People entering ministry In The United Church of Canada must satisfy committee interview panels that they are in essential agreement with the church’s Statement of Doctrine. To clarify what this means for ministry candidates and the committees tasked with those interviews, the church’s Theology and Inter-Church Inter-Faith Committee has released its report and conclusions on essential agreement.
For many people it is an odd term when other denominations require a very strict adherence to their doctrinal statements. Because the United Church formed through a union of three major denominations and blended their doctrinal statements into the founding Basis of Union, it has always required its ministers to be “in essential agreement” with church doctrine. Essential agreement means that the interview committee, usually drawn from clergy and laypeople, must find that a candidate they are interviewing stands sufficiently within the Christian tradition, as expressed in the United Church’s Statement of Doctrine, to be able to carry out ministry in the United Church faithfully, intelligibly, and with integrity.
Since union, three further statements of faith have been included in the overall Statement of Doctrine. Each generation has shaped the evolving theology of the church as it seeks to live out its Christian calling in the world. The most recent statement, A Song of Faith, was approved in 2006.
The Rev. Daniel Hayward, chair of the Theology and Inter-Faith Inter-Church Committee, explains,
Essential agreement does not mean literal subscription to every word of the Statement of Doctrine, nor does it mean that a candidate for ministry, and ministry personnel, can believe whatever they like. As the committee says in our report, essential agreement is an important means to ensure that the church’s ministers can represent the historic Christian tradition in which we stand—because we as The United Church of Canada have a particular story, the Christian story, to tell, and we ordain, commission, recognize, admit, and readmit persons for authorized ministry to convey that story to others.
Rev. John H. Young
Executive Minister, Theological Leadership
The United Church of Canada
info [at] united-church.ca