UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

One voice, above all others, demands our utmost attention

By Muriel Duncan

It's past midnight, and General Council commissioners are still in fierce debate, still in line at the microphones, still worried about holding their church together while voting their conscience. It's 1988 in Victoria and the church is deciding to approve gay and lesbian ordination and commissioning.

Often in the life of this denomination, General Councils provide distinct turning points. You can look back and say: "When we made that decision we changed the course of this church."

But what about the times we didn't make a clear-cut decision, the times we put off a tough call and sent it to a new task group? What about the times we just about set new priorities but then got cold feet? You can look back years later and say: "That's when we went into this policy drift."

That's something to remember as our once-in-three years General Council approaches this August. When Council commissioners hold up their yellow voting cards on a contentious issue, the results may have a profound effect on our future -- though maybe we won't know we've taken a new trail until we look back, long after the turn.

There is no question in the mind of Moderator Rt. Rev. Peter Short that this is a critical General Council. He has asked every congregation in the United Church "to seek spiritual guidance to name its identity" and then bring that identity face-to-face with what is crucial in the world today.

He has asked all commissioners to come to the Council in Thunder Bay, Ont., prepared to listen for God's voice.

Large blocks of time will be devoted to spiritual seeking, because, for Short, finding out what God wants is the most important business of the United Church. The moderator's gathering in Arnprior, Ont., last November (Cover story, January) was, in a way, a practice run at putting God's will before church planning agendas.

I hope it works. It is clearly the right idea at this crossroads time. It makes good sense that we should take care of the soul before remaking the United Church for a new generation. But sitting still and listening will be a big change for this talkative, meeting-loving, policy-savouring church.

And just as we are being asked to be still, so much is going on around us. On one side, we see the world changing swiftly and we want to try the fresh ideas coming our way. We long for connections with new generations. We're feeling a new energy as a church. And society badly needs to hear us talk about justice, peace and creation.

But it is also true that many of our congregations are tired, our leaders stretched, our resources limited. We want to survive, traditions intact, and be able to pass on what we treasure.

We want to walk with God.

There is more.

This is a General Council with some life-changing issues before it. Commissioners will have to decide if the church should commit itself to a full, honest effort to welcome people between 30 and 45 years of age who might be interested in giving our church a try. And commissioners will have to decide if we are ready for a new statement of what we believe.

Is all this compatible? Can we sit together with so much on our minds and listen for God? At the very least, we should try not to get in God's way.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image