The diocesan council of the diocese of British Columbia voted on Sept. 24 to suspend operations of Camp Columbia on Thetis Island, a small island east of Vancouver Island.The camp had an accumulated deficit of more than $500,000, and the council decided that the diocese could not afford the financial drain on resources any longer. The council said it could not ask parishes, many of which are also facing financial challenges, to pay more to cover the camp’s operational shortfall each year.The decision means that five staff jobs will be cut – three full-time, year-round positions, as well as one contract position for the cook and a casual position for an assistant cook. The bishop of the diocese of British Columbia, James Cowan, told the Anglican Journal that the council will now set up a review to determine “what are the needs, what has worked well, what has not worked well and then have the task force make recommendations about how we will proceed.” He said there is currently no discussion about selling the camp property, an idea that has been debated in the past. When asked if the camp might run only in the summer months, Bishop Cowan said that is a possibility. “The summer program has pretty well always been a good program and well-responded to,” he said. “The line of credit isn’t greatly affected by the summer operations, and it’s been the staffing and maintenance and capital expenditure needs that have driven the deficit.” The camp, which was founded in 1947 as a mission and outreach of the Anglican church, is a 29-hectare property that grew over the years to be a year-round operation. It has nine summer cabins, several winterized cabins housing between two and eight persons, several smaller buildings, as well as Columbia House – a residence that was available for rent and small retreats.For a number of years now, the diocese, which includes Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, has been considering ways to restructure and use its resources to best provide ministry. One report recommended establishing a youth and family life ministry for people under 30 and young families. Bishop Cowan said that since the diocesan youth ministry co-ordinator resigned in the spring, the diocese is now searching for someone to take on the new expanded position. “Part of that person’s responsibility would be summer camp, so that individual also needs to be in place for some of this to move ahead,” he said.Declining numbers of people attending church and diminishing finances have forced the diocese to consider closing or amalgamating some parishes. St. Alban the Martyr in Victoria was disestablished this summer and two churches in Nanaimo – St. James and St. Paul – amalgamated in the spring. More changes of this kind are being considered, but Bishop Cowan says it has taken time for people in the diocese to accept the seriousness of their situation and be ready to consider some of the changes that have been proposed. Bishop Cowan said the next step is for the six regions of the diocese to meet and discuss alternative ways of delivering ministry and using resources. Members of the congregational development team will take what they have heard at those meetings and bring proposals to the diocesan synod in March. He added that the goal is not only to identify which ministries need to be sustained and supported but also to identify areas where there is growth and where churches could be planted.