GC 41: Digest of the 7 days

Posted: August 21, 2012 in Uncategorized
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GC 41 Digest

 Record numbers of young commissioners and Mod­erator nominees will be among the more than 350 delegates gathering on August 11, 2012, for the 41st General Council of The United Church of Canada at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. There were more than 50 commissioners under the age of 30. In addition, 15 names appeared on the ballot for Moderator, six more than the previ­ous record. Commissioners at the 41st General Council in Ottawa, Ontario, will be able to easily seek out the record 15 nominees on the ballot because of handmade red stoles from the Kanata United Church Quilting Circle. The stoles were presented on August 12, 2012. A Vancouver-based minister who describes himself as a passionate preacher and poet, the Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson was elected Moderator of The United Church of Canada by the 41st General Council on August 16, 2012.

Knit one, purl two for outreach ministries supported by The United Church of Canada’s Mission and Service Fund. That’s what some of the commissioners will be doing during General Council 41. The knitted and crocheted items will be given to three projects supported by Mission and Service:

Centre 507, an adult drop-in centre located at Centretown United Church in downtown Ottawa

House of Lazarus, an ecumenical outreach mission that offers food, clothing, and pastoral care in the community of Mountain, Ontario

St. Columba House, a community ministry in Montreal, Quebec

Over seven days, over 130 proposals for action were considered by delegates, known as com­missioners. The proposals come from different parts of the church across the country and from the Execu­tive of the General Council. They dealt with church matters, such as changes to the doctrine section of the Basis of Union, and social justice issues, such as the Northern Gateway Pipeline, Canadian mining in the Philippines, and Israel/Palestine. Topics related to church life will also be considered, including the situation of rural churches and how to fund General Council in light of diminishing financial resources. Over  97% of proposals were dealt with by the commissioners.

All of the work before the General Council was framed by the theme “Seeking Loving Walking/ Rechercher Aimer Cheminer” inspired by the passage from Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

United Church global partners and ecumenical guests are a lively part of every General Council. They bring their experiences of struggles for peace and justice into the Council’s work. As correspond­ing members, they add their voices to table groups, commission deliberations, and plenary reflection, but they don’t vote. There were eight global partners and six ecu­menical guests at the 41st General Council:

Miguel Tomás Castro, senior pastor of Em­manuel Baptist Church in San Salvador, El Salvador. Castro attended the 36th General Council in Camrose, Alberta, in 1997. His church also recently implemented a CFGB food security project in rural El Salvador.

Jennifer Henry, Executive Minister of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives—a global partner that works among churches and civil society networks in response to God’s call for respect for the Earth and justice for all people.

Sunita Suna, Asia-Pacific Regional Secretary of the World Student Christian Federation. Originally from India and based in Hong Kong, Suna works among 18 national Stu­dent Christian Movements across Asia and the Pacific.

Ramzi Zananiri, the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches. He is a member of the Local Reference Group to the World Council. of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel. One other global partner will participate in Youth Forum at General Council:

Karla Mercado, General Secretary of the Federation of Christian Youth in the Philip­pines and attending on behalf of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

Ecumenical guests attending are

• Jonas Abromaitis, representing the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Abromaitis serves the Conference as Senior Advisor for Ecclesial and Interfaith Relations. As part of that role, he supports the Roman Catholic– United Church Dialogue.

• Jim Champ of the Salvation Army, repre­senting the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC). Champ is the recently elected Presi­dent of the CCC.

• Terence Corkin, representing the Uniting Church in Australia. Corkin is General Secre­tary of the Assembly of The Uniting Church in Australia.

• Victor Goldbloom, representing the Canadi­an Christian Jewish Consultation. Goldbloom has long worked in the area of Jewish–Chris­tian Dialogue.

• Khadija Haffajee, representing the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, a member orga­nization of the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee. She has much experience of interfaith dialogue, community activism, and global engagement.

• Bruce Myers, representing the Anglican Church of Canada. Myers is Coordinator for Ecumenical Relations for the Anglican Church. As part of that role, he supports the Anglican–United Church dialogue.

