CoGS roundup: Hiltz calls for apology for ‘spiritual abuse’ of Indigenous people

The Rev. Norm Wesley says the church has an opportunity to apologize to Indigenous elders while they’re still alive. Photo: Saskia Rowley
Published December 6, 2018

The Anglican Church of Canada should apologize to the country’s Indigenous people for having “demonized” their traditional spirituality, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told Council of General Synod (CoGS) November 24.

“There’s a need to do something by way of an apology, and we need to do it carefully and prayerfully, and we need to do it well so that it’s meaningful,” Hiltz said. “There is a need to do this.”

Hiltz was speaking after a presentation to CoGS by the Rev. Norm Wesley, co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), which guides Indigenous ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada. In his talk, Wesley said that at one point in his spiritual journey as a Cree man, when he asked his mother to tell him about traditional Cree spiritual practices, she replied, in Cree, “We are told not to speak of these things.”

Wesley said the notion that traditional spirituality should not be discussed is widespread among many Indigenous elders, because their religion was “demonized” by European churches. But this attitude is a barrier to the establishment of an Indigenous Anglican church, he said, because, traditional Indigenous spirituality ought to play a role in it. The church, he said, has an opportunity now to apologize to Indigenous elders while they’re still alive.

“As I see it, we have one of two choices,” Wesley said. “We can wait for those elders to pass away…or we, the church, can say, ‘We were wrong in indoctrinating you elders that your spirituality was the work of the devil.’ We have a choice here, a clear choice.”

In his comment after Wesley’s presentation, Hiltz said there had been much discussion of an apology at a national gathering in Pinawa, Man., in September 2017 and at ACIP’s meeting in November 2018.

Then-primate Michael Peers apologized to Canada’s Indigenous people in 1993 for the Anglican Church of Canada’s role in the residential school system. But Peers’s apology, while it expressed regret for the church’s role in the physical, sexual, emotional and cultural abuse inflicted on residential school students, made no mention of “spiritual abuse,” Hiltz said.

“That’s not to put a shadow over Michael Peers or over his intentions, or over the text over which he laboured, and the heart with which it was delivered, but it’s a conversation that’s happening in our church right now,” he said.

An apology for spiritual abuse, he said, would likely also include an expression of gratitude to Indigenous elders for keeping traditional spirituality alive, despite the risk to themselves from European and Canadian authorities.

“The elders need to be thanked…notwithstanding a position they often had to take, to say: ‘We don’t talk about that,’ or ‘We can’t talk about it,’ they have still carried the spirituality,” he said. “It’s not dead, not extinct—it’s still very much alive in their hearts.”

The apology would likely include some way of encouraging young Indigenous people to learn more about their traditional spirituality, he said.

Members of Jubilee Commission named

CoGS approved at its November meeting a list of members of the Jubilee Commission, tasked with finding funding for the future Indigenous Anglican Church. Proposed for the commission by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and approved by CoGS, are: Riscylla Shaw, area bishop of Trent-Durham in the diocese of Toronto; Judith Moses; Canon Laverne Jacobs; the Rev. Pamela Rayment; Larry Beardy, Indigenous suffragan bishop of the Northern Manitoba Area Mission; and Archdeacon Jim Boyles.

The goals of the commission, announced and approved by CoGS at its June 2018 meeting, include a possible tithe on future sales of church property. The commission will also look at how compensation for Indigenous clergy, a high proportion of whom are unpaid, might be brought closer to the salary levels of other clergy in the church.

The Indigenous church, expected to be formally created through a resolution at General Synod this July, is intended to be a self-determining spiritual community within the Anglican Church of Canada.

General Synod planning committee “looking very seriously at voting matters”

 The General Synod planning committee is carefully considering options for how votes will be taken at the meeting of General Synod in July 2019, Dean Peter Wall of the diocese of Niagara told CoGS November 25. Wall, who is chair of the committee, reported that they were not yet ready to make a recommendation on how the vote would take place, including whether and how electronic voting would be used, but that it would be doing so at the next meeting of CoGS in March.

“I just want to assure you that we’re very aware of how sensitive and tender a subject this is,” Wall said, “and the kinds of judgments, some of which I find not entirely fair, that were made about what happened in 2016. We know what happened, and we know what the issues were, and we have worked at this with a potential supplier of electronic voting equipment with all of those things in mind. We’re not going to let anybody down. We’re not going to drop a stitch on this.”

Concern around voting stems from the first reading of the resolution to amend the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage, which took place in 2016. At the time, errors recorded by the electronic voting system led to confusion over the outcome of the vote.

Wall also reported that the committee was considering different ways to organize the agenda and seating arrangements. He noted that “Vancouver is an expensive city in which to gather,” and that the planning committee has cut back on costs by reducing face-to-face meetings and is working hard to reduce on the ground costs for dioceses.

He also noted that the committee feels strongly that the synod must be “a human event” and will “make sure there is some time and space for some relaxing.”
Wall also announced that the visionary sponsor of the event would be the Anglican Foundation of Canada.

The 42nd General Synod will take place in Vancouver in July. The second reading of the marriage canon amendment and the election of a new primate of the Anglican Church of Canada are set to be voted on.

