Apology to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two Spirit, Plus Community in the Diocese of Toronto from Bishop Andrew Asbil

Bishop Andrew Asbil apologized to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirit Plus community in the Diocese of Toronto on June 25 at St. James Cathedral. Here is the text of the apology. The apology can also be viewed on the Diocese’s YouTube channel.

Preface

You are home, this is your home. You are sisters, brothers and siblings in Christ, fully in this community.

I spoke these words to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, 2 Spirit, Plus community in 2019, in the context of my charge to synod. My words were meant to give comfort and reassurance in the wake of the decision by General Synod 2019 to not amend the Marriage Canon. My words were meant to be heard by the whole diocese calling us to systemic change – the full inclusion of LGBTQ2S+ people in our common life.

You are home, this is your home. You are sisters, brothers and siblings in Christ, fully in this community.

I needed to say those words, because they are words that the queer community wanted to hear clearly spoken. The Church has not been a safe home for our queer community. For too long we have failed to listen and to believe the experiences of our faithful siblings. We have too often been quick to judge, to dismiss, to marginalize and sometimes to condemn. And sometimes we have chosen to be silent in the face of the suffering of our queer lay members, clergy, their families and friends, further deepening wounds of exclusion.

On Pentecost 2020, the Diocese of Toronto released the Marriage Policy that permits all clergy, if they choose, to marry LGBTQ2S+ couples. And, requires that all members of the clergy and the laity shall treat with respect the diversity of views about the theology of marriage held within the Diocese, as described in the document.

Words of welcome and inclusion, and written policies that support them, are critically important, but there are other words that need to be said.

In the hope of acknowledging the past, bringing healing in the present, and paving a path home for queer members, I offer these words of apology, regret and repentance, to our queer siblings in Christ, in the Diocese of Toronto.

Apology and Call to Action

As your Bishop, I apologize for the times and ways that we have failed to honour and cherish you, beloved children of God, made in the image of our Creator, redeemed by the love of our Saviour and embraced by the Holy Spirit.

I apologize for the teachings, words and actions that indicated that you are unwelcome, that you stand outside the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ and that you are unworthy to serve fully as members of the Body of Christ because of your sexual identity and orientation.

I apologize for the teachings, words and actions that have diminished your humanity, sexuality and identity and perpetuated the sins of homophobia and transphobia in the Church.

I apologize for the teachings, words and actions that marginalised queer members, many of whom have left the Anglican Church. I am sorry for the hurt inflicted on you and your families and friends who have also suffered. Deeper still, I am sorry for queer people who fell into despair and depression or chose to end their lives by suicide because we failed to support them with love and acceptance.

I apologize for the times that we have been silent in the face of homophobic/transphobic comments, slurs and whispers that created a culture of aggression and oppression further injuring you.

I apologize for the times when you were not treated with dignity, as full members of the Body of Christ, in worship, in parish life, at diocesan gatherings and in the councils of the church.

I apologize that so many of our queer clergy needed to conceal their sexual orientation or sexual identity out of fear of being outed or disciplined. I am sorry for those who lost their God-given vocation or opportunities for holding offices because of their sexual identity and orientation.

I apologize for our failure to support, to uphold and to honour our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and Two-Spirit Siblings in Christ – by what we have done and by what we have left undone. In all of these ways – we were wrong.

I offer this apology with humility and turn to God in lament and sorrow. I pray for the healing of those who have been hurt, the healing of the church, and my own healing, and I look for the promise of new life in Christ.

As the Body of Christ, we strive to build communities of compassion and love, to be agents of reconciliation and justice in the name of Jesus. We are summoned to live out the covenant of our baptism which asks in part,

Will you seek to serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I declare to you now, as Bishop of Toronto, that Homophobia and Transphobia will not to be tolerated in the Diocese of Toronto.

I declare to you now, as Bishop of Toronto, that diversity training for all clergy and ordinands will include anti-phobia material.

I declare to you now, as Bishop of Toronto, that all queer clergy and lay leaders will be respected, their dignity upheld, and given equal opportunity for leadership in the mission and ministry of the Diocese.

I call upon the Anglican Diocese of Toronto to repent and turn from the ways we have mistreated our queer members and to seek reconciliation and healing.

