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Friday November 19, 2010

A conservative by nature, he showed liberal tendencies on some social issues

Special to The Globe and Mail

Reginald Hollis, the 9th Anglican Archbishop of Montreal, was an introspective pastor who acknowledged that the "Catholic side of the Anglican Church meant a great deal to him."

Hollis led the diocese through a period of decline following the 1976 election of the Parti Québécois government, when many of his parishioners quit the province. When he became bishop in 1975, he had about 50,000 parishioners; when he left 16 years later, he had half that number. He saw Christ Church Cathédral's financial future guaranteed with the construction of a shopping mall, Les Promenades de la Cathédral, underneath.

Hollis was a conservative who changed the rules to allow children in his diocese to receive communion at the age of 7. But he objected to the introduction of the Book of Alternative Service, which replaced the Book of Common Prayer in the 1980s.

His was also a dissenting voice on a church-appointed committee on human sexuality, which suggested that the Anglican Church should be a "welcoming and healing place" for practising homosexuals. "Where there is discrimination on unnecessary grounds [against gays and lesbians] the church should speak out," Hollis argued. "But there are real problems with promiscuous homosexual behaviour. One does not wish to condemn, but there are elements of the homosexual community which are immoral, that are not healthful. I think that the church teaching is clear: Sexuality belongs in heterosexual marriage."

Hollis was 78 when he died in Victoria on Nov. 9.

"He was a quiet man, a prayerful man, whose first love was preaching. When he was in the pulpit he was very impressive," said his successor, retired bishop Andrew S. Hutchison, who played a key role in negotiating the real estate deal. "Theologically speaking, I don't think he was at all out of step with the mainstream church at that time."

Reginald Hollis was born in Bedworth, England, July 18, 1932, the second of four children in a blue-collar family. He served in the Royal Air Force before he went on a scholarship to Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he studied theology. He arrived in Montreal as an exchange student in 1953, where he attended the Montreal Diocesan Theological College at McGill University before being ordained a priest in 1956.

He was a chaplain at McGill and also lectured at the Faculty of Divinity before being named assistant rector at St. Matthias in Westmount. He went on to his own parish, St. Barnabas Church in Montreal's West Island. Elected Lord Bishop of Montreal in 1975, he was made Archbishop of the ecclesiastical province of Canada in 1989.

"He was an evangelical Anglican, very close to the church in England. He was responsible for bringing in a number of priests from England, which was a little shaky thing to do at the time," recalled Michael Pitts, retired dean of the cathedral. "To his credit, he vowed that no Anglican church in the diocese would close, not on his watch."

In 1978, Hollis ordained Lettie James, a clinical psychologist, as the first female priest in the diocese and expelled protesters from the cathedral who objected to the idea of a woman being ordained.

"That was the first time he exercised real authority as a bishop. He ordained me, but then he kind of left me out in limbo," James said. "It was painful at first. He tried to take both sides on a number of issues to be accepted and liked."

Hollis resigned in 1990 to become international director of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer, a support group to encourage prayer, based in Orlando, Fla., where he also became assistant bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida. Following the removal of a benign brain tumour, he served for several years as rector of St. Paul's in New Smyrna Beach. He retired to Victoria in 1997, but continued to work part time at St. Phillip's in Oak Bay.

"He was a conservative, but he was more liberal on social issues than most people gave him credit for," said his wife, Marcia.

Hollis leaves his wife, a daughter, two sons and six grandchildren.

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