"How can our church have a healthy relationship with First Nations communities
without repeating past mistakes of the Canadian church?"
This has been the question asked by a number of pastors to our FAIR team over the last number of years. We each come with our own experiences and biases when it comes to interacting with First Nations people. Given Canada's (and the Church’s) history of attempting to eradicate First Nations culture, language, and identity, it would be prudent to seek to first listen to wise counsel.
In 2021, Fellowship President, Steve Jones, and National Council Chair Doug Blair, published a statement in response to the news from Kamloops, BC regarding the discovery of unmarked graves of 215 children at a former residential school site. They lamented the loss of young lives and sought to "encourage our churches, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to carefully listen, learn, and act as we sorrow together with the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation and the indigenous peoples of Canada." The full statement is available on our website.
With this encouragement to carefully listen, learn, and act, FAIR has gathered a list of resources, networks, and information to make available to you. The list includes Christian First Nations leaders from whom we can learn, and some Fellowship churches who have already started their own learning journeys. The list is not exhaustive. We know there are other resources out there that we haven’t come across or vetted yet. We plan to update this list on an ongoing basis to help it stay relevant and continue to reflect our learning-journey. You can read our current list of resources.
As we seek to take action and rebuild relationships with our First Nations brothers and sisters, let’s remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV).
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."
I pray that many years from now, we will look back and see a beautiful story of healing and reconciliation between First Nations communities and the Church.