When The Mississauga Declaration was released last September, we expected some negative reaction. We did not expect that some people would experience surprise.
The declaration is the response of a group of indigenous leaders to the crisis of human need in indigenous communities, and a commitment to action. It includes an intimately related affirmation of indigenous Christian identity. Among other things, the declaration refers to possible proposals on governance. More important is its call to indigenous church members for committed action.
Encouraged by the primate’s heartfelt response, the Council of General Synod affirmed the declaration. There has, however, been a counter-reaction from some non-indigenous leaders in the Canadian Anglican church, including a few bishops. The concerns they voice show a lack of awareness of the 50-year church-wide discussion on indigenous ministry: What is the impetus for the declaration? How will any action be paid for? Does self-determination mean separating from the Anglican church?
But the declaration is, in fact, a relatively mild restatement of other much-endorsed documents. More than anything, it is a statement of personal and corporate responsibility on the part of indigenous leaders for a very critical situation.
Indigenous peoples are called to enter a new spiritual freedom, letting the elements of the Christian way glorify God and serve the people. Self-determination, in this sense, means becoming who God meant us to be.
This August, the seventh Sacred Circle will take place in Pinawa, Manitoba. We pray, and hope you will pray with us, that God will give us inspiration. Pray that our circle will help develop a more sustainable and indigenous way of being a community of disciples. Pray, too, that we will find the bridges of heart and mind to allow all of the Anglican church to enter more fully into our community in Christ.
Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.