On Taking Responsibility

A friend recently asked me how Canadian Anglicans have responded to the challenges of reconciliation and find hope for healing, especially following the discovery of unmarked graves at the Kamloops Roman Catholic Residential School. Our own Anglican school, located a few hours drive from Kamloops in Lytton BC has its own shameful record of “missing children” that is those who never returned home. They died of disease, neglect, abandonment, suicide and by other means. The truth is that Every Child Matters.

Two years ago I joined others in attending a ceremony honouring those who never returned from St. George’s in Lytton, a ritual which also raised the names of more children who never returned and whose stories remain unknown. So the Kamloops discovery was not a total though shocking surprise.

I have a few things to share regarding the reconciliation journey in response to the question so often asked: “What must we, the descendants of settlers, members of churches and as Canadian citizens do now?” Here are some suggestions based on my own awareness journey.

  1. It is a journey, my own commencing as early at 1982 and then at specific times including 1990, 2001, 2004, 2015, 2018, and now 2021. Point being it takes time for information and experience to sink in, and much depends of one’s own location, physically and otherwise.
  2. I cannot recommend the presentation by Ray Aldred highly enough. For me he tells a familiar story with amazing depth, though such depth includes manifestations of evil, political collusion, significant truth telling, shock and horror, but a way forward: Take Responsibility and don’t shy away from the truth.
  1. I will never assert that we Canadian Anglicans have done things in any perfectly, but we are certainly well on the road to a different kind of Church; I am proud of what many of my predecessors and colleagues have accomplished nationally and locally in facing the truth. There may be lessons here for other churches such as Canadian Roman Catholics. There may be messages here for secular organizationsOf possible interest to readers might be:
  1. The film Doctrine of Discovery: Stolen Lands, Strong Hearts is possibly the best archive of Canadian Anglican and National experience I have found. It is about 75 minutes long but well worth the time.. 
  1. The story of growing indigenous self-determination while unique to Canadian Anglican experience serves as a model for indigenous determination and presence elsewhere its spirit and voice is on good display in the short video The Road to Warm Springs. What indigenous members are demanding, and rightly so, is a presence which is real and self-determining within the structure of the Anglican Church of Canada. The movement is real and measurable. 
  2. At our recent General Synod Primate Fred Hiltz offered an apology for Spiritual Harm, a heartfelt confession moving well beyond RS experience and suffering to a contrite and specific apology for our collusion with others in the removal of language, culture, land and other indigenous life-giving life. It’s wrenching to read and watch, but for my money one of the best acts of reconciliation in recent memory. I was privileged to be in the room. 
  1. That’s likely enough for you right now, but there is of course, more at https://www.anglican.ca/im/
  1. Going forward together:
    1. For all of us, ask the hard question “what is our responsibility?” That will likely open the conversation up helpfully.
    2. For all of us, in the spirit of John’s Gospel, and reconciliation itself, “what is the truth?” How do we know the truth? Who are the trusted truth-tellers in our midst? And of course, for each of us, tell the truth as we receive it.
    3. Sure, we pray, but all prayer leads to action (Joan Chittester). So what action comes next?

Let’s stay in touch, and be gentle with yourself. The discovery of truth is unsettling, necessarily so. In community and compassion, Ken 

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