Citizens with the Saints

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Chapter 7

A NATIVE NEW BRUNSWICKER
THE MOST REVEREND
— H.L. NUTTER, M.A., M.S.LITT. D.D., LL.D. —


Sixth Bishop of Fredericton (1971-1989)
Metropolitan of Canada (1980 - 1989)

 

H.L. NutterIn Harold Lee Nutter, elected as coadjutor bishop on the first electoral ballot at a special synod held on June 2, 1971, the diocese chose, for the first time, a native son to serve as its bishop. Born and raised in Welsford in Queen's County, Harold Nutter had received his early education there and at Saint John, then gone on to study classics at Mount Allison University, and divinity at King's College, Halifax (studying concurrently for a Master's degree in Classics from Dalhousie University). He was ordered deacon by the Bishop of Nova Scotia on December 8, 1946, and priest by the Rt. Rev. W.H. Moorhead on December 14, 1947, serving successively in the parishes of Simonds and Upham, Woodstock and St. Mark (Stone Church, Saint John), before his appointment as dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Fredericton, in 1960. He and his wife, the former Edith Carew, daughter of a minister of the United Church of Canada, have two children, Patricia, now living in Ottawa, and Bruce, who followed his father's footsteps to ordination, and currently serves a parish in Australia.

Long a delegate to General Synod, and a participant in the 1963 Anglican Congress, the bishop elect brought to his new office an unparalleled experience of the church in the Diocese of Fredericton, and a broad knowledge of social conditions within the province, much of it garnered in the period immediately before his election when he served as cochairman of the Task Force on Social Development, appointed by the provincial government to investigate conditions in the province, and to recommend future action. Although elected as coadjutor, Nutter was consecrated as diocesan bishop on November 2, 1971, two days after the resignation of the Most Rev. A.H. O'Neil took effect. The very site of his consecration spoke volumes of the rapidly changing conditions which were to mark the years of his episcopate. Through the courtesy of the Roman Catholic authorities, St. Dunstan's Church in Fredericton, which has much larger seating capacity than the Cathedral, was made available for the occasion, and there Harold Nutter was ordained a bishop in the Church of God by the bishops of the province of Canada, led by the Acting Metropolitan, the Most Rev. W.W. Davis. At his installation as diocesan bishop that same night, a memorable sermon was preached by another native son of the diocese, the Rt. Rev. J. Stuart Wetmore, Suffragan Bishop of New York. The new bishop was advised to "get down off that throne"—advice which "+ Harold, Bishop of Fredericton" took to heart, for his term of office was to be marked by accessibility and openness, with an emphasis on the Church as God's "peculiar people".

The new bishop's concern for making the Church more effective in its mission manifested itself in what came to be called the "Mini-Charge", an address to Diocesan Executive on April 12, 1972, entitled "General Thoughts as a Prelude to Planning", which led to a diocesan-wide consultation, led by the Committees of Nine in every parish and deanery. The resulting voluminous report provides interesting insights into the thinking of the diocese at that time, and led to a number of initiatives.

Changes were made in the diocesan structure to enable the executive to become a more effective planning body. The appointment of the Ven. E. Vincent Martin as Assistant to the Bishop in Administration and Finance, and later as Secretary-Treasurer (Pro tem) of the diocese ushered in a period of financial stability, in which reorganization of the diocesan trusts greatly increased income from that source. The Rev. Canon D.W. Noseworthy (later to become dean) became half time Assistant to the Bishop in Planning and Programme Coordination. A renewed emphasis on mission led to the publication of the first Diocesan Mission Project Book in 1975, and the appointment of parish mission coordinators.

The ongoing concern with young people of the diocese resulted in the appointment of a youth coordinator in the person of Bruce McKenna, whose work made possible a number of effective programmes, including renewed interest in Camp Medley, Youth Synods, and "The Great Regathering", an annual youth week-end sponsored by Christ Church Parish, Fredericton, as well as providing support for youth ministry at the parish level. Diocesan appointments in later years included Mr. Fred Scott as treasurer and office manager for the diocese, and the Ven. F.H. Hazen as executive assistant to the bishop. A significant change occurred in 1985, when the Synod Office was moved from Saint John to its present Fredericton location.

