Two Canadian Indigenous Anglican theological students have received a financial boost as a result of a recent decision by the diocese of Western Newfoundland.
In December 2016, the two students, Sharon Campbell and Aaron Sault, were each awarded $20,000 to fund their studies. The one-time bursaries were created mostly from money returned to the diocese of Western Newfoundland from Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement funds.
“I am so happy about the bursaries for our seminarians,” commented National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald. “They are timely and generous, received at a time when they are critical to the well-being of our First Nations students. They are a grace-filled example of Christian concern leading to reconciliation.”
Campbell, a member of the Mohawk people, is studying theology at the University of Toronto’s Wycliffe College. Sault, of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, attends the Vancouver School of Theology. He was one of six people named last summer to the Primate’s Council of Elders and Youth, a body mandated with ensuring that the Anglican Church of Canada follows the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Following the federal government’s settlement with the Roman Catholic Church in 2007, it was agreed that $2.8 million of the Anglican Church of Canada’s $15.7-million obligation under the agreement would be set aside pending the results of a seven-year fundraising campaign by the Roman Catholic Church.
By the time it ended in September 2014, the Catholic campaign had raised much less money than originally hoped, and as a result, as per the settlement agreement, the Anglican national church returned the $2.8 million to the dioceses, which had raised it.
The diocese of Western Newfoundland’s share of this money was just over $37,000, says Percy Coffin, bishop of the diocese. The diocesan synod’s executive council decided to use the money to create the bursaries at its meeting last fall.
Giving the money back to those who had donated it was out of the question since some of those people were no longer alive. In any case, Coffin says, the council felt the money should go toward the purpose it was originally intended.
“This money was generated and put forth for the sake of healing and reconciliation-it’s a gift, and I don’t think we should ever take a gift back,” Coffin says.
The diocese forwarded the funds to the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office with the idea that they go toward bursaries for Indigenous theology students. The Rev. Ginny Doctor, the national church’s Indigenous Ministries co-ordinator, identified two seminarians in need of financial support for their studies, and the bursaries were awarded in mid-December.
Many other dioceses across Canada have been putting the funds returned to them under the settlement agreement into reconciliation projects. As of last spring, according to a statement from the national office, the diocese of Toronto was planning to launch an endowment supporting Indigenous ministry; the diocese of Niagara was planning an urban Indigenous ministry in Hamilton; the diocese of Central Newfoundland was funding research into the early relationship between the church and Newfoundland’s Beothuk people; and the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had returned its funds to the national church’s Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation.