The 44th General Council met virtually between February 2022 and August 2022.
At that meeting, the General Council approved an amendment to the Basis of Union in The Manual of The United Church of Canada to establish an autonomous National Indigenous Organization. It also authorized a Category 3 Remit to test the will of the church with respect to this change. This Remit will be voted on by the Meridian Pastoral Charge Board.
Why is this issue important?
The United Church of Canada has been on a journey towards reconciliation and right relationship with the Indigenous communities.
In 1986 and 1998, the church offered its apology acknowledging its complicity to the colonial project which diminished indigenous cultures and spirituality, and its role in the residential schools’ system.
The All Native Circle Conference was established in 1988. In 2006, the 39th General Council established the Aboriginal Ministries Unit/Circle.
The church was an active participant in the Truth and Reconciliation process, which led to the Calls to Action to redress the legacy of residential schools.
In 2015, the church reaffirmed its commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. When the church approved the denominational restructuring that year, the Indigenous church had not yet defined its relationship with the settler church, and the 42nd General Council directed that there be continued conversations with Indigenous [Aboriginal] ministries to build a relationship based on mutuality, respect, and equity.
“Indigenous people have met regularly over many decades and held deep and ongoing conversations about matters relating to our Indigenous Ministries and our relationship with the United Church. We have been evolving, struggling, adapting, and growing since church union. Unwittingly, the church restructuring of 2018, caused crisis in the National Indigenous Circle by destabilizing our ways of working together. It is time for us to move towards a different relationship. It is time to set aside the notion of “missions to the Indians” and truly move towards being “partners in God’s call to all the earth.” (NIC01)
In 2018, the Caretakers Calls to the Church were received by the 43rd General Council. The Calls articulated the Indigenous Church’s vision for the ongoing development of Indigenous Peoples’ mission and ministry and communities of faith within the United Church. The General Council endorsed and committed the church to take steps towards fulfilling the Calls, including approving the creation of a National Indigenous Organization as a decision-making body within the United Church.
All these commitments require the church to seek to decolonize its imagination, policies and practices. A new way of engagement is essential for the relationship with the Indigenous Church.
As a key example, the Indigenous church is free to decide on its own structure, but must then obtain approval for it from the wider church through the remit process. A remit is legally necessary under The United Church of Canada Act. A more decolonized approach would be for the church to give pre-emptive remit approval for whatever the Indigenous Church determines in the future as the place it will have in the United Church, guided by the Calls to the Church. This would create space for the Indigenous Church, in its own time, to develop a nation-to-nation relationship with the settler church without the need for any further remit approvals.
What is this Remit?:
How did we get here? History:
How do we proceed?: