There are six names on presbyteries’ ballots for moderator of this year’s General Assembly. The six nominees took some time out of the busy Advent season to tell us about themselves and their hopes for the church.

Ballots were sent out to presbyteries in December and the votes will be tallied on April 3. The chosen nominee will be installed as moderator when the 2017 General Assembly begins in Kingston, Ont., on June 4.

The Rev. Peter G. Bush

The Rev. Peter G. Bush

The Rev. Peter G. Bush, B.A. (Hons.), M.A., M.T.S., M.Div.

Peter Bush, the son of missionary parents, is the teaching elder (minister) at Westwood Church, Winnipeg; having served Knox Church, Mitchell, Ontario (1996–2007) and St. Andrew’s Church, Flin Flon, Manitoba (1989–1996). Peter is passionate about congregations and individuals living the love of Jesus in action and telling the story of Jesus in words.

He has a heart for small congregations, having led workshops, coached leadership teams, and offered training events to help small congregations thrive in remote, rural, suburban and urban contexts. To this end he has authored two books, In Dying we are Born (Alban, 2008) and with Christine O’Reilly, Where Twenty or Thirty are Gathered (Alban, 2006).

For over 20 years Peter has written about Presbyterian involvement in residential schools and was a contract researcher with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In the last seven years, the Presbytery of Winnipeg has intentionally sought to plant new congregations among the growing non-Euro-Canadian communities in Winnipeg. Peter, cross-cultural liaison for the presbytery, translates Canadian Presbyterianism to these newly formed worshipping communities and interprets these communities to the Canadian Presbyterian Church.

Peter’s wider church involvement includes being clerk of the Synod of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario (2008-present); and member of the Pension and Benefits Board (2012–present), Committee on Church Doctrine (2005–2011) and, Committee on History (1996–2002, convenor 1999-2002). As editor of Presbyterian History for over 25 years and a contributor to the Record, he has told the stories of the people and congregations of the church. Peter coordinates the Reformation @ 500 Project, a Committee on History initiative, inviting exploration of the “five watchwords” of the Reformation in our present context. He is The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s representative on Evangelism Connections, a coalition of mainline North American denominations working to highlight evangelism as a mainline Christian practice and to share evangelism resources.

Peter is married to Debbie (Sutherland), the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries to Taiwan; they have one son.

Please provide some background on your involvement in The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

I have been an Interim Moderator nineteen times, including being named Interim Moderator at the Presbytery meeting held the day after my Recognition Service in Flin Flon, my first charge.
I was on the Committee on History 7 years, Church Doctrine 9 years (3 as a Corresponding member), and am completing my 5th year on the Pension and Benefits Board. I edit Presbyterian History and am lead for the Reformation @ 500 events.
Together with the Rev. Dr. Christine O’Reilly, I have led workshops training lay people to lead worship and preach – we have led events from the Peace River County to Cape Breton Island.
I started writing about The PCC and Residential Schools in 1992. I served on the planning committee for the “Remembering the Children” event in Winnipeg in March 2008, and was involved with the Church Tent at the first of the TRC’s National Events in 2010. I had the humbling honour of being asked to speak words of apology on behalf of the church at Treaty Three’s commemoration and dedication of the marker at the two Cecilia Jeffrey School sites.
The Presbytery of Winnipeg, responding to the presence of the World Christian community in Winnipeg, has started or nurtured four non-Euro-Canadian congregations which are part of the Presbytery. Recognizing the need for on-going connection and support, if such congregations are going to flourish, I serve as the Cross-Cultural Liaison for the Presbytery, interpreting Canadian Presbyterianism to these congregations and these congregations to the Canadian Church.

What are your earliest memories of church?

When I was 4 ½ we moved to Beirut, Lebanon, where we lived until I was 9 years old.
On Sunday mornings we attended an English speaking Church with the congregation sitting on folding chairs and the Sunday school space being in a rabbit warren of rooms above the sanctuary. I still remember a sermon illustration I heard in that church more than 45 years ago.
We lived on the third floor of an apartment building – and two floors down on the main level an Arabic-speaking church had rented an apartment as their church space (the living-room/dining room was the sanctuary, bedrooms were the minister’s study, Sunday school and meeting space). Sunday nights my parents attended this service and became friends of the Arabic speaking pastor.

What three verses of scripture do you return to over and over and find especially formative?

I Peter 5:7 – I was 5 years old when the Six-Day War happened. We had to dye the lightbulbs in our house and put dark construction paper in the windows so that the bombers would not be able see any light from our apartment. We were eventually evacuated by the Canadian government. It was scary time and this verse was very important.

Proverbs 3:5,6 – The theme verses for Camp IAWAH, the Christian camp that had an enormous impact on my life from age 15 to 24.

Jeremiah 29:11 – This verse is often quoted with little reference to the context. Yes, God is going to bring about the restoration of Israel – but not for 70 years – not in the lifetimes of the first readers of Jeremiah’s letter. Even though God’s restoration seems slow in coming, it is sure, it can be trusted.

What is your favourite hymn?

It changes over time. At times, it is the lyrics that matter even if the piece is unsingable, and at other times I want a tune that shouts hope.
At the moment, I am moved by Sylvia Dunstan’s hymnody – especially “You, Lord, are both lamb and shepherd” which so beautifully expresses the paradox of Jesus Christ.

What are you reading for pleasure these days?

I have been on a Sue Grafton kick for most of 2016, having read some 12 of her Kinsey Millhone
“alphabet” mysteries. I found M is for Malice particularly interesting theologically.

What is your image of the church at its best?

I tell the following story without reference to a specific place since this will be posted on the internet, giving the specific location may put people at risk.
My parents spent 5 years in a Middle Eastern country during the time I was living in Flin Flon. Debbie and I visited them, and one Sunday we went to the church my parents attended. This international church met in a store front, which they were renting. The preaching was in English with translation into at least three other languages taking place in various parts of the sanctuary. When the service was over my mother led Debbie and I downstairs to the basement where the Sunday School was just wrapping up. The Sunday School time ended with the children singing “Jesus loves me” simultaneously in three languages – English, Arabic, and a third language. Here refugees from the Gulf War, Palestinian students studying away from home, and ex-pats from Europe and North America were the church together – across the language barriers, the cultural differences, and the economic disparity. This remains for me one of the most powerful pictures of the church at its best – a foreshadowing of the church in Kingdom of God as described in Rev. 7:9,10.

Who are some of your heroes? Why and how did one of these people reform your understanding of life and faith?

Ian Munro – A mentor to me when I was in Iran.

James Robertson – A visionary Presbyterian during the last 3 decades of the 19th century

Anna Ross – First Principal of Ewart College, Bible Teacher, and Activist for the rights of Immigrants to Canada (particularly the Sikhs).

Ian Rennie – A Canadian Church historian with an ability to mentor young Christian scholars. I took two courses with him, but it was the reading course that was the most formative. He taught me that I could be both a pastor and an academic. What some people today call “Pastor Theologians” or “Ecclesial Theologians”. Ian insisted that parish clergy could and should speak to and engage with the ivory tower of the academe. That is was not a one-way street of the academe speaking to the parish clergy – it was a two-way street where the academe listened to the thinking and theological insights of parish clergy. While it took nearly five years into my first ministry for me to figure out how to do that, Ian’s voice of encouragement helped me stay engaged in being unabashedly a pastor and unabashedly a researcher and scholar.

What makes for excellence in faithful discipleship?

Richard of Chichester is hard to improve on:

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

The prayer was modified by Stephen Schwartz in Godspell (1971):

Day by day,
Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by day

What would you say is the core calling of the Church?

To worship of the Triune God of grace – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – everything else – mission, evangelism, social justice, community, pastoral care, ethical living – flows from the worship of the Triune God of grace.

What does it mean to be a Presbyterian in Canada in 2016?

Presbyterians are Christians with a Reformed flavour:

  • The Sovereignty of God. God acts freely. We do not say: “My God acts this way and not that way” – for God is independent of us. In God’s sovereignty God cannot deny God’s love, God’s faithfulness, or God’s justice.
  • God in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) is God in the New Testament. God is not about Law in the Old Testament and Grace in the New Testament – in fact Grace and Law are present in both.
  • The church-state relationship is much debated in Presbyterianism. The church is not subject to the state; nor do we believe in the separation of church and state; we affirm Jesus Christ as the only King and Head of Church and as such the church is called to be the conscience of the state.
  • Collegiality: Through attentive listening to the voices of all leaders (ruling and teaching elders) at each level of the church (Session, Presbytery, Synod, and Assembly), God’s voice is heard. We came to these conversations open to hearing God speaking in the dialogue.
  • We recognize a big Christian tent – not just United, Anglican and Lutheran; but also Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational. Not only will we dance with mainline churches, we engage in dances, awkward though they be, with anyone who declares: Jesus Christ is Lord.
  • We have good news to share about the Triune God of grace, as we speak we point to Jesus Christ who is the revelation of God to human beings.

