National Indigenous Peoples Day 2024

Dawn Humphreys, Jun 17, 2024, 11:01 PM
Dawn Humphreys National Catalyst of Vineyard Engage

Friday, June 21st marks National Indigenous People's Day. It is a wonderful day to celebrate Indigenous people, their culture, heritage and legacy. The lead up to NIPD also gives us the opportunity to reflect on our relationship with Indigenous people in society, in our towns, cities, neighbourhoods, in our churches and in our lives.

Our Canadian Vineyard is wholeheartedly committed to 'walking the talk' in our journey of reconciliation with Indigenous people, recognising that relationship is the beating heart of reconciliation. And, with any relationship on a journey of healing, we need prayer, wisdom, understanding, intentionality, and action. All these components must work together - not in isolation from one another - but in tandem with one another.

James, the brother of Jesus, reminds the followers of Jesus in his New Testament letter, what it means to 'walk the talk' (James 2:17-18):

 'So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.18 Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others have good deeds." But I say, "How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds." (NLT)

I love how Peterson paraphrases this last phrase in verse 18 in The Message:
'Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.'

Reconciliation is about more than prayer, more than reading, more than an awareness of the issues, more than acknowledging one or two days events a year. It is about the committed relationship to  word and work, to faith and deeds, to love and action, working together like a hand in a glove!

A letter from our National Director David Ruis

National Family,

In 2015, the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued a number of Calls to Action, some of which were addressed specifically to churches and faith groups. Vineyard Canada has committed to faithfully working towards responding to this call seeing the need for a "long obedience in the same direction" regarding the journey of reconciliation with our First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples.

We are not in this alone. Along with many others, we have been a significant voice within the conversation at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada table regarding Truth and Reconciliation. It has been quite marvelous to continue to be part of this unfolding story.

In early 2016, the EFC called together a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders from within the EFC's affiliates to prepare a response to the TRC's Calls to Action, particularly Call to Action #48, which calls on faith groups to "formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation." In the response, the EFC committed to:

"a process of learning and collaboration with our affiliates and Indigenous leaders within our affiliate denominations, churches and organisations. We will be exploring what it means for us as a broad evangelical community to embrace and enact the principles outlined in the UN Declaration as a framework for reconciliation. As was the case with our affirmation in 1995 of the Sacred Assembly Proclamation, this response to the TRC's Call to Action is part of an ongoing journey of learning and reconciliation. It will not be the conclusion. We invite all people in Canada to learn with us as we walk in humility with the Indigenous peoples in this land."

The Association of Vineyard Churches Canada is in full agreement with the collective discernment and resulting responses in both word and deed of the EFC and recognizes that this is a long-term commitment which leads us far beyond simply statements, prayer meetings and policy.

The continuing process saw, in 2017, the EFC hosting a gathering of representatives of denominational affiliates at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. Conversation focused on how we all could work together in supporting the call of Evangelicals in Canada to remain faithful to the long, and even arduous, reconciliation journey.

Some of the representatives met again at gatherings following the 2018 and 2019 Symposiums held by NAIITS, an Indigenous Learning Community. In 2019, the NAIITS organizers invited the group to consider offering a paper at the next Symposium that would address how evangelical churches will work toward right relationship with Indigenous people, both within and outside church communities.

Members of what was later called the EFC Indigenous-Settler Relations Working Group responded to the challenge and presented a paper, Stewarding Sacred Seeds, at the 2020 NAIITS Symposium. In the paper, the Working Group looked back at the history of the EFC's engagement in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and how it seeks to identify barriers and discover what meaningful and sustained evangelical engagement could look like in the work of reconciliation.

This particular paper recommends a number of actions to be taken by the EFC in pursuit of reconciliation and right relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. The EFC has received these recommendations and has committed, as outlined in the paper, to seven commitments. As a result, In the spring of 2021, the Seven Commitments Working Group was established to help guide the implementation of these commitments.

We are delighted that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has seen the journey of Truth and Reconciliation as something more than an archived statement in the books, by embracing this path as one that still has many miles ahead to be tread - together. Far from being some "woke agenda" or politically driven cause, we, together with many of our Evangelical brothers and sisters across Canada see this as something we must engage in as followers of Jesus Christ and people of The Way. Full stop.

On the cusp of another annual recognition of our Indigenous People Day in Canada this coming June 21st, it seemed appropriate to remind you, or for some maybe even inform for the first time, the larger picture of what is happening across the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada as a backdrop to our own unwavering support of what is transpiring regarding Truth and Reconciliation. This will also give you context as you look at some of the continuing resources that we are giving to you to help us stay engaged at a grassroots level.

Step by step.

David Ruis