The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto and numerous prominent Torontonians are voicing their support for Brent Hawkes after the pastor was charged with a sexual crime.
Hawkes, who has been senior pastor of the MCC in Toronto since 1977, has been charged with indecent assault and gross indecency. The charges, which are no longer in the Criminal Code, were crimes at the time of the allegations. The alleged victim was a minor at the time of the allegations, from 1974 to 1975 in Nova Scotia.
Hawkes has denied the charges.
Anne Brayley, the chair of the board for MCC Toronto, tells Daily Xtra that there will be no changes at the church.
“Brent is a man of high integrity. He’s a trusted and cherished leader, has led this church for 38 years. And we support him fully,” she says.
She notes that nothing has been proven in court and that the board does not have many details about the allegations at this time.
Brayley says that the church will not be taking any additional precautions around Hawkes and minors while the charges are pending.
“At the moment, business as usual,” she says.
When asked if supporting someone accused of a sexual crime could send a harmful message to survivors, Brayley declined to answer. Instead, she states that Hawkes is a man of high integrity who loves his congregation.
“People see him everyday, see his integrity, see his caring, see his compassion,” she says. “And our support is based on that.”
Brayley adds that she’s heartened by the public support for Hawkes that has been streaming in since the charges were made public.
“The outpouring of support has been absolutely incredible, it’s not surprising,” she says. “This is the Brent that has been in the public eye for 38 years, supporting human rights, social justice, inclusion and progressive Christianity. So it’s a wonderful outpouring of support.”
A number of public figures have expressed their support for Hawkes both on social media and in statements to Daily Xtra.
Bob Rae, former Ontario premier: “Brent Hawkes has been a friend and inspiration to thousand of people, and that includes us — stay strong Brent and John, we’re with you.” (Twitter)
Craig Scott, former NDP MP for Toronto-Danforth: “I do not have to know the accuser to know that I believe Brent Hawkes to be innocent, because I believe Brent.” (Facebook)
Susan Mabey, gay rights advocate and former minister at Christos: “My support is with him. I was very devastated when I heard the news. The charges certainly don’t fit with the man I’ve known all these years.” (Phone interview with Daily Xtra)
Maurice Tomlinson, lawyer and LGBT activist: “I find these allegations shocking. They also don’t align with the Brent Hawkes that I know. I can only echo what many others have said, which is that even if these allegations are proven false Brent’s work for the LGBTI community in Canada and globally will be negatively impacted.” (Facebook)
Clayton Ruby, prominent civil rights lawyer representing Hawkes : “I have known Brent for more than a quarter century. I believe him, completely, when he tells me these accusations are false and that these events did not happen.” (Statement on MCC website)