Magazine article Anglican Journal

Hiltz Rallies Support for UN Declaration

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Hiltz Rallies Support for UN Declaration

Article excerpt

Brantford, Ont.

"Let your 'yes' be yes," said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, quoting James 5:12 as silence descended over the congregation gathered March 19 at Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks.

"This strikes me as good counsel for the church of our day, as it seeks to act on decisions made at General Synod 2010 repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and endorsing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP]," said Hiltz. "Here we have a call to let our 'yes' in that historic moment be a resounding and continuing 'yes.'"

The light filtering in through stained glass windows depicting events from the history of the Six Nations and their relationship to Christianity fell on a diverse group--including former Indian residential school students, bishops and clergy. All had gathered to hear what Hiltz would say in response to the 48th of the 94 Calls to Action released following the close of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in June 2015, requiring, among other things, that religious denominations and faith groups in Canada issue a statement no later than March 31, 2016 "as to how they will implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples." (See related story, p. 3.)

In a ceremony that began with drumming, smudging and a prayer of welcome in Mohawk by Mike Montour, a teacher from the nearby Six Nations on the Grand River territory, Hiltz read a statement outlining some of the steps the Canadian Anglican church will take to show its commitment to the declaration's 46 articles--from anti-racism training, to education about the harmful legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, to renewed support for "lasting self-determination for the Indigenous church." (The 46 articles cover rights to land, language, culture and religious practice, among other matters.)

Hiltz also suggested that the UNDRIP be incorporated into the liturgical life of the church through inclusion in the General Synod Handbook, integration into preparation materials for baptism and confirmation, and an annual reading of the document in every parish across the country on the Sunday nearest National Aboriginal Day of Prayer (June 21).

In order to ensure that the church continues to "comply with the principles, norms and standards of the U.N. Declaration," Hiltz announced that, in consultation with National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald and General Secretary Archdeacon Michael Thompson, he would commission a Council of Elders and Youth to monitor the church's commitment to the declaration.

But in order for such changes to gain traction in the church, Hiltz acknowledged that they would need to be adopted by the bishops.

"By virtue of their office, they are in a unique position to help us," he said, noting that bishops can speak not only to their own dioceses but also to the secular authorities within their communities."! will be inviting the bishops to share initiatives in this regard at our meeting this fall."

The need for a more general buy-in from across the church was a point stressed by Donna Bomberry, former Indigenous ministries co-ordinator for General Synod, secretary general of the Anglican Indigenous Network and Cayuga nation member.

"It is critical that the bishops get on board with this," she said in her formal response to Hiltz's statement. "I agree that, as you say, the bishops are in a unique position to provide that leadership and guidance to encourage their dioceses, territories and municipalities to endorse the declaration. …

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