In other business at the Arctic synod, delegates elected two new suffragan bishops, in addition to Bishop Paul Idlout, elected in 1996. (A suffragan is an assistant bishop who does not have the automatic right of succession, as does a co-adjutor bishop.) Each of the three bishops will be responsible for a region within the diocese, which is geographically Canada’s largest, covering 4,000,000 square km and encompassing 16,000 people, 31 parishes and 52 congregations.
Rev. Larry Robertson, a priest in Inuvik, was elected Bishop of the Mackenzie and Kitikmeot region. The only other candidate was Ven. Haydn Schofield, archdeacon of the western Arctic. Rev. Andrew Atagotaaluk was elected regional bishop for Nunavik on the first ballot. The other nominees were Rev. Canon Ben Arreak, incumbent at Kuujjuaq, Que., and Rev. Iola Metuq, a priest in Inukjuak, Que. Bishop Idlout will serve as Bishop for the Baffin and Keewatin region.
The elections were relatively quick, noted Bishop Williams, given that it took 29 ballots over three days to elect Bishop Idlout.
Despite the extra expense of two new positions, Bishop Williams argued they were necessary.
“It was prompted by the need for people to have a closer pastoral relationship with their bishops,” he said.
In his charge, Bishop Williams also proposed that parish debts be cancelled to allow everyone to enter the new millennium with a clean financial slate.
To do that, the diocese would have to write off about $200,000 to 300,000, unless parishes are able to reduce their debts before year end, which Bishop Williams encouraged them to do. Only six of 31 parishes are currently self-supporting.
The diocese itself relies on about $750,000 in annual subsidies from the national church on a $2 million budget, but has itself targeted to be self-supporting by the year 2003.
The synod also made good on efforts to include young people in the life of the church. For the first time, seven young people (one from each deanery) joined as full members of synod.