Proceedings of the GCE Meeting, Nov. 20, 2021
During opening worship, the General Council Executive covenanted with Sarah Charters, the new Executive Officer of Philanthropy and President of The United Church of Canada Foundation, and with The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Janzen-Ball, the new Executive Minister of Theological Leadership. As well as welcoming these new Ministers, the General Secretary expressed deep thanks to Catherine Rodd for her outstanding service as Executive Officer, Communications, as she approaches retirement.
The gathered community, including observers, shared communion together, lifted up prayers from the life of the church, and honoured faithful servants in church and in partnership who have died over the last year.
Just Peace Task Group Report
The Executive received the report of the Just Peace Task Group with appreciation. The Task Group consisted of four people appointed in November 2018 to undertake a review of United Church of Canada policies on Israel and Palestine in light of the current reality and partner requests, and provide advice and recommendations. Resourced by staff, the Just Peace Task Group consulted in person and online with global, ecumenical, and interfaith partners, and with people from across the United Church. The Executive has referred the report, and the proposal—that The United Church of Canada adopt a principles-based approach to its justice work concerning Israel and Palestine going forward—to the 44th General Council 2022 for decision. The Task Group will express its sincere gratitude in writing to all the individuals, groups and organizations who took the time to share their concerns and perspectives.
The General Council Executive will also recommend to the 44th General Council that the Theology Inter-church Inter-faith Committee develop a framework for a principle-based approach to all the justice work of The United Church of Canada and make recommendations to the 45th General Council. The General Secretary will be asked to potentially identify opportunities to reflect on and explore this approach in advance of that Council.
The General Council Executive also heard an accountability report from Aisha Francis, the Executive Director of KAIROS. KAIROS recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and is continuing in strategic planning for 2023 to 2028. Key current priorities include the work of the KAIROS Blanket Exercise (including virtual exercises), support to those coming to Canada through the Temporary Foreign Workers program, and global partnerships addressing violence against women. The Executive encouraged KAIROS to offer basic resources in French.
A further report was offered by Tim Blair, the CEO of The United Property Resource Corporation (UPRC). UPRC is focused on implementing the key principles, values and commitments of the United Church to development across the portfolio of church properties. One huge opportunity the portfolio offers is that of repeatable innovation, taking knowledge and ideas and applying them across a diverse set of projects. UPRC are focused on people, building, and community metrics to assess the outcomes of property development on communities of faith and communities served. In the construction work, there will be a significant commitment to Indigenous procurement and hiring of Indigenous and racialized workers. There were reports of excitement both within and beyond the church of this important, emerging work.
In his report, the Moderator shared from his experience in the role, expressing gratitude for the extraordinary amount of work and the high number of meetings of the General Council Executive, with thanks also for the connected and related work of the General Secretary and staff in supporting governance. He noted a level of exhaustion in communities of faith, and particularly in ministry personnel, even as we begin to transition out of the pandemic, which in itself presents new challenges. Recent hard, difficult, and yet necessary decisions have caused stress. The Moderator is reflecting on the challenge and opportunity of an extended virtual General Council 44. This, as well as the work of “Bringing the Children Home,” and the implications of transition out of the pandemic are his key priorities. The church is encouraged to assist in facilitating nominations for the next Moderator. Nominations for the General Council Executive are also encouraged.
The General Council Executive returned to the topic of GS 128, related to the Task Group report on Ministry Leadership to Meet the Needs of the Church in the 2020s. The Executive of the General Council took action to enable a review of the Statement on Ministry (2012), engage with the National Indigenous Council on designated lay ministry criteria, broader vocational ministry needs, and establishment of an Indigenous Testamur, explore bi-vocational and collaborative ministry, and convene a task group on lay leader accountability. It was also requested that the General Secretary develop proposals, for consideration of General Council, on related policy changes, and retooling of training.
There were several proposals regarding Designated Lay Ministers that will go to General Council, including one proposing that the General Secretary, in consultation with Designated Lay Ministers, develop a process by which recognized Designated Lay Ministers may transition to the order of ministry, and a way to recognize Designated Lay Ministers who are retired. Designated Lay Ministers will receive communication from the General Secretary in the week of November 22, 2021.
The Executive also proposed that the upcoming General Council address a set of issues related to better support of rural and smaller communities of faith.
This meeting included an Equity Support Team which helped enable the whole gathered community to stay focused on equity considerations in interactions and deliberations, including finding ways to discontinue the use of words that, because of our colonial legacy, cause hurt. The Team also affirmed the many ways the meeting process is intentionally affirming equity.
The meeting adjourned with recitation of the New Creed in French and English.