“Our life in the diocese will continue…nothing will change immediately,” Moosonee Bishop Tom Corston told members of the diocesan synod on June 1.
The diocese of Moosonee has asked to be placed “in suspension” as it enters into discussion with the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario about the establishment of a mission area that comprises all of its 26 parishes.
This suspension, and the creation of a new mission area will happen only after the Moosonee synod approves a transition plan that would go before the Ontario Provincial Synod in October 2012. Once a decision is made about the fate of the diocese, General Synod will be asked to affirm it in 2013.
The resolution to put the diocese in suspension was unanimously passed by the 45th diocesan synod, which met June 3 to 5, in Timmins, Ont. Importantly, the resolution leaves room for the possibility that an infusion of new funding could arrive in time to render Moosonee fiscally sound. If nothing changes, however, diminishing financial reserves will mean facing the possibility of bankruptcy.
“Our life in the diocese will continue…nothing will change immediately,” said Bishop Tom Corston of the diocese of Moosonee in his charge to synod delegates. “We are simply preparing a way forward for our diocese when it becomes clear that we need to make the jump.”
Bishop Corston emphasized that the synod was “not making a final decision” about the fate of the diocese nor was it the end of the “journey of discernment and discussion.”
There will be another synod to consider the question once discussions with affected member dioceses of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario-Algoma and Quebec-have proceeded, said Bishop Corston. “We have to keep our options open and flexible,” he said. These dioceses would have to grant consent to assume administration of the proposed area mission. The next synod will be “smaller, less expensive and more flexible,” according to a resolution passed by delegates. That resolution amended a canon in which members of the synod also sit on the diocesan council.
Bishop Corson acknowledged that the synod was “making the best possible guesses” about the financial picture over the next five years. The diocese of Moosonee has been informed that its share of financial grants from General Synod will be cut from $249,000 to $125,000 per year.
If General Synod’s own financial situation improves dramatically, “which seems most unlikely, but remotely possible,” said Bishop Corston, the diocese of Moosonee could stay as it is, provided it is guaranteed funds “on a long-term and stable basis.”
The diocese itself has been struggling, mainly because of decreased parish giving and diminishing membership. To generate income and reduce expenses, it has had to sell about 20 of its buildings and properties, including the bishop’s residence.
At the synod, delegates were given three choices in considering the diocese’s future: “stay the course;” ask its neighbouring dioceses to take over administration of Moosonee; or create a new diocese out of the deanery of James Bay, leaving the deaneries of Kenogami and Cochrane to be administered by the neighbouring dioceses of Algoma and Quebec.