It has been years in the making, but today, 22 July 2019, delegates to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada General Assembly in Des Moines, Iowa, approved a historic agreement with The United Church of Canada. Known as a Full Communion Agreement, it allows clergy to move freely between the denominations if they choose, and recognizes each other’s sacraments of baptism and communion. The United Church of Canada voted for this agreement in July 2018 at its 43rd General Council meeting. In 2015, the United Church signed a similar Full Communion Agreement with the United Church of Christ (USA).
“We are very close theologically to the Disciples and have a common commitment to unity among churches. We care about the same social issues and our ministers have comparable educational training, so in view of the prayer of Jesus Christ that ‘all may be one,’ it seems natural that our denominations should create a strong and formal tie,” explains the Rev. Daniel Hayward, who chairs the United Church’s Theology and Inter-Church Inter-Faith Committee and helped draw up the agreement.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was founded in the United States and Canada in the early 19th century with roots in the Scottish Presbyterian tradition, which is also part of the heritage of The United Church of Canada. There are 21 Disciples of Christ congregations in Canada and over 3,700 congregations in the United States. In Winnipeg and Calgary, the United Church and the Disciples share congregations, Broadway Disciples United Church and Campbell-Stone United Church, that weave the two traditions together.
“For North American Disciples, this Full Communion Agreement begins the Christ-centred process of making us better neighbours. We have lived and done ministry side by side with our United Church kin for over a century here in Canada and have many deep ties ecumenically, theologically, and in service to all God’s people. I was ordained a Disciple yet studied at the United Church’s Emmanuel College (Toronto). Many of my United Church colleagues, as well as Disciples’ clergy on both sides of the border, are excited by the opportunity to grow and see blossom new ministry opportunities that are now available under this agreement,” adds the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Garbin, the Disciples’ Regional Minister for Canada.
A formal worship service to celebrate the Full Communion Agreement between the denominations will be held October 6, 2019, at Broadway Disciples United Church, Winnipeg, with officials of both denominations and members of neighbouring Disciples and United congregations worshipping together.
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