National native gathering cancelled due to funding

Published September 1, 2003


The withdrawal of a major funder from the fifth Anglican Indigenous Sacred Circle gathering caused the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) to cancel the event and focus instead on healing its damaged relationship with Anglican church leadership.

Donna Bomberry, the national church’s indigenous ministries co-ordinator, said ACIP cancelled the gathering, scheduled for Aug. 2-10 in Brandon, Man., after a London-based funder, the New England Company, turned down ACIP’s funding proposal.

“The New England Company is our big contributor outside of General Synod (the church’s national office), which is the largest,” Ms. Bomberry said. Besides General Synod, which gives $50,000 annually to the project, other funders include the Anglican Foundation, which gives $15,000, the Fellowship of the Maple Leaf from England, which contributes $6,000, and ACIP’s indigenous ministries budget, which provides $25,000. ACIP also foregoes its fall meeting in the year when a Sacred Circle is held, adding another $25,000 to the event?s budget. The New England Company?s contribution to past Sacred Circles has been $25,000, or about 12,000 pounds.

Ms. Bomberry said she sent out a funding proposal to the New England Company last fall and got the official word May 21. The company offered no explanation, she said, though it has funded every Sacred Circle gathering since their inception in 1988.

The New England Company, a mission-oriented funding body based in England, was founded by Oliver Cromwell in 1649 to bring Christianity to native people in the British colonies.

The company was named as an Anglican entity in the settlement agreement with the federal government and the denial of funds may be connected to legal costs the company incurred over the course of residential schools litigation, Ms. Bomberry said.

However, Tim Stephenson, governor of the company, said in an interview that the mission society could not help out this year because its return on investments had dropped by 500,000 pounds, due to fallout from Sept. 11, 2001.

“It all goes back to that dreadful day in September,” he said. Mr. Stephenson said the company would not accept responsibility for the cancellation.

“We did give them encouragement that we would be able to help,? he said. ?They do know that we are very keen on what they do, and it might have been different if we had more money this year.”

He said that the New England Company gave a total of $626,000 last year to individual dioceses with active native ministry and training centres, such as Saskatchewan and Keewatin, and gave $15,000 to the diocese of Moosonee to help some indigenous Anglicans there attend this year’s Sacred Circle.

Mr. Stephenson acknowledged that the company has been hit with hefty costs associated with residential schools litigation.

?It hasn?t affected our grants to date, but it has cost us a great deal of money to defend ourselves so far,? he said.

Ms. Bomberry said that canceling the event pushed the group to shift its focus. “ACIP needs to deal with the current situation,” she said.

On March 11, after the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers and federal Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale formally signed an agreement limiting Anglican residential school liability to $25 million, ACIP released a statement saying it was boycotting the agreement and that if the primate signed the agreement, he would “not be doing so in our name.” The announcement strained the relationship between the Anglican church leadership and ACIP and its support staff.

ACIP claimed that a provision asking natives to waive future claims for loss of language and culture as part of an alternative dispute resolution arrangement with the federal government was “an extinguishment of our aboriginal rights to our languages, cultures and traditions.” Since then, Todd Russell, ACIP’s co-chair, has said the group had needed more time to study the agreement and intended no disrespect to the primate by refusing to support the signing.

Ms. Bomberry said the Sacred Circles are “the only thing that brings indigenous Anglicans together.”

There are 225 indigenous Anglican parishes across Canada. Normally about 180 people, lay and ordained and youth, attend the circles, along with invited partners. A circle normally lasts for seven days, and the primate attends for the entire time. Not a business meeting, the experience includes song and music.

“It’s a way for us to move in our healing,” said Ms. Bomberry.

Other national sacred circles were held in 2000 in Port Elgin, Ont., in 1997 in Lethbridge, Alta., in 1993 at Minaki, Ont., (at which the primate apologized for the church?s role in the residential school system) and in 1988 at Fort Qu?Appelle, Sask., where indigenous Anglicans first began to speak about their residential school experiences.

ACIP hopes it can call the next Sacred Circle for 2005 Ms. Bomberry said, giving ACIP two years to build up a reserve. “We don’t wish to go back to the church for more money,” she said.

Instead of the Sacred Circle, ACIP will hold its regular fall meeting at St. Benedict?s Monastery in Winnipeg and will ask the primate, the prolocutors of General Synod (Dorothy Davies-Flindall and Archdeacon James Cowan) and other church leaders to attend. “We need to explore the relationship,” she said. Rev. Jamie Howison is the pastor of the Church of St. Stephen and St. Bede in Winnipeg.


Keep on reading

Skip to content