Canada’s Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations

Posted Apr 20, 2022

The Anglican Church of Canada’s National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald speaks on faith-based environmental advocacy during a 2019 interfaith gathering in New York. Photo: Simon Chambers/ACT Alliance

[Episcopal News Service] The Anglican Church of Canada announced on April 20 the resignation of National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald amid sexual misconduct allegations against the prominent church leader.

Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, called it “devastating news” in a pastoral letter that said MacDonald had acknowledged the misconduct. The letter didn’t elaborate on the nature of the misconduct. “The sense of betrayal is deep and profound when leaders fail to live up to the standards we expect and the boundaries we set,” Nicholls said.

Nicholls reportedly told the Anglican Journal that the misconduct did not involve allegations of criminal behavior.

MacDonald, 68, previously served in The Episcopal Church as bishop of Alaska from 1997 until 2007, when he became archbishop in Canada. Early in his tenure in Canada, he also briefly took on the second role as bishop serving The Episcopal Church’s Navajoland Area Mission.

“We received no allegations of misconduct by Bishop MacDonald during his service as a bishop in The Episcopal Church,” Public Affairs Officer Amanda Skofstad told Episcopal News Service.

The Anglican Church of Canada’s full announcement can be found here. The following is the text of Nicholls’ letter:

Dear friends in Christ,

As you will see in the attached announcement Archbishop Mark MacDonald has resigned as National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop and has relinquished the exercise of ministry due to acknowledged sexual misconduct, effective April 20, 2022.

This is devastating news. The sense of betrayal is deep and profound when leaders fail to live up to the standards we expect and the boundaries we set. 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.

First and most importantly our prayers must be for the complainant whose life has been affected by Mark’s actions. The betrayal of trust by someone in such a prominent role of leadership will require a long road of healing and our constant prayers.

Also remember Mark and his family in prayer as they face the consequences of his actions that will affect every member.

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. We mourn with them.

I trust that the good work that the Sacred Circle has initiated will continue to deepen and grow. On an interim basis I have asked Bishop Sidney Black to serve as Interim National Indigenous Bishop to give counsel and oversight to the work of Indigenous ministries. Bishop Sidney and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples will need the prayers of the whole Church as they discern the next steps in confirming the Covenant and Our Way of Life documents.

We have just lived another Holy Week in which the pain and brokenness of the world was taken up on the cross. Today we hold the broken lives and wounds of our Church before that cross and wait in longing for the healing and new life that God promises through Jesus Christ by faith.

We pray for God’s grace for healing and comfort for all.

Yours in Christ,

The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls
Archbishop & Primate, Anglican Church of Canada