This column first appeared in the Mar. 2013 issue of Anglican Journal.
The shape of Anglican life has always been determined by two primary concerns: to be faithful to the fundamental elements of the apostolic church and to embody that saving faith in the contexts in which its church communities are found. The church affirms that this is not only the responsibility of the local church but also a freedom given by divine command.
The local church is sometimes understood as the local parish and sometimes as an ecclesiastical province, but it is generally approached from the level of the diocese. The local church, however, is always based on the authority of the presence of the Risen Christ, wherever two or three are gathered together in his name. The life that is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus must become the lived experience-the Word made flesh-of the community in its context.
Today, the Anglican Church of Canada has an urgent need to live into this mandate and freedom. The massive cultural and societal change in our context demands a deep and extensive reflection on the meaning of our faith in this time. This has special force for indigenous churches. Freed from the restrictions of colonial expectation, it is especially important for them to embody the Word of God in indigenous life-ways.
We will be guided and encouraged in these endeavours by the Christian understanding of freedom. Freedom, in the Christian understanding, is the capacity to become what God intended us to be, to become a part of God’s trajectory in creation. In contrast to its definition in modern thought, freedom is not limited to the capacity for autonomy, though this is often a necessary component of freedom. Freedom, through submission to God’s will, is the fulfilment of the unique vocation that we have as creatures, as communities, within the plan of God for creation. This is the exciting challenge, and the critical command, addressed to our churches today.
Bishop Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.