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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *