The Anglican Church of Canada is looking for a “reconciliation animator” to help continue its work on reconciliation and justice with Indigenous peoples, and to support the work of the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice.
At the November 17 meeting of Council of General Synod (CoGS), the commission’s co-chairs, the Rev. Andrew Wesley and Archbishop (ret.) Terence Finlay, asked CoGS make funds available to hire a full-time staff person to support the commission’s work.
Wesley said that in order to fulfill its mandate to work on the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, explore what reconciliation means and address injustices in Indigenous communities, the commission requires more support.
“We need somebody that can do the legwork, all the administration work, and the networking that needs to be done,” he said. “Without this person, it’s going to be hard to carry on the [commission’s] work.”
Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, responded by telling CoGS that General Synod had already allocated resources in the 2017 budget for a position that would support both the commission itself and the office of the National Indigenous Bishop.
This “reconciliation animator” would report to the National Indigenous Bishop, and work on engaging Anglicans with the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and support implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Thompson said the synchronicity between the commission’s request and the national church’s resources was an example of “the grace and purpose of God’s Holy Spirit moving among us so that we’ve arrived a place where the resources are available for the kind of work you’re describing.”
Thompson explained in an interview that over the past year and a half, he has come to believe that the work on reconciliation and justice for Indigenous peoples should not be part of the portfolio of the director of public witness for social and ecological justice (a role filled by Henriette Thompson until her resignation earlier this year). A separate position was needed to deal with this work, he said.
Several dioceses passed money on to the national church following a return of funds under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and Thompson said this money would be put toward funding the new position.
“It [is] probably time for us to recognize that reconciliation is going to be a central ministry of our church for some years to come, and give it the attention and resources it deserves on the staff team,” Thompson said.
The primate’s commission was established by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, following General Synod 2013, and was originally expected to present a final report at General Synod 2016.
Finlay told CoGS the task had simply been too large for the commission, which is composed of 18 Indigenous and non-Indigenous members and meets twice a year, to complete in a single triennium.
Instead, the commission presented a draft report to General Synod 2016, and was given permission to extend its mandate for another three years.
However, Finlay said that following synod, the commission realized that there had been several important omissions from the report, which it has rectified or is working to rectify.
The most glaring problem, Finlay said, was that the report has not been translated into any Indigenous languages.
“If we’re going to talk about being on the same playing field with one another, we’ve got to be conscious of the need for translation,” Finlay said.
The updated report also now includes an invitation for the primate to invite the deans of theological colleges to enter into a consultation with the Indigenous leadership and elders regarding “Indigenous ways, worldviews, spirituality and theology.”
It also includes a suggestion that non-Indigenous churches recognize the Indigenous people whose traditional lands they are on.
Serious concerns were also raised about finances.
“We discovered that several Indigenous clergy are living on welfare to support their ministry,” Finlay said. “To us, that is not just.”
Finlay recommended an audit be made to see if this is, in fact, the case, and to see how widespread this is among Indigenous clergy in the Anglican Church of Canada.