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Canada Anglicans’ National Indigenous Archbishop resigns over misconduct

21 April 2022

Simon Chambers/ACT Alliance via ENS

Archbishop MacDonald speaks at an interfaith gathering in New York in 2019

Archbishop MacDonald speaks at an interfaith gathering in New York in 2019

THE National Indigenous Archbishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Revd Mark MacDonald, has resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct, one week before the planned visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The announcement was made on Wednesday in an open letter from the Canadian Primate, Dr Linda Nicholls, who said that Archbishop MacDonald had “relinquished the exercise of ministry due to acknowledged sexual misconduct” — effective immediately.

“This is devastating news,” she wrote. “The sense of betrayal is deep and profound when leaders fail to live up to the standards we expect and the boundaries we set. Our hearts hold compassion for human frailty and space for repentance while we also ache with the pain that such betrayal causes first to the complainant; then to so many others and to the life of our Church.”

There has been no criminal allegation.

Archbishop MacDonald was one of two officials who had invited Archbishop Welby to Canada and arranged for him to meet indigenous leaders and survivors of Canadian schools for indigenous children (News, 3 June 2021).

Dr Nicholls continued: “The betrayal of trust by someone in such a prominent role of leadership will require a long road of healing and our constant prayers. Also remember Mark and his family in prayer as they face the consequences of his actions that will affect every member. . .

“The ripple effects of this misconduct will be felt throughout the Church both in Canada and internationally, but most especially within the Sacred Circle and Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. We mourn with them.”

The Bishop of Calgary, the Rt Revd Sidney Black, had been appointed to serve as Interim National Indigenous Bishop, she said, “to give counsel and oversight to the work of Indigenous ministries. Bishop Sidney and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples will need the prayers of the whole Church as they discern the next steps in confirming the Covenant and Our Way of Life documents.”

An accompanying statement from the Anglican Church of Canada recommitted the Church to ensuring that its “workplaces are free from violence, coercion, discrimination, and sexual harassment”; that no one was subjected to sexual misconduct; that any complaints were dealt with “promptly, seriously and systematically”; and that its leaders did not abuse their power or trust.

Mark MacDonald, who is 68, served as the Episcopal Bishop of Alaska from 1997 until 2007, when he became the first National Indigenous Bishop for Canada, a post that was raised to an archbishopric in 2019 (News, 2 August 2019).

In a statement on Wednesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury made no reference to Archbishop MacDonald, but said that he was honoured to be visiting Canada at the invitation of Dr Nicholls. Archbishop Welby said that he regretted the “lasting suffering and hurt” caused by the Church of England to Indigenous communities in the past. “A significant purpose of this visit is therefore to repent and atone for where our relationships and actions have done more harm than good — and to honour the sovereignty of Indigenous communities,” he said.

The visit was also an opportunity to “listen, to lament and to pray for justice, healing and transformation” between the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island and the Arctic, and the See of Canterbury and the C of E, he concluded. “I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit this relationship can be reimagined not as one of jurisdiction, but as a covenant of relatives and disciples of Jesus Christ.”

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