Wrestling with forgiveness and reconciliation – Primate of the Church of Canada shares her hopes for the Lambeth Conference

Forgiveness and reconciliation are issues that every member of the Anglican church needs to wrestle with, according to the new leader of the Church of Canada, Archbishop Linda Nicholls. And she believes the Lambeth Conference can play a role in tackling these issues on a global stage.

Linda Nicholls was elected last summer as the Primate of the Church of Canada, taking over from Archbishop Fred Hiltz. She became the first woman to hold the position and only the second female primate in the Anglican Communion.

Formerly the Bishop of the Diocese of Huron, the Archbishop will attend her second Lambeth Conference this year.

She said, “I was barely a bishop when I had the privilege of being at the Lambeth Conference in 2008. The best part of it is the opportunity to meet bishops from around the Communion to hear how the church is living in places we just don’t hear about very much.” She said hearing stories of bishops from South Sudan, fleeing violence and struggling to survive, made their own issues seem minor in comparison.

She hopes this Lambeth Conference will speak about the experiences they have in common and things that affect the whole communion and the whole world. She said, “We can say something together, because we are a global communion and we have an opportunity to be engaged on the ground in changing the lives of people for the common good… we need to be saying some things about those issues that affect all of us.”

The Archbishop describes herself as a practical theologian committed to supporting people as they wrestle with faith and what it looks like on the ground in their life and in society.

Over the last 30 to 40 years the Canadian church has been wrestling with its relationship with indigenous peoples. Archbishop Linda said, “Part of that relationship is wrestling with the reality that as part of colonisation we came in and initially established treaties, but then very quickly took over their land.”

She said, “we have an ongoing responsibility to working with the indigenous people, and with our government, to redress some of the injustices because there are still treaties that have not been kept and ongoing treaty claims that have not been settled.”

“The Anglican Church of Canada is deeply committed to reconciliation and healing with indigenous people – we are working hard and walking alongside indigenous peoples within the Anglican Church of Canada in terms of healing and reconciliation, led by them, not led by us.”

She said forgiveness and reconciliation were key as people began to be aware of how deeply the church was involved in the injustices against indigenous people. An apology by a former Archbishop Michael Peers was a reminder that the church has to call people to Christ. She said, “but it’s up to Christ to say how they are going to be called and what that might look like in worship and it’s not ours to remake them in our colonial image. And that has driven the church to its knees, to say we have to work at reconciliation.”

“Our commitment is to that forgiveness and reconciliation that is possible in Christ, but it comes at a high cost of vulnerability and humility for the non-indigenous community.”

The Archbishop believes Anglicans around the world face similar issues.“We do all have places within us where we assume that we have power because of something, language, race, colour, education, economics and the imbalance of power is at the very heart of what colonisation was about – it was an imbalance of power an imbalance in relationship and an assumption of superiority, based on, in our case being white and European, but it can be based on many other things as well.

“One of the things that I am committing the Anglican Church of Canada to is to look at how racism is deeply rooted and we need to address that.”

As she looks ahead to the Lambeth Conference, Archbishop Linda said, “I am convinced of the importance of meeting together, sitting down and listening deeply to one another.

“I think the Lambeth Conference is an image and a symbol of the kind of listening to one another that we need in order to find a way to live together in community and I think it’s a symbol of what the world generally needs.”

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