What area of public life do you believe the PCC should be more involved in than it currently is?

The church in North America, which includes the PCC, must find effective ways to address the toxic impact of Consumerism. Consumerism is destructive of community, ridicules self-giving, undermines collective action and commitment, feeds environmental destruction, and disrespects the poor. Consumerism also impacts the life of the church, moving focus away from God and shifting it to the felt-needs of the members.
A colleague highlights this challenge saying many funerals have moved from being “To the glory of God and in memory of the deceased” to being “To the glory of the deceased and in memory of God.”
Tom Bandy, a United Church pastor and church turn-around consultant, was asked: “What is the one thing that all the turn-around churches you have been involved with had in common?” To which Bandy replied, “They were lead by pastors who loved Jesus more than they loved their pension plans.”
Addressing the destructive aspects of consumerism will lead the church into conversation about the environment, living more simply, and the affirmation of community and neighbourhood decision-making and development. All of which brings us into conversation with those in our society who feel something is wrong at the heart of present-day economic realities and are seeking for an alternative voice and alternative community.

What do you believe the next significant issue the PCC should be addressing within the denomination?

To paraphrase Bishop Mark MacDonald’s question, a question that haunts me:
Can The Presbyterian Church in Canada allow fully recognized (self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating) congregations that the poor can afford?
Our present model of Presbytery allows only clergy who are employed by the church 51% time to have a vote at Presbytery; and many congregations can not afford the cost of even a 51% time minister. The sub-conscious assumption within the Presbyterian Church is “real” congregations are able to support their own full-time minister. This assumption makes it virtually impossible for congregations attended by those who have limited economic resources to be “real” congregations.
Addressing this issue will require confronting our built-in prejudices against the poor, including the rampant paternalism and maternalism present in our relationships with the poor. As I stated in the answer to the last question, the consumerist approaches that have infiltrated the church will need to be rooted out. It will require fundamental changes in the structures of the church and in the ways in which church thinks.

Understanding that congregations are one of the key places where the continuing ministry of Christ is most dynamically and dramatically lived out, could you say a bit about what is key, in your understanding, as the most important features of faithful congregational ministry?

The church is not called to be more entertaining than Hollywood, nor is it to provide better music than Nashville, nor is it to be more exciting than watching sports, The local congregation is to talk about what no other group in society is talking about – living the spiritual life by following Jesus Christ and engaging in spiritual practices that deepen that following.

A congregation does this through:

  • Corporate Worship which involves everyone in the congregation in the praise and worship of God, fulfilling the highest purpose of human beings: To Glorify God and to Enjoy God forever.
  • The Reading and Preaching of the Bible. Through reading and hearing the Word of God the congregation is formed into the people of God, the followers of Jesus Christ who bear the power of the Holy Spirit into the world.
  • Prayer for the world and for the community around the church. In prayer, the congregation brings the surrounding community to God, holding it up for God’s blessing. In prayer, the congregation confesses the brokenness of the community in which the church is located, bearing that brokenness and sin to God for forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • Mission which is both Evangelism and Community Outreach. The good news of Jesus Christ which the church believes invites us not only to be thankful for the gift, but also to tell the good news to others and to do actions which are examples of the coming reign of God and the kingdom Jesus proclaimed.

One of the objectives of the PCC’s Strategic Plan is “Visionary Leadership.” What is visionary leadership to you?

A Visionary Leader models the truth, “I must become lesser, so God can become greater.”
A Visionary Leader points people to God’s vision, not the leader’s vision.
A Visionary Leader knows the fulfillment of God’s vision often requires the death of the
leader’s plans and dreams.
A Visionary Leader is able to accept criticism, in order to discern what God is saying through the
voice of the opposition.
A Visionary Leader passionately proclaims the good news of the already-but-not-yet (the present
and coming) kingdom of Jesus Christ.

One of the goals of the Strategic Plan is to pursue spiritual renewal and faith formation as the basis for transformation within congregations. What does pursuing spiritual renewal look like for you personally and what could it look like for the denomination corporately?

I find it odd that neither question related to the Strategic Plan mentions the place of evangelism in the plan. (Evangelism is mentioned twice as is spiritual renewal; faith formation is mentioned only once.) Evangelism – as Living Faith says, “in the spirit of humility, as beggars telling others where food is to be found, we point to life in Christ.” Surely a reclamation of evangelism is part of the transformation needed in congregations.

Spiritual renewal is a combination of (a) being open to the unexpected and unpredictable actions of the Holy Spirit (the spontaneity of the Spirit) and (b) taking up the practices of spiritual disciplines. Like an athlete who depends on both (a) in the moment of creative action and (b) hours of practicing moves, so the individual Christian and the denomination as a whole must do both.
The disciplines of Bible reading and reflection; prayer; generosity; silence; accountability; service and so on, become habits shaping us individually and collectively making us open to recognizing the surprise of the Spirit. The call is for congregational leaders to take up spiritual disciplines and encourage the members of their congregations to do the same. The disciplines move us from merely talking about spirituality, to making spiritual renewal a concrete practice in our lives.

What do you see as the role of the Moderator during the time we are discerning the mind of Christ regarding sexuality and the church?

The Moderator is called to:

  • Seek to moderate the conversation so while passionate is respectful.
  • Ensure voices not being heard are given space to speak and are listened to.
  • Remind the church to root the conversation in Biblical/Theological Anthropology (who and what are human beings understood Biblically, within a Christian worldview).

Climate change has implications for all aspects of our lives from the energy sources that power our daily lives to relationships between countries in the Global North and Global South. What is your vision for The Presbyterian Church in Canada and for Presbyterians in Canada as people who seek to honour creation as God does?

The conversation needs to move from political advocacy to congregational and denominational action. The response to climate change requires concrete action.

  • The Assembly Council needs to exercise prophetic leadership by making 50 Wynford Drive and the “Missionary” Apartments energy passive buildings.
  • A special fund needs to be established to assist congregations reduce their carbon footprint. Such a fund would provide grants towards replacing lightbulbs, providing exploration funds to develop solar panel projects, etc.
  • The denomination should negotiate with a manufacturer of electric cars to assist clergy in multi-point charges purchase electric vehicles at a reduced rate.
  • The denomination should seek out strategically located congregations with parking lots where the building of charging stations would benefit the wider community.

The denomination needs to exercise concrete leadership, putting money and effort where its mouth is on the Climate Change issue. In the process, the denomination will gain the credibility to mobilize congregations to move on these issue.
I note the Presbytery of Winnipeg, of which I am a part, sent an overture to the 2016 Assembly containing a call for such practical action and leadership.

Where do you see signs of hope for the world and the Church?

The biggest sign of hope is the continuing rise of World Christianity. I have had the privilege of serving as the Cross-Cultural Liaison for the Presbytery of Winnipeg which has brought me into contact with Korean, Filipino, Indigenous, and Arabic-speaking faith communities. The vibrancy of faith, the commitment to spiritual disciplines, the desire to share the whole good news (for these communities have not divided evangelism from social action and vice versa) has given me much hope.
That is only what we are experiencing in Winnipeg. The expansion of World Christianity is the hope for the world, for God’s mission has a church and it is on the move.

Who are some of your most treasured Christian thinkers and writers?

Karl Barth

Kathleen Norris

Lamin Sanneh

Marva Dawn

Leonard Sweet

What should the Church make more time for?

The Euro-Canadian church needs to spend time listening to the voices of World Christianity.
The question is asked, “Does a fish feel wet?” To which the answer is, “They don’t know what wet is because they are in water all the time.” In the same way in the Euro-Canadian church, we see things from only one cultural viewpoint, and we are unable to see our cultural blind spots.
I have had the privilege of teaching two courses at the Carey Institute (a distance education arm of Carey Hall, Vancouver) in Winnipeg. The students are from various African nations and some Karen people from Myanmar. This dialogue has opened my eyes to see Canada and the Canadian church in new ways.
We need to stop telling the World Christian community how to go about the Christian life long enough to actually hear what they have to tell us about the ways in which we are cultural blinded. What they have to teach us about forgiveness, prayer, putting evangelism and social action back together again, self-giving, community, keeping one’s word (treaties), and so on will leave us humbled and rejoicing in God’s gift of World Christianity.
I find the Africa Bible Commentary (ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo) helpful in moving me away from Euro-Canadian interpretations and applications of the text, to listen to the voices of World Christianity in my sermon preparation.

