Linda Robertson and Gordon Lee, co-chairs of the Honouring Our Commitment campaign.

The Honouring Our Commitment campaign arose out of the Diocesan Special Synod held in January 2003. Synod voted unanimously to support the national church’s settlement with the federal government over the aboriginal residential schools litigation. The vote was unanimous and received a standing ovation from synod delegates showing their enthusiastic support for this important campaign.

Our campaign is an important part of a national campaign involving every Anglican diocese and church from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland and Iqualuit. The Diocese of New Westminster’s $1.6 million share of the national settlement of $25 million. As of August, the Anglican Church of Canada has raised $16 million and paid out $6.38 million to claimants.

We began our three-year campaign in the fall of 2003 and it will be completed at the end of 2006. Each parish has been assigned a proportionate share of the Diocesan commitment of $1.6 million. We knew when we began that raising this money would be difficult for some parishes; especially parishes that are struggling financially to keep their doors open. However, we have been astounded by what some of the smaller parishes have accomplished. At last year’s synod we profiled some of the smaller parishes that have run successful campaigns and who may exceed their targets.

Our diocese chose to make this a grass roots campaign where parishes would have an opportunity to learn about an important chapter in Canadian and Anglican history. We believe that the campaign title “Honouring Our Commitment” sends a powerful message about our commitment to healing the pain of our aboriginal neighbours and moving forward in a spirit of reconciliation instead of conflict and litigation.

As Co-chairs, we have visited a number of parishes throughout the diocese and have always been warmly received by the congregations. These visits have made us proud to be Anglicans. At a time when our diocese is under sometimes negative media scrutiny, we believe that this campaign shows our church and our diocese at its best. We are doing Christ’s work in reaching out to the suffering and not hiding behind legal processes or saying that this is someone else’s problem to solve.

We are now half way through our three-year campaign. As of August, we have collected $700,000 or about 43% of our goal of $1.6 million. While some parishes have exceeded their commitments, others have yet to run a campaign. We know that there are a variety of reasons for this including financial challenges like fixing the roof or painting the church; changes in clergy that have stalled campaigns while the hiring search took place; new clergy some of whom have recently come to this diocese and were not here when the campaign began; lack of volunteers to run a campaign or lack of support or understanding around this issue.

In some cases parishioners have concerns about how the federal government is handling this litigation. It is crucial that our parishioners understand that all of the money raised in this national campaign is going directly to pay proven claims of victims of abuse. None of our money is going towards the costs of litigation, arbitration or the investigation of the claims. There is also an important clause in the settlement agreement that states that if another church makes a better settlement with the federal government then we will also benefit from that better settlement.

We are now facing the most important phase in our three-year campaign. This fall, when we run our stewardship campaigns and ask parishioners to make their pledges for next year, will be one of our last opportunities to ask for renewed pledges for the Honouring Our Commitment campaign. We are asking you, as parish leaders, to take an active role in leading the last half of this campaign.

Some of you will need to start your campaign. It’s not too late. There are still 15 months to go before the campaign ends in December 2006. Please move forward to fulfill the commitment that your parish delegates made at the January 2003 Special Synod. Do not leave it to other parishes to raise your share.

For parishes that have run campaigns in previous years, you may need to find new donors to replace parishioners who have left and educate both newcomers and those who have yet to participate about why this campaign is important. It is important to circulate the excellent material prepared by the synod office to all parishioners. Please call the synod office if you need more material.

If you need assistance for fund raising ideas or want a speaker to come to your parish, contact either Sherry Small, our coordinator of First Nations Ministry or the Co-chairs, for assistance. We know that this diocese – always so generous in supporting national outreach causes – can meet our $1.6 million commitment. Please help us in making this happen.