The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), along with representatives of eight other Canadian church denominations reaffirmed a covenant recognizing the rights of the nation’s Aboriginal peoples during a ceremony which took place following a full day of worship and conversation between delegates and members of the ELCIC’s National Convention and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC)’s General Synod.
Titled, Towards the Constitutional Recognition and Protection of Aboriginal Self-Government in Canada, the covenant reaffirmed a previous statement by the leaders of Canadian Christian Churches on Aboriginal Rights and the Canadian Constitution which was signed 20 years ago on February 5, 1987.
During the ceremony church leaders repeated a pledge committing to “the vision of a new relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples based on sharing, respect and the recognition of rights and responsibilities.”
The rededication ceremony occurred during a joint all-day liturgy service held by the ELCIC and ACC. Both churches are holding their national conventions in Winnipeg this week. The ceremony also coincided with National Aboriginal Day.
The 1987 covenant marked a major step forward in reconciliation between Canada’s Aboriginal peoples and the church, and recognizes Aboriginals’ rights to be distinct peoples, to an adequate land base and to self-determination.
Following the ceremony, at news conference held by KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, leaders praised the rededication. “This is a spiritually significant event,” said The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, the first-ever national indigenous Anglican Bishop, noting that the ceremony took place on the first day of the summer solstice.
Representatives at the news conference expressed confidence that covenants, such as the one with the churches, will help in making constitutional advances for Aboriginal people.
“It gives us hope and keeps our faith alive that some day we will succeed,” said Clement Chartier, president of the Metis National Council. “Our people are a spiritual people, by and large. We believe it’s important to work with the churches and move forward.”
ELCIC National Bishop Raymond Schulz said his church urges an early resolution to native land claims, many of which have dragged on for years.
Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said progress has been made since the 1987 covenant was issued. The Anglican Church has formally apologized for its role in residential schools and reached a financial agreement on compensation to those affected.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 174,555 baptized members in 620 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.
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