Council of General Synod members meeting in Mississauga, Ont., share a light moment during a break in the proceedings.
Should the Anglican Church of Canada appoint a national aboriginal bishop to work with dioceses and parishes on native issues? What does it mean when native congregations call for “self-determination?” Should the church work with first nations to develop a “truth and reconciliation” tribunal to hear stories from the residential schools experience?
These and other questions arose at Council of General Synod (CoGS) as the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), a national church advisory group, presented a “working document” aimed at advancing “a new partnership” between native and non-native Anglicans.
CoGS voted to turn over the document to the wider church for discussion and it will be distributed to dioceses shortly.
Entitled “A Plan of Anglican Work in Support of a New Partnership Between Indigenous and Non-indigenous Anglicans,” the document sets out five goals: self-determination, justice, healing, historical reparation and walking in partnership.
In an important change, the document removes the word “reconciliation,” which has usually been used with “healing” to describe the post-residential-schools relationship between native and non-native Anglicans.
Rev. Susan Moxley, a member of the residential schools advisory group that attends ACIP meetings, said, “The word assumes a good relationship in the first place. There was no positive relationship between Europeans and indigenous people in this country, but you can begin to walk in partnership from a new place.”
Rev. Stephen Andrews, of Prince Albert, Sask., noting that “reconciliation” refers to a rupture of unity in Christ, asked the council to re-consider that decision.
Archbishop Tom Morgan, of the diocese of Saskatoon, called the document “most significant” and noted that the church is moving from one that “has called the shots to a church that is walking in partnership.”
Bishop Len Whitten, of Western Newfoundland, wondered how the office of a national indigenous bishop would work. Archbishop Michael Peers, the primate, noted that he met a bishop in the Coptic church of Egypt who was “the bishop for youth,” and Dr. Warren Ramshaw, an observer from the Episcopalian Church of the U.S.A., said there is a bishop for the Navajo people in Arizona who crosses diocesan boundaries.
The paper also stresses development of a “self-determining community” for aboriginal Anglicans and several CoGS delegates had trouble with the term, believing it divisive. Donna Bomberry, indigenous ministries coordinator for General Synod, likened the idea to a family, where children grow up and make their own decisions, but still remain part of the family.
The document also calls for: increased funding for ministry and leadership training for indigenous people, an increase in the church’s work in support of native land claims and treaty negotiations, an increase in the church’s healing fund, development of a truth and reconciliation (the word was used in this context) tribunal and development of liturgies to memorialize residential school stories and mark steps on the healing journey for native and non-native people.