Thea Sheridan-Jonah and Sophie Hubber
Thea Sheridan-Jonah and Sophie Hubber Photo: The United Church of Canada

Common Good, Climate Justice: Highlights from Decision Session 8

The last day of the Decision sessions began with Former Moderator the Very Rev. Lois Wilson sharing her vision of Jesus—human face of God, prophet, and energizer towards the not yet in the now. Lois spoke of Jesus as salvation, understood as wide, spacious, liberated and free, deliverance from all that impedes growth, and authentically one's self.

Thea Sheridan-Jonah and Sophie Hubber shared how the 50 members of Youth Forum (participants and leaders) have prepared for General Council by engaging with guests and one another in a virtual space that has felt like “family.” Throughout August, youth will be engaging in “passion projects” on Climate, Indigenous Justice, Anti-Racism and Inclusion, and 2SLGBTQ+ and Gender Justice—themes emerging from the Strategic Plan. Inspired by Jeremiah 1:7, Sophie spoke about how youth are “not just the church’s future but its present, and here now!”

Council moved into proposals under the theme Common Good. The initial proposal approved by the Council provides greater administrative efficiencies in remits, now possible by annual meetings of General Council (GS07). The Council affirmed the existing basis for calculation and allocation of the denominational assessment in order to provide a simple and predictable amount for pastoral charges to pay and for the broader church to rely on in its budgeting and financial forecasting (GS09). The Council approved a proposal for implementation of a Captive Insurance proposal, potentially benefiting all ministries of the United Church (GCE07). Savings to the United Church communities of faith is anticipated to be 1.5 million per year.

The Council then turned to a proposal related to Deepening Climate Integrity, one of the church’s Strategic Objectives. The Council passed a motion setting a bold new emissions reduction target of an 80% decrease in carbon emissions by 2030. This public commitment is intended to engage the church in common action to address the climate catastrophe, accelerating a 2018 commitment that called for an 80% reduction by 2050. The motion addresses the church’s own emissions, but also calls for education, building community resilience, policy advocacy, and business actions, building on its 2015 disinvestment from fossil fuel investments. Details can be found in the full press release.

The Council returned to a discussion on Designated Lay Ministry (DLM) stemming from an earlier motion on Ministry Leadership (referred to as Part B of GCE06). The Business Table proposed that the General Council Executive be asked to consider this challenging question of the status of DLM’s. A motion was passed to refer this question back to the General Council Executive for further discussion and clarification, returning the proposed resolution to the next annual meeting of the 44th General Council. As an interim measure, regional councils are encouraged to grant a licence to perform the sacraments to retired DLM's who are providing Sunday supply to communities of faith.

Addressing a proposal introduced in June, the Council considered and passed a motion to develop an education program about antisemitism, ensuring the program included advocacy, and animation throughout the church (GS14). 

The Council then passed a motion through which the United Church calls for decriminalization of illicit substances for personal use. As well as advocating with the federal government, the motion enables working towards harm reduction practices across the church, providing resources for local conversations, and pastoral education for ministry personnel, including training on Naloxone administration at each community of faith (SW01). Details can be read in the full press release.

There was significant discussion of a motion related to the recognition of La Table des ministères en français (N:ka03). As practical questions had been raised in small group discussion regarding shifting a network into a structural part of the church, the Facilitation Team had recommended referral to the General Secretary to confirm a way forward, making use of the discussion notes. While some urged passage of the original proposal, a motion to refer to the General Secretary was carried.

Watch the Decision Session 8 recording on YouTube.