Council of General Synod (CoGS) has approved a resolution that “affirms and supports” the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) as it prepares to nominate a bishop for appointment by the primate as the first national indigenous bishop.
However, the resolution was not passed without questions and reservations expressed by some CoGS members.
Canon Robert Falby of the diocese of Toronto questioned the selection process and why it seemed to only require the “imprimatur” of the primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison.
Bishop Michael Ingham of the diocese of New Westminster echoed the concern, saying, “The house of bishops also had lots of questions about this new development. It raises questions in other dioceses that are not necessarily negative, it’s just figuring out what it means. Is this something that CoGS should approve or is it between ACIP and the primate?”
Archbishop Hutchison explained that he and several bishops who attended the fifth Indigenous Sacred Circle gathering in Pinawa, Man., agreed to the creation of the office of a national native bishop with pastoral oversight of native communities within one year. He told the gathering last August that a native bishop with “full authority and jurisdiction” would not happen until 2013, since it would require changes to church laws and would need approval by General Synod, the church’s governing body.
“The pastoral bishop will be there as pastoral support to diocesan bishops in their ministry to aboriginal people should they wish that. The (native) bishop will be a voice of advocacy. There’s no challenge to jurisdiction at all,” he said. “There’s a movement to go beyond that but it’s a huge governance issue.” The matter of jurisdiction has been referred to the national church’s task force on governance.
Archdeacon Sidney Black, ACIP co-chair, told CoGS that the indigenous council realised it could not move ahead independent from national church protocol. “My desire is to work within the system and to honour the aspirations. We’re just asking you to work with us.”
Barbara Burrows, who attended the Sacred Circle with her husband, Brian Burrows – chancellor of the diocese of Edmonton and a member of the Indigenous Covenant Implementation Commission – urged CoGS to support the resolution.
“It’s important for them to say they want to be in charge and not be the object of someone’s ministry. It’s a turning point in restoration of our relationship with the indigenous people following the injustices and turmoil of the residential schools,” she said. “We need to support it. We need to find ways around the political, jurisdictional objections that have been raised.”