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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

Jesus was clear: we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. But when it comes to the local community, our neighbours are – whether we like it or not! – not just an abstract concept but a living reality. They are the people crammed into the buses or subway trains every morning, the parents and kids at the local library or recreation centre, the seniors worried their pension won’t cover the next rent increase, the unhoused individuals sheltering in a tent in the local park. We share our communities with a multitude of people from all walks of life, and we are called by Christ to love them as ourselves.

Municipal governments, though they are the most limited level of government in terms of budget and legislative authority, have the most direct impact on the lives of those living within their boundaries. They provide essential services such as public transit, housing and shelter, social assistance, childcare and long-term care on behalf of the province. They provide parks, libraries and recreation programs to enrich the lives of residents. They are responsible for waste management, stormwater management and ensuring safe drinking water. Through zoning and bylaws, municipalities control land use, building standards and what happens on public property, and most municipal governments are responsible for policing as well. Yet few residents take an interest in municipal politics except as it most directly affects them. Municipal elections commonly have the lowest levels of voter turnout.

This past week, the mayor and council of the City of Barrie proposed a set of bylaws that would have prohibited people experiencing homelessness from panhandling or setting up shelter anywhere on public property. The bylaws would also have prohibited individuals or agencies – including churches – from providing money, food, water, clothing or tents to people in need on public property.

Clergy and laypeople from our Barrie-area parishes pushed back with letters and protests against this attempt to criminalize both those in need and those who would reach out to them. The College of Bishops wrote to the mayor and council, urging them to reconsider these bylaws. Twenty-four thousand people – an amazing response! – signed a petition circulated by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

We were glad to see so many Anglicans and others speaking out. And the City of Barrie took a step back. The bylaws have been referred back to city staff for recommendations. But the need for local people to speak up for their neighbours in need is ongoing.

On Monday, residents of Toronto will have the opportunity to choose their next mayor. The city faces a number of critical challenges in the areas of homelessness, housing, affordability, transit, community safety and municipal finance, with climate change posing a growing threat. Our Social Justice & Advocacy Committee has prepared a resource outlining some of the key issues at stake, which you can find here: If you are a resident of Toronto, please take the time to prayerfully consider which candidate would be most able to lead in the direction of greater affordability, neighbourliness, health and resilience. And don’t forget to vote!

Some two and a half millennia ago, the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish exiles living in Babylon to “seek the welfare of the city” where God had sent them, “for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29.7) Today we are reminded of the same principle: when our communities are healthy and the most vulnerable are protected, God is glorified and we all benefit.

Pray for our cities and villages, hamlets and communities. And please remember to encourage our civic leaders in promoting the common good, as we continue to love our neighbours in Jesus’ name.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto