Preparing for Corner Brook

July 23, 2015 – Keith Simmonds

BC Conference General Council Commissioners Gathering

On July 4th, while our neighbours to the south were celebrating the birthday of their nation, some of the commissioners chosen to attend the 42nd General Council of the United Church of Canada (GC42) met at BC Conference offices in Burnaby to learn more about our roles and responsibilities.

Under the capable and confident guidance of our General Council Executive members – Graham Brownmiller and Jean MacDonald – along with the seasoned expertise of our Executive Secretary, Doug Goodwin, those gathered discussed the format, processes and expectations of the General Council meeting, to be held in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, in August of this year.

Responding to proposals

In the main we were reminded of our responsibility to discern, together with all commissioners, a course for our church as we respond to the proposals before the meeting. Those proposals concern everything from governance structure, investment policies, climate change, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, to orders of ministry and Israel/Palestine and beyond. A full examination of all that lies before us can be found at the General Council website:

The workbook and more

Those who are keenly interested might like to download and read from the General Council website the workbook, the Comprehensive Review Task Group report, and the biographical information about our 12 (so far) nominees for moderator.

I’m sure our commissioners would be interested to hear perspectives on those proposals, although most of us would prefer a conversation, as opposed to a direct effort to push a particular point of view. Send me an email.

Restructuring, restructuring, restructuring

We can expect a great deal of focus on restructuring (a number of the proposals coming to GC42 from our Conference deal with that issue), and we were pleased to find out that one of our Commissioners, Janet Gear, has been selected to help put proposals from all conferences together in a format that can be handled by the full court.

Janet will serve as one of a group of commissioners selected from all conferences. They will review all proposals dealing with restructuring and attempt to develop wording that reflects their intent in a way that can be discussed and debated by all attending GC42.

Variety of commissioner roles

Some of our other commissioners will be carrying out key roles for the meeting, acting as Commission Chair, Commission Council, table group facilitators and taking on other responsibilities as requested by the organizers. Deb Bowman will carry out a dual role, as a candidate for moderator and a commissioner charged (as we all are) with the responsibilities of discernment and direction setting. We will also try to ensure that a commissioner from our Conference is available to speak to the intent of proposals coming out of BC Conference, for the benefit of commissioners from other conferences.

Dividing up the work

There are a number of proposals before the meeting, more than can be considered by the full court in the time available. General Council has, therefore, divided commissioners up into three commissions that will each consider a number of proposals and act on them (or not) with the authority of the full court. Those divisions are contained in the workbook, where interested readers will note which are heard by everyone (plenary) and which are heard by a third of commissioners attending (colours or ‘berries’).

As I write this we have yet to hear which of us will sit in which commission. We are encouraged to read and understand all proposals, regardless of commission, as any of us could be called to any of the three commissions, depending on last minute needs to adjust and balance numbers between them.

Determined and looking to August

Our commissioners are enthusiastic, determined, and committed to the task they agreed to take on when first approached to seek out nomination and election as commissioners. We are aware of our responsibilities to our church, and are determined to do our best to discern a response to the issues before us, in light of our call to put Love at the centre.

I will write more of this, as I absorb the workbook, and draw nearer to embarking for Corner Brook. In the meantime, know that you are in my prayers, as I hope all commissioners are in yours.