The phrase “You are all my relatives” speaks to the heart of indigenous spirituality. This greeting, used by many First Nations people when they encounter a fellow creature of God or the whole of God’s universe, is a declaration, an invitation and a prayer. It unveils the basic reality of the way God has made us and identifies a way of walking in life. To be a good relative, especially to those outside your immediate family, is the greatest of aspirations, a fundamental morality.
For indigenous Christians, there is an added meaning. The life of the Trinity, as demonstrated in Christ, represents our relatedness as a living image, an icon, of the relationship of the Triune God. Though humanity has defaced this image, the revelation and work of Christ—his Cross, his resurrection and the Good News—foretell its restoration. Now we work in hope, hastening the Second Coming of the one who will bring the ultimate unity of all things in God. Then all Creation will cry, “All my relatives!”
Until then, living as a relative has its challenges. For many modern churches, social relations, business relations and government relations have informed and sometimes misplaced a deeper theological understanding of what we are when we work together as community. This hinders our ability to live as a church when we do business. Further, it limits our capacity to see the wounds that we humans, with our consumer lifestyle, continue to inflict on the rest of Creation.
Very soon, “All my relations” will be the point at which the rubber meets the road for the indigenous peoples of the Anglican Church of Canada. This month, a consultation on governance will work to develop a church structure that will: 1) be faithful to scripture and Christian tradition; 2) be the servant of the growing spiritual movement among indigenous peoples in Canada; 3) give all our people, especially the youth and the elders, a full voice in the life of the church; and 4) maintain the pattern of relationship that treats all as relatives.
The essence of this consultation will involve a loving embrace of church law, native culture and gospel truth. If it is successful, it will be a blessing to all of our relatives in the church. I hope that you will pray for us.
Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.