Brief History of the Diocese

1820 The Anglican presence in Western Canada was established when the Rev. John West arrived in York Factory.  From there he came to Fort Douglas (now in present-day Winnipeg), part of the Red River Settlement, and held the first Church of England service in the colony. West was sent to Canada by the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.). West established the Red River Academy and, true to C.M.S. policy, encouraged the indigenous people to raise up their own missionaries and teachers. Henry Budd, James Hope, Charles Pratt, and James Settee were protégés of West, educated at the Red River Academy in the Red River Settlement, north east of present day Winnipeg.

1823 The Rev. John West returned to England and the Rev. David Jones came to Red River to assume his duties. Jones built the first St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Middlechurch, east of St. Andrew’s. The parish is still extant. Jones was chaplain to the Hudson’s Bay fur traders at Fort Garry and ministered to the handful of Anglicans in the region, as well as the Selkirk settlers (the majority of whom were Presbyterian!)

1825 Archdeacon William Cockran (known by the sobriquet Rainbow of the North) was a forceful presence in the Red River Settlement, establishing parishes throughout the region. He was responsible for building St. Andrew on the Red (the oldest extant stone church in Western Canada and a national historical site), St. Mary la Prairie in Portage la Prairie, St. Peter, Dynevor, St. Anne, Poplar Point and St. Margaret, High Bluff. All, with the exception of St. Margaret, are active parishes today. Cockran is buried near the door of his first church, St. Andrew on the Red in St. Andrew’s.

1844 Bishop George Mountain of Montreal visited the Red River Settlement and promoted the establishment of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land.

1849 The Rt. Rev. David Anderson was sent by the Church of England to be the first Bishop of Rupert’s Land.  At that time, the Diocese covered the area that is now the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land, as well as parts of what is now the Diocese of Yukon and the Dioceses of Moosonee and Ontario. Bishop Anderson had the first cathedral built on the site selected by Lord Selkirk in 1817 for a church (which was sadly in need of repair by Bishop Anderson’s time) and cemetery. The Red River Academy had been moved onto that site.  The present cathedral is the third church on this site. The cathedral was built in 1926 during the episcopacy of Archbishop Matheson as a memorial to his predecessor Archbishop Machray.

1866 Bishop Robert Machray called a conference of clergy and laity which met in Winnipeg in May, 1866. The purpose of the conference was twofold: to establish a college to teach “Theology, Classics and Mathematics…to be called St. John’s College.”; and to establish a committee to “inquire into and report upon the Canadian constitutions for organizing parishes and vestries, and for calling a Synod.”

1866 Bishop Machray opened St. John’s College, which evolved from the Red River Academy, with the Rev. John McCallum as Principal. The College is now part of the University of Manitoba and home of the Institute for Anglican Ministry. Until the establishment of the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad as the Provincial Theological College, St. John’s prepared students for ordination to the priesthood. St. John’s Ravenscourt, a private school in Fort Garry, also traces its roots back to the Red River Academy of John West.

1867 A second conference was held to consider again the formation of a Synod and also to receive the Constitution of St. John’s College.

1869 The first Synod of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land met on February 24. At this first Synod, the Constitution of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land was unanimously adopted. The present Diocese numbers its Synods from that first Synod in 1869, with the Synod to be held on Novemer 6-8, 2008 being the 108th.

1902 and 1913 The Dioceses of Keewatin and Brandon, respectively, were formed.  Brandon elected its first Bishop in 1924.

1923 Anglican Island in Lake of the Woods was established as the Anglican Summer Camp. In the 1950s, the Island also became home to Camp Wapatek, a camp for children between the ages of seven and fifteen.

1930s “The Great Defalcation” The person who was treasurer of both the Diocese and St. John’s College adopted a common financial practice and played the margins on the stock market as a means of enriching both institutions. Unfortunately, the 1929 crash wiped out both portfolios and even though there was no criminal intent, the treasurer was jailed.

1966 Archbishop Clark called a Commission on Renewal, looking into every aspect of the life of the Church in Rupert’s Land, staffed by the Rev. Alan Barker, which took place over a two-year period.

1969 The Rt. Rev. Barry Valentine was the first Bishop elected by the Synod of Rupert’s Land.

1978 Women were ordained to the priesthood during the episcopacy of the Rt. Rev. Barry Valentine.

1987-1990 A five-year Tri-Diocesan Stewardship program was undertaken, headed by the Rev. Guy Butler. The Dioceses of Brandon, Keewatin and Rupert’s Land shared the expense of this ministry.

1995 A Tri-Diocesan effort was made to consider future Diocesan boundary changes and develop a new model of ministry that would honour and facilitate the Native Covenant (a new self determining Anglican Indigenous Church in Canada) Please note the Pastoral Jurisdiction Proposal in the Appendix.

1999 The Diocese faced lawsuits

Late 1990s Two priests of the diocese plead guilty to multiple charges of criminal sexual assault perpetrated against several young men over a 25-year period. The priests were convicted and served time. The victims, their families and friends and many Anglicans were profoundly affected by this violence. Pastoral comfort and a formal apology were offered by the Bishop of Rupert’s Land.

