Monthly Archives: February 2016


B.C. bishop plans Sacred Journey for repentance and reconciliation

Bishop Logan McMenamie (left) trains for his 480-km walk across Vancouver Island, referred to as a Sacred Journey, which is set to begin on March 6. Submitted photo

 

By Matt Gardner

When he became bishop of the Anglican diocese of British Columbia almost two years ago, one of the first charges Bishop Logan McMenamie gave to his diocese was to determine how it could work to de-colonize the church by looking at its colonial history and its relationships with Indigenous peoples.
 
At the 2014 diocesan synod, Bishop McMenamie spoke about the idea of “re-entering” the land, which had occurred to him but had yet to take concrete shape. Consulting with Indigenous elders in the following months and years, the bishop began to learn about the concept of the vision quest, inspiring him to make his own journey “to take some time with the Creator.”
 
A major part of the vision quest is removing oneself from worldly goods, which Bishop McMenamie felt to be particularly appropriate for Lent. Perhaps even more significant was its focus on repentance—a need felt deeply across the Anglican Church of Canada as it strives for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, following a colonial past symbolized by the Doctrine of Discovery and the church’s role in the residential school system.
 
“We came as if we were bringing God here,” Bishop McMenamie said. “But the Creator was already here—in the land, in the sea, in the sky, in the teachings, in the language, in the traditions of the First People.”
 
In an act of repentance for himself and all Anglicans in his diocese, the bishop will be making a Sacred Journey starting on March 6, walking across Vancouver Island from Albert Bay to Victoria to symbolically leave the land and re-enter it in a new spirit rooted in right relationships and the discovery of God in Indigenous teachings. He has invited others in the diocese to get involved by joining him on the walk, learning a First Nations language, or reading a planned Lenten Bible study.
 
Along with guidance from some local First Nations, Bishop McMenamie found biblical inspiration for his 480-km journey, which is expected to last until March 27. He recalled the crossing of the Israelites over the River Jordan in the Old Testament, and the subsequent baptism of Jesus as the one chosen to lead the re-entry of a morally purified Israel into the Holy Land.
 
“Israel entered the land as conquerors,” he said. “And I really believe that what John the Baptist was doing was, if you want, a vision quest … taking the people out of the land so they could enter into a new relationship with the land and the peoples who were there.”
 
The spirit of reconciliation
 
Key to the proper unfolding of the Sacred Journey will be following the proper protocols as the bishop seeks to enter First Nations land. In preparation, he has been actively consulting with elders, one of whom is his friend and mentor Alex Nelson, a member of the Musgamagw-Dzawada’enuxw First Nation of Kingcome Village.
 
As a child, Nelson attended the Anglican-run St. Michael’s Indian Residential School beginning at age seven in Alert Bay. He established a relationship with Christ Church Cathedral in 2010, when the cathedral and its then-rector McMenamie helped raise funds for Kingcome after it experienced severe flooding. Later Bishop McMenamie invited Nelson and his family to his consecration ceremony as bishop.
 
“When he talked about the re-entering and in the spirit of reconciliation, I caught on right away … It’s one of those undefined moments where you just know it’s good and right,” Nelson said.
 
The elder quickly offered his resources to help with protocol, drawing on his relationships with major leaders of First Nations on Vancouver Island, including chiefs and tribal councils, to help the bishop seek permission to enter their territory. Nelson also plans to walk with Bishop McMenamie during parts of the journey.
 
Meanwhile, the bishop turned to a member of the congregation at Christ Church Cathedral, retired volunteer Wayne Stewart, to serve as trip project manager and help tackle logistical challenges.
 
With only two months of preparation time, Stewart has been busy on a number of fronts, organizing transport, accommodations and food and opening communications with different First Nations.
 
Simplicity and humility
 
Throughout the journey—during which Bishop McMenamie will walk a maximum of 30 km per day—volunteers in shifts will drive a rented motor home to accompany the bishop, who will sleep in motels and billets when possible and in the motor home on secluded forestry roads when no other options are available.
 
