6/4/2021 Update:
Sexual Misconduct Alleged

The inhibition of Bishop McKoen is related to allegations of sexual misconduct, according to the bishop of a nearby diocese.

“There is due process in the church, and he will have the support he needs to answer these charges. There are no criminal charges in this case,” said the Rt. Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee of the Diocese of British Columbia, in a pastoral letter to her diocese.

McKoen previously served as a priest in the Diocese of British Columbia, and Greenwood-Lee asked for prayers for his former congregations: Christ Church, Alert Bay; and St. Peter, Campbell River.

“Finally, please pray for Lincoln and Tanya McKoen,” she wrote.

By Kirk Petersen

A bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) has been abruptly “inhibited” with little explanation from the role he has held for less than a year.

The Rt. Rev. Lincoln McKoen, who was consecrated in September 2020 as bishop of the diocese known as the Territory of the People, was relieved of all duties by Archbishop Lynne McNaughton, who is the metropolitan of the ACC’s Province of British Columbia and Yukon.

The June 1 announcement came just days after the unrelated revelation of a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, also in British Columbia, which operated from 1890 until the late 1970s. That discovery sent shockwaves through the region and the ACC, which also formerly operated Indian residential schools, although the Kamloops school was run by the Roman Catholic Church.

No specific reason was given for the action against McKoen. In her letter, McNaughton said the ACC has a “commitment to ensuring that those who hold positions of trust or power in the church do not take advantage of, or abuse, that trust or power. It is with this commitment in mind that I share with you the difficult decision I have made today to inhibit Bishop Lincoln McKoen from his duties as diocesan bishop of the Territory of the People, effective immediately.”

Under the canons of the ACC, “If it appears … that great scandal is likely to arise if a priest, deacon or lay person continues to perform the duties of his or her office while a charge is under investigation or trial,” the bishop with jurisdiction (or in this case the archbishop) may block the person from performing any duties until the case is adjudicated. McKoen will continue to receive his salary until the matter is resolved.

McKoen and McNaughton could not be reached for comment. Joseph Vesci, director of communications and information resources for the ACC, said no information was available beyond the brief announcement.

The discovery of the mass grave is a harsh reminder of the history of brutal treatment of the Indigenous population of Canada. For decades, beginning in the late 1800s, the government of Canada pursued a policy of forced assimilation of the Indigenous people, some of whom can trace their local roots back for thousands of years.

Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families and sent to distant Indian residential schools that punished them for speaking their native languages. A government Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared in 2015 that the schools were a tool of “cultural genocide.”

The schools were funded by the government and run by Christian churches. The majority of the schools were run by Roman Catholics, but the ACC operated 24 such schools at the peak of its involvement, in the 1920s.

Indigenous people have a more prominent role in the ACC than do Native Americans in the U.S.-based Episcopal Church. Since 2007, the ACC has had a National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop with oversight over all Indigenous Anglicans in the country. The Most Rev. Mark MacDonald is the first and so far only person to hold the title. Indigenous people represent nearly 5 percent of the population of Canada, compared with Native Americans in the United States, who are about 1.6 percent of the total population.

The very existence of the Territory of the People is wrapped in the history of the Indigenous people. It was known until 2016 as the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, which in 2001 had succeeded the Diocese of Cariboo. That diocese ceased operations after being forced into bankruptcy by lawsuits brought by former students of the Anglican-run St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton, British Columbia.