May 10, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Indigenous network steps up role, Anglican Taonga

4 min read

[Anglican Taonga] Indigenous Anglicans meeting in Christchurch have voted to reset their network and to make their presence felt at the Communion’s highest levels.

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The Anglican Indigenous Network (AIN) is meeting this week in Christchurch a city which is slowly getting back to its feet after being staggered by the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

That setting seemed appropriate today, as the AIN made moves to reshape and reinvigorate itself for the future.

So that it becomes a potent voice for indigenous Anglicans, impossible to be ignored both at provincial level throughout the Communion, and at the Anglican Consultative Council.

Heres the background: The AIN came into being 22 years ago, and has been holding meetings every couple of years.

Those meetings have been attended by Aboriginal Anglicans and Torres Strait Islanders from Australia; Hawaiian indigenous Anglicans; First Nation Anglicans from Canadaand indigenous Episcopalians from the USA and MaoriMihinarefrom Aotearoa New Zealand. Just as this Christchurch meeting has been.

Trouble is, the traction between those meetings has been lost.

In recent years, anyway.

So whatever encouragement and momentum built up at those biennial get-togethers tended to wind down.

While other better-organised networks in the church the Peace and Justice one, for instance seemed to gain the ear of the ACC, for instance.

Thats how life goes: The squeaky wheel always gets the grease.

Well, as of today, thats changing.

Thats if Bishop John Gray, Te Pihopa o Te Wai Pounamu, and the members of a new AIN Standing Committee, with a representative drawn from each of the groups mentioned above, has its way.

For the past two days, this AIN gathering has been going back to first principles.

Its been busy asking what its purpose is, and casting a vision for itself. Its in the throes of constructing a charter, and its debating how to structure itself, and whether to have a permanent secretariat.

One of the main things the AIN standing committee elected today will do is to simply stay on the case.

It will finalise that charter, for instance. It will meet regularly (either face to face, or in virtual reality) and it intends to set up a series of indigenous forums: on indigenous theology, for example, on indigenous education, on indigenous youth ministry and ministry to indigenous elders.

And Bishop Gray, who has long been at the forefront of the drive to get a fairer resource-sharing deal for Maori Anglicans in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, is determined to speak for the AIN at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.

Likewise, hes determined to be in New York raising indigenous Anglican concerns at the next meeting of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Its clear from the last two days of this AIN meeting that whatever challenges Te Pihopatanga (in effect, the Maori Anglican Church) faces at home over resource-sharing, for example that indigenous Anglicans from some other provinces look on it with admiration. Maybe even with drooling envy.

They see that Te Pihopatanga is an equal, autonomous partner in the life and governance of the church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia while in their own provinces, they often struggle to have their voice heard.

And thats largely what prompted the delegation from Aotearoa New Zealand to offer the AIN akoha, or gift, of Bishop Grays leadership as servant of the servants of God for the next two years, while that AIN vision and structure is being tied down.

And to offer the AIN the services of Charles Hemana, who is the secretary of Te Pihopatanga, and who is also secretary of the Tikanga Maori Missions Council, during the same period.

Robert Kereopa, who is the Executive Officer for Anglican Missions Board, and a delegate to the AIN meeting for the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, describes thekohathis way:

We are offering, he says, to take care of thewhare(meeting house) of the AIN for the next two years.

Judging by the applause that then came from all the AIN delegates, that was an offer accepted with some alacrity.

Bishop Gray himself puts it simply:

I think Aotearoa has a duty. Because we have advanced so far down the track, we have an obligation to share our resources wherever possible.

That two-year offer from Aotearoa-New Zealand doesnt end there, either.

Bishop Gray, and Bishop Kito Pikaahu (who leadsTe Kotahitanga,the educational body that governs St Johns Theological College in Auckland) are keen to continue to offer scholarships to young indigenous theological students from other provinces to study at St Johns College.

The members of the new AIN Standing Committee are:

Chair (title to be decided): Bishop John Gray, Aotearoa, New Zealand

Australian Aboriginal: Rev Gloria Shipp

Torres Strait Island: Rose Elu

Hawaii: Edward Hanohano

USA: Rev Rachel Taber-Hamilton

Canada: Rev Sidney Black

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