What book(s) do you wish everyone in the PCC had or were reading?

I mean this in all seriousness – The Bible.
I dream of a day when Canadian Presbyterians fall in love with the Bible. To read it slowly, carefully, to ruminate upon it. Week by week as I prepare to preach, I am amazed by its elegance and beauty. I am caught up anew in its narrative. I find myself stirred to deeper commitment, to joyful celebration at the love of God evident in Jesus Christ, and to the examination of my following of Jesus. For me understanding Scripture means “standing under” Scripture, letting it read my life, listening for the voice of God.

What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

Maple Walnut

Mr. Brent Ellis

Mr. Brent Ellis
Mr. Brent B. Ellis, B.A. (Hon), OTC, MTS

Brent Ellis, a native Hamiltonian and a life-long member of Chalmers Church in Hamilton, was the president of Chalmers PYPS. Since then, he has served as chair of the Board of Managers and these past years as elder, clerk of session and representative elder.

A retired high school teacher, Brent taught in North York and Scotland although most of his teaching career was with the Hamilton Board of Education as Head of Geography, involved in curriculum development and program implementation for gifted and ESL students. Extracurricular duties included being an advisor to student councils and coaching various sports, chiefly track.

He has served on the Senate of McMaster University as an alumnus and on the Board of Directors of the McMaster Alumni Association.

He was moderator of the Presbytery of Hamilton and has served on various commissions, task forces, assessor sessions and committees. Currently he is the convener of the ministry committee and thus sits on the business committee. He enjoys preaching and is in regular demand for pulpit supply within and beyond the presbytery.

Brent has an MTS from Knox College and participates in continuing education programs there and at Presbyterian College. He served as convener of the Committee on Theological Education and represented it on the Knox College Governing Board, on the Committee to Advise with the Moderator, and on the Assembly Council. Presently he is on the Committee on Education and Reception, the Benevolence Committee and serves as the convener of the Ewart Endowment for Theological Education Fund. He has attended General Assemblies as a commissioner and as a committee convener, and has been a Guidance Conference counsellor on several occasions.

An involved layperson, Brent strongly believes that lay leadership should be encouraged so that, with God’s help, lay and clergy can work together to face whatever challenges might lie ahead for our church.

Brent, a widower with two adult children and four gorgeous granddaughters, enjoys summers at the cottage with the family, as well as travelling, reading and gardening.

Please provide some background on your involvement in The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Clerk of Session and rep elder at Chalmers PC in Hamilton. Past moderator of the Presbytery of Hamilton. I have served many times on commissions, task forces and as assessor elder. At present, I am the convener of the Ministry Committee and in regular demand as pulpit supply. At a national level, I have served as convener of the Committee on Theological Education, on the Knox Board, on Assembly Council and as counsellor at Guidance Conferences. At present, I am serving on the Committee on Education and Reception, the Benevolence Committee and as convener of the Ewart Endowment Committee.

What are your earliest memories of church?

My earliest memories go back to early childhood at Sunday School and worshiping at Chalmers with the extended family, parents, sister, aunts uncles cousins and grandparents. I was blessed.

What three verses of scripture do you return to over and over and find especially formative?

Isaiah 40:28, Micah 6:8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

What is your favourite hymn?

When I survey the wondrous cross

What are you reading for pleasure these days?

The Holocaust, the Fate of European Jewry, by Leni Yahil; The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel and His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay.

What is your image of the church at its best?

Certainly the Guidance Conferences when the candidates for ministry and the counsellors, both clergy and lay, work together to discern God’s will for the future of ministry in our church represents the church at its best. Another example would be Assembly Council when Presbyterians, again, both clergy and lay, from across our vast country work together and get to know one another as they meet to discern God’s will for our church. I think also of the WMS and the AMS, amazing groups that I see as faith in action.

Who are some of your heroes? Why and how did one of these people reform your understanding of life and faith?

George Lowe and Robert Bernhardt, ministers at Chalmers and my parents. I think Bob Bernhardt would stand out because he was of my vintage and saw me through those early adult years of taking on leadership in the church as we raised our families and were involved in the community and in our careers.

What makes for excellence in faithful discipleship?

Faithful discipleship involves ongoing learning and studying of one’s faith if one is to follow the way of Christ and live a life that Christ would wish for us.

What would you say is the core calling of the Church?

The core calling of the Church is to serve God and to love one’s neighbour.

What does it mean to be a Presbyterian in Canada in 2016?

For me it is to see the Church on a national level, more than as a congregation but as congregations working together for common causes and for the glory of God.

What area of public life do you believe the PCC should be more involved in than it currently is?

Our small denomination does great work already and so should continue to see where there are areas of need and reach out to try to meet those needs without spreading itself too thin.

What do you believe the next significant issue the PCC should be addressing within the denomination?

To choose one issue would be how to hold the denomination together in the face of ever evolving social mores and our attitudes and reactions to these changes.

Understanding that congregations are one of the key places where the continuing ministry of Christ is most dynamically and dramatically lived out, could you say a bit about what is key, in your understanding, as the most important features of faithful congregational ministry?

Faithful congregational ministry is both serving the members of the congregation but also reaching out into the community as a beacon of faith in adherence with our reformed theology regarding Biblical teaching.

One of the objectives of the PCC’s Strategic Plan is “Visionary Leadership.” What is visionary leadership to you?

To be visionary is to look into the future to understand the trends and changes taking place in our world in order to develop a strategy to discern what the future might and could be for a congregation and the Church at large.

One of the goals of the Strategic Plan is to pursue spiritual renewal and faith formation as the basis for transformation within congregations. What does pursuing spiritual renewal look like for you personally and what could it look like for the denomination corporately?

For me to pursue spiritual renewal would be to make a concerted effort to read and study and discuss the meaning of our faith as we live it day by day. And, to take a course or two at one of our colleges would be great. For the denomination, a guide or program that could involve all congregations across the country would be wonderful. Just think, if we were all studying from the same guide for a set number of months how that could bring us together as a larger faith community.

What do you see as the role of the Moderator during the time we are discerning the mind of Christ regarding sexuality and the church?

The role of the Moderator is to listen and hear the concerns and viewpoints of Presbyterians across the country, to calm and reassure, and then to be a source of wisdom in further discussions.

Climate change has implications for all aspects of our lives from the energy sources that power our daily lives to relationships between countries in the Global North and Global South. What is your vision for The Presbyterian Church in Canada and for Presbyterians in Canada as people who seek to honour creation as God does?

We treasure our wonderful buildings but we will need to make them energy efficient as we do our homes. The Church also needs to be cognizant of our ecological imprint on God’s creation and speak to this.

Where do you see signs of hope for the world and the Church?

Canada is a beacon of hope in a world beset by turmoil and dissention. Our reaction to the refugee crisis has been an example to the world. Even in the most difficult areas of the world, there are people wanting and ready to help. There are always good people, people of faith ready to step in when help is needed and the Church is a part of this with our outreach programs There will always be a need for faith, for God in our lives, and that gives us hope for our future.

Who are some of your most treasured Christian thinkers and writers?

Walter Breuggemann, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, all thought provoking.

What should the Church make more time for?

The Church needs to make time for listening to one another, for opportunities to gather together, to meet and discuss.

What book(s) do you wish everyone in the PCC had or were reading?

Assuming that one is familiar with the Bible, move on to Milton’s Paradise Lost, and then something by Joe McLelland.

What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

Kawartha Diary’s MOOSE TRACK ICE CREAM.

The Rev. James T. Hurd

The Rev. James T. Hurd

The Rev. James T. Hurd, B.A., M.Div.

James Hurd has served for 30 years as a pastor and presbyter in The Presbyterian Church in Canada. Born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, he was nurtured in the local congregation and camp, and the Presbyterian Young Peoples’ Society (PYPS), and as a teenager came to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He graduated from Knox College, Toronto in 1986 and was appointed an ordained missionary to the Wanham and Blueberry Mountain Charge in northern Alberta, where he served five and a half years, following which he was called to St. Paul’s Church, Woodstock, New Brunswick, where he ministered for ten years, before being called to Parkwood Church, Ottawa, which he has served since 2001.

