“Supporting, inspring and connecting Christ-centred leaders and congregations within the United Church of Canada”

Rev. Dr. Ross Bartlett

We have asked all the nominees for moderator four questions so that we, as a church, could get to know them a little better. Here are the responses for Rev. Dr. Ross Bartlett. If you would like to know more about Ross, please read his profile from the General Council 41 website.

1) “Cruxifusion” means “united by the cross.” What does Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection mean to you?
When we hold together Jesus’ death and resurrection we catch a glimpse of the very heart of God’s redeeming and reconciling will for all Creation. From the time of the New Testament on we find a host of different attempts to articulate what is, in the end, a mystery of grace. How a fellow human being in whom we see God most clearly revealed, was so committed to the calling to follow God’s will that even the imminent threat of death would not deter him. In living the truth of God’s reign in the here and now, Jesus teaches us that there are temptations more to be feared than mere physical death. The form of his dying is an important insight as well: not merely death but execution by the powers of this world, determined to cast him out of society, his nation and his religious community. Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates God’s rejection of all those forces that oppose God’s reconciling justice and love. Cast out of life, Jesus rises in its very midst. We can and do employ different metaphors to try and catch up this mystery, each metaphor announcing God’s “yes” to life and those seeking to further it.

2) Describe the God you worship.
Theologian Tom Driver asked the question: “Is God the unchanging centre or the ever expanding edge of your life?” I believe that, while our image of God needs both elements, each of us is probably spiritually and psychologically “wired” to favour one or the other. I’m an expanding edge kind of guy! Because God is the stable core of my life and the One in whom I find absolute acceptance, I am free to try out the expanding edges, knowing deep within that failure is not forever. God, who placed within each of us gifts and talents, rejoices when we dare and grow. God, who experienced human life in Jesus, grieves with us in our pains and sorrows. God, who inspired the prophets, rages with us at injustice and works with us in all of acts of justice and reconciliation. For reasons clearly known only to the Divine, God has crafted life in such a way that, without us God does not and without God we cannot do anything of great and lasting good.

3) Which Christian author has had the greatest impact on you?
Douglas John Hall who writes theology from “our” context and challenges me to see the grace behind the death of Christendom. Barbara Brown Taylor for her exquisite capacity to change lives by changing the way we picture our own lives. Walter Brueggemann for many reasons, most importantly his reminder that we live a gospel of abundance in a society ensnared in the myth of scarcity.

4) What gifts and passions do you have that you believe the United Church of Canada needs today?
In the old sense of the word, I am a “churchman.” I believe passionately in the calling and purpose of the United Church as an expression of God’s will to make a difference in individual lives and society as a whole. We have sometimes retreated from that. Our founders had a vision of the Spirit enabling a movement rather than an institution and that is the church they developed. Over many years of service at different levels of our corporate life I have developed a deep awareness of and affection for the sometimes messy realities of our faithfulness. We must not trade faithfulness for the illusions of efficiency and effectiveness for their own sakes. I am not interested in presiding over a declining institution – a sort of endless wake. I am passionately excited by, and believe I can contribute to, a revived spiritual movement. We are strategically placed in communities across the land. Imagine if all those congregations could revive their hope, convinced that they had something to say to a nation and world that know too much of fear and despair? I think that if we are depressed about the church we’re not paying attention to the new thing God is doing. That’s the commitment and passion I bring.

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