National native bishop could soon be a reality

Published April 1, 2006

Work is moving ahead toward the selection of the first national Anglican indigenous bishop, including the development of a proposed budget and the identification of at least one candidate.

According to a new information booklet produced by the national church office in Toronto, “approximately $345,000 has been identified to establish the office of the national bishop and a secretariat of two people.”

Donna Bomberry, indigenous ministries co-ordinator, said the figure represents money already in the national church’s budget that would be reallocated. Two part-time staff positions in the area of indigenous justice have not been filled for several months and some of that figure also reflects Ms. Bomberry and her assistant’s salaries. In addition, said Ellie Johnson, director of the partnerships department (which includes indigenous ministries), the department has cut back in other areas. “None of it is new money,” she said.

At its regular fall meeting, the Council of General Synod received information about the changes in partnerships staffing.

In an interview, Ms. Bomberry also said that one person, whom she declined to identify, has contacted the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) to express an interest in the position.

The primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, is expected to appoint the bishop by August and has said he wants wide consultation among aboriginal communities as to the candidates. Current indigenous bishops are Andrew Atagotaaluk and Benjamin Arreak of the Arctic, Charles Arthurson of Saskatchewan and retired bishops Paul Idlout and Gordon Beardy.

Three working groups chosen by ACIP last fall are also continuing work on a process for choosing the indigenous bishop and a mandate for the position, financial support and communications.

The information booklet, which is being distributed to all dioceses and congregations, also sets out the philosophy behind the establishment of the position, saying it envisions “no diocesan boundaries as we know them. Indigenous people co-exist with the land and it is the artificial diocesan boundaries that cross over indigenous people’s territories.” It notes that in the New Zealand Anglican church, Maori church communities reside in five bishoprics and meet as a self-governing part of the whole Anglican church in New Zealand, which also includes Polynesian and European communities.

The concept of a national indigenous bishop was approved last August in Pinawa, Man., at the fifth Sacred Circle, a national gathering of native Anglicans. Archbishop Hutchison and seven bishops in attendance approved the idea, but Archbishop Hutchison also told the gathering that changing church canons, or laws, to empower a native bishop with authority and jurisdiction would take at least a decade. Bishops with jurisdiction, such as diocesan bishops, hold power to ordain and discipline clergy. However, he said, appointing a bishop with pastoral oversight would be possible much sooner.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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