Election Historic on Two Counts: Fourth Election in Row for Bishop Doesn't Ensure Speedy Choice

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Rev. Paul Idlout made history twice in May, becoming the Anglican Church's first Inuk bishop in a record 29 ballots. (Inuk is the singular form of Inuit.)

A former special constable for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, he was chosen to be the suffragan, or assistant, bishop of the diocese over Canon Ben Arreak, who twice before had been a candidate.

"I feel I should not have been the first one," said Bishop Idlout, 62, after his election. "However, God called me tonight to be the first."

Following the vote, diocesan bishop Christopher Williams said, "This is a historic occasion. This is what the church has been working for since the first Anglican missionaries ever came into the North in the last half of the last century."

Calgary Archbishop Barry Curtis, who presided over the election, said, "Especially with Nunavut coming, it's just so important that we have an Inuit bishop for Inuit administration." (Nunavut, a new Inuit-dominated territory, will be established in the east Arctic on April 1, 1999.)

"He is meant to be the father in God of the people of this diocese of Nunavut," said Archbishop Curtis, "so it's just so important, I think, that he be a member of the people of ... this land."

Archbishop Curtis added that if an Inuit bishop hadn't been elected, "it would have been a major disappointment here. But it would equally have been a major disappointment in the church in Southern Canada." Lots of people in Canada are "delighted, pleased and thrilled" at the election, he said.

It was the fourth Arctic synod in a row to choose a bishop. The previous synod had elected as suffragan Terrence Buckle, who was recently elected Bishop of Yukon.

Voting began in the early morning of Monday, May 27, in St. Jude's Cathedral, Iqaluit, N.W.T. with three declared candidates -- Ben Arreak, Paul Idlout and Abilie Napartuk -- and ended a grueling 38 hours later in a stuffy gymnasium.

In all, 77 people were eligible to cast ballots -- 46 lay delegates and 31 clergy (30 priests and Bishop Williams).

After the first ballot, Bishop Idlout, then a priest in Cape Dorset, N.W.T., led with 13 clergy votes. However, Canon Arreak, deputy prolocutor of General Synod and priest in Kuujjuak, Que., since January, led the lay vote with 26.

Canon Napartuk, from Puvirnituk in Northern Quebec, was second in the lay vote with 11, and was eventually dropped from the ballot. …