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?
For me, the person of Jesus is the incarnation of God’s love and as the Christ, is the vast expansion of that love. Because of Jesus, I know that God chose to become human and to come into the world in the most vulnerable way possible: as a helpless infant. In Jesus of Nazareth, God’s love is lived and taught in a deeply contextual way and shown most truly in Jesus’ crucifixion: that God will go to any lengths to deny the power of hatred and violence and show God’s love for us. And Jesus’ resurrection reveals that nothing, not even death, is stronger than God’s love and gracious intention of abundant life. Jesus is present for me in the witness of scripture and in the mystery of faith he is present in my life as friend and teacher, and he is present in my experience of Christian community because we, both gathered and scattered, are his body. Jesus calls and challenges me to be his hands and feet in the world, to refuse to deny the humanity of my enemy, to see him when I look in the mirror, in everyone I meet and especially in those whom would be named last and least.
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 a way of being and doing that can flow through every aspect of my life. Being a disciple needs to be rooted in my inner being through persistent and joyful spiritual practice that affirms God’s love and nurture is as close and as necessary as breathing. Being a disciple also means seeking to live into what Jesus called the greatest commandment: love of God, of neighbour and self. So Christian discipleship calls me to move beyond my individual spirituality. As a disciple I am called to witness God’s self-giving, affirming and justice-seeking love revealed in Christ in words: in listening and speaking, in action, such as what I buy, what I post or comment or tweet, how I vote, and how I interact with those with whom I disagree. And I am called to recognize when I fall short and turn back to a good way. I am also called to nurture Christian discipleship in community — in worship and study and service. As Christians who are called to make disciples, we first need to ‘disciple’ ourselves. And as we “do” discipleship we “become discipleship”; we embody the Christ whom we follow.
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?
The power of story can quicken hearts, inspire, teach and strengthen and I would embrace this to give leadership as Moderator. As I do ministry in Fort McMurray First United Church, a small congregation and the only United Church in this Northern Alberta city, I continue to be attentive to and sustained by the stories of the people in this context. When I moved from Mississauga to Fort McMurray, where I was settled after my ordination in 2010, I encountered stories of life, hope, joy and challenge in a geographically isolated resource community. I listened to many stories of people who both rely on the oil and gas industry for their livelihood and are also passionate about the environment.
Telling and listening to stories has also been a key factor in my community’s continuing recovery after the 2016 wildfire. We have stories of what we did (and didn’t) pack for the evacuation, stories of amazing kindness and generosity and of the “evacu-clothes” we acquired during our exile. I share these stories to exemplify my vision of leadership. In sharing our differing stories we can perceive how we intersect and accompany, seek ways of dialogue to respectfully grapple with differing viewpoints, and delight in learning about our diversity.
And in particular to small, rural and isolated congregations, I say: share your stories and your wisdom! Sometimes we are tempted to think that the really important ‘God stuff’ happens in big cities and big congregations but remember the in-breaking kin-dom of heaven in small things such as a seed or some yeast! Embrace and share the particularity of God’s incarnation in your midst. The way you are the body of Christ in your context may be challenging, but because of that you can be a beacon to this United Church of ours. Be embraced by the “you are not alone”-ness as you reach out and are clasped by your neighbour.
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?
Continuing the theme of story, I would encourage our United Church to nurture its welcome through listening to stories of different theologies and experiences of Christ. I believe mutual listening can help us to discern wisdom, to appreciate our diversities and those things we hold in common, especially in the various expressions and particular incarnations of what it is to be Christian.
5. How can we pray for you and what is your prayer for the Church?
I offer thanks to Cruxifusion for the prayers you are already offering, and for these questions. I welcome your prayer that I be grounded and strengthened in my Creator, in Jesus my challenging and loving brother, and the curious Spirit who spoke this unexpected candidacy call to me! And I pray for the gathered community at GC43 that will discern with the spirit who will serve in leadership.
I also pray that The United Church of Canada, which I love, moves joyfully, faithfully, and courageously into God’s life-giving and liberating work and that we may be daily God’s delight.