Synod questions must be answered

Published May 1, 2006

Just over a year from now, the meeting of General Synod, the church’s triennial gathering, will begin in Winnipeg with an opening worship service. Some of the 30 dioceses have already crunched the numbers and determined that their costs to send delegates to the meeting next year could be double that of the previous meeting in 2004. It is probably safe to assume those dioceses that have not yet done the math will begin to do so, once news of the finances hits their desks. It costs a lot of money to bring together this church of ours. Air travel within Canada is expensive, particularly for those who live outside urban centres. And while it is often cheaper to travel to major cities, like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg, it can be inversely more expensive to hold meetings there. Whereas Brock University, in St. Catharines, Ont., the site of General Synod 2004, cost less than $90 per delegate, per day (for a single room and a meal plan at the university’s cafeteria), it is expected that it will cost about $150 to provide room and board at one of two Winnipeg hotels that will house the 300 delegates plus 100-or-so staff, volunteers, partners and exhibitors. Unlike Brock, however, dioceses will have the option of asking their delegates to share double hotel rooms, though many will choose not to do so. A week-long meeting is a long time to share a bedroom with another adult. Although it is the first time in recent years that General Synod is being held in a hotel setting rather than a university, it is worth noting that even if the initial location of the University of Manitoba had not been shelved (due to an inability to provide enough rooms), its costs were still more than 30 per cent higher than those at Brock: about $120 per day, room and board. As detailed on page one, some dioceses have determined that their costs for room and board will be twice as much as in 2004. One bishop, David Ashdown, who says he struggles to meet his payroll each month, has suggested that his diocese, Keewatin, may not be able to afford to send as many delegates as before. This is not acceptable. General Synod, the church’s governing body, is where the church’s future is determined. A diocese’s ability to pay should not determine whether they may participate fully in the church’s governance and its democratic practice. Keewatin and several other dioceses that are supported with mission funds from the rest of the church have significant aboriginal membership, many of whom hold conservative views on, for instance, homosexuality in the church. It is unthinkable that they might be prevented from taking part in the debates on same-sex blessings that will arise at next year’s gathering. While a less-populated diocese may well have a smaller proportional representation than, say, Toronto or the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, it should not be further penalized for being less affluent. So far, there are few workable solutions. The church’s national office, already running on a shoestring budget after years of budget cuts, cannot make up the difference. Could some dioceses which do not rely on mission funds be persuaded to contribute to a travel fund to subsidize those dioceses which are less able to pay? Perhaps. In the long run, maybe the length of the meeting needs to be examined. The bishop of Keewatin has suggested the meeting be changed to a less costly venue, but it would be virtually impossible to start again to plan such a large meeting before next June. But the questions have been raised and they must be addressed.*** Readers will recall the tremendous success of the 2005 Anglican Journal Appeal, when donations totaled $638,000 – an increase of 38 per cent from 2004. Now is the Journal’s turn to give back to its readers. This month, we will poll 5,000 readers to give you an opportunity to tell us your opinions about the Anglican Journal. The strong support for the newspaper and its mandate was obvious from readers’ generosity last year, and indeed from the response in previous years. The readership survey will help the Journal staff continue to produce a newspaper that serves its readers: Anglicans in Canada who are part of a global church. In May, readership surveys will be distributed by mail to 5,000 subscribers who will be chosen at random from our circulation list. The survey will ask questions about the Anglican Journal, the national newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada (though one section deals with our publishing partners, the diocesan newspapers, which are mailed inside the Anglican Journal). If you receive a survey, I strongly encourage you to complete it promptly and return it to us. Sometimes, in the newspaper world, it seems that the communication goes one way: from us to you. In addition to letters to the editor, this survey is an effective way for you, the reader, to communicate with us. The readership survey will be conducted according to the standards of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association. Personal information provided will be kept strictly confidential and tabulations will be completed offsite by an independent research organization. The results of this readership survey will give the Journal’s editorial team a better idea of what our readers like about the newspaper and what they think can be improved. It will also allow the newspaper’s advertising team to serve you better. This survey is one of two projects made possible by the success of the 2005 Appeal. A major redesign of the Anglican Journal Web site, anglicanjournal.com, will also soon be launched. The site – the first redesign of the newspaper’s online presence since 1998 – will better reflect the fact that the Anglican Journal has assumed the additional responsibility of being a news service in recent years, releasing news stories between issues of the newspaper. We look forward to hearing from you.

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