I call upon the Church to reach out to those who have been marginalized by teachings, words, and actions that have inflicted wounds and hurt, and to offer words of remorse in sincerity and truth.

I call upon the Church to educate itself about the lives, contributions and giftedness of our queer siblings and to celebrate their presence in our midst and the depth of their faithfulness.

Our Diocese will seek to partner with other affirming churches and organizations who have walked this path in their communities, so that we can learn from them how to reflect back to society our commitment to being an affirming church. And I look forward to celebrating with you in liturgy that we are one family, together at home.

I stand before you to invite you to join me on a journey towards reconciliation, justice, healing and equity. A journey towards becoming whole, towards being the people of God.

I offer these words today with sincerity and humility, in the name of God who created us, Jesus Christ who redeems us, and the Holy Spirit, who empowers me to say again:

You are home, this is your home. You are sisters, brothers and siblings in Christ, fully in this community.

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto

Throughout this apology and call to action, the acronym LGBTQ2S+ is used in conjunction with the word “queer”. For many, using the word “queer” may be a painful reminder of being diminished or maligned. On the other hand, I have been told that reclaiming and redeeming of the word in the past two decades has proven empowering for many, and especially in the younger demographic. “Queer” is one of the most inclusive terms one can use to describe the amazing breadth of the community. While LGBTQ2S+ specifically identifies Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Two-Spirit, the term “queer” is far broader. It includes but is not limited to all of those who identify with the letters in the acronym above, but also includes those who identify as non-binary, pansexual, allies and more. It is in the spirit of inclusion that I use both terms.

Introducing… Tulip!

It’s been a tough year for Vince and myself without our beloved Sophie, but the fates have now smiled on us 🙂

A Little Backstory

This past year I’ve had my name on well over 30 different Ontario dog breeder wait-lists for a puppy. Last week I received an unexpected email from Karen Anderson of Royal Frenchies, one of the many kennels where we’d been on a puppy wait-list (we were originally the 26th family on the waitlist and it would be an estimated 2 years before there would be a pup available.). Karen asked if we might be interested in a grown, 2-year old dog, rather than a puppy, which they had in their kennel. Royal Frenchies had imported this girl from The Netherlands for breeding in their kennel, but it turns out that the dog is infertile and unable to conceive – not a desirable situation when your business is breeding and raising French Bulldogs! What was the kennel’s loss, was our gain…. of course we said YES!!

Enter into our lives and home the beautiful Tulip, a red fawn French Bulldog. Her Dutch kennel name is Thyra (pronounced Tier-rah, with a strong roll on the letter r), but the breeders called her Tulip – much easier to pronounce and remember. We may shorten this to Tuli (too-lee) but the jury is still out on that one. Anyway, here she is!!:

This is Tulip’s bio from the Royal Frenchies website before they became aware she had a hormonal issue and couldn’t conceive.

Settling In

Tulip just came to us this past Wednesday, and some of you have already met her. She is still settling in, but so far she’s very comfortable here. Tulip’s a lovely, calm, independent girl who loves attention…. she’s come to the right household! She’s a perfect fit and we just love her to pieces:

Sophie will always be our Number 1 girl, but we are so happy and fortunate Tulip came to us. We will give her the best life any dog could ask for. Fingers crossed for many happy years ahead!

Remembering Sophie

Dearest Sophie: it’s been a year today since we had to say goodbye. We love and miss you so much, more than I’m capable of putting into words. You were wonderful and special, and will never be forgotten. Never.

We’ll meet you under the Rainbow Bridge someday, but until then you’re always in our hearts.

Today’s PhotoWalk

It was a beautiful day today, so naturally I went for a photowalk with my trusty camera. I wandered down to the Esplanade then back, capturing the city on a Saturday afternoon. Here’s a few shots from earlier today:

Toronto Pride 2021

Well, here we are. One year later and still no physical Pride events, here or elsewhere for that matter, thanks to COVID-19 and the state of the world these days <boo, hiss….>.

Regardless, I’ve been thinking about how I could mark this year’s non-event. I could pout and rage (which I feel like doing), but it would be more productive and positive to put together some little tribute to Pride and celebrate in my own way. (By the way, if you’d like to see my Pride retrospective from last year, you can check it out here.)