“I think it’s going to be a really, really good synod. It’s going to be an important synod,” Wall said.

PWRDF report highlights organizational partnerships

As a small organization in terms of staff, there is immense value in working together with partner organizations, executive director of Primate’s World and Development Fund (PWRDF) Will Postma told CoGS November 25. “We can go much further in our work together.”

Postma gave a presentation at CoGS in which he highlighted several projects that PWRDF is funding and overseeing in partnership with organizations such as Anglican Alliance, Episcopal Relief and Development Agency, ACT Alliance and Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Together with Anglican Alliance, PWRDF was able to respond to the ebola crisis in West Africa and the earthquakes in the Carribbean over the past few years, Postma said.

He also highlighted current areas where PWRDF is involved, such as the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and several areas of South Sudan.

PWRDF currently has seven initiatives in South Sudan, Postma said, noting that it is becoming hard to disperse money in the country, which is enmired in conflict. “We want to work in areas where there’s conflict, where there’s tragedy. We know it’s harder and we want to work with other co-ordinating mechanisms,” he said.

Postma discussed the celebration of PWRDF’s 60th anniversary this year, including a new logo and redesigned website, new Advent resource materials and a collection of stories called “People, Partners and Progress: 60 Stories for 60 Years.”

Postma also said he had received word that PWRDF’s accreditation with Imagine Canada, an organization that reviews organizations’ governance, efficiency, transparency and financial controls, had been renewed for another five years.

Joint Lutheran Anglican Commission commends document that ‘broadens the doorway’ for recognizing ordained ministers

The Joint Lutheran Anglican Commission is commending a joint statement entitled “Memorandum of Mutual Recognition of Relations of Full Communion” to the governing bodies of its four churches, Anglican co-chair Dean Peter Wall told CoGS November 25. The statement urges the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church (TEC) to “express their commitment to full communion relationships with the other three churches so that the exchange of ministries…may be more easily facilitated,” according to a document provided to CoGS members.

In his report, Wall said, “It represents a body of work that has been done to create an atmosphere where the four churches express mutual recognition of each other’s ministries and, we hope, broadens the door—the door is fairly wide already—but broadens the doorway for the four churches to recognize each other’s ordained ministers and allow for relatively unfettered passage of ordained people from A to B to C to D.”

The statement is being commended to the four churches to be ratified at their church assemblies.

The commission also commended a document called “The Arusha Call to Discipleship,” which came out of a gathering of the World Council of Churches in Tanzania in March 2018.

Wall stated that the current iteration of the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission will make its final report of its six-year term at General Synod in July. He also said they would likely suggest a change to three-year terms now that both the Anglican Church of Canada and ELCIC hold their church assemblies every three years.

Dioceses and provinces report back on marriage canon discussions

Reports from dioceses and ecclesiastical provinces across Canada about the proposed amendment to the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage were shared with CoGS at its meeting November 23-25.

In a session on November 23, the reports received were summarized for CoGS members, who broke into table groups to discuss four questions: “Where have we experienced conflict that does not divide us?”; “Where do we experience conflict not being discussed in a robust way?”; “What are the things you see in common in the report discussions?”; and “What is CoGS’s work in preparation for General Synod 2019?”

Sharing their responses to the questions, many table groups noted that a commitment to staying together as a church was a common theme among the report-backs. Several tables also pointed out that not all dioceses had reported back. One table representative said they were “wondering what it means that “less than a quarter of the dioceses have responded—whether it is…[that] they’ve done the work and haven’t submitted it yet…Is it indicative of fatigue, lack of engagement, lack of resources? We just don’t know.”

Other tables noted a sense of fear or apprehension in some of the submissions.

In response to the questions about conflict, one group pointed to the introduction of the Book of Alternative Services, noting that this was a time of conflict for the church but that “we found ways around it.”

TEC partner ‘has learned so much’ from the Anglican Church of Canada

“These three years have been a university college course for me. I have learned so much,” Canon Noreen Duncan, The Episcopal Church (TEC) partner of the Anglican Church of Canada, told CoGS in an address November 25.

Duncan is finishing her three-year term as partner this year. She said she will run for another three-year term in February. “But if I’m not re-elected, I want you to know that the time I’ve spent with you has cultivated me. As a partner, as a fellow individual, as an Anglican, as a Christian,” she said.

Duncan praised CoGS for the way the church has “managed the marriage canon,” and promoted reconciliation with Indigenous people, which she said would inspire her own reconciliation and anti-racism work.

Duncan also noted the decision made at TEC’s most recent General Convention to admit the Episcopal Church of Cuba into TEC, and thanked the Canadian Anglican church for “walking with Cuba all those years on our behalf.”

She also brought greetings from Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church Michael Curry, who she called, “he who marries royalty.” Curry gained international attention after preaching at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May.




  • Tali Folkins

    Tali Folkins joined the Anglican Journal in 2015 as staff writer, and has served as editor since October 2021. He has worked as a staff reporter for Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His freelance writing credits include work for newspapers and magazines including The Globe and Mail and the former United Church Observer (now Broadview). He has a journalism degree from the University of King’s College and a master’s degree in Classics from Dalhousie University.

  • Joelle Kidd

    Joelle Kidd was a staff writer for the Anglican Journal from 2017 to 2021.

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