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Social Justice Vestry Motion

Vestry Motion for 2021: Committing Ourselves to Anti-Racism

This year’s Social Justice Vestry Motion comes from the Bishop’s Committee on Intercultural Ministry, with the support of the Social Justice & Advocacy Committee.

2020 has been a time of great upheaval and unveiling in many respects, not least of which has been a greater awareness throughout society, in both Canada and the U.S., of the continuing scourge of racism. Whether expressed in individual acts or via the policies and culture of institutional systems, racism inhibits the full inclusion, participation and valuing of every human being within the community.  Tragically, it has not only been true of our secular institutions, but of our Church as well.

While our national and diocesan Church have begun grappling with our complicity in anti-Indigenous racism through Anglican participation in the Indian Residential Schools settlement and commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation process, there has not to date been much attention paid by our Church to anti-Black racism.  This motion therefore highlights anti-Black racism as a particular form of racism which we are called to recognize and dismantle, along with every other form of racism.

Further, this motion recognizes and builds on the Diocesan Anti-Racism/Anti-Bias training which will be rolling out in early 2021.

This motion was approved by the College of Bishops on November 25, 2020 and presented to the Regional Deans on December 2, 2020.

Further reading

Tips for presenting and following up on the motion

  1. Circulate the motion and backgrounder before the vestry meeting
  2. Identify parishioners who are ready to speak to the motion both before and at vestry.
  3. Consider exploring the subject in advance through an information session, like a “lunch and learn” after a Sunday service.
  4. As part of your efforts, consider joining the annual Lenten “Give it up for the Earth!” postcard campaign from Citizens for Public Justice. This year’s campaign calls on the federal government to invest in a national just transition and decarbonization strategy, which fits in with our motion. Contact Elin Goulden at egoulden@toronto.anglican.ca to request postcards for your parish.

Why do we present the vestry motion?

Throughout the history of this Diocese, bishops and church leaders have spoken out on issues affecting our society. Our bishops regularly communicate with government through letters and meetings, and they’re invited to comment on budgets and new legislation. Canadian law recognizes these communications as aspects of the Church’s charitable purpose.

For more than a decade, the Social Justice and Advocacy Committee has drafted annual vestry motions on concerns our Diocese is connected with. These motions are non-partisan, and the College of Bishops approves their final wording before commending them to parishes for consideration.

When parishes support social justice vestry motions, it strengthens the bishops’ voices in their advocacy with government. The motions also inform Anglicans about diocesan social justice concerns. Each year the committee prepares a brief “backgrounder” on the issue at hand, which can be used as a bulletin insert.

Some parishes shy away from presenting a social justice motion at vestry, seeking to avoid conflict. This may be understandable in some contexts. No parish is required to present the motion, and any parish can change its wording if this is the will of its vestry.

But the Church can’t 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.