, , , , , , , , , ,

Little by little the rivulets of sorrow, grief, and apologies make their way into rivers through the Canadian landscape upon which lay the scars of residential schools and attempted Indigenous genocide. This last week the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby came to Canada and began his visit at James Smith Cree Nation where he met dignitaries from Indigenous governments from James Smith and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan (the same province where 54 unmarked graves were recently found at a former residential school).

Here are some comments recorded in “After survivors speak, Anglican leader apologizes“:

“Survivors from all over Saskatchewan shared their stories about how the residential school system ripped families apart, raised self-doubt and self-confidence issues and left them with traumas as a result of sexual and physical abuse. Many spoke about how they didn’t blame the church, but those acting on behalf of the church.”

Welby speaks to that last sentence by confessing:

The grace that you have shown in saying it was not the church that did this — I suppose it is an extraordinary grace. I suppose I want to say that that’s perhaps the only thing I question. That it was not the church that did it. But it was the church that permitted it. That allowed it. That turned a blind eye to it. And still does, sometimes.

And for that terrible crime, sin, evil of deliberating consciously stupidly — because evil is stupid. Building hell and putting children into it. And staffing it. I am more sorry than I could ever ever begin to express…. I am sorry. I am more sorry than I could say. I’m ashamed. I am horrified.

In his “official apology” he further confesses:

Instead of advocating for you, we became complicit in, and often directly responsible for, residential schools – uninspected, unsupervised, uncriticised, unchallenged in the cruelties they handed out indiscriminately to the most innocent and the youngest. The isolation of people groups on reserves. In the midst of great poverty, the Church shrugged its shoulders and contributed to further hardship.

“Without you, we are the less”

On Sunday May 1 Welby was in Prince Albert where he heard survivors talk about being abandoned by the Anglican churches they served because they were Indigenous, Welby said that act was against everything the Anglican Church is about:

“Without Indigenous people’s full participation of the church, the church is not fully the church of Christ. Without you, we are the less. We are inadequate,” Welby said, while holding the eagle feather he was gifted on Saturday at James Smith Cree Nation. “The communion is impoverished and we deny the reality of God. There is more to learn than I can say.”

It is Biblically consistent to put into words:

The communion is impoverished without you… we deny the reality of God by denying you.

It’s taken this long and there’s till so far to go

Though there tends to be an anachronistic hubris of this generation to judge all the past by today’s sensibilities, it is nevertheless a time to atone for the unspeakable atrocities of past colonization. Colonization might be the easiest to identify and among the most recent atrocities to recognize, but we must confess (if we are to be honest with ourselves) that empires and tribes have moved in on other people’s land and subjugated their peoples for as long as history has been written.

It’s easier to blame the very identifiable “other” when it comes to residential schools; it’s harder to blame “others” when the mirror is turned on you to see your ancestors did this. Or even if they were not your ancestors (as they were not mine, nor my church) – the reality is: residential schools for indigenous children were carried out with near unanimous consensus by a government, a culture, and a capitulating church of the day. Modern day critics might have to contemplate and even admit (if they are teachable and humble enough) that had they been there during this dark time of our national past… they (we) would likely have just gone along with the consensus.

But “oh no”, you say. You’d be wiser, more loving, more intelligent, more anything than the huge masses of non-indigenous people of the day. But to say this is to deny your privilege and your current temporality that blinds you to your own arrogance to know any better.

The Damning Truth:

The damning truth of what makes western colonization more heinous than millennia of empires and modern wars is the fact that the church of the day (and even today?!) who claims to follow the life and teaching of Jesus Christ was complicit in the structures of oppression and power-broking that is, as Welby put it, against everything [the Church] is about… [but] We built hell and put children into it… and staffed it, permitted it, allowed it, turned a blind eye to it. And still do, sometimes.

There remains the fact that every sin needs restitution, every wound needs healing, every person needs restoration… and it is always costly.

Here’s to truth and reconciliation!

To read the transcript see “Archbishop Welby’s apology.”

To see Pope Francis’ apology, see “A day of small beginnings.”

For more see “The long walk of doing and undoing.”