He has served as clerk of the Presbyteries of Peace River and Ottawa, as moderator of the Presbyteri es of Peace River and St. John, as deputy clerk and acting clerk of the Synod of the Atlantic Provinces, as moderator of the Synod of Quebec and Eastern Ontario, and as moderator of two special judicial commissions of the General Assembly.

He served six years (1997–2003) on the Assembly Council, was a member of the special committee to revise chapter 9 of The Book of Forms, and for the past six years has been a member of the Committee on Church Doctrine.

Since 1999, he has collaborated in the publication of the online PresbyCan Daily Devotionals as Devotional editor.

Ecumenically, he served as secretary of the Central Peace Ministerial Association and at different times both as secretary and president of the Woodstock and District Ministerial Association. From 2004–2010 he chaired the Board of Directors of the Algonquin College Campus Ministry. Since 2002, he has served in various capacities on the Board of Directors of CanHave, an Ottawa-based registered charity supporting the education of AIDS orphans in Uganda.

James is married to Karen, and together they have two grown daughters, Jennifer and Janet, both of whom are presently university students.

In his spare time, James enjoys reading, philately, and camping and canoeing.

Please provide some background on your involvement in The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

My roots in The Presbyterian Church in Canada are deep. My maternal grandfather was an elder in Sylvan Lake, Alberta and a registered delegate at the pre-Assembly Congress in 1925. My mother was an elder in St. Andrew’s, Kirkland Lake, Ontario, where I was nurtured in the church school, and spent summers at Dorothy Lake Camp, where mother was camp nurse. Introduced as a teenager to the Presbyterian Young Peoples’ Society, I spent ten years in fellowship with youth and young adults from across central Ontario. After finally hearing and answering a call to ministry, received while attending Knox Church, Toronto, I completed studies at the University of Toronto and Knox College, and was posted as an ordained missionary to northern Alberta, serving in the Peace River district for five years, followed by ten years as minister in St. Paul’s Church, Woodstock, New Brunswick. Since 2001, it has been a happy privilege to serve as pastor at Parkwood Church, Ottawa, where we are blessed with a diverse congregation with a worshipping community drawn from some twenty different countries of origin.

What are your earliest memories of church?

I have a very vague memory of being baptized at age 4, along with my brother, who was age 1. I have clearer memories of being one of eighteen children rounded up by the organist and choir director and being formed into a junior choir, complete with gowns, and taught to sing on key by dogged perseverance on the part of the director. The perseverance extended to entering the choir — as the only entrant in its class — in the local music festival, so that we would gain the benefits of performance and adjudication. That I can sing at all is due entirely to labours of the director, May Neil, who maintained she was not a Presbyterian!

What three verses of scripture do you return to over and over and find especially formative?

Three passages of Scripture which I cherish are Psalm 139: 13-16, Ephesians 2: 8-10, and Romans 8: 38-39. Psalm 139 affirms God’s plan and purpose in life: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Ephesians 2: 8-9 reminds us that our salvation is entirely a free gift: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Romans 8 supplies confidence for our perseverance: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

What is your favourite hymn?

My favourite hymn is “And can it be?”
The wonder of God’s grace generously and undeservingly poured out upon us through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus is captured with heartfelt eloquence by Charles Wesley:

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace,
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me!

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.

What are you reading for pleasure these days?

On one level, more and more of my current reading is online. Blogs and postings of several colleagues who share their insights and gleanings are appreciated. Participating in a book group at Parkwood, where the members vote on the books to be read, I am challenged with a wide variety of printed offerings. One recent volume which I appreciated was All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr, set in France and Germany during World War II. During the summer, I read (mostly under a tarp and tree during a pouring rain at Algonquin Park) the autobiography of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani Muslim girl shot in the head by the Taliban for the “crime” of going to school.

What is your image of the church at its best?

The church at its best is seen cooperatively sharing the love of Jesus, each one using a special gift given by the Spirit for the benefit of others. Several images come to mind. An elder, widowed and retired, opens his home to refugees, and helps a student learn a new language, and another to find work to support a family. Others volunteer to support a mid-week children’s programme, cooking meals or providing wholesome conversation over them to welcome the children and show interest in their lives; still others faithfully teach the Bible stories about Jesus and help children learn to sing and play instruments. A child introduced to Jesus says, “I want to be baptized”, and the congregation celebrates with joy the baptism of both child and parent. Another elder finds a way to welcome a newcomer to worship, and to converse on a smartphone using Google Translate. Others devote an evening a week to foster conversation for those struggling to use a new language. All of these are images of the love of Jesus in action, and the sovereign reign of God in lives is affirmed, amid worldwide news of the horrors of war and violence.

Who are some of your heroes? Why and how did one of these people reform your understanding of life and faith?

Heroes of the faith include Stephen (the first Christian martyr), Martin Luther (My conscience is captive to the word of God. … to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. …. Here I stand. I can do no other.”), John Calvin (who in the doctrine of vocation recognized that we are all called to ministry and who in the reform of the church affirmed that pastors and elders share in mutual collegial oversight), Robert Murray McCheyne (who finished his immediate ministry before his death at the age of 29, but whose memoir remains in print and whose legacy lives on to this day), and Thomas Chalmers (the first moderator of the Free Church of Scotland after the disruption of 1843).

What makes for excellence in faithful discipleship?

Excellence in faithful discipleship is to possess in increasing measure the Holy Spirit, Who taught John the Baptist about Jesus that “He must increase, and I must decrease”, and Who produces in our lives love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control as ripening fruit.

What would you say is the core calling of the Church?

The core calling of the Church is to obey two great commandments: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves; and to fulfill the great commission: to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded. To do so is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever!

What does it mean to be a Presbyterian in Canada in 2016?

The question was “What does it mean to be a Presbyterian in Canada in 2016?” but since it is already 2017, the question is — in part — irrelevant. To be a Presbyterian in Canada in Canada *today* — indeed, in any day, now and in the future — is, first of all, to be a Christian. We take Christ’s name when we embark upon the journey of following Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” as the Christ — the Messiah, the Saviour, the Lord God. Presbyterians are a subset of Christian disciples who affirm and embody that life in community together is best and faithfully organized as presbyters — teaching and ruling elders — give leadership together, under the authority of Christ, Who speaks through God’s revealed word, found in the Scriptures. Canada today is a gathering of peoples from all parts of the world, some born here of First Nations, some of long-time immigrants, some of recent immigrants, and some who having been born elsewhere have come to call this land a new home. The Presbyterian Church in Canada is a community, largely organized as smaller, local communities, of Christian disciples who affirm strands of common heritage and inheritance but who also embrace much diversity of national, ethnic, and linguistic origins. We seek together to offer to the wider population within and beyond our own borders life that is rich and satisfying — “abundant and eternal”.

What area of public life do you believe the PCC should be more involved in than it currently is?

Christians are called, individually, to walk and serve in all aspects of public life. Historically, Presbyterians have been strong in the support of education. John Knox and his associates in Scotland expected every parish, after supporting the local minister, to have a schoolmaster. Since “public” education in much of Canada has now morphed into something quite different from what it was originally conceived to be, there is a need for the Church to be more active and engaged in producing materials to support parents in the education of their children, and to assist congregations to aid parents in ensuring that children and young adults receive a wholistic education rooted in the perspective of a biblical and Christian worldview.

What do you believe the next significant issue the PCC should be addressing within the denomination?

If one of the current issues facing The Presbyterian Church in Canada is the question of either affirming or revising our confessional understanding of human sexuality, one of the other and future issues will be to address biblically and pastorally the challenges facing individuals confused about the nature of gender. Most within the Church were born and raised either male or female, and have understood that God built such a distinction and complementarity into the design of creation. How do we address and support those in society who are not sure which they are, or were, or may become, if advised, allowed, and empowered to undergo a change, either temporarily or permanently? Such questions, beyond their immediate affect on the individual, involve relationships between children and parents, singles and spouses. In the Bible, Jesus, and those ministering in Jesus’ name, met people openly and lovingly where they were found, and where they found Jesus — but did not necessarily leave them in the state in which they were found, nor bid them return to it. (“Neither do I condemn you. … Go now, and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11 NIV)) If Jesus confronts and converts individuals suffering from bruised and broken sexuality, Jesus also does and will confront and convert those suffering with challenged and confused gender identity, and it is essential that the Church be ready to give support and counsel, in faithfulness to Holy Scripture, to such new disciples seeking to embrace new life as Jesus’ followers.

