Bishop Dennis Drainville
Photo: Art Babych
After a long and heated debate on Monday evening (Jun. 7), members of General Synod approved a resolution to continue discussions about “whether and how” the church’s diocesan, provincial and national structures need to be modified to support and enhance its mission.
The resolution also asks the church’s four ecclesiastical provinces to conduct discussions on “the appropriate number of dioceses and the appropriate boundaries within the provinces” and to inform the 2013 General Synod of the result of these conversations.
Dean Iain Luke, diocese of Athabasca, said the “theology of scarcity” doesn’t reflect what he sees in the church. “What I see is a great passion to grow the church that’s happening at all levels…I’m not prepared to undermine that passion..,” he said, adding that, “General Synod is here to support the mission of the local churches not to undermine its existence.”
Bishop Greg Kerr-Wilson of the diocese of Qu’Appelle, spoke out against the part of the resolution that sought discussions about the number of dioceses and boundaries. “I don’t think it gets into the issues of what we’re facing in the ministry and life of the church,” he said, adding it is akin to “putting the cart before the horse.” Instead he suggested the church discuss the nature of Episcopal and parish ministry, cooperation across diocesan boundaries and sharing of resources.
Bishop James Cowan of the diocese of British Columbia, where a recently implemented strategic plan dramatically reduced the number of parishes, urged members to support the resolution. “The reality is…we need to regroup,” he said.
The diocesan bishop of Quebec, Dennis Drainville, said he found it “strange, sometimes surreal, listening to remarks that are being made about implying that everything is well, and all manner of things will be well with the church.”
The reality, said Bishop Drainville, is that “we have dioceses in Canada that are declining in numbers at a huge and very fast rate. We need to begin to speak in real terms about the fact that the church, if it needs to move forward, has to grapple with these important issues in that motion…[requesting that] you and I take seriously the changes that are necessary in our church if we are to continue God’s will.”
If the church’s present structures are left untouched and unchallenged, he said, “the church that we know and love and the mission that we wish for God’s people will be diminished.”
Dean Louise Peters of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) spoke passionately about how parishes in the former diocese of Cariboo have “lived and grown and explored” what it means to be under a modified structure of APCI.
“Do not be afraid when all things seem to be taken from you,” she said. “Astounding things are provided by God and the Spirit.” She pointed out that there is a “small pocket of churches in the Central Interior of British Columbia who are witness to that truth and that hope. I encourage you to support this motion so that your conversation with the rest of the church may be enhanced by the possibility of what is yet to be.”
The Cariboo diocese ceased operation in 2001 after being forced into bankruptcy by the legal costs associated with litigation brought by former students of an Indian residential school.