We are living in troubling times that are being played out before us on television, radio and social media. Some of our communities are facing significant social unrest and protests arising out of concern for blatant injustices. These include systemic racism, gender discrimination, disparity between the wealthy and the poor, unjust immigration practices, very poor policing practices in some of our communities and the way Black, Brown and Indigenous people are regarded and treated by our institutions, including the Church.
The evolution of the movement Black Lives Matter over the past seven years must not be regarded as a threat to our communities or as a “terrorist” group, as some in very prominent political positions would want us to believe. Rather, Black Lives Matter is a movement that has attracted not only Black people but many others who genuinely are concerned about the injustices inflicted on Black people in our communities. It is a movement that has determined that the “time is up” and no longer would there be silence in the face of racist behaviour towards people of colour. It is noted that the movement has seen millennials being in the forefront of protests. Many businesses and individuals are endorsing and giving support to the movement.
The concerns shared by our younger generations – equality for all, gender equality, closing the gap between the rich and the poor, climate change, the right to marry whom you love, and removing the barriers posed by systemic racism – challenge us to commit to building communities of hope and justice for all. There is a wind of change taking place that we, as Church, need to be a part of. It is a change that compels us to be silent no more about those who are marginalized and treated unjustly because of the colour of their skin.
We in the Church need to ask ourselves if we are acting consistently with the values of justice and equality that our scriptures and teachings call us to observe. There are many in our communities and churches who are ignorant of what non-White people experience daily. The experiences of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, Black and Brown people, and new immigrants are often heartbreaking and downright appalling and unjust.
White privilege would never allow for a White person to suffer such indignities. Every day, when many people of colour walk out of their front doors, they are viewed with suspicion, simply because of the ebony grace with which they have been blessed. If the Church is to be true to what it claims about its mission and being an agent of transformation, then it is my hope that every Anglican in our diocese will embrace the work that is being implemented around anti-racism, sensitivity training and anti-Black racism. It would require a commitment from all of us to do the hard work in dismantling unjust structures in society and the Church. Andrew, our diocesan bishop, has called for this work to be done and I join him in challenging the clergy and people of the diocese to see this work as integral to God’s mission and the witness we must bear.
As I prepare to transition into retirement, I am filled with gratitude for the many blessings I have received. I do not know that any of us could ever fully express to Almighty God our heartfelt thanks for His infinite love, mercy and goodness. Nor do I believe that any of us can fully express thanks to God for the love, support, encouragement of family, friends, church community and colleagues through the years. Nevertheless, it is with profound gratitude and humility that I offer thanks to God and to the many who have shared in my life and ministry.
While I have met with challenges along the way, which are realities of life, ordained ministry has been a blessing in the midst of joy and sadness, disappointment and encouragement, fear and hope. I have had the honour and privilege of working with dedicated men, women and young people for 45 years of ordained ministry. I will be forever grateful for the many with whom I have journeyed in parish ministry, in diocesan ministry and as area bishop of York-Simcoe. I look forward to retirement in anticipation of what God will invite me to do, just as he has for the 45 years of active ministry. I shared with you in the past that engraved on my Pectoral Cross which I wear as a bishop are the words from Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” I continue to hold to these words in the confidence that God always leads and that we can trust his promise to be with us in whatever we do and wherever we go.
I believe that Jesus is always going before us every day, leading, empowering and enabling us in our daily lives. Let us grasp every opportunity to experience new beginnings in the name of Him who is alive and reigns forever.
I offer Aaron’s blessing: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.