General Synod approves fundraising by Council of the North

By Brian Sarjeant

Delegates to the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod quickly agreed Wednesday that the Council of the North should be allowed to draw upon previously untapped resources to help solve its funding crisis.

They approved a resolution that the “council be given permission and encouraged to launch collective fundraising activities to supplement its income received from the Council of the North support grants, in full collaboration with the church’s financial development office.”

A few minutes earlier they had approved a resolution that the support grants be no less than the current levels for the next five years.

Following yesterday’s presentation by the council, the Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, said he was “delighted” that these motions had been approved.

Bishop David Ashdown of Keewatin said funding problems were resulting in program cuts, priests suffering burnout and young people being reluctant to consider ordination. “We really do need to find ways to move forward,” he said

The council comprises nine northern dioceses, the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior in B.C., and the archdeaconry of Labrador, covering 85 per cent of the geography of Canada and 15 per cent of its population. These dioceses are financially assisted by the General Synod.

In a presentation, the council acknowledged that the church at all levels is facing a financial squeeze, and said it has “no illusions that our support grants from the national church will be able to return to the levels they were in the early 1990s.” Consequently, it has been examining various choices that will allow its important ministry to continue while relying less on outside financial assistance.

Several proposals were studied, including the redrawing of diocesan boundaries or the merging of dioceses, but they were deemed unfeasible.

However, the council said it is clear that there are many individuals, parishes and other organizations—both inside and outside the church—that would be willing to contribute to its mission.

What is missing, it said, is a broader way for these groups and individuals to contribute directly to the council’s work.

The Anglican Foundation’s Council of the North Trust is a “good beginning” but it is also clear that within the council dioceses themselves, there are resources that are not being used to the fullest, or remain untapped. The council said it believes that with appropriate stewardship and congregational development programs, these internal resources can be used to “much greater advantage.”

The council pointed out that its share of the General Synod budget is equivalent to what it received more than 20 years ago, while costs have increased.

The results are “many and distressing.” The number of paid incumbencies in northern dioceses is shrinking at a time when there is a need for more full-time, well-trained clergy. Non-stipendiary deacons and priests face greater burdens and other staff positions—from accountants to executive archdeacons, educators to suffragan bishops—are being cut back or eliminated altogether. Ministry training institutions are also “faltering financially.”

The net result, says the council, “is an overall impoverishment of the church’s ministry to the north.”

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