In becoming the Anglican Church of Canada’s first Black Bishop, Barbadian-born Peter Fenty has made it clear he intends to use his historic position to advocate for the marginalized and voiceless and contribute to any community collective to stem youth violence.
Fenty was elected suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Toronto on the seventh ballot.
“Given the recent history in the city of violence in the Black community, I would hope that I would be able to offer to whatever collective wisdom or work that has been done to give some hope to young people in our society,” said Fenty. “I believe that the violence is a symptom of something that’s greater, including the lack of jobs and opportunities for leadership. I feel many of our young people feel a sense of hopelessness and unfortunately rather than seeking an alternative to use their energies for good, it’s been used in a very negative and destructive way.”
This was the sixth time in 10 years that Fenty ran for the Bishop position. He said he was extremely reluctant to put his hat in the ring.
“I felt that maybe God wanted something else for me to do in the life of the church and I was always willing to serve wherever the church wanted me to serve,” he said. “On this occasion, a number of my clergy friends encouraged me to give it some serious prayerful consideration and in mid-January I made the decision to enter.”
The product of a strong Christian family, Fenty attended St. Leonard’s Secondary Boys School where he was the head boy, and was a Sunday School teacher prior to entering Codrington College to pursue theology studies.
Ordained a priest in Barbados in 1975, Fenty was the rector of three parishes before accepting an invitation in 1992 to come to Canada to be the rector of St. Lawrence Church in the Diocese of Montreal. He was appointed the incumbent of St. Joseph of Nazareth in Brampton in the Diocese of Toronto in 1997.
Over the last nine years, Fenty has been the archdeacon of York and the executive officer to the Bishop of Toronto. As the executive officer, he has worked closely with the College of Bishops that provides episcopal oversight of the diocese. He oversees the diocese’s Fresh Start and Momentum programs and is the co-chair of the diocese’s postulancy committee. In addition, he has served the church at the national level as a member and advisor to the multicultural ethics committee and co-chair of the Partners in Mission and eco-justice committees.
Canon Stephen Fields welcomed Fenty’s appointment.
“He’s a man of substance who brings many years of experience to the position,” said Fields, who is the pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Thornhill. “This appointment is important at this time as young people that look like him will now know that they can aspire to be in his position. It gives them hope.”
Bishop-elect Fenty will be consecrated at St. James Cathedral on June 22.