This column first appeared in the September issue of the Anglican Journal.
Across Turtle Island, I have seen in an uncountable number of homes the picture of Archbishop Michael Peers, former primate, delivering his apology on August 6, 1993 at the Native Convocation, which later became known as Sacred Circle. His apology seems to have touched a lot of people, especially for those who were there, but even many of those who weren’t there found that moment to be critical in their lives. On the twentieth anniversary of the apology, its importance lives on.
At the time, there was considerable fear and criticism on the part of many non-indigenous members of the Anglican Church of Canada. They questioned the need for the apology, and worried about the legal consequences. Today, a new kind of critique is being made, regarding the fullness of the primate’s apology. Looking at the primate’s apology, along with other church apologies, reasonable questions are being asked about how fully and how completely responsibility has since been owned by participating organizations. Some indigenous people have said they will not accept the apology until it is proved by action. This is quite understandable.
But most indigenous people with whom I have talked put the apology in its context, recognizing the apology as an act of courage, grief and compassion-the beginning of repentance. Many see it as the beginning of their own healing. Most have seen it as an awakening of hope. Almost all have seen it as so much more than they ever expected.
Elie Wiesel, political activist, professor and prolific author, has said, “Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds.” The apology of Michael Peers had that quality. This does not make those words perfect nor excuse the church from living up to those words today. What it does mean is that God-as in the gospel of the Living Word, Jesus-has created a pathway for us to walk in newness of life. It is now our task walk in it.
BISHOP MARK MACDONALD is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.