The founding documents for Sacred Circle, the self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada, have been revealed to the world.
On Feb. 27, Transfiguration Sunday, The Covenant and Our Way of Life were publicly released. Both documents had been distributed earlier to participants of the last two Sacred Circle gatherings, as well as to Anglican Indigenous networks and the Anglican Church of Canada’s House of Bishops.
Indigenous Anglican leaders have previously compared The Covenant and Our Way of Life to the Anglican Church of Canada’s constitution and canons, respectively. But National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald says the Sacred Circle documents are “quite different, both in terms of how [they do] things, but also what [they aim] to do.”
MacDonald describes the documents as seeking to develop relations based on an Indigenous understanding of law, governance and ethics. And rather than defining every aspect of local congregations, they aim to serve as an example and encouragement for them.
“The relational aspect is primary [in The Covenant and Our Way of Life], so that relation precedes organization,” MacDonald says.
“Certainly it’s an oversimplification, but much of the Western way of doing things is ‘organization precedes relationship.’ What we’re aiming at here is a way of being Indigenous, of being self-determining, of acting in an Indigenous way that will allow us to remain active and vital parts of the rest of the Anglican Church.”
Donna Bomberry, co-chair of the focus group tasked with developing the Indigenous church, says The Covenant and Our Way of Life put into words “our own sense of the journey of self-determination as Anglicans, as Indigenous people.”
In light of the history of colonialism, the Anglican Church of Canada’s constitution and canons have not served Indigenous people well, Bomberry says.
“We needed to express our own spiritual renewal as Anglicans, and this is what Our Way of Life is about… This is a healing journey for ourselves, our communities, our families. It’s about renewing our relationship with one another.”