Rainbow Flag Raising at City Hall

On June 1st this year, the City of Toronto proclaimed Pride Month and raised the Rainbow and Transgender flags at City Hall. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s ceremony was pre-recorded and held virtually. In the video below, Mayor John Tory is joined by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Toronto Centre), Grant Gonzales and Yuri Hernandez from Pride Toronto’s Board of Directors, and Pride Toronto Executive Director Sherwin Modeste. They share messages of solidarity and reflect on milestones being marked this year by Toronto’s 2SLGBTQ+ community, including the 40th anniversary of Pride Toronto and the 30th anniversary of the City proclaiming Pride Day.

YouTube Livestream Virtual Parade

On Sunday, June 27, 2021 from 2:00-3:00PM, there will a live “Virtual Pride Parade”. Personally, I can’t imagine it, but if interested, it can be found here. Myself, I’m waiting for the real thing next year.

Toronto Pride: Looking Back Once More

So after touching on a couple of things from our current, grotesquely hobbled Pride (and no, I won’t go off on my usual rant), I’ll go back in time as I’m wont to do, to Toronto Pride weekends of the past. Specifically, I thought I’d reminisce a bit about those wonderful GCDC (Gay Community Dance Committee) dances at The Masonic Temple, aka The Concert Hall, at 888 Yonge Street (corner of Yonge and Davenport).

Those dances were great. From roughly 1981 until 1992, they went from 9:00 PM to 5:00AM; there weren’t that many after-hours gay clubs at the time, so it felt slightly radical to be able to dance almost until dawn. There was a major GCDC dance event (and they truly were Events with a capital E) at least a couple of times a year, and the Toronto Pride GCDC dances, especially, were the highlight of the year. The GCDC dances eventually attracted up to 2,000 party-minded people, raking in up to $10,000 each time. As I understand it, the money was split among community groups who gave back to the gay community.

The Masonic Temple in its remodelled form. I took this shot during Toronto’s Doors Open event, May 2015. Sadly, the former Temple/Hall has been converted into office spaces for trendoid companies.

Gay Liberation on the Dance Floor

Our gay community was quite different at the time; it wasn’t the diverse cultural melting pot we see on Church Street today. Even so, the dances were incredible as they brought together so many segments of our community at the same time. Those dance parties were galvanizing, unifying and liberating: they consisted of gay men and lesbians who simply wanted – and loved – to come together to dance.

The dances were apolitical and simply all about fun, dancing and good times, yet they also helped shape Toronto’s gay and lesbian community into what we enjoy today. At the Masonic Hall/Temple, men had the main floor of the Hall, which was massive (I well remember the towering speakers, pulsing lights and lasers), and the lesbians had their own DJs, bar and party in the lower level. There was, and still is, a second floor balcony where you could climb up to get out of the mass of people, and just observe the goings-on on the dance floor below:

A small segment of the upper balcony in the Masonic Temple, May 2015. Massively remodelled for the current office tenants.

The music at those GCDC dances was great. Personally I’ll never forget sweating to Jimmy Somerville’s cover of Never Can Say Goodbye at more than a couple of the events. Here’s a sound sampler on Mixcloud from the November 1, 1986 GCDC Dance at the Masonic Temple, themed I Never Touched The Witch:

As an aside, Mixcloud is a great site if you want to hear what was actually being played in Toronto’s gay clubs at the time. On the Mixcloud page above, there’s two October 14, 1995 sets by DJ Allan Kaufman at Club Colby’s (formerly Katrina’s), and a June 1983 set by DJ Greg Howlett at Club Mystique (after-hours club behind the Manatee on Phipps Street). Oh, I do remember dancing in those clubs back in the day <heaves heavy sigh>… but I digress…

I still remember so well, sadly, when the GCDC dances came to an end once and for all. Appropriately themed The Last Dance, the Masonic Hall played host one last time to the very last GCDC dance at Pride, June 1992. And, of course, I shouldn’t have to tell you what the very last song on the setlist was that night: queue Miss Donna and Last Dance:

GCDC’s Last Dance souvenir T-Shirt

I’ll never forget walking back home at 4:30 in the morning after The Last Dance, up Park Road to our place on Huntley Street, my mind and body still electrified and energized by 6 hours of 130 beats per minute. I remember having a bittersweet mixture of afterglow from the great party combined with the knowledge that a GCDC dance would never happen again.

