Bishop Ashdown elected as metropolitan of Rupert’s Land

Published June 15, 2009

Archbishop David Ashdown

Bishop David Ashdown of the diocese of Keewatin was elected as the metropolitan (archbishop) of the Province of Rupert’s Land at the provincial synod at Holy Cross Church in Calgary on June 11. He replaces Bishop John Clarke, who retired from the position as metropolitan last July.

Archbishop Ashdown was elected on the third ballot, which was a choice between him and Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, the senior bishop in the diocese of Arctic. When asked by prolocutor Peter Yeung if he would accept the position, Bishop Ashdown said, “The person elected was not my first choice but I will accept on one condition,” and then moving to put his arm around the shoulder of Bishop Atagotaaluk and said that the condition was that “Andrew share the load with me.” As senior bishop of the province, Bishop Atagotaaluk would typically take on the tasks of metropolitan in his absence. Archbishop Ashdown told the Anglican Journal that there is already a sense of collegiality among the bishops, but he wants to build on that.

He and Bishop Atagotaaluk had split the vote on the third ballot with only four votes. This was the first Rupert’s Land election in which the whole synod elected the metropolitan. All 10 diocesan bishops are eligible for the position of senior administrator in the province.

Archbishop Ashdown said that “mission and ministry development” would be very important in his new role. “There’s all sorts of really good things happening throughout the province to make ministry more effective on the ground level but we don’t always hear about it, so one of my hopes is to be able to create a much greater sense of networking, so we are sharing ideas,” he said. “We are all self-determining, but we walk together for strength.”

Archbishop Ashdown said new forms of ministry would also be a focus, mentioning work being done across diocesan boundaries, as well as an area mission in northern Manitoba where, he said “we are trying to get an indigenous bishop on the ground to serve the people of two dioceses while they are still part of the parent diocese.” He also spoke of a northern Ontario region in the diocese of Keewatin that hopes to become its own diocese. “I think there are ways that we can move forward on that,” he said.

He said the (province) of Rupert’s Land has always been committed to finding new and exciting ways of doing things. “The diocese of Edmonton, for example, is working at developing a church planting conference, which helps us find new ways of doing ministry in urban areas and surburban areas.” He added that there are wonderful and creative ideas out there “and yet, often in a province like ours we lack the resources to actually be able to do it on our own as dioceses or as communities, but by working together we can achieve a lot of things.”

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.

In the early 1970s, Archbishop Ashdown worked for four years as a dorm supervisor at a residential school in the Northwest Territories. He 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.

The installation took place at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in Calgary on June 13.

With files from Tim Christison

Editor’s note: Information in the first paragraph has been corrected.


  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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