Move to appoint new Companions of Jerusalem Advisory Council member sparks discussion at CoGS

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Widely recognized as a spiritual leader and elder, Canon Martin Brokenleg is seeking to join the Companions of Jerusalem advisory council. Photo: Tali Folkins

A resolution to appoint Canon Martin Brokenleg to the advisory council of the Canadian Companions of Jerusalem prompted discussion about Indigenous views of the Israel-Palestine conflict during the meeting of Council of General Synod (CoGS) Friday, November 23.

Andrea Mann, director of global relations for the Anglican Church of Canada brought forward the resolution, noting Brokenleg’s “deep interest” and passion for the initiative. Brokenleg is not a member of CoGS and was not present.

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, who was asked to introduce Brokenleg, said that he is “widely recognized among our community as a spiritual leader and an elder, and widely recognized in Indigenous communities around the world as a cultural expert and interpreter of Indigenous things.”

The proposed appointment prompted CoGS member the Rev. Vincent Solomon to voice concern surrounding what he perceived to be Brokenleg’s political stance in regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Though he has great respect for Brokenleg, Solomon stated that he was concerned that Brokenleg had previously aligned the struggles of Palestinians with those of Indigenous peoples, and voiced his own disagreement with this characterization, adding that many Indigenous people are “friends of Israel.”

When asked for his input by the chair, MacDonald stated that he understood the concerns and would support Brokenleg’s appointment “with some reservation.”

MacDonald later reiterated his support for Brokenleg in a Facebook comment, noting that his reservation “did not have anything to do with Dr. Brokenleg…I was and am concerned about a broader conflict over this issue in our communities.”

Mann and Bishop John Chapman of the diocese of Ottawa, who is a member of the Advisory Council, noted that the council does not represent a political position. Chapman said that the opinions of those on the council are diverse and nuanced, adding that the primary goal of the council is “to be in solidarity with the Christian community in Jerusalem.”

According to the Companions’ Terms of Reference, the group is “drawn together in common concern and support for the well-being of the Church in the land of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection” and its purpose is to “provide leadership and support for General Synod’s partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and to enable a unified national response.” No official political position is espoused in its terms of reference.

The motion was carried by consensus, regardless of the concerns raised in the discussion, which the primate confirmed would be noted and taken up for further consideration by the Advisory Council.

“Anyone who knows me understands my careful and balanced positions on matters surrounding the Diocese of Jerusalem…Comments I have made should be understood in a proper context to see that I have always strived for balance in understanding the complexity of relationships in this part of the world,” said Brokenleg, who the Journal reached for comment by email.

“Indigenous Canadian Anglicans, like both Palestinian Christians and Israelis, understand the importance of being our selves in relationship to all others around us. Indigenous Canadians, like Jewish people, have had our identity, being, and spirituality threatened and opposed by others,” he wrote.

The resolution followed a report by Mann on the activities of the Companions of Jerusalem, a voluntary body of members of the Anglican Church of Canada that was formed in 2011. More than 150 individuals, parishes, diocese and church organizations have become Companions of Jerusalem since its establishment, Mann reported.

The Companions’ work includes education, advocacy, pilgrimage and financial support to ministries within the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

Since 2012, almost $100,000 has been raised towards medical support in the West Bank region, Mann said. This number includes Companions’ fees and donations as well as offerings from annual Jerusalem Sunday celebrations across the Anglican Church.

Mann highlighted several challenges for the Companions of Jerusalem, including raising awareness about the ministry, continuing to grow the numbers of new and renewing companions and increasing parish participation in Jerusalem Sunday.

Individuals, parishes and dioceses can become members in the Companions of Jerusalem by applying in writing to the primate and remitting an annual membership fee.

CoGS broke into table groups to offer feedback on how the Companions of Jerusalem initiative “has touched you” and how more awareness for the initiative can be raised within the church at large. Input from these discussions will be forwarded to the Advisory Council.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Canon Martin Brokenleg.

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