National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald has been elected as North American regional president for the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) during its 10th assembly currently taking place in Busan, Republic of Korea.
MacDonald becomes the first representative from the Anglican Church of Canada to assume this leadership role in the WCC. He will remain in his capacity as national indigenous Anglican bishop.
Founded in 1948, the WCC is an ecumenical fellowship of 349 member churches and denominations, representing over 560 million Christians in over 110 countries.
At every assembly, delegates elect a president for their particular region, whose job is to act as liaison and ambassador between the WCC and member churches. MacDonald was one of eight presidents elected during a closed session of the meeting.
“It is a great honour to be called to this position,” said MacDonald in an e-mail interview with the Anglican Journal. MacDonald said he was moved by the fact that the people and churches who nominated him as their consensus candidate, “most of them not indigenous – showed a great deal of trust in me, personally, and in the vision of our indigenous peoples, communally.” He was also moved to see that indigenous people present at Busan were “so happy” with his election and saw it as “a recognition of their peoples and their aspirations,” Macdonald added.
“According to the WCC constitution, the role of the WCC presidents is to promote ecumenism and interpret the work of the WCC, especially in their respective regions,” said a WCC press release. They also become ex-officio members of the Central Committee, the chief governing body.
“He’s in many ways an ideal candidate [for the job of WCC regional president] because he is a bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada and he’s been a bishop of The Episcopal Church in the U.S.,” said Archdeacon Bruce Myers, General Synod’s co-ordinator for ecumenical relations. “He has a foot in both sides of the border, and as an aboriginal person, he has an identity that transcends our political borders.”
MacDonald was appointed the Anglican Church of Canada’s first national indigenous Anglican bishop in 2007. Before that, he served as bishop for the Episcopal diocese of Alaska for over 10 years, and was involved in various ministries in Mississauga, Ont.; Duluth, Minn.; Tomah, Wis.; Mauston, Wis.; Portland, Ore.; and the southeast regional mission of the Episcopal diocese of Navajoland.
Before his ordination to the episcopate, he was canon missioner for training in the diocese of Minneapolis and vicar of St. Antipas’ Church, Redby, and St. John-in-the-Wilderness Church, Red Lake, Red Lake Nation.
He has served on the board of the Indigenous Theological Training Institute; the faculty of Leadership Academy for New Directions; and as a trustee of the Charles Cook Theological School in Tempe, Ariz.
A non-status Indian, MacDonald has native ancestry through both his mother and his father, and said he grew up among the Ojibway people.
He is also an author, co-author and co-editor of several publications.
Born in 1954 to Blake and Sue Nell MacDonald, he has a bachelor of arts in religious studies and psychology from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn., a master’s in divinity from Wycliffe College in Toronto and has completed post-graduate work at Luther-Northwestern Theological Seminary in Minneapolis.
He and his wife, Virginia Sha Lynn, have three children: Rose May Li, Brenna Li and Adrian Blake.
Note: This story has been updated to include comments from National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald.