Richmond Hill, Ont.
United Church of Canada (UCC) moderator the Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell on July 9 reaffirmed her church’s commitment that its relationship with the Anglican Church of Canada will not change no matter how its General Synod votes on same-sex marriage.
“I…want you to know that our friendship with you, our partnership, our ecumenical solidarity, is not dependent on the outcome of the decisions that you make this week,” Cantwell said in an address before General Synod. “We stand with you as sisters and brothers in Christ, and we stand with you regardless of how the conversation unfolds, and regardless of the decisions that are made. That is the joy, and the blessing, and the challenge of our unity in the body of Christ.”
Cantwell said she was impressed at the spirit with which she saw General Synod handling the potentially divisive issue.
“I am madly taking notes and learning a great deal, very heartened and inspired by the care that you are taking for one another as you do this very difficult and painful work,” she said. “And I want you to know that the United Church of Canada understands how difficult these conversations are.”
Her own church, Cantwell said, has had its own “painful conversations” that has some of its members still “smarting.”
“I wish that we had witnessed how you have done this before we did that,” she said. “I hope that you are all able to walk away at the end of this week carrying less pain and less hurt than many of us walked away with.”
A decision to allow the ordination of gay men and women in the late 1980s proved very controversial for the UCC, leading some congregations to leave the church.
Cantwell also said she hoped both churches, as close partners in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, could work together on the considerable work of reconciliation that now needs to be done.
“We need one another—we need all of our strength, and all of our voices, and all of our wisdom and courage and humility to be able to do the hard, hard work that is before us, because reconciliation requires justice, and we are a long way from justice in this country,” she said.
The churches, she said, now need to “make sure that Indigenous communities are lifted up and given the same care and attention that non-Indigenous communities are given.”
In particular, she said, the two churches could work together on fighting what she called the “obscene” rates of suicide in First Nations communities in Canada.
Cantwell also said that as the United Church of Canada embarks on its first full communion relationship—with the U.S.-based United Church of Christ—it was looking to the Anglican Church of Canada and its full communion partner, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, as “inspiration and role models.”
After her address, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he was encouraged to see dialogue with the UCC “back on track” in recent years.
The two churches almost formally united in the 1970s; a plan of union was approved by the UCC’s General Council, but the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod voted against it in 1975.
Cantwell, who is gay, was raised primarily an Anglican, but, as she told the Anglican Journal last year, left the church in her 20s. She wanted to be a priest, but she decided the Anglican Church of Canada’s position on the ordination of gays would mean she would have to lie about her sexuality if she wanted to follow her vocation.