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Synod may merge 7 Eastern Canadian dioceses into 3: The Church of England Newspaper, April 29, 2012, p 6. May 4, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada

The Ecclesiastical Province of Canada – the domestic province of the Anglican Church of Canada covering Quebec and the Maritime Provinces – will entertain a motion at its provincial synod to consolidate its seven dioceses into three.

In a statement released on 17 April 2012, the province said the motion put forward by the Provincial Governance Task Force seeks to create “a leaner, more efficient ecclesiastical province better equipped to carry out God’s mission in eastern Canada.”

“We should start from a presumption that greater cooperation among the dioceses is desirable,” said Archbishop Claude Miller, Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada and Bishop of Fredericton. “Then we need to determine which structures may best achieve this outcome.”

Consolidating dioceses “recognizes the changing demographic of the Anglican Church within the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada in terms of both decreasing numbers and the increased cost of providing ecclesiastical services within our seven existing dioceses,” the explanatory note accompanying the motion stated.

Among the proposals are merging the dioceses of Eastern, Central and Western Newfoundland – which were formed out of the Diocese of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1976 – back to a single diocese.  The Diocese of Fredericton, which covers the province of New Brunswick, could be merged with the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, while the dioceses of Quebec and Montreal could form a single diocese.

According to the 2011 Anglican Church Directory, Montreal has 96 active clergy, 66 parishes and approximately 12,000 members on its parish rolls. Quebec has only 23 clergy, 45 parishes and 4000 members.

Fredericton has 69 active clergy, 85 parishes and approximately 24,000 members, while Nova Scotia &  PEI has 127 clergy, 111 parishes and 127,000 members.

Western Newfoundland has 27 clergy, 32 parishes and 36,000 members; Central Newfoundland 34 clergy, 32 parishes and 33,000 members and Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador has 48 clergy, 27 parishes and 61,000 members.

Depopulation of rural Canada is placing pressure on the Anglican Church of Canada to change its current structures.  At its 5 June 2011 meeting of synod the Diocese of Moosonee voted to dissolve the diocese due to a sharp fall in the northern diocese’s population.  Delegates unanimously adopted a resolution directing its officers to begin talks with the Province of Ontario to dissolve the diocese and create a mission area to oversee its 26 parishes.

In November 2009 Bishop Barry Clarke of Montreal and Bishop Dennis Drainville of Quebec initiated a two year “discernment process” to look into “opportunities and obstacles to partnership” between the two dioceses including a possible merger.

In 2009 Bishop Drainville told the Canadian House of Bishops his diocese was “teetering on the verge of extinction.”  Of the diocese’s 82 congregations, 50 were childless and 35 congregations had an average age of 75.  These graying congregations often had no more than 10 people in church on Sundays, he said.  “The critical mass isn’t there, there’s no money anymore,” he said.

Between 1961 and 2001 the Anglican Church of Canada lost 53 per cent of its members, with numbers declining from 1.36 million to 642,000.  The rate of decline has increased in recent years, according to an independent report given to the Canadian House of Bishops in 2006 by retired marketing expert Keith McKerracher.

If the motion passes the September meeting of synod, the province will undertake to “explore possible realignment of dioceses,” and then report back to the 2015 meeting of synod for further action.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.