The Council of the North has asked the church to consider raising the minimum salary for priests by $1,500 a year.
Council members are concerned about how priests in member dioceses are lagging behind clergy in the rest of the country in pay.
The minimum stipend for C of N, or mission dioceses, is $24,051. After 13 years that increases to $26,451 and the maximum for 25 years of service is $29,051 yearly.
The council addressed its motion to the financial management committee and the Council of General Synod. Members hope that the increase will be phased in over three years at $500 a year, starting next January.
As well, the council plans to re-examine how its $2.5 million annual grant from General Synod is parceled out between diocesan members.
A motion asking for reconsideration of pay (stipend), passed at the April meeting here and is based on a report by Canon Mike Lowery of the diocese of Brandon, who did a comparison of diocesan stipends. Canon Lowery, who did not attend the meeting, had reported that he focused on pay scales in the prairie region.
“Because of regional cost of living disparities between the prairies and the west coast/eastern regions, it would be unrealistic of mission dioceses to compare our stipendiary scale with a Toronto, Niagara, Vancouver or even Calgary scale,” he wrote in his report to members.
Under the C of N remuneration scale, the minimum stipend last received a special increase 20 years ago, and “mission dioceses have been seriously eroded when compared to the rest of the church,” said Canon Lowery.
The Council of the North meets to share information, support and strategies to deal with unique problems faced by smaller communities in the north and the often vast distances between them. It is estimated that 15 per cent of Canadian Anglicans live in 85 per cent of the country’s land mass.
Member dioceses all receive subsidies from the national church to pay for ministry.
The council’s annual grant is $2.5 million, after a 5 per cent reduction from restructuring in 2000 and 2001.
Bishop Jim Njegovan, of the diocese of Brandon, said stipends can range from $28,650 to $38,188 as a minimum at entry levels. “This council has the same right as any diocese does to pay above the minimum,” he said.
Diocesan members of the Council of the North are the Arctic, Athabasca, Brandon, Caledonia, Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Keewatin, Moosonee, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon.
The Parishes of the Central Interior, formerly the diocese of Cariboo and now under the administrative wing of Archbishop David Crawley in his role as metropolitan of the province of British Columbia, are also a member.
Since the C of N grant is now frozen because of residential-schools related budgetary constraints, members also talked about where to find the money to pay for salary increases.
Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee said, “we are already stretched so thin in the diocese (Moosonee), we will have to cut ministry or eliminate a staff position or something like that, for example, to pay for it. There has to be good communication around explaining this,” he said.
Bishop Lawrence added that he is also concerned that half the clergy in northern dioceses is already non-stipendiary.
At the April meeting, members also discussed how to allocate money coming from synod fairly. Although the original grant system was set up based on stipends, that rationale was changed a few years ago, said General Synod treasurer Jim Cullen.
A committee to review how the money is allocated was set up, and Mr. Cullen agreed to draw up a budget for a model diocesan office cost, which C of N members could then “shoot at.”
The bishops lamented the loss of what they termed “transparency” over financial needs.
“We are not transparent anymore,” said Bishop Lawrence. “We are not as open with one another as we once were, for example, around sharing our new needs or those of us which have parishes which are more independent.”
Meanwhile, following the C of N meeting, the House of Bishops, at its regular spring meeting, set up a task force to investigate the issue of non-stipendiary clergy from a justice perspective.
Bishop Lawrence and Bishop Peter Coffin of Ottawa, Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk of the Arctic, and Bishop David Ashdown of Keewatin will sit on the new committee.
The move came after a presentation by native clergy and members of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) that asked the bishops to consider this a national concern and take concrete action to rectify it.