Magazine article Anglican Journal

Native Bishops Criticize Marriage Canon Vote

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Native Bishops Criticize Marriage Canon Vote

Article excerpt

In the wake of July's vote on same-sex marriage at General Synod, Indigenous Anglicans in Canada intend to "proceed towards self-determination with urgency," three Indigenous bishops say.

General Synod voted this summer to provisionally approve changes to the marriage canon, which would allow same-sex marriages. The proposed changes must pass a second reading, slated for the next General Synod in 2019, before they can take effect.

On September 22, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald; Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh; and Bishop Adam Halkett, of Missinipi, released a joint statement they say was requested by an Indigenous circle that met after the results of July's vote were revealed. The bishops began by saying that they do not speak for all Indigenous peoples, although, they added, they have consulted "broadly and deeply" with many. The statement voiced displeasure both with the decision and the process by it was made, and expressed desire for a more self-determined Indigenous Anglican community in Canada.

"We do not agree with the decision and believe that it puts our communities in a difficult place in regards to our relation and community with the Anglican Church of Canada," the bishops said.

While they intend to discern their exact course of action "in the days ahead," the bishops said, they also committed to continuing "in our conversation with the Anglican Church of Canada in regards to self-determination and mutual cooperation in our Anglican Christian ministry."

The bishops continued, "We will proceed towards self-determination with all urgency."

At the same time, they said they would also "seek ways to continue our conversation with the LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer] communities and individuals, affirming our earlier statements of love and welcome."

The statement also called for a church inquiry into the process by which July's decision was made. "We believe that this entire incident calls for a review and rethinking of the ways that the Church conducts its business," the statement read.

Particularly painful, the bishops said, was the "silencing" of an elder during debate on the floor of synod. On July 12, after the final results of the vote on the marriage canon had been announced, the Rev. Martha Spence, of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, rose to address synod. But discussion had already been declared closed, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, asked her not to speak.

Although this was understandable given the "Western process" that was followed at synod, the bishops said, an apology to the elder was in order. For many Indigenous Anglicans, this was the most difficult moment of synod and one that really highlighted how different their decision-making processes are from Western ones, MacDonald said in an interview.

Since the release of the statement, MacDonald added, the primate had apologized to Spence--directly by phone, and by mail--and the bishops are happy with his response.

Spence herself, however, said she was still struggling with the incident. She was aware that synod was drawing to a close and there was a need to wrap up things quickly, she said, but still hoped the primate might allow her a few minutes. …

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