Rev. Dirk Jessen
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43rd General Council July 21—July 27, 2018, Oshawa ON

What happened at General Council 43?

Developments in Form and Practice—Rev. Dirk

It is now almost a week after the conclusion of General Council 43 in Oshawa, Ontario. The major item of business was the adoption of plans to modernize the organizational structure of the United Church. A four-layered organizational model of the United Church of Canada since its establishment in 1925, will now be three layers: local. regional and national. The intention is that this structure will provide the necessary resources and supports to the lives of congregations and other
ministries in a more timely and cost-effective way.

Another significant change is that the way ministers and other leaders are developed, will be coordinated by a new Office of Vocation, that is more central than it is now. This will ensure greater consistency in standards and training as well as more efficient use of educational resources. Also in the realm of leadership development, the United Church of Canada will now employ a more flexible approach to recognizing and accepting ministers from churches in the United States and across the world who have a theology consistent with ours.

Finally, funding of ministries will also be updated. Up until now, there have been no fewer than 30 different formulas used to determine to what extent congregations and other ministries fund the work of the denomination as a whole. The newly adopted model will be much more transparent, based on revenue.

With much planning already in place in each of these major areas, there will be continued work in implementing them over the next few years. There is much more information on all these topics on the United Church of Canada and General Council 43 websites.

With the many significant changes in how things are done, General Council 43 reaffirmed the United Church of Canada’s commitment in a number of areas. One of the key principles of the United Church of Canada has been its openness to people whose stories and voices have otherwise not been heard. For example, the United Church has made significant efforts in developing a renewed relationship with … (continued overleaf) (continued from page 1) … First Nations people in Canada. First Nations voices in Canada have over the years been silenced, in part by the assumption that society and the Christian faith adopted from England, were the rule and the norm.

This situation was destructive to First Nations and impoverished Canada as a whole by ignoring and silencing ancient practices that were good and constructive in so many ways. In a similar way, it was revealed over the course of General Council 43, there are other voices that we may now be ignoring, again to the loss of all. There was concern expressed publically and officially that our United Church of Canada could be doing more to incorporate the abilities and insights of our Korean, Carribbean, African, East Indian and Francophone leaders and members. There is also significant work that needs to be done in our relationship with people of differing abilities in terms of physical and mental health conditions.

In the past couple of weeks we have also become more keenly aware of how there is also an increasing gap between mainstream United Church practice and belief and that of a younger generation of Canadians. This current/future generation is interested in the message of Jesus, the Gospel, but is at the same time insistent on inclusion of a great diversity of voices, and to social justice. The fact that the United Church of Canada has made inroads with First Nations and LGBTIA2+ people is attractive to this younger generation. How we translate it into action for them, in the context of Christian faith, is still very much an open question. Institutions of old are not the same for them, as their relationships are here and now, and into the future.

What perhaps sums up the United Church of Canada at this point is that we are a work in progress. At our best throughout time, followers of Jesus have time and again found themselves wondering how best to live out their faith in the face of change. For me there is no better time to embrace that faithful tradition than now and no better place than within the United Church of Canada! - Rev. Dirk

For complete details on the 43rd General Council, please visit the website—

Risking Faith Daring Hope!