To the Clergy, Churchwardens and Parishioners
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings in the Name of our Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
As you gather for your annual vestry meeting, the College of Bishops of Toronto offers you our prayerful support and good wishes for the year ahead. We are profoundly thankful to all of you for your faithfulness and commitment to worship, work and witness to the Christian faith as members of the Anglican Church in Canada, both in your parish and in reaching out to the marginalized and vulnerable in your community. We deeply appreciate the prayers offered week by week in the churches of the diocese that sustain and encourage us in our ministry!
We give thanks to Almighty God for what was achieved at all levels of our Diocese during the past year. We applaud the wonderful response to the Our Faith-Our Hope: Re-imagine Church campaign by the faithful of our diocese. Your generous response is indicative of your commitment to a theology of abundance, responding in kind to God’s abundance of generosity. As a result of your giving, our Diocese is positioned to engage in exciting, innovative and life-giving ministry in the years ahead. We are increasingly a mission-shaped church as a result of the vision and courage of clergy and laity who are committed to being, in the words of Archbishop Rowan Williams, “a mixed economy church,” rejoicing in our heritage and embracing the future creatively in service of Christ’s mission.
The completion of over 100 surveys in the Natural Church Development program gives me much encouragement that so many of our parishes are intentionally seeking to understand themselves better and work hard to contribute to our Diocese living out its vision of ‘building healthy, vibrant communities of faith.’
As a diocesan family, we will continue to invest in people, programs and ministries that will enable this mission to be achieved. I thank those, both clergy and laity, who have been taking the lead in this, for their dedication and exemplary leadership. Your financial support through parish allotments, FaithWorks, and Our Faith, Our Hope makes possible grants to parishes for new ministry and support in transition, episcopal ministry, curacy training, support for theological colleges, parish revitalisation, leadership development, the work of the national church particularly in the North, and outreach to the vulnerable in our communities. Our common life depends on each other’s gifts.
Only a year ago, the ‘Occupy Toronto’ movement reminded us that all is not well in our communities, challenging us not to respond with indifference to the pressing daily needs and concerns of so many among us. With this still in our minds, we are now equally challenged to attend to the grave concerns of our Aboriginal sisters and brothers. It is scandalous that there are still many unresolved issues that Native peoples battle with every day. Too many live in appalling circumstances. We should not be distracted by the divisions within the First Nations’ leadership. This is no different than the political diversity within the rest of our society. The issues are complex and there are few quick fixes. But that does not relieve us of our duty to act. Our diocese has one of the largest Aboriginal populations in Canada.
While we appreciate that a meeting of the Prime Minister and First Nations’ leaders took place in January, we need to press for a sustained effort by governments at all levels to ongoing consultations that will result in just resolutions and action. Our mission is one with our Saviour’s: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,” Luke 4: 18. The gospel imperative demands of us that we stand with our Aboriginal sisters and brothers, strongly advocate for their right and just treatment, and work to make it so.
Last year, Diocesan Council granted $100,000 from the Ministry Allocation Fund for the Anglican Council of the North’s Suicide Prevention programme. The Bishop’s Company helps fund an Aboriginal priest in Toronto. Many people in the diocese are engaged in support of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings locally and nationally. We thank the many of you who individually and collectively bear faithful witness in seeking to bring hope and meaning to the lives of others in the pursuit of justice in Christ’s name.
Please visit our Diocesan website to read and learn about the amazing range of opportunities that are taking place in our Diocese. The 7th annual Vital Church Planting Conference will be held January 31-February 2, 2013 at St. Paul, Bloor Street, Toronto. This conference provides a wonderful learning opportunity for parishes looking for innovative and inspirational ways to live out their ministry. I remind you of the annual Churchwardens and Treasurer Workshops, Area Ministry Days and especially the Diocesan Outreach Conference to be held October 5, 2013 at Holy Trinity School, Richmond Hill with the theme of ‘Where is the Spirit working?’ Find details on all of these on our website.
Finally, I know that you will join me in expressing our profound thanks and gratitude to Bishop George Elliott as he retires at the end of April. For three and a half decades, Bishop Elliott has been a faithful priest and bishop of our church and has made an invaluable contribution to life and work of our Diocese. We wish George and Linda God’s blessing in his retirement.
Please uphold in your prayers the nominees who will be offering themselves as candidates in the upcoming episcopal election to be held on April 6, 2013 in St. James’ Cathedral.
Once more, on behalf of the College of Bishops, I express our appreciation to the clergy of our Diocese, and to the churchwardens and lay leaders of our parishes for the work that you do so faithfully and tirelessly for Christ’s beloved Church. You make a difference in the Church and in our world for Christ’s sake.
May God who enriches all of us with His life grant you every blessing in the year before us.
The Most Reverend Colin R. Johnson
Archbishop of Toronto