The ferment in the world-wide Church over such issues as Christian unity, liturgical renewal, and the ordination of women to the priesthood were reflected in the life of the diocese. Harold Nutter had served on the central committee which produced the Plan of Union with the United Church of Canada. Like most of the Canadian Church, the Diocese of Fredericton supported the breaking off of these negotiations in 1974. Co-operation of the various churches at the local level was reflected in the formation of the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax, a cooperative venture in theological education in which the Anglican, United and Roman Catholic Churches were involved.

As Bishop of Fredericton, Nutter was closely involved in provincial and national affairs, both ecclesiastical and social. The Bishop of Fredericton is the only ecclesiastic having jurisdiction throughout the whole of New Brunswick and is, therefore, involved in most formal provincial events. In addition to having served as Co-Chair of the Task Force on Social Development, he served a term on the Advisory Council to the Canadian Minister of Multiculturalism; was vice-president of the Canadian Bible Society; headed the Atlantic Ecumenical Council for four years; was Co-Chair of Dialogue New Brunswick in 1989, which established a continuing programme of dialogue between the provincial linguistic communities; has been vice-chair of the Provincial Police Commission since 1988; and served for four years as chaplain to the Legislative Assembly.

A Liturgical Commission, appointed by Archbishop O'Neil, chaired first by the Rev. Canon B.H. Campion, and later by the Rev. L.N. Harding, produced an order for Holy Eucharist, generally known as "the Fredericton Rite"—one of a number of diocesan liturgies produced in the 1960's and 70's. This was introduced at a 1972 clergy conference, but did not find wide acceptance, and was soon replaced by the new rites produced by the national Church, which were to lead to the 1985 Book of Alternative Services. Throughout this period, Bishop Nutter's insistence that the Book of Common Prayer remain the standard, reflected in the guidelines (still in effect) which he issued for the use of the B.A.S., requiring that the Prayer Book be used for at least 50% of services in any parish, provided an important element of stability.

In 1973, the Diocesan Synod of Fredericton indicated its disapproval of the action of the General Synod in allowing the ordination of women to the priesthood. Although a later synod was to indicate its approval should the bishop choose to ordain women candidates, Archbishop Nutter did not so choose. He did, however, clear the way for such ordinations by his successor in accepting Patricia Brittain and Elizabeth Northcott as candidates for Holy Orders, and licensing a woman priest, the Rev. Brenda McKnight, ordained in another diocese, and employed in a hospital pastoral care department.

Archbishop Nutter's interest in the Church's relationship to the world and its problems often came to the fore in his thought-provoking charges to synod. His 1975 charge specifically addressed the issue of "the Church and Society", and diocesan initiatives in such areas as family life, chaplaincy to hospitals and senior citizens' homes reflected his concerns.

At the provincial and national levels, the archbishop was highly regarded. He began his service as Metropolitan of Canada in 1980, and twice travelled to South Africa, once as the national church's representative and, on the second occasion, to conduct a parish mission. In 1983, he was host to the meetings of General Synod held at the University of New Brunswick, when the national church celebrated the success of the Anglicans in Mission appeal, for which the Diocese of Fredericton had raised $2,180,690.00, well over its quota. As senior metropolitan, Archbishop Nutter served briefly as acting primate after Archbishop Scott's resignation in 1986. It was his intervention in the 1986 General Synod debate that retained the protection of the conscience clause concerning the ordination of women for all who had been ordained previous to that time.

Throughout his ministry, Harold Nutter has retained a keen interest in evangelism, mission and stewardship, and these interests found reflection in various clergy conferences and diocesan programmes during his episcopate. More significant, however, has been his active involvement in leading parish missions in many areas of the diocese and outside, a ministry which he has continued in his retirement. Now living in Douglas, a Fredericton suburb, Archbishop Nutter continues an active and useful ministry as Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Fredericton, and serves as Episcopal Visitor to the Prayer Book Society of Canada.