Understanding that congregations are one of the key places where the continuing ministry of Christ is most dynamically and dramatically lived out, could you say a bit about what is key, in your understanding, as the most important features of faithful congregational ministry?

Faithful congregational ministry involves worship, discipleship, and pastoral care. We are called to offer God the worship due the Creator and Redeemer, through the agency and power of the Holy Spirit. We praise God from Whom all blessings flow. We approach God in prayer in and through the name of Jesus. We read the word of God, seeking the illumination of the Holy Spirit, Who first inspired the word to be written. We seek in the preaching of the whole counsel of God to encounter the Word made flesh who dwelt among us and Who lives among us still in the power of the Holy Spirit. As disciples of Jesus, we seek to be disciple-making disciples, bearing one another’s burdens and spurring one another on to love and good deeds. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. … We love because he first loved us. … Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4: 10-11, 19, 21)

One of the objectives of the PCC’s Strategic Plan is “Visionary Leadership.” What is visionary leadership to you?

Visionary leadership entails seeing with the eyes of faith what God has revealed and foreordained, and moving forward faithfully to embrace it. When navigating in the wilderness following a map using a compass, one needs to ensure that both the map and the one following it are oriented correctly (the compass needle points North and the map needs to be right side up), and set one’s sights on a distant point (not the nearest one), and walk in a straight line to the distant point. There may be obstacles in the way, some of which may be surmounted or skirted, but the overall direction needs to be steady. If leading a group one needs to be in front — but not so far ahead as to lose those trying to follow.

One of the goals of the Strategic Plan is to pursue spiritual renewal and faith formation as the basis for transformation within congregations. What does pursuing spiritual renewal look like for you personally and what could it look like for the denomination corporately?

Spiritual renewal is an ongoing process. The biblical motif is “day by day”. The rhythm built into the creation involving one day in seven for rest and renewal (the Sabbath) was re-affirmed in all the years of ancient Israel’s wanderings in the desert, fed by manna and quail, one day at a time. Renewal does not necessarily mean restoration, or a return to the so-called glory of former days. In exile, after the fall of Jerusalem, King Jehoiachin, though released from prison, was sustained by an allocation of food, one day at a time. “Day by day the king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.” (Jeremiah 52: 34). The apostle Paul sought to reclaim lost souls among the idol worshippers in Athens, one day after another. “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the market-place day by day with those who happened to be there.” (Acts 17: 17) He later affirmed: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4: 16) Let the scriptures feed us daily, and the Church will be renewed, one believer after another, one day after another, one year to the next.

What do you see as the role of the Moderator during the time we are discerning the mind of Christ regarding sexuality and the church?

The role of the moderator in any church court is to moderate. The moderator is first among spiritual equals. The moderator is to endeavour to keep order, respecting the constitution of the church. A church court is a gathering of part of the body of Christ, for prayer and counsel together, and corporate service and action. The moderator is called to act in the spirit of Christ who stooped to serve and by example is to call others to do likewise. In the time and on the matter of discerning the mind of Christ on any and all topics, the moderator is called to lead in prayer, and to enable all who speak in the power of the Holy Spirit to be heard. The moderator is called to give voice to decisions made. The moderator is to remember and remind that all councils of the Church are subject to error, and have erred. Blame for things done amiss is to be acknowledged and confessed; credit for those done aright is to be humbly laid down at Christ’s feet.

Climate change has implications for all aspects of our lives from the energy sources that power our daily lives to relationships between countries in the Global North and Global South. What is your vision for The Presbyterian Church in Canada and for Presbyterians in Canada as people who seek to honour creation as God does?

We are called to be stewards of the creation. May God help us to be those who use what is necessary and not all that is available, to reap what we have not sown, and to sow generously for others to use in the future.

Where do you see signs of hope for the world and the Church?

Our sure and certain hope is rooted in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, as the firstfruits of all who believe. Our confidence is built upon Jesus’ response to Peter’s confession of faith: “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16: 18, KJV) All over the world, people today continue to hear and see and believe the gospel. Many of our congregations are enriched by those who have joined us from afar, bringing with them a living faith; others have been born anew in our midst and share their joy in the Lord Jesus with us, spurring us on to love and good deeds. The indulgence and emptiness of much of our materialistic culture leads many to dependency, addiction and despair, but that creates a great opportunity for Christians to point to the One who has not turned against us — yet — but who offers to those who come to their senses the forgiveness of a loving and merciful Father who has yet good gifts to share and shower upon beloved and adopted children.

Who are some of your most treasured Christian thinkers and writers?

J. Oswald Sanders, who served as director of OMF International (the successor to the China Inland Mission), wrote a book entitled Spiritual Leadership, drawing from the lives of Christian leaders through the centuries; the book was was instrumental in my call to ministry — I read it three times and finally said, “Yes.” Samuel Rutherford, one of the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly called by the English Parliament and who later died before he had to answer trumped-up charges of high treason, remains a great comfort not only for his Letters, full of spiritual counsel, but also for the fragments of speech uttered before his death and which Anna Ross Cousin wove into the hymn, “The sands of time are sinking”. The English Baptist Charles H. Spurgeon gave a series of lectures to his students which remain full of pithy well-turned phrases full of spiritual light; his assessment of commentaries then in print or otherwise is a source of both insight and humour. Thomas Watson, arguably the most readable of the English Puritans, has tremendous illustrative power in his commentaries on the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. The commentaries of John Calvin, though now approaching five hundred years in age, remain very valuable for their clear insight into the main point and thrust of so many passages of Scripture.

What should the Church make more time for?

The question, “What should the Church make more time for?” is best answered by a slight reframing of the question: “What does Christ call us to put first?” Individual members of the Church are each called to live out the good news of the transforming wisdom and power of God, revealed and expressed in the life of Christ. As we share evidence of Jesus’ truth and love with others, both in action and in word, the Church grows. As the Church finds itself in numerical terms smaller, relative to the society at large in which we live, there is a greater need for us to focus on those outside the fellowship of the Church. We need to look for ways to connect with those around us who have many needs, and show how an encounter with Jesus addresses those needs — sometimes by meeting them, sometimes by defeating them. Too often too many of our resources are spent on matters and people internal to the Church. To orient ourselves towards the world, we may well discover that we have less time, talent, and treasure to devote to things that we have held dear but are being called to sacrifice.

What book(s) do you wish everyone in the PCC had or were reading?

I believe we all do well when we prayerfully read a chapter of the Bible each and every day, preferably in the morning. Beyond that, regular readings from the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly, and the biographies of Christian leaders are a great stimulus to wholesome thinking and faithful living.

What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

My favourite ice cream is blueberry, best turned by hand-cranking home-made custard made with eggs and real cream and fresh-picked wild blueberries.

Dr. Alexandra Johnston

Dr. Alexandra Johnston

Dr. Alexandra F. Johnston, M.A., Ph.D., L.L.D., D.D., DHL, FRSC

Alexandra (Sandy) Johnston received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1964. She served as a professor of English at Victoria College in University of Toronto until 2004, and was principal of Victoria College from 1981–1991. She was the director of the Records of Early English Drama Project (1976– 2014) and continues as an editor in the project.

Elected as an elder at Rosedale Church in Toronto in 1973, she has served the congregation in many capacities, including as clerk of session (2001–2007). Sandy has also served on many church boards and committees, a small sample of which include being a member of the Life and Mission Project (1968– 1969), a member of the Special Committee on Freedom of Conscience and the Ordination of Women (1981–1982), a member of the Task Force to Restructure the National Offices of The Presbyterian Church in Canada (1989–1990), convener of the Search Committee, Editor, The Presbyterian Record (2001– 2002), member of the Governing Board of Knox College (2007–2013), member and chair of the Board of the Ecumenical Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto (2004–2015), and currently as a member of the Committee on Church Doctrine since 2015.

Ecumenically, she has served both the Canadian Council of Churches (president 1994–1997) and the World Council of Churches from 1991–1996.

She was granted an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Queen’s University in 1984, an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by The Presbyterian College in 1991 and an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Victoria University in 2014. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (President Academy II in 2002–2004).

Sandy is the daughter of the Rev. Dr. G. Deane Johnston, of Central Church, Brantford, Moderator of the 1966 General Assembly; and sister of the Rev. Dr. Geoff Johnston retired from Presbyterian College and Dr. Marjorie Ross retired Associate Secretary, International Ministries.

