Grace and peace to you, in Jesus’ name!
With the advent of 2019, six years of intense focus on structural and governance change concluded with the implementation of the largest restructuring of our church since its formation in 1925. Thank you for your wisdom in shaping these changes and for your patience as they are implemented. Change is always challenging, but overall the desire to continue to move the church into the 21st century, more agile and ready to minister in our communities and in our world, has motivated all of us.
It is important as we gather as communities of faith for annual meetings and as our regional councils come together that we now get on with the things that these changes were meant to allow us to better do: deepen our faith and theological convictions and put our faith into action in the world.
As we live into a new structure, we are committed to the continuity of the faith of the church as has been expressed in our faith statements since 1925 and, before that, in the denominations from which the United Church came. We continue to be called to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, and to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen. Collectively, the four statements that make up the doctrine of the United Church reflect who we are and the accumulated wisdom and faith of our denomination.
Between 2009 and 2012, every congregation and presbytery and two General Councils delved in depth into our historic statements of faith and decided overwhelmingly to include the 1940, 1968, and 2006 statements of faith in our Basis of Union with the 1925 Articles of Faith. There is a range of language and imagery in these four statements, but at their core they all affirm that we are a Christian church rooted in the Reformed tradition. We recognize the primacy of scripture, and we celebrate the sacraments through which, by simple things—bread, wine, and water—the saving love of God is lifted up and known.
Inspired by this faith tradition, and because of our commitment to be followers of Jesus Christ, our communities of faith continue a pattern of participating in God’s mission in the world. Our ministries support local food banks, sponsor refugees, provide places for the homeless to find shelter from the cold, and participate in Canadian Foodgrains Bank projects, to name but some examples.
A lot of resources are already available to take us into meaningful faith conversations. A faith formation initiative, started before the last General Council, is preparing to share practices to support both our prayer lives and our experience of the presence of God. In the past few weeks, the Moderator has held the first of what he hopes will be many conversations with ministry personnel, church leaders, and communities of faith about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. A new book entitled The Theology of The United Church of Canada has just been published. The Atlantic School of Theology posts weekly podcasts on topics of theology and faith. And there are many opportunities regionally for faith and faithful witness to be explored: Pacific Mountain Regional Council is offering “The Inner Work of Holy Week” in March; ReVITALize at Metropolitan is in London in April; ReJUNEvation is at St. Andrew’s College in June, to name just a few. We encourage you to seek them out and to participate in the dialogue and debate that are hallmarks of the United Church.
Confident in the grounding of this United Church of Canada, we give thanks for the privilege, and the call, to serve as members and as leaders in this day. We invite you, too, to give thanks for God’s abundant love as we continue on our journeys of faith.
The Right Rev. Richard Bott
Moderator, The United Church of Canada
General Secretary, General Council