Mark MacDonald letter represents ‘goodbye to Sacred Circle’: Harper

Bishop Lydia Mamakwa reads a letter written by former national Indigenous Anglican archbishop Mark MacDonald to Sacred Circle. Standing behind her are, from left to right: Teresa Mandricks, Donna Bomberry, Canon Murray Still, the Rev. Ray Aldred, Caroline Chum, National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper. Photo: Anglican Video
Published June 12, 2023

Some readers may find this story distressing. For a searchable list of crisis lines and other support resources across Canada, please visit this federal government web page.

Updated with new information August 3

A letter written by Mark MacDonald to the 11th Indigenous Anglican Sacred Circle represented the former national Indigenous Anglican archbishop’s “goodbye to Sacred Circle,” his successor, Archbishop Chris Harper, says.

Bishop Lydia Mamakwa of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh read out MacDonald’s letter to Sacred Circle on June 1. Several members of Sacred Circle stood around Mamakwa as she spoke, including interim Indigenous Ministries coordinator Donna Bomberry, outgoing Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) co-chairs Caroline Chum and Canon Murray Still, program associate Teresa Mandricks and the Rev. Ray Aldred, director of the Vancouver School of Theology’s Indigenous studies program and member of the Anglican Journal editorial board. Harper also stood nearby on the same stage.

MacDonald resigned as national Indigenous archbishop in April 2022 after what Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, called “acknowledged sexual misconduct” in a pastoral letter. In his letter to Sacred Circle, MacDonald said he had been invited but chose not to attend.

“I was deeply moved by the invitation to attend your gathering,” MacDonald’s letter said, as read out by Mamakwa. “With great regret since my heart is broken to be away from you not just now, but always, I decided that it was best for me to not attend … Experience shows that I should not be welcomed by any group without some protest. May there not be any more pain than has already come through me.”

He offered greetings to Sacred Circle and “prayers and love” to Harper, who was installed as the new national Indigenous Anglican archbishop on May 30.

“It is my commitment by my faith, baptism and family with you to continue this road of becoming what God wishes us to be,” MacDonald said in his letter. He said his life was now committed to “quiet and hidden prayer,” reading Sacred Circle’s documents as part of his daily practice and seeking fellowship and guidance through the local Sacred Circle and gospel-based discipleship. “Deeply sorry for my absence and the realities that make it necessary, I commit myself to be one with you in service, prayer, repentance and hope,” he said.

Silence followed the reading. Still, who is a continuing member of ACIP, told the Anglican Journal later that inviting MacDonald to Sacred Circle was an ACIP decision. Harper said the letter itself was a subject of great debate among ACIP, which had received MacDonald’s letter just shortly beforehand.

“What ended up happening coming out of [the debate] was an agreement that this was his goodbye, because there was so much uncertainty” regarding the specific nature of the allegations against MacDonald, Harper said.

“In the end, it was his goodbye to Sacred Circle,” he added. “I think that’s the only way to take it for ourselves. As I stressed at the Sacred Circle, this is a new beginning, a new book, a new opportunity, a new ministry for everyone involved, new ACIP… new leadership. Everything has to be new.”

Speaking to the Journal about MacDonald’s letter, Harper cited Matthew 18:22, in which Jesus responds to Peter asking how many times he should forgive another member of the church who sins against him. “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times,” Jesus tells Peter.

“We’re all fallible … This is where I think Indigenous ministries has this opportunity to show the church that we can be united in this and that we can all come to healing,” Harper said. “We can all come to reconciliation if we soften our hearts and we approach the table with an open heart, open mind and an opportunity to forgive.”

Nicholls confirmed to the Anglican Journal at the time of MacDonald’s resignation that there had been no allegations of criminal offences.

On March 2, members of Council of General Synod (CoGS) received an open letter from someone claiming to be the person whose sexual misconduct complaint resulted in MacDonald’s resignation, forwarded by email from a B.C. priest who vouched for its authenticity. In the letter, the person said they had suffered greatly, not just from MacDonald’s actions but from the church’s handling of their complaint. The following day, CoGS discussed the letter and some of the issues it raised, including how the church deals with sexual misconduct allegations, after which the council prayed for the healing of the author and for guidance in preventing future pain.

Corrections: Mark MacDonald resigned as national Indigenous Anglican archbishop in 2022, after what Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, called “acknowledged sexual misconduct” in a pastoral letter. 

The Rev. Ray Aldred is director of the Vancouver School of Theology’s Indigenous studies program.

Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this article.



  • Matthew Puddister

    Matthew Puddister is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He also supports General Synod's corporate communications.

    [email protected]

Related Posts

Skip to content