That is an image that comes to mind as I think of our church’s efforts to become post-colonial. It speaks of a journey. As Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, we are endeavouring to walk together in new ways. Sometimes we stumble and fall, but by God’s grace, we get up and get going again. We know we are on this journey for the long haul, and we are committed to see it through.
Occasionally, it is good to note some milestones that inspire us to press on.
In many places in our church, there is at every meeting or liturgy of the day an acknowledgement of the territories and ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples on which we gather. We rejoice in the recent production of a first-class documentary on the Doctrine of Discovery, Stolen Lands, Strong Hearts. At its premiere screening, Bob Watts, chief of staff for National Chief Perry Belgrade (Assembly of First Nations), spoke of the documentary as “having a life that will impact the entire country.”
In 2016, a Council of Indigenous Elders and Youth was commissioned to hold our church accountable to its 2010 public endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Known as the Vision Keepers, they have, among other initiatives, called on our church to be proactive with others in urging Members of Parliament and the Senate to pass Bill C-262, calling for a reform of Canadian law in keeping with and honouring UNDRIP.
In 2017, General Synod created a full-time staff position dedicated to enabling our church to respond to the 94 Calls to Action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with integrity and steadfastness. This summer, General Synod will consider a call for the establishing of a national committee for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation, including the building and support of a network of ambassadors for reconciliation in dioceses and regions across the church.
In 2018, the Council of General Synod appointed a Jubilee Commission tasked with examining historical and current funding arrangements for Indigenous Ministries. The appointment was made in the hope of increased support and a commitment to Indigenous oversight of these funds.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Indigenous Covenant of 1994, in which the whole Church was invited to partnership in the building of a truly Indigenous church. In that “Journey of Spiritual Renewal,” we have celebrated the appointment of the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop in 2007, the adoption of a Canon on National Indigenous Ministry in 2010 and the emerging of several configurations for Indigenous ministries in keeping with Indigenous customs and ways of making decisions. Our church now has twelve Indigenous bishops—including First Nations, Métis and Inuit. These are incredibly encouraging developments in our journey.
It is important to note, too, that these national commitments are complemented in numerous initiatives in many of our dioceses and parishes, theological colleges and schools for ministry.
Our church is changing. In leaving behind the vestiges of the colonial church and striving to rid ourselves of any taint of racist, cultural or spiritual arrogance, we are pressing on to be a church of jubilee, embodying the true joy of the gospel and the radical justice it demands. Let us pray for grace to persevere.