I've been invited to apply to be a Commissioner at the General Council of the United Church of Canada in July of 2018. The application includes a questionnaire. Here's what I said:
1. Have you read the position description for a General Council commissioner?
2. Why do you wish to be a General Council commissioner?
a) Because I was asked
b) Because I am new to the UCC and want to
a. Experience UCC polity at a new level
b. Enhance my understanding of UCC polity beyond coursework
c. Bring a newcomer’s perspective
d. Bring my concerns and hopes for structural agility for the UCC
e. See where the UCC is being chased by the Spirit.
c) Because I like being around people who are smarter than I am
d) Because I don’t want, once again, to be part of an organisation that is so focused on survival and structure that it has diminished energy for pursuing social justice.
3. What are the specific experiences or skills you bring to this position?
I have expertise in understanding and analysis of institutional culture and organisational development and change. After almost forty years in ministry I remain optimistic about the Church. My ecclesiology is more congregational therefore I see the benefit of pursuing a less hierarchical structure and the pitfalls of silo-ing inherent in a model heavily-weighted toward individual congregations.
4. Are you able and willing to serve for the full three years?
I hope so, and yes.
5. Will you attend any training, information sessions or special meetings throughout the three years?
Yes, if they don’t interfere with my call to the church I am serving.
6. Where do you believe God is calling The United Church of Canada to go?
Having been part of the UCC for less than 2 years it would be more than presumptuous of me to say. Permit, then, some generalisations based on what I have seen and heard. The Biblical record of those who were called seems to favour those who had the skills to adapt to new situations, and/or those who believed in God’s future, and/or those who were willing, mostly reluctantly, to speak the truth to people who didn’t want to hear. The UCC could follow those examples and ensure that it is adaptable, trust in God’s process (even when it is difficult to recognise) and continue to speak to a brilliant and compassionate culture that is at the same time complacent, fearful, tired and narcissistic. It’s ability to do all that is dependent in part on its ability to recognise that its strengths are inherently bound to its weaknesses. For example, the UCC is fiercely intelligent and fearless in its advocacy for the marginalised. That intelligence can make it a little too self-reflective and its fearlessness hesitant to take risks when it perceives that it has limited resources. My impression is that the UCC is listening for God’s call, which is enough for me to be along for the ride.
7. How have you seen God’s actions in the life of The United Church of Canada?
Yes. Particularly in the many expressions of people working alongside the marginalised and in the ongoing creation of community in times of worship.
No, when procedures can take a long time to move the organisation a very short distance. I am more concerned about movement with glacial slowness than the expression of the UCC being a melting iceberg.
Yes, because there still is a great deal below the surface. Or, in the word of God to Elijah in 1 Kings 19, “I have many in reserve.”