The Canadian Council of Churches and us
Rev. Martha Martin and Rev. Paula Gale have left empty chairs around the table at the Canadian Council of Churches’ (CCC) governing board. Nominations are now open to fill their positions. Both United Church ministers came away with some wisdom and advice for the new nominees to the board.
What was the most valuable lesson about ecumenism that you learned from your time on the CCC board?
Rev. Paula Gale, ordained minister serving the Herring Neck (2002-2021) and, currently, Lewisporte pastoral charges, First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council, NL:
“Ecumenism is a lesson in give and take, all while putting Christ at the centre . . . We are stronger together and our working together is essential in today’s world. I will certainly miss the friends I have made at the CCC table and will forever value their perspectives and the wisdom they shared with me.”
Rev. Martha Martin, a recently retired diaconal minister who served at Kingston Road United Church in Toronto from 2018-2023:
“The [most valuable lessons about ecumenism are the] unique challenges and value of ‘forum’ decision-making, which is similar to consensus decision-making, but has clear differences. While it may seem cumbersome at times, and even frustrating on occasion, it has been fascinating to see how the organization is committed to working towards all voices being heard, and understood, and the implications that commitment brings to ecumenical relations. . . I have gained a better understanding of the place of the United Church of Canada in the ecumenical conversation.”
What would you tell a prospective applicant for this position?
Rev. Gale: “I had just finished terms on the General Council Executive and Sub-Executive, as well as the GC Nominations committee; I had a working knowledge to bring to the table of the CCC when speaking for the UCCan . . . You will be called on to speak for the UCCan and to make decisions at the CCC table that are in line with UCCan policy and ethos.”
Rev. Martin: “Be patient with yourself; don’t be afraid to ask questions; do your homework; talk to those who have a history within the organization (both the UCCan and the CCC) to understand the evolution of a particular issue and how it has come to the governing body. Be curious; be prepared to be challenged and to be uncomfortable by some of the theologies represented within the membership. You will make wonderful friends at this table and learn so much from others for the practice of ecumenism in your local context.”
What unique perspective does the United Church bring to an ecumenical body such as the Canadian Council of Churches?
Rev. Gale: “The UCCan has been at the CCC table since the beginning. We are looked to by many for our forward-leading perspectives on many issues (the very same things that often cause others to veer away from us and see us as “radical,” of course), and it is essential that we are a strong voice in the room.”
Rev. Martin: “The UCCan has a long history of being one of, if not the, first religious bodies to have conversations about what I would call ‘issues of the day.’ From the ordination of women, to resisting war, the UCCan has provided theological grounding, and timely responses to community, world events, and societal change. . . I was told informally by one ecumenical colleague at a CCC meeting that his denomination often ‘looks to the United Church’ for leadership and insight when contemplating a particular issue that they hadn’t considered before.”
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