This weekend I have again proudly hung my Rainbow Flags on the balcony, and will try to get in to the spirit of things. I can’t help looking ahead to next year, though, when things should get back to relative normality. If that’s the case, we’ll have a Pride unlike any other… it will be a hell of a party. Until then, I remain waiting in anticipation… 🙂

Happy Pride, Toronto!!

Essential Lyrics #3: Stamp Your Feet

Here’s the third installment in a series of posts on song lyrics that have lifted or inspired me. This one’s from a true musical veteran – Miss Donna Summer:

Stamp Your Feet

S-T-A-M-P Stampin’ on the ground
S-T-A-M-P Stampin’ on the ground
S-T-A-M-P Stampin’ on the ground
S-T-A-M-P Stampin’ on the ground

Woah, yeah

I’ve been round so many times before
Broke my back, been split open so oft
Tried to make it to the finish line
Been knocked down, get up every single time
They’re up in your face, they don’t think you belong
Man, you got it, you got it goin’ on
What breaks the weak just makes you strong
You got game, baby bring it on, bring it on

I said stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud, make the biggest sound
You ain’t goin’,
Stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud
You ain’t going, you ain’t goin’ down
Stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud, make the biggest sound
You ain’t goin’,
Stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud
You ain’t goin’, you ain’t goin’ down

Rain comes in every player’s life
Gotta stay in the game, not on the sidelines
Gotta throw down, you gotta stand and fight
Keep your eye on the prize, don’t get caught up in strife
Go, go for the shot boy, make that play just right
Braggin’ about your swag won’t get you through the night

I said stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud, make the biggest sound
You ain’t goin’,
Stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud
You ain’t going, you ain’t goin’ down
Stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud, make the biggest sound
You ain’t goin’,
Stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud
You ain’t goin’, you ain’t goin’ down

S-T-A-M-P You got game
S-T-A-M-P You got fame
S-T-A-M-P You got name
S-T-A-M-P Do that thang
We ain’t going down, oh no!
Make me proud! Stand up and fight!

I said stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud, make the biggest sound
You ain’t goin’,
Stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud
You ain’t going, you ain’t goin’ down
Stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud, make the biggest sound
You ain’t goin’,
Stamp your feet on the ground
Make it really loud
You ain’t goin’, you ain’t goin’ down

Stamp your feet, stamp your feet
Stamp your feet, stamp your feet

S-T-A-M-P! No, no, no, we ain’t goin’ down
S-T-A-M-P! No, no, no, we ain’t goin’ down
Right till the ending, we’ll make it through life
Better stamp your feet on the,
Stamp your feet on the ground

Songwriters: Danielle Brisbois / Greg Kurstin / Donna Summer
Stamp Your Feet lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Day Trip To Wards Island

As part of my stay-cation this week I took a day trip across the lake to the Toronto Islands – Wards Island to be exact. For some time I’ve wanted to photograph the quirky little cottages in all their splendor. When I arrived I was not disappointed; there was plenty to work with. Here are a few of today’s shots:

Wards Island

Happy Victoria Day!

Here’s some reasons to be glad we’re Canadian on this most uniquely Canadian long weekend.

Pictures That Perfectly Sum Up Canada And Its People

Canadian Police Clash With Citizens
Police In Montreal Protest A Labor Dispute By Not Wearing Their Work Pants
Christmas In Canada Is Sometimes Difficult
Canadians Are Notorious For Being Kind
Honest Commuters: Attendants Were Missing And The Automatic Gates Were Broken – This Is The Result!
Police Officer Stops To Buy A Drink From A Little Girl At A Lemonade Stand In Kenora, Ontario
Canadian Victims Of Theft
Canadian Police On The Job
Everything About This Says “Canada”
The Reason Why My Package Wasn’t dropped Off At My Door
This Moose Literally Followed Me Home
Most Canadian Thing Ever
Another Typical Sign
In Canada, Sometimes Even The Robbers Are Polite
And Meanwhile, In Canada…
Quite Possibly The Most Canadian Picture Ever Taken
Friendly warning
A Beaver On His Way To Assassinate Someone
And Lastly, In Canada…

HAPPY VICTORIA DAY, CANADA!!!