The Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation has been given a new lease on life as it enters its 25th year, following a decision by Council of General Synod (CoGS) to dedicate the undesignated proceeds of General Synod’s annual fundraising campaign to replenish it.
In 2015, the campaign Giving with Grace raised $515,00, according to audited figures from General Synod. But the hope is that with a dedicated purpose for the fundraising, the campaign will be able to bring in $1 million, enough to replenish the fund for five years.
“We think that this will catch the imagination of the church, and we will raise more for the Healing Fund than we would for the bottom line of General Synod,” said Archdeacon Michael Thompson, the Anglican Church of Canada’s general secretary.
In line with the stipulations of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the fund was to spend the last of its money in 2019. Once the money it had been granted through the settlement fund had run out, the future of the fund was uncertain. The fund’s last money was budgeted for 2017.
“The question was: we have these relationships with Indigenous communities and their leaders that [healing fund co-ordinator] Esther Wesley has been working at for a decade or more, how do we make good use of those so the work of healing can continue?” said Thompson.
It was agreed that $200,000 a year would be enough to make a worthwhile impact. The question was, where would the money come from?
Thompson said that the convergence of the fund’s 25th anniversary with the 25th anniversary of Giving with Grace (formerly known as the Anglican Appeal) was what first gave him the idea of using the latter to help the former. After discussing the matter with Primate Fred Hiltz, General Synod treasurer Hanna Goschy and the General Synod executive, it became clear that a budget decision of this nature would require CoGS’ approval.
In a December 23 electronic vote, CoGS adopted a resolution to dedicate the 2017 Giving with Grace campaign to “renewing the capital” of the Healing Fund by a vote of 20/1 in favour. Twenty-nine CoGS members (plus the primate), are eligible to vote, but only 21 participated in the vote.
The resolution included a clause approving the transfer of “up to $507,000” from the contingency reserve to operating funds to replace the money General Synod will not be receiving from Giving with Grace.
Cynthia Haines-Turner, General Synod prolocutor, said it is unusual for CoGS to vote between its biannual sessions. But she said the executive felt it necessary to make a decision in as timely a manner as possible, and given that CoGS will not meet again until June, the electronic vote was justified.
“In a church where we are always accused of being slow and unwieldy in making decisions, this was a fine example of the structures being nimble enough to make a decision quickly when necessity warranted a speedy response,” she said in an email.
Hiltz, who announced the decision in his annual Epiphany letter to the church January 6, said in an interview that he feels the decision to be a “really lovely way for our church to…[recognize] the amazing, good work that the Healing Fund has been able to support in communities all across the country.”
While people who donate to Giving with Grace would still be able to earmark their gifts for other projects, should they wish, Hiltz said he hopes Anglicans will “really rally round and see the value of the work of the Healing Fund” and choose to support it financially.
The Healing Fund first began disbursing money in 1992, having grown out of the residential schools working group established by then-Primate Michael Peers. But when the Anglican Church of Canada entered into the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, a lump sum of $4,023,675 from its total obligation of $15,687,188 went to the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation via the settlement fund to be disbursed over the course of 10 years.
Wesley, who has served as co-ordinator since 2001, said the Canadian church could not “afford not to go on [funding]” the Healing Fund’s work. “Some form of [funding] has to go on if we are serious about reconciliation,” she said. “Not just words, but action-that’s what people are looking for.”
But while the decision allows the fund’s work to continue, it will be in a reduced capacity.
For the past 10 years, the fund has been disbursing between $300,000 and $600,000 a year, and Wesley said the new budget of $200,000 will require the fund to be more focused in what it supports.
“When we had all this money from the settlement agreement…we had a whole range of applications coming in,” she said. “We don’t have that much money anymore…[so] if we are going to keep going with the healing work, we need something that will have a long-term impact.”
Wesley believes the area where the fund can effect the most change is through language preservation. Every year, Wesley receives a large number of applications from communities working on projects relating to language, and she believes there is an important reason for this.
“Many of the applications we receive state the loss of identity among youth, younger adults and youth and children. Language is where they are looking at regaining some of that identity,” she said.
“If we are focusing on the language, then we are focusing on a youth population…and learning your own language-I mean, once you learn it, no one can take it away from you.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story reported that Giving with Grace raised $611,721 in 2015, according to unaudited figures from The General Synod. It has been changed to audited figures of $515,000.
In line with the stipulations of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the fund was to spend the last of its money in 2019, not 2017, as earlier reported.