Indigenous peoples are not asking for a one-to-one compensation for past injustices, and there is all but no interest in seeing others punished. Given the urgent and pressing needs of their communities, Indigenous peoples are simply asking for a just proportion of the wealth of Canada and a fair opportunity to create well-being among their communities. People of goodwill and an historical consciousness recognize the justice of the claim.
There is a similar approach being made by Indigenous Anglicans. A relative amount of wealth remains within the larger body of the Anglican Church of Canada, despite its recent challenges in membership and support. Recognizing that there have been significant attempts at charity and compensation towards Indigenous churches in the past, there is still much to be accomplished. Can there be a vision of shared wealth and opportunity, a vision of vitality and well-being for all our churches? Can we seek that future together? In pursuit of that future, I would like to state, very briefly, a case for a sharing of wealth.
There is a claim from Christian compassion and charity: Indigenous churches struggle under the vast needs of their communities. The poverty of Indigenous communities and the social ills that accompany it are overwhelming. The churches that serve those communities have meagre resources. Quite often clergy serve sacrificially, with little or no pay. Many of the social and educational supports that serve other Anglicans are lacking. Without the help of other Anglicans, the capacity for ministry will be stunted.
There is a claim from justice: The poverty of Indigenous communities is the result of a history of injustice—injustice that has benefited the church and many of the church’s non-Indigenous members. Contrary to the prejudice and bias of some non-Indigenous points of view, the poverty of Indigenous peoples and the accompanying social ills are related to the policy and programs of government and church that displaced Indigenous communities, created massive societal disruption and disabled the capacity for self-determination and self-sufficiency. The people and institutions that pursued these policies and benefited from them need to make amends.
There is a claim from gratitude: A great part of the Anglican church’s institutional and financial foundation was related to fundraising that based its appeal on the need to serve Indigenous peoples. Though the story that is told often highlights the charity of non-Indigenous Anglicans to Indigenous peoples, it neglects to account for the profit that the churches derived from appeals for funding Indigenous missions. In grateful acknowledgement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous interdependency, there must be a sharing in the blessings that God has given us.
There is a claim from vision: Indigenous communities have a capacity for growth. Though they are unlikely to generate financial wealth in the near term, their spirituality and love of the gospel is not only creating life in their churches; Indigenous peoples are bringing the vitality of a new perspective to the larger church. The life that Indigenous communities can embody can inspire the larger church to generosity and hope.
There is much work to be done by all. The Jubilee Commission has been tasked with finding a path to sustainable and equitable support for Indigenous churches. Indigenous churches, themselves, are seeking for a self-determination in the gospel that will create a growing, sustainable, healing and joyful church. This will be challenging work, and it begs for dedicated, prayerful support. We are being called by Jesus into an uncharted future. The love and hope of God, in the Holy Spirit, can be our guide.