Dear Friends in Christ:
This week, I am participating in a four-day online conference: The White Privilege Conference offered by The Privilege Institute in the United States. An annual event, in previous years several members of our Intercultural Committee and staff attended and recommended it to the College of Bishops. So this year, Bishop Riscylla, Bishop Kevin and I, along with Mary Conliffe, Rob Saffrey and Deb Journeaux, prioritized it in our calendars, and we are learning so much. I recommend it to all of you for the future.
The convenors and organizers of this year’s conference have done a superb job of creating a virtual space for honest conversation, courageous story telling and insightful teaching. I appreciated the keynote addresses by Dr. Robyn DiAngelo, (author of White Fragility) and political activist, Linda Sarsour. Sarsour called us to commit. We are not here to be bystanders. She said, it is our responsibility to have courageous conversations on how we preserve the dignity of every human being. In that simple statement, an echo of the commitment we made in our baptismal covenant. A covenant we live every day.
As a Diocese, we have a lot of work to do around anti-racism. But we are committed to doing that work.
Last Fall, we contracted Co:Culture Collective, a Hamilton-based firm to assist us in the work of Anti-Bias/Anti-Racism training in the Diocese of Toronto. The owner and principal consultant, Bernadette Arthur, has been working closely with the Diocese’s Diversity Officer, currently Bishop Kevin Robertson, and they have been meeting weekly to assess progress and set goals.
The 15-month project has been divided into three main areas:
a) Community Listening Sessions – Twelve listening sessions were developed and hosted with different groups and constituencies across the Diocese, including the Black Anglicans of Canada, the LGBTQ community, various diaspora communities, and others. In addition to listening to the lived experiences of diverse individuals and groups in our Diocese, one of the other purposes of these sessions was to help develop the curriculum for the ABAR training. The Community Listening Sessions are now complete and we have accomplished this phase of our work.
b) ABAR Training – Anti-bias and anti-racism training will be rolled out across the Diocese beginning next month (May). We begin with the College of Bishops, Dean, Chancellors etc., and then move to Diocesan Council and Regional Deans; and then to the clergy and parishes of the Diocese in the Fall. The Community Listening Sessions, which took place in February and March, have helped to form the curriculum. A special Advisory Group of 6 clergy and lay people in the Diocese will work with Bernadette and Bishop Kevin to help tweak the curriculum before it is rolled out. These training sessions in the Spring and Fall will be led by Co:Culture Collective staff as well as trained diocesan facilitators. The training of the facilitators begins this month.
c) ABAR Pods – Twelve “Pod” leaders have now been recruited. The purpose of the Pods is to develop a longer-term strategy for dismantling racism/bias in the Diocese after the training workshops have taken place this year. The Pods represent our desire and commitment to engage in an ongoing learning process. The work of anti-bias and anti-racism education will not be “done” at the end of this project. It is ongoing Gospel work for us as a Church.
I am looking forward to the keynote addresses and workshops later today and tomorrow. I am especially intrigued by the workshop entitled, Put Your Money Where your Anti-Racist Voice is!
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto