Port Elgin, Ont.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) may not have the same residential school history that the Anglican Church of Canada does, but its national bishop, Susan Johnson, has committed her church to walking together in partnership with Indigenous Anglicans.
“We’re still trying to figure out what it means for us to be a basically non-Indigenous church in Canada. But [as] Canadian citizens…trying to build reconciliation and relationships with Indigenous people in Canada – What might that look like?” she asked. “We’re trying to figure that out.”
To that end, in a keynote delivered August 20 to the 8th National Anglican Sacred Circle, held here August 16-22, Johnson asked Sacred Circle members to consider whether or not they would be interested in entering into a more intentional relationship with the ELCIC.
“We’d like to request partnership with you, Sacred Circle, and you, Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples [ACIP], to walk with you on this journey of discovery, and to serve as our helpers and as our advisors…and to make sure we don’t stray onto paths that look more colonial than they should,” said Johnson.
Johnson noted that the Lutheran church in Canada is a church of immigrants, which is why it was not involved in the residential school system. The ELCIC General Convention adopted a resolution on right relationships in 2011, but because there are very few Indigenous people in the Lutheran church itself, Lutherans rarely find themselves meeting or interacting with Indigenous people.
Johnson explained that since the ELCIC and the Anglican Church entered into full communion partnership in 2001, there have been more occasions for interaction. She spoke of how significant the Joint Assembly of the Lutheran and Anglican churches in 2013 was from this perspective.
“For [Lutherans], that was the first time to listen to and to meet Indigenous people. And that’s just the reality of my church,” she said. “There are many places in Canada where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people don’t cross paths very easily, that meant that was a huge, huge thing for us. It really helped my people recognize how important it is to listen to you about working on this path toward reconciliation.”
Johnson also noted that closer relations with Indigenous peoples should be an integral part of her church’s commitment to fight poverty and climate change.
“In Canada you cannot separate discussions about poverty or discussions about climate change without also talking about Indigenous rights,” she said. “Those three issues, in Canada, are inseparable at this point.”
Johnson’s speech was received with applause, but no public discussion of what partnership would mean has taken place just yet. Rather, the bishop encouraged ACIP and Sacred Circle to take their time and consider whether or not such a partnership would be of interest to them at this time.