Moderator Jordan Cantwell had a busy November. It started with her keynote address at an LBGT conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. She then “chilled” at a youth forum in British Columbia, before heading back to Toronto to take part in difficult discussions during a two-day meeting of the Executive of the General Council. She discussed the importance of these three events with Paul Russell.

Paul: In early November, you were a keynote speaker at Amplify 16, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning conference in Jakarta. What was the main thing you learned there?

Jordan: I learned that the breadth of ways in which people identify their gender and sexuality is far greater than the terms most of us feel are all-inclusive. There is real value for us in having global exposure to gender and sexual diversity, because the terms and identities people now embrace are much broader than what most of us now recognize. If we truly want to be a church that is inclusive and that embraces diversity, it is important we understand how people identify. Our ways of talking about and understanding gender and sexual diversity exclude and make invisible the experiences of many people within our church and the wider society.

Paul: What do you hope will happen next in regard to the groundwork you laid in Jakarta?

Jordan: I hope our relationship with the Jakarta Theological Seminary and affirming churches in Southeast Asia continues to grow. We have so much to learn from them. We also have much to contribute from our Canadian context, where we can speak openly and freely within the church, while enjoying a measure of security and acceptance.

Paul: You talked to many youth in Jakarta. Tell me about those conversations.

Jordan: I was really impressed by the student movement in Indonesia, which has one of the strongest student Christian movement in the world. The level of cooperation between their different faith-based student groups is truly inspiring. Young people in Indonesia are really intentional about interfaith cooperation and political organizing. We have a lot to learn from them.

United Church Moderator Jordan Cantwell meets with youth participants at the Evolve conference in British Columbia.
United Church Moderator Jordan Cantwell meets with a small group of youth participants at the Evolve conference.
Credit: 
Keri Wehlander

Paul: After Jakarta, you flew to Vancouver to take part in Evolve, a four-day conference for youth and young adults. Tell me about that.

Jordan: The theme for the event was “Just Chill,” which was exactly what I needed. After Jakarta, I needed some downtime. I also was re-energized and inspired by the faith and energy of the young people I met. Their passion for the church excited and enlivened me.

Paul: Were you a guest speaker?

Jordan: No, I did a little workshop, called “A Conversation with the Moderator,” but mostly I was just there to chill.

Moderator Jordan Cantwell with the large group of participants at the Evolve youth event in Vancouver.
Moderator Jordan Cantwell says she was re-energized by the vitality of youth participants at the Evolve conference.
Credit: 
Lesley Fairley

Paul: You came back to Toronto a week later to take part in a meeting of the Executive of the General Council. Tell me about the discussions there.

Jordan: Executive members dealt with many issues that elicited many passionate and diverse opinions. Throughout the two-day meeting, however, I was very impressed by the way that members dove into challenging subject matters while maintaining an unwavering respect for each other. They showed it is possible to honestly and courageously engage in hard conversations, while disagreeing in love. We need to continue to have these conversations, grounded always in love and respect with each other.

Paul: What plans do you have for December?

Jordan: After all this travel and deep engagement with our church, I find myself quite exhausted and ready for a break. I’m looking forward to being home with my family for the month of December, then to come back in January, renewed and refreshed.

—Paul Russell is Communications Coordinator with the Office of the Moderator and General Secretary. He will continue to have conversations with the Moderator about her work, with excerpts from the conversations posted here on a regular basis.