Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the gardens of Buckingham Palace on June 26, 2013. (Photo: UK Government/Wikimedia Commons:https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/)

Topics: UCC in Focus | Society

United Church ‘laments role of monarchy’ in reaction to Queen’s death

The denomination gave thanks for her life and work but acknowledged the larger context


The United Church of Canada released a nuanced statement about Queen Elizabeth II’s death on Thursday.

The longest-reigning monarch in British history and Canada’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth died on Sept. 8 at age 96. 

The United Church, in a statement on its website, expressed sorrow at her death and recognized her life of “faithful” service and work for charities and other organizations.

But it also noted the monarchy’s role in colonization, specifically mentioning Canada and Bermuda.

“We know that power, privilege, and sin can and do accrue within institutions and systems,” the denomination’s statement says. “As a result, the history of the monarchy and colonization, embedded within systems of White superiority, have had harmful and ongoing impacts on many communities within Canada, including Indigenous communities and racialized communities (particularly those with ties to countries of origin that have also experienced the trauma of colonization).”

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Bermuda’s Wesleyan Methodist Church joined the United Church in 1930, but in 2022, the country is still a British overseas territory, represented by the United Kingdom in foreign affairs hundreds of years after it was colonized. Economic and social disparities persist among Black and white Bermudians. 

“We honour the ways in which Queen Elizabeth has lived faithfully into this image.  We mourn the ways in which she, as the embodiment of the Crown and the structural sins of a colonizing Great Britain, has often not lived into this image or likeness,” the church said in its statement.

Moderator’s response

United Church moderator Rt. Rev. Carmen Lansdowne declined to comment on the Queen’s death. Lansdowne, a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, is the first Indigenous woman to serve as the United Church’s spiritual leader. 

But in a Facebook post Friday reflecting on the death of United Church elder Rev. Bernice Saulteaux, Lansdowne wrote that the Queen’s leadership and service was a source of inspiration, despite the broader context. 

“A nonpartisan head of state, she was not able to be political or make policy,” Lansdowne wrote. “Whatever role kings and queens have played in colonization, she was not at liberty to make reparation without the British state.”

The constitutional monarchy system of Canada means that the monarch’s only role in the legislative process is at the end, approving laws through royal assent.

One Canadian’s reflection

Lee Perry, 72, a United Church member who lives in Toronto, saw the Queen in Canada twice — once as a child with her Brownie group in 1959, and again as a student photojournalist at Queen’s University in 1973 when the Queen and the late Prince Philip visited to mark the tercentenary of the city of Kingston, Ont.

“I grew up admiring all things royal as a little girl, and actually being in love with [Elizabeth’s late sister] Princess Margaret Rose and having a huge poster of her from the Toronto Star in her royal purple regalia on my bedroom wall,” she said.

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She said she appreciated the Queen’s relationship with the late anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

“One of the key highlights would be, of course, that she embraced Mandela, and provided a moral courage and world leadership to do that and to provide an anchor for the anti-apartheid movement,” she said. 

But she said her personal process of reflection on the Queen’s passing will be complex. 

“We, collectively, as those who are of [British, European] heritage… are collectively mourning a monarch who represents for many the worst of our colonial history,” she said.


Emma Prestwich is Broadview’s digital editor.

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  • says:

    I will never forget that Brian Mulroney, as prime minister, went to the Queen to get permission to ram through his Goods and Services Tax in 1990. I wish the Queen had washed her hands of the matter. Canadians have paid a fantastic amount in GST for over thirty years.

  • says:

    What twisted nonsense. WE, the U.C. had Residential Schools & therein committed many of the atrocities as a part of pursuing CULTURAL GENOCIDE. NOW ON HER DEATH WE'RE WILLING TO SLAM HER. DISGUSTING DISGUSTING. `MAYBE WE SHOULD RECALL ALL IMAGES OF THE Queen for ```````````' her`" violence- what nonsense ` today's in political correctness.
    Cheap. petty `7 small as we mouth so much & wonder why no one pays attention increasingly. The church just another mealy mouthed politically correct politician. `why .........
    I've been actively involved in the life of the `united church for 60 years, actively- I'm ashamed.

  • says:

    The Queen oversaw the end of the colonial system and nurtured the spirit and growth of the commonwealth. The moderator declined to comment. That is a reflection of her inability to put grievance aside for a moment and recognize the Queen as a leader who sought to make positive change. S theleader of the UCC she the moderator reflects the bad manners of a rude church


    • says:

      It also shows her un-Christlike attitude.
      We are to honour our Government leaders.
      Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17.

  • says:

    "We know that power, privilege and sin can and do accrue within institutions and systems." The United Church non-Christian leadership since 1986, has demonstrated this fact. The removal of the presbyteries inviolate decisions made by the General Council and broke the constitution of the Basis of Union of 1925.
    1. Basis of Union (copied from the Dominion Act.)
    2. WHEREAS The Presbyterian Church in Canada, The Methodist Church and The Congregational Churches of Canada by their free and independent action through their governing bodies and in accordance with their respective constitutions did agree to unite and form one body or denomination of Christians under the name of "The United Church of Canada," on the Basis of Union above set out.
    Rescinding these facts is to gain access to properties and land of the United church of Canada to manipulate the wealth and treasures of our land, by dividing and conquering faithful followers of Jesus.
    "I Charles 111, by the grace of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of My and other Realms and Territories King Defender of the faith, do faithfully promise and swear that I shall inviolably maintain and preserve the settlement of the true Protestant Religion."
    As a dutiful Christian servant to the Lord, Queen Elizabeth 11,
    has been called home to God. She followed the truth, the way and the life, to the best of her ability, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. God demonstrated his pleasure, by rainbows over Kensington and Windsor Palaces. To God be the glory.

  • says:

    Utterly shameful.

  • says:

    Does this "nuanced" statement from UCC leadership reflect the views of the majority of the United Church of Canada faithful who take their place in the pews?


    • says:

      Wondering the same thing. Exactly whose views are expressed in this news item on the website?

  • says:

    If there was ever a symbol of how out of touch the United church is with mainstream Canadians, it is this statement “ lamenting the role of the Monarchy”. Surely to God there is someone in the whole General Council with the grace to be able to separate acknowledging the life and service of the Queen from the history of the British Colonial past. Are we so always needing to be so politically correct that we cannot take a moment to be graceful and appropriate. The fact that our Moderator cannot find an appropriate comment is not only shameful but shows a remarkable lack of readiness to lead. One more example, I’m afraid of why we are closing a church a week

  • says:

    This pitiful proclamation demonstrates the spiritually deadness of current leadership. Failure to express gratitude to our heavenly Father for the life of a remarkable person is a grievous sin. .

    Queen Elizabeth was a gift to us from God, a modern day miracle, a person who did everything in her life God asked her to do, a light in the darkness of post war Europe and the rise of communism, a builder of the concept of a family of nations, a unifier not a divider, an optimist not a pessimist, and to the discerning an exemplar of how God acts in history.

  • says:

    What woke, pitiful nonsense. Shame on you. Shame on the Moderator.