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Social Justice Vestry Motion

Vestry Motion for 2022: Justice for Workers

This year’s Social Justice Vestry Motion addresses the issue of justice for workers, particularly those who are precariously employed.

Precarious employment is defined not only by being low-waged, but also by uncertain hours and a lack of workplace benefits, such as employer-paid sick leave.  Part-time, temporary, and contract work are all forms of precarious employment.

Many of these workers work in sectors that have been designated as “essential” during the pandemic, such as health-care and long-term care facilities; manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics; farms, food processing industries and grocery stores; etc. They are also overwhelmingly likely to be women, members of racialized groups, or newcomers, including undocumented and migrant workers.  Decent work is thus not just a matter of economic justice, but a matter of gender and racial justice as well.

The Bible calls us to justice for those who are most vulnerable, including vulnerable workers in our society. After God’s people were brought out of slavery into freedom, they were reminded to treat their hired labourers – including “sojourners in the land” – with fairness and dignity (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). Likewise, Paul’s letter to Timothy repeats the adages “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” and “The labourer deserves to be paid.” (1 Timothy 5:18)

The pandemic has taught us that when workers are protected, all of us are better protected. More importantly to us as Christians, we need to realize that when we advocate for justice and dignity for workers, we are re-aligning ourselves with God’s desire for our life together.

This motion was approved by the College of Bishops on November 25, 2021 and presented to the Regional Deans on December 8, 2021.

Further reading and resources

Here are some resources for further reading/watching.

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.

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.