Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Posted on November 27, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

Wasn’t that a party? Last Friday evening, almost 200 people from across the continent gathered on Zoom to celebrate, honour, roast and pay tribute to one of the greats in the Diocese of Toronto:  Bishop Peter Fenty. Hosted and organized by the Regional Deans of York-Simcoe and the extremely talented Jennipher Kean, it was a night of laughter, song, prayer and thanksgiving for Bishop Peter’s ministry in the Church of God – a ministry that has spanned 45 years, across four dioceses, and left an indelible mark on the lives of many. 

This Sunday, Advent Sunday, is Bishop Peter’s last before a well-deserved retirement. When he lays down his ministry as Suffragan Bishop of Toronto and Area Bishop of York-Simcoe on St. Andrew’s Day, November 30, he leaves behind him a legacy for which we thank God. His deep faith, sage wisdom, gentle humour, and heart for justice have made him the companion, confidante, and coach to so many in the Church. He has shepherded individual congregations and this Diocese with clarity of vision and decisive leadership. He models discipleship, nurtures vocations, and is a formidable preacher. He exposes the broken sides of the Church and challenges us to turn again, and find our way to God’s loving, life-giving and liberating justice. As a pioneer in our Church – the first Black bishop in Canada – his voice has been an important one at our table, both in the Diocese of Toronto and the wider National House of Bishops. To say he will be missed is a great understatement.

I want to say a few words to the Area of York-Simcoe. Starting next week, I want to assure you that I will be “hands-on” in your Area, particularly in these early days. I will be working closely with Jenn Kean in the York-Simcoe Office, and she will continue to play a central role in taking calls and emails from parishes, clergy, and the Regional Deans. Bishop Riscylla Shaw, Bishop Kevin Robertson and I will be meeting with the Regional Deans and Jenn Kean early in December to discuss how episcopal oversight will work in York-Simcoe over the next several months. The plan is that each of us bishops will take responsibility for a few Deaneries each, to serve as the Episcopal point of contact, working in concert with the Regional Dean. York-Simcoe Area Council meetings will be attended by Bishop Riscylla.  

We await the recommendations of the Episcopal Leadership Working Group, and a proposed new way forward as a Diocese, in their report coming to me at Ash Wednesday 2021. In the meantime, we all need to adjust our expectations in terms of episcopal availability to parish needs. This is true of every Area of the Diocese as your bishops re-distribute the workload. I encourage clergy, churchwardens, treasurers and parish staff across the Diocese to contact their wonderful administrative assistants in the Area Offices, the staff at the Synod Office, or their Regional Dean, as questions or issues arise, and allow these experts to “triage” requests for episcopal attention. 

The theme of my episcopacy – informally anyway – has been to “row together,” and that has never been truer than now. Our ship continues to sail through uncharted waters, and it may feel as though there are fewer hands on deck. But I believe that God provides at all times, and perhaps now we are being given the opportunity to call on new hands to take up an oar, and to find new ways to pull towards the hope that lies before us. 

My love and prayers go with our beloved in Christ, Peter, his wonderful wife Annie, and his children and grandchildren, as they continue on this next stage of their journey. May the road rise up to meet you, my brother. Thank you for all you have given this Church in your ministry.

Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto