Indigenous bishops, clergy and Elders wrapped a sunset red Pendleton blanket over Archbishop Michael Peers and prayed over him, in tribute to the Archbishop's apology paving the way for healing and reconciliation. Pictured with the Archbishop are former indigenous ministries co-ordinators Donna Bomberry and the Rev. Canon Laverne Jacobs as well as Bishops Adam Halkett and Lydia Mamakwa. (Photo via Anglican Journal)

Reflecting on the 30th Anniversary of the Apology

On Sunday, August 6, we in the Anglican Church of Canada will pause to acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the Apology offered by Archbishop and Primate Michael Geoffrey Peers. This moment is more pronounced, in light of his death on July 27.

I humbly ask that the moments we take on Sunday and throughout the week should also reflect a thanksgiving for the ministry of Archbishop Peers. He prayerfully stepped into that historic moment and stood before the people, apologizing for a wrong done and for trauma committed by our church. The willingness of the church to participate in the residential school experience has resulted in a legacy of trauma that’s been handed down and is lived daily by Indigenous survivors and their families.

We should note that any legacy of an individual is evaluated and critiqued by history—no one is exempt from this reality. Archbishop Peers stepped into that moment, with those humble words, and in so doing placed his legacy before us today and in this week. A legacy is not about us as individuals, but rather is a legacy handed on to those who follow. So, it is right that we should reflect and examine our church and ourselves through the lens of the Apology and the 30 years following. Acknowledging that what we as Christians do in this and every moment, adds to the historical legacy that we too will pass down to the children of creation who are going to follow after us. How will we be critiqued and evaluated by those who will look back on our collective history?

For those that do not know, let us take a moment and look back to August 6, 1993 in Minaki, northern Ontario. Archbishop Peers, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, offered a heartfelt and very personal Apology’ to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada for the church’s actions in the residential schools. The ‘Apology’ was received and acknowledged by our Indigenous relations and representatives at that historical gathering, and since then, we the Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous ministry have challenged the wider Anglican church to live into the Apology. To push words into action and action to change and healing.

History has proven that any community can only move forward at a pace set by the slowest and most resistant among us. Have we the church lived openly and completely into the Apology of Archbishop Peers? Have we walked forward actively seeking openness to truth in our shared Canadian history and sought out ways to reconcile?

As an Indigenous person I will openly share that I still experience denial that any wrong was done, and I still am challenged to prove that wrongs were committed by the churches and denominational participation in the residential schools. So, education, change and healing is still required after 30 years, and a lot of work is still in the calling for the rest of us.

On Sunday, we the church will again pause and reflect and give thanks for those who have apologized and for those who walk today in reconciliation and healing.

The Most Rev. Christopher Harper
National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop

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