My friend and Anglican chaplain colleague John Hounsell-Drover posted this reflection in our first day of the meeting of the Anglican Military Ordinariate (AMO). If that sounds like a mouthful to you, then you probably aren’t fluent in the aracana of the Anglican Church, which, as Stanley Hauerwas (himself a new Anglican) on e remarked, leaves no pretension unused. After all, whereas other denominations have basements, we have “undercrofts”. But I digress.

“Clericus” is an Anglican term for the formal gathering of clergy within a diocese. In our case, we are the Regular (full time) and Reserve (part time) chaplains of the Canadian Forces who are ordained clergy in the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and who hold our licenses from the Bishop Ordinary, one of two members of the ACC’s House of Bishops who are extra-territorial, meaning that they don’t oversee a geographically defined Diocese. For two days within our larger annual meeting of the whole CF Chaplain’s Branch, Clericus is, as John notes in his blog post, our chance to be peculiarly (in the best sense of the word) Anglican as priests and as chaplains.

Today, our second day, we are fortunate to have with us the ACC’s other extra-territorial bishop, The Right Reverend Mark MacDonald, the first National Indigenous Anglican Bishop of the ACC. Bishop Mark’s mandate is to be a pastoral leader to the First Nations peoples of the ACC, as well as to help the non-indigenous Church to better understand and be in healthier relationship with our First Nations brothers and sisters in Christ.

Mark’s conversation with us revolves around the differences between the predominant (white) culture and indigenous culture, and ways in which culture constrains and determines our ways of relating. In past, my experience of these sorts of discussions in the life of church has been a finger-wagging, guilt inducing lecture which does not further the causes of understanding and helpful change. Mark’s approach is wise and gentle, leading us into a nuanced discussion of culture (indigenous, western, military, Anglican, technological, gospel) and pointing us towards a vision of the church that is smaller, less structured, and less dependent on the forms and norms of western culture than we as Christians have been in past. For a highly institutionalized structure like the AMO, this message may seem like a challenge, but for those of us who are charged with serving a dominant culture (the military) while being grounded in the culture of the gospel, it’s striking a chord.

On a personal note, +Mark’s talk is offering me much food for thought as I look ahead a few months to the start of my MA program in Religion and Culture. I shall be digging into his writings on mission, missiology, and his suggestions in discussion that some of the emerging discourse between African and Indigenous Anglicans on culture, gospel and orthodoxy.

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