Indigenous Anglican leaders in northern Manitoba have committed to developing an area mission that would include sections from the dioceses of Brandon and Keewatin. At a Feb. 12 meeting in Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Man., representatives from 25 Anglican churches agreed that by Dec. 31, 2011, they would raise more than $34,000, establish a regional sacred circle gathering, and elect a bishop.
In an interview with Anglican Video, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald explained that an area mission is not a new diocese, although it may become one. “It’s an area formed by a particular mission,” he said. “It’s something we’re doing as a way for Western and Indigenous systems to work together.”
A Northern Ontario area mission has already been established within the Diocese of Keewatin. This area mission, led by Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, is in the process of becoming a diocese.
The ideas for both area missions emerged from many consultations on the topic of self-determination, held in northern communities over several years. Self-determination is a primary goal for Indigenous Anglicans that was first articulated in the 1994 documents “The Covenant” and “Our Journey of Spiritual Renewal.”
The 2010 General Synod took several steps towards Indigenous self-determination. Members voted to give canonical (church law) recognition to the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, and the Anglican Indigenous Sacred Circle.
Approval for the Northern Manitoba Area Mission is still pending from the Rupert’s Land provincial executive as well as the bishops of Brandon and Keewatin. A working group has been formed to lead this work and to raise money.
At the Feb. 12 meeting, leaders agreed that most fundraising for the Northern Manitoba area mission would be undertaken by community members. The current goal is for 4,000 people to raise $85 each to pay for the bishop’s first year and the first sacred circle gathering. Staff from General Synod’s Department of Philanthropy attended the Opaskwayak meeting.
The next stage is for leaders to communicate these goals. After the Feb. 12 meeting, a small group travelled to other northern Manitoba communities, and Bishop MacDonald reported that as of Feb. 15, more than $5,000 has been raised.
In the Anglican Video interview, Bishop MacDonald responded to questions about why a new administrative structure is necessary. He noted, among other points, that borders function differently in Indigenous communities. Often diocesan boundaries split Indigenous communities that are united by language or culture.
“We really feel strongly that this is a spiritual movement,” said Bishop MacDonald in the Anglican Video interview. “We really believe we’re being motivated by a sincere desire and a living hope that the joy and the peace that we receive from the living God can be translated in a new way and a fresh way that benefits people’s lives.”
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