Will diocese of Moosonee disappear?

By on June 1, 2011

Will the diocese of Moosonee be dissolved?This is the question facing its synod this month in Timmins, Ont.Confronted with financial distress, the 45th diocesan synod (Jun. 3 to 5) must decide whether the diocese can continue its operations or whether it should be dissolved so that other forms of ministry can be pursued. Three choices are being presented: “Stay-as-is” but launch a major fundraising campaign; dissolve the diocese completely and transfer parishes to surrounding dioceses with their consent; or adopt the “historic Moosonee option,” in which the diocese will be composed mainly of indigenous congregations. Moosonee’s diocesan executive council recommended these options when it had to dip into reserve funds to prevent deficit budgeting for the third year in a row, said Bishop Tom Corston in an interview. “We were looking at a crisis situation,” he said. The reserve funds are down to $300,000. The council also noted that the grant the diocese receives from the Council of the North is about to be cut from $249,000 to $125,000 a year. “It means that the diocesan structure, in terms of money, is just unsustainable,” said the diocese’s executive archdeacon, Harry Huskins. If synod chooses the “stay-as-is” option, it will include a proviso that a major financial stewardship campaign be launched to raise a minimum of $400,000 within one year, and more money in the succeeding years after that, said Bishop Corston. Without a boost of major funds, he warned, “we will be facing financial bankruptcy within the next couple of years.” Reasons for the financial crisis include decreased parish giving. To generate income and reduce expenses, the diocese has had to sell about 20 of its buildings and properties, including the bishop’s residence. Some congregations have opted to disband and worship with others, and some worship in community halls. Dissolving the diocese and transferring its 26 parishes to neighbouring dioceses cannot be done unilaterally. “That diocese has to grant consent,” said Archdeacon Huskins. He explained that the “historic Moosonee option” means the diocese would be composed mainly of indigenous congregations from the present St. James Bay deanery. Non-indigenous parishes could evolve into a structure similar to the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI), formerly the diocese of Cariboo. Non-indigenous parishes are the ones struggling financially, said Archdeacon Huskins. They are located mostly along Highway 11-from Geraldtown to Timmins-former pulp and paper towns where people are moving out and those staying are getting older. These are “increasingly impoverished communities” where the average income goes down each year, he added. Indigenous communities along the east shore of James Bay, where churches are supported by bands and councils, have the “most potential for flourishing.” These communities, with populations of up to 6,000, enjoy an average Sunday attendance of 200 to 300 people, said Archdeacon Huskins. Bishop Corston, who was elected bishop in July last year, said he feels “very sad” about the state of the diocese, adding that it has been one of the great missionary dioceses of the Canadian church. It has gone through tremendous changes in its history,” he said. “It started in 1872 as an indigenous diocese through the Hudson’s Bay Company. Ω

Author

  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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