Canadian indigenous Anglicans’ desire to form a self-determining community within the church took a step forward last summer when the 5th Sacred Circle approved a declaration calling for a native national bishop to be elected with a year.
The proposal received the unanimous support of 41 elders at the Sacred Circle. The Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison and other bishops attending agreed in principle that it should be possible to have an indigenous bishop elected within a year.
The idea for a native bishop dates back to 1994 when native Anglicans and the Anglican Church of Canada signed a covenant agreeing to the eventual creation of “a new self- determining community within the Anglican Church of Canada.”
“The vision of the covenant now has wheels and can move forward,” said Archdeacon Sidney Black, co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous People (ACIP).
It is envisioned that the bishop will have pastoral oversight of native communities. The bishop should already be ordained and will be appointed by the Primate. “He will play a public relations role in promoting the vision,” said Donna Bomberry, General Synod Indigenous Ministries Co-ordinator.
ACIP has begun working on the next steps in searching for the bishop. Three groups have been set up to work on the selection and funding process for the bishop and on communications, said Canon Black.
“As ACIP, we are aware of the challenges this move has especially in terms of governance structures,” said Canon Black, “but we hope in time these issues will be addressed.”
As a way forward, Ms. Bomberry and Canon Black, recently visited New Zealand where they attended the 13th Synod of the Maori Anglican Church in Otaki, northern Wellington, (Nov.3-6).
“It was a great experience for us to witness how the Maori people govern themselves,” said Canon Black.
In 1992, The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia adopted a constitution that resulted in the formation of three equal, autonomous yet interdependent streams: the Maori, Polynesian and Pakeha. The Maori people govern themselves as one of three separate but related cultural streams in the church. Last year, Archbishop Te Wakahuihui Vercoe, was elected as the second Maori Primate of New Zealand.
About 200 Maori Anglicans attended the synod, representing the five regions known as Amoragi.
“We were not treated as outsiders, but were welcomed into their circle and were involved in the discussions,” said Canon Black.
“We hope that the experiences we learnt from the Maori Anglicans will help shape our vision of a Canadian Anglican Indigenous church,” said Ms. Bomberry. “Maybe one day the Sacred Circle, will become a synod.”
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