Please provide some background on your involvement in The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

I have served on many church boards and committees of the national church. My involvement began when I was a member of the Life and Mission Project LAMP (1968–69). From 1969 74 I was a member of Organization and Planning Committee set up to implement the LAMP recommendations. I was responsible for the establishment of the Board of Ministry a task that involved complicated negotiations. I was part of the Board of Ministry from 1973 84 serving as Vice-Chair from1979-81 and Chair from 1981-4 and during those years was an ex officio member Administrative Council and its Executive and Finance Committee. I was a commissioner to the 1981 Assembly and became a member of the Special Committee on Freedom of Conscience and the Ordination of Women (1981–82). I was a member of the Task Force to Restructure the National Offices of The Presbyterian Church in Canada (1989–90) and convener of the Structures Implementation Committee 1990-92. I was convener of the Search Committee, Editor, The Presbyterian Record (2001–2002), member of the Board of Knox College (2007–13), and combined my church and university life as a member and chair of the Board of the Ecumenical Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto (2004–15). I am currently a member of the Committee on Church Doctrine since 2015.

Ecumenically, I represented the PCC on both the Canadian Council of Churches (president 1994-7) and the World Council of Churches 1991-6.

What are your earliest memories of church?

My earliest memories of church are of Central Brantford during the 2nd World War when my father was the absent minister. I knew I was the minister’s daughter but I had no memory of my father who had gone overseas when I was a baby. I knew my mother was the minister’s wife. This made myself and my siblings somehow ‘different’ from the other children in Sunday School.

What three verses of scripture do you return to over and over and find especially formative?

I do not return to isolated verses of scripture but to passages – Psalm 23; John 14; 1
Corinthians 13 – in the King James’ Version

What is your favourite hymn?

Psalm 121 ‘Unto the hills’

What are you reading for pleasure these days?

The classic English detective stories written between the wars and a few decades later by women authors – Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh.

What is your image of the church at its best?

The church, at its best, bases its life on the scriptures and on the subordinate standards,
particularly Living Faith. It should be a ‘learned’ church with an awareness of historical and
and modern theology. Congregations, presbyteries and the national church should champion
social justice and stand out against social and political realities that deny social justice to
anyone, anywhere in the world. It should encourage its members to become involved in
social justice activities as well as support them financially. A congregation should be a
loving and caring group of people worshipping, serving and studying together using all the
diverse talents of all its members to the glory of God.

Who are some of your heroes? Why and how did one of these people reform your understanding of life and faith?

In my academic study I have come to admire the life and faith of many historic figures
especially St Augustine of Hippo who was major influence on the theology of John Calvin
and John Knox and John Thoresby, archbishop of York from 1353 to 1373, who was a
champion the effort of the late medieval church to educate the illiterate laity in the stories of
their faith and its basic beliefs. In my own life I came to deeply admire and respect the faith
and work of Dr Christopher Duraisingh of the Indian Church who was the staff person in
the World Council of Churches with whom I worked on the Gospel and Cultures Project in
the 1990s. Dr Duraisingh helped me to understand how European Christianity affected the
non-European world especially in the mission enterprises of the nineteenth century.
My grandfather, the Rev. Dr John Corry Johnston, served the Irish Church in Dublin. He
believed that the foundation of the Christian life was ‘the Word, the Sacrament and Prayer’
and he conducted his ministry based on that foundation depending on the help of the
Holy Spirit throughout his ministry but especially through the troubled years of Rebellion
and Civil War in early 20th century in Dublin. He once wrote ‘The Spirit desires to be
trusted’. I believe that the Presbyterian Church in Canada must trust the Spirit to lead us into
our future.

What makes for excellence in faithful discipleship?

Humility and the recognition that everyone has gifts to be used to the glory of God.

What would you say is the core calling of the Church?

Worship and care for others

What does it mean to be a Presbyterian in Canada in 2016?

We are a Reformed church with subordinate standards that connect us with the Reformation which was itself a movement sought to reform the excesses of the late medieval church not abandon the basic tenets of the faith. Theology is important to us but so too is social justice. We are a ‘thinking’ church.

What area of public life do you believe the PCC should be more involved in than it currently is?

The PCC is involved in practical ways in many areas of public life through its ecumenical partnerships. In a denomination with so many differing political opinions involvement in party politics is impossible. There are issues such as sexuality, assisted dying and abortion where members of the PCC hold strong and sometimes opposing opinions where the church is rightly hesitant to speak as the church. However, our system of courts and committees allows us to debate these issues among ourselves and come to a decision for the church that changes our public face – such as the ordination of women to bring women into the same position of equality in the church as in the state.

What do you believe the next significant issue the PCC should be addressing within the denomination?

We are now deeply engaged in the issue of the place of the members of the LGBTQ
community in the ministry of our church. This issue is tied to our understanding of
marriage. In both cases, at the moment, our understanding of sexuality and marriage are at
odds with the understanding of the state.

Understanding that congregations are one of the key places where the continuing ministry of Christ is most dynamically and dramatically lived out, could you say a bit about what is key, in your understanding, as the most important features of faithful congregational ministry?

A congregation is a community that worships together, works together, studies together and
should, from time to time, play together. The community is often made up of people from
disparate backgrounds of race, experience and education. The age range is often from
babies to nonagenarians. Sessions must ensure that there is opportunity for everyone to
feel that they belong and have an opportunity to serve. Pastoral Care should not be the sole
responsibility of the minister but members of the congregation should be part of the care for
the elderly, the sick and the lonely. A congregation should be part of the wider community
making the church building available for community use where appropriate and becoming
involved in local and presbytery mission activities within the community.

One of the objectives of the PCC’s Strategic Plan is “Visionary Leadership.” What is visionary leadership to you?

For as long as I have been a member of my congregation we have worried about how we
can be engaged in the immigrant community in St Jamestown south of Bloor Street. But it
seemed that the deep ravine and very busy street made any involvement impossible. Then
a member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish saw the need for outside help for a struggling after
school program in St Jamestown. Through a series of personal ecumenical connections,
she contacted members of St Simon’s Anglican Parish on Bloor Street and Rosedale and
proposed together that we help with the program. Our minister at the time and
the session jumped at the opportunity. The coalition of churches that now includes St
Andrew’s United on Bloor Street has been working together for over ten years with
volunteers from the churches. It has cost money – the salary of the leader of the school (a
woman from the community) – is shared by the churches but it has given us a place to serve
new comers of many faiths to this country. Our minister and session saw the opportunity
presented and had the vision to see that it was something that we could do. I would call that
visionary leadership – seeing new ways to advance the ministry of the church in the
community. Visionary leadership sees what needs to be done and is prepared to find ways to
do it that may be unorthodox but fulfil our calling to serve God and his people.

One of the goals of the Strategic Plan is to pursue spiritual renewal and faith formation as the basis for transformation within congregations. What does pursuing spiritual renewal look like for you personally and what could it look like for the denomination corporately?

Spiritual renewal begins with belief that God will not let his church die. One of the reasons
is that we are living in a country where the demographics are changing rapidly. Particularly
in the largest cities, the proportion of the population who were born Christian has
drastically changed in the last fifty years. Churches that were built to meet the needs of the
new suburbs in the 1950s are now finding themselves in a largely non-Christian population
Now it comes from every part of the world and the immigrants bring their faith with them.
Too many members of the church see declining
membership and don’t know why — some beginning to doubt if there is a God because of
the decline they see. If we believe that we are the church, then we should talk about our faith
– not hide it as we so often do even from other members of the congregation. What is it that
we find in worship and study that keeps us coming to the church and trying to follow the
teaching of Christ? We need to understand what the Bible is with all its contradictions and
difficult passages. We need to understand that we must read the Bible with the help of the
Spirit and not discard it because there are contradictions and reflections of the ancient
society for whom it was initially written. We need to study Living Faith and the meanings
and Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

What do you see as the role of the Moderator during the time we are discerning the mind of Christ regarding sexuality and the church?

The role of the Moderator in this difficult time will be different at the Assembly itself and
later after the action of this particular Assembly are known. At the Assembly, it will be very
important to make sure that all the commissioners understand what is happening –
particularly the lay commissioners many of whom will never have been to an Assembly
before. Experienced members of the court know the procedural rules of the court and may
use procedural motions to hinder the debate and decision. If such motions are made the
Moderator, with the help of the Clerks, must explain how passing or defeating them will
affect the substantive issues being debated. The Moderator must make sure that everyone is
heard and that all questions are answered. The debates must be fair and open. The
Moderator must not prejudice the debate with rulings or comments that favour one side or
the other while the actual debate is taking place. After the Assembly, whatever decisions are
taken, there will be questions and concerns in the church at large. If a firm position is taken
on either side, then the Moderator will be in a position to help explain what it means and
what the next steps are.

