The church has a "moral obligation" to speak out for the poor and downtrodden, says Archbishop Fred Hiltz in an interview with CBC Toronto's Metro Morning radio show. Photo: Art Babych
With Christmas approaching, Archbishop Fred Hiltz today urged Anglicans, via a CBC radio interview, to think about the poor and disadvantaged, saying the church “must be in the world and for the world” as Jesus Christ was.
In the gospels, “we see quite clearly that he [Jesus] cared as much for people’s physical well-being as their spiritual well-being,” Hiltz said when asked by CBC Toronto Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway about why he’s asking Anglicans to become stronger advocates for social justice. “The church has a moral obligation, rooted in the gospel and in the teaching of the prophets long before Jesus. We have a moral obligation…to speak up for those who are disadvantaged, for the poor and for the downtrodden.”
The primate was also asked about fredsays.ca, the three-year campaign he has launched with the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) to raise awareness about food security issues.
Hiltz noted that eliminating extreme hunger and poverty was one of the UN Millennium goals (to which Anglicans worldwide have been asking their governments to demonstrate commitment).
“My reality is that I’ve already eaten this morning and I’m going to eat again today. I’m going to be able to choose what I eat. I’m probably going to see food wasted,” said Hiltz. “The reality for many other people in the world is that they’re going to be hungry today.” Particularly vulnerable are women—“mothers who will not eat so that their children can”—people in war zones and environmentally displaced refugees now unable to till their land because of climate change, he said.
Asked whether it was hard for the church to have moral authority because of incidents in the past, including its involvement with Indian residential schools, Hiltz said these events have, in fact, forced the church to take stock of its failures and direction. “This current crisis that we’ve come through has called us back to the gospel: who are we? What are we supposed to be about if we claim Christ as the Lord?” he said. “These painful experiences that we have found ourselves in relation to residential schools have made us realize that there are times when the church has to acknowledge its own failures and to say, ‘We’re sorry,’ and to accompany any words of action that can really move us into a different place…”
The primate also acknowledged that churches have not been as vocal as they could in terms of speaking out because they have been “consumed with their own internal life,” including issues of survival, given decreased membership and diminishing resources. “There’s also the political context which we find ourselves in,” he added. “We’re at a time now when churches are making huge efforts to reach out and not just be an institution in society that reacts to government policies [but one that] partners with agencies…in such a way that we’re having a hand in the shaping of policies that are just for everyone.”
The church stands at the threshold of convincing people of faith to “get out there and be the church in the world, to make a difference…to really see ourselves as the servant of God’s mission of compassion and reconciliation and peace in the world," he added.
Listen to the interview here.
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Marites N. Sison is editor of the Anglican Journal.
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