The Episcopal Church will create a commission of inquiry to investigate the role of the denomination in the federal residential school system that separated generations of Indigenous children from their families and cultures in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The bishops and deputies of the reduced general convention of the main denomination approved the Resolution to Tell the Truth About The Episcopal Church’s History with Residential Schools last weekend in Baltimore.

The resolution encourages the Episcopal Church to hire one or more research fellows to work with dioceses where Episcopal boarding schools for Indigenous children have been located and to share records with Indigenous Ministries of the Episcopal Church and the National Native American Boarding School. Healing Coalition.

It also directs denominational archivists to create educational resources about the schools and encourages dioceses where boarding schools were located to gather information from survivors and their descendants about their experiences.

Additionally, the House of Representatives — which, along with the House of Bishops, oversees the church — elected a native clergyman, the Reverend Rachel Taber-Hamilton, as vice president. A member of the Shackan First Nation and a priest in the Diocese of Olympia, Taber-Hamilton is the first ordained woman – and only the third woman – to hold this position. according to Episcopal News Service.

She was elected alongside President-elect Julia Ayala Harris, a Latina laywoman from the Diocese of Oklahoma. Their election marks the first time that two women and two people of color will lead the house.

The actions come as US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland launches a national listening tour during which she will hear from survivors of boarding schools in the United States. Haaland Department recently published the first volume of a survey report on the country’s Indian boarding school system.

At the end of July, Pope Francis will visit Canada to apologize to survivors of similar residential schools there; the pontiff received representatives of Canadian indigenous peoples at the Vatican in early April.

“Now is the time for us to really examine how we as a church might examine the ramifications of our sometimes unwitting and sometimes intentional acts of culturalism, racism, and all the other sins we might talk about,” Bishop Carol J. Gallagher told the House. bishops before his vote on the resolution.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention, which is normally held every three years, has already been delayed a year by the coronavirus pandemic, and the meeting that ended Monday has been shortened from eight days to four for minimize the risk of spreading the virus.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry urged committees working ahead of the in-person gathering to focus on resolutions on “matters essential to the governance and good order of the church.” according to the Episcopal press service. The Indigenous Schools resolution passed at this level.

The federal Indian boarding school system was part of a U.S. government effort to assimilate Indigenous peoples and seize their lands, according to the Interior report. Many children have suffered physical and emotional abuse in schools, and some have died.

Members of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies voted unanimously in favor of the resolution. Some shared their experiences officiating at the funerals of children whose remains had been repatriated from the former Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Others spoke of pushing the city of Alberquerque to acknowledge that children had been buried under a public park built on the former site of a Presbyterian-run boarding school.

Still others shared their experiences as residential school survivors themselves or descendants of survivors.

Navajoland Area Mission Deputy Ruth Johnson attended two boarding schools — an experience, she told the House of Representatives, that she still struggles to talk about.

At first school, Johnson said, she was traumatized when she fell ill and her long hair was cut off. The second she was beaten. “I could easily have been one of the ones who didn’t go home,” she said.

Gallagher, a member of the Cherokee Nation who serves the dioceses of Massachusetts and Albany, said his grandfather was a residential school survivor. Her family still talk about a visit her parents made to a boarding school when she was a baby, where children who hadn’t seen their mother in years climbed onto her mother’s lap, she said .

Some of these children never saw their families again, she said.

“For Indigenous people, listening is always the first step and really hearing the stories and living in the stories and working towards consensus on what comes next,” Gallagher told Religion News Service.

“A lot of times churches want to do a quick fix, and that won’t get us anywhere.”

This is why the resolution approved at General Convention is important, she said.

The resolution to tell the truth about the history of the Episcopal Church with residential schools Again expresses the denomination’s support for federal legislation creating a Truth and Healing Commission to address the country’s history of residential schools similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

It also incorporates the language of a second resolution recognizing the intergenerational trauma caused by schools and asking the denomination to support community spiritual healing centers in Indigenous communities.

The denomination has budgeted $225,000 for this work.

“This is important work, and it is for all of us,” said Bishop Mark Lattime of the Diocese of Alaska.

“You might think that your diocese doesn’t have a history of boarding schools with Indigenous people, and – while that may be true – there isn’t a diocese in this church that doesn’t have a history. with indigenous peoples.

Despite precautions, 26 people tested positive for coronavirus at the convention, according to the Episcopal press service. Other denominations have also seen some cases of coronavirus as they resumed in-person meetings this summer, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

Religious News Service

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