General Synod voted July 1 to extend the mandate of a commission tasked with finding ways to fund the Indigenous church.
General Synod extended the Jubilee Commission’s mandate to the end of the 2023-25 biennium. It also amended the commission’s terms of reference so that it will report to the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) as well as Council of General Synod (CoGS).
CoGS passed a motion in June 2018 to appoint the Jubilee Commission, with a mandate to propose a “just, sustainable and equitable funding base for the self-determining Indigenous church,” now Sacred Circle. According to that motion, the commission would have a three-year term, potentially renewable; consist of six members and report to CoGS. General Synod in 2019 affirmed the creation of the Jubilee Commission.
Chair Judith Moses spoke to General Synod July 1 about the commission, dividing its work into three main areas. The first is archival research into the historic funding base for Indigenous ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada.
“We felt we could not go forward without going backwards,” Moses said of the research project, adding, “We want to identify patterns of funding and the underlying colonial assumptions that contributed to historical inequities. Coming out of this, we hope to develop with the broader church a new narrative about the church’s past … that would allow all of us to go forward in full recognition as to what has happened in the past.”
The second area of work focuses on current funding for the Indigenous church, while the third area concerns future funding.
Moses moved Resolution A180 to extend the commission’s mandate to 2025. Much work remained to be done, she said, including further conversations between ACIP and National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper. As presiding elder of Sacred Circle, the national Indigenous archbishop is responsible for managing and administering all Indigenous ministry funds.
The Jubilee Commission also needs to follow up with dioceses that passed tithing resolutions committing 10 per cent of funds from the sale of church properties to support Indigenous ministry, Moses said. The diocese of New Westminster in 2019 was the first diocese to pass such a tithing resolution, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018. It stipulated that five per cent of funds from the sale of church properties be returned “to the Indigenous Nations and communities including Métis and Inuit who are the ancestral caretakers of that land for use as they see fit”; 2.5 per cent would support Indigenous ministries in the diocese and another 2.5 per cent at the national church level to fund Sacred Circle. In 2018, New Westminster sold about $17.5 million worth of property after a number of church properties closed, according to the Jubilee Commission’s draft report to General Synod.
At the time the tithing resolution was passed in New Westminster, the Indigenous church “did not have the financial structure in place to receive” such funds “nor even to engage with the diocese on this resolution,” the report said—adding that other dioceses such as Niagara and Toronto have since passed similar resolutions. Conversations will soon take place between ACIP, the Indigenous House of Bishops, the Jubilee Commission and dioceses on transferring funds to Sacred Circle from the sale of church properties, Moses said.
Harper expressed his hope for support from the General Synod archives and dioceses as the Jubilee Commission moves forward with its historical research project. He described the project as “taking back that which is ours, which is our history … seeking truth and bringing and sharing it for the betterment of all, so that when we as a church start doing something together … people will see that there’s healing on both sides; there is truth-telling on both sides.”
Rosie Jane Tailfeathers, co-chair of ACIP, moved the amendment to change the terms of reference so the Jubilee Commission would report to ACIP as well as CoGS. “We are partners with the church in this work on the archival research project,” Tailfeathers said. “Narrative sovereignty over our history as seen through our eyes is essential.”
Bishop Isaiah Larry Beardy of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh seconded the amendment. “We are on a journey,” Beardy said. “We’re going to walk together as partners and the work that we want to stress is that we are our people, Indigenous people. We are sovereign and we want to approach it that way to make it happen.”
The amendment carried. General Synod then voted overwhelmingly in favour of the amended resolution, A180-R1.
Two proposed Indigenous-governed funds
In her presentation, Moses described the Jubilee Commission’s work to date. She said the commission had seen a slowdown prior to Harper’s appointment as the new national Indigenous archbishop. Though the commission had seen some turnover, its work was now proceeding “full speed ahead,” Moses said.
The Jubilee Commission has proposed two new Indigenous-governed funds to be established within General Synod financial accounts: a Sacred Circle fund and a 7th Generation Investment Fund.
The Sacred Circle Fund would be a new account, managed by the national Indigenous archbishop, that would support annual operations of Sacred Circle and special initiatives. The fund would operate under the governance, policies, terms and “accountability frameworks” of Sacred Circle.
Moses described proposed spending purposes for the Sacred Circle Fund such as ministry development, including liturgical resources and translation; training; programs such as suicide prevention, youth and healing initiatives; stipends, pensions and benefits; Sacred Circle governance, including meetings and travel; and research, particularly recording Indigenous elders’ stories.
“None of these [proposals] are cast in stone by the way, because we have a new ACIP and a new Indigenous archbishop,” Moses told General Synod. “They will want to look at this and digest it.”
The 7th Generation Investment Fund would be a new separate account within the existing Consolidated Trust Fund, with the purpose of making investments to sustain the Indigenous church into the future. Moses said this fund would include the establishment of an Indigenous financial advisory board, with investment policy conveyed through an Indigenous member of the Financial Management Committee. Its main source of funding would be diocesan tithing resolutions and unspent funds from the current year.
Funding sources and next steps
Moses also pointed to a number of possible funding partners and sources that the Jubilee Commission had identified.
These could include continued Indigenous share of diocesan proportional giving to General Synod and direct funding from dioceses such as the tithing resolutions. Moses said she regarded the 10 per cent figure from sales of church properties “more as a floor than a ceiling, but we are very grateful for the 10 per cent that has been voted our way.”
Other sources of money could include special fundraising campaigns, Sacred Circle membership, investment income, parish partnerships and a new page on the fundraising website CanadaHelps, she said. The commission has also suggested donations or transfers from other Anglican funds such as Giving with Grace, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund or the Anglican Foundation.
The Jubilee Commission’s upcoming work will includes discussions and work by ACIP and Harper with General Synod staff; what Moses described as the “urgent reactivation” of a committee on Indigenous clergy salaries to address salary disparities of Indigenous clergy and bishops; and the early launch of a new Indigenous ministry fundraising appeal.