Meet the GC43 Intercultural Observers

The United Church of Canada is pleased to welcome Paul Douglas Walfall and Sharon Ballantyne as the GC43 Intercultural Observers. The General Council Office staff selected these individuals in consultation with the GC43 Planning Team.

The Task Group on Intercultural Ministries, which made a number of recommendations for the church to live out its intercultural commitment, recommended that General Councils have intercultural observers.

Intercultural Observers play an important role. They help the General Council with its intercultural commitment. In particular, they ensure the full participation of racialized and minoritized voices. Observers also help the General Council work with the intercultural lens tool.

Walfall and Ballantyne will sit at table groups, be part of discussions, and offer theological reflection. They will also be present throughout the week to hear questions of equity at GC43.

Paul Douglas Walfall

Paul Douglas Walfall

“It was my privilege to serve as the President of the Alberta and Northwest Conference. One of the last things I did in that role was propose a two-day symposium looking at the issues of racism against Black people in Canada and the church.”

I was born in Jamaica, and after leaving high school, attended the University of the West Indies (UWI) where I gained a B.Sc. in Economics and Accounting. I returned to my alma mater to teach for two years, and was accepted as a candidate for the ordained ministry of The Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA). My ministerial training occurred at the United Theological College of the West Indies (UTCWI), where I gained a BA in Theology from the UWI and a Diploma in Ministerial Studies from UTWCI.

The MCCA has an itinerant ministry, and when I completed ministerial training I was stationed in the South Trinidad Circuit of the South Caribbean District for three years. I was next stationed in the Bethel Circuit in Barbados, and eventually served in the other two circuits in Barbados. My last station in the MCCA was the Connexional Publishing Officer. I was responsible for helping publish a new hymn book and church school materials for the MCCA. In all, I spent 14 years in Barbados.

I have also served as the secretary of Christian Education for the South Caribbean District, the Secretary of the South Caribbean District Conference, and the Secretary for Mission, Evangelism and Education for the MCCA. (The MCCA covers 30 countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Holland. In the denomination, people speak six different languages).

In 2011, I came to The United Church of Canada. My initial appointment was at the Cold Lake-Pierceland Pastoral Charge in the Alberta and Northwest Conference. I had four wonderful and exciting years in that pastoral charge. I was then called to the Fort Saskatchewan Pastoral Charge, where I am currently serving. I entered the Order of Ministry in May 2013. 

Since coming to the United Church, I have served as the Chair of the Ministry, Personnel and Education Division, of the St. Paul Presbytery. I have also served on the Board of Camp Whitney. For three years, I helped write the Christian education curriculum for the camp. From 2015 to 2017, it was my privilege to serve as the President of the Alberta and Northwest Conference. One of the last things I did in that role was propose a two-day symposium looking at the issues of racism against Black people in Canada and the church. This symposium, “An Awkward Conversation in the Church,” was held in October 2017.

I have served the wider community in several ways. In the Caribbean, I was the Chief Examiner for the subject of Religious Education for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate of the Caribbean Examination Council (1994-2015). While in Cold Lake, I was involved in the formation of the Cold Lake Food Bank.

Apart from church, my life is focused on my two sons and studying. I am currently reading for the Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University. I also make time for my friends and relatives, and in my off-time I enjoy watching TV and a good movie. 

Sharon Ballantyne

Sharon Ballantyne

“I embrace radical hospitality, and I like to think ‘outside the box’ to ensure that I am intentional about creating better spaces of belonging for all.”

I bring greetings from dynamic Dunsford United Church, a rural pastoral charge about two hours east of Toronto. I left my bi-vocational roles as full-time elementary school teacher and my settlement charge of 10 years to accept the call to Dunsford in 2016. I completed a PhD in pastoral care and counselling psychology in 2012, and I am a spiritual director trained through Jubilee.

I share a message of hope and encouragement. Personally, and with my community of faith, I am committing intentional efforts to live into the Moderator’s GC43 theme of, “Risking faith, Daring hope.” I am an equity advocate in education, both in the church and my community, and I have served on the Bay of Quinte equity committee since 2015. I am also an equity monitor in my local congregation and my presbytery. I recently chaired the steering committee for Kawartha Highlands presbytery’s Affirming initiative, and I am supporting the Affirming process at Dunsford United.

In 2013, I was part of a planning team that led a consultation for people with disabilities and their allies, which included a gathering. In August 2015, the United Church and the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Disabilities Advocates Network invited me to Lima, Peru. There, I represented the United Church in a consultation with academics from across Latin America and around the world. It focused on the theme of disabilities and inclusion as part of the curriculum in theological schools. I am also part of the United Church’s disabilities working group.

I embrace radical hospitality, and I like to think “outside the box” to ensure that I am intentional about creating better spaces of belonging for all. My seven-year-old black lab, guide dog, Wilson, and I are a proud part of the Dunsford family of faith.