Climate change has implications for all aspects of our lives from the energy sources that power our daily lives to relationships between countries in the Global North and Global South. What is your vision for The Presbyterian Church in Canada and for Presbyterians in Canada as people who seek to honour creation as God does?

We must accept that Climate Change is a reality caused by the industrial world since the mid-nineteenth century. The church must support the efforts of the governments of Canada to find ways to decrease the use of fossil fuels. It must also advocate for global fairness and make sure decisions are not made that ignore the effect of rising sea levels, for example, on low lying countries and islands. Individual Presbyterians should avoid using any substance that contributes to Climate Change as far as possible.

Where do you see signs of hope for the world and the Church?

The response to the refugee situation in the last few years especially in Canada where the
churches have partnered with the government to sponsor refugees; Pope Francis; Queen
Elizabeth; the fact that both Angela Merkel and Teresa May are daughters of the manse.

Who are some of your most treasured Christian thinkers and writers?

The authors of the late medieval religious drama especially the Biblical plays; Chaucer; Shakespeare; T.S.Eliot.

What should the Church make more time for?

Study; congregations should find time for social or cultural events that bring together
members of the congregation and their friends to help them get to know one another better
outside the worship and work of the congregation.

What book(s) do you wish everyone in the PCC had or were reading?

The Bible

What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

Vanilla with chocolate sauce.

The Rev. Dr. Andrew J.R. Johnston

The Rev. Dr. Andrew J.R. Johnston

The Rev. Dr. Andrew J.R. Johnston, B.A., B.TH., M.Div., D.D.

I was raised in Christian faith and life primarily within St. Timothy’s Church, Ottawa; Lagos Presbyterian Church, Nigeria; and MacNab Street Church, Hamilton. After studies in history at University of Toronto and Edinburgh University, I studied theology at Presbyterian College and was ordained in 1987. I have served Briarwood Church Montréal (1987-1998), St. Andrew’s Church, Ottawa (1999-2013) and since October 2013, St. Andrew’s Church Kingston.

My activity within the denomination has included service as Moderator of the Presbyteries of Montreal and Ottawa, and as the convener of the national PWS&D Committee and the Norman M. Paterson Fund for Ministerial Assistance, and a member of the Board of Governors of Presbyterian College. In the wider Church of Christ, I have been President of the Christian Council of the Capital Area, on the Board of Directors of KAIROS, and now on the Interfaith Reference Group of the Canadian Council of Churches.

In the wider community, I have been our denominational representative on the Quebec Superior Council of Education, Protestant Committee, and have served with community associations for the intellectually handicapped (Montreal), the provision of supportive housing (Ottawa) and care of creation (Kingston). I have a particular interest in the relationship between Christian faith and contemporary culture, and have been a member of several international ecumenical film juries, including the festivals of Berlin, Cannes, Locarno and Montreal.

Family around Andrew includes his wife Béatrice, and three adult children Gabrielle, Emmanuelle and Michel, and a Cairn Terrier by the name of Mungo.

What are your earliest memories of church?

The wall of stained glass blocks that was eye-level at the end of ‘our’ pew at the newly constructed St. Timothy’s Church in Ottawa. The dancing down the aisles to present our offering Sunday mornings in Lagos Presbyterian Church Nigeria.

What three verses of scripture do you return to over and over and find especially formative?

The Christian assurance – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28)
Jesus’ first sermon – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor … (Luke 4:18)
The Christian exhortation – Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

What is your favourite hymn?

Unto the hills around I lift up my longing eyes – the words of the psalmist, a tune hauntingly beautiful, the connection with a former Governor General of Canada, and perhaps even our Rocky Mountains.

What are you reading for pleasure these days?

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

What is your image of the church at its best?

The Body of Christ for the way it articulates the dual realities of the unity and diversity of its members.

Who are some of your heroes? Why and how did one of these people reform your understanding of life and faith?

I am not sure ‘hero’ is all that relevant. I will speak instead of two individuals from whom I learned most deeply about the Christian life and faith.
From my father I learned how individual Presbyterians and this denomination as a whole participated in the shaping of this nation of Canada for the common good. From my mother I learned how certain Christians of her homeland of Germany gathered secretly and often at great cost as the Confessing Church, to confess Christ as their only ruler and to oppose the government of their day.

What makes for excellence in faithful discipleship?

Striving to live the gospel we know in Jesus Christ. This is a generation that does not ask ‘Tell me about the resurrection’ but rather ‘Show me the resurrection’. The ‘excellence’ of Christ’s disciples will not be found in success or the praise of others, but rather in a profound commitment to allow the life of Christ to flow through us to others.

What would you say is the core calling of the Church?

To point to God at work in our world today. In the sanctuary we remember all that God has worked ‘for us and our salvation’ as the Nicene Creed states. But we are called to go from the sanctuary to identity and support the movements of the Risen Lord through the Holy Spirit among humanity today – renewing hardened hearts, opening clutched hands, breaking down barriers, raising up the poor, inspiring artists and scientists … I remember hearing a saying that went something like ‘Hope is a bird that feels the dawn while it is still dark, and starts to sing’. We are called to be those who sing of the dawn of the promised Reign of God in the darkness, not only in the pews on Sunday mornings but also beyond. And a significant part of our witness is joining others beyond the Church who are singing in the dark. We are not called to achieve the peace and justice of God’s Reign, but rather to point to it, and participate in it.

What does it mean to be a Presbyterian in Canada in 2016?

Cyril of Alexandria once wrote ‘You cannot have God as Father unless you have the Church as Mother’. I have grown to appreciate the wisdom of this. Living in Christian community is not easy but it is ordained by God. Perhaps it is only as we exercise patience and learn to forgive each other, for example, that we can approach knowing the patience and forgiveness of God with us!
I don’t believe the Presbyterian Church in Canada is ordained by God. I do believe the PCC is a particular and integral wavelength in the broad spectrum that is the Church of Christ. We have a great heritage, with a solid theology and honed experience that offer a significant option to this generation. But I think our strength today is found in our diversity and modest size, both of which remind us of the need to be first and foremost ‘together in Christ’.

What area of public life do you believe the PCC should be more involved in than it currently is?

Care of creation is my first answer – but this is raised in another question, so …
My heart is heavy that there are so many in my city who are struggling to survive on very limited income. I have a neighbour who can not eat solid food – he is on social assistance, which has not covered dental care and will not cover dentures. This not only diminishes his life, like many individuals and families, but also my integrity, and that of our city and nation as a whole. God has placed us in a world of abundance, with more than enough for all, but we organise our budgets as if it is a world of scarcity, controlled as we are more by fear than faith. In a nation as blessed as Canada, there is no reason we cannot find better ways to ensure life in its fullness for all. There was a surge in income disparity in Canada that needs to be redressed by our governments, and the Church should be prodding this conversation. I am interested in the experiments begun with the Basic Income Guarantee model, for example.

What do you believe the next significant issue the PCC should be addressing within the denomination?

As Presbyterians, we are a connectional church. It part of our core understanding of ourselves that we are Christian in community, and that we are congregations of a Church, that we are stronger together than we can be apart. As congregations facing the challenges of this era, we need to find ways to grow more deeply connected and committed to the larger Body of Christ. Part of this might be ecumenical, finding encouragement in the company of those in other branches of the Church of Christ. Part of this might even be inter-faith. For a long time, conversation between religious traditions seemed to focus upon which path made it all the way to the peak of the religious mountain. In Canada today, I believe that as Presbyterians we have a lot more in common with other Christians, and even with those of other religions and paths up the mountain, than we do with our neighbours or even family who do not acknowledge a spiritual dimension or religious mountain at all. And there is much more we can enjoy within the PCC itself. I am firmly committed to supporting Presbyterians Sharing and PWS&D, and I believe there are new and additional ways to grow in connection and strength also. In the Presbytery of Kingston, my colleague the Rev. Lynne Donovan introduced ‘Happy Hour’ at our regular meetings, during which each congregation is asked to share one recent encouraging or teaching experience – and this has become one of the highlights of our meetings. We are growing stronger in sharing the joys and challenges of being together in Christ.

Understanding that congregations are one of the key places where the continuing ministry of Christ is most dynamically and dramatically lived out, could you say a bit about what is key, in your understanding, as the most important features of faithful congregational ministry?

