In 1994, more than 30 First Nations and Métis Christians came together with leaders from World Vision and the EFC in Treaty 1 Territory, West Saint Paul, Manitoba. This diverse circle, representing men and women from many denominational backgrounds, listened intently to Indigenous experiences of life in colonial Canada and in the church. The goal of this gathering was to build relationships among Indigenous Christian leaders and address the lack of understanding of Indigenous realities among non-Indigenous Christian leaders.
94 gathering in Treaty 1 created the space for the EFC to say “yes” when Elijah Harper invited the EFC to participate in the 1995 Sacred Assembly. The EFC was involved as an organizer and active participant in the event and helped craft the ground-breaking Reconciliation Proclamation
), which articulated a vision of what right relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples looked like.
In 1995, the EFC invited Christian Indigenous leaders to form an EFC Aboriginal Task Force (later named the Aboriginal Ministries Council) that would strengthen relationships among Indigenous leaders and produce educational material for churches. This group, which operated from 1996 to 2012, developed materials related to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, for instance, and led educational sessions at the annual gatherings of EFC affiliate leaders.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which concluded in 2015, issued a number of Calls to Action
, some of which were addressed specifically to churches and faith groups. In early 2016, the EFC called together a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders from within the EFC’s affiliates to prepare a response to the TRC’s Calls to Action
, particularly Call to Action #48, which calls on faith groups to “formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.” In the response, the EFC committed to:
"a process of learning and collaboration with our affiliates and Indigenous leaders within our affiliate denominations, churches and organizations. We will be exploring what it means for us as a broad evangelical community to embrace and enact the principles outlined in the UN Declaration as a framework for reconciliation. As was the case with our affirmation in 1995 of the Sacred Assembly Proclamation, this response to the TRC’s Call to Action is part of an ongoing journey of learning and reconciliation. It will not be the conclusion. We invite all people in Canada to learn with us as we walk in humility with the Indigenous peoples in this land."
A year later, the EFC hosted a gathering of representatives of denominational affiliates at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. Conversation focused
on how we could work together to support Evangelicals in Canada in the reconciliation journey.
Some of the representatives met again at gatherings following the 2018
and 2019 Symposiums held by NAIITS An Indigenous Learning Community. In 2019, the NAIITS organizers invited the group to consider offering a paper at the next Symposium that would address how evangelical churches will work toward right relationship with Indigenous people, both within and outside church communities.
Members of what was later called the EFC Indigenous-Settler Relations Working Group responded to the challenge and presented a paper, Stewarding Sacred Seeds
, at the 2020 NAIITS Symposium. In the paper, the Working Group looks back at the history of the EFC’s engagement in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and seeks to identify barriers to meaningful and sustained evangelical engagement in reconciliation.
The paper recommends a number of actions to be taken by the EFC in pursuit of reconciliation and right relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. The EFC has received these recommendations and has committed, as outlined in the paper, to these seven commitments
In the spring of 2021, the Seven Commitments Working Group, was established to help guide the implementation of these commitments
The Seven Commitments Working Group is comprised of leaders and influencers from a broad spectrum of evangelical communities and inter-church contexts. Its members represent several of EFC’s denominational affiliates.
Having presented the paper Stewarding Sacred Seeds
(which includes the following seven commitments) at the 2020 Symposium of NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community, the working group is developing strategies that will “prompt conversation and action among [the EFC’s] affiliates in relation to the following”:
- Recommitment to the Reconciliation Proclamation (text, video) by
- Circulating the Proclamation to key leaders in EFC circles
- Re-introducing (or in many cases, introducing for the first time) the Proclamation to the EFC affiliates
- Instituting an annual re-membering ceremony and training (as to what it means) among EFC leadership and constituency representatives
- Building awareness around Indigenous and colonial history (cf. TRC Call to Action #59)
- Initiate an awareness campaign/educational effort to share the good news of this Proclamation with constituencies. Reconnect with key partners and crafters of the Proclamation to pray and discern next steps
- The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #49, repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and other legal fictions that claim jurisdiction over Indigenous lands and peoples
- Review existing resources developed by church bodies and/or create a short study resource for EFC affiliates to articulate its significance and implications for engagement.
- The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #48, the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and its meaning and implications for evangelical church communities
- An unsettling of evangelical theology resulting in evangelical thought and practice in Canada that
- renounces white supremacy
- renounces concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples
- proclaims that justice in human relationships is integral to God’s plan for restoration and affirms God’s preferential option for the poor and oppressed
- repudiates the idea of being neutral on issues of Indigenous justice, but commits to the struggle of being with those who are oppressed and fighting non-violently against the idols of our day as we pursue collective peace
- proclaims that Jesus is found amongst the most vulnerable and persecuted
- Learning from partner ecumenical bodies that are leading the way in Indigenous justice, such as KAIROS, supporting their advocacy efforts as appropriate
- Develop a theology of stewardship of land and creation and how that impacts our relationships to lands and waters and how we might stand with the Indigenous communities that protect them
- Establish a review and accountability mechanism to measure and evaluate progress on the action items listed above. This will include sharing our commitment with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (Winnipeg), and submitting annual updates
We, the delegates to Sacred Assembly ’95, gathered together in Hull, Quebec on Dec. 6-9, 1995, having come from the four corners of this land – East, West, North and South – and having brought with us diverse spiritual backgrounds, and having listened to and prayed with Elders, spiritual leaders and with each other, are now able to assert the following:
WE SHARE, AS PART OF OUR COMMON SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION, THE BELIEF THAT
WE SHARE THE RECOGNITION THAT
- the Creator God reigns supreme over all things;
- the land on which we live was created for the benefit of all;
- as the original inhabitants of this land, Aboriginal peoples have a special right and responsibility to ensure the continuing integrity of the land and the unity and wellbeing of its inhabitants, and;
- non-Aboriginal Canadians also share in these responsibilities.
