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Moderator candidates share their visions for the church (Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009)

By Jocelyn Bell

Eight candidates, eight visions — but only one person will become the next moderator of The United Church of Canada.

The decision is in the hands of the 400 commissioners to the 40th General Council who heard the nominees’ five-minute speeches Wednesday morning in Kelowna, B.C., and will elect a new leader on Friday.

Each nominee was introduced in a short video clip produced by the children at Council. Posing as undercover agents, the kids queried each candidate and then reported the findings of their “investigation” to commissioners.

Commissioners learned, for example, that Mardi Tindall loves maple-walnut ice cream, Rev. Stephen Mabee can touch his tongue to his nose, Rev. John Thompson is a triplet, and if Rev. Maya Landell could have a superpower, it would be the ability to stop time. The introductions were, to quote nominee Rev. James Christie, “humble, holy and hilarious, all at the same time.”

Following are highlights from the nominees’ speeches.

Jim Angus. Photo by Mike Milne

Jim Angus

“We must step out of our comfort zone and take some risks as the United Church. We must self-evaluate as a whole. With our diversity as a church, as a united church, we will face some discomfort as we review ourselves and do it from the heart. We need to evaluate ourselves from the heart and seriously look at where we’re at, where we’ve been, and where we are we going. . . . And I pray that we will walk together and we will achieve what we need to achieve.”

Rev. Ross Bartlett. Photo by Mike Milne

Rev. Ross Bartlett

“We do know that the boat in which we sail, this United Church, is no longer the majestic cultural ocean liner that used to plow through the waves of our society eagerly greeted at every port of call. No, our boat is smaller. . . . But boats, whatever their size, are not meant to stay tied to port. . . . Instead, we are called out onto the waves of discontent. The stormy seas of restlessness with the status quo as we seek for God’s Kingdom of justice and peace not just for the human family but for the healing of all creation.” 

Rev. James Christie. Photo by Mike Milne

Rev. James Christie

“I have been agonizing for months over what it might be that I might offer to you, to the courts, to the whole church. And in the end, the only thing I can think of quite frankly is that one single gift with which God has blessed me above all others and that is the gift of hope. But hope which is founded in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. That it the only foundation and the only future for the United Church or for any church and that hope issues in mission. That mission now and ever has been to discern the presence and the will of the risen Christ and to declare it to the whole created order.”

Rev. Richard Hollingsworth. Photo by Mike Milne

Rev. Richard Hollingsworth

“We have really made some advances that have changed not only this church but Canada and the Christian community. . . . We’ve done some wonderful work with peace and justice issues, environmental issues. We’ve done some excellent work with youth ministries. . . . But as the State of the Church message tells us, we cannot continue to do it all. So we have the responsibility and the opportunity to make some painful choices.”

Rev. May Landell. Photo by Mike Milne

Rev. Maya Landell

“The image that calls to me, as we go down to the potter’s house, is that there is also an uphill climb on the other side. . . . There have been times when we have glimpsed the Kingdom of God. When we have felt as a church like we were almost there. But it feels for me right now, like we are here, on the edge of something. . . . Jesus said I have come so that you should have life and have it in full abundance. I call to our church to choose life, for I am convinced we must pay attention to the places in the world, and in our church, where the Spirit is moving.” 

Rev. Stephen Mabee. Photo by Mike Milne

Rev. Stephen Mabee

“I have an image that has become stronger and stronger for me. That is the image of the global village. In this age of technology . . . we are drawn closer and closer together. And now we are being challenged, because of our closeness, to build intercultural community using the tools of modern technologies and the insights of ancient faiths. Building a global village on the foundations of love and respect and justice and mercy will transform the world. It will end, in time, racism, sexism, ageism, economic discrimination, and yes, colonialism and empire. . . . That’s the vision. It’s a vision for the world, but it’s also a vision for the church.” 

Rev. John Thompson. Photo by Mike Milne

Rev. John Thompson

“I believe that we are at a pivotal point of the history of the church and indeed of the history of human kind. Science and technology have made us aware of the smallness of our planet and the fragility of life. I believe God is calling us as a church and as a people to focus and embrace a new vision. An underlying reality that is of paramount importance is that we are all one family. One sisterhood and brotherhood of humankind. . . . We have come to a place where we must life in harmony with all of God’s creation and with respect for all of life.” 

Mardi Tindal. Photo by Mike Milne

Mardi Tindal

“Given the character of the United Church, we are called to resist the temptations of empire that separate, control, conquer, subdue. Instead, we are called to gospel directions, to gather, to liberate, to nurture, to celebrate. We are called to refuse the false choices between contemplation and action, between praying and doing. Because we know that if we are to live the abundant life in Christ, action requires contemplation; contemplation requires action. If we only breathed in or only breathed out, we would die. Worship and work together are the breath of our identity and our integrity.” 

Author's photo
Jocelyn Bell is the editor-publisher of The Observer.
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