1999 Retirement of Bishop Patrick Lee. Consecration of Donald Phillips as Bishop in May of 2000, the same year Provincial Synod was hosted in Winnipeg.

2000-2002 A program of education on sexual misconduct called Building Healthy Communities was instituted. The Anglican Island Summer camp known as Wapatek closed in 2000,  Diocesan Family Camp closed in 2001 and Anglican Island, which had operated for over 75 years, was sold in February of 2002. Civil litigation following on the convictions of two priests for sexual assault resulted in the diocese’s resources being significantly diminished.

Mid-2000s Many parishes struggled with decreased membership and finances. Some instituted part-time ministries, others elected to close. Two rural churches, St. Luke, Emerson, and St. Mary, Ridgeville, along with two city parishes, Christ Church, and St. Alban, were disestablished, their buildings sold and their assets redistributed. During the same period several parishes celebrated anniversaries of 100 or 125 years of ministry and a new “post-modern” mission was established in Winnipeg known as saint benedict’s table.

Total Ministry began to be developed — the building of parish leadership teams based on the gifts for ministry of the congregation (go to Total Ministry). Concurrently, the diaconate was established as a permanent and separate order. In the fall of 2007 three deacons were ordained and there are now several deacons serving in the diocese (go to Diaconate).

Late 2000s Two further missions were established in response to the influx of Sudanese Anglicans who settled in the City of Winnipeg — Emmanuel Mission (worshipping in St. Matthew’s Church) and St. Andrew’s Mission (worshipping in All Saints Church).

The Way Forward emerged in 2006 as a diocesan plan of action for the next three-to-five years. Synod 2002 had called for a plan which was submitted to Synod 2004 and approved in 2006. The Diocese continues to focus its mission and ministry within the contexts of the five directions set forth in The Way Forward.

In 2006 an agreement was formed between the Diocese and a newly established not-for-profit corporation, Rupert’s Land Wechetowin Inc. for a 3 year term Aboriginal Mission Developer.  (go to Aboriginal Ministries). A part-time Youth Ministry Developer’s position was created in 2007 (go to Youth Ministry), however, it 2009, on the recommendation of the Youth Ministry Developer, it became a volunteer position.

In 2007, the Diocese of Rupert’s Land hosted the triennial meeting of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada

2008-2014 Parishes undertook Vitality & Viability assessments and as a result three north east Winnipeg Parishes have amalgamated to form one new parish – St. Francis, Winnipeg.  St. Thomas, Lockport amalgamated with St. Andrew, St. Andrews, and several smaller rural congregations elected to close and be disestablished.  (St. George, Woodlands, St. Peter, Balmoral, and St. Luke, Balsam Bay).  Several parishes in the City of Winnipeg continue in conversation with neighbouring parishes with a view to being better steward of resources.  The Assiniboine Christian Centre (Roman Catholic John XXIII and St. Chad) dissolved their partnership of forty plus years with St. Chad relocating.  St. Matthew, Wpg underwent extensive renovations, becoming part of a not for profit Housing Corporation with a smaller worship space and a more community oriented focus. saint benedict’s table mission celebrated 10 years as a mission in the diocese.

The General Synod and the Provincial Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land approved boundary changes which authorized the south region of the Diocese of Keewatin to join with the Diocese of Rupert’s Land creating a larger Diocese of Rupert’s Land, effective August 1, 2014.  The remaining area of the Keewatin Diocese with the exception of two northern Manitoba parishes have formed the new Spiritual Indigenous Ministry of Mishamikoweesh.  Boundary changes

Bishops of Rupert’s Land


The Rt. Rev. David Anderson, D.D., M.A., B.A 1849-1864
The Most Rev. Robert Machray, D.D., D.C.L., LL.D., M.A., B.A.
(Primate of All Canada 1893-1904)
The Most Rev. Samuel Pritchard Matheson, D.D., D.C.L., B.D.
(Primate of All Canada 1909-1930)
The Most Rev. Isaac O. Stringer, D.D., B.A. 1931-1934
The Most Rev. Malcolm Taylor McAdam Harding, D.D. 1934-1942
The Most Rev. Louis Ralph Sherman, D.D., LL.D., L.S.T., B.Litt., M.A., B.A. 1943-1953
The Most Rev. Walter Foster Barfoot, D.D., S.T.D., D.C.L., LL.D., M.A., B.A.
(Primate of All Canada 1951-1958)
The Most Rev. Howard Hewlett Clark, D.D., D.C.L., B.A.
(Primate of All Canada 1959-1969)
The Rev. John Ogle Anderson, D.D., M.C., B.D., B.A. (Coadjutor) 1967-1969
The Rt. Rev. Barry Valentine., D.D., M.A., B.A 1970-1982
The Most Rev. Walter Heath Jones, D.D., S.T.D., S.T.M., B.A. 1982-1993
The Rt. Rev. Patrick Vaughan Lee, D.D., L.Th., B.A. 1994-1999
The Rt. Rev. Donald David Phillips, D.D., M.Div., M.Sc., B.Sc. 2000-2018
The Rt. Rev. Geoffrey John Joseph Woodcroft, B.A., M.Div. 2018-present