Archbishop’s Report to Executive Council of the Diocese of Moosonee
November 5, 2014-11-04
This is my second meeting of the Executive Council since I become your bishop on January 1st and my installation just before the last meeting. It has been an exciting time for me of learning. Since then I have visited about half the parishes in the Diocese, some with Bishop Tom and our wives, some on my own. I have received warm and gracious welcome wherever I have been.
MAP Mission Action Plan – it is not a document to be left on the shelf but a PLAN, an action plan, a path to renovate the Church. Guided by the marks of mission, it seeks a goal “That every Anglican be rooted in scripture, regular in worship, outreaching in compassion and ready to share their faith.” I see this as a key initiative that we need to be implementing in our parishes – supported not only by the clergy but also among the lay leaders. What could you do to make this a key element in your parish – as a way to organise your work and evaluate what you are doing in every activity so that the church participates more fully and actively in the mission of Christ in the world?
Visitations: in June and early July my wife and I, guided by Bishop Tom and Ruth Corston, visited most of James Bay deanery, although I could not go to the interior Quebec parishes this time. I experienced large, well prepared confirmation classes and an opportunity to get to know the clergy and some of the lay leaders better. In September, Bp Tom and I visited Kashechewan, having delayed our earlier planned visit because of the evacuation in the Spring. I am very concerned about the ongoing ministry in Kash now that there is no resident clergy there and am thankful that Norm Wesley, Rod BrantFrancis and Cliff Dee have gone or are going, so that there has been at least a monthly presence. Andrew Wesley has indicated that he too would offer priestly service on an occasional but regular basis in the New Year. We also will need to encourage the faithful lay readers in the parish, perhaps some of whom might consider preparing for ordination.
I was not able to join Bishop Tom on visitations that he made through September and October in the Watershed Deanery, although I plan to attend the Watershed Deanery meeting in February and visit three of the parishes then (Cochrane, Iroquois Falls and South Porcupine). Over the next year, I hope to visit the remaining parishes I have not come to yet.
Kirkland Lake and Iroquois Falls: At the beginning of August, I placed the rector of the parish on a leave of absence pending the outcome of investigations arising out of charges laid by the police. Archdeacon Deborah Lonergan-Freake and I visited the churches and met with the congregations that week. The parishioners responded to the crisis with great maturity and resiliency. Between them, Bp Tom Corston and the Rev. Deidre Roach are providing pastoral and sacramental ministry twice a month to support the ministry of the lay readers. Longer term arrangements are now being made, with Patricia Dorland taking leadership in Iroquois Falls and a new appointee in Kirkland Lake beginning in December.
Clericus: in September, I led the annual clericus meeting at Camp Bickell, bringing with me Canon Greg Symmes as chaplain. Most of the clergy were present, although we particularly missed Patricia Dorland who was attending a national church meeting on our behalf, and we held Rod and Lisa BrantFrancis in our prayers as they dealt with the grief at the loss of his mother.
Several lay readers were able to join us, and I left uplifted by the energy, creativity and joy I experienced in that group. I am deeply impressed with the commitment and passion of our leaders.
Ordinations: we welcome this year three new priests (all three of whom are here at this meeting!) and a new transitional deacon, and I thank Bishop Tom for presiding at these ordinations. These are joyous celebrations and a sign of the ongoing vitality of our Diocese. I have just appointed Catherine Murkin, an officer with Threshold Ministries (Church Army) who will be evangelist in Kirkland Lake and the Schumacher project ministry. She has completed some of her courses towards a M.Div. and will be considered for ordination in due course. I have also received enquiries about ordained ministry from a couple of other people so God continues to call people to serve Him in this way.
Vision Quest: you can read in the reports about Schumacher ministry that is taking some exciting new directions.
Council of the North: I have participated in a number of teleconference meetings with the other bishops of the Council of the North, although I was not able to attend the Fall meeting of the Council in Calgary. Deborah Lonergan-Freake and Patricia Dorland ably represented us and Patricia is a member of the very important Grants Allocations Committee. The Council has been very generous in its grants on behalf of General Synod to this Diocese.
Administration: this experiment in mission in this diocese would not be possible without the extraordinary attention and work of Archdeacon Deborah Lonergan-Freake and the financial oversight of the Reverend Patricia Dorland, supported by the pastoral care of the Assistant Bishop and the Regional Deans. Deborah and I meet by teleconference a minimum of 2-3 times per month, frequent emails, and occasional face-to-face meetings (it has turned out to be about monthly). Their detailed attention has revealed a number of long term administrative issues that have had to be rectified, which they have been proactive in addressing. We are in good hands!
Administration is a ministry (“ad-ministry” – service on behalf of the ministry). It provides the infrastructure that allows all of the other ministries to flow properly. It is important and not an add-on. So it is urgent that parish leaders (clergy and lay) are prompt, accurate and timely in completing and submitting forms, reports, and records. It causes real and serious problems when this does not happen, and it is disrespectful of the time and ministry of the Administrator and Financial Officer who also have parish responsibilities when they have to chase after information that is needed (several times) because someone didn’t get around to submitting it. We are in this ministry together and it will only thrive if everyone pulls his or her weight.
The summer’s crisis revealed flaws in our safe church screening policies. Police records checks had not been properly documented, and now have been. The diocesan Sexual Misconduct Policy needs to be reviewed. At the clericus meeting, we addressed the importance of the policy and the clergy signed off on it, as required. The appointment of an investigation commission has not happened. Some of this will be done at today’s meeting.
Long term: It has been a privilege to serve as your Bishop. This is an amazing diocese that is a model for many other dioceses to consider as we seek to serve Christ’s mission in a complex and changing context. We are on a steep learning curve. We have to figure out what is the best way of doing things in a new way. For example, while it was extremely helpful for my wife, Ellen, and me to join with Bishop Tom and Ruth Corston for the visitation to the four east James Bay communities, we cannot continue to do that. Bishop Tom and I will have to make separate visits to keep costs down while still providing essential Episcopal connection with the clergy and parishioners.
The Administrator and Financial Officer are spending far more effort and time than was originally planned. This budget being presented today recognises the cost of that more realistically. The Assistant Bishop and I are very part-time, even though it is taking more time than I had anticipated. Remember that Bishop Tom is retired and lives outside the diocese! It does mean that we are not as available to you, except in emergencies, as you might have been used to. Given the small numerical size of the diocese (but not its geographic size), I am currently of the opinion that Moosonee does not need a full-time bishop; it certainly needs one part-time. For Moosonee, I am a non-stipendiary bishop, although I am amply compensated as Bishop of Toronto. But this will not last. I serve, willingly and with delight, as your bishop and you have taught me much already and I have yet much to learn, but I serve by virtue of my position as Metropolitan of Ontario. The next Metropolitan will become the next Bishop of Moosonee according to the Canons and he or she will not be the Bishop of Toronto. Another diocese may not have the capacity of the Diocese of Toronto to be able to share their diocesan bishop so easily or without some compensation. There are a number of models that might be possible. The Ecclesiastical Province is beginning to explore the possible implications of this and will be engaging us in these explorations over the next year. This is not meant to raise anxiety. We are providing a model of courageous experimentation that can serve as a model and benefit the whole church. I see this as a hopeful process because I believe it will help us as we move forward to continue to focus on what we are called and committed to do and be: “... called by God to Live and Proclaim the Gospel.” Our structures are meant solely to support and enable that purpose to be achieved.