Vestry Motion for 2019: Standing in Solidarity
Our 2019 Social Justice Vestry Motion calls on parishes to take action to stand in solidarity with those living in poverty in our communities. Recalling that how we treat “the least of these” among us is how we treat Christ himself, parishes are invited to pledge one way to increase their direct outreach on behalf of those in need and one way to increase their advocacy efforts toward structural and policy changes to benefit people experiencing poverty.
Why do we present the Vestry Motion? What purpose does it serve?
Throughout the history of this Diocese, Bishops and other church leaders have spoken out on social issues affecting our communities. Diocesan and Area Bishops regularly communicate with government through letters and meetings, and are invited to comment on government budgets and new legislation. Canadian law, recognizing the importance of the public witness of charitable institutions on the impact of government policies, considers these communications as aspects of the Church’s charitable purpose.
Over the past decade or more, the diocesan Social Justice and Advocacy Committee has drafted annual Vestry motions on concerns with which our Diocese is connected: poverty reduction, affordable housing, care for the environment, welcoming refugees, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. These motions are non-partisan and the Diocesan College of Bishops must approve their final wording before commending them to parishes for consideration. When parishes across the Diocese support the Social Justice Vestry motions, it strengthens the Bishops’ voice in their advocacy with government. For example, Archbishop Johnson’s response to the 2017 provincial budget and proposed labour legislation drew on parishes’ support for the 2014 Vestry motion in support of raising the minimum wage.
The Vestry motions also serve to inform parishes about Diocesan social justice concerns. Some Anglicans have firsthand knowledge of the impacts of poverty, lack of housing, environmental damage, or unjust policies, but many others do not. The Vestry motion campaign is an opportunity to learn more from those who do experience these impacts, so that we can add our voices in support of theirs. Each year the Social Justice and Advocacy Committee prepares a brief “backgrounder” on the issue at hand, which can be used as a bulletin insert. Lately, we have also offered workshops in each area for Anglicans to learn more about the issue before Vestry, as well as providing additional resources for further learning.
Some parishes shy away from presenting a Social Justice motion at Vestry, seeking to avoid conflict. This may be understandable, particularly in certain situations, and no parish is required to present the motion. However, the Church cannot be insulated from issues that affect the world God loves. Learning about and speaking out on these matters – even learning to disagree well together – is part of the witness we bear to Christ who makes all things new.