When Christina Yu joined the Archbishop’s Working Group on Intercultural Ministry four years ago, she thought the job of tackling racism in the diocese would be simple and straightforward. “I took it for granted that I only had to tick a certain number of boxes and do X,Y and Z – and poof! – racism would be cured and I could leave the committee.”
She has since learned that’s not the case. “It’s very, very hard and emotionally draining, and it’s uncomfortable and involves a lot of suffering,” she says. “But in the end, to not strive for the kingdom of heaven on earth would be a complete shame.”
Ms. Yu, a member of St. Timothy, Agincourt, is co-chair of the group along with André Lyn, a member of St. Joseph of Nazareth, Bramalea. Together with seven other people in the group, both clergy and lay, they’ve been raising awareness about racism and inequity in the diocese and developing ways to address them. They will be making a presentation at the diocese’s upcoming Synod in November.
In 2015-16, the group held two anti-racism workshops led by Brother Reginald Crenshaw, OHC, and Esther Wesley, coordinator of the national church’s Anglican Healing Fund. The first workshop was attended by about 25 people from the dioceses of Toronto, Niagara and Montreal. Brother Crenshaw and Ms. Wesley also led discussion groups about the histories of black, Chinese and Indigenous people in Canada.
On radar screens
Since 2017, the group has been providing anti-racism training at Momentum, the diocese’s professional development program for newly ordained clergy. Ms. Yu says it’s important that new clergy learn about racism early in their ministry. “It’s a way of putting it on their radar screens, that this is something they have to deal with and it does affect their congregations.”
Last spring, the group attended the White Privilege Conference in Toronto, along with some other people from the diocese. The gathering examined concepts of privilege and oppression and offered solutions and team-building strategies. Ms. Yu found the event inspiring.
“In some ways I was relieved to hear these topics that I have wrestled with more and more as I’ve grown up in the Church and spoken about with frankness and emotional honesty,” she says. “I found it refreshing that even though everyone expressed a lot of passion and, in some cases, anger, at no time did I feel as though it descended into hate. I think the anger was very motivational at boosting each other up and fighting for change.”
She hopes the group’s anti-racism training will become part of other diocesan programs as well, such as Fresh Start, a resource for clergy and congregations in transition. Ideally, she’d like to see the training become mandatory for all clergy, staff, committee chairs and volunteers.
She says the Church needs to start doing this now. “Our worshippers are becoming more diverse but our leadership is not. We can’t ignore the different ways in which structural racism in our Church turns off people who are racialized or makes the Anglican Church an unpalatable choice to them.”
The group’s work is not new. For the past three decades, Anglicans in the diocese have been seeking ways for the Church to embrace others and to be transformed by their diversity. The group was created in 2014 to implement the recommendations contained in the report “Being Multicultural: Becoming Intercultural,” issued by the Ethnic Ministry Consultation Committee in 2011. Prior to that was the report, “Multicultural Mission and Ministry: Recommendations for Multicultural Mission and Ministry in the Diocese of Toronto,” completed in 2002. The diocese also created a staff position to assist with this work.
Afraid to talk
Mr. Lyn, who will be the keynote speaker at the diocese’s Outreach and Advocacy conference on Oct. 27, says inequity in the Church is often the “elephant in the room” that people are afraid to talk about.
He points out that equity is different from equality. “Equality is about sameness; equity is about fairness,” he says. “We know there are disproportionalities and disparities, so the question is, how do we address those from an equity perspective as opposed to an equality perspective?”
He suggests the answer may be to work with specific groups that have experienced inequity due to racism, colonialism or other forms of injustice. “We don’t all start at the same place and have the same resources, so it may require us to single out certain groups and populations and work differently with them to achieve equity. If we’re able to create equity for one group, then all groups will benefit.”
He is hopeful that can be achieved. “If I weren’t, I wouldn’t be a person of faith,” he says. “It may take longer than my lifetime, but I’m hopeful. If we are deliberate and intentional about addressing inequity and not assigning blame, we can do it. It’s about recognizing that it exists and working collectively to address it.”
He says the Church can do that in ways that secular institutions cannot. “We have the opportunity to do it differently because we come from a faith position and we can do it with love, compassion and prayer. Other big institutions don’t have that same kind of opportunity.”
The other members of the group are the Rev. Adrienne Clements of St. Hilary, Cooksville, the Rev. Maurice Francois of Parroquia San Esteban, Toronto, Karen Turner of the Church of the Redeemer, Bloor Street, Lance Wilson, ODT, of St. John the Divine, Scarborough, the Rev. Leonard Leader of St. George on Yonge, Toronto, Bishop Riscylla Shaw, the area bishop of Trent-Durham and the Rev. Susan McKim of Trinity-St. Paul, Port Credit.