Bishop Ashdown to lead Council of the North

Bishop David Ashdown of the diocese of Keewatin is the new chair of the Council of the North, the group of financially assisted dioceses including nine northern dioceses, the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior in B.C., and the archdeaconry of Labrador. Bishop Ashdown was elected at the council’s April meeting and will lead the next meeting in Edmonton, Sept. 20 to 22.

Bishop David Ashdown (r) with Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, diocese of the Arctic, at the fall 2005 Council of the North meeting. FIONA BROWNLEE, DIOCESE OF KEEWATIN
Bishop David Ashdown (r) with Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, diocese of the Arctic, at the fall 2005 Council of the North meeting. FIONA BROWNLEE, DIOCESE OF KEEWATIN

The Saskatchewan-born bishop has 29 years of ministry experience in the dioceses of Qu’AppelleAthabasca, and Keewatin. He holds a master of divinity from the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad and has served on the Council of the North since 1992.

“We’re all facing some pretty challenging times,” said Bishop Ashdown. The Council of the North supports Anglican ministry in remote communities where the cost of living is high and funds and staff are severely lacking. Since the 1990s, paid ministry positions, theological schools, and staff positions have been cut back in all dioceses. Most of the clergy are unpaid.

As chair of the Council of the North, Bishop Ashdown will lead and advocate for the council and oversee its promotions. The council, composed of bishops and clergy from assisted dioceses, meets twice yearly to distribute grants from General Synod and discuss the challenges of northern ministry.

In June, the council’s work was affirmed by General Synod, the national meeting held in Winnipeg. Delegates unanimously resolved to fix the council’s grants at the current level for the next five years and to allow the council to start its own fundraising activities to supplement income.

Bishop Ashdown called this an “overwhelming endorsement” and said he is grateful to General Synod for its support. He said the council will develop current fundraising relationships with church bodies including the Anglican Appeal.

“We don’t want the Council of the North riding off on its own, scooping up cash,” said Bishop Ashdown. “It’s important that we have the authority to raise money, but with this authority comes responsibility.”

One responsibility the council feels is to move towards self-sufficiency. “Everyone wants to move towards this as much as possible,” said Bishop Ashdown. However, he said that in dioceses such as the Arctic, where diocesan meetings cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, this goal “is probably not realistic.”

Despite these challenges, Bishop Ashdown said that every diocese is working to improve their internal fundraising. General Synod resolved to provide the council with stewardship and congregational development resources to help with this goal.

Bishop Ashdown’s diocese of Keewatin has moved towards self-sufficiency by relying on non-stipendiary clergy, using conference calls or e-mail instead of face-to-face meetings, and having fewer meetings a year. But a smaller budget–$250,000 less than 15 years ago–means that their ministry is limited in many ways.

The Council of the North’s motto is “a ministry of the whole church,” and its vision is of mutual sharing and mutual accountability. Bishop Ashdown said that the council has much to share with other Canadians, and that the Canadian church should also be held accountable to the council for its use of resources.

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