As it is every year, the Maritime Conference Annual General Meeting was a busy one. The business was made more significant because this is also the year for the meeting of the General Council, the national governing body of the church that meets once every three years.
So along with the regular work of the Conference AGM-like approving a budget, hearing committee reports regarding their work for the past year, and voting on a new president for conference (The Rev Catherine Stuart, youngest Conference president and a classmate of mine from my seminary years)-we also heard proposals that were to be forwarded (or not) to the 42nd meeting of General Council held in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland in August. The lions share of these proposals dealt with the Comprehensive Review, a 3 year discerning if what the church might look like going into the future. I’ve posted information about this before so I’ll invite you to have a look here. Long story short, the Comprehensive Review is suggesting a restructuring of the church moving from a 4 court model (Pastoral Charge, Presbytery, Conference, and General Council) to a 3 council model (Community of Faith, Regional Council, and Denominational Council). To greater and lesser degrees the first and last courts/councils will remain the same with Presbytery and Conference being combined into larger regional bodies. Some proposals wanted to remain with the system we have. Some proposals sought to rework what might be. In the end, much of the conference expressed hope for what is being proposed in the Comprehensive Review.
But to my mind much of this work, though significant and important, pales next to the conversations, debates, and decisions made around becoming an Affirming Conference. For those unsure of what our means to be “Affirming” I invite you to visit this site. Again to summarize, to be an Affirming Ministry (Conference, Pastoral Charge, etc) means that the community expressed a radical hospitality in welcoming and embracing all people regardless of age, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity. After 3 years of prayerful discernment, debate, questions, and more prayer, I am proud to say the the Maritime Conference voted to become an Affirming Ministry! We aren’t one yet but we voted to bring our application to Affirm United. The last 3 years have not been without their hard times, but we have learned and grown and come to realize that as people of Christ, as followers of the one who welcomes and loves all, we are called to do likewise.
That said, the work is not done and the conversation is not over. As a pastoral charge, we too should be looking at what our means to be welcoming and inviting in the radical way that Christ did. I encourage you to drop me (Rev Bowley) an email or call if you have any questions or just want to chat. For some this might be a hard reality to live into, for others, “it’s about time!”, and for still others we are only scratching the surface of answering our call to love radically and unconditionally.
The overarching theme for this weekend’s meeting was, “That All May Be… ” leaving us to finish the thought at various times in different ways. Ultimately -for me anyway- it comes back to the phrase that inspired the theme, the motto as it were of The United Church of Canada: Ut Omnes Unum Sint, Akwe Nia’Tetewà: Neren, That All May Be One.
Peace of Christ be with you always.
Rev. Richard Bowley