The Anglican Church of Canada’s newly named lead animator of public witness for social and ecological justice says he’s looking forward to supporting the church’s social and environmental work on a local level.
“There’s appeal in…getting an opportunity to see the church in other parts of the country, and see what the culture is, and to be a part of supporting local efforts around the country-particularly dioceses that don’t have the kind of resources that somewhere like Toronto has,” says Ryan Weston, who who has served in a similar capacity-social justice and advocacy consultant-at the diocese of Toronto since mid-2014.
Weston will begin his new job March 1. He will be succeeding Henriette Thompson, who stepped down March 31, 2016.
Thompson’s actual title was “director of public witness for social and ecological justice.” Archdeacon Michael Thompson, the national church’s general secretary, says the title was changed to emphasize that the position is not chiefly about coming up with church policies or statements on issues, but rather “encouraging, supporting and resourcing local attention to the church’s public witness.”
Weston says he sees a big part of his job as bringing the voice of the primate on social justice issues “into other pockets of the church, and creat[ing] opportunities for that voice to speak.”
The position has traditionally included work in a range of areas, including the environment, homelessness, peace and Indigenous-non Indigenous reconciliation. Last November, however, the church announced plans to hire a “reconciliation animator,” and Weston will not be directly responsible for reconciliation work, Thompson says.
Weston says his commitment to hear what people have to say will be a key strength he brings to the role.
“One of the things that I hope will be valuable is that I am committed to listening-to getting the lay of the land,” he says. “I think a new person coming in creates opportunity for evaluating what’s working and what’s not…Part of doing that is to be listening, asking the right questions and hearing what the successes and concerns are.”
Weston’s previous jobs included animator for Central Ontario of Development and Peace, an international development agency; and recruitment co-ordinator for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, a Roman Catholic charity. He has also served as an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University and Sheridan College. He completed a PhD at Wilfrid Laurier University, with a thesis on Canadian gospel music.
Both his studies and work, Weston says, have been shaped by his interest in “sacred-secular crossover points”-in answering the question, “how does religion still inform a wider culture even in this sort of secular society, or post-Christian society?”