Members of the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice, met for the first time April 25 to 16 and acknowledged the need to deepen their understanding of the “theological and spiritual implications” of the Doctrine of Discovery in their different cultures.
The 17-member commission was created to explore ways in which the Anglican Church of Canada can translate into action General Synod 2010’s landmark resolution repudiating and renouncing the Doctrine of Discovery. The resolution pledged a review of the church’s policies and programs to expose the doctrine’s historical impact and end its continuing effects on aboriginal people.
The commission spent much of its time getting to know one another in order to “discover the different gifts and potentials of members” and see where they would be of best use to the work of the commission, said co-convener, Archbishop Terence Finlay. The commission also has a mandate to look at how the church can help achieve reconciliation with indigenous people at the grassroots level and how it can help address injustices in indigenous communities.
In his remarks, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, expressed the hope that the commission’s work would result in “a common bridge that we can all walk together.”
The Rev. Andrew Wesley, commission co-convener, said it was important to have action at the grassroots level, noting how there is a general lack of knowledge and understanding about the doctrine of discovery. Knowledge is key to understanding why aboriginal people have “so much anger with the government,” he said. The doctrine was a principle of charters and acts developed by colonizing Western societies more than 500 years ago, which gave Christian explorers the right to claim lands and territories they “discovered.”
A survivor of Indian residential schools, Wesley said he is eager to contribute to the work of reconciliation, in particular, the role of forgiveness. He expressed confidence that reconciliation and forgiveness will resonate well in aboriginal communities because it’s part of their lives. He noted how in his days as a hunter, he would even talk to an animal and ask for forgiveness before taking its life.
At the meeting, members were commissioned by the primate in a special service, said Finlay.
Finlay is asking Canadian Anglicans to keep the commission in their prayers as it embarks on “an enormous undertaking.”
The commission will submit its final report at the 2016 General Synod to be held in Toronto.