B.C. diocese draws reconciliation lessons from Christian group in N. Ireland

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A view from the Corrymeela Community’s Ballycastle Centre in Northern Ireland. The Corrymeela Community is an ecumenical Christian group dedicated to peace and reconciliation. Photo: Courtesy of Corrymeela Community
A view from the Corrymeela Community’s Ballycastle Centre in Northern Ireland. The Corrymeela Community is an ecumenical Christian group dedicated to peace and reconciliation. Photo: Courtesy of Corrymeela Community

(This story first appeared in the June issue of the Anglican Journal.)

As the diocese of British Columbia ramps up its “year of reconciliation,” Bishop Logan McMenamie is taking inspiration from international reconciliation centres in England and Northern Ireland.

In March, McMenamie travelled to the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland, an ecumenical Christian community dedicated to peace and reconciliation work, where he met with executive director Colin Craig to discuss how the diocese of British Columbia can become a force for reconciliation.

He has also made overtures to the Community of the Cross of Nails, based in Coventry, England, a global network of churches that works to encourage peace and healing in the aftermath of conflicts and wars, regarding the possibility of the diocese becoming a partner of the community.

“Corrymeela is Northern Ireland, and Coventry is England, but what can we learn from them, and what kind of toolbox can we build from that learning?” he said in an interview with the Anglican Journal.

Noting Germany’s work following the Second World War to bring about reconciliation with other European countries and within its own population, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in South Africa following the end of apartheid, McMenamie said Canadians need to take seriously their responsibility for their own history.

“I don’t see us, as Canadians, as a nation, really dealing with the healing that is necessary for us to move on,” he said, referring to the legacy of the Indian residential schools, a program that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission described as an attempt at “cultural genocide.”

“I see that we need to kind of bring that [healing] into a church context…but [also] into Canadian context.”

Reconciliation with First Nations in B.C. has been a central preoccupation of McMenamie’s episcopate.

In 2016, he embarked on a 470-km sacred journey to “re-enter the land,” which took him from Alert Bay, on the northeastern tip of Vancouver Island, to Victoria. As he walked through the diocese, which covers Vancouver Island and includes the Gulf Islands of the Strait of Georgia and Kingcome Inlet on the mainland, he met with the leaders of the First Nations territories he passed through, apologizing for the church’s role in the colonization of the island.

In 2017, he embarked on a second phase, stopping in communities he had not visited in 2016, travelling on foot and by car from Port McNeill to Sooke.

But though the relationship between the Anglican church and Indigenous peoples is at the forefront of the year of reconciliation, McMenamie said he also wants to spend the year using reconciliation as a “key…an entrance point” to understanding the entire mission of the diocese.

“What does reconciliation look like in our parishes, where there is continual conflict?” he said. “Can we use that conflict as something creative and innovative in renewing the parish?”

McMenamie said he wants to see members of the diocese become “practitioners of reconciliation” and “practitioners of dispute resolution” who can help the diocese work on reconciliation both internally, with Indigenous people who have been harmed by the church, and with society in general.

To this end, he has arranged for Teri Murphy and Shona Bell of the Corrymeela Community to hold a diocesan workshop called “Dialogue for Peaceful Change.”

The workshop, geared to lay members of the diocese, presents a gospel-based approach to managing conflict “away from potential dispute towards opportunities for growth, creativity and inspiration.”

At the heart of all this work, McMenamie says, is relationship— relationship with God, relationship with other Christians and relationship with the wider world.

Reconciliation is about mending relationships that trauma, violence, distrust and disagreement have soured, and McMenamie stressed that this sometimes means learning to turn conflict, which will naturally happen in any relationship, to positive ends.

“In any congregation, you have a variety of images of God, and in every congregation you have a variety of models for the church…those have the potential of becoming dispute,” he said.

“So turn those around in a positive way…and call upon people to imagine… living together with those different views.”

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André Forget
André Forget was a staff writer for the Anglican Journal from 2014 to 2017.

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