Bankruptcy like Good Friday, Primate tells council, as mounting lawsuits threaten financial viability

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The Anglican Church’s national executive council began four days of meetings here this morning attempting to balance hope for the church’s future with the stark possibility of looming bankruptcy for the national structure.

An internal study indicates that legal costs from residential schools lawsuits will exhaust the resources of the General Synod, the church’s national body, during 2001.

Those costs have already totaled about $1.5 million in 1999 and legal fees to March 31, 2000 reached $112,000.

Archbishop Michael Peers, the church’s Primate, placed the church’s current situation in dramatic biblical terms.

Responding to the idea that a General Synod bankruptcy would have little impact, because a new structure would carry on the work, Archbishop Peers said: “Let’s not pretend this is simply a shift from ‘system A’ to ‘system B’. It’s a stop.

“On Good Friday, Jesus stopped. His heart stopped beating. His blood stopped flowing. But the story didn’t stop. God’s purposes will not be thwarted.

“And there are those who say this is God’s judgment, that the church has lost its way. Maybe so; but the people being judged are from generations earlier. I was a member of the General Synod meeting in 1969, which changed the church’s relationship with Native people forever; virtually all of what we are facing happened before that time,” Archbishop Peers said.

“And so, if bankruptcy becomes inevitable, we really are called to be the body of Christ. Dead. Absolutely dead. And just as absolutely destined to rise.”

Archbishop Peers’s reflections came at the end of an hour-long presentation in which members of the Council heard reports on various aspects of the residential schools response.

Archdeacon Jim Boyles, the church’s General Secretary, reported:

  • claims continue to arise. There are about 1,600 plaintiffs now involving the Anglican Church, out of the 7,000 involving the Government of Canada.
  • About 100 of the Anglican-related cases involve an abuser who has been convicted in criminal court.
  • The Mowatt case (the first case arising from the sexual abuse committed by Derek Clarke at St. George’s School, Lytton) is under appeal but the appeal will likely not be heard before the fall, or possibly early in 2001.
  • Additional St. George’s cases are proceeding, involving other individuals abused by Clarke.
  • Some Saskatchewan cases will proceed in the fall with eight cases fast-tracked in a “litigation management” process; one of those involves the Anglican Church.
  • an ADR process in southern Saskatchewan is proceeding slowly. We don’t yet have a list of participants or an agreement with government on apportioning the costs of the process;

Doug Tindal, the Director of Information Resources, gave an overview of public opinion research. Canadians expect the church to do all it can to meet its obligations, but 80 percent say the church should not be forced into bankruptcy.

Archdeacon Boyles said the churches have been meeting with government figures to address an agreed goal of continuing the viability of the church organizations. A paper on the assets and structure of General Synod, prepared by an audit team from Ernst and Young, has been approved by the church’s finance committee and presented to government officials.

The information was presented during the first of several sessions on “Planning for the Future” to take place during the meeting, which continues through Sunday.

Links:

Residentials Schools — Legacy and Response


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