 The 41st General Council has decided to expand the document that expresses the beliefs of the founding denominations of the United Church to include the 1940 Statement of Faith, the 1968 A New Creed, and the 2006 A Song of Faith. They will join the 20 articles of faith in the Basis of Union that were approved at the founding of the church in 1925. The proposal arose out of the 40th General Council in 2009 and was forwarded to congregations and presbyteries. There, it was the subject of often lively theological debate earlier this year, said Arlyce Schiebout, Chair of the Theology and Inter-Church Inter-Faith Committee. This was the first time in the history of the United Church of Canada that a level three remit has passed.

Many mothers and newborn babies in Tanzania will benefit from the 50th anniversary celebra­tions of the United Church Women (UCW).

The UCW raised $163,000 as its anniversary project. That’s more than three times the $50,000 goal that the UCW set when it embarked on its drive to raise funds to educate midwives at the Morogoro Women Training Centre in Tanzania, National UCW President Betty Turcott told the 41st General Council on August 13, 2012. Turcott shed seven shirts in her presentation as she outlined the history of the involvement of the UCW in the life of the church since the group was formed in 1962 from the Woman’s Association and the Woman’s Missionary Society. Each shirt had letters on it related to particular activities of the UCW over the years, which she described as she revealed each layer.

The state of the church’s finances over the last three years and a summary of United Church ministries were presented to the 41st General Council on August 12, 2012.

National Church Finances

Don Hunter, Chair of the Permanent Committee on Finance, said there are tough choices to come in the years ahead, primarily in recognizing that the United Church cannot continue to afford its current four-court structure of congregation, presbytery, Conference, and General Council.

Hunter also drew attention to the complicated governance system and processes in place. The church is about to embark on a comprehensive review to make the processes “slimmer, faster, and clearer,” with alternatives to be presented for discussion and debate at the next General Council in 2015, he said.

“When the cutting of staff happened at the nation­al level, it really hurt youth and young adult ministry. My concern with the comprehensive review is that we are going to continually cut back at youth and young adults until there is no support,” said Sheffield-Bowles.

Sanders said part of her job is to deliver news that the church might not want to hear. Some of the losses she outlined include laying off a number of staff in 2010, reducing grants to global partners, community ministries, and theological schools, and the recent closing of the United Church Resource Distribution warehouse.

She also highlighted some “amazing” develop­ments in the last three years:

• the establishment of the Aboriginal Ministries Council with the landmark decision at this Council about the Basis of Union and the newly revised crest

• new electronic communication tools that help with long-distance meetings, saving money such as the Edge network

• dealing with the “process burden”—now called the Simplification Project—to rewrite The Manual in plain language.

The 41st General Council has instructed Nora Sanders, the United Church’s General Secretary, to make a public statement “categorically” rejecting construction of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, which has a proposed route stretching from northern Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia.

Due to the timely nature of the pipeline review hearings, commissioners asked that this be accom­plished soon. In addition, Sanders has been asked to communicate this decision to all courts of the church, the governments of Canada, Alberta, and British Co­lumbia, Enbridge, and all Canadians through media outlets.

 Commissioners to the 41st General Council gave overwhelming approval on August 12 to a proposal to invite Aboriginal people to become signatories to the Basis of Union and to include changes to the crest to recognize Aboriginal spirituality. The crest changes include incorporating the four colours of the Aboriginal medicine wheel and adding the Mohawk phrase “Akwe Nia’Tetewá:neren,” which means “all my relations.”  The move will mean changes to the wording of The Manual to recognize that there were at least 60 Methodist and Presbyterian Aboriginal congregations when the United Church was formed. Much of the debate on the floor centred on changes to the United Church crest, which will now include the colours yellow as a symbol of life and Asian people, black as a symbol of the south and dark-skinned people of the world, red as a symbol of the west and Aboriginal peoples, and white as the colour of the north and white-skinned people.

A lively debate about gossip and its destructive force in The United Church of Canada led the church’s General Council to approve a proposal from the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. However, the vote was so close it had to be counted.

The proposal calls for the General Council to take a stand against spreading gossip, in the same manner that it has taken a stand against other evils of society. It directs the General Secretary, Nora Sand­ers, to encourage congregations to raise awareness of the harmful aspects of gossip and to open discussion regarding how to differentiate between gossip and caring pastoral conversation.


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