There was a “sense of relief” among Council of the North member dioceses that the Prioritized Operational Plan working group has proposed that the Council’s annual grant be maintained at the 2006 level of $2.37 million for the next five years, but there was also concern that this would mean a further reduction in their capacities to do ministry.
“There was a sense of relief that it (budget) was not cut. We always go to our meetings very worried about our budget,” said Archbishop Caleb Lawrence, bishop of the diocese of Moosonee and metropolitan of Ontario, who co-chairs the Council of the North. “But the real dollar value has been decreased because there’s been a 2.8 per cent increase in the cost of living.” He said that Council dioceses have had to “to dip into our own resources, further eroding our capacity to do ministry. We’ve had to reduce our staff and cut back on our programs.” He added that the Council has been absorbing cuts for the last 13 years. Grants to member dioceses totaled $3.5 million in 1993.
General Synod treasurer Peter Blachford informed the Council about the working group’s proposal (please see related story, p. 1), during its fall meeting in Edmonton. The group also recommended that Council dioceses develop strategic plans by 2008; those plans should include details of how the dioceses will achieve self-sufficiency.
Archbishop Lawrence said that during the meeting, concerns were also raised that the Council “doesn’t have a direct national staff representation” compared with other General Synod committees. When the Council was set up in the 1970s, General Synod’s treasurer and the director of the programs department “sat in very active ways and were effectively engaged” in pushing forward the Council’s agenda. He said that Council members also expressed the need to have representation on the church’s task force on governance, which is currently reviewing the structures of the church at all levels. The Council of the North includes the dioceses of Yukon, Caledonia, Athabasca, Saskatchewan, Brandon, the Arctic, Moosonee, Keewatin and Quebec, plus the deanery of Labrador in the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (formerly the diocese of Cariboo).
Archbishop Lawrence said the Council is in discussions with the national church’s Anglican Video department to produce a video that will capture the life of the church in Council of the North areas. The video is intended to be shown at General Synod in June 2007.
Council members also expressed concern that its relationship with the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) has “fallen in between the cracks,” said Archbishop Lawerence. “We’ve had a solemn agreement to support one another but we’ve not had a joint meeting for a long time.” The archbishop said the two bodies are at “an impasse” on the issue of non-stipendiary, or unpaid, priests. Many clergy in northern dioceses work for the church at no salary.