The Ven. Alan Perry, newly appointed General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, is perhaps best known for his insatiable interest in Anglican Church governance. He holds Masters degrees in Sacred Theology, Divinity and Canon Law, after all.
And over the past eight years as Executive Archdeacon of the Edmonton diocese, Perry also demonstrated tremendous care and concern for creation, for building ecumenical relationships, for justice and the common good and, above all, a deep and abiding love for God and the Anglican Church.
Not long after arriving in Edmonton from the Diocese of Montreal, where he and his wife Noel Yuen (social worker at the Misericordia Hospital) had previously made their home and ministered in several parishes (he was collated as Executive Archdeacon at All Saints’ Cathedral in February 2012), Perry began familiarising himself with the vast 126,000-square kilometer-diocese by locating the nearest rental car outlet and hitting the road. By the second or third year he was able to proclaim he had visited nearly every parish - small and big, rural and urban - in the diocese.
“Early on in my time in the Edmonton diocese I learned it was much cheaper to rent a car for travel on most diocesan business, than to drive my own car and claim mileage,” he says. “At a certain point we realised we weren't using our own car very much and, as we lived within walking distance of the Synod Office, it would sit in the garage for up to two weeks at a time.” So, Alan and Noel donated their 16-year-old car to the Edmonton diocese through the Donate a Car Canada program.
Helping parishes of the Edmonton diocese lower their gas and electricity consumption and reduce their carbon footprint by adopting energy efficiency practices has been a focus for Perry. Not only did he encourage parishes to make the switch to LED lighting but, when serving as Acting Dean, he climbed up and down a ladder hundreds of times to swap lightbulbs in All Saints’ Cathedral for LEDs. And he encouraged parishes, like St. Paul's in Edmonton, to apply for grants to install solar panels to generate carbon-free electricity.
“The national church has a role to play in encouraging a sustainable future, but a lot of the actual work, including energy efficiency and solar power, has to happen at parish and diocesan levels,” he says, adding that these concerns will carry over to his new position.
Learning about solar power, stewardship and fundraising (when he helped champion the Edmonton diocese’s 5-Year $5-million Reach campaign Reach campaign for ministry and mission) was one of the unexpected gains for Perry as executive archdeacon. “I've also learned about the many ways God works through people in their day to day lives as they live out their faith,” he says.
Following his nomination by Primate Archbishop Linda Nicholls and the Council of General Synod (CoGS) search committee, Perry was appointed to succeed the Ven. Michael Thompson as General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada on September 1, 2020.
With “a keen awareness” that he will also have much to learn in this new position, Perry says he is “ready to do a lot of listening.” He has been active in the General Synod since 1998 and will use his administrative gifts to oversee the work of General Synod and the daily operations of Church House.
“It's a happy intersection between my interests in governance and the requirements of the position. I've always loved the experience of gathering with people from across the country and around the Anglican Communion. I'm looking forward to having the chance to help make that happen for others,” he says.
He has participated in no fewer than eight General Synod meetings in Canada since 1998 (as an assessor, member of Synod and member of the Resolutions Committee), and has observed and studied nine different General Synods on six continents outside Canada. (A 10th General Synod trip had been planned and was postponed by the pandemic.) On those visits across the Anglican Communion, Perry says he encountered many “kind and welcoming people,” and “I learned there are many ways to conduct our business. We need to continually be asking ourselves how we can run our Synod more effectively at every level. As in so many areas of church life, we get locked into thinking that the way we have always done things is the only way, but sometimes there are areas in which we can improve.”
He has also been a member of the Council of General Synod and served on the General Synod Pension Committee since 2007. In the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada he served the Provincial Synod as a member, Clerical Secretary and as Prolocutor.
Looking ahead to the role of General Secretary, Perry says one of the many challenges of the church today is “in our current North American climate we're losing the capacity to listen to each other.” Listening circles established at the national level as part of the strategic planning and visioning process will be an important way for us to “listen to what the various groups are saying and, somewhere in there, hear the voice of God showing us the way forward,” he says.
Perry is grateful to have had the opportunity to live and do ministry in the Edmonton diocese and there is much he will miss.
“Alberta is a beautiful part of the world and I've been privileged to be able to see it. I'll miss the Arctic hares and magpies that live in my neighbourhood. I'll miss the glimpses of bison driving through Elk Island park. I'll miss the "dry cold" and the spectacular thunderstorms, and the vivid canola fields. But most of all I will miss the parishes and the people I have been privileged to visit and meet in my time here.”