August 12, 1787, was a very special day for the Anglican Church in Canada. On that date, a priest named Charles Inglis was consecrated bishop of Nova Scotia, with jurisdiction over the Church of England in Canadian settlements as far west as the Niagara peninsula. In commemorating this event the Church marks the official beginning of the Anglican Church of Canada, evolving from a frontier mission to a more established structure.
To ensure that the ministry and legacy of the Church’s first Bishop are commemorated and celebrated, August 12 is marked in The Anglican edition of the Canadian Church Calendar and the Church’s book For All the Saints, Prayers and Readings for Saints’ Days.
The Consecration of Charles Inglis 12 August First Anglican Bishop in Canada, 1787 — Commemoration
…until his death in 1816, (Bishop Inglis) … proved to be an effective leader and administrator, sensitive to the unique conditions of the Church of England in Canada. We honour him for his patience in building our Church and for his pastoral wisdom in sustaining it through its earliest years.
Eternal God, who laid your hand upon Charles Inglis and made him the first bishop of your Anglican flock in Canada, grant to each and all of us the insight of faith, the eagerness of hope, and the skill of love, that we may continue to build upon the one foundation of life, which is Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. ~ Amen
For All the Saints, Prayers and Readings for Saints’ Days, pages 240 & 241
Conspicuously absent in the commemoration of Inglis’ consecration and ministry, is his planting of the seeds of systemic racism in the Anglican Church in Canada, which have taken root over the years. There is no mention of Inglis’ racist beliefs and his contribution to the division of the Church along racial lines.
For example, Joseph Leonard was a Black leader in Brindley Town, Nova Scotia serving as the Anglican lay preacher and schoolteacher. He spearheaded land petitions and served as the spokesman to the White community. Leonard had been authorized to read from the Bible and lead prayers but was not offered the opportunity to be trained for ordination in spite of his education and influence in the community. Bishop Charles Inglis, who had supported the training of laypersons for ministry, confronted Leonard, who expressed his wish to be ordained as an Anglican minister. Inglis rejected him on the spot. The Bishop’s actions disenfranchised Joseph Leonard, a committed Christian, a tireless worker who so happened to be Black. Leonard eventually left the Anglican Church. Source: blackloyalist.com
Nevertheless, the pioneering work and ministry of Black Anglicans in Nova Scotia continued and is not recognized as a significant contribution to the establishment of Anglican congregations. These persons include Stephen Blucke, Thomas Brownspriggs, Isiah Limerick, and Joseph Leonard. They kept the faith in spite of the racial division in the Church, perpetuated by white leaders such as Charles Inglis.
The first Black Anglican Church in Nova Scotia is St. Paul’s in Birchtown. The church was built by the Black Loyalists of Birchtown, with construction beginning in 1888 and completion not coming about until 1905. The church was officially opened on St. Paul’s Day, January 25th, 1906, with a congregation of about 100 Christians present. Though the community consisted of Anglicans, Methodists, and Baptists, when it opened, it was as an Anglican Church. It is significant that St. Paul’s Church opened its doors to all denominations, even though it was an Anglican Church. St. Paul’s provided an inclusive space for Christian worship.
Without denying his work in establishing our beloved Anglican Church in Canada, Bishop Inglis’ legacy of separation and disenfranchisement of non-white persons in the Anglican Church has persisted in various ways to this day. The practice of creating ethnic enclave congregations may be regarded as a continuation of the systemic racist practice of the Canadian Anglican Church dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries when racist ideologies led to the creation of special congregations of Black Anglicans. The legacy of racial divisions is a source of pain, discomfort, and anger among many Anglicans of varying ethnic backgrounds.
We acknowledge that God is calling us to greater diversity of membership, wider participation in ministry and leadership, better stewardship in God’s creation and a stronger resolve in challenging attitudes and structures that cause injustice.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to respond to this call in love and service and so more fully live the life of Christ.Extracts from The Anglican Church in Canada’s Mission Statement
One way to demonstrate the Church’s commitment to its mission statement, is to celebrate the contribution of various persons whose work and witness have contributed to the establishment and evolution of the Anglican Church in Canada. In acknowledging Inglis’ consecration as the first Bishop of the Anglican Church on August 12, equal attention and respect must now be paid to the many unsung men and women of faith who, under unjust conditions, have paved the way over more than two hundred years for the Church to enshrine ‘diversity,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘the life of Christ’ in its mission in the 21st century.
Christ in you, the hope of glory. That’s why glory matters!