Four new members elected to ACIP as debate over process resolved

Members of the new Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) are announced at Sacred Circle. L-R: Canon Murray Still, Rosie Jane Tailfeathers, Sandra Fox, Yvonne Gesinghaus, Ruby Sandy-Robinson, the Rev. Gerald Giles, the Rev. Rod BrantFrancis. Not pictured: Catherine Martin and the Rev. Martha Kunuk. Photo: Matthew Puddister
Published June 2, 2023

Harper gives up one appointed position to ensure Arctic representation

Sacred Circle has elected four new members to the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) while five current members stay on to finish out their terms, following a debate over the election process and council representation that was resolved with a little help from the gospel.

The new members of ACIP, the secretariat that carries out Sacred Circle’s mandate, include Ruby Sandy-Robinson for the ecclesiastical province of Canada, the Rev. Rod BrantFrancis for Ontario and Yvonne Gesinghaus and Catherine Martin for B.C. and Yukon. Returning members are the Rev. Gerald Giles for Canada, Sandra Fox for Ontario and the Rev. Martha Kunuk, Canon Murray Still and Rosie Jane Tailfeathers for Rupert’s Land.

Outgoing members from the last council are Caroline Chum and Dorothy Patterson for Ontario; Mabel Brown, Theresa Halkett, Freda Lepine, Sheba McKay and the Rev. Manasee Ulayuk for Rupert’s Land; and John Haugen, Ingrid Johnson and Willard Martin for B.C. and Yukon.

The latest ACIP elections took place June 1 during the 11th Indigenous Anglican Sacred Circle at the Fern Resort in Ramara, Ont. Each ecclesiastical province is represented on ACIP by two Sacred Circle delegates—except Rupert’s Land, which now has three after National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper gave up one of the three extra members he has the power to appoint in order to ensure Arctic representation. (The national Indigenous archbishop can appoint three additional members to ACIP: a youth delegate, a member-at-large and an elder.)

“I believe in trying to make sure that we have representation from everybody,” Harper said. “We need a voice from the Arctic. They are our brothers and sisters who are oftentimes forgotten, left out.”

Each member serves two three-year terms for a total of six years. Outgoing ACIP co-chair Caroline Chum said the goal is to ensure continuity: “There’s always somebody from the previous term so that they have the language to bring forward the work that needs to be done.”

The original plan for the 2023 election was for the ecclesiastical province of Canada to elect two delegates; for Ontario to elect one new delegate while Fox stayed on; for B.C. and Yukon to elect two new delegates; and for Rupert’s Land to elect one new delegate while Still stayed on.

Rupert’s Land seeks more representation

To elect new ACIP members, Sacred Circle participants broke into talking circles for their respective ecclesiastical provinces. Upon returning to plenary, the provinces of Canada, Ontario and B.C. and Yukon announced their elected delegates. But when Archdeacon Travis Enright, representing Rupert’s Land, took the podium, he said that due to the great size and diversity of the province—it encompasses the Prairies and most of northern Canada—his group had felt it necessary to choose six delegates as ACIP members.

Rupert’s Land delegates, Enright said, “recognized that we’re a vast and complex place … We came to the consensus that each of those unique voices had to be present at [ACIP], knowing that the other provinces should equally be allowed to increase their voice if they thought there was a diversity of voice necessary as well.”

The move by Rupert’s Land to select six ACIP members, rather than its allotted two including one newly elected member, proved contentious.

One Sacred Circle participant responded that British Columbia was similarly diverse, including hundreds of the more than 600 first nations across Canada. The Rev. Ray Aldred, Sacred Circle delegate for B.C. and Yukon, said, after allowing that he could not speak for all the delegates in his province, “I thought we had consensus before when we went all into our groups [on the election process] and now you’re saying that we didn’t have consensus.”

Agreement reached after gospel reading

To move forward, Sacred Circle read from the gospel—an example of gospel-based discipleship which the Covenant ratified a day earlier calls “a foundational and on-going guide to the Sacred Circle.” That day’s gospel reading was Mark 10:46-52, which describes the story of Jesus restoring the sight of a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, and telling him, “Go; your faith has made you well.”

After the reading, Harper asked Sacred Circle if they wished to continue with the change in process as suggested by Rupert’s Land, or stick with the original process.

Aldred recommended staying with the original process, but asked if the issue might be put on the agenda of the new ACIP’s first meeting to ensure it could be resolved going forward. “I’ll be honest, I was angry, but Treaty 8, that’s what we get like up there sometimes,” he said to laughter. “We try to colour between the lines most of the time.”

“The problem with Treaty 6 is we always strive to be the peacemakers,” Harper responded to more laughs and a cry of “Amen.” Harper said he had heard consensus to stick with the original process, by which he said Rupert’s Land would end up with three—not two—delegates. The national Indigenous archbishop clarified that he was giving up one of his three appointed positions to ensure Arctic representation.

As Rupert’s Land delegates went back into their talking circle to decide on the three delegates, other Sacred Circle participants passed the time by singing gospel songs. Returning to plenary after lunch, Sacred Circle heard Enright announce Kunuk, Still and Tailfeathers as the Rupert’s Land members for ACIP.

“We showed that ACIP can be adaptive,” Enright said. He thanked Sacred Circle for its patience, mercy and “the learning opportunity as we come together to figure out how we’re going to govern ourselves in the future [in] new ways, which are our ways.”

‘We have more work to do on representation’

ACIP will elect co-chairs at its first meeting, which at the time this article was written on the evening of June 1 had not taken place but is expected either before participants depart Sacred Circle, or via Zoom.

Still said the new ACIP’s first formal in-person meeting will likely take place in the fall. He confirmed that a major item on ACIP’s agenda going forward will be the issue of representation on council.

“The province of Rupert’s Land has a lot of the population, so the ability to get proper representation is important for us,” Still said. “We recognized in this [Sacred Circle] that we have more work to do on representation, so we will go back to the table to make that a reality and bring an option to Sacred Circle next time.”

“We did what juggling we could do at this gathering to come together and agree in consensus which ones would represent us,” he added. “I think we reached the best consensus we could at this point, but obviously there’s work to do … This new ACIP is going to be a good bunch of people to work with. Some of that community’s already building and we’ve got [our] work cut out for us.”


  • Matthew Puddister

    Matthew Puddister is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He also supports General Synod's corporate communications.

    [email protected]

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