The 43rd General Synod has directed Council of General Synod (CoGS)—in consultation with the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP)—to establish a permanent national advisory council on dismantling racism.
General Synod passed Resolution A200-R3 on July 1 to form the advisory council—one of four resolutions on dismantling racism passed at the gathering. Together, these resolutions marked the culmination of three years’ work by the dismantling racism task force, established in June 2020.
The council’s mandate, as stated in the resolution, is to “conduct an initial and ongoing review of church structures, culture, policies, and practices pertaining to racism and anti-racism” and to “develop and implement a national action plan to move from promoting diversity to living out full inclusion, equity, and belonging at all levels of the church (in both membership and leadership).”
A200-R3 also directs CoGS to ensure membership of the council reflects communities of the church most impacted by racism—in particular Black and Indigenous persons and people of colour—and those with experience in anti-racism ministry and leadership. CoGS is further tasked with striving for balance in geographic, gender, ethnocultural background and lay and clergy representation and setting out “appropriate supportive roles for White/Settler allies” on the advisory council.
Brittany Hudson, a member of the Dismantling Racism Task Force appointed as a representative of Black Anglicans of Canada, spoke to General Synod about the work of the task force and its various motions, including the need for an advisory council.
“We were called to be a task force that was looking at [dismantling racism] for about three years,” said Hudson, an Afro- and Indo-Caribbean community developer who has served as youth pastor at St. Olave’s Anglican Church in Toronto and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in theological studies at Wycliffe College.
“While we did the best that we could, racism has deep roots within our country, within our world … It’s vital that if we’re going to be doing this work and we want this work to actually have deep roots within our church that we need to have an advisory [council] that is doing this work,” Hudson added.
Resolution A201-R1 also includes a request that CoGS look into the creation of a new full-time national staff position to oversee anti-racism work at the national and diocesan levels.
“One thing that came across within our committee was that we were all volunteer,” said Hudson, who uses they/them pronouns. “While we’re all experts within our various focuses and while we were committed to it, it is a burden and it is extra work that comes on our backs.”
“That’s a consistent theme for racialized folks,” they added. “We tend to have to fight and to push things forward on a volunteer basis and that creates [an] extra burden for us. So it’s really vital if we want this work to be successful and we want to actually create change within our church that … we pay someone that’s focusing on this, that is looking at our structures, that is actively doing programming and support across the country.”
Resolution A200-R3 further stipulates that whenever possible, ecumenical and full communion partners should be involved in all anti-racism work.
During the June 28 discussion on the original version of the resolution, A200, the Rev. Vincent Solomon, representative of ACIP to General Synod, questioned the text for putting Indigenous people “into the same category as other peoples.”
“We are one of the founding members, founding nations of this country … We are not just another [people] of colour,” Solomon said, adding, “The issues of Black people are not our issues as well, although the racism part is. And I’m very glad that this [work] is going on… But leave us alone to do our own work.”
General Synod subsequently voted on and passed a resolution to postpone General Synod’s discussion on A200, to allow for consultation within the Indigenous community.
The next day, the Rev. Murray Still, representative of ACIP to General Synod, moved an amendment that specified CoGS would work in close consultation with ACIP to establish the National Advisory Council on Dismantling Racism, which carried. General Synod subsequently passed the amended resolution, now designated A200-R3.
Dismantling racism in faith formation was another focus for the 43rd General Synod, which concluded July 2. Members passed Resolution A201-R1, which directed the faith, worship, and ministry (FWM) coordinating committee and the national advisory council on dismantling racism to work with Anglican-affiliated seminaries and theological programs to “develop a process or framework to examine and support the further development of anti-racism curricula in theological education across the Church.”
Seminary is “not always a pleasant experience for folks who are racialized within those walls,” Hudson said.
“What gets valued within our spaces?” they asked. “What music is valued? What teachings are valued? Who gets to speak? What’s our preaching style? And how do we actually get to delve into the Word? These are things that might seem minuscule, but they’re vital, because we need to be able to see ourselves. Everyone should be able to see themselves within the Scripture, within our liturgies … If we start from the folks that we’re training to be leaders, then we’re creating the environment that when we get into our local parishes … there’s a foundation for how we lead.”
A201-R1 also directed the national advisory council to compile anti-racism resources for use in other faith formation contexts such as Sunday schools, lay training programs and youth ministry—ensuring, Hudson said, that each is “a place where youth and children and their educators are well-equipped to create an environment within our churches, within our local parishes, that are inclusive, spaces where Black and brown kids can see themselves.”
Referring to the apology for spiritual harm by former primate Fred Hiltz at General Synod 2019, the resolution as passed included an amendment directing the FWM coordinating committee and national advisory council to “address inclusion of traditional Indigenous spiritual practices and liturgical expressions across the Anglican Church of Canada.”
Engaging with historical realities of racism
An additional resolution on dismantling racism was split in two, Resolution A202 and Resolution A202A. Both carried.
Resolution A202 affirmed General Synod’s commitment to Call to Action No. 59 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. That call urged church parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, including the Anglican Church of Canada, to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure their congregations “learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.”
To that end, Resolution A202 directs all General Synod ministries “to engage with the full historical realities of the Anglican Church’s involvement” in residential schools. It encourages all dioceses across Canada to do likewise and to “take steps towards addressing the continuing impacts of these practices.”
Resolution A202A, meanwhile, directs all General Synod ministries to engage with the church’s involvement in slavery and other forms of racial injustice—but also its historical work in striving to dismantle racism. It gives the same directions to all dioceses across Canada in this regard as A202.