Mark L. MacDonald, the Episcopal Bishop of Alaska is to become the first National Indigenous Anglican Bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, with pastoral oversight over all of Canada’s indigenous Anglicans no matter where they live.
The announcement of his appointment was made today by Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, at a news conference at the Anglican national office in Toronto.
The announcement is the culmination of a process that began in August 2005, when indigenous Anglicans in Canada meeting in a gathering called the Sacred Circle, expressed the desire to have their own bishop. Archbishop Hutchison, who was at the Sacred Circle in Pinawa, Man., welcomed the suggestion and said at the time that he would do all he could to make the request a reality.
Bishop MacDonald, 52, becomes a rarity in Anglican tradition – a bishop who is pastor to a group of people irrespective of where they live, rather than to residents of a geographic diocese. In Canada, only the Bishop Ordinary to the Armed Forces, with pastoral oversight of Anglicans serving in the Armed Forces, is in an analogous position.
As well as crossing Canadian diocesan jurisdictions, Bishop MacDonald, in his new position, will straddle national boundaries as well. Although he has resigned as Bishop of the U.S. diocese of Alaska, he is also assisting bishop of Navajoland Area Mission with the U.S. Episcopal Church, a position he will maintain as he serves as Canadian National Bishop.
“It’s important to remember that we elect bishops for the church,” Archbishop Hutchison said. “We don’t elect bishops for national jurisdictions.”
Since Canadian indigenous Anglicans gathered at Pinawa and decided to ask for a National Bishop, the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples has reflected in depth about how to make the concept a reality. Among the requirements for the position was that the successful candidate be a native person and already a bishop.
A number of possible candidates were interviewed before Bishop MacDonald’s name was presented to the Canadian Primate for confirmation.
Bishop MacDonald is sensitive to the challenges inherent is being pastor to indigenous people across the country, but also to the importance of the task.
“I see this as one of the most important position in the church,” he said. “This is a transformational step not only for aboriginal Anglicans but also for the whole church. I can see lots of headaches, but also tremendous potential for the whole church in Canada and abroad.”
Bishop MacDonald, who is married with three children, will initially set up his office at the Anglican Church’s national office in Toronto, with the possibility of relocation later on.
For more information, please contact Vianney (Sam) Carriere, Director of Communications, 416-924-9199, ext 306, [email protected] or Josie De Lucia, Assistant to the Director, 416-924-9199 ext. 294; [email protected]
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