Delegates to the 31st annual convocation of the Navajoland Area Mission affirmed Mark MacDonald in his role as Bishop of Navajoland.
It was MacDonald’s first convocation as Bishop of Navajoland. He has served as bishop of the Diocese of Alaska since 1997, and his duties there will cease at the end of July. On June 22, he assumes his new role as bishop of all indigenous persons in Canada — while also serving in Navajoland.
MacDonald’s affirmation came as delegates stood to show support for him to serve as bishop in both Navajoland and Canada.
The convocation was held under a traditional Navajo shade house on the grounds of historic St. Christopher’s Church in Bluff, Utah, June 8-10.
MacDonald succeeded Bishop Rustin Kimsey, who served as the assisting bishop of Navajoland following the death of Bishop Steven Plummer in 2005. Kimsey was appointed by then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
Griswold subsequently approved the appointment of MacDonald, 54, to succeed Kimsey and that plan was approved during General Convention in 2006. As an area mission, Navajoland is under the oversight of the presiding bishop and House of Bishops.
A national indigenous bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada was requested by a national gathering of indigenous Anglicans held in Pinawa, Manitoba, in 2005. Canadian Primate Andrew Hutchison agreed to fulfill the request, and to appoint the initial candidate whose name would be proposed by the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples.
When the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada meets in Winnipeg, Manitoba, June 19-25, it will consider a rule change (Resolution A023) to allow for the election rather than appointment of MacDonald’s successors.
MacDonald was joined at the Navajoland Convocation by his wife and family. He previously served as a regional vicar in the Southwestern Region of Navajoland, and said he and his wife “felt good to be home.” Kimsey, retired bishop of Eastern Oregon, and his wife, Gretchen, also attended the convocation.
In his address, MacDonald noted that he has had “some health problems, but I am on the mend.” A staph infection affecting circulation in his legs sidelined him for a couple of months earlier this year.
He also told convocation delegates that “God has a plan, a great plan for” the church in Navajoland.
He said his goals for the next year include increased emphasis on the Hooghan Learning Circle to train indigenous leadership and greater efforts at economic development.
Delegates approved a budget for next year of $444,904.
Workshops dealt with music in worship, youth ministry and a review of the visioning conference led by Kimsey. MacDonald led the music workshop using his guitar.
The only area mission in the Episcopal Church, Navajoland was created by General Convention in 1978. It functions much like a diocese; instead of an annual convention there is an annual convocation. Navajoland was carved out of parts of the Dioceses of Utah, Arizona and Rio Grande. Its border is contiguous with that of the Navajo Nation.
Next year’s convocation will be held in the New Mexico region.
The Rev. Dick Snyder is editor of the Diocesan Dialogue, newspaper of the Diocese of Utah.
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