It is with deep sorrow that we announce the sudden death last week of Michael Bennett, former Chancellor of Algoma, and offer our condolences and assurance of our prayerful support to Michael’s wife, Celia Ross and their son Alasdair Bennett.

Michael was a long time member of St. Luke’s Cathedral where he enjoyed singing in the choir and contributed to its life in numerous ways.  A memorial service will be held at St. Luke’s when the present gathering restrictions have been lifted.

For many years, Michael served the diocese as a member of the Constitution and Canons Committee and as the diocesan Chancellor during Bishop Stephen Andrews’ term as diocesan Bishop (2010-2016). He continued in this role through 2017. In a note to Archbishop Anne, Bishop Andrews remembered Michael Bennett as a man of integrity who was passionate about justice, particularly for marginalized individuals.

“I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the untimely death of Michael Bennett. For most of my time as Bishop of the Diocese of Algoma I worked closely with Michael in his capacity as Chancellor of the Diocese. In that role, he acted as an interpreter of the laws of the Church and his advice kept me and the policies of the Diocese within the bounds of civil law. I remain grateful for his faithful discharge of these duties.

But by his own admission, Michael was not well-suited to these tasks. He had a slightly contrarian nature owing to the fact that he was less interested in the application of law than he was in the principles of law. And even more fundamentally, he had a passion for justice and fairness, and he was deeply sensitive to the plight of the underprivileged and disempowered. This actually made him an unusually effective Chancellor, as he was concerned not just with the Church’s compliance with the law, but with the Church’s integrity as an institution that honours and protects the dignity of every human being. I remember especially his support of initiatives for reconciliation between the Church and those who had been damaged by the Church-run Residential Schools. In Michael’s death we have not lost just an advisor, we have lost part of the Church’s conscience.

And we have lost a friend. Michael was a talented and entertaining individual. An avid reader, a chorister at St Luke’s Cathedral and lover of Gallic and Moorish culture, time spent with Michael always included a story or an insight that enriched my day. Fawna joins me in expressing our profoundest sympathy to Celia and Alisdair, and we shall pray for a measure of comfort and hope to all who mourn as we look to him who conquered death.”

Michael was highly regarded amongst the Chancellors of the Anglican Church of Canada – Garth O’Neill, Algoma’s Chancellor, remembered him in this way…

“I served as Registrar with Michael during his last couple of years as Chancellor to Bishop Andrews.   As it was my first formal experience with Diocesan matters, I relied heavily on Michael for his guidance and leadership.   He was always patient and generous with his time, even after he left the role, and his sharp wit helped to keep everything in perspective.   He will be sorely missed. “

And David Jones, the Chancellor of General Synod said this about him…

“The Chancellors across the Anglican Church of Canada are saddened to learn of the passing of Michael Bennett.  Michael was Chancellor of the Diocese of Algoma from 2010 to 2017, and we had the privilege and delight of knowing him at the national chancellors’ conference.  The work of a chancellor is most done privately as legal advisor to the bishop and diocese—one of the many voluntary contributions which Michael made.  We send our condolences to his family, and give thanks for their sharing his gifts for the life of the Church.”

Executive Archdeacon, Harry Huskins, wrote these words to describe Michael…

“Michael Bennett was a friend of both myself and my wife Susan.  His passing is both a shock and a matter of great sadness to both of us.  I knew Michael both inside and out of our Church.  As Chancellor, I worked closely with him and always respected and valued his knowledge and experience of the law, but even more his ability to think outside its rigidities.

I first knew Michael, not in the Church, but as a lawyer with a deep passion for social justice and a deep caring about people.  We shared an interest in constitutional and Indigenous law and their intersection in the everyday life of those often unfairly caught in it.  We could argue the opposing sides of a case or a principle, sometimes quite aggressively, but always with a smile for each other.  I will miss him very much.”

Archdeacon Deborah Kraft, Chair of the Constitution and Canons Committee, shared her thoughts about Michael with Archbishop Anne…

“I am very sad to hear of the sudden passing of Michael.  I worked with him on the Constitution and Canons.  He was a thoughtful and reflective man, who always spoke from his heart.”

Archbishop Anne remembers Michael as a man who served our community with great passion, always asking hard questions and challenging the status quo. She also remembers his pilgrim heart as he travelled on the road of life seeking the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. One of Michael’s desires as a pilgrim was to make the journey from Rome to Canterbury and to bring greetings to the Archbishop of Canterbury from the Diocese of Algoma. Michael never made that pilgrimage but we give thanks that his final journey was to the bosom of the One who called him by name in Baptism and promised him eternal life.

Holding onto the conviction that “Neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 8: 38-39) we give thanks for Michael’s life which he lived to the fullest, until the moment of his death, and we commend him to God’s safe keeping. May he rest in the peace of Christ and rise again with him in glory.

A local news article and complete obituary may be found here.