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The Sacred Circle, the national Indigenous Anglican Church, takes first steps for the Anglican Church of Canada to become a two cultural stream church

The Sacred Circle, the national Indigenous Anglican Church, takes first steps for the Anglican Church of Canada to become a two cultural stream church

Recently I have shared two stories (here and here) about the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia. ANZ&P is a church representing three cultural streams, the indigenous Maori of Aotearoa, the European settlers of New Zealand and the island nations of Polynesia. Each of the cultural streams is organized as an interdependent Anglican Church with it own episcopal units/dioceses, parishes and a primate.

During August, the 8th National Anglican Sacred Circle of the Anglican Church of Canada has been meeting in Port Elgin ON. The Sacred Circle is the Indigenous Anglican Church in Canada. During one of the first keynote addresses, the Revd Canon Robert Kereopa, a priest of the Maori Anglican Church in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia stated that it was important for indigenous churches to have healthy partnership models as they moved towards self-determination. He held up his church as such a model and encouraged the indigenous Anglicans of Canada to move towards healthy interdependence with the European settler Anglicans of Canada.

A second keynote speaker to the Sacred Circle was Kaisa Huuva, representing the indigenous Sami of northern Europe, she is the liaison from the indigenous Sami Christians in Sweden to the Church of Sweden. Kaisa compared the common experience of the Sami with that of indigenous Canadians and the indigenous populations throughout the world, “a pastoral people who lived on the land for generations have had their spirituality stripped from them and their traditional territories taken away by a colonizing power, and their descendants are now trying to recover a sense of identity and political agency in the face of strong resistance from the dominant society.” Like the indigenous of Canada, the Sami children were ripped from their homes and forced into residential schools. Although the Sami have lived in the north of Europe in areas now part of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, they do not own their own lands. It was taken from them and belongs to the state and sometimes also the church. Kaisa looked forward to the day that the Sami of northern Europe could gather in Sacred Circle as they seek to become an equal partner with the Christian settlers of northern Europe.

Finally on 25 AUG, Sol Sanderson, from the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice, read a draft document from the Commission that was a proposal for a fifth ecclesiastical province for the Anglican Church of Canada. The fifth province would overlay the ACoC and would be composed of the Anglican indigenous ministries of the church. The fifth province would be the indigenous Anglican church in Canada. It would have an indigenous primate. It would have regional bishops and area mission bishops, guiding ministry at the community level. It was exciting and a bit scary. It meant that the indigenous Anglicans would have to be serious about taking their own future in their own hands. After careful consideration the Sacred Circle came to a consensus on the proposal and endorsed sending it to the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples.

Main image is from the Anglican Journal.
You may read more at the Anglican Taonga.


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James Pratt

The differences in context are very evident in the discussion here. As an American who has served in the ACC for 13 years, and who went through all measure of anti-racism training at EDS, let me see if I can bridge the gap, because I found that that anti-racism training (and the theory behind it) does not always address realities in Canada.

I’m not sure I fully understand all the power dynamics — a very different colonial history than the US, the language question (which goes much deeper than language), class and economic exploitation more deeply rooted in the society — so I am not going to try to explain it in any detail.

What I will say is that, in Canada, which group is “privileged” is not a simple matter of skin colour or national origin or language or class, but a sometimes confusing mixture of many factors. As such, simplistic categories are very unhelpful to the analysis.

That said, the Anglican Church of Canada is still mired in its colonial past and slow to reflect the increasing diversity of Canadian society. Particularly shameful was our complicity with the government in the residential schools, seeking to eradicate aboriginal culture and language. This proposal is a step in the right direction.

I hope, however, that this does not become a way of perpetuating colonialism toward aboriginal Anglicans, by placing them in a separate structure that is financially dependant upon the wider church for its existence, and thus perpetually second class.

JC Fisher

Just wondering if discomfort with the term “settler” comes from the (black, i.e., indigenous) South African militant expression, “One Settler, One Bullet”?

[I’m also hearing echoes of discussions between Transgender and Cisgender persons: Cisgender person, “Don’t call me cisgender!”]

Rod Gillis

@ JC Fisher, “Just wondering if discomfort with the term ‘settler’ comes from the …South African militant expression …”

Can’t speak for anyone else, but that is not the genesis of my rejection of the label. As I stated in previous posts, to goes, instead, to the value of self identification with partners in dialogue. It also comes from a critique of the use of terms that are ideologically driven, often stereotypical, and that strip a group assigned a label of the complexities or ambiguities of their own history and situation. I say this aware of my own hypocrisy. I’ve been willing at times to throw the patriarchy term around in debates, for example, about the ordination of women.

I’m looking at the photograph from the Anglican Journal which accompanies the caption of the article under discussion here. I can see the people in the photograph from several perspectives. Everyone in the photo ( I can’t see one person clearly) appears to a Bishop.

