The United Church of Canada is holding its 44th General Council online for the first time in the denomination’s 97-year history. The gathering was postponed last year due to COVID-19 and is now being held over a six-month period.
Working under the scripture-based theme “Who do you say I am?” General Council 44 begins on Feb. 13, when 260 commissioners, plus Youth Forum, guests and staff, will gather online for worship and official opening motions.
During Council’s initial phase, commissioners familiarize themselves with proposals at seven 90-minute evening sessions. These learning sessions, which will begin March 9 and conclude May 9, can be watched live or in recorded versions. They will be followed by several two-hour discussion sessions over the weekend of June 17-19.
At press time, about 50 proposals had been received from regional councils and the National Indigenous Council. Several focus on environmental and political issues, including the long-standing question of the church’s stance on Israel and Palestine.
Once proposals are introduced in learning sessions, the various discussion groups will help organizers craft final proposals into motions.
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Decision-making meetings, including voting to elect a new moderator, will take place in 11 two-hour sessions from July 21 to 25. Council will conclude Aug. 7 with closing worship and installation of the new moderator. Like most of Council’s sessions, it will be streamed on YouTube and openly accessible.
Along the way, commissioners, guests and Youth Forum members will find many familiar General Council features delivered online, including small group sessions and worship, plus live and recorded music. The usual large meeting hall or arena is missing, but a Toronto-based studio, Bespoke Audio Visual, promises to provide high-quality production.
Sue Brodrick, a Calgary-based volunteer who chairs the General Council planning committee, hopes that “everyone who experiences this meeting feels good about the work that they have done to move the United Church forward in the next triennium” and “that that they were part of a new thing for the United Church.”
Candidates for moderator nominated to date by regional councils and the National Indigenous Council will be announced the week of Jan. 24. Additional nominations from those councils can be filed until May 30. Nominations can also happen during the meeting itself until June 16.
Mike Milne is a writer living in Owen Sound, Ont.
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