Anglican Arctic diocese to elect new bishop Wednesday

Election Wednesday at synod in Iqaluit to replace Andrew Atagotaaluk, who has held the post for 10 years.

Four candidates vying to replace Andrew Atagotaaluk

Anglican leaders from across the North were in Iqaluit Wednesday to elect a new spiritual leader.

Andrew Atagotaaluk will retire as bishop of the diocese of the Arctic at the end of the year, after holding the post for 10 years.  Atagotaaluk was the first Inuk to serve as bishop of the diocese.

Anglican Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk says one of the challenges his successor will face is finding enough money to keep Northern churches open. (CBC)

The election will take place as part of the Arctic diocese’s synod in Iqaluit. The Anglican diocese of the Arctic includes N.W.T., Nunavut and Nunavik.

Two of the four candidates for bishop currently live in the North — Iola Metuq is a priest in Kuujjuaq, Que., and Rev. Capt. David Parsons is from Inuvik.

Also running is Rev. Darren McCartney, an Irish priest who served in Pangnirtung for three years a decade ago and Rev. Haydn Schofield, who served in Hay River and Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., before moving to Alberta.

One of them will be elected to replace Atagotaaluk, and another to be an assistant bishop. The election could require several ballots and take most of the day.

Bishop Atagotaaluk says one of the challenges facing his successor will be finding enough money to keep Northern churches open.

The Anglican Church of Canada provides grant money to the Arctic diocese but Atagotaaluk said there's pressure on every church to become self-sufficient.

"Looking at financial situations, I know everybody's having a hard time," he said. "But there is more money, I believe, in each community than there used to be way back in the ‘30s. So there is that possibility, one day we could become a self-supporting diocese."

Atagotaaluk said right now only a portion of the Arctic diocese's million-dollar budget is raised from Northern parishioners, and about a third of it comes from grant money from the national Anglican church.

But the Anglican Church of Canada is projecting a deficit in the coming years. It blames a steady decline in revenues that parallels a drop in church attendance across the country.

Rev.Tom Martin of Kuujjuaraapik, Que., said the money to run the diocese is here in the North.

"For many people, they'd rather spend it gambling, or drugs, alcohol," he said. "If even a portion of that money could be devoted for other community-oriented issues, then we'd have more money than we know what to do with."

For now, the Arctic diocese is still getting grant money but it's also trying to raise money on its own — $3 million, to cover the cost of re-building Iqaluit's St Jude's cathedral.

The new igloo-shaped building will officially open on Sunday when the new Arctic bishop will also be consecrated.