In collaboration with the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS) at the University of Victoria (UVIC), the diocese is pleased to continue our collaborative effort of bringing experts to discuss important issues of faith and public life at the intersection of academic and church discourses.
Land, Law, Religion and Reconciliation: A Colloquium will be a dedicated conversation about the issues facing faith communities who hold land and are confronting changing religious and social contexts in Canada. The parts of this two day conversation that will be highlighted are: historical contexts, the shifting role of religion, the legal issues at play both public (e.g. taxes) and private (e.g. donor intention), and the future possibilities for navigating these issues as faith organizations.
The workshop will focus primarily, though not exclusively, on the assets of “mainstream” Christian churches in Canada whose congregations are declining significantly. Our starting point is that, in a rapidly changing social and religious context, faith communities and institutions face new questions about their use of property. The church assets that are the legacy of Canada’s colonial past carry with them possibility and responsibility. Lands and buildings that religious communities once considered essential to communal life look different in the light of a housing crisis, an ageing population, calls for justice for Indigenous peoples, and three years of COVID-19. Innovation and adaptation seem essential for religious institutions to continue to contribute to our society.
As a diocese, we hold a significant number of properties, and attending to the land (and buildings) account for a significant part of our time and work together. We know that as our context continues to shift, we must be faithful in how we understand and make decisions with the gifts we have inherited including our lands and buildings. This event will help inform us as we discern our way forward.
The colloquium will open on Thursday evening with a lecture by David Seljak that Bishop Anna Greenwood-Lee will respond to. The purpose of this session is to provide an overview of the current “spiritual landscape” in Canada, of the various “existential challenges” facing the church (and other religious institutions), and of the relationship between those existential challenges and the use and regulation of religious property.
Friday will highlight some of the various obligations that are present in thinking about land owned by religious communities, and what resources are available to navigate them. Carmen Lansdowne will give a keynote address in the late morning session.
Saturday morning will feature a round table discussion on what possible avenues are available for religious communities to take, considering the complexities of the issues presented in the two days previous. Jason Mckinney will introduce some options from within the Christian tradition for thinking differently about land, and a discussion will follow with a panel made up of conference speakers.
I ask you to hold May 4 to 6 in your calendars and to keep an eye for registration details in the weeks to come.
Thursday, May 4, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Friday, May 5, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 6, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Thursday and Friday: UVic Student Union Building, Upper Lounge
Carmen Lansdowne is a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation and is the moderator of the United Church of Canada. She holds a PhD from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Prior to being elected as moderator, Carmen served as the executive director at First United Church Community Ministry Society in the downtown eastside of Vancouver where she oversaw the development and planning of a $65 million redevelopment of their property which will include 103 non-market rental properties.
David Seljak is professor of Religious Studies and chair of the Department of
Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo. David has published extensively on topics of religion in Canada and will open our colloquium with a contextualizing lecture on the subjects of religion, land, law and reconciliation.
Kathy Chan is associate professor of law at UVIC and current interim director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society. She is an expert on law and religion and co-chairs this year’s John Albert Hall Lectures. She will help guide the conversation around the legal obligations arising from land and religion.
Stanely Martin of Fasken law firm is one of Canada’s foremost legal experts on law and religion and has been involved in more than 20 years in some of the most significant legal cases related to religion and property.
Jason Mckinney is a priest in the diocese of Toronto and incumbent at Epiphany and St Mark, Parkdale. Jason has his PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto and has been an organizer in the Parkdale neighbourhood where he helped bring the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust into being.