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?
Jesus Christ is my saviour. He is my prayer partner, he is the energy within my faith community, he is my conscience, my purpose, and my hope.
I could repeat A Song of Faith at this point… but just to say that Jesus opened us fully to a God of love and justice, and by his human presence, showing that our very lives and bodies are a part of God’s sacred purpose. Did I mention I love Christmas?
I believe that as a church we are the gathered body of Christ, called to continue his radical mission of loving neighbours, healing the devastating hurts of this world, bringing peace where there is war, and challenge where there is complacency. Jesus calls us to examine our privilege and extend grace. Jesus gives us hope when the world discourages us.
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.
Christian discipleship is literally following, or being a student of Christ. We can only follow faithfully if we try to understand the one who leads. Discipleship and faith formation are part of the same process. I believe that we need to be intentional in prayer and group study if we are to discern what Christ is calling us to do today. We need to study scripture, we need to study the signs of the times through newspapers, social media etc, we need to study the sacred readings and discussions that are emerging from today’s faithful theologians. We need to do this in community, to understand our foundation and purpose in action. The second half of discipleship, as I understand it, is the following part. Anything we do as church needs to come from prayer and reflection when possible.
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?
Right now I serve a small, rural, two-point charge, I am aware of some of the struggles and joys of this ministry. I have come to understand each congregation as a unique part of the larger body of Christ, each with its own personality and call. i believe the biggest challenge of the moderator in this context, is to help each tiny congregation find their place in the national church. There is much isolation and often distrust between levels of governance, especially when geography limits connections between faith communities.
With the internet reaching most of these communities, we have an opportunity to connect virtually and in an interactive way that involves everyone with access to a phone or computer. A national weekly devotional with readings, reflections, artistic responses could include individuals or entire faith communities in a national conversation about our faith. I think intentional visits into the more isolated communities of our church would also help foster that sense of belonging, perhaps bringing some of the reflections, devotionals, artistic responses (like music!) across the country in face to face visits. Between these visits regular blogs describing the visits, the joys, the disappointments of our smaller (and larger) communities could also help to draw us into a larger sense of Christ’s body.
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?
I preach a message of inclusion. When I read scripture, I see Jesus meeting people where they are, responding to their particular need, offering healing, challenge, hope and freedom depending on their needs. I think of the Mark 7 etc., where Jesus first refuses to heal, then is swayed by a woman’s faith. I think of John 5, Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed. And of course John 2, he saves the party by turning water into wine.
I believe God continues to reach us where we are, calling us through our life experience and context to a life of faith, service and love. It doesn’t look the same for us all, but that doesn’t mean one of us is right and the others are wrong.
I grew up in the United Church of Canada, but also had some influences on my faith from a babysitter who attended meeting in conservative Christian movement. As a result of the hard-line, punitive theology I experienced as a teenager, I left the church, and thought I had left God. Eventually I read Why Christianity Must Change or Die” by Bishop John Spong. Suddenly I heard someone saying it is OK to question, it is OK to doubt. With that permission, I was able to open my heart to the spirit and trust God again. My faith continues to open as I live in the presence of a loving God, a forgiving Christ and a powerful, life-giving spirit. In short, I believe that at some point I have wandered through many theological camps, and my journey is not yet done; the only thing I can claim with certainty is that I walk humbly and faithfully with a faithful, loving God.
5. How can we pray for you and what is your prayer for the Church?
I am grateful that you want to pray for me. Perhaps the prayer would be that God will give me the strength to get out of the way when there is work to be done. Help me to set aside my own desires and ego so that I can help my community live into the unique calling that Christ has for them.
My prayer is that we truly understand ourselves as the body of Christ-open to the transformative love and joy of one who was willing to die for us: moved by the spirit that empowers us to do and be whatever this world needs: grounded in God and the creation that sustains us, understanding ourselves as an integrated part of all that cries out and sings for wholeness. My prayer is for God’s blessing.