Following a lively presentation by the Council of the North, General Synod voted unanimously to affirm that support grants to the church in the North will continue at no less than the current level for the next five years.
In addition, Synod encouraged the council to launch collective fundraising activities to supplement the income received from those grants.
The council’s presentation on Wednesday afternoon began with a welcoming drum song by the Sagkeeng Drum Group – a sung prayer of thanks to the Creator.
Through words, songs and images, the work of the northern church was brought to life, with examples of the commitment and vitality that makes the north, as council chair Bishop Anthony Burton called it, “the soul of the Anglican church.”
Several segments of the presentation described examples of “real people doing real ministry” – from the Inuktitut-speaking clergy who travel hundreds of kilometers to visit patients in hospitals far from home, to the ministry of presence offered by one priest to a bereaved family in an isolated Yukon community.
Each story was interspersed with a throat-singing performance by Inukshuk Aksalnik and Stephanie Adams of Rankin Inlet.
In spite of the success stories, northern ministry is struggling. It was reported that the number of paid incumbencies throughout northern dioceses continues to shrink, staff positions are being cut back or eliminated. “The net result is an overall impoverishment of the church’s ministry to the north,” said presenter Bruce Myers.
Two resolutions to address the funding crunch, moved by Keewatin Bishop David Ashdown, were subsequently proposed.
“Grants are a lifeline to the council,” Bishop Ashdown said. “Please don’t shorten that lifeline.”
In discussion, a “friendly amendment” was suggested from the floor that altered the original wording so that the grants should not simply be fixed at their current level, but set at “no less than” the current level, thereby leaving the possibility of a future increase. Bishop Ashdown declared it an “extremely friendly amendment.”
Following the successful passage of the resolutions, the primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison expressed delight with the support shown for northern ministry.
“I could not be more delighted by what you’ve just done,” he told Synod. “There is such vitality in these remote communities, and yet because of their remoteness, they will never be financially independent.”