Port Elgin, Ont.
The Governance Working Group (GWG) presentation on ways to enhance the Anglican Church of Canada’s national ministry to indigenous peoples was a “great western expression of ideas,” says National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald.
“But how do we translate this into our values, our ideals, our way of doing things?” he asked in an interview with the Anglican Journal following Sacred Circle, Aug. 9 to15. While some Sacred Circle delegates gave all-out support for the proposal, which includes the possibility of creating a fifth ecclesiastical province for indigenous Anglican dioceses, others found it confusing and asked for more consultations to take place.
“Communication is key for the future and a big part of that is translation,” said Rev. Catherine Askew, a military chaplain for the Armed Forces, who attended a talking circle in which she said two elders who do not speak English were left confused. She said it was also the first time that the elders had heard about the proposal, when in aboriginal cultures “they should have been the first” to know. Some urged caution. “I’m very afraid…. Churches are very good at planting flags with exuberance and ignorance,” said Rev. Arthur Anderson, a priest and diocesan elder from the Saskatchewan-based diocese of Qu’Appelle. Bishop MacDonald said that after the plenary, he and other leaders of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) met with elders and their translators to ask if they indeed found the proposal difficult to grasp. “They unanimously [said], ‘We understand the report; we don’t have any questions. We know what it’s about and what it’s going towards,'” he said. (ACIP organizes the triennial Sacred Circle.)
Ten members of the Canadian house of bishops present at the gathering, including Bishop MacDonald and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, expressed support for the GWG’s work “in facilitating the desire for self-determination and full inclusion of First Nations aboriginal people within the life of a renewed and transformed Anglican Church of Canada.”
Responding to the talking circle reports, David Jones, chancellor of the province of Rupert’s Land and GWG chair, said, “You’ve told us that there needs to be greater understanding about structure and that’s a comment that most Anglicans have; they’re not unique to this room or this community. There’s a lot for us to think about and to discern from you further.”
(For a longer version of this story, plus a Q and A with members of the Governance Working Group, please visit the Sacred Circle blog, anglicanjournal.com)