Three parishes in the diocese of Calgary are being disestablished next year because they have been “unable to maintain their viability and parochial status,” according to diocesan bishop Barry Hollowell.
A member of one of the parishes said the church was not consulted about the closings.
In an e-mail to Anglican Journal, Bishop Hollowell denied reports that the soon-to-be closed parishes — St. Gabriel’s, St. Edmund’s, and All Saints, all in the city of Calgary — were not consulted about the decision and that they were caught off guard by it.
“The executive committee of the diocese, acting on a report from the strategic planning committee, made the decision to disestablish the parishes based on a long standing inability to meet canonical requirements for parochial status,” said the bishop. “While the parishes were not involved in the actual executive decision they have had many opportunities over an extended period of time to work with the diocese and to contribute to a visioning process and the planning of mission and ministry in our diocese.”
Bishop Hollowell denied speculation that the three parishes — which are predominantly conservative — were being singled out. “The same criteria were used and equitably applied to each parish in the city of Calgary,” he said.
He said that the key indicators of parochial status include: fulfillment of financial obligations (including parish apportionment, clergy salary, and the ability to maintain parish buildings), annual reporting to synod office, electing delegates to synod and adherence to the tenets, goals, mission, canons and traditions of the diocese of Calgary and the Anglican Church of Canada.
Bishop Hollowell announced the disestablishment of the parishes in a letter to members of the diocese dated Oct. 21.
Rev. Dennis Frayne, rector of St. Gabriel’s, declined to comment on Bishop Hollowell’s decision. But a member of the parish, who refused to be identified, told the Journal that the announcement had come as a surprise and that parishioners were upset. The parishioner also hinted that the parish might take legal action against the diocese. “We can’t talk because of legal implications,” said the parishioner.
Bishop Hollowell said he has met with the wardens and vestry of St. Gabriel’s and the diocese will offer pastoral assistance and support to each of the affected parishes “as they move through this difficult transition.”
All Saints’ rector, Rev. John Wright, was unavailable for comment. St. Edmund’s has no priest.
A diocesan task force on strategic planning, which was set up last March, determined that a “profound increase in population and shift in demographics” in Southern Alberta calls for a change in how the diocese should carry out its mission. “We have many examples of congregations or parishes established years ago, that no longer fit the local community’s needs,” the task force report said.
On the other hand, it noted, “we also have emerging and growing communities where we have no local or adequate expression of our mission and ministry.”
Bishop Hollowell said if any of the church buildings are deemed surplus to the diocese, they will be sold with the funds split in half: one half at the discretion of the bishop and the final wardens of the disestablishing parish and the other, in the diocese’s Church Development Fund, to be used under the discretion of the executive committee of the diocese.
Meanwhile, the bishop has also decided to remove the designation of cathedral from the Church of the Redeemer and transfer it to another parish in the diocese effective January 2005. In a letter sent to parishioners on Oct. 31, Bishop Hollowell said the move would give the parish “the opportunity to move outward in mission and ministry to the wider community in new ways.”