General Synod 2001
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Doctrine of Discovery Event

Presentation by the Right Rev. Mark MacDonald
General Synod 2001

(Greetings in Ojibwa) - I've been around ... too much, I'm losing my Ojibwa accent. Giving all glory to God who has saved us in Jesus Christ. Your grace, members of General Synod, it is a singular honor for me to be here. I will remember this for the rest of my life.

My family, my father's family is Canadian, and as was mentioned, I went to Wycliffe College. Don't hold it against me, half of the group or more. But the Anglican Council of Indigenous People have been my friends, and I owe so much to them, to Gordon who has become my brother. He has meant so much to me. Your bishops, particularly bishops of the north and of the province adjacent to Alaska, I have looked to them for fellowship. Your primate has always been supportive and helpful and encouraging to me. I owe so very, very much to you that I could never say thank you or repay you for what I do owe to this church. So it is an honor to be here and to say to you that you are all my relatives, which is what I said in Ojibwa -- Ojibwa, the language where I grew up in Goshen, the first language of the Diocese of Alaska.

The diocese of Alaska was originally part of Rupert's Land. Maybe you didn't know that, but we were first a part of the Canadian church, and so for me it feels like coming home. Also, Canadians seem to know better than the Americans that Alaska is not located near Hawaii. They always look at those weather maps and say, "Oh gee, it's right down there by Hawaii," you know, and I don't know where they put Canada -- so we share that. And you seem to know at least that we're somewhere out there, way up there, and we appreciate that a great deal. And as an Alaskan, I feel very much at home here and also in terms of my personal history, I feel very much a part of you.

The basis of what I'm saying is a consensus that has been developing over a number of years in the Anglican Indigenous Network, and it reflects our reflection up our Anglican roots and our experience of faith in Christ. And that is what I would like to share with you now in this brief time.

In Luke10, Jesus outlines his particular mission. Now as Paul described that mission, it is to unite all things in Christ, but what Jesus gave was the mechanics of it. But the mechanics display and reveal a sacredness and an understanding of life and portray Jesus' own understanding of the Gospel. What he did is very important.

Now as you know, all roads led to Jerusalem during his time. If you didn't go to Jerusalem - say, for instance, you went to Jerico -- you would probably have robbers beat you up, and you'd end up being a part of a parable that somebody would tell and people would say for thousands of years, you know. So you didn't want to travel anywhere that you shouldn't go, and Jerusalem is where you should go. And so when Jesus announced to all of his followers that they would go to the villages, I'm sure that they were shocked. I'm sure that they could hardly understand what it was that he was saying. And then he told them something that was remarkable. He basically took all of the temple liturgy and put it in a little space of time in one announcement that we now call the Gospel. And he told them to go into these places and to recognize the presence of God, first of all. God is near to you, and then to say turn around and believe the good news.

The apostolic mission that followed, lead by the Holy Spirit, follows that pattern along. We see that the spirit respects the natural spiritual geography of people and land -- respects the connection between land, language and people that have always made a people. When the spirit comes down on the day of Pentecost, not everyone speaks English. But the spirit lovingly expresses this good news that redirects God's traffic from the temple to every village, to every home, to every heart, by respecting the authority of land, language and culture that throughout scripture is treated as sacred and God-given and is enshrined in the laws from the very beginning, such as there's a curse upon someone who removes someone else's lands marker. We've also read, of course, the Ten Commandments that refer to this.

When this becomes an issue, the Spirit, again leading the mission of the people, allows a church to form that is one in Christ but that has two, if you will, regimes: a Jewish one and a Gentile one. Because that connection of land, language and culture is again treated as sacred, treated as something that is given by God who gives an authority that no human being can break. And that the Spirit herself will never violate, will never violate.

Now what has happened, of course, is that in the colonial mission and the church, which came upon the coattails of the colonial mission, we lost some of these lessons. In order to participate and benefit from colonial expansion, you have to sever your connection with land. And that's why we call Indigenous people 'the People of the Land,' because they have never -- even in the face of the onslaught of the modern nations state and the culture that has become the global eating culture surrounding us -- have never severed that connection. Even when the People of the Land move away from the land, their identity is shaped, and they preserve in a sacred way land, language and culture -- those three things.

Anglicanism, of course, in its development, knew something about this and appealed to this sacredness in its discussion with Rome. It appealed to this and has appealed again and again, and in fact in the United States in the Episcopal Church today, there is a discussion going on about this relationship. Anglicanism has consistently understood the sacred and God-given character of the connection between land, language and culture. And it is a part of this that Anglicanism has always adopted a stance, or almost adopted a stance, of advocacy on behalf of Indigenous people.

It is very important for all of us to remember, particularly those of us who wear purple, that bishops were often signatories to the treaties that were made, arguing to Indigenous peoples that we would stand with them regardless of what happened. That we would keep the governments honest. That we would be proactive in our advocacy for Indigenous peoples. And of course, the people believed as they signed that this would be true. We have committed ourselves in terms of our thought, in terms of our legislative structures, again and again and again to the authority that is recognized in those treaties towards Indigenous people. You'd have to say that in terms of the paper trail that we have left, it is absolutely clear that we recognize, at least in name, the authority, the God-given given authority that is a part of those treaties and recognized in those treaties.

The problem is that colonialism, which again seeks to sever that tie in pursuit of profit and other things, has severed and warped not just native people, but all of the people who have been affected by it, including the people who have benefited most form it. And it is the warping of the soul that is the transition from this morning until into this afternoon. Because the relationship is not just healed by an appeal to advocacy. The relationship is only healed when we can come to understand how this church has been affected by the legacy of colonialism and the way in which it has shaped our jurisdictions, our institutions, our ideas, the way we do our business again and again and again. That is the task that is set before us in the Anglican Communion, and I would believe and humbly like to suggest that it is the task that is before all of you this afternoon.

I want to close by saying this: the Anglican Council of Indigenous People is not asking for two churches; it is asking for one, but one which recognizes the full power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the incarnation of Jesus Christ in the life of Indigenous peoples. It is amazing to me that the power of that Gospel is so great that even when it was used as an instrument of colonial power, that it had within it the seeds of revolution and liberation from that same power. That is the Gospel that we serve. And what Indigenous people are asking for is not political so much as from this church, the recognition of that reality and that authority which you have said again and again, and along with the American church and the rest of the Anglican Communion. What you have said again and again and again is there, by your endorsement and by your advocacy. Now it's a time to sit and look and say: how have we been affected by it? How have our institutions been shaped by it? Our jurisdictions, of course, are designed by it and not by the geography of Indigenous people, and that's very important for us to understand.

We are asked to acknowledge the reality of the fundamental principles that shape us as Anglicans as having full validity and reality in the life of Indigenous people. This is one of the greatest moments in the history of the mission of the Anglican Communion to Indigenous peoples. It will be remembered, and how you take it to heart today will speak volumes about what the future is. For today you have been given an open door to go into a future we believe is of God's making -- a future that was offered long ago, but in the infinite and wonderful grace of God, has been offered to us all once again in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. (Final greetings in Ojibwa).

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