Members plan to reach consensus on Covenant and Our Way of Life
The upcoming Sacred Circle will be a “pivotal moment” for the Anglican Church of Canada, National Indigenous Archbishop Chris Harper says, as members aim to reach consensus on the two founding documents for the self-determining Indigenous church: the Covenant and Our Way of Life.
Harper says the gathering, which will take place May 28-June 2 at the Fern Resort in Ramara, Ontario, will mark a culmination of steps towards self-determination going back to the 1994 Covenant, the establishment of the office of national Indigenous Anglican bishop in 2007, and multiple drafts and rewrites of the Covenant and Our Way of Life.
“Coming into the culmination of this one specific moment, this makes our Sacred Circle a pivotal moment within the history of the church, as well as a pivotal moment within Indigenous Ministries itself … because of—and acknowledging—all the hard work that has been done by those who have preceded us,” he says.
Sacred Circle is the name of both the self-determining Indigenous church and the national gatherings of Indigenous Anglicans that take place every two or three years, in which hundreds gather for decision-making, prayer, worship and discernment. The latest in-person Sacred Circle was originally planned for 2022 but was postponed a year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Caroline Chum, co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), says the focus of this Sacred Circle will be finding consensus on the Covenant and Our Way of Life. (The two documents are similar to a constitution and canons, respectively.)
Chum also notes the gathering will include the installation of Harper as national Indigenous Anglican archbishop—a first for Sacred Circle, which Chum says reflects the advancement of self-determination for Indigenous Anglicans within the Anglican Church of Canada.
“In the past … we never had an official installation,” Chum says. “It was always an appointment.” The installation will take place immediately after the lighting of the Sacred Fire and the opening Eucharist.
New members of ACIP will also be elected at the Sacred Circle. Plenary sessions will include reports on the “Pitching Our Tent” appeal for the Northern Manitoba Area Mission in the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh; the Indigenous Incorporation Curriculum at the Vancouver School of Theology; suicide prevention; and the trauma response program “From Trauma to New Life” in northern Manitoba. Each day will end with singing and playing music in the form of a gospel jamboree.
Guests and young adults will also have a chance to share reflections. Among those offering partner reflections will be Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; National Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; and Archbishop Don Tamihere, primate of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
Like Harper, Chum sees the upcoming Sacred Circle as a significant moment in the history of the Anglican Church of Canada.
“It’s the dreams of our elders that started their visioning back in the early, late eighties, early nineties, which led to the gatherings from there,” Chum says. “They had their vision then about our church, that we should have our own—but within the Anglican Church [of Canada], of course—[with] our own traditional practices in the way we worship and pray.”
Harper says he looks forward to being able to present the signed Covenant and Our Way of Life at the upcoming General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, which will take place in Calgary less than a month after Sacred Circle.
Sacred Circle agreeing to the documents “is a significant moment, and I’m praying that we’ll be able to illustrate that … especially at General Synod, when we show the rest of the church we have not been sitting back and waiting for somebody else to do this,” Harper says. “This is the culminative moment of all those who have worked, strived, sacrificed, prayed, and invested in this moment of who we are and where we go forward in this ministry.”