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Honouring the Declaration book launch set for Oct. 28

Book explores the challenges posed to the United Church and other denominations by accepting UNDRIP as a framework for reconciliation.

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 A book developed by the faculty of St. Andrew's College in conjunction with Indigenous scholars and activists will receive its launch Oct. 28.

Honouring the Declaration: Church Commitments to Reconciliation and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples features essays from scholars working from a range of disciplines, including religious studies, Indigenous legal studies, Christian theology and ethics, Biblical studies, Indigenous educational leadership within the United Church, and social activism. Five current or former St. Andrew’s faculty members contributed to the publication.

The collection, edited by St. Andrews professor Don Schweitzer and Paul Gareau, assistant professor in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies, includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous voices, all of which respond meaningfully to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The book is published by the University of Regina Press.

The virtual launch event will take place via Zoom Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at 4:30 p.m. CST. To register, visit the event’s Eventbrite page HERE.

The inspiration for the book came from the 2016 announcement that seven Canadian churches had adopted the UNDRIP as a framework for reconciliation between themselves and Indigenous peoples in compliance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action No. 48.

“The United Church of Canada was one of these churches,” Schweitzer said. “This statement announced a major undertaking that could fundamentally change the United Church’s relations with Indigenous peoples and its character as a Christian denomination. Honouring this commitment will require years of work and many resources.

“I wondered if the faculty of St. Andrew’s College could dedicate our teaching and research towards serving the needs of the United Church and Canadian society by producing a collectively written academic resource aimed at helping the United Church and other denominations fulfill their commitment to the Declaration as a framework for reconciliation. Each faculty member could write out of their discipline, addressing issues raised by this commitment. In the fall of 2016, the faculty agreed to do this.”

Gareau, who was approached by former St. Andrews professor Christine Mitchell to participate in the project, was initially skeptical of the role he might be able to play.

“But the idea of the United Church centering the Declaration as part of their institutional response to reconciliation really took hold of me,” he said. “In the process, I started to unpack and frame how the Métis Nation can fit within the socio-political and spiritual framework of the Declaration. It challenged me to assert the sovereignty of the Métis Nation in good relations with the experiences and knowledge of the settler scholars from St. Andrew’s as well as our Indigenous colleagues and relations engaged in conversation.”

The texts explore some of the challenges that accepting the UN Declaration as a framework poses to the United Church and other Canadian denominations, and provides academic reaction on how these challenges can be met. The reflections include concrete proposals for steps that Canadian denominations and their seminaries need to take in light of their commitment to the Declaration, a study of a past attempt of the United Church to be in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, and discussions of ethical concepts and theological doctrines that can empower and guide the church in living out this commitment.

The work of St. Andrew’s faculty includes Schweitzer’s contribution that examines how justification by grace can be a spiritual resource for settlers accepting the Declaration as a framework for Indigenous-settler relationships. An essay by Lynn Caldwell examines educational practices aimed at consciousness-raising around Indigenous-settler issues.

Contributions by former college faculty include Mitchell’s chapter examining problematic Biblical passages in the Hebrew Bible; Sandra Beardsall’s discussion of previous attempts by the United Church to be in solidarity with Indigenous peoples in their struggles for justice; an essay by Jennifer Janzen-Ball that relates the notion of the common good to the goals of the Declaration; and HyeRan Kim-Cragg’s look at how worship and hymnody have been sites of resistance to settler colonialism.

Hailed as a “truly seminal work among the schools of theology in Canada,” the book serves as a testament to the importance of Indigenous sovereignty in all nation-to-nation relations — Indigenous and settler, human and more-than-human — as we nurture dynamic, consensual, and grounded acts of reconciliation.

Copies can be ordered from University of Regina Press at: https://uofrpress.ca/Books/H/Honouring-the-Declaration

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