It’s an unusual event by all definitions – and particularly unusual for the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
When Peter Klenner, pastor of All Saints Community Church, is ordained a bishop emissary of the Anglican Mission in Canada tonight (Friday), the principal consecrator will have travelled all the way from the Congo for the ceremony.
The Most Rev. Zacharie Masimango Katanda, Bishop Ordinary of Kindu and primate and archbishop of the Province de L’Eglise Anglicane du Congo, will preside over the ceremony with the Rt. Reverend Dr. Silas Ng, apostolic vicar of the Anglican Mission in Canada.
Also present at the ceremony, at White Rock Baptist Church – All Saints’ regular premises at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Crescent Beach are too small for such an event – will be a prestigious gathering of Anglican Mission dignitaries, including college of consultors rector the Most Rev. Emmanuel M. Kolini; consultor emeritus the Most Rev. Yong Ping Chung (also the retired Archbishop of Southeast Asia); consultor the Right Reverend Carl Eugene Buffington Jr. and the Rt. Rev. Gerald Lee Schnackenberg, apostolic prefect of the Anglican Mission International.
It’s also a proud family occasion, Klenner said – his wife Jenny will be there, and two of their three grown children, Sarah and Daniel, will participate in the service.
As Klenner explained, the Anglican Mission in Canada – as distinct from the Anglican Church of Canada – is an apostolic society based in Africa and rooted in worldwide Anglican traditions first taken there by missionaries in the 19th century.
And his new role, as bishop emissary to the Ordinary of Kindu, is very much that of a missionary to help spread this Anglican doctrine across Canada, he said.
In most people’s understanding, Klenner said, the notion of traditional church hierarchy is that “when you have enough churches, you have a bishop.”
But his job will be to act more as a pioneer for a growing movement, he added.
That was how the role was explained to him when the Anglican Mission first started sounding him out about the idea a year ago.
“When missionaries were sent out to Africa in the old days, the bishops were the ones who had the authority to plant churches, ordain people and make decisions,” he said. “That made sense to me, that was something I could do.”
But at the same time, the affable, disarmingly down-to-earth native of Perth, in Western Australia, notes that becoming a bishop is “one of about eight things in life I said I’d never do.”
He reversed his stance on all eight, he said, and realized it was the right decision in every case.
“We have our plans and God has his plans,” added Klenner, noting that his approach has been to cultivate a “gratitude attitude” in facing the trials and tribulations of life.
“I’ve learned never to say never.”
Even so, he said, “if you’d told me 25 years ago I was going to be a bishop I’d have lost my shirt and house on that one.”
As a young man, he acknowledges, he was “on the other side of the railway tracks – I was in all kinds of trouble.”
“I was an alcoholic by the age of 27. I’d tried all kinds of religions. And then one night I met Jesus – that’s the way I’ll put it.
“It changed me. I stopped drinking overnight. People who knew me – I worked at the Royal Perth Hospital in the late `70s – were asking me what happened, what was wrong. One of my occupational therapists thought I’d sold my car, because I got a fish sign from a Christian book store and stuck it on my muscle car.”
His conversion led him to become executive director of Youth for Christ in Western Australia, starting a series of events that eventually brought him to Canada in 1994, with wife and three young children in tow, to study at at UBC’s highly regarded Regent College.
“I was only going to stay in Canada two years and then I was going to go back to Australia,” he recalled.
Once again, he was shown a different path – of becoming a pastor and putting down roots in the Lower Mainland.
It’s not one he regrets, he said, and he values every opportunity to be able to encourage those seeking spiritual guidance to look toward a Christ-like lifestyle. And he noted that, in his work today, he is encountering increasing numbers of millennials searching out, and valuing, “integrity” in religion.
“A success for one of us is a success for us all,” he said.
“I’m a Christian first – Anglican is the adjective, but Christian is the name for what I am. I define myself by who I follow.”
What does he plan to do in his first act as a bishop?
“Probably more of the same,” he said. “But who knows? Everything might change.”
But Klenner has to admit to some amusement at perceptions of his new role, he said.
“People are asking “how do I address you now?’” Klenner chuckled.
“My answer is, my name’s Peter. Nothing has changed. But maybe, on that particular day when the Queen comes to have tea with me, you can call me Bishop Peter.”