A BRIEF HISTORY OF ANGLICAN PRESENCE IN OUR TERRITORY
The Territory of the People, once named The Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) is located in the South Central region of the Province of British Columbia. We span some 166,500 square kilometers that stretch from Prince George in the north to beyond Merritt and Boothroyd in the south.
APCI was formed in 2002 after the cessation of the Diocese of Cariboo. The Diocese of Cariboo ceased operations after the exhaustion of resources resulting from litigation and financial settlements to survivors of abuse at St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton British Columbia.
At the Constitutive Assembly in 2002 when APCI was formed, three Statements of Affirmation were confirmed. These are instrumental in providing the foundation for our formation, and the subsequent new structure for governance.
Emotionally and spiritually, we are a family of parishes united in mutual respect and love of God. God has led us, as a people of God in the Central Interior, through a desert time during which our vision of ourselves has been both tested and clarified.
Collectively, we have walked through a time of challenge with the dissolution of our existence as a diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada, and faced the possible loss of all financial assets as well as the loss of property and church buildings. Having come through this threatening time we are engaged in the process of examining what is important to our existence. Out of this has emerged a strong community of faith committed to God, the Anglican Church of Canada, and to each other. We often refer to ourselves as a family.
We have a history of being creative about the ways in which we do ministry and a commitment to lay and clergy continued education. Indigenous ministry, presence and voice remain priorities in all our action.
As the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, we were an unincorporated division of the Provincial Synod of British Columbia and Yukon, under the direct Episcopal supervision of the Bishop Suffragan to the Metropolitan of the Province of B.C. & Yukon. Titles to the land and church/hall buildings in APCI were, and still are held by the Fraser Basin Property Society (see PDF link below) which holds them in trust for the parishes and wider communities. However, the Diocese of Cariboo, which ceased operation on December 31, 2001, continued to exist legally in order that representation could be made at Provincial and General Synods.
At a May 2015 Assembly, the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) unanimously passed a historic resolution asking the Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and the Yukon to recognize APCI as a territory with rights to elect a bishop through its own nomination and electoral processes.
“This recommendation will forever change community relationships within the Anglican church,” said suffragan bishop for APCI, Barbara Andrews. “We are asking to be defined as a territory, that will both set us on a new path and allow us to honour those we have hurt in the past by our corporate actions …”
The resolution, moved by pastoral elder Jimmy Toodlican of Scw’exmx and seconded by pastoral elder Amy Charlie of Lytton Parish, was a product of the bishop’s task force for the election of a bishop for APCI, which had been given the task of exploring how APCI might be given more control over its episcopacy.
Bud Smith, speaking on behalf of the bishop’s task force, explained the reluctance to return to a diocesan form of organization as being rooted in a commitment to practicing concrete reconciliation.
“We said [in 2000] that we were going to wind up the operation of our diocese [of Cariboo] in a way that was a sacrifice of our organization,” he said. The hope was to start a process that would be "some kind of greater or continuing healing and reconciliation for all that had happened in our diocese, particularly surrounding the residential school in Lytton.”
As part of this, back in 2001 APCI had committed to placing the needs and considerations of its indigenous members first, followed by the needs and considerations of the non-indigenous parishes and, finally, the administrative needs and functions of the ecclesiastical province. The solution suggested by the task force, and which was given the unanimous approval of APCI’s indigenous council on March 29, 2015 was to have APCI recognized as a territory, with the right to elect its own bishop. Being recognized as a territory would give APCI the autonomy of a diocese, without forcing it into the structure of a diocese.
But there was another reason why the term “territory” was appealing – as Nellie Joe, an indigenous delegate from Shulus noted: “The word 'church' or 'Anglican church' still has an affect on the survivors of the residential schools. As soon as they hear 'church' or 'Anglican'…they either quiver or freeze – they still haven’t gone through that recovered state.” Joe believed that the term “territory” would carry less baggage than “diocese".
Once passed by the Assembly, the resolution was supported by a meeting of the BC Provincial Synod and by the national Council of General Synod in the fall of 2015. Conversations continued regarding legal and charitable status. In August 2017, The Territory of the People Anglican Church formally celebrated our new name and entity. The remaining financial obligations for staff pensions of the former Diocese of Cariboo, were transferred to the Territory, and the Dicoese of Cariboo Directors officially retired.
In January 2020 the Territory held its first episcopal election; on April 30, 2020, Suffragan Bishop Barbara Andrews retired, and on May 1, 2020 the newly elected bishop took office. Bishop Lincoln Mckoen resigned in June 2021, and until such time as a new bishop is elected, Archbishop Lynne McNaughton, Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of BC and Yukon is the presiding bishop, and the Rev Canon Len Fraser is Territory Administrator.
In 2022 a second Episcopal election will be held in the Territory of the People.