Amidst the presentations and discussions, Council of General Synod (CoGS) also included a moment of giving when Andy Seal, director of Augsburg Fortress Canada, presented Archbishop Fred Hiltz with a miniature replica of Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz’s widely acclaimed Homeless Jesus sculpture.
In a letter that accompanied the gift, Seal shared a story of how the idea for the sculpture came into being when Schmalz came across a homeless man in Toronto several years ago and was reminded of the parable in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel explaining that anything done for a person in want is done for Christ himself.
The letter spoke appreciatively of the work the primate is doing in drawing attention to homelessness and housing issues in Canada and the world.
Copies of Homeless Jesus can be found in cities around the world. There is one outside of the University of Toronto’s Regis College and another in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, which was recently blessed by Pope Francis. Whatsoever You Do, a similar sculpture by Schmalz depicting Jesus as a panhandler, can be found outside of Toronto’s Anglican Church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields.
The gift comes at a time when homelessness and housing issues have received a good deal of attention in the Anglican Church of Canada. The synod of the diocese of Ottawa recently approved a motion that “affirmed and endorsed” elements of the 2013 Joint Assembly resolution “committing our churches to tackle homelessness and affordable housing.”
The motion requests its diocesan council to explore ways of establishing “a co-ordinated approach and collaborative action plan with respect to homelessness and affordable housing.” It also encourages educating parishes about homelessness and affordable housing and considering these issues “in our stewardship and disposition of church property,” and working with ecumenical and interfaith partners and non-profit organizations in projects and advocacy.
“We are called to respond compassionately through our words and our actions,” said the Rev. Laurette Glasgow, the Anglican Church of Canada’s special advisor for government relations, who moved the motion.