Hon. Assoc. Priest, All Saints Episcopal Church, Belmont, Diocese of Massachusetts, ECUSA and on leave with permission to officiate, Diocese of New Westminster (Ph.D., M.Div., M.A., M.C.S., Dipl. C.S., B.A.)
Curriculum Vitae: John Oakes.pdf
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As we engage in this mutual process of discernment and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in choosing a new bishop, our ordination liturgies draw on catholic and apostolic tradition to specify the most significant responsibilities of the episcopate. Among them, I see servant leadership in ministries of pastoral care, worship, prayer, evangelism, outreach, teaching and reconciliation as especially important priorities for our diocese.
In a situation where there are such needs to reach out in love, to improve relationships and to equip and empower clergy and laity to maximize their many gifts and opportunities, the bishop’s role as a “chief priest and pastor” is essential. Life-giving means of filling it will include focusing on local pastoral care, even while sharing in the wider governance of the church. They will involve the creative and sensitive exercise of privileges conferred through ordination to lead in administering the sacraments, in providing for their administration, in ordaining new clergy and in confirming the faithful.
In an increasingly secular society, where the validity and relevance of Christianity are so widely discounted, and where we have suffered more than a 45% decline in average Sunday attendance since 2001, episcopal leadership is vital in sharing the good news of Christ in evangelism and practical outreach. It will be crucial for our new bishop to value parishes’ God-given potential for growth and to defend and promote the gospel with integrity by respecting the call at consecration to live a life that may serve as “a wholesome example” to others.
In a culture where so many are spiritually searching and in a diocese where we long for spiritual renewal, the episcopal ministry of teaching, interpreting and guarding the faith of the church is central. But our new bishop will only be able to be a “faithful steward” of God’s “holy word and sacraments” by honouring the commitment at ordination to practise spiritual disciplines, especially of prayer and Bible study, and by thus nurturing a Christ-centred vision of ministry and mission, especially to the most needy.
In a diverse, but divided local Anglican community and in a global Anglican Communion that is both threatened and sundered by schism, the episcopal ministry of serving as a focus, symbol and guardian of church unity is more important than ever. Yet no-one can truly answer that calling without keeping promises made at consecration to uphold church discipline and to submit personally under God, as a servant leader, to the oversight and guidance of more senior bishops and to relationships of mutual accountability with the whole people of God.1
My understanding of divine calling to ministry is that one’s inner sense of call is subject to the validation of the wider church, which is ultimately to be decided, in this case, by the Electoral Synod. I offer myself as a candidate because I have felt a strong sense of personal vocation to do so, because a significant number of friends and colleagues have asked me to, and because I believe that with God’s help, my gifts and experience may properly equip me to serve as the next Bishop of New Westminster.
Sixteen years of ordained ministry in a variety of parishes and almost as long in positions of diocesan leadership, most recently as Regional Dean of Granville-Point Grey, have given me the necessary experience and understanding to provide meaningful pastoral care to clergy and laity of various backgrounds and to affirm and encourage people in the rich diversity of their gifts and talents. Offering ministry at 15 different local churches this year has deepened my appreciation for the inclusive ethos of Anglicanism, both theologically and liturgically, and for the communal strength and potential of many of our parishes.
I enjoy good relationships throughout the diocese and am known as a pastor who takes the time and trouble to minister to “all sorts and conditions” of people. My leadership style continues to focus on consensus-building, with a readiness to “lead from the front.” My ministry is strongly grounded in a personal and communal devotional life that is Christ-centred and focused on Word and Sacrament. Both in the church, where one of my major responsibilities at Holy Trinity, Vancouver, was oversight of a 30,000 square foot building with three longer-term tenants and multiple user groups, and in the publishing industry, as manager of editorial teams of up to 25 people, I have a proven track record in management and administration.2
I am passionate about mission and evangelism and have worked hard at parish, deanery and diocesan levels, especially in my many years as Chair of the Evangelism Unit and in different youth ministries, to deploy and communicate engaging and culturally sensitive ways of reaching out with the good news of the gospel to people of all ages and backgrounds. Part of that outreach has entailed active engagement in social justice issues in a variety of settings and a long-standing concern to further healing and reconciliation in relationships with members of the aboriginal community.
Preaching and teaching have always been major priorities. My academic career has recently been extended by nearly two years at two of the most progressive seminaries in North America and it leaves me well equipped to address contemporary theological issues. Offering graduate-level courses in Anglican History and Spirituality has led to a deep grounding in those disciplines. Having ministered in inter-denominational settings and participated in the multi-faith community of Harvard Divinity School, I value ecumenical cooperation and interfaith dialogue and see many opportunities for working with other religious leaders. My gifts as a communicator have been widely recognized, as has my pursuit of the creative use of modern media.
I am committed to honouring past Synod decisions and keen to work with others in pursuing future policies that respect our differences of opinion and serve to unite the diocesan community. Reconciliation and conflict resolution have been key themes in my ministry. Those goals have been especially prominent in my last incumbency, which involved oversight of discernment processes that led to a large majority in that evangelical parish committing to stay together within the national church, and in a wider diocesan context, working with people of differing perspectives to find a common way forward on issues like our response to the Windsor Report of 2004. My experience of national church leadership and dialogue at General Synod and elsewhere has often involved taking a stand for church unity, sometimes at significant personal cost.
Despite such gifts and qualifications, when I consider the general responsibilities of episcopal ministry alongside the specific requirements in the Diocesan Profile, I am deeply conscious of only being able to meet them with the help of the Holy Spirit and with the support and encouragement of others. It is in that spirit that I now offer to serve as bishop, as we continue in mutual discernment.
Thank you for your participation in this vital process. I am available to answer any and every question that Synod members may have about my candidacy by phone, by email and in person. In the meantime, I join with you all in heartfelt prayer for God’s guidance and direction at this crucial moment in the life of our beloved diocese.
Yours in Christ,
Reverend Dr. John Oakes
- The Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1985), 632-41, esp. 637, 639, 636; The Book of Common Prayer (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1962), 657-67. Cf., e.g., 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9.
- The Book of Common Prayer, 14.