The Council of the North needs to work harder at building trust with Indigenous Anglicans, Saskatchewan Bishop Michael Hawkins told Council of General Synod (CoGS) on Friday.
“Let’s be honest: there is mistrust,” said Hawkins, who chairs the Council of the North, a grouping of 11 financially assisted dioceses, parishes and an archdeaconry in Canada’s sparsely populated northern regions. “That mistrust is based on a history both distant and near, and we cannot discuss and discern together the way forward without working on better relationships and better trust.”
Hawkins said he was “deeply heartened” by calls made by Indigenous Anglicans for greater self-determination in the past year, but acknowledged that the council might not be the best vehicle for furthering self-determination.
“The relationship and reputation of the Council of the North within that movement and with that movement needs some real work,” he said. “There is no way forward without repairing and healing and ongoing work on that healing and that trust.”
However, the bishop also noted that he believes the council’s role in supporting self-determination should be secondary to the main governing bodies of the church.
“The proper place for a discussion for a spirit-led movement toward greater self-determination for Indigenous Anglicans within the church is at the diocesan, provincial and national level[s],” he said.
In his report to CoGS, Hawkins also took some time to highlight some of the work the council is doing, such as a recently established fund to support training and ministry. The $500,000 fund came from three bequests, with some help from General Synod’s resources for mission, he explained, and the council plans on drawing off 15% of the fund each year.
During its annual meeting, the council received a report from the grant allocations committee, which noted a “growth in trust in the council” due to accountability measures adopted in recent years, said Hawkins. (The committee recommends how the grant from General Synod that funds the council should be spent.)
Set up in the early 1970s as a ministry of General Synod, the Council of the North includes the dioceses of Caledonia, Yukon, Arctic, Athabasca, Saskatchewan, Brandon, Moosonee and Quebec, as well as the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, the archdeaconry of Labrador, and the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior.