Keewatin Eyes New Structures: Area Ministry Could Become Native Diocese

By Sison, Marites N. | Anglican Journal, March 2008 | Go to article overview

Keewatin Eyes New Structures: Area Ministry Could Become Native Diocese


Sison, Marites N., Anglican Journal


The diocesan council of Keewatin has voted to modify the structures of the diocese by creating an area ministry in the predominantly aboriginal parishes of Northern Manitoba and preparing another, Northern Ontario, to become a self-determining native diocese in the future.

The bishop of Keewatin, David Ashdown, who concurred with the council's decision, said the proposals are a response to the changing needs of the diocese and the desire to better carry out its mission. It also speaks of the diocese's commitment to self-determination for aboriginal Anglicans, he said.

"I think what we're doing is very much on the cutting edge of making that dream a reality. I think that the whole church can benefit because I think we may be creating an example of how some transformations can take place," said Bishop Ashdown. "I would hope that we might be trailblazers-or pathfinders for the rest of the church."

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The proposals, which involve the creation of two new episcopal positions, was to be presented for approval to Keewatin's diocesan synod scheduled for-Feb. 28-March 2.

The proposal for northern Manitoba will also be presented for approval to the diocese of Brandon, since some of its parishes will be incorporated into the planned structure.

Voting unanimously during its meeting last Feb. 1-2, the diocesan council also authorized Bishop Ashdown and Bishop Mark MacDonald, the national Anglican indigenous bishop, to work with a working group to set up a process for the selection of an area bishop in that region. The northern Ontario group underscored that its bishop would have jurisdiction "within the canons of the province of Rupert's Land, the diocese of Keewarin, and the Anglican Church of Canada," said Bishop Ashdown. "In other words, a clear message that this is not a separate church or separate group of anything else."

Both proposals require the concurrence of one meeting of the provincial synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert's Land, as well as one meeting of General Synod, the governing body of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The proposals are a result of extensive consultations conducted in 2007 by Archdeacon Larry Beardy in northern Manitoba and by Archdeacon (acting) Lydia Mamakwa in northern Ontario.

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"Parishes had a common concern that the episcopal ministry was not being addressed as was needed by communities. People said they needed pastoral and sacramental ministry--from confirmations to ordinations," said Archdeacon Beardy who visited 27 parishes from Brandon to Churchill, Man.. "With the magnitude of the area, it's just not easy for the bishop to cover it."

To illustrate, Bishop Ashdown said, the distance it would take for him to visit parishes in Gillam, Man., would be the same as going northwest to Edmonton. "I would have driven through the dioceses of Brandon, Qu'Appelle, Saskatoon, and into Edmonton." The vast distances and the high cost of transportation have also meant that the diocesan council only gets to meet once a year.

One of Canada's largest dioceses in area, Keewatin covers 480,000 square kilometres and covers parts of Northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba.

"We see this as part of our whole kind of history. The church is always modifying its structures to meet the various circumstances which it finds itself in," Bishop Ashdown said of the proposals. Keewatin itself was a product of change, he said, for it had been carved out of the diocese of Rupert's Land and Moosonee by the province of Rupert's Land in 1899. …

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