Archdeacon Larry Beardy, a Cree priest, educator and former executive archdeacon of the diocese of Keewatin, was consecrated first Indigenous suffragan bishop of the Northern Manitoba Area Mission—a new grouping of parishes within the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh—at a ceremony at Sagkeeng First Nation, Man., September 23.
Beardy’s is one of two new Indigenous suffragan (assistant) bishop positions created by the synod of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land this May, meant to help in providing pastoral care and spiritual leadership to Indigenous people from northern Ontario to Saskatchewan. His area mission will span that part of Manitoba that lies within the Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, but he will also assist the bishops of the dioceses of Brandon and Missinippi in the diocese of Saskatchewan, in providing ministry to Indigenous people in these areas.
Beardy, the sole person to have been nominated for the role, was acclaimed bishop of the area mission on the last day of a meeting of the area mission’s Sacred Assembly, which took place September 21-23.
“It’s a very blessed situation, and I strongly believe it’s the work of God, the Creator,” Beardy said in an interview. “I’m very excited at what’s happening.”
The creation of the new area mission, and the ordaining of a suffragan bishop to minister to it, Beardy said, are important steps in the development of a self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada.
A key priority, Beardy said, will be preparing new spiritual leaders in the parishes that fall under his responsibility—a number of which, he added, currently lack clergy of their own.
“Many of the communities don’t have sacramental ministry, even communion or baptism,” he said. “That’s what we have to work on.”
The parishes under his responsibility, he said, comprise a diverse mix of Anglicans, including Cree, Ojibwe and Dene as well as some non-Indigenous people.
Beardy was born in Tataskweyak, Man.—also known as Split Lake—to parents who lived a very traditional way of life; his father, he said, was a lifelong trapper, hunter and fisherman, who also worked for a time for the Canadian National Railway. Beardy attended residential school from age eight to 16. He has a degree in education, and worked as a teacher before being ordained a priest in 2000. Beardy served as executive archdeacon for the diocese of Keewatin, which ceased functioning in 2014 with the creation of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh. He was a member of the Anglican Church of Canada’s team in the negotiations that led to the signing of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Beardy received an honorary doctorate in divinity from the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad in recognition of this and his work in education. He has been a member of Council of General Synod as well as the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. Beardy has also served in his home community as councillor and chief.