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The first national Indigenous Anglican archbishop resigned this week after the church said a complainant accused him of sexual misconduct.
Rev. Linda Nicholls, the head of the Anglican Church in Canada, revealed the “devastating news” in a statement on the church’s website.
Nicholls said Rev. Mark MacDonald “…relinquished the exercise of ministry due to acknowledged sexual misconduct, effective April 20, 2022.
“The sense of betrayal is deep and profound when leaders fail to live up to the standards we expect and the boundaries we set,” she added.
“Our hearts hold compassion for human frailty and space for repentance while we also ache with the pain that such betrayal causes first to the complainant; then to so many others and to the life of our church.”
Read Rev. Linda Nicholls statement here.
The revelation comes a week before Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and the church’s most senior clergyman, is expected to meet with Indigenous leaders in Canada and discuss reconciliation efforts, said Joe Vecsi, director of communications for the church in Canada.
The Anglican church is one of several religious orders that helped operate assimilationist residential schools built and funded by the federal government for nearly a century.
The schools, long condemned for forcibly removing an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children from their families for schooling in English, were rife with sexual abuse, hunger and illness.
Their negative impact continues to be blamed for ongoing trauma and dysfunction in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
In 1993, the Anglican Church apologized for the physical, emotional and sexual abuses that occurred at its three dozen schools between 1820 and 1969.
It has also had its share of sexual abuse cases committed by clergy, nuns and lay members that, among other things, triggered national inquiries in Australia and England.
Now more healing will be needed, noted Nicholls in her online statement.
“The ripple effects of this misconduct will be felt throughout the church both in Canada and internationally, but most especially within the Sacred Circle and Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples,” she said. “We mourn with them.”
APTN News asked some members of the circle and council to comment on the resignation and they declined.
Nicholls said she appointed Bishop Sidney Black of Alberta to serve as interim national Indigenous bishop.
There were no details about the misconduct or the complainant (and whether he or she is Indigenous) in Nicholls’ online statement.
MacDonald is described by the church as a non-status Indian of Ojibwa descent. He was named an archbishop in 2019.
Vecsi said police were not involved because what happened was “not criminal.” He said the church would have no further comment other than what was posted online.
Nicholls said the church’s head office in Toronto was reviewing its sexual harassment policy to ensure it was effective and appropriate.
She asked parishioners to pray for the complainant – and the offender.
“The betrayal of trust by someone in such a prominent role of leadership will require a long road of healing and our constant prayers,” she said.
“Also remember Mark and his family in prayer as they face the consequences of his actions that will affect every member.”