Skip To Content
From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

Fire. We are all talking about fire right now, specifically the forest fires across our country that are producing such vast quantities of smoke that our air quality, over thousands of kilometers, is impacting daily life for millions. With the situation affecting even our neighbours in the most populous parts of the U.S., the fires are getting international attention. We must pray for our firefighters, pray for rain, pray for an end to climate injustice. Our planet is burning up, and we are all paying the price.

A different fire was lit just last week that I have been reflecting on, however. It was the sacred fire, kindled with ceremony and then tended over multiple days with great care, at the Sacred Circle, the eleventh such gathering of Indigenous Anglicans that took place from May 28 to June 1 in our own Diocese near Orillia. Unlike the destructive, life-threatening fires on the news that are compromising our health, this sacred fire was a symbol of life, healing and new beginnings. As Indigenous, Inuit and Metis peoples from across Turtle Island and their guests from around the world gathered in Orillia, there was a spirit of unity, purpose and courage that started with the gathering around that lit fire.

I was present on the Monday morning for the beautiful and diversely attended service of celebration to welcome our new National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop, the Most Rev. Chris Harper. Archbishop Chris is no stranger to us, as he served as our Indigenous Priest from 2016 to 2018, an integral part of the Diocese of Toronto family. It is a privilege to know him so well, and we will continue to pray for him, his family, his ministry and his faith journey, as he walks with the peoples of the land and with this Anglican Church.

Bishop Riscylla Shaw was present for most of Sacred Circle and heard Maori greetings brought from our visitors from Aotearoa (New Zealand): Archbishop Don Tamihere, his brother Archdeacon Michael, Archdeacon Hirini Kaa and others who came in solidarity and support for our Indigenous ministries. We also welcomed Archbishop Marinez, Primate of Brazil and Bishop of the Diocese of Amazonia, who brought her greetings and support, sharing the challenges of the Indigenous peoples of South America. The sacred fire invites us all to draw closer, to share our stories with each other, to warm ourselves in its comfort and light.

During the week, between the sacred fire being lit until it was put out on Thursday evening, teachings were offered, and the fire was cherished as a centering place for prayer, gathering, storytelling, songs and fellowship for the whole of Sacred Circle.

The Covenant and Our Way of Life was discussed and ratified, in a sign of consensus and community building, with visitors invited to sign as international witnesses. This action builds momentum towards our being together at Assembly (General Synod) in Calgary from June 27 to July 2, where we will be presented with this good work that is progress in the journey towards Indigenous self-determination within the Anglican Church of Canada.

June 21 is National Indigenous Day, and we are all invited and encouraged to pray for Indigenous peoples, to celebrate and give thanks for their witness and teachings, to pray for the protection and promotion of their languages, cultures and ceremonies, and to work for healing and a new understanding between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples who inhabit this land. There are resources available on our website, and I strongly urge all of the parishes in the Diocese to keep either Sunday, June 18 or Sunday, June 25 as a time for liturgical recognition of National Indigenous Day.

At the opening plenary session of Sacred Circle, Archbishop Chris said, “In the Diocese of Saskatchewan among the Plains Cree, we use the word mamawi – walking together… doing things together, ecumenically with all our partners, across Canada… partnering with us, walking with us, striving to learn and understand and rejoice with us in our celebrations, and to mourn with us in those findings and the reality that we now live in.”

In that spirit of unity, let us all join in that walk together, set aflame with the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit, as we seek to make all things new, through our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto