As the Anglican Foundation approaches its 50th anniversary, its new executive director, Dean John Wright, wants to increase significantly its endowment, bring its image and online presence up to date and forge a somewhat different profile from his charismatic predecessor, Canon John Erb.
In an interview just two months into the job, Dean Wright cautioned that he is still “figuring out which end is up,” but has some initial thoughts about the direction he would like to see the foundation take.
The foundation awards grants and loans to Anglican churches in Canada, mainly for repairs and renovations. It also provides bursaries to theology students and supports other projects, such as religious art and ecumenical work. It distributed a total of $847,000 last year and reported assets of $12.7 million as of Dec. 31, 2005.
Four years ago, Mr. Erb led a re-evaluation of the foundation’s mandate, seeking to expand its work further beyond “bricks and mortar” building projects into such areas as education and communications.
Dean Wright said he supports continuing that vision and noted that the foundation in the last couple of years has presented grants to such recipients as the diocese of Huron’s youth ministry, an advocacy justice camp in the diocese of Ottawa, translation of the diocese of Keewatin’s canons into Cree and anti-racism training at the national committee level. “I’d like to support retraining of clergy. We should also be involved with assisting people who do evangelism, such as the Church Army,” he said.
[pullquote]Since 2004, the foundation has also supported a Web broadcast initiative from the primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, called Conversations with the Primate, and Dean Wright wants to make more use of the Internet. “I would like to see the foundation’s Web site become interactive, with information about the trusts we administer, with application forms that can be downloaded,” he said. Dean Wright said he would also like to build an e-mail list for better communication with donors.
Supported by the foundation’s board, Dean Wright will also oversee an update of the organization’s graphics, including its logo, which have not changed in decades.
The foundation was incorporated in 1957, primarily by lay people in the diocese of Toronto. Plans to mark next year’s anniversary are developing, he said. He said he is also thinking about compiling a yearbook with a membership list, a list of grants and loans and other information to send to parishes.
Dean Wright also intends to put a strong focus on fundraising and taking advantage of today’s demographics. “We are talking of doubling or trebling the size of the endowment. We realize that we are reaching the end of a generation willing and able to make a major gift to the church,” he said.
In addition to donations and bequests, nearly 1,000 individuals and parishes have taken out $50-per-year memberships. “The board wants to see the foundation grow,” said Dean Wright, also noting that fundraising can be a delicate matter. “We can’t go into a diocese and raid their lists,” he said, but the foundation is thinking of ways to approach the two million people in Canada who self-identify as Anglicans on a federal census, some of whom do not necessarily support a local church.
His pitch to donors? “We care exclusively about the church in Canada. The Primate’s Fund, for instance, mostly works overseas and that’s great, but in Canada, we put some of the strength of the church at the service of the less strong parts. We also have the ability to channel resources directly to certain vehicles. If a person wants to support theological education, we annually distribute some $60,000 to $70,000 in bursaries and that money goes directly into the students’ pockets.”
Also, a new endowment was set up in June that will benefit the 11 Council of the North dioceses such as the Arctic that are large in land mass but sparsely populated. In recent years, the national church’s subsidy of those dioceses has fallen due to declining General Synod revenues. The endowment, sought by the Council dioceses, is aimed at providing a more-predictable source of income and establishing a vehicle for donors interested in supporting the northern church. It was established with initial contributions from Peter Blachford, treasurer of General Synod, and Canon Gordon Baker, former executive director of the Foundation.
In these early days, Dean Wright, an energetic presence who most recently served as dean of the diocese of British Columbia and rector of Victoria’s Christ Church Cathedral, is developing the profile he would like to present as executive director.
His office at the national church office in Toronto still contains photo albums compiled by his predecessor, Mr. Erb, whose rapid decline and death from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in July, 2005 stunned the Anglican community. He had been director of the foundation for eight years.
Mr. Wright, noting that Mr. Erb “was the foundation,” said he does not plan to be quite so high-profile in terms of the three or four extensive trips Mr. Erb took each year across Canada to visit projects supported by the foundation. However, he said, he plans to bring the foundation message to many parts of the Canadian church, in which he has served six dioceses. “I’ve been in many parts of the Canadian church and I’m personally acquainted with over half of the house of bishops.” He is also familiar with a number of cathedral deans in North America and currently serves as co-chair (along with his wife, Mary) of the Conference of Cathedral Deans, Spouses and Partners of North America.