Diverse, Bold, and Brave: Highlights from Decision Session 2
GC44 Decision sessions continued on July 22 with a teaching from Honoured Elder the Rev. Elenor Thompson. The Rev. Thompson reminded the Council that as nature is varied and diverse, the church is also “beautiful and strong because of our diversity.” She urged us to journey together, beside one another, not in front of, or behind. She spoke of a “united” church, not a unifying or uniform church, where we share the table with equity.
The Council also heard from Albertine Chokoté Naoué Tchoulack and Steven Johann from the Equity Team. Highlighting some of the supports to equity, such as interpretation and translation, they encouraged Commissioners to consider why they are speaking or not speaking. They particularly encouraged voices that may have been silenced or devalued to make use of resources, and “to listen, pray, search yourself, be open, and find energy to speak when the Spirit calls.”
Council received accountability reports from both the General Secretary and the Moderator. General Secretary the Rev. Michael Blair highlighted a series of issues before the church as we seek to live into the newly developed strategic plan. These include concern about the long-term impact of COVID-19; the commitment to make processes nimble, flexible, and transformative; the precariousness of the church (including financial sustainability and leadership strain); an invitation to be bold and brave; succession planning with an aging demographic; living authentically into right relations with Indigenous church and peoples; benefiting from technological advances; and strengthening the church’s capacity to speak beyond ourselves to the broader community.
The Rev. Blair flagged a particular dilemma, in a high-inflation environment, at the current policy of setting the annual Cost of Living Adjustment for ministry personnel and staff on the increase in annualized consumer price index (CPI) with a one-year lag. Resolution of this question potentially stresses different parts of the body of Christ that is the church, and yet we hold pastoral concern for all parts of who we are. The Rev. Blair invites wisdom on this question and the minimum travel reimbursement to be sent to email@example.com.
The Rev. Blair concluded his comments by highlighting the senior staff team—regional and national—and expressing gratitude for the privilege of service, including with the General Council Executive and current Moderator. Comments in the chat also expressed gratitude for leadership, including that of the General Secretary. A question offered the Rev. Blair the opportunity to affirm the fundamental and foundational relationship of global partners, while also signalling how the climate emergency might shift how we engage globally.
The Right Rev. Dr. Richard Bott, 44th Moderator, spoke of a “church that has been full of story—tears, laughter, and an abundance of work.” He highlighted the importance of the church continuing to come to terms with our role as perpetrator within residential institutions as the graves of Indigenous children who did not return home have been uncovered. Bringing the Children Home has been one way to demonstrate learning and offer resources to use as communities deem necessary, with conversation with leadership offered but in no way required. The Rev. Bott hopes the church continues to engage in conversation about what reparation means—another beginning in many beginnings in a journey toward reconciliation.
The Moderator also spoke of the joy in meeting with ministry personnel, particularly highlighting those ministers formed in traditions outside of the United Church or in communities and cultures outside of Canada. He encourages the church to truly listen and learn and be changed by the experiences, life, and call of those who have offered themselves and their diverse witness to be part of The United Church of Canada.
The Moderator urged the church to continue to emerge from the pandemic with a focus on how we can live into the Word, reach out pastorally, lead in service and justice, and help each other be the church in a time such as this. Gratitude was expressed by the Moderator, and gratitude was expressed by Commissioners for the Moderator, particularly for his unique gift in offering theological leadership in unprecedented times.
This session concluded with a reflection on Jesus―as teacher, healer, social prophet, movement-builder, and mystic―by the Very Rev. Gary Paterson, followed by an outline of process and an opportunity for brief discussion groups.
Read the General Secretary’s and Moderator’s accountability reports on commons.united-church.ca (Governance / General Council / 44th General Council /2. Reports).
Watch the Decision Session 2 recording on YouTube.