A year or two ago, in the days before the Lytton judgment, the idea of the General Synod going bankrupt was unthinkable.
But as 2000 opens, a new discussion document, Planning for the Future, lists bankruptcy as one of two options facing the national structure.
The church’s general secretary, Archdeacon Jim Boyles, says the preferred option is for General Synod to continue indefinitely as it is. But mounting bills relating to residential schools could force it into bankruptcy.
Even if that happens, it’s not necessarily the end of the national body.
“General Synod was formed by the dioceses and the ecclesiastical provinces coming together,” Archdeacon Boyles said. “They could come together again and start another General Synod. It could look quite similar or it could be quite different.”
Indeed, some voices in the church have suggested starting afresh would be a good idea.
The planning document was to be sent to all committees of General Synod for comment in January, after which it will be discussed at May’s Council of General Synod meeting.
The council should also have in front of it results from focus-group research the church is conducting with the help of the Angus Reid Group in Halifax, Hamilton, and Calgary.
Director of information resources, Doug Tindal, said the church is trying to find out what church members think of the residential schools issue and what they want their church to do about it.
Mr. Tindal said the research bill ? the cost of which he would not reveal except to say the church had gotten a good deal ? will be paid out of the residential schools budget line.
The financial crisis in the church was precipitated by last August’s decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon. She found General Synod and the Diocese of Cariboo jointly liable for 60 per cent of an undisclosed amount of damages owed a student who was sexually abused at St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton, B.C. The church has appealed that decision.
Hundreds of other cases are outstanding against the church and federal government. Although the church prefers to wait for its full governing body to meet in 2001 before making any major decisions on its future, factors such as more costly judgments handed down against the church or a plunge in diocesan proportional giving might force an early decision by the council, Archdeacon Boyles said.
Another seven plaintiffs are awaiting trial in Lytton and these claims could be heard as early as spring, he said.
On the other hand, if the federal government agrees to set a limit on the church’s financial liability in settling claims, General Synod could conceivably continue as is, with minor adjustments, he said.
The planning document outlines various options for the future of national work, including eliminating or decentralizing most of its national mission, leaving a barebones structure.