Yesterday the Anglican Church of Canada added a detailed timeline of the evolving relationship between Indigenous people and the church to the bentwood box. This expression of reconciliation covers more than 500 years of history, showing the often difficult and misguided intertwining of Indigenous life and Christian faith. It begins with the 1452 decree by European leaders that non-Christian nations have no rights to their land and sovereignty in the face of claims by Christian sovereigns.
Esther Wesley, coordinator for the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation, introduced the gesture and the Anglican delegation that presented it. She reminded us that in these intertwining stories there were many for whom Anglican and Indigenous are not mutually exclusive categories. She spoke of the many, many Indigenous children who survived Indian Residential Schools and went on to love and serve the same church that was such a destructive force in their lives and communities. This includes National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, whose grandfather was a residential school survivor.
The timeline, like reconciliation itself, is incomplete and ongoing. As it becomes more detailed, it challenges dominant narratives about Anglican history in Canada. It makes space for reconsidering how we imagine ‘us’ and ‘them’, how we imagine the Gospel working in history, and where God might be leading us out of these stories.
It also reminds us that reconciliation is not a static goal to be achieved. Instead, it is a verb. It is something we do, something that will grow as we grow, something that will take shape according to the people and communities that participate in it. Every person, every parish, every leader will define reconciliation as they live it out. In this, we can find enormous hope for right relations and for the place of Indigenous people in the Anglican church.
As Christians, we are well rehearsed in being open to ongoing revelation. We are called in prayer and in community to constantly listen for what the Word is saying about our unique time and place in history. In this faithful listening will we find wisdom and courage to make history a timeline that moves ever closer to God’s will for us.
How are you working to understand reconciliation in your life and for your parish? How are you creating a timeline that embodies right relationship and justice?