Spirit lives on in erstwhile B.C. diocese

Published November 1, 2003

Clockwise from top: ordination service at APCI annual assembly, Mavis Gillie of Aboriginal Neighbours, Suzy Ireland and Paul Chutter take parts in a short drama about relations with natives, Rev. Jean Stenhouse, Canon Gordon Light, a craft group featuring Heather Trosky, Patricia Clarke and Delia Shuter, Lindley Roff, Dorothy Phillips, elder Ethel Isaac making bannock at an assembly workshop.

Shulus, B.C.
Nearly two years ago, the diocese of Cariboo in British Columbia suspended operations, financially wounded by lawsuits concerning a former Indian residential school. A landmark court decision had found the Anglican church 40 per cent liable and the federal government 60 per cent liable for the sexual and physical abuse that occurred at St. George’s school in Lytton, B.C. It was the first time a Canadian Anglican diocese had closed its office, but the 17 parishes and 45 congregations continued in operation. The Journal reports on how the one-time diocese is faring.

Anglicans in the central region of B.C. have regrouped into a new entity, the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI), and are seeking a bishop, even as they cope with continuing uncertainty.

Set among the pine-covered mountains and valleys of south-central British Columbia, the APCI entity is financially healthy, but has seen considerable clergy turnover and continues to find relationships with native communities challenging in the wake of the residential school legacy. Leadership is an issue as the region’s senior bishop, who now oversees APCI, intends to retire in a couple of years. Also under discussion is what form the former Cariboo will take: a diocesan revival, merger with another diocese or establishment as an area in a larger diocese.

As reported in October’s Journal , APCI held its first annual assembly Sept. 12-14 on the Lower Nicola First Nations reserve in Shulus, about 200 km northeast of Vancouver .

APCI members voted unanimously to request the next-highest church governing body, the ecclesiastical (church) province of British Columbia and the Yukon , to provide for the election of a suffragan (assistant) bishop.

The province, at its synod Sept. 28-29, approved a canon, or church law, that would allow APCI to nominate a candidate for bishop next January. Since it is not a diocese, it cannot elect a bishop outright. The province’s electoral college, made up of bishops and the provincial council, may nominate others, but is expected to approve APCI’s nominee.

Delegate Len Fraser, a parishioner at St. Paul ‘s Cathedral in Kamloops , the former see city of Cariboo , said he has missed “the episcopal leadership of a bishop” but the amount of “officialdom and administrative stuff” has declined. “I suspect our clergy are working more,” he added.

Indeed, six clergy have left APCI in the past year. As of the end of 2002, the area employed a total of 13 full-time and nine part-time clergy. In his address to the annual assembly, Archbishop David Crawley, who oversees APCI, noted that clergy moves often follow a “traumatic change.” He added that he is “not particularly concerned,” although he does “regret that so many of our younger clergy have left.”

Three new appointments have taken place, but Lindley Roff, another parishioner at St. Paul ‘s, said that people at the cathedral “have learned to live with a little less.” However, she added, “the liveliness and vitality of the worship is still the same. But you do mourn the fact that some people have left.”

Saying that “the church is desperate to get full-time priests,” youth delegate Aaron Wozlowski, 15, said it feels like the former Cariboo is “dying.” The solution? “Hang on, I guess. Wait for the best to happen. We’re managing,” he said.

The people of APCI are indeed managing, noted Archbishop Crawley in his address to the APCI gathering. ?I have been inordinately proud of the way you as individuals and as parishes have responded to this new situation with creativity, energy and great faithfulness. You have shown that while outward things may change, the real life of the church goes on,? he said.

“Real life,” he noted, includes financial management. Ironically, a diocese that, as a legal entity, folded under the financial pressure of legal costs and damage settlements, has been succeeded by an entity that is on a solid financial footing. “The parishes have responded well and faithfully,” said Archbishop Crawley. Payroll and other areas of financial management have been consolidated in Kelowna, the see city of the archbishop’s neighbouring diocese of Kootenay. This arrangement has cut costs and APCI has been able to restore $28,000 of endowments and establish a $50,725 operating reserve.

“The latter means that the rather anxious days of 2002, when we were without any reserves to cover the slow months of summer, are a thing of the past,” said Archbishop Crawley.

In addition to Archbishop Crawley, the APCI employs Canon Gordon Light full-time as assistant to the metropolitan. In interviews, delegates noted that Mr. Light has been a much-needed presence as Archbishop Crawley – who also serves as diocesan bishop of the neighbouring diocese of Kootenay and senior bishop, or metropolitan, of the province – has found his time stretched thin.

(When Cariboo shut down, its office in the see city of Kamloops was closed. Bishop Jim Cruickshank and his assistant, Canon Betty-May Gore, retired. Bishop Cruickshank has been teaching and leading retreats and recently served for several months as rector of St. Paul ‘s Cathedral in Kamloops until Rev. Louise Peters was named dean.)

However, Archbishop Crawley told the 100 delegates gathered at the assembly that “I am now 66 and I do not plan to continue working until I am 70.” Electing a suffragan bishop is a short-term solution to the issue of leadership, but longer-term solutions should be discussed, he said.

Among those solutions, he said, are to “revive the diocese of Cariboo; join another diocese with a continguous boundary; work with the ecclesiastical province and other … dioceses to develop a new and creative way of organizing ourselves (in the central interior) ? e.g., one central office, one diocesan bishop and two area bishops.” The dioceses involved would be Caledonia , Kootenay and the former Cariboo.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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