IT SEEMS FAIR, doesn't it, that at the end of a long, painful trek through a wilderness, there be a clear sense of direction and above all, relief. It seems so proper and fitting that in the end, problems, no matter how great or momentous, get resolved by people whose hearts are in the right place. It seems so in keeping with our reading of God's plan that all endings be good, happy endings and, even more importantly, that there be endings so that they can show the way to new beginnings. The poet T.S. Eliot noted that the line frequently blurs between an end and a beginning. Often it is hard to tell one from the other and we set off on a path we think is new only to realize somewhere down the road that we have been here before.
Last month, the Anglican Journal told you about a draft agreement with the federal government on the native residential schools litigation that has been bleeding the church dry for several years now. This newspaper is not privy to the details of that agreement, nor do we know a great deal about what, formally, will happen after it is ratified, if it is ratified. What is clear, at this point, is that this is a make-or-break deal. General Synod's resources are severely depleted; court cases are accelerating, both in numbers and in process, and if this agreement falls through, the resources are simply not there for a new round of negotiations.
Certain assumptions can be made about this draft agreement, two of which are crucial and compelling. Since it is litigation that is causing the church the most financial discomfort and that threatens the future of General Synod, it can be assumed that the terms of the agreement, one way or another, will bring the church's involvement in litigation to some sort of conclusion.
Secondly, since the church, from the beginning of this process, has argued that people who can prove that they were wronged or harmed in native residential schools are entitled to compensation for their pain, it can be surmised that an agreement the church consents to will provide for some kind of process that involves compensation.
Further, it can be assumed that the church will have to bear its share of the financial commitment required to ensure that a compensatory process occurs and occurs equitably. That financial commitment will be significant and long-term. While it would be fruitless to speculate further on the details of the draft agreement, this much makes sense.
So is this draft agreement, if signed, an end, or a beginning?
If it ends litigation and commits the church to recovery, then it is surely both. It is transition. It is uncertainty. Where a path is uncertain, one looks for guidance. One seeks signposts and lanterns. And it is important for Anglicans, at this point in their history to know with absolute conviction that the future of the church is far from completely dark. …