Adele Halliday
Adele Halliday. (Photo courtesy United Church of Canada)

Topics: March 2021, UCC in Focus | Church News

United Church hires anti-racism and equity officer

Adele Halliday will help coordinate the denomination's anti-racism efforts


The United Church announced Wednesday that it has hired Adele Halliday as its new anti-racism and equity officer. Among other duties, she will help to co-ordinate the anti-racism efforts in the broader church. 

Halliday has worked at the national office since 2004 in a variety of roles, most recently for the Church and Mission unit. Many of her positions have been related to equity work.

“I’ve always felt very much called to this work,” she told Broadview. “It’s not easy work; it’s hard work.”

Halliday is the first person in the General Council office with this title, however, this is not the first position related to anti-racism work. In 2002, the United Church created the position of General Council minister, racial justice, to help the church work on becoming an anti-racist church and on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Outgoing General Secretary Nora Sanders explained the importance of the new position during the annual General Council meeting last weekend, amid budgetary constraints that saw other jobs eliminated earlier this year. 

“We always have to be renewing and revising and reviewing our structure to make sure that the staff we do have are in the roles that we need at this particular time,” she said. “And so this was one that was considered important enough that we need to do it, even though we’re short of money.”

It was at this same meeting that the United Church’s General Council voted unanimously to commit to becoming an anti-racist denomination.

“An anti-racist denomination is one that actively works at dismantling racism and white supremacy at all levels of the church, continues to work at decolonizing its theology, and strives to redistribute racial power more fairly,” read a document accompanying the motion that described the church’s goal in adopting the stance.

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“It does this anti-racism work so that people from all racial backgrounds can participate in the church’s life fully and freely.”

The proposal, originally titled “Towards an Anti-Racist Denomination,” was first brought forward in a General Council Executive meeting on June 20. 

“It’s part of a long process that we’ve been part of for many years, but haven’t yet achieved, and this is intended to lift that up and focus it and also to provide some materials that will enable congregations to begin, wherever they are, to be part of this,” Sanders said of the motion during Saturday’s meeting.  

Halliday expressed her excitement at the church’s new commitment and her role. “I feel like this collective work around anti-racism and equity are one of the ways in which I think God’s Spirit is moving the church towards creating better places of belonging for people of all identities,” she said.

The United Church of Canada has been engaged in anti-racist work for many years, embracing an intercultural vision and working on an ever-evolving list of proposals and actions with this goal in mind. Most recently, the General Council Executive issued a statement in June declaring that Black Lives Matter.

Halliday echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the long line of people who have been engaged in anti-racism and equity work leading to this moment. 

“This is not about me, this is about forward-moving momentum that’s been going on for a long time,” she said. “All the people who went before. The ancestors, some of whom have passed on and moved on, it’s their work and their persistence that make it possible for the church collectively to say, ‘We are making this commitment,’ and to continue that work, moving forward.”

She added that working on anti-racism and equity doesn’t detract from other issues the church is working on.

Passing the most recent motion combines the church’s anti-racist intentions with tangible actions. As outlined in the document, they include: continuous effort, involving all parts of the church, equipping leaders, engaging with anti-racist practices, building on history, reflecting on theology and concrete strategy.

This story was updated on Oct. 30, 2020 to add quotes from Adele Halliday. It was further updated on March 9, 2021 to reflect that a past General Council position also focused on anti-racism.

Glynis Ratcliffe is Broadview’s senior writer.

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  • says:

    "United Church’s General Council voted unanimously to commit to becoming an anti-racist denomination."

    This says a lot about the denomination doesn't it? It also doesn't fair well with its Christians either.

  • says:

    Shelby Steele the African American civil rights leader of the 60s says that the dream of Martin Luther King. The dream of equality - that no person will be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character is finished. He said I worked against segragation all my life. He was speaking of the fight for equality. Today he says he is working against discrimination again. Meaning he is fighting against the ideology of equity. The very ideology this church is bent on establishing without debate. The church needs to bring the voice of him and many Black conservative intellectuals into the conversation who are constructively critical of equity ideology as part of our strategy to make us a church that Jesus told us to become.

  • says:

    All my life, (which is double yours) in the United Church of Canada I have loved and worked with people of all races, colour and creeds, in Christian love. I am the dying christian senior with malignant melanoma that you are trying to dismantle because of your delusional "white privilege" attitudes. We are the ones who paid your salary. Your black lives movement is political, social, racist and not christian. You just want us to pay for it. Equity is the quality of being fair and impartial. I challenge you do this. In Christian Love, Gillian MacLean.

  • says:

    April 11 2021. Since this article, the name racist continues against white church members. We are pummelled by it in this magazine. I have been reading up on the history of the ideologies of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (ironically DIE). They are words that sound very appealing until you dig into their ideological meaning. These are the foundational ideologies of critical race theory embraced by ANTIFA and BLM Inc. Even this term antiracism officer does not mean what most unsuspecting church people think it means. Within the context of critical race theory it means that unless you declare yourself antiracist as a category of person defined by these ideologies you are a racist. You must declare yourself, take a knee before the antiracist burecrates in the church otherwise you are a racist. Let us be absolutely clear what critical race theory and DIE mean to an antiracist. They mean a return to Segregation. They are a direct refutation of MLK's dream of desegration. they are a destruction of the civil rights movement that in the view of organizations like BLM Inc. has totally failed black people. Our leadership is about to launch an reeducation campaign. they are about to take names of those ministers who don't agree with their approach. Get ready to resist the ideology when you hear it.