A new organization, Black Anglicans of Canada (Bl.A.C.), has been formed following two years of contemplation, collaboration and prayer to encourage a focus on the needs and the vocational and spiritual direction of Black Anglicans.
Members of the Black community in the Diocese of Toronto have been attending Anglican churches and participating in their work and witness for generations. Since the first Black member entered the doors of an Anglican Church centuries ago, the community has been striving for full inclusion, including as participants in the leadership and decision-making of the Church, while remaining committed to active involvement in Church life.
Our Church exists in a time when secular public discourse offers a commitment to cultural sensitivity, inclusion, reconciliation and postcolonial thought. The Church is an active participant and contributor to this discourse. Its work on reconciliation with our Indigenous siblings is one example.
Over the years, Black Anglicans have discussed formally and informally their participation in Church life. The community’s yearnings became especially focused following the release of the Rev. Dr. Romney Moseley’s report No Longer Strangers (1992). The report strongly encouraged the Anglican Church of Canada “to actively promote an identity which is culturally diverse and inclusive at national, diocesan, and congregational levels, especially with regard to worship and leadership.” It was the foundation of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Multicultural Policy developed in 1992.
Two years later, Mr. Moseley’s work sparked a diocesan multicultural initiative also called “No Longer Strangers.” As part of this initiative, some clergy and parishioners organized themselves into groups to reflect and respond to Mr. Moseley’s challenges to the Anglican Church. In 1995, a group named the Black Anglicans Coordinating Committee was established. Its goals were to advocate on behalf of the Black community, to encourage and support Black clergy and laity in Church ministries, and to foster vocations. The enduring achievement of the Black Anglicans Coordinating Committee is the annual February celebration of Black heritage, now in its 25th year. The Black heritage service gathers Anglicans and members of other communities to St. Paul, Bloor Street during Black History Month to learn, reflect and, most importantly, worshipfully celebrate our rich history.
In 2017, Black clergy and lay leaders in the Diocese of Toronto came together to respond to needs in the Caribbean following hurricanes and tropical storms that devastated many communities. The group organized a service and raised funds needed for rebuilding. Such vision and outreach galvanized the group, providing an opportunity to discuss progress made so far in fuller participation and representation within the Church. There was a sentiment in these discussions that more work was needed, and Black Anglicans of Canada (Bl.A.C.) was formed.
This new organization builds on previous work by serving the needs of Black members of the Anglican Church as they continue their Christian journeys, and by enabling opportunities at all levels within the Church. Bl.A.C. will focus on deepening an understanding of historical and current issues Black Anglicans continue to face. It will work to respond effectively to community needs and concerns.
The organization will also serve as a hub that encourages churches to develop and embrace Afro-Anglican liturgy, music, drama, cultural practices and spoken word inside and outside of worship services. It will organize annual conferences and will seek to support members who feel called to ordained ministry as they begin or continue to participate in leadership or support roles within the Church, or while in seminary.
In the spring, Bishop Andrew Asbil accepted an invitation to meet with the organization. He listened to the concerns raised and shared aspects of his own vision for the diocese. “Bishop Asbil assured the group of his support and offered to meet with the group in the future,” said the Rev. Canon Stephen Fields, who attended the meeting.
This work aims to strengthen our Church family into one that is more inclusive, and reflects and embraces the call of the gospel to create a more just society.