"We want to get closer to the church," says National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald. Photo: Marites N. Sison
On Aug. 5 to 12, more than 200 indigenous Anglicans from across Canada are expected to gather in Pinawa, Man., to discuss how they can move forward with their goal of "taking responsibility for indigenous ministry" within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Front and center in the discussions at the Seventh Anglican Indigenous Circle is the 2011 Mississauga Declaration, in which indigenous Anglicans express a long-standing desire for self-determination.
Native Anglicans will be presented with several questions, including how they can extend their ministry “in communities and beyond that, into remote areas, which for us, includes urban areas," National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald said in an interview. “There will be questions [like] what kind of churches are we looking for? What things will help the church move forward?”
The hope is that there will be “a clear sense of where we’re going…in the next three years,” said MacDonald. “Even though morale is good, positive and forward, there is also a pretty sober awareness of what difficulties may come both in our own communities and the wider church.”
Part of the challenge is explaining to the rest of the church what native Anglicans want, which MacDonald noted, is “not an easy thing to do.”
Indigenous Anglicans have no desire to separate from the church, he reiterated. “We want to get closer to the rest of the church. For some, it may look like we’re trying to separate. That’s not really our agenda at all – it really is to move forward with our ministry…”
MacDonald added that the Mississauga Declaration “is nothing more than a distillation of things that have been said [by indigenous Anglicans] for 30 years,” with a call to put words into action. “We’re coming to this absolutely convinced that this is a great moment in what God is doing among indigenous people,” he added. “I think everybody has matured…to know that with these great opportunities always comes great challenge.”
Indigenous people make up four per cent of the Anglican Church of Canada’s membership, according to church statistics. About 225 of the church’s congregations have all or nearly all indigenous membership. Indigenous Anglicans make up more than one third of the population in five of the 30 dioceses across Canada. About 90 per cent of the diocese of the Arctic’s members are indigenous people, mostly Inuit.
The first Sacred Circle took place in 1988, when 180 First Nations, Inuit and Metis people from local church communities across the country gathered for the first time at Fort Q’Appelle, Sask. to share their experiences of being native Anglicans in Canada.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and bishops from the Council of the North dioceses are expected to join the gathering.
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