How best to continue the process of reconciliation, now that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has issued its final report and released its Calls to Action? The future lies in personal relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, said a group of Lutherans and Anglicans-but how to build these relationships is less clear.
During a joint meeting dedicated to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), both Council of General Synod (CoGS) and the National Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) wrestled with the question of how the declaration might be made real for the average parishioner. An international instrument adopted by the United Nations in 2007, UNDRIP sets out “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”
The declaration was recommended by the TRC as a “framework for reconciliation,” and both Henriette Thompson, director of social and ecological justice for the Anglican church, and the Rev. Paul Gehrs, ELCIC’s assistant to the bishop on justice and leadership issues, believe it provides a practical primer on reconciliation for Anglicans and Lutherans.
When asked to think about what needs to happen for Anglicans and Lutherans to more deeply understand and comply with the UNDRIP, and what things should be considered as the churches continue to work toward reconciliation, it quickly became clear that ignorance remains one of the most significant barriers.
“The people at our table were largely unaware of the UN Declaration,” said Canon Terry Leer of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, “and we thought that, important in this whole discussion, would be for us to confront privilege. Even our lack of understanding is part of that privilege. We simply assume too many things about our own status and our own power.”
In addition to this ignorance, there was also the feeling, shared by many who spoke, that there were not a lot of interactions between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people.
“We don’t know our Indigenous neighbours particularly well,” said the Rev. Marc Jerry, a Lutheran from Alberta and the Territories, speaking for his discussion group. “We have an important role to play to share this.”
For Archdeacon Lynne McNaughton of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon, this tied into the question of how Anglicans and Lutherans can incorporate this work into their own context.
“How do we build relationships where we are locally?” asked McNaughton. “Not at the national level, but in our individual communities?”
This led to several practical suggestions, such as Tannis Webster’s idea of incorporating the declaration into the weekly liturgy.
“I’ve never read [the declaration], and I’m assuming that many have not,” said Webster, of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land. “And after having read it, I think if we were to read one article a week in the prayers of the people, it would make many of us much more aware.”
After the delegates shared their thoughts and concerns, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican church, drew attention to the fact that Gehrs has drafted a report on how the ELCIC might implement the UNDRIP, and suggested it might be useful for both churches.
“It’s a very helpful report,” he said. “It’s got some really practical suggestions in it, and I think it holds a lot of potential for us.”
He went on to stress, though, that “any and all conversation about the Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People has to be done in consultation with the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples [ACIP].” ACIP is composed of Indigenous Anglican leaders across Canada.
An earlier version wrongly attributed Canon Terry Leer’s comments to Tony Teare, also of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land.