Anglican Church considers Maritime amalgamation

Anglican Church officials are considering combining some eastern dioceses in an effort to save on administrative costs.

This week, Anglican Church officials discussed combining some of the seven eastern dioceses, from Quebec to Newfoundland, in an effort to save on administrative costs.

The proposal includes the amalgamation of two dioceses in the Maritimes.

The discussion took place at a meeting of the seven eastern dioceses, the purpose of which is to give members the chance to prepare to debate issues at the upcoming Provincial Synod scheduled for September.

Bishop Sue Moxley of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. told CBC News it makes financial sense to amalgamate struggling dioceses, but she doesn't think merging her diocese of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. with New Brunswick would work.

Moxley said she wasn't sure if the amalgamation proposal would end up reducing the number of bishops in the Maritime region from three to one.

"That would make over 200 parishes, and most of our parishes have several congregations," Moxley said, "and it would be more than 200 clergy which would be way too much for one bishop. We presently have three."

Moxley said attendance is dropping in some rural congregations on P.E.I., but overall, the diocese is in good financial condition.

"Nova Scotia and P.E.I., we're doing okay, Quebec is having quite a difficult time, financially. I think Newfoundland is doing okay," Moxley said. 

"None of us have got money, you know, falling out of our pockets but the people support the church financially through their congregation."

But she said attendance in larger centres such as Halifax is on the rise.

"Around metro Halifax, the attendance is increasing because lots of those young people have moved into this area.... we've built three new churches around metro here."

Moxley said other eastern dioceses, driven by lower church attendance, are already seriously discussing the amalgamation proposal.

"Some things are already happening. The diocese of Montreal and the diocese of Quebec, they've been talking to each other already about what could they share?" Moxley said,  "How could they share resources because there's already a very large decrease in the number of Anglicans within the province of Quebec."

Moxley said dioceses in Newfoundland and Labrador could consider amalgamating due to the number of Newfoundlanders heading west for work.

"The three dioceses in Newfoundland, they only became separate dioceses, I think, in the 1970's and I mean there's large numbers of Anglicans in Newfoundland," Moxley said, "but with a lot of them going out west to work that's changed the dynamics there. So, part of the question is, could they go back to being one again?"

Church officials will meet in September to vote on the proposal. Any potential changes would then have to be discussed locally.

Moxley said if the congregations make it clear they don't want to amalgamate, it won't happen.

A final decision won't be made until the next synod in 2015.