GC43 Commits to Becoming an Intercultural Church and Addressing Dominant Privilege

On the final day of the 43rd General Council, Friday, July 27, commissioners approved all seven proposals under the theme Intercultural and Dominant Privilege Lenses. The proposals will help advance the United Church’s work on several timely issues, notably 

  • migration and migrant churches
  • racism and White privilege
  • the need to become more equitable and accessible for people of all cultures and abilities

In addition, the proposals look at how privilege is reinforced through roles in the church, whose stories are told, and who makes decisions.

The term “intercultural” is defined as living together with awareness and respect of each other’s differences, which addresses issues of power and leads to mutual transformation. “The intercultural lens aims to challenge assumptions, notice who is missing, and value everyone’s voice. This lens takes a broad view in its definition and includes both visible and invisible disabilities,” says GC43 Intercultural Observer Rev. Sharon Ballantyne.

The church made the commitment to becoming intercultural in 2006. Still, many non-dominant cultures feel isolated in the United Church, said Adele Halliday, team leader for Discipleship and Witness at the General Council Office, at one of the GC43 listening sessions on the theme. She added, “We need an expansive vision so everyone feels welcome. The goal is to retain our individual identities and respect and honour those of others.”

When examining the proposals under this theme, commissioners said the church needs to “walk the talk” and act as soon as possible. Moderator Jordan Cantwell echoed this sentiment when the proposal on Migrant Church Migration was approved. She said this is an urgent issue and encouraged commissioners to “take this back to your communities of faith and start working on it.”

Here are the seven proposals that commissioners approved on the last day of GC43.

  • Racism, Racial Discrimination, Racial Justice and White Privilege
  • Equity Monitor
  • Descriptive Video
  • Integrated Accessibility-Equitable Standards
  • United Church to Work with UNESCO’s Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination
  • Migrant Church Migration
  • Living Into Transformation – Continuing the Journey as an Intercultural Church

Commissioners identified a need for resources to help people at all levels of the church live out the commitments in these proposals. They also encouraged the church to learn from communities of faith and partners who are further ahead in doing this work well. In this vein, it was noted that the church’s newly affirmed full communion partner The Disciples of Christ is involved in UNESCO’s Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination.

There were mixed opinions on whether an Equity Monitor needed to be a paid position or could be carried out by a volunteer. And all commissioners agreed that a handbook with a set of guidelines for the Equity Monitor was required.

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