Ashdown predicts he will be last bishop of Keewatin

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Diocese of Keewatin Archbishop David Ashdown celebrated the 100th anniversary of St. Mary’s church, in Sioux Lookout, Ont., with its youngest member. Photo: Diocese of Keewatin

Archbishop David Ashdown is to step down as archbishop of the diocese of Keewatin and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land in September 2015.

When he does, he fully expects it will be as the last bishop of Keewatin, he told the diocesan synod, which met March 22 to 24.

Ashdown said he intends to retire when he reaches the age of 65 that year, having spent 14 years as bishop and six years as metropolitan.

In his charge, Ashdown urged the synod to use the next three years as an opportunity to “look to its future,” including its governance structure, which has been undergoing changes.

He noted that Keewatin’s predominantly indigenous parishes in northern Ontario are working towards becoming a diocese. In 2010, the northern Ontario region elected its first area bishop, Lydia Mamakwa. Mamakwa is an aboriginal priest from Kingfisher Lake, an Oji-Cree First Nation located north of Sioux Lookout, Ont.

Ashdown said that, “the structures of the church must be shaped by mission, not the mission constrained by structures. The church is alive and well,” he told the Journal, “but we need to do some major restructuring.”

In his charge, Ashdown said that the diocese’s southern region could continue as a diocese with or without its northern Manitoba region. It could also:

· petition to become part of the diocese of Rupert’s Land, which requires the consent of that diocese and of the provincial synod;

· become an area mission under the direction of the metropolitan, which requires the approval of the provincial synod.

Northern Manitoba could work towards turning the goal of having a Manitoba indigenous Anglican bishop but the process will take more than three years, said Ashdown. In the meantime, the “most logical option” would be for this region to petition to become part of the diocese of Brandon, a process that requires the consent of that diocese and the provincial synod.

The Keewatin diocese has 45 parishes in the central region of Canada, including central and northern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

He said that one of the most exciting developments during his time in the diocese has been the “growing sense and the development of self-determination and self-reliance” among the aboriginal First Nations communities. “If anything, I’d like to think that I’ve been able to contribute in some way to that process,” said Ashdown.

The sacrifices of his wife, Penny, have allowed him to pursue his ministry, he told synod. “Without complaining, she accepts the demands of my position, which mean that I am away for long periods of time, returning only to rest and recharge before being gone again. I could not do my job without her.”

Before he moved to Keewatin in 1999, Ashdown served as executive archdeacon and treasurer of the diocese of Athabasca in Northern Alberta. Ordained a priest in 1978, he served parishes in the diocese of Qu’Appelle until 1992, when he moved to Athabasca.

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