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St. John’s and the Road to the Pride Parade

This Sunday is Pride Sunday at St. John’s. For most of the past 20

years, members of St. John’s have participated in the Pride Parade

through the streets of downtown Toronto, joining with members of other

congregations as “Proud Anglicans.”

Toronto’s Pride Week, capped off by the Pride Parade, evolved out of the

mass protests that followed the Toronto bathhouse raids of 1981. St.

John’s involvement in the Pride Parade grew out of efforts within the

congregation during the early 2000s to build on efforts towards the

broader inclusion of all types of people, with a particular focus on the

LGBT community.

As was recounted by Sheila Crummey in a St. John’s newsletter article in

June 2023, this effort was driven by several members of the

congregation, based on personal or family experience, and by objection

to the clear historical injustice of non-inclusion of people by most

religions, including the Anglican Church, who happen to be involved in

non-heterosexual relationships. Read Sheila’s article here,

At St. John’s, this initiative was led by Rev. Gary van der Meer, who

served as incumbent from 2001 to 2011, and who rose to ordination and

his position at St. John’s as a closeted gay man, based on a church

policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As he recounted in an interview

recorded last May, Gary didn’t stay in the closet very long at St.

John’s. Watch the interview with Gary via,

During the 2002-04 period, LGBT inclusion, focused on discussions around

the issue of St. John’s performing same-sex blessings, led to a special

Vestry motion in February 2004. The motion passed easily, but it was

controversial for some parishioners and proved to be a factor in their

leaving St. John’s. However, as Gary emphasized in the 2004 Vestry

Report a year later, “but by my calculation, those of you who arrived

after our decision (and stayed because of our decision) outnumber those

who left! I know that it wasn’t about numbers, it was about justice.”

Read the 2004 Vestry Report via,

Over the subsequent 20 years, thanks in part to St. John’s pioneering

leadership with the issue, the idea of, and practice of, same-sex

blessings in the Anglican Church, and then same-sex marriages, became

less controversial, as did St. John’s members attending Pride Parades,

the biggest of which was when Toronto hosted World Pride in 2014.

Below is a selection of photos taken by St. John’s members during

several past Pride Parades, 2007, 2010 and 2017.

Click on the image below to go to the photo gallery

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