Magazine article Anglican Journal

National Native Bishop Named

Magazine article Anglican Journal

National Native Bishop Named

Article excerpt

Mark L. MacDonald, the bishop of Alaska, has been named the Anglican Church of Canada's first national indigenous bishop with pastoral oversight over all native Anglicans, a move that was described by the primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, as "an historic moment" for the life of the church and the country.

"This has been the fruit of our elders' dreams ... It's a new day, an exciting moment," said Bishop MacDonald. "It really signals a deeper and more important reality that is the recognition by a major denomination in North America, by the Anglican Communion, the God-given structure of aboriginal authority, the God-given character of aboriginal life and culture."

Bishop MacDonald's appointment was formally announced by Archbishop Hutchison Jan. 4 at a news conference at the church's national office in Toronto.

Rev. Gloria Moses, co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), which worked on the process for selecting candidates, said she was elated at the announcement. "What a way to start the new year off," said Ms. Moses. "This has been a long dream."

Archbishop Hutchison said Bishop MacDonald's appointment is a culmination of a process that began when indigenous Anglicans met in a gathering called the Sacred Circle, in Pinawa, Man., in August 2005, and presented him and other bishops there with a petition for a national native bishop.

"Never in my wildest imagination did I realize that this would happen so soon after the Sacred Circle in Pinawa," said Archdeacon Sid Black, former ACIP co-chair. "I think it's a very important step in the sense that the church is acknowledging, recognizing the indigenous constituents of the Anglican Church of Canada."

Archbishop Hutchison called Bishop MacDonald's appointment "complex," saying that he will minister to the needs of a very diverse native population in Canada, .with hundreds of different languages and cultures. "The challenge is drawing them to a common cause," he said. The primate also acknowledged that the appointment of a national native bishop is a move that is "not universally accepted" in the Canadian Anglican church. "Some are threatened by it."

(Some Anglicans have voiced concern that the appointment sets a precedent for other special interest groups that might want their own bishop. Under Canadian church polity, though, bishops respect each other's geographical boundaries.)

Bishop MacDonald addressed that issue at the news conference, saying, "We're going to have open hearts and minds." He added: "Oftentimes people see this as a political agenda rather than a Gospel agenda. And when they see this as a political agenda they see it as daunting and frightening.

"But in fact, this is really the fruition of not just a political agenda but a spiritual holistic agenda for native people. I think that when people grasp that aspect of it that we're really about being respectful of aboriginal authority, meaning that we're not imposing something on the people but really in conversation with people with open minds."

The setting up of a new native institution within the church is not meant "to tear something down," he added. "We're trying to go deeper into our relationship. What you might say is that what we're about is to deepen the communion that we have with the Canadian church and others as well and the only way we can do that is what we might call self-determination or self-differentiation ... I think people will just have to wait and see and we will have to build trust particularly with those who find it difficult. I look forward to that, that's part of the challenge. …

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