A church commission is proposing four ways that Anglicans across Canada can take part in the task of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada: praying, learning, building relationships and acting.
“Reconciliation is daily individual spiritual practice and communal conversion, the transformation of the whole church,” members of the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice say in an open letter to Canadian Anglicans, released December 9. “We know that many of you are on this path, but we hope to link our efforts to yours, so that we as a whole church might embrace the promise of reconciliation, walking together with other churches, and with others of faith and conscience in persistence and in hope.”
The letter asks Anglicans to be mindful of the historic struggles of Indigenous communities in their daily and weekly prayers, and to include territorial acknowledgments and “Indigenous voices, teachings and ceremonies” in their worship services. It also asks Anglicans to reflect on their church’s apology for residential schools and repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, and on its commitments to the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), in their services.
It proposes that Anglicans commit to learning about the Indigenous experience through activities such as talking circles, Bible studies and the Blanket Exercise, an interactive way of learning about the history of colonialism in Canada developed by the ecumenical justice group, Kairos. It asks them to read the 94 Calls to Action, the summary report of the TRC, and The Survivors Speak, in which former residential school students speak of their experiences. It also asks that they learn about the history of their congregation, family or community as it relates to land.
The letter also asks Indigenous and non-Indigenous Anglicans to work on forming better relationships with each other-both on the individual and church levels. It proposes that churches in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities collaborate with one another, “reaching out pastorally to support one another or prophetically to engage in worship and action together.” Even urban churches, the commission says, can build relationships with Indigenous communities, by working, for example, with local friendship centres.
The letter outlines a number of ways Canadian Anglicans can take more practical action. It asks, for example, that congregations make three-year commitments to adopt one of the 94 Calls to Action.
“The courage of residential school survivors and the clarity of the TRC Commissioners have given 94 answers to the question-‘What can we do?’ ” the letter states.
The commission also proposes that Anglicans take part in Indigenous rights struggles in their communities or join campaigns such as Winds of Change, a Kairos initiative aimed at boosting reconciliation-related teaching at schools. It also suggests supporting Indigenous self-determination within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Finally, the letter invites Anglicans to contact commission members to let them know about their reconciliation work, and offers Anglicans their support if they need it.
The idea of the commission was announced by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, at General Synod 2013. It was asked to identify ways the church can put into practice its 2010 repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery as well as addressing reconciliation and injustices to Canadian Indigenous people more generally.