The foundational documents of the planned Indigenous Anglican church have now been drafted, and Sacred Circle, the national gathering of Indigenous Anglicans, will be discussing them when it meets online June 10-12, National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald says.
Sacred Circle, he says, has been working on a covenant (similar to a constitution) and a document, similar to a set of canons, called Our Way of Life. The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous House of Bishops Leadership Circle has reviewed the first draft of these documents, which will soon be translated into some Indigenous languages. When Sacred Circle meets this month, it will discuss them, after which they will be sent back to local communities for more discussion; they’ll then be the subject of another online meeting in the fall, and will be “fulfilled and sealed” by a Eucharist in June 2022, he says.
The creation of these documents is the next move in establishing the self-determining Indigenous church, which was enabled by the amendments to Canon XXII passed by General Synod in 2019. It’s part of the work the department of Indigenous Ministries has been focused on in the past year with the support of Resources for Mission, the fundraising arm of the national church.
One of a number of possible names for the new church, and as yet unvetted, MacDonald says, is “The Sacred Circle”—up to now the name of the national gathering only.
The pandemic has “amplified and sharpened” Indigenous Ministries’ work, MacDonald says. “Some of the issues we face, challenging on a good day, have reached overwhelming proportions in the midst of COVID-19.”
The loss of nine elder clergy by the Indigenous church during the pandemic—most to COVID-19—has caused a crisis of leadership. In response, MacDonald says, “we are working to provide … training, accountability and accreditation for some of our long serving faithful leaders, putting them on a track towards ordination and service in a circular model of Indigenous leadership.”
There is also a Circle of Support and Formation for lay ministers that meets weekly online, to connect “a new generation of leaders across the land.”
These meetings are in addition to the thrice-weekly virtual gatherings to practice gospel-based discipleship that Indigenous Ministries has been running since the pandemic began.
Indigenous communities already faced high numbers of youth suicides before the pandemic; now, suicide and related problems have become much more prominent, MacDonald says. In response, Indigenous Ministries’ youth leadership team is working with bishops and other leaders to establish youth call lines in 10 areas across Canada.
Throughout the trials of the past year, “God’s grace, Indigenous resilience, and the help of some of our partners have given us hope and direction,” he says.
In cooperation with the communications department of General Synod, Indigenous Ministries has offered virtual events such as regular gospel jams and webinars on the Sacred Teachings lead by Indigenous Ministries Co-ordinator Canon Ginny Doctor.
Another source of hope is a plan for increased support for Indigenous non-stipendiary clergy.
“With the help of Resources for Mission, the pension fund, and other interested parties, we have been working on ways to support our many Indigenous clergy who are unpaid for their sacrificial service for ministry,” MacDonald says. “Our present plan would provide continuing education benefits and access to other credits that have been unavailable so far. We are so excited to move this forward.”