The dwindling Anglican church in Metro Vancouver plans to direct 10 per cent of revenue from sales of church property to Indigenous groups and projects.Vancouver-area Anglicans voted at their weekend synod to give one-tenth of the money made from sales of Anglican church properties in high-priced Metro Vancouver retroactively to January 1, 2018 and in the future. The money involved will amount to millions of dollars.“I have a great deal of faith in the wisdom of synod and the whole process that this is going to set loose,” Melissa Skelton, bishop of the Anglican diocese of New Westminster, said in a note to fellow Anglicans. Her diocese encompasses Metro Vancouver and out to Powell River and Hope.Diocesan spokesman Randy Murray said the Anglican resolution “calling for restitution to Indigenous people sourced from funds of some past and all future properties was passed by a strong majority after a robust but cordial discussion on the synod floor.”The synod vote still requires the assent of the bishop and consultation with diocesan council, which meets June 12.In light of sharply declining membership, several Anglican properties were sold in 2018. They include St. Mark’s at 1805 Larch St. in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver, which sold for $10 million. St. Margaret’s of Scotland in Burnaby sold last year for about $5 million. And St. Monica’s in Horseshoe Bay went for about $2.5 million.The synod motion was proposed by Rev. Allen Carson, and seconded by Rev. Vivian Seegers, the first Indigenous woman ordained in the diocese, who is of Dene and Métis background.
“I have a great deal of faith in the wisdom of synod and the whole process that this is going to set loose,” said Melissa Skelton, bishop of the Anglican diocese of New Westminster.
The diocese of New Westminster consists of 66 parishes and three worshipping communities. There are no immediate plans to sell more church buildings, Murray said.The motion, which was made in the name of “our diocesan commitments to Indigenous justice,” recommends distributing five per cent of the proceeds of all recent and future local church property sales to “the ancestral caretakers” of the land, 2.5 per cent to Indigenous-lead ministries in the diocese and 2.5 per cent to the Anglican Church of Canada’s Indigenous Ministries.Carson, the priest at St. John’s Anglican in the Fraser Valley, said Wednesday he introduced the motion to acknowledge that early settlers to Canada were “conquerers,” and to deepen discussion about Indigenous issues. He recognized the motion “raises a lot of questions” that need to be answered in consultation.Jerry Adams, who coordinates the Indigenous justice ministry of Anglican diocese, said he found the motion “well-intended,” but requiring more thought.“I wasn’t consulted on it. It’s a bit like the mainstream telling me how things should be. The intention of reconciliation is inclusion, and for whatever reason they didn’t include me,” said Adams, whose Nisga’a name is Nii K’an Kwsdins.Told about Adams’ reaction, Carson said he can understand it. “But, at the same time, from my perspective, I didn’t want anybody to think the motion was being pushed forward by the Indigenous community. It did not start there.”Among other things, however, Adams said Wednesday, the motion lacks clarity over what to do if there should be overlapping First Nations claims on the southwestern B.C. land on which sit the sold-off church properties.Related
“It’s a good chunk of money” that will come to Indigenous projects from the sales, Adams added. “But where do you put it? To women’s needs? To children in poverty? There are so many needy people. A million dollars and more is not enough. I don’t mean to sound greedy, but it’s not enough.”Some Anglicans are likely torn on whether money from property sales should go to supporting shrinking congregations or building Indigenous programs, Adams said. “But the church has to look at whether to spend money for a small group of people left in a parish.”Although the amount of money gained from the recent Anglican church sales is high, this is not the first time a Protestant church in Canada has directed proceeds from property sell-offs to Indigenous programs.In the early 1990s, the B.C. arm of the United Church of Canada gave $1 million to the Gitxsan people to support their land-claim battles, according to David Ewart, a retired United Church minister. About half the money came from selling a single church property.Doug Goodwin, executive minister of the Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church, said his denomination spends about $130,000 a year on various Indigenous programs, in addition to supporting the $700,000 Thomas Crosby Fund, which is used for special education and community projects approved by the church’s Native Ministries Council.firstname.lastname@example.org SIDEBARHere is the exact wording of the motion that was passed on Friday at the Anglican synod for the Diocese of New Westminster:Resolution #5Mover: The Reverend Allan CarsonSecond: The Reverend Vivian Seegers That in a gesture of restitution and reconciliation guided by our baptismal covenant, the Five Marks of Mission, the biblical jubilee, and our diocesan commitments to Indigenous justice; Synod requests Diocesan Council, the Management, Finance and Property Committee and the Mission and Ministry Development Committee create mechanisms and expedient reporting for the direction of funds from the sale of/future sale of any properties and buildings since January 1, 2018, such that:• “In consultation with appropriate local Indigenous leadership, including matriarchs, five per cent of funds be returned to the Indigenous Nations and communities (including Metis and Inuit) who are the ancestral caretakers of that land for use as they see fit.”• “2.5 per cent of funds are set aside to fund and endow Indigenous justice, reconciliation, and Indigenous-led ministries in our diocese.”• “2.5 per cent of funds are forwarded to the Anglican Church of Canada Indigenous Ministries to provide tangible financial support for the self-determining Indigenous Anglican Church within the Anglican Church of Canada.”