Big Trout Lake, Ont.
The diocese of Keewatin has chosen its executive archdeacon to be the new diocesan bishop.
Archdeacon David Ashdown was elected on the third ballot. There were three other candidates: Archdeacon Sidney Black, Archdeacon Douglas Greig and Rev. Terry McNear.
Bishop-elect Ashdown succeeds Bishop Gordon Beardy who surprised the church last summer with his resignation. That announcement came just weeks after General Synod where Bishop Beardy delivered a moving and spontaneous absolution to the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, for the church’s role in the residential schools system.
Since Bishop Beardy stepped down, Bishop-elect Ashdown has been running the affairs of the diocese as commissary, or temporary replacement.
Before moving to Keewatin in 1999, Bishop-elect Ashdown served as treasurer and executive archdeacon of the diocese of Athabasca, in northern Alberta.
Ordained priest in 1978, he served parishes in the diocese of Qu’Appelle until 1992, when he moved to Athabasca. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan and bachelor of theology and master of divinity from the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad.
While in Saskatchewan, he helped found the Davidson Christian Resource Centre Association, an ecumenical outreach program serving Davidson, Sask., and a half dozen other communities.
Unlike Bishop Beardy, who attended a residential school for a year (never to return to any formal schooling afterwards), Bishop-elect Ashdown brings a different residential school experience: he worked for four years in the early 1970s as a dorm supervisor at a residential school in the Northwest Territories.
In a 2000 interview published in MinistryMatters, Bishop-elect Ashdown said that he has since come to believe that the residential school system was wrong, despite the fact that many good people worked in it.
“What I’ve come to understand is that it wasn’t a good system, but it had a few bad people in it; it was a bad system, but it had some good people. There was systemic evil present in the residential schools.”
Keewatin is one of Canada’s largest dioceses in area, covering 480,000 square kilometres and stretching over parts of northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba. About half the diocese is aboriginal. Most clergy are non-stipendiary.