Beginning in the new year, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald will also be the new area bishop for the Northern Manitoba region of the diocese of Keewatin.
David Ashdown, archbishop of the diocese of Keewatin and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, made the announcement on Dec. 17 and requested prayers for Bishop Mark, the clergy and people of the northern Manitoba region “as together we begin this new adventure in witness and ministry.”
“Bishop Mark shall have full episcopal authority in Northern Manitoba Region in all matters except for those matters which I am required by canon to retain, namely those relating to the discipline of clergy,” the archbishop wrote, noting that he would deal with any such matters in full consultation with Bishop Mark.
MacDonald told the Anglican Journal that his role, by agreement of all involved-including the former diocese of Keewatin and the northern Ontario region-will be a transitional one. “I will work with Bishop Lydia [Mamakwa, currently the bishop of the Northern Ontario mission area] to provide pastoral care and episcopal visitation for those congregations until we can set up a process for them to select their own area bishop,” he said.
The region has been a part of the diocese of Keewatin, which, with the approval of General Synod 2013, will close on Dec. 31, 2014. After June 4, the region will be a part of the newly created Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikweesh, of which Lydia Mamakwa will be bishop. “It will then have its own way of operation and it is free to develop it, but initially at least and maybe for the future, it will be a part of Mishamikweesh,” said MacDonald.
The additional workload will make his job as national indigenous bishop more complex, MacDonald acknowledged. “I certainly have enough to do already, but I’ll work together with Bishop Lydia, and there’s an indigenous leadership circle [which] I’m sure will give a hand that includes Bishop Adam [Halkett], [Archdeacon] Sidney Black, [the Rev.] Norm Casey and [the Rev. Canon] Ginny Doctor. We’ll try to work together, but I’ll be working directly with [Bishop] Lydia to provide the ministry there.”
MacDonald said he aims to start travelling to the communities as soon as the ice roads are in good shape. “The best time to get around to everybody is when there are winter roads, because otherwise a lot of them are fly-in communities.”
The timeline for selecting a new bishop is not set, said MacDonald. “It will depend somewhat on funding. There’s a couple of things that are up in the air about that, but I’ll assess that after I visit all the communities and see where they are at. I think that it could happen very soon. It could happen technically any time after June 4, but we’ll see how long it needs to take.” He noted that a new bishop would be chosen using an indigenous approach to leadership selection, very similar to the way in which Mamakwa was chosen in 2010.
In the meanwhile, he said, “most of my ministry has been in places like this-so for me it is just like going home, I guess, so I’m looking forward to that aspect of it.”