WE SHARE AN UNDERSTANDING THAT
- reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians must be rooted in a spiritual understanding of land as a gift from the Creator God;
- the sins of injustice which have historically divided Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples remain active in our society today;
- concrete actions must be taken by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples alike to overcome these injustices and to bind up the wounds of those who have suffered.
WE SHARE A COMMITMENT
- the starting point for healing and reconciliation lies in personal communion with the Creator God;
- while change must take place at all levels of society, it must be rooted most firmly in the communities, and
- relations based on justice will require respect for past treaties, a fair settlement of land rights disputes, the implementation of the inherent right of self-government and the creation of economic development opportunities and other institutions to support it.
As churches and faith communities
- to seek the personal guidance and counsel of Elders and spiritual leaders in order to walk more closely with the Creator God;
- to return to our communities and develop ways to continue the process of healing and reconciliation that has begun at Sacred Assembly ’95;
- to continue to explore with each other our sacred foundations, in order to bring about spiritual reconciliation, Aboriginal justice and the fulfillment of political responsibilities in this country;
- to continue to respect the differences in our spiritual journeys, even as we seek to discover the common spiritual link between us.
As First Nations and Aboriginal communities and organizations
- to continue the process of healing and reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples, by providing the forums and supports needed to heal the wounds created in the past;
- to become stronger advocates for justice and reconciliation in current and future public affairs, and to hold our governments accountable for their implementation of just policies;
- to recommit ourselves to a program of education and action on issues relating to land rights, self-government, economic development and racism.
- to work towards healing and reconciliation within our own communities;
- to accept the challenge issued by our Youth to create an environment in our communities that encourages a healthy view of oneself and respect for others, and addresses community conflict that prevents Youth from finding their path.
Principles and Priorities for a New Relationship
Another document that came out of the 1995 Sacred Assembly was Principles and Priorities for a New Relationship
. In light of the foundation established by the Reconciliation Proclamation, the document outlines the roles individuals, faith communities, Indigenous communities and the government can play in building new and better relationships.
An initiative that pairs Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together for transformative conversations. It has its own new website at RightRelationship.ca
Come back to this page anytime by using TheEFC.ca/RTR
Reconciliation Through Relationships (RTR) connects Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together to build friendships and strengthen cross-cultural understanding. RTR was launched in 2021 by Indigenous leaders Jimmy Thunder and Diane Campeau in partnership with Joel Gordon, a non-Indigenous convenor from the EFC. The initiative is a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to engage in meaningful conversation and interaction.
Trailer - Reconciliation Through Relationships from The EFC on Vimeo.
How it works
Many want to play an active role in the reconciliation process yet don’t know where to begin. How does one go about identifying and starting a relationship with an Indigenous person? What are appropriate ways to dialogue and learn cross-culturally? Through the RTR initiative, participants receive training from an Indigenous coach on good ways to communicate. They are then paired with a participant from the other cultural background (based on factors such as sharing the same sex, interests, location, etc.).
Following the success of the 2021 pilot program, RTR is facilitating two cohorts in the six-month program in 2022. After an orientation, the pairs meet once or twice a month for a discussion centred on learning material on Indigenous history in Canada. The program concludes with a final gathering of the entire cohort to share learnings, express challenges and celebrate growing friendships.
To learn more and sign up, visit rightrelationship.ca
Take Action by Learning
Journeying to right relationships with Indigenous Peoples requires an ongoing commitment to listening, learning and relationship-building. Here are some resources to provide a starting point to learning about bridging relationships between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians.
Reports and documents
- Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowell
- The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
- 21 Things You May Not Know About The Indian Act by Bob Joseph
- Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples by Bob Joseph
- A Quality Of Light by Richard Wagamese
- Unsettling the Settler Within by Paulette Regan
- Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization edited by Steve Heinrichs
- Native: Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering God by Kaitlin B. Curtice
- Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Creation, Land Justice and Life Together edited by Steve Heinrichs
Reading List on Racism
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga
- Canada at a Crossroads: Boundaries, Bridges, and Laissez-Faire Racism in Indigenous-Settler Relations by Jeffrey S. Denis
- Canada’s anti-racism strategy
- EFC Statement on Racism
Resources from EFC Affiliates
Take Action by Listening and Reflecting
- Read and reflect on content provided in the ‘learn more’ section
- Listen to Indigenous perspectives with respect and love
- Reflect on your own personal biases, attitudes or stereotypes that might hinder loving relationships with Indigenous neighbours
Take Action by Praying
- For openness across congregations in Canada to explore God’s heart for restored relationships among all people, and with all of creation
- For healing and renewed hope for those who have been impacted by systemic barriers and injustice
- For a posture of humility and learning for all Christians in Canada as evangelicals journey towards right relationship with Indigenous peoples
- For wisdom, discernment, courage and God’s leading as evangelical leaders respond and engage in this work
- For commitment from all levels of government to prevent and combat racism and injustice
Take Action by Building Relationships
Take Action by Responding
- By speaking the truth in love when you hear discriminatory comments about Indigenous peoples
- By sparking discussions and sharing resources with others
- By learning how denominations are responding to the TRC, to issues of Indigenous justice, or are prioritizing Indigenous relations
- By finding ways to increase awareness about Indigenous issues within your congregation
"I would simply say to every single local church, 'Where are your Indigenous friends? Who are your Indigenous neighbours? Introduce them to me. Tell me what you know of their story. What is the story of the land that you’re living on?' And if churches know that, there would be actual gatherings where people would appreciate each other and show up, respect and stand up and help each other in a good way."
-Adrian Jacobs (Stewarding Sacred Seeds, p. 18)