Indigenous self-determination measures headed to vote

Canon (lay) David Jones presented the motions to CoGS March 14, which he said are meant to make it possible for bodies of the National Indigenous Ministry to “amend and determine for themselves as they move forward.” Photo: Joelle Kidd
Published April 9, 2019

An amendment to Canon XXII that would make the church’s National Indigenous Ministry more self-governing will be up for a vote at General Synod 2019 after being commended by Council of General Synod (CoGS) on March 14.

“The changes to Canon XXII…will in effect be a very critical moment in self-determination,” National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald told CoGS earlier that day, during a presentation on the work of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP).

Canon (lay) David Jones, chancellor of General Synod, presented the motion on behalf of the Governance Working Group. CoGS commended it by consensus.

The amendment will not come into effect until passed by General Synod.

The proposed amendment would:

  • Enable the National Indigenous Ministry to make changes to matters specified within the canon without requiring General Synod to amend the canon;
  • give the national Indigenous Anglican bishop (NIAB) the title of archbishop, and clarify that he or she would “rank with the provincial Metropolitans;”
  • make the NIAB a voting member of CoGS; and
  • change Canon III (The Primate) to include the specification, already within Canon XXII, that “the Primate is always an invited guest at the Sacred Circle, and has voice but no vote.”

Outlining the proposed changes to the canon, Jones said “the point of the amendments is to make it [possible] for the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, the appropriate ministry, the appropriate parts of all that, to be able to amend and determine for themselves as they move forward.”

Specifically, ACIP would be able to determine the criteria for the composition of ACIP and Sacred Circle, and would gain the ability to adopt and afterward amend a constitution to regulate the affairs of the National Indigenous Ministry.

“The key mechanism is to give ACIP the ability to change its own composition without having to come back to General Synod to amend Canon XXII,” Jones told CoGS. “And that model is very similar to what General Synod did when it created the ecclesiastical province of Ontario by dividing the ecclesiastical province of Canada, and similarly the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and the Yukon—it gave a benchmark…from which each could thereafter change their own constitutions.”

The amendment would also add as a selection requirement for the office of the NIAB that the candidate be Indigenous.

In response to questions from CoGS members while presenting the motion, Jones said that the title of archbishop is “intended to be a way to signify…important status.” The NIAB would not have the same role as the Anglican Church of Canada’s metropolitans, who oversee episcopal provinces. However, Jones said in response to a question from the floor that if the NIAB were the most senior archbishop, he or she would fill a primatial vacancy.

The amendment would also change the constitution of CoGS so that the NIAB would be a member of that body. The current national Indigenous Anglican bishop, Mark MacDonald, is a member of CoGS by election, not by office, Jones said.

CoGS also commended a second motion to General Synod, which would change the constitution to provide membership to ACIP representatives in General Synod.

If passed, the amendment would entitle ACIP to appoint or elect two licensed members of the clergy, two communicant lay persons and one youth (16-26) to become members.

“For many years, we have had ACIP partners at General Synod. They’re given the right of voice but not vote,” said Jones. “So that’s the point of the amendment, to give ACIP representation in its own right at General Synod.”

Jones said that this amendment could be passed at one sitting of General Synod and would go into effect immediately. He said he expects the vote for this motion to take place very early during General Synod 2019, so that if it passes, the five new members of General Synod can immediately take part.

In addition to measures related to self-governance, CoGS passed a motion to commend to General Synod 2019 a resolution that would establish the Vision Keepers as a permanent forum to oversee the church’s implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. CoGS also commended a resolution calling General Synod to establish a committee for ongoing work related to truth, justice and reconciliation.


  • Joelle Kidd

    Joelle Kidd was a staff writer for the Anglican Journal from 2017 to 2021.

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