Monday, July 9, 2001
An unofficial digest of the proceedings of
the 36th General Synod of
the Anglican Church of Canada
Colin Johnson, chair, noted in his first report of the Nominating Committee on standing committees that 225 nominations had been received. He listed the criteria the committee considered: geography, diocese, indigenous participation, expertise, experience, order, continuity, sex, age and theological diversity.
2. Reflections from PartnersSr. Donna Geernaert, ecumenical partner and a staff member of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, reflected on the painful history of separation between churches such as the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches and the length of time it would take to heal these rifts.
"We're with you and we're watching you," she said in the context of the Anglican Church's steps in ecumenism, such as its declaration of full communion with ELCIC, which Anglicans and Roman Catholics will keep in mind when they meet in November to consider a joint declaration of the things the two churches have in common.
Dr. Gary Walsh, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said that watching the joint service of Anglicans and Lutherans on Sunday made him feel that "something global was going on" and that he could see churches "coming together for ministry and mission." Ms. Judy Berinai of the Sabah Theological Seminary said that there are "challenges and subtle discrimination" for her and the Christian church in a country that it is 59 per cent indigenous and only eight per cent Christian in the officially Muslim country of Malaysia.
Ms. Laureen Plante, of the Diocese of Caledonia brought greetings from the Nisga'a Nation and described the highs and lows for her at General Synod. She said indigenous partners should be part of the decision-making process.
3. Presentation on Indigenous JusticeLily Bell, Diocese of Caledonia, sang a Haida song and prayed for cleansing and healing.
Mildred Poplar, Diocese of Ottawa, introduced a presentation on Indigenous Justice that included a history of the political relations between the Indigenous peoples of North America and European colonizers. The presentation would raise three questions, she said: What is colonization? What is assimilation? And What are the consequences for native identity and spirituality?
The presentation included a graphic representation, the blanket exercise, of the gradual reduction and limitation of Indigenous peoples over the past 500 years.
The Rev. Michael Stogré, a Jesuit historian, explained the doctrine of discovery and the concept of terra nullius, both of which were used by European nations and religious leaders to issue unilateral edicts abrogating unto themselves the lands of North American Indigenous peoples.
The text from Fr. Stogré's remarks are available on the General Synod web site.
Four Indigenous members told stories.
Mr. Todd Russell, Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, spoke of how his community has been denied recognition by the federal Government.
Chief David Masty, Diocese of the Arctic, told of how ownership of his people's lands has changed hands five times among European nations without his people ever being consulted.
Ms. Angeline Ayoungman, Diocese of Calgary, said she had no place to take her grandchildren to show them the land of their ancestors.
Ms. Gloria Moses, Diocese of Cariboo, told how government lawyers in a land claims case, said that members of her nation were no longer Indigenous people because they drove cars and watched television.
In closing the presentation, the Right Rev. Mark MacDonald, Bishop of Alaska, noted that bishops in the past had encouraged Indigenous peoples to sign treaties on the grounds that they would keep the white men honest.
He said the treaties and treatment of Indigenous peoples had caused a "warping of the soul on both sides, even of those who profited the most" and that healing was needed to help everyone involved.
4. Presentation by the Black Anglican Coordinating CommitteeMs. Ianthe Alleyne, The Rev. Stephen Fields and Mrs. Lucy Fields, representatives from the Black Anglican Coordinating Committee, presented General Synod with a cheque for the Healing and Reconciliation Fund and a message of support
5. Presentation of the Anglican Council of Indigenous PeoplesThe Rev. Mervyn Wolf Leg, Diocese of Calgary, honoured warriors with a song as members entered the plenary hall, where seating was arranged in a circle, from the four corners of the compass. He then led a prayer for people at the Synod
Mrs. Verna Firth and Mr. Todd Russell, co-chairs of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), introduced the presentation and the presenters:
In the centre:
Mr. Wolf Leg said his people have "asked the Holy Spirit to lead us" and that "we will look after ourselves, our children, our elders.... We're not going to wait for governments, secular or otherwise."
Mr. Metuq said that ACIP had developed a new covenant and that it was vital "to see what that covenant can do to us as people."
Mr. Wesley described his abuse at a residential school at the hands of another Indigenous person and said that for him, the letters in the word, "justice" meant Jesus, universal, salvation, truth, inner self, cross and encouragement.
Canon Moxley described how scared circles had developed from story telling in 1993 to people wanting to go forward. The change was reflected, she said, in the projects undertaken by the Healing and Reconciliation Fund which had grown from $20,000 in 1992 spent primarily on enabling people to tell their stories to $153,000 to date in 2001 for a variety of projects to restore culture and language, counseling, therapy and healing.
Mr. Beardy said that what was needed was leadership in local communities, the creation of a tribunal in support of the Association of First Nations to enable stories to be told, enshrining the memories of the people in worship and a commitment to holistic healing.
Mrs. Haines said that she had attended four sacred circles which were not part of her tradition and had learned from them respect for others and that the problems she experienced in British Columbia were the same as those of people from Newfoundland.
Members of General Synod viewed Walking a New Vision, a video made at the most recent sacred circle, held in Pt. Elgin, Ont., in 2000.
The Indigenous members presented everyone in General Synod with a gift.
5. Healing ServiceThe members of General Synod concluded the day of Indigenous peoples' presentations by participating in a service of healing. They shared in smudging, drumming and singing, Scripture readings, homilies, prayers and personal stories. Many shared in the laying on of hands and prayer.
One member asked that everyone respect the stories. "We are not doing it because we want to hurt you or get even with you," she said. "We are not doing it for pity.... It's part of healing."
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