A selection committee appointed by the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) will begin interviewing eight candidates for the position of national Indigenous Anglican archbishop at the end of October, says Sidney Black, the current interim national Indigenous Anglican bishop. The names of the candidates under consideration will remain confidential until a final selection is made, he says, but he was able to reveal that five of the candidates were bishops and three of them were priests.
Black has filled the position on an interim basis since April, when then-archbishop Mark MacDonald stepped down after acknowledging sexual misconduct.
Once the selection committee chooses a successful candidate, says Black, the new archbishop will need to be endorsed by ACIP and presented to the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, so she can officially appoint them to the role. That would likely be when the identity of the new archbishop is announced to the public, says Black.
The process of selecting someone for the role is outlined in Canon XXIII of the Anglican Church of Canada’s constitution—the canon which deals with the church’s national Indigenous ministry.
If the new archbishop is chosen from among the five bishops under consideration, Black says, they would likely be welcomed into the role at next spring’s meeting of Sacred Circle. If the successful candidate is a priest, however, the timeline is less clear as they will first need to be consecrated as a bishop before becoming archbishop. It’s possible this would also be done at Sacred Circle, says Black, but not yet certain.
Black says the permanent archbishop will need to be prepared to handle a number of challenges.
“A quality that has been expressed from time to time is that the person has the gift or the ability or the awareness to be able to walk two paths, the non-Indigenous and the Indigenous,” he says.
On the latter, he says the archbishop will face the social, political and economic disparities that challenge those living on reservations and Indigenous people nationwide. As a result, the archbishop must be ready to hear and respond to the need for consolation and advocacy on a daily basis.
“The incident at James Smith Cree Nation I think is just a glimpse of the situations that folks live in,” he says, referring to the Sept. 4 stabbing attacks that left the nation in mourning for 10 of its members and wounded 18 more. That eruption, he says, was a symptom of the social dynamics which are present in other Indigenous communities all over Canada.
At meetings of ACIP, members often begin with some time to unpack what they have been dealing with in their home communities, to listen and support one another. The national Indigenous archbishop will be responsible for applying that model of listening, entering into painful places and offering comfort across all of those they minister to, he says.
At the same time, they will need to communicate those concerns, along with the ways of worship and life of their Indigenous congregants to the Anglican Church of Canada at large, he says. And to do that, they will need to be fluent in the ways of thinking and expression that can help them bridge the gaps between the two ways of thought.
As the process of establishing a governance structure for the Indigenous church continues with the discussion and expected ratification of its governing documents, The Covenant and Our Way of Life at Sacred Circle, Black says, the other thing the ACIP committee will be looking for is an archbishop who can help lead that conversation.
“The elders asked for a bishop who would represent us in the councils of the church … and also to be the midwife of the birthing of an Indigenous church.”
The next meeting of Sacred Circle is planned for May 28-June 2 in Ramara, Ont.