Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Posted on December 11, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ:

In this Season of Advent, we are looking ahead to a new year, new hope, new things. The media is giving us hopeful updates on the COVID-19 vaccine, being administered now in Europe and soon to come to Canada. We give thanks to God for the science and medicine that have made these promising developments possible, and we look forward to 2021 when, God willing, we can finally contain this coronavirus at last.   

Another scourge in our society was highlighted this past year with the shocking murder of George Floyd on May 25. In the aftermath, people all over the United States, parts of Canada and much of the world took to the streets to protest, to break the silence and to speak out against anti-Black racism, police violence and systemic racism. Social media lit up, too – 140 characters put to good use to express a want for change.

On May 29, former first lady, Michelle Obama, wrote this on Twitter, in part…Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us—Black, white, everyone—no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets…

We in the Church, and in the Diocese of Toronto in particular, have been talking about racial justice for a very long time. But it is a valid critique that we have been talking for too long, with seemingly little action. As this painful year draws to a close, and a fresh new year dawns, I want to share with you some concrete ways that the Diocese is committed to addressing racism in our Church.

Starting in the new year, we are embarking upon anti-racism/anti-bias training for the clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese, with Bernadette Arthur of Co:Culture Collective. I invite you to watch this short video, introduced by our current Diversity Officer, Bishop Jenny Andison, to get to know Bernadette and to hear more about the training. For a slideshow on the goals of the project, check out this link.

As we get ready to launch the training, there are two ways that people who are passionate about this work can participate at a leadership level. We are looking for 12 facilitators to be trained up to assist with the Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias (ARAB) Workshops in the new year. We will also be developing an Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias (ARAB) “Pod” of 12 members who will work longer-term on building a plan for our Diocese to dismantle racist structures. 

Nominations are being invited: lay people as well as clergy, people from the dominant culture and people from the BIPOC community. We are looking for individuals who have:

  • embarked on a personal journey of learning and unlearning about the ways they’ve been racialized and the effects that racialization has had on the ways they perceive and navigate the world
  • a teachable spirit
  • an ability to sit in tension and discomfort
  • the will to work within a multi-racial team setting
  • the will to center the experiences and stories of those who have been historically marginalized and oppressed in North American church spaces
  • demonstrated commitment to challenging and dismantling oppressive systems or structures whether communally or institutionally
  • agreed to uphold the community ethics of the ARAB Pod, which includes demonstrating respect for people of all gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, races and religious or nonreligious beliefs.
  • (and for ARAB Facilitators) experience with facilitating/training persons in a community-based setting.

Please send your nominations by Wednesday, Dec. 16 to the current Diversity Officer, Bishop Jenny Andison, jandison@toronto.anglican.ca,  with names and contact information, and your reasons for nominating these individuals. Please specify which role you are nominating them for: Anti-Racism Anti-Bias (ARAB) Pod Member, or Anti-Racism Anti-Bias (ARAB) Facilitator. The nominations will be vetted according to the identified skill set and finalized by the College of Bishops.

The Diocese of Toronto is committed to building an anti-racist, anti-bias, multicultural and diverse Church in which all people can work, worship and engage. We all have a part to play in dismantling racism and learning about our unconscious biases. To that end, the College of Bishops commends to parishes the 2021 Social Justice Vestry Motion from the Bishop’s Committee on Intercultural Ministry. This year’s motion calls on us to recognize all forms of racism, and anti-Black racism in particular, as a sin against God and against our fellow human beings. By presenting and considering this motion, we hope to recognize and start to dismantle anti-Black and every other form of racism in ourselves, in our society, and within our churches. Parishes are asked to commit to some tangible action as an expression of this commitment, with several suggestions provided. The most important first step of course is to start, or continue, the conversation in your church family.

A new year often brings with it personal and corporate New Year’s Resolutions. As we look ahead to the coming year, I invite and urge you all to include addressing racism on your list of resolutions – personally and corporately. All of us can help to bring about God’s reign of liberating justice for all. Let us indeed pray, as Jesus himself taught us, that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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