Report Number: 004
Report to the meeting of General Synod – May 2004
The council of the North holds two meetings every year, one in the autumn (usually the first weekend of October) and the winter meeting in late January or February. The regular members of the council are comprised of all Bishops of the member Dioceses of the Council and the National Treasurer. The autumn meeting is expanded in membership to include an additional member from each diocese dependent on the interest and focus of that particular meeting and membership from the Anglican Council of Indigenous People (ACIP).
The Council of the North has developed a “Policy Handbook” which fairly reflects the attitude of the Council developed over the years of Council meetings. Its statement of purpose is to “equip one another in our mission to enormous and thinly populated Dioceses; to offer mutual encouragement and pastoral care, hope to the oppressed, and challenge to the complacent. In all we do, we shall strive to be a sign of the Kingdom of Christ who makes all things new, and so keep faith with our partners in the wider church who uphold us by their prayers and substance.” It is in this spirit that we meet together and challenge each other in the growth and development of our Church family. A very real part of that family is our partnership with ACIP which results in tremendous input to the discussion and decision making that transpires at the autumn meetings. Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, the Bishop of the Arctic, is our liaison person with the Council of Indigenous People.
Given the input from many peoples’ points-of-view, that is not to say that there are not healthy disagreements between partners. The copies of the reports to the Council of General Synod attached give credence to that statement. However, it is through these debates that the Council has found its growth whether those debates are on the challenge of transparency or around the different fiscal realities across the many Dioceses that we serve.
One issue that I want to bring to your attention is the fact that the grant to the Council of the North has remained at the same dollar level for the past number of years. In addition, when the Diocese of Quebec joined our ranks because of the needs of the Deanery of the North Shore, the National Grant quite rightly, was not increased. Instead, all dioceses in the Council accepted the challenge of a lower figure to cover the increased costs of including the North Shore Deanery of the Diocese of Quebec. Furthermore, the Council’s policy on increasing the basic stipend annually by the May over May Consumer Price Index (CPI) has brought the basic stipend for all personnel for the year 2004 to $26,030.00. To the credit of each council diocese, these increases have been accepted and the funds have been raised locally. The issue of dependency is something that all of us in the Council guard against and are proud of our ability to do more than just survive.
Turning now to the issue of transparency, I am pleased to inform you that the Council has been successful in developing a process of reporting all stipend costs; these documents are shared with all members and the National Treasurer. Debates on local variances are entered into and all points-of-view are freely received with the understanding that all of us are partners in the Mission that we have been ordained to fulfill. It is important to recognize that what may work in the Diocese of Athabasca is next to impossible in the Diocese of the Arctic. For example, the Diocese of Athabasca was successful in encouraging its delegates to Diocesan Synod to meet their own costs of travel to Peace River. In addition, each delegate paid a registration fee of $75.00. The end result was that Synod costs reflected a surplus of just over $2000.
The Diocese of the Arctic, on the other hand, has tremendous transportation costs. In 2002 the transportation cost for Synod alone was $140,983. The total costs for Synod at Rankin Inlet were $297,670. At the same time, each parish is being asked to increase its contribution per delegate to $2000 from $1500. Not every parish is able to meet this level of contribution and the diocese has been able to find the necessary funds to cover the costs. As Debra Gill, the Diocesan Administrator for the Arctic, reminds us costs continue to increase. The benefit of having diocesan synod every three years is well worth the cost as the family of the Church is able to come together from across vast distances and work, worship and praise the Lord in solidarity and faith. Costs being what they are in the north, it is essential that General Synod continue to assist the dioceses of the Council of the North at the current rate.
We in the Council have committed ourselves to a process of visioning and strategic planning for the future of our Council and Dioceses. We were fortunate in being able to acquire the leadership of Michael Shouldice, the Principal of Arctic College in Rankin Inlet, in leading us through this process. Unfortunately, a blizzard at Rankin Inlet negated Mike’s attendance at our recent meeting and we have had to postpone an important session. This is one of the realities of living and working in Northern Canada.
The importance of communicating to the wider Church the message of the ministry of the Council of the North has always been high on the agenda of the Bishops of the council dioceses. In the past we used to hold our meetings in various locations which enabled the Bishops to preach at local parish churches to tell the story. This has not happened for some years, primarily because we have been meeting in a single location, Edmonton, for budget reasons. Therefore, the Council has decided to take 1% of the total grant and have the Diocese of Keewatin commissioned to perform a promotional program which was accepted by the last meeting of the Council. I would also remind you that the Council of the North produced an excellent video on the work of the Council a few years ago. I believe John Drainey of CBC was the commentator. It is an excellent piece of work and is available from your Bishop’s office.
In conclusion, I am grateful to Bishop Don Harvey, who has been the Council’s member on the Mission Coordination Group and reporting to the Council of General Synod on behalf of the Council of the North. I am appending his reports for your information. As a son of the North, I am extremely blessed by forty years of ministry in the land of my birth. I have seen tremendous growth and development in our understanding of what it means to be the Church, the family of God. We have along way to go but I am convinced that by the Grace of God, we will learn how to be a Church of Mission and no longer a mission Church.
Yours in Christ’s service,
The Most Rev. John R. Clarke
Chair of the Council of the North