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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

This year feels different.

On Sunday, June 25, hundreds of “Proud Anglicans” will come together in downtown Toronto for the annual Pride Parade. This is always a great celebration, complete with sashes, glitter, music and Super Soakers. It’s a party, celebrating the beautiful diversity of the children of God. Pride is also an affirmation of mutual love and respect within the greater human family, for we are all made in God’s loving image. The Toronto Pride Parade began almost 50 years ago as a protest but has become more of a celebration over the years as LGBTQ2s+ people have moved from the margins to the mainstream.

But this year feels different. The rise of homophobia and transphobia both far away and here at home reminds us that the struggle for inclusion, acceptance and dignity is not yet won. It seems the progress we’ve made in the areas of sexuality and gender identity is more tenuous than many of us would care to consider. In Uganda, new laws passed this month continue the criminalization of same-sex relationships but with added harsher penalties, including life in prison for those who identify publicly as LGBTQ+, and the death sentence for “aggravated homosexuality.” South of the border, in the state of Florida, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” laws prohibit instruction of sexuality and gender identity in all grades, effectively excluding families with two Dads or two Moms from being included in the school curriculum. Here at home, some local school boards have decided they will not fly the Pride flag this year because Pride does not align with their values.

Last Tuesday, I attended a press conference at Queen’s Park with other leaders from affirming churches and faith groups as we made a unified statement (which other clergy and lay leaders may sign) in support of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Additionally, local congregations have an opportunity to join this organized public demonstration of support in June 2023. Your parish may choose to make this declaration during a worship service, in order to show solidarity with, and inclusion for, our queer and questioning siblings during this increasingly troubling time. On Monday, June 19 at 10 a.m., the Pride flag will be raised at the front of Queen’s Park. The event is hosted by the Speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly and the Ontario Public Service (OPS). Bishop Kevin Robertson will speak about the unity statement during the event. All are welcome.

So perhaps this year, more than most, the gathering of Proud Anglicans will be as much about protest as it will be about celebration. Our 2020 Marriage Policy in the Diocese makes clear that opposite-sex marriage and same-sex marriage are equal in our Church. Our baptismal covenant commits us to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being. We recognize that LGBTQ2S+ are part of the Body of Christ, and their full place in the life of our Church is not negotiable.

My wife Mary and I hope to be at Toronto’s Pride Parade on June 25 with the other Proud Anglicans, and I invite you to join us. Bring a water bottle, a hat, some sunscreen and a smile! Let’s celebrate our diversity and stand up for the place of LGBTQ2S+ people in our Church, our community and our world.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto