Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

AIN calls for Communion backing

The Anglican Indigenous Network(AIN) meeting in Hawai’i this October has released a challenge to the wider Anglican Communion to actively advocate indigenous rights across the church and the world.

Julanne Clarke-Morris  |  15 Nov 2019  |

Ten Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa representatives joined the Anglican Indigenous Network meeting in Honolulu this October as they called for Communion-wide support for indigenous people’s rights and aspirations around the world.

Bishop of Tai Tokerau Te Kitohi Pikaahu chaired the Anglican Indigenous Network meeting at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Kaimuki, with the Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa represented by Bishop of Te Waipounamu Richard Wallace, Archdeacon Michael Tamihere, Lynnore Pikaahu, Canon Chris Huriwai, Archdeacon Mabel Grenell, Kylie Brown, Rev Dr Paul Reynolds, and Canon Robert Kereopa who all shared in the network meeting alongside indigenous Anglicans from Australia, the Torres Strait Islands, Hawai’i, Turtle Island(USA) and Kanata(Canada).

The AIN challenge to the Communion came at the conclusion of the week-long programme where each indigenous delegation shared stories of struggle and hope in their ministries with indigenous communities, gathered around their shared experience of colonisation,

“Compelled by the Gospel’s power of love, renewal, peace, reconciliation, and restoration we support one another within our common challenge as minority peoples faced with the unique daily realities of the ongoing impact of colonialism... in the Church we love and in the world we are called to steward,” the AIN 2019 Communique reports.

AIN delegates reported how Anglican indigenous peoples continue to live and minister in the context of damage to communities resulting from past and present colonisation and its ongoing effects. A recurring theme was the need to enable indigenous communities to direct indigenous development, so that communities can foster their families’ wellbeing through indigenous cultural modes, including in education, justice and health.

Before moving to a broader call for Anglican Communion action, the AIN identified priorities for indigenous Anglican ministry and advocacy that included:

•  Responding to climate emergencies (particularly sea level rise in Torres Strait Islands and Arctic permafrost melt)

•  Recognising and healing intergenerational trauma (particularly in light of abuse of indigenous children in state schools and state care)

•  Protecting indigenous rights and interests (notably of sacred lands and waters) and

•  Developing indigenous theological education (appropriate to the specific needs and values of indigenous Anglicans and their communities) 

The AIN challenge to the wider Anglican Communion calls for a greater voice for indigenous Anglicans in the work of the ACC and its partner orgainsations, accurate provincial reporting on indigenous ministries (in part to enable the expansion of the AIN to embrace all indigenous Anglicans), and maintaining direct contact between the Anglican Communion Office and the AIN, – particularly through the attendance at AIN meetings of the Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the UN, who in Hawaii this year was Jack Palmer-White.

In an extensive communique on the state of indigenous communities and Anglican ministry amongst them, the AIN has called on the Anglican Communion to support indigenous Anglicans as they work to care for their people and advocate to ensure the survival and thriving of indigenous communities and their cultural identities. The AIN has proposed that the Communion take up the following points for action:

•  Adopt and monitor the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

•  Fund the development of Indigenous theological education programmes

   The Anglican Indigenous Network is investigating a centre for indigenous theology research and an indigenous theology journal to be produced from St John’s College in Auckland, and the Episcopal Church USA Indigenous Theological Education Coordinator, Rev Canon Dr Mary Crist is developing a proposal for management of indigenous theological education across the Communion.

•  Support adequate care and training for indigenous clergy and laity dealing with compassion fatigue and the effects of vicarious trauma

This action point came out of the common thread in AIN reports of high levels of exhaustion amongst indigenous clergy and lay ministers who care for people in communities coping with intergenerational trauma. This trauma results in poor indigenous mental and physical health, high suicide rates, prevalence of abuse and sexual abuse and violence, these all create pastoral needs that take a heavy toll on indigenous ministers. 

•  Take genuine steps to address the climate emergency being faced right now by low lying island and coastal communities, not just in Australia, but throughout the world

This action point arose after Dr Rose Elu reported from the Torres Strait Islands how sea level rise is causing regular king tidal flooding, making it impossible to use some roads, airports and agricultural land. Arctic indigenous peoples from the USA and Canada reported that permafrost melt is damaging their peoples’ ability to survive according to traditional lifeways.

•  Anglicans are asked to stand with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council (NATSIAC) by endorsing The Statement from the Heart delivered at Uluru in 2017, and writing to and encouraging the Australian government and church to do likewise.

- 250 Aboriginal peoples have signed the 'Statement from the Heart' as a request for truth-telling about their experience of colonisation in a context where there is no existing treaty between the Australian state and all of the continent’s indigenous peoples. 

The full Anglican Indigenous Network 2019 Communique (edited by AIN secretary Paul Reynolds) covers the issues in detail from the Biennial Anglican Indigenous Network meeting in Hawaii this year.

The next Anglican Indigenous Network meeting will be held in the Torres Strait Islands in 2021, which coincides with the 150th anniversary of the 'Coming of the Light' in the Torres Straits Islands.