“The church doesn’t exist for its own sake, but to be a community that embodies God’s justice, expresses God’s compassion, and works relentlessly for God’s vision of shalom,” says the Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell.
Cantwell was born in New York shortly after the conclusion, in 1965, of the Second Vatican Council, which renewed the Roman Catholic Church’s ecumenical dialogue with other religions. Her mother was Methodist and her father Roman Catholic.
“Ecumenical dialogue and practice have been part of my life from the very beginning, and both continue to shape who I am and what I believe God is calling the church to be.”
Cantwell’s family moved to the Canadian prairies when she was in grade two, and she has lived there ever since. She grew up in the Anglican Church, left it when she was in her 20s to seek out other spiritual paths, and joined the United Church in the late 1990s. She is grateful to have found a spiritual home where her passion for social justice and her belief in a radically inclusive God are both welcome.
Before being ordained, Cantwell worked at The Centre for Christian Studies when it first moved to Winnipeg.
“That is where I learned about diaconal ministry and its unique and important place in our church. It’s also where I met the amazing woman who would later become my life partner.”
She also worked as a staff associate at Augustine United in Winnipeg. Eventually she was given responsibility for Augustine’s Oak Table Community Ministry, which offers hospitality, support, and advocacy for people living in poverty.
In 2006, Cantwell and her family moved to Saskatoon so she could study for her Master of Divinity at St. Andrew’s College. She was ordained in 2010 and was settled in her internship charge, Delisle-Vanscoy United Church, 43 km southwest of Saskatoon. She had served there for seven years when she was elected Moderator in August 2015.
One of the issues that will likely dominate much of Cantwell’s attention during her three-year term is denominational restructuring.
“We need to muster all our courage because we are being called to fundamental change—not simply in our structures but also in how we relate to one another in the church, in this country, to the land, and to all our relations. We need to embrace this change, not so that we survive institutionally but so that we truly embody the gospel by which we are called and named.”
Cantwell has been involved in social justice work for three decades. She
- was an international observer in South Africa for the Ecumenical Monitoring Program in 1993
- served for six years on the Theology and Inter-Church Inter-Faith Committee
- participated in the Moderator’s visit to Israel and Palestine in 2011
- attended the World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, South Korea, as a delegate for the United Church in 2013
- travelled to Mexico on an education/exposure tour with a group of youth and young adults from Saskatchewan
- served as a home group leader at Rendez-vous 2014 and the winter gathering of Youth Forum 2015
- chaired the Education and Students Committee of River Bend Presbytery for four years
- served as the United Church co-chair to the local Roman Catholic‒United Church dialogue
- provided worship leadership for the Ministry Matters and Prairie Horizons events
- served on the leadership team of the Saskatchewan All My Relations Network (formerly the Living into Right Relations Network)
“We are fundamentally a people of hope. Our story is one of hope. We have something to offer the world.
“It is hope that fuels our vision and gives us courage and allows us to follow joyfully wherever the Spirit may lead.”
Cantwell is married to Laura Fouhse, a diaconal minister who serves McClure United Church in Saskatoon. Their daughter, Hope, graduated from high school in June 2015.