Cruxifusion has adopted the tradition of posing questions to nominees for Moderator of the United Church of Canada so that we may learn a bit more about them. To view answers from all nominees for GC43, click here.
1. Who is Jesus Christ for you?
The second person of the Trinity – fully human and fully divine, whose will was so deeply entwined with the Creator’s will that we can’t separate them; so we’ve used words like, “God and Son of God,” to try and describe the relationship that we also call “Holy Mystery.”
Jesus Christ is my teacher, my healer, and my Way, whose call to look at all things through the lens of loving God with all that I am, loving myself, and loving my neighbour in the same way, pushes me to live with integrity and work for the healing of creation.
2. The General Council Executive has identified discipleship and faith formation as a key objective of the work of our denomination for the next three years. Please share something about your personal understanding of Christian discipleship.
This is really exciting! I understand a disciple to be a student who learns by trying to emulate the teacher. For Christians, this means doing everything we can to internalize Jesus’ teachings by living them every moment.
Part of this is knowing, deep inside, that we are Uplifted by God’s love. Through that love, we are Nurtured in worship, Inspired through conversations with scripture, Transformed by prayer, Empowered by spiritual relationships, and Developed through serving others. (U.N.I.T.E.D. – a bit corny, but it helps me remember the discipleship practices I’m called to live!)
3. As Moderator, your task, according to the Manual (2016) is to: “give leadership to the United Church, especially in spiritual things, quickening in the hearts of the people a sense of God as revealed in Christ, and heartening and strengthening the whole United Church.” How might you see yourself doing this, and particularly to the small, rural, and more isolated congregations that comprise a large percentage of our denomination?
I’d begin by continuing something I started a few years ago, and inviting others to join me: praying the “Year Book.” Over the course of the year, we would name every single community of faith and every minister listed in the directory and celebrate God’s gift in and of them.
Because I don’t really understand the Moderator’s time constraints, I’m not sure how feasible some of my other ideas would be. Having said that, I wonder what would it be like for the Moderator to use YouTube (and telephone technology, for communities that don’t have easy web access), for a regular times to reflect directly with – and pray with – congregations across the denomination? As a liturgical writer, I would hope to be able to continue to share prayers and litanies with congregations (as they come to mind at 3 am!) We also have the more traditional communication methods available – websites and blogs, social media, and print media.
Most of all, if people are willing to share, I’d like to listen to how they’re living out their ministries. While I’m sure there would be some times of tears, because we’re in a chaotic time, I would really like to be able to celebrate with people that they are living their faith, and that they are sharing something that this world needs – experiences of Christ’s love, shining bright in them and their actions.
4. Recognizing our ecumenical connections, how would you help the U.C.C. become more welcoming of those who hold a more orthodox or Christ-centred theology?
In the UCCan, the Moderator doesn’t have formal “power” to make changes – no decrees, edicts, or unilateral changes to The Manual! What I do bring is a deep willingness to listen to people whose theologies are different than my own, as well as a desire to discuss and learn from one another. My own faith has been informed as much by orthodox or traditional theologies as it has been by liberal or progressive theologies, with feminist, liberation, and process theologies also being my teachers. God – Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit – is central to my understanding of Christian theology.
I will listen carefully. We may find ourselves not agreeing – but I will do everything I can to disagree using the “lens of love” that Jesus taught the law and the prophets hung on – whether or not I’m called to the role of Moderator!
I hope that, as we develop our clusters and networks and associations, we’ll be able to listen and learn from each other, in our places of disagreement, as well as our places of agreement.
5. How can we pray for you and what is your prayer for the Church?
For me, I think it would be most helpful to know that people are praying something like, “Drop Richard wherever you need him to be, God!”
My prayer for the church, right now, is “Christ, help us to feel the Emmaus’ burn – the one that pushes our hearts onto the road to share what we’ve seen and heard of you! Help us to be faithful disciples who live the love that we’ve been given, who aren’t afraid to share the story of what it means to us, and who are open to helping others experience it, too. Give us your wisdom to know when to listen, learn, and just be. Help us not be afraid, loving God – help us not be afraid!”