Along the way, the bishop will connect with First Nations communities and participate in Anglican church services. In Victoria, he plans to appear at a First Nations soccer tournament and the Tent City that has sprung up in front of Christ Church Cathedral. But not seeking attention, his trip is guided by two central principles: simplicity and humility.
 
“There will be no triumphal entries into any of the communities,” Stewart said. “That’s not what this is about.”
 
In the leadup to his journey, Bishop McMenamie has been avidly training, walking greater distances each day.
 
He stressed that the Sacred Journey is not an end, but merely another step in a much longer journey towards reconciliation, suggesting that the next step might be responding to the Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
 
The bishop invited Anglicans across Canada to pray for those on the journey and consider how they might promote reconciliation in their own communities.
 
“The spiritual and cultural challenges of this journey will end,” he said, “at the day [we can] be a different people and a different church.”

 

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Reflections expand on Bishops in Dialogue Testimonies

Bishops meet in London during the 2010 Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue. Submitted photo

By General Synod Communications

New commentaries by a group of bishops from across the worldwide Anglican Communion are offering a valuable supplement to the testimonies produced by the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue.

An informal gathering of bishops from Canada, the United States and African nations, the consultation provides an opportunity for bishops from different national, social and cultural backgrounds to build relationships and seek common understanding through their shared unity in Christ, addressing diverse and sometimes conflicting views.

Since the first consultation at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, which was marked by divisions in the Communion over same-sex marriage and issues of biblical interpretation, the gathering has become an annual event. Following each consultation since 2011, the bishops have produced documents known as testimonies that summarize the consultations and the themes discussed, offering points of agreement and making shared commitments.

Expanding on the content of the testimonies, the new reflections add further commentary and critiques as the bishops move forward in their ongoing dialogue.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has written an introductory essay for the compilation, which provides context for the Bishops in Dialogue Consultation and testimonies and praises the new publication as “both gift and invitation to the Communion.”

Contributors offering reflections include:

  • Prof. Emmanuel D. Mbennah, PhD, vice chancellor of St. John University, Dodoma, Tanzania;
  • Robert S. Heaney, PhD, director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies, Virginia Theological Seminary, USA;
  • The Most Rev. Francisco de Assis da Silva, Primate of Brazil and diocesan in Santa Maria;
  • The Rev. Canon Dr. Makhosi Nzimande, Anglican Church of Southern Africa;
  • The Rt. Rev. Nicholas Baines, bishop of the diocese of Leeds; and
  • Prof. Ephraim Radner, Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology, visiting scholar at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France.


Read the reflections on the Bishops in Dialogue testimonies.

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Archbishop Fred Hiltz gathers with members and friends of LGBTQ Community


Yesterday, Archbishop Fred Hiltz met with members and friends of the LGBTQ community in Toronto at celebration of the Holy Eucharist at St. John’s, West in Toronto.

This encounter is one among many that the Primate has had with members of the Anglican Church in and beyond Canada. During the recent Primates’ meeting in Canterbury, care for this community became a clear priority for the whole of the Anglican Communion. There was recognition by the Primates of the many ways that LGBTQ communities are risk.

“…The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people…”

 -from the Communiqué from the Primates of the Anglican Communion, January 2016

Yesterday’s pastoral gathering was an opportunity from the Primate to be in dialogue with a local LGBTQ community about their lives and experiences within the Church and about the resolution that will go before the General Synod in July. Archbishop Hiltz remains deeply committed to hearing the diversity of perspectives in our church about this matter as reflected in his ongoing conversations with the Bishops of our Church, Canadian participants at the Anglican Consultative Council, Canadian and African bishops in dialogue, from theological students and faculty, and from members of the Council of the General Synod among others.

“I left the gathering more convinced than ever the need for the Church to take opportunity to hear first-hand the experiences and longings of LGBTQ persons,” Hiltz said. “So often we speak about instead of with the LGBTQ community. We all need to be creating these kinds of opportunities to have pastoral conversations.”

