Canada: Indigenous Anglicans outline features of ‘confederacy’

[Anglican Journal] Indigenous Anglicans took another step on the road toward self-determination July 10 when General Synod received two documents presenting the goals, objectives and features of a fully Indigenous province within the Anglican Church of Canada.

In a PowerPoint presentation titled, Unique Features of an Indigenous Province: The Confederacy of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry, Indigenous ministries co-ordinator Canon Virginia “Ginny” Doctor outlined 13 qualities a self-determining Indigenous should have.

While some of the features were fairly aspirational long-term goals, such as “better relationships between Indigenous communities and with settler communities,” and “high value on elders and youth,” others were more immediate.

Archdeacon Sid Black, former co-chair for the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), spoke at length about the first two features (“appropriate resources for leadership formation, including respect for Indigenous communities call to spiritual leadership,” and “Indigenous ordination canons and appropriate training for ministry”), using personal experience to illustrate the inadequacies of the traditional seminary process for those hoping to minister in a reserve context.

“I felt that I was…prepared for a ministry to a middle-class, non-Indigenous context,” he said, noting that different skills are needed to minister to an Indigenous community.

The presentation also called for greater authority for the National Indigenous Bishop, who can currently only minister to an Indigenous community if he has permission from its diocesan bishop.

“We want our bishop to be able to go to every Indigenous community where he is invited to go, either by the church or by the council members,” said Doctor. “We feel it is very important, and it honours the people who live there.”

A self-determining Indigenous Spiritual Ministry would also need “meaningful” prayer books and hymnals in the languages Indigenous Anglicans worship in, with music that is appropriate, Doctor said.

She noted that many of the songs in Common Praise are difficult to sing, and the language of the prayer book is not always accessible to people for whom English is not a first language.

In a press conference on Sunday evening, Doctor explained why the language of “confederacy” was being used to describe the proposed self-determining Indigenous ministry rather than the more traditional diocese.

“That comes from my background as a Six Nations woman, where we had the confederacy of nations as opposed to the province of nations,” she explained. “We’re really looking at ways to indigenize our language to make it more appropriate and meaningful to the people we want to reach out to.”

Synod also received the Mission Statement, Goals and Objectives for an Indigenous Anglican Spiritual Ministry within the Anglican Church of Canada, which interprets the Five Marks of Mission for an Indigenous context.

MacDonald stressed that the document, which received input from the March meeting of Council of General Synod (CoGS) and ACIP, is still a draft, and that synod members’ comments will be taken into consideration in future drafts.

“This is how we do things: we have documents that are kind of open-ended, and then they get revised as we move along,” he said.

MacDonald also noted that the mission statement and the features for a confederacy of Indigenous Spiritual Ministry signaled a change in direction. Earlier conversations about the establishment of an Indigenous province had focussed more on technical questions of how a fifth province that included urban and rural Indigenous communities across the country might be established.

“Instead of talking about governance and structures, what is being spoken about is ministry. The focus is ministry,” he said.

In response to the Indigenous ministries presentation, newly-elected Prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner brought a motion to the floor asking General Synod to affirm a statement calling on synod to “receive with joy” the mission statement for an Indigenous Anglican Spiritual Ministry, as well as the appointment of the Primate’s Council of Elders and Youth and the report of the Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice that had taken place earlier in the day.

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