. In addition to playing a significant administrative role, the Primate also has an important pastoral and educational role in the Church. Because the Primate does not have diocesan responsibilities, ordinations, appointment of clergy and confirmations are not a frequent part of primatial ministry. The Primate serves until age 70, or earlier resignation.
The Primate speaks in the name of the Anglican Church of Canada after consultation with, or in accordance with the policies of the General Synod or the Council of General Synod. As well, the Primate often represents the Canadian Church in international and ecumenical partnerships and dialogues, including the Lambeth Conference, the Primates' Meetings of the Anglican Communion and at the World Council of Churches gatherings.
The current Primate is Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who was elected at the 38th General Synod held in the Diocese of Rupert's Land in Winnipeg, Manitoba in June 2007. He was installed in office at the close of that Synod. He is the 13th Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
There have been thirteen primates in the history of the Canadian church:
- Robert Machray (1893 – 1904)
- William B. Bond (1904 – 1906)
- Arthur Sweatman (1907 – 1909)
- Samuel Pritchard Matheson (1909 – 1931)
- Clarendon Lamb Worrell (1931 – 1934)
- Derwyn Trevor Owen (1934 – 1947)
- George Frederick Kingston (1947 – 1950)
- Walter Barfoot (1950 – 1959)
- Howard Clark (1959 – 1971)
- Ted Scott (1971 – 1986)
- Michael Peers (1986 – 2004)
- Andrew Hutchison (2004 – 2007)
- Fred Hiltz (incumbent, installed 25 June 2007)
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