Copyright © 2016 The Anglican Church of Canada, All rights reserved.
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This message has been sent by Communications and Information Resources department on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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Research project shines light on Beothuk-Anglican relations – Part I

The Spirit of the Beothuk
By Matt Gardner

Alongside the legacy of cultural genocide against the Indigenous peoples of Canada, embodied in the residential school system, is the tragic history of what some scholars consider to be a case of full-fledged genocide. The Beothuk, the Indigenous people of Newfoundland, were declared extinct in 1829 following the death of their last known living member, Shanawdithit. The annihilation of a people due to starvation, disease, violence and competition for resources, and the loss of virtually their entire culture, followed centuries of encroachment by European settlers.

In 1819, an armed band of men journeyed into central Newfoundland seeking a Beothuk group accused of stealing their property. During the resulting skirmish, several Beothuk people were killed, including Nonosabasut, the man believed to be the chief of the tribe.

His wife, Demasduit, was captured and brought to the town of Twillingate. There she was put in the care of the Rev. John Leigh, an Anglican priest and missionary who in 1816 had become the area’s first resident clergyman and who voiced concerns about the treatment of the Beothuk.

Demasduit lived with Leigh for a subsequent period, during which they constructed a vocabulary of approximately 180 Beothuk words, translating them into English as an aid to communication with the Beothuk, particularly for missionary work. That vocabulary forms the base of much of the surviving knowledge regarding the language and culture of the Beothuk.

2016 marks the 200th anniversary of Leigh’s arrival on the island, while 2019 is the 200th anniversary of Demasduit’s capture. Researching the story in advance of the former anniversary, the Rev. Dr. Joanne Mercer, rector of the Parish of Twillingate, found the historical accounts raised more questions than answers.

“It’s sort of like one line in history—she was put in his care,” Mercer noted. “Nothing really about why.”

Mercer’s interest in answering these and other questions eventually grew into a full-scale research project. Taking place over three years from 2016 to 2019, the project brings together a group of scholars from Newfoundland and the United Kingdom to look at the relationship between Demasduit and Leigh—and by extension, the broader interaction between the Beothuk and Anglican tradition.

“A story we struggle with”

For Mercer, the extinction of the Beothuk people is a topic that remains fully relevant today. As a theologian, she seeks to understand that history in terms of reconciliation and how to strive for justice centuries after the destruction of an entire people.

“I think it’s still a story we struggle with … We’re reconciling ourselves with a piece of history and with a story that sometimes people are uncomfortable with,” Mercer said. “But I do still think it’s an important piece of work that we really have to work through.

“It’s a part of our identity and our history … So many of the attitudes that were dominant in the culture of the time enabled the situation in which the Beothuk became extinct … Work that’s being done across our national church has the potential to bring healing to our historical understanding and to ourselves in many ways.”

One of the first people Mercer reached out to was colleague Dr. Suzanne Owen, senior lecturer in theology and religious studies at Leeds Trinity University and the University of Chester, UK, who first learned about the Beothuk while doing field work with the Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland for her PhD.

In Owen’s view, the questions raised by Leigh and Demasduit’s brief mentions in historical texts (“How did Leigh get involved in the incident? Did Anglicans have a theological interest in the Beothuk?”) posed a unique opportunity for insight into early church-Indigenous relations from a religious and theological perspective—one which could uncover untold aspects of the Beothuk story.

“Most academics researching the subject do so from historical or cultural perspectives,” Owen said.

Another scholar involved in the project is Dr. Hans Rollmann, religious studies professor at Memorial University. A former professor of Mercer’s at Memorial University and Queen’s College, St. John’s, as well as a colleague when they both taught at the latter for a number of years, Rollmann encouraged Mercer’s efforts to learn more about Leigh.

Visit the Anglican Church of Canada website next week for the conclusion of this story.