In addition to the important fossil fuel divestment motions passing (see its own great blog post), here are a few other happenings from General Council 42 in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, August 8-14, 2015:
Our New Moderator – Jordan Cantwell
Jordan comes to us from River Bend Presbytery (Saskatchewan Conference), and has been connected to the United Church since the late ‘80s when she became involved with social justice movements. Her range of experience includes chairing her presbytery, being a delegate of the United Church at the World Council of Churches Assembly in South Korea, and being on the leadership team of the Saskatchewan All My Relations Network, among other things. Jordan’s sermon at the closing worship of General Council was on Sabbath economics. I see Jordan’s election as a sign of hope as we move forward, as well as reflecting our deep commitment as a church to our justice work.
New Ties to other denominations
General Council voted in favour of full communion with the United Church of Christ (USA), as well as mutual recognition of ministry agreements with United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PROK). It will be exciting to see how this new direction in interchurch relations enriches our denomination. What a wonderful thing to celebrate!
Justice related motions
In addition to the climate change motions that passed, some of the other motions that passed included: divesting from Goldcorp, calling for action on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and promoting the adoption of a national child well-being index. Another motion that passed was to create a living apology for members of LGBTTQ communities – some kind of creative, story-telling based expression to travel across the country.
Changes to the United Church of Canada (two congregational remits)
The main focus of General Council was looking at a set of proposals that restructure church governance and try to make it nimble enough for future changes. Aspects that passed include a financial commitments to supporting new ministry initiatives and ongoing dialogue with First peoples. Another motion that passed was to further explore whether there is interest in the possibility of an “association of ministers” that could provide collegial support for ministers, while a motion that did not pass was to create a College of Ministers.
Two motions were reworked and will now require a category 3 remit – which is a remit that every congregation must vote on. These were, in general terms, to move from a four court structure (board, presbytery, conference, and General Council) to a three council structure (board, regional council and denominational council and to change how the funding works so that Mission & Service solely funds mission & ministry work, with a congregational assessment to fund governance & administration at the regional & denominational councils.
What does this mean for TSP? Two congregational remits will mean the need for congregational study and discussion on the topics, and successful remits will mean shifts in how we relate to the larger church. The new funding structure should create more transparency and understanding of how church money is spent beyond the congregational level, which will be a good thing. We do not yet know what the assessments would be for our congregation. Some changes could potentially begin earlier than the next General Council, since permission has been given for interested conferences to begin putting these motions into practice.
One Order of Ministry (a third congregational remit)
There was another motion passed that will require a remit going to all congregations, which rethinks how ordination is understood. It recommends that diaconal ministers and DLMs are ordained, rather than creating divisions between ordained ministers, diaconal ministers, and DLMs. There are mixed feelings about these proposals on the part of all three groups, and many consider the chance for continued study in this remit process to be important. Once again, it is another big topic for TSP congregants to discuss and vote on over the next few years. (As an aside, there could have been as many as 5 congregational remits coming out of GC42, so this is not quite as much work as I had thought it could be. I hope all these remits will be opportunities for discussions about how we live out our faith in many different ways.)