While they are grateful for the donations and aid sent by individual dioceses and by the national church, Anglican ministries in northern Canada will struggle to handle any further reduction in budget, Council of General Synod (CoGS) heard Nov. 12.
“Recently someone said to me it’s time for the Council of the North to live sacrificially. And I have to say, I thought we were living sacrificially,” David Lehmann, bishop of the diocese of Caledonia and chair of the Council of the North, told CoGS in a presentation.The Council of the North is a grouping of northern dioceses that get financial help from the national church.
However, he said, the Council of the North faces unique challenges in ministering to a vast and sparsely populated stretch of northern Canada. Its bishops often serve as incumbents for multiple parishes—as many as nine in one case. That portfolio requires them to spend 12-hour days on the road amid rising fuel costs, travelling from one to the next to meet the spiritual needs of communities struggling with the impact of COVID-19 on top of poverty and high shipping costs. A case of bottled water in the North, he said, could cost $45.
In 2019, General Synod’s annual grant to the council was reduced five per cent from about $2.6 million to about $2.1 million. At $2.15 million in 2021 and in the 2022 budget, it remains General Synod’s greatest single expense. According to General Synod treasurer Amal Attia, CoGS has been considering a further five per cent reduction in 2024, with church revenue expected to continue declining.
Commenting at the end of Lehmann’s presentation, Jody Butler Walker, of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon, said, “I think it’s safe to say that if there are more cuts, many things will need to be changed. And in keeping with the spirit and intent of reconciliation … it’s very important that funding be maintained to the Council of the North.”
In his presentation, Lehmann thanked the Anglican Church of Canada and its members for their assistance. “Through this generosity we’ve been able to do some incredible ministry in northern and remote parts of Canada,” he told CoGS. Donations from across Canada, he said, helped in the pastoral response to the stabbings at James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby community of Weldon, both in Saskatchewan, Sept 4. Twelve people died in the stabbings.
“As you can imagine, there were a number of funerals and support that was needed and we were able to assist the diocese in bringing in clergy and being able to tend the incredibly profound needs that were there at the time,” he said.
Lehmann also noted a $100,000 gift by the Anglican Church Women (ACW) of the diocese of New Westminster to support retired clergy in the Council of the North, set up after the Anglican Journal reported Jonas Allooloo, former dean of St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, was homeless for a time following his retirement. The ACW partnered with the Anglican Foundation of Canada to distribute the gift and challenged other branches to donate what they could to bolster the fund. Including the initial gift, ACW branches had raised a total of $260,000, he told CoGS.
“While we’re working on the details of how [the $260,000] will be administered, it is an exciting thing to see the response to articles of one person’s troubles and … realize that it was actually a far more systemic issue,” Lehmann said, adding, “This gift, while it will not last long, is profound and comes with much appreciation.”
Other projects Lehmann highlighted include education programs such as Huron University College’s licentiate in theology, which allows anyone living in a Council of the North diocese to take courses for free.