Horacio Mesones (CREAS) and the Rev. Terri Hord Owens (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ)
Horacio Mesones (CREAS) and the Rev. Terri Hord Owens (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ). Photo: The United Church of Canada

Ecumenical Accompaniment, Invigorating Leadership: Highlights from Decision Session 6

Decision Session 6 heard from three of the over 30 global, ecumenical, and interfaith partners that are accompanying General Council. The Rev. Terri Hord Owens (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ) expressed gratitude for the “labour” of learning, listening, discussing, and deciding and for the opportunity to be “bathed” in spiritual practices of worship. The Rev. Stephen Kendall (Presbyterian Church in Canada) spoke of the friendship between the churches and the opportunity to draw from, and share, United Church of Canada experience in the journey of healing and reconciliation, inclusion of LGBTQIA2S+ persons, and commitments to anti-racism. Horacio Mesones (CREAS) shared concrete examples of collaboration, testifying to how ecumenical cooperation makes a difference in shared local solutions, strengthened justice, and deepened hospitality in a polarized world.

Representatives of the Business Table—Shannon McCarthy and Allan Buckingham, with the Moderator―spoke to the process before returning to proposal consideration.

One of the first of a series of proposals related to Leadership, the Council heard an expressed concern for access to theological education in French and for the general situation of theological education. A commitment was made to share notes with the General Council Executive and the “Invigorate Leadership” Objective group at the General Council Office developing Strategic Plan initiatives. However, the church chose to take no action on a specific proposal to request reports on the general state of theological education within The United Church of Canada (N:ka01). The Council also took no action on a proposal seeking a review on the accessibility of the diaconal education program (NEW01).

The Council also chose to take no further action on three further motions:

  • mandating Full Circle performance reviews of senior General Council and regional office staff (originating as ARW01 and SW03)
  • establishing a discipline process oversight body to assess the Office of Vocation (originating as ARW02) and applying SMART requirements for review/disciplinary action
  • establishing an oversight body for the Office of Vocation and Candidacy Boards, with particular attention to the process for candidates for ministry in the church (ARW03, SW04)

The Council also chose to take no further action on a proposal relating to the jurisdiction and authority of clergy (ARW04). A proposal related to providing financial support to suspended clergy generated discussion about the need for a greater depth and breadth of understanding of the intentions and implications. An amendment proposed to refer this proposal to the next annual meeting of GC44 was carried (GCE01).

The session concluded with a moving testimony from former Moderator the Very Rev. Stan McKay. Speaking from a context of unmarked graves and opening doors to Ukrainian refugees, the Rev. McKay shared his understanding of Jesus as the Great Mystery, One beyond words. He spoke poignantly of an awakening in Norway House in a service in Cree, led by Elders. Hearing John 21:15-19, “Simon, do you love me? Feed my lambs,” in the Cree language he realized how his culture and the gospel were connected. He learned from Elders, seeing in them the love of God incarnate―who Jesus is.

Watch the Decision Session 6 recording on YouTube.