Network Makes Case for Native Clergy

Article excerpt

The Anglican Indigenous Network has put itself on a new and firm bureaucratic footing in order to push forward on its number one concern--the faster ordination of more native priests.

At its biennial meeting, held May 17-22 in Vancouver, 25 delegates from five regions around the Pacific chose a five-member executive to back up the longtime secretary-general, Malcolm Naea Chun of Hawaii.

Representatives from Canada, the United States, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia and the Torres Straits Islands also promised to fund an annual budget, starting at $20,000 US, the first such budget for the organization begun in 1991.

The question of native ordination dominated the meeting. But the single most worrying situation in the network's territory-Hawaii, where the Episcopal diocese has only one indigenous priest--was handled with an open-ended motion. It authorized the three native bishops at the meeting--Mark MacDonald of the Canadian church and John Gray and Brown Turei of New Zealand--to follow any route at all to tram leaders for and to give pastoral care to indigenous people.

Bishop MacDonald acknowledged a delegate's plea for native lay training, but pointed out: "We're in a system that says ordination is everything."

Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., spent two days at the meeting. She listened carefully on the opening evening as delegate after delegate talked of the need to train priests in and for native communities, rather than sending them away for education or bringing in outsiders.

Her reply was straightforward. "Continue to challenge your church," she said.

Two Australian priests at the meeting, Di Langham and Janet Turpie-Johnstone, are ordained to the mainstream priesthood. But, as fair-skinned aboriginals, they described themselves in interviews as both overlooked and overused.

In her day job, Ms. Turpie-Johnstone tends to two Melbourne parishes, with 250 names on the combined rolls. She spends her "spare" time on the boards of various aboriginal organizations, and doing advocacy and pastoral work in the aboriginal community.

Despite that work, she said, her light skin and her education make her church reluctant to see her as an aboriginal priest. …