Rev. Brian Cornelius has been nominated for Moderator of the United Church of Canada. To see Brian’s profile on the General Council 42 website, please click here.
1. What gifts and passions do you have that you believe the United Church of Canada needs today?
Those approaching me to consider nomination did so because of my gift to ground our practical (often financial) work theologically. I revel in reading both the Bible and spreadsheets. At this juncture of implementing change, theological grounding, attention to our essential being, and a non-anxious presence are needed. I sometimes “tongue in cheek” say the United Church “saved my soul”. While language I no longer use and while I know an institution can never “save a soul”, I testify that I feared losing my Christian faith and story. The Spirit alive in an ever-rising Jesus led me to the United Church where I can passionately and authentically live my faith.
2. Which Christian author has had the greatest impact on you?
Marcus Borg. In addition to his spiritual biography mirroring my own spiritual journey, I appreciate the integrity of his scholarship and determination to be rooted within the wisdom of the Christian tradition. I value his engagement with emerging insights, his Biblical honesty, his respect of other religious traditions, his appreciation for the power of myth, and the clarity in articulating the “heart” of Christianity. I also find the theological work of Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker to be ground breaking. Proverbs of Ashes is an exemplary illustration of narrative theology and Saving Paradise reignited my Christian imagination.
3. How would you articulate the good news that Canadian society needs to hear from our church in this time and place?
A common phrase bantered about is “spiritual but not religious”. I believe the spiritual rootedness offered by the United Church is good news for those looking for roots to ground their personal experience of the sacred. Our own spiritual story is deepened by engaging with a spiritual tradition. The deep rootedness of the Biblical Jesus engages this spiritual quest. Our church embodies that engagement through respect for diversity, responsiveness to changing times, respect for the progressive attitudes on issues like gender and sexuality, connects with social justice passions, and a commitment to living wholly with all of creation.
4. “Cruxifusion” means “united by the cross.” What does Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection mean to you?
For me the cross is symbol of God’s truthfulness present in the face of injustice as well as God’s abiding love in the face of suffering. While the cross was a travesty of injustice, the passion story is “literature of disclosure” where dignity, courage, love, creativity and truth telling supersede the efforts to shame, humiliate, destroy, instill fear, and fragment human community. God’s love embodied in Jesus is greater than these efforts. Love, not crucifixion, ultimately has the last word. I connect to this personally, and I speak about an “ever-rising Jesus” who embodies the ongoing resurrecting power of love, a power I experience within my life, see in the lives of others, and which dances within the Christian story.
5. How can we best pray for you?
At First United in Ottawa we sing a song written by a member that says “We are sending you light to heal you, to hold you, we are sending you light to hold you in love”. This is the prayer I need most. I also recall when I joined my first “small group” in the United Church, we were invited to “see each other real”. Every week we prayed for one another in this way, and I still do pray this way. I welcome when others “see me real”.