The 11th Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and one of its longest-serving leaders, Archbishop Michael Peers, died on July 27 in Toronto just four days short of his 89th birthday. His funeral was held at St. James Cathedral in Toronto
Archbishop Peers served as Primate from 1986 to 2004. Major events during his primacy included his official apology for the Church’s role in the residential school system, as well as the achievement of a full communion partnership between the Anglican Church of Canada and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
“I am grateful for leadership modelled by +Michael,” Archbishop Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said in a prepared statement on Aug. 1. “He led our Church with courage, humility and grace tempered with humour and a deep compassion. His legacy lives in the work we continue today in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, the dignity of every human being and our relationships as family with all Christians. May we honour that legacy through our work to live into these gospel commitments.”
National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper said that from an Indigenous perspective, Archbishop Peers “started the whole process of reconciliation” with his 1993 apology. Archbishop Harper said the late former Primate would be remembered as “prayerful, courageous and at the same time a man with great vision to see … the path we have to walk together for healing for all the Church.”
Archbishop Peers was born in Vancouver and raised in the Anglican Church, but left it as a teen. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1956 with an undergraduate degree in languages, then earned a degree in translation from the University of Heidelberg the following year.
A polyglot who spoke fluent English, French, German, Spanish and Russian, Archbishop Peers initially planned to pursue a career as a diplomat. But when a friend invited him back to church, he shifted career goals. Obtaining a licentiate in theology from Trinity College, he was ordained as a priest in the Diocese of Ottawa in 1960.
He went on to serve as a university chaplain in Ottawa from 1961 to 1966 and parish priest in Winnipeg from 1966 to 1974. He then began serving as dean of Qu’Appelle. In 1977 he was elected bishop of Qu’Appelle and in 1982 metropolitan of Rupert’s Land, before his election as Primate four years later.
Archbishop Peers is survived by wife Dorothy, three adult children and four grandchildren.