Canadian church leader pledges to build bridges between faiths

By on August 17, 2009

The newly elected leader of the United Church of Canada has called on her denomination to become a multicultural organization that builds bridges with other faiths in comments following accusations that the church was anti-Semitic.Mardi Tindal, who was elected moderator by delegates to the United church’s general council on Aug.14, made her comment after the church’s general council, held from Aug.9 to 15 in Kelowna, British Columbia.Speaking to the Canadian Press news agency, Tindal said, “We are visible and engaged in communities from coast to coast to coast in Canada, so we have a visible presence. I think we still enjoy a relatively good level of trust from the community. We must not squander those opportunities.”The church meeting drew international attention due to proposed resolutions, which compared Israel’s policy toward Palestinians to South African apartheid, and included a suggested boycott of Israel. The Canadian Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations leveled accusations of anti-Semitism against the church.The council ultimately rejected the resolutions but encouraged church members to “study, discern, and pray” about the issue, and consider boycotts to help end the conflict in the Middle East.Nora Carmi, a Palestinian Christian from Jerusalem, and an official guest of the general council, was quoted in a UCC press release as saying, “I have had enough of hearing that it is two peoples to blame, and that it is a balanced situation … It [a boycott] has to include Israeli items made in the occupied territories …. You can choose the boycott that you want. It is not going to bring down the state of Israel.”Carmi is coordinator for community building and women’s programmes with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem, and a member of the steering committee of the Christian Peacemaker Teams.Tindal suggested that the boycott debate demonstrated her church’s willingness to tackle difficult issues publicly. The new leader also stated after her election that the church must concentrate on its “abundant resources” rather than what it does not have.”You have probably heard people say, ‘We do not have enough money,’ or, ‘We do not have enough members.’ When we become preoccupied with that view of things, we sometimes are tempted to lose sight of what we do have, which is a powerful message and a deep compassion for God’s world,” said Tindal.The new leader will serve a three-year term. A 56-year-old adult educator, she has worked as a broadcaster, video producer and author. Most recently, she was executive director of a United Church education centre. She is only the third layperson her church has elected to lead it.The United Church of Canada is the largest Protestant denomination in the country, and was founded in 1925 by the merging of four Protestant groupings. Today, the church claims three million members in 3,500 congregations across the country.

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