“Financially, we’re toast” — but faith shines through as diocese confronts future

QUESNEL, Saturday, October 14, 2000

The Anglican Diocese of Cariboo, meeting in what may be its final synod as a diocese, this morning heard its bishop trying to chart a narrow course between unshakable faith and cold hard reality.

The reality was provided last night by the diocesan chancellor, Bud Smith, who told the synod: “The diocese of Cariboo is broke. Spiritually we may very well be yeast, but financially we are toast.” The diocese has seen its assets drained to pay about $350,000 in legal fees over the past three years.

The unshakable faith came in messages that parishes had been asked to prepare ahead of time: “In light of the uncertain future we face as a diocese, what message does your parish wish to convey to this synod?”

As speaker after speaker rose to deliver their parish messages, a profound testimony came into being. Yes, there was some anger, mostly directed at the Government of Canada, which many say is “shirking its responsibility and making a bad situation worse.” The Department of Justice has launched 12 of the 14 lawsuits facing the diocese.

But mostly, the comments were statements of faith and hope.

The people of St. Michael and All Angels, in Prince George, said: “Hearing the stories of our First Nations sisters and brothers, coming face to face with the dark events of thirty years ago in Lytton” has called us “to touch the wounds of Christ. In doing so, we are asked to enter into a deep and empathic understanding of that time, and called to engage with the meaning of its legacy in the present.”

The parish of St. John the Divine, in Quesnel, said: “Our faith is grounded in resurrection; our expectation is always of new life. We are called to be agents of transformation, to face the issues confronting us. Only rarely do we have the opportunity to proclaim in such a public way that we are committed to the life of the living Christ.”

The people of the North Thompson Valley said: “Faith is the most precious asset we have, and something we cannot lose unless we ourselves allow it to be lost. We, the people, are the church. Our buildings are not. We will continue to be the church, no matter whatbut over it we’re going to go.”

Mr. Smith said the diocese has been guided by three things: “First, aconcern for the victims. We have never argued the fact of abuse. We have accepted the position taken by those who claimed abuse, because our own research shows that abuse did take place.”

A second concern is for the integrity of parishes in which people gather to worship, he said, and a third is for the communities they serve. “The parishes are an integral part of their communities; in many cases, they are the only places where communities can gather.”

Mr. Smith quoted Jane Stewart, the former minister of Indian Affairs, at a February meeting in which she said “the churches have got to feel pain.”

“The attitude which underpins that statement has permeated the thinking of officials in the Department of Justice. When a minister says something like that, it becomes highly unlikely that officials will do anything other than that which is painful,” said Mr. Smith, who is a former attorney general of British Columbia.

Later, he said it is encouraging that the government has entered into a “constructive dialogue” with the church, and that the Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Herb Gray, is heading up that dialogue. “That represents a positive change from the attitude expressed by Jane Stewart, because Mr. Gray has made his career on building consensus.”

However, he said, the talks probably come too late for the Diocese of Cariboo. “The fact is, we are the weakest link in the chain, with the fewest resources. The pain Jane Steward asked us to suffer is real. Our continuing to suffer it is a choice. Are we going to continue to suffer, or are we going to try to put that pain aside and move ahead with being the church?”

This morning, Bishop James Cruickshank gave his “charge” to the synod, an address which he said is traditionally intended to celebrate past achievements and provide a vision of the future – and, remarkably, he proceeded to do both.

He noted that over the past nine years, average giving in the diocese has doubled; and parishes have steadily increased the proportion of their income that they contribute to ministry beyond their boundaries. Nine years ago the diocese received ministry support grants from the national church which were substantially greater than the amount it contributed. Members of the synod applauded when they heard that this year, for the first time, they have contributed a greater amount than they received.

For the future, Bishop Cruickshank said the diocese must focus and concentrate on Indigenous ministry, “exploring together what we really mean by healing and reconciliation.”

“I pray the day will come when the litigation will be behind us, we will be able to reflect with fresh gospel eyes in a spirit of forgiveness and move from litigation to liberation.”

Bishop Cruickshank said the diocese must ensure funding to support a strong and effective Indigenous Council, and must support its healing initiatives. ?We need more healing circles and we need to participate in the healing gatherings. And we must always ask what are the needs of the survivors of abuse at St. George’s, and we must ask them how we can best respond.

“We must also ask what role this diocese can play in confronting the racist backlash which we know is present.”

“We must continually deepen our faith, and the best way to do that is bible study. If you currently have a bible study group, start another. If you have two, start a third. Let the bible speak to us so that we can increase our discipleship.”

“I believe God has chosen this funny old church, this so-called ‘establishment church’ this church that offers prayers at city council meetings and war memorials, God has chosen us and decided to do some pruning. And I believe we will grow back more compassionately that we could ever have imagined possible, because we will know what it’s like to be powerless,” Bishop Cruickshank said.

“We don’t know what the future holds, but we know God will be with us, and we will continue to be the people of God no matter what.”

The meeting continues. This afternoon it will begin consideration of resolutions.

For further information contact:
Rt. Rev. Jim Cruickshank, Bishop of Cariboo

Most Rev. David Crawley,
Archbishop of Kootenay and Metropolitan of British Columbia and the

During the Synod, Bishop Cruickshank and Archbishop Crawley may be
reached care of Doug Tindal, 416-540-3653


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