First Nations students of the Caledonia School of Mutual Ministry (CSMM) say they are “appalled” by the diocese of Caledonia’s decision to dissolve the program and to withdraw its share of funds from the Theological Education by Extension Centre (TEE) in Terrace, B.C., which it ran jointly with the United Church of Canada.
The executive committee of the diocese recently announced the closure of the TEE Centre and CSMM, citing budgetary constraints. Closing the two programs was the only way to balance the diocesan budget for 2005, said diocesan bishop William Anderson.
“The diocesan executive committee, which is responsible for approving the annual operating budget, was faced with a significant difference between the amount of income expected and the expenses we anticipate,” said Bishop Anderson in the December issue of Caledonia Times, the diocesan newspaper. “Factors included increasing costs for insurance, our obligations to the Residential School Settlement Fund, and increased grant applications from parishes.”
He added that the diocese also had to deal with “the reality of decreased interest revenue from investments, decreasing Diocesan Fair Share contributions from parishes, and uncertainty regarding future funding levels from the national church.”
In a statement, the students said the closure of the CSMM and the TEE Centre, which currently has eight First Nations students completing their masters degrees, “makes us feel that we are being abandoned. Is the church re-victimizing us once again?”
They said that the CSMM, which has operated for 25 years, helped prepared 48 native and non-native candidates for ordination. During this time, annual averages of 80 to 100 students have attended workshops, the Native Ministry Consortium Summer School at the Vancouver School of Theology (VST) and the Charles Cook Theological School, Tempe, Ariz., they added.
The CSMM was “a major force” in the establishment of the master of divinity extension degree for First Nations through VST and is “unique in the world because it is sensitive to First Nations cultural and religious values,” they added.
“The bishop and the executive of the Anglican diocese of Caledonia chose to allocate their budget of over $500,000 for 2005 in a way which ends the lay and clergy training programs and resources which have been of critical importance to First Nations congregations in the diocese.”
Signatories to the students’ statement were Rev. Lyle Adams, from Nisga’a, New Aiyansh; Arlene Roberts, Nisga’a, Gingolx/Kitsumkalum; Rev. Clyde Gary Davis, Nisga’a, Old Aiyansh; Audrey Samuels, Haida, Haida Gwaii, Old Masset; Carolyn Martin, Nisga’a, Laxgalts’ap; and Willard Martin, Nisga’a, Laxgalts’ap.