Arctic postpones election of third suffragan bishop

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The diocese of the Arctic will not be immediately electing a successor to retired suffragan (assistant) bishop Paul Idlout, said diocesan bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk.

Candidates for bishop are not limited to clergy within the diocese, but Bishop Atagotaaluk said he would like to see a better range of potential candidates emerge in the Arctic.

“I feel there is not enough maturity amongst the present clergy (in the diocese). Some of our senior clergy have retired and we need time for people to catch up, so we have a good range of selections from our own diocese,” he told Anglican Journal at the fall meeting in Saskatoon of the house of bishops.

Therefore, there will not be an episcopal election at the Arctic’s next diocesan synod, scheduled for May 25-June 2, 2005 at Iqaluit, Nunavut, he said. The Arctic holds synods every three years and the 2008 synod may see an episcopal election, he said.

Bishop Atagotaaluk said budget considerations also played a part in his decision. The Arctic currently has two suffragan bishops, Benjamin Arreak and Larry Robertson. All three attend the twice-yearly meetings of the national house of bishops and the twice-yearly meetings of the Council of the North, a group of 11 mission dioceses that are subsidized by the national church.

“The national church is pressed for limited funds and (not filling the third suffragan post) helps us catch up,” said Bishop Atagotaaluk. “We are aiming at being a self-supporting diocese, but that’s been our mandate since 1992 and we haven’t been moving that fast.” He also said he is leaning toward having only one or two Arctic bishops attend Council of the North meetings on a rotating basis.

Bishop Idlout, the first Inuk elected bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, retired on April 30, 2004. While bishop, he also held the post of dean of St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit. Bishop Atagotaaluk named Ron McLean, a layperson and captain in the Church Army, as interim dean. The diocese is seeking candidates for the position of rector of St. Jude’s.

Similarly, another Council of the North diocese, Keewatin, has not filled its suffragan bishop post since 1996, when then-suffragan bishop Gordon Beardy was elected diocesan bishop. Bishop David Ashdown said that is due to budget considerations. The diocese, which encompasses northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba, has a model of shared aboriginal/non-aboriginal leadership and the current diocesan executive archdeacon is Cree, Larry Beardy. Bishop Ashdown is not aboriginal. His predecessor, Bishop Gordon Beardy, was Oji-Cree and the first aboriginal diocesan bishop in the Canadian church.

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Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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