What Have We Said as the CRC About Justice and Reconciliation With Indigenous Peoples?

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Justice and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples has been a key part of Christian Reformed Church ministry in Canada for a long time, ever since the founding of our first Urban Aboriginal Ministry in Winnipeg (the Indigenous Family Centre) more than 50 years ago.

Now our ministry together has grown to include 2 more Urban Aboriginal Ministries (in Edmonton and Regina), a lay committee that provides leadership to the CRC in Canada on Indigenous justice (that's us!), advocacy work alongside Indigenous partners through the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue, and more. 

As we've walked with Indigenous and church partners through the years, we've worked to match our words and deeds. In addition to the centres' community development work, we've made commitments throughout the years as a denomination, through the Canadian Council of Christian Reformed Churches, then through the Board of Trustees, and now through the Council of Delegates, to turn away from the sins of colonization and dehumanization and towards a better way of walking together, in respect of our treaties and Indigenous rights. 

How can you and your church take a next step towards living into these commitments? 

New Covenant Declaration  (1987, 2007)

A pastoral statement by ecumenical leaders inviting church members to support Indigenous rights in Canada and to work toward implementation of these rights, including the right to be distinct peoples, to have an adequate land base, self-determination and self-government.

Hearts Exchanged (2000)

At the Cross-Cultural Ministry Forum of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 60 believers explored how to faithfully live, worship, and bring the gospel of Christ in diverse cultural settings.  The forum was prompted by concerns about the use of Indigenous symbols such as the smudge and the sweat lodge in worship at CRC-supported Native ministry centres located in Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Regina.  The final report is available here.

Church Statement Affirming the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples  (Ontario, 2016)

The Christian Reformed churches in Canada affirm the United States Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration) as a framework for reconciliation. The Declaration is unique because Indigenous people are its authors and, in their articulation of these rights, demonstrate a respect for human dignity and diversity that is a powerful vision of reconciled relationships.

Action for Reconciliation (Ottawa, June 2015)

In this statement at the Ottawa Truth and Reconciliation Commission event, the CRC promised to continue learning about the common history it shares with Indigenous people through the Blanket Exercise, wrestling with the church’s own history of interaction with Indigenous peoples through the Doctrine of Discovery Task Force, and advocating for Indigenous education reform in Canada.

Expression of Reconciliation (Vancouver 2013)

This statement was presented along with a painting from the Creator’s Sacrifice/reForming Relationships art tour at the Vancouver Truth and Reconciliation Commission event. It states that removing young people from their homes and trying to instill values of the majority culture into them at residential schools led to broken trust, the sin of tearing young people away from their families and forcing them to live contrary to their traditions and spirituality and laments the Church’s role in residential schools.

Letter to Churches, (January 2012)

Pastoral letter to CRC and RCA churches in Canada calling for prayer for the January 24, 2012 Crown-First Nations Gathering.

Expression of Reconciliation (June 2012)

The CRC offered a formal Expression of Reconciliation at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) Saskatchewan National Event in Saskatoon on June 22. A booklet of the art series “Kisemanito Pakinitasuwin – The Creator’s Sacrifice” was placed in the TRC’s Bentwood Box as a public expression of the CRC’s commitment to the journey of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Letter to Churches (January 2013)

Pastoral letter to CRC and RCA churches in Canada addressing Idle No More, calling for “thoughtful discernment, prayers of hope and gratitude and active pursuit of restored relationships.” Also marking the anniversary of the 2012 Crown – First Nations Gathering.

Doctrine of Discovery (2016)

The synod of 2016 acknowledged that the Doctrine of Discovery was a heresy and rejected and condemned it. The Doctrine helped shape western culture and led to great injustices.  (Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 922)  Additional information is available in Article 71. 1.C.2

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Thank you for this helpful summary of the CRC in Canada's justice and reconciliation journey with indigenous people.

This is so great! Thanks for sharing about the journey the CRC has been on for decades, it certainly gives a sense of how much work has been done, and gives impetus to continue towards reconciliation alongside our Indigenous brothers and sisters.