Screenshot of Elenor Thompson at Decision Session 7
The Rev. Elenor Thompson after two proposals on Indigenous self-determination are passed. Photo: The United Church of Canada

Emboldening Justice: Highlights from Decision Session 7

In Decision Session 7, the Council began with two proposals related to Leadership before turning to work related to Emboldening Justice. On the two Leadership proposals, the Council took no action on a further proposal related to the jurisdiction of clergy (SW05) and affirmed a proposal the General Council rework Human Resources Manual Policy 2.15 on Compensation and Leaves, making the need for rest and renewal a part of any leave.

Turning to issues of related to Justice, the Council affirmed a motion requesting that the Theology and Inter-Church Inter-Faith Committee develop a framework for a principle-based approach to all the justice work of The United Church of Canada and report back to the General Council for adoption (GCE03). The Council then chose to table a more specific motion—one that would have immediately adopted a principles-based approach to the church’s justice work on Palestine and Israel (with a particular set of principles outlined)—until the completion of the broader work.

Honouring a request for respectful timing, the Council turned to motions related to Indigenous self-determination and right relations. The Council passed a motion on the autonomy of the Indigenous Church that directs the General Secretary to identify and remove all the structural barriers to developing and sustaining an autonomous Indigenous Church within The United Church of Canada, consistent with the Calls to the Church and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; continue the conversation of restructuring, right relations, and reparations with the National Indigenous Circle; and report back to General Council 45 on the state of the dialogue and required next steps.

The Council then moved to a related motion enabling what is referred to as a “Category 3 remit” to approve a new structure of the Indigenous Church within the United Church, and relationship to the settler church, as will be determined by the Indigenous Church in its own time and through its own processes, within the framework of the Calls to the Church, and without the need for further remit approval, shortening the time for study from 24 months to 12 months. Resources will be made available to support this process (GS10).

In response to the approval of these motions, Honoured Elder the Rev. Elenor Thompson said: “Today all of me, my whole heart, loves the United Church. So very proud of the church and the people. The United Church made history two days in a row for me.” Particularly thanking the Rev. Murray Pruden, Executive Minister for Indigenous Ministries and Justice, she reminded us that “the hard work is to be done.” There was encouragement within the Council for much rejoicing at the passage of these important motions toward an autonomous Indigenous Church within The United Church of Canada.

The Council then returned to a series of proposals originating from regional councils related to Palestine and Israel (referred to as CS01, SW09, FSL01, PM 02, RC1501, SW02). These proposals call for the church to take specific positions in response to the calls of Palestinian partners. The Facilitation Team had proposed that the church “take no action” on these proposals at this time given the principle-based work before the church. The motion to take no action” was defeated, and the proposals remain as business before the Council.

Former Moderator the Very Rev. Dr. Marion Pardy shared her understanding of Jesus, reflecting on the shifts throughout her lifetime. Claiming “scripture as her song for the journey,” she invoked the prophetic Christ who “ends oppression and sets all people free.” For her, Jesus is the “living parable of kin-ship of God, who death cannot hold.”

Decision Session 7 also included a reflection from the Equity Team, offered by Maedith Radlein, encouraging all members of Council to reflect on equity personally, through all aspects of their daily lives. Friends of Council requested prayers for all Indigenous peoples given the arrival of the Pope in Canada, as well as for Elder Bernice Saulteaux, who is seriously ill. The Rev. Elenor Thompson offered teachings and a blessing in her language.

Watch the Decision Session 7 recording on YouTube.