Statement from the House of Bishops to members of the Anglican Church of Canada

To the members of the Anglican Church of Canada:

The Bishops of the Church, meeting in Niagara Falls, Ontario are greatly disturbed by the inability of the federal government to come to agreement with the churches which were involved in the operation of Indian Residential Schools. Talks with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Herb Gray begun in September 2000, appear stalled.

Already, the Diocese of Cariboo has taken steps that may lead to its dissolution by October. Eight other dioceses are bearing the heavy costs of litigation and some will be facing financial crisis soon. The General Synod has told the government that its assets will be exhausted before the end of the year. Institutional change seems inevitable, and steps will need to be taken in the near future to ensure an orderly change. We write to assure you that regardless of what happens to the institutional structures of the church, the spirit and life of the church will continue and flourish.

We also assure you that all contributions from the dioceses to the General Synod have been used, and will continue to be used, solely for the ongoing mission of the church, not for litigation.

We, as leaders of the Church remain committed to the pursuit of justice for those whose lives have been damaged by abuse at the schools. We remain committed to the ministry of healing among the indigenous peoples of Canada; however, if the continuing aggression of the Department of Justice forces our General Synod into bankruptcy, this and many other ministries will be disrupted.

We regret that the federal government has not faced squarely its major and primary role in promoting the policy of assimilation of the First Nations peoples, and its major responsibility for the policy and operations of the residential schools system. In spite of statements by several cabinet ministers that it is not the intention of the government to force the churches into bankruptcy, it seems that, by inaction, it is doing exactly that. We have written to the Prime Minister urging speedy resolution of the issues between the churches and the government, so that justice may be served more expeditiously, and the churches may continue their ministries without the massive drain of financial resources for litigation.

We urge Anglicans to continue to pray for all those involved in this work, and particularly for those who attended the schools and are seeking to rebuild their lives.

Finally, we commit ourselves, whatever the outcome, to nurture and lead the Anglican family through these difficult times, always seeking the will of Christ and the well-being of Christ’s Church.

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