Now, I can see two people in the picture who have been long time friends and colleagues. I know about their long standing commitment and dedication to justice for First Nations. I notice that the bishops in the picture are a mixture of male and female, as well as a mixture of aboriginal and non-aboriginal bishops. This says something, on both counts, of the current nature of inclusiveness of The Anglican Church of Canada, both its gains and current limitations.

I can also see that all the people on the stage are members of the top tier of the hierarchy even though the article is about its opposite, the Sacred Circle. I notice some of the bishops have varying degrees of official authority. One is The Canadian Primate, another the Lutheran National Bishop, another the Canadian National Aboriginal Bishop, another The Convener of The Anglican Peace and Justice Network of The Communion. They are all wearing purple, which despite the claim of it being the purple of Jesus’ suffering, is the color of ecclesiastical royalty. I note that all the bishops are wearing pectoral crosses, the cross being a symbol of empire ( in hoc signo vinces), used by the Spanish, French and English to conquer and exploit aboriginal peoples.

So, what does the photo show us? A group that has opted for or been co-opted by the oppressive religious baggage of ‘Settlers’? Or, a snap shot that signals the evolving inclusive nature of the Anglican Church of Canada, or all three?

Social realities are more complex than ideological narratives of the right or left pretend. Rather than say to with assumptions, Rod is a settler who stole our land, better to ask, Rod how do you see yourself in this context?

Rod Gillis

@ David Allen, David I’m very familiar with Daniel Paul’s work. He is well known and highly regarded here. You may wish to read more about the relationship between the Acadians and the Mi’kmaq by Daniel Paul via the link below.

Care needs to be taken to make a distinction between the Acadians, who were eventually expelled from Nova Scotia, and the European French who essentially abandoned the Acadians when they were forced to surrender “New France” to the British. Note the citation in Paul’s work ( again see link above) referencing Professor Jeffery Plank, University of Cincinnati.

Paul recently had a very insightful piece in a local newspaper here which contrasted the advanced Mi’kmaq social values with the regressive values of the European invaders at the time of first contact. I had Mi’kmaq students in the religious studies class I taught as an interim lecturer at Cape Breton University back in the 90s. I was taken with their openness in making connections between their appreciation of faith and that of the faith of others.

I began comment on this thread by affirming the racist treatment of First Nations peoples by Canadian society in general and the Anglican Church of Canada in particular while at the same time rejecting, as a non-aboriginal, the assignment to me of the term “settler”. (Personally, I’m not that comfortable even with the term “non-aboriginal” but some distinctions for the basis of discussion must be accepted).

An evidence based case for a deeply entrenched racism in Canada is overwhelming. We need to get on with it. However, It is my contention that a pragmatic approach rather than an ideological one that deepens polarization is the better strategy. I hold to a basic principle, borrowed from inter-faith dialogue, that one defines one’s own reality rather than that of someone else. Colonialism produced a number of casualties. I’m interested in building on the commonalities, not just the differences, among those groups.

Professor Christopher Seitz

So much for the actual story…

This sounds like the non-geographical province that will have its own bishops and integrity.

One will now recall the proposal that spoke about a diocese/bishop being able to maintain their conscience on the ssm development. The First Nation/Indigenous People have not been in favor of this development.

James Pratt

Prof. Seitz,

An academic should, among all people, refrain from such sweeping generalizations. While the majority of indigenous communities within the ACC have been opposed to same-sex marriage, that is far from a universal position. In fact, at the 2004 General Synod, one of the co-chairs of the ACIP sported rainbow stickers on his name badge and spoke favourably about same-sex blessings in conversations with delegates.

Most telling, however, was a remark during the floor discussion by Archdeacon Beardy. Forgive me if my memory is a bit off, but he said something like: “For 100 years, the white man told us that homosexuality was wrong. Now you tell us the opposite.” Like Geo Larney, I hope that this new structure will give these communities the ability to set aside what the white men have told them, and are continuing to tell them, and to prayerfully come to their own conclusions.

Rod Gillis

Actually, I think the discussion David and I are having on this thread is directly related to the story. I don’t see anything in the story about same sex marriage, so your comment is the one that is off side so to speak. However, I’ll nibble at your fishing line. One of the best gauges of where First Canada’s first nations stand on the issue is to be found in their presentation To The Commission on The Marriage Canon. The entire paper can be read here,

Geoff McLarney

Indeed, it would be a mistake to imagine one uniform “The First Nations view” on the subject – or any subject. What the ACIP submission does make clear is that there is consensus that FN communities must determine the process for themselves.

Rod Gillis

Actually David, the Acadians and the Mi’kmaq had a fairly symbiotic relationship, with a fair amount of inter-marriage. They were allies against the English. Furthermore, the two cultures had different economies with different uses for the land, the one quasi-nomadic the other agrarian. In some regards, they were they became family. Good to hear from you cous!

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