Sacred Circle a pivotal moment ‘in a positive and life-giving way’

Published October 1, 2009

SO HAPPY TOGETHER Archbishop Fred Hiltz with Hannah Alexie (left) and Elizabeth Colin, both from the diocese of Yukon.

Port Elgin, Ont.
The 6th Indigenous Sacred Circle will be remembered as a historic and pivotal moment in the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Anglican Church of Canada.

“We really took a major step towards owning the indigenous ministries,” said National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald. “There was a unity that was never [there] before, excitement that we can really make a positive contribution to the church [and] to our various indigenous communities.”

Bishop MacDonald attended the Sacred Circle as national indigenous bishop for the first time since his appointment in 2007. “It was as if all the other Sacred Circles had been building up to this moment, where people recognized that, ‘We have begun to be what we’ve hoped to be,’ ” he said in an interview.

Archbishop David Ashdown, chair of the Council of the North and bishop of the diocese of Keewatin, said he sensed a vibrancy and excitement at the gathering, held Aug. 9 to 15. He predicted that it will be remembered as “pivotal in a very positive and life-giving way.”

Archbishop Ashdown said that “a new relationship is dawning” between the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) and the Council of the North, which represents 11 dioceses funded by the church. Eight of the 11 diocesan bishops from Council of the North dioceses were at the gathering, along with the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz.

Plans are progressing for an indigenous area mission in northern Manitoba, which will mean changes for both the dioceses of Keewatin and Brandon, said Archbishop Ashdown. Plans are also moving forward for the creation of an indigenous diocese in northern Ontario. Both plans will require the election of new bishops who were invited to be part of the Council of the North, he said.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who attended the Sacred Circle for the first time, pledged his commitment to turn the vision of a self-determining indigenous Anglican ministry in Canada into reality. While the Circle did not arrive at any major decisions about next steps, it delivered the message that “more intentional conversations” need to happen at diocesan, provincial, and General Synods.” At the heart of these conversations is relationship, not jurisdiction,” said Archbishop Hiltz.

In an interview, Archbishop Hiltz noted how talking circle discussions appeared to shift away from the painful legacy of Indian residential schools and toward discussion of spiritual renewal and self-determination. Still, he said, the church needs to have a “continued commitment to a ministry of healing.”

(For more coverage of the Sacred Circle, please visit the Anglican Journal website,


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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