God as Trinity is foundational to my understanding of congregational ministry. I have been deeply shaped by the understanding of God as a community of life known in love – God as, for example, the Lover, the Beloved and the Love itself that they share. Extrapolating from this, I understand that Christian life is necessarily and foundationally life in community, life as community. The witness of the first Christians was known in the comment of others, ‘Look how they love each other’. This journeying together and caring for each other began in worship and fellowship but proceeded beyond. Those first Christians were also known for taking in the infants and elderly abandoned on the streets of Rome. I believe the most important feature of faithful congregational ministry is a commitment to community in Christ. This sense of community is also a gift to be shared in a society becoming increasingly shaped by isolation and apathy. I commend congregations that strive to witness as a community, to community – from organising neighbourhood blood drives and free neighbourhood dinners, to placing an additional line for PWS&D on weekly envelopes, making global community part of their Christian witness.

One of the objectives of the PCC’s Strategic Plan is “Visionary Leadership.” What is visionary leadership to you?

To be quite honest, I am not a very ‘visionary’ sort of person within the Church. (I stand with Calvin who provided commentaries on every book of the Bible but Revelation, suspicious of its often mis-used visions.) In every generation God raises up a people of God’s praise and service, and my primary concern is to participate in such praise and service as fully as I can in my generation. As a Minister, my focus is less looking ahead into the future that God alone holds, and more looking around and identifying the gifts and graces of the people brought together by God to be the church today, and encouraging their growth and commitment. It is more of an organic than visionary approach to leadership.

One of the goals of the Strategic Plan is to pursue spiritual renewal and faith formation as the basis for transformation within congregations. What does pursuing spiritual renewal look like for you personally and what could it look like for the denomination corporately?

A beginning point might best lie with the first disciples. When Jesus called out to them ‘Follow me’, they did not know much but somehow trusted greatly. They were grown into faith and discipleship as they followed Jesus – they listened and observed, they debated and even argued, they received assurance and also were chastised. Upon the ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit made the disciples into the living body of the living Lord, and they grew in spirit as they took up the work of Christ, embracing the abandoned, healing the suffering, sharing the good news. And taking up the work of Christ also brought them into new understandings of God and of themselves. Spiritual renewal is what God does as God’s people recommit themselves to follow Christ and point to God’s Reign in their lives. Spiritual renewal is not an event but a process as God grows God’s people in understanding and witness, often as slowly as water falling upon and shaping stone, one drip after another.
Personally I experience spiritual renewal to one degree or another with every sermon I struggle to prepare, with every prayer in which I participate during a home visit. As I take up the way of Christ in my life, I feel I am brought closer to Christ.

What do you see as the role of the Moderator during the time we are discerning the mind of Christ regarding sexuality and the church?

The role of the Moderator is to ensure that discernment and debate is at all times respectful of all God’s people involved, and that the call of Christ to unity is heard.

Climate change has implications for all aspects of our lives from the energy sources that power our daily lives to relationships between countries in the Global North and Global South. What is your vision for The Presbyterian Church in Canada and for Presbyterians in Canada as people who seek to honour creation as God does?

One of the Bibles on my desk is The Green Bible. It has highlighted in green every word of scripture that refers to creation or creatures – there are so many! I think as Christians in Canada we are recovering a sense not only of honouring the Creator by respecting creation, but also of ourselves as creatures whose well being is linked to the well being of God’s whole creation. As a Church, there are many ways we can act within our congregations, from retrofitting for energy efficiency to organising ‘bike to church’ Sundays and encouraging regular car pooling – these are not necessarily economical or easy, but they are matters of principle. Perhaps the most important contribution the Church could make however would be in the public realm, supportive of social investments that would extend protection over habitat of other creatures and lands, and invest in the shift to clean energy and sustainable lifestyles. And apart from dimensions of calling and principle, commitment to the care of creation would bring the Church alongside many beyond the Church, and right into the centre of social discourse and activity.

Where do you see signs of hope for the world and the Church?

– after more than 150 years of increase, the quantity of greenhouse gases humanity pours into the atmosphere each year has levelled for the third year running, during a time of quickening economic growth: there is still much more to be done, but it can be!
– the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty is half of what it was in 1993, despite a growth in world population by almost 2 billion: as Christians we need to continue to support this development
– peace in Columbia after 50 years of civil war: I am encouraged to continue to pray for the peace for Jerusalem (East and West, Arab – Christian and Muslim – and Jew), and an end to seemingly unending violence in Sudan and Syria.
– the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches met for the first time since their split in 1054: closer to home, this sets me to think about a new sign outside this church … ‘The Church of Christ in Kingston’ in big letters, and underneath in smaller letters, ‘Presbyterian’ and ‘St. Andrew’s’; and across the street the sign would read ‘The Church of Christ in Kingston’, ‘Roman Catholic’ and ‘St. Mary’s’
– ‘When it is dark, you can see the stars’: it is not easy to be the Church in Canada today, but I am seeing Christ and his way all the more clearly, and I see in my congregation and many others Christians acting with greater and greater joy and commitment in faith

Who are some of your most treasured Christian thinkers and writers?

Jacques Ellul
Henri Nouwen
Barbara Brown Taylor
Katie Munnik

What should the Church make more time for?

Flying a kite … and being reminded of the movements of the unseen but powerful Spirit of God around us, and even within us.

What book(s) do you wish everyone in the PCC had or were reading?

A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie

What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

Ginger and Chai

The Rev. Mark A. Tremblay

The Rev. Mark A. Tremblay

The Rev. Mark A. Tremblay B.A., M.DIV., M.A., M.Phil.

Mark Tremblay, a native of Kingston, Ontario, has had the privilege of ministering to churches in Brampton, Bermuda, Lansdowne and Caintown, and now at Knox, Calgary. He is a graduate of Knox College, the Claremont Graduate University and the University of Wales.

Mark’s service to The Presbyterian Church in Canada includes clerk of the Presbytery of Kingston, moderator of the Synod of Alberta and the Northwest, and other leadership roles. He has served on the Assembly Council and currently sits on the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee and as the denomination’s representative to the Canadian Interfaith Conversation.

Earlier in his ministry, he participated as a small group leader at Triennium, wrote about youth ministry for the Presbyterian Record, and co-led a Youth in Mission group to Guyana. Mark’s experience in and out of Canada has provided a great awareness of the importance and contribution of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

He has a passionate interest in interfaith dialogue and justice for the full inclusion of Indigenous people and the LGBTQ2S community. Mark actively supports the poverty reduction strategy adopted by the City of Calgary, and represents the Presbyterian Church and Calgary Interfaith Council on various committees.

Mark has challenged churches to be better neighbours and make space available to the wider community. Knox, Calgary continues to evolve as an externally-focused church, to become less a walled community of faith and more a centre of community activity.

Education, relevance and prophetic challenge have driven Mark’s preaching, Bible study and ministry. The emphasis on a relational faith, a relational spirituality and relational theology underlines the importance of life-long learning and growth.

He has written resources for the Elder’s Institute, an award-winning history of St. Andrew’s, Bermuda, and recently published a collection of sermons, Preaching Alternatives: explorations in metanoia to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination.

Mark and his wife Liz, a musician and educator, share a great love of music and the outdoors, their four adult children, two grandchildren and two dogs.

Please provide some background on your involvement in The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

I am a cradle Presbyterian and grew up in the church. Both my parents taught Church in the church school. My brother, cousin and I knew church attendance along with thinking and talking about faith was part of life.

I have had varied experiences within the Church. I was told as a young person that I didn’t have the experience to question why things were as they were. I have been accused of being too clever. I have been asked to be silent, to quiet my opinion in our church courts. I have been asked why I would tamper with people’s beliefs by introducing them to contemporary scholarship and encouraging them to think. My insistence on transparency and the right of people to ask questions and be heard has made some uncomfortable. However, I am also thanked regularly by members, adherents and visitors to the churches with whom I minister for allowing them to think about their faith, to ask questions and for the space to express doubts. By making it possible for people to talk about anything they want, I have been privileged to be part of some amazing conversations. My experience in the church has underlined and celebrated the need for transparency and diversity.

I am thankful for the many people of my childhood and youth who cared to help nurture the deep bond and love I have for a community of worshippers and the importance of growing in faith, those teachers and friends who were patient with my inquisitive mind.

Since ordination I have had the privilege of ministering in Brampton, Bermuda, Kingston and the Lansdowne area and now Calgary. I have been active in youth ministry, co-leading a group on a mission trip to Guyana, being a small group leader at Triennium and involved in a 3-year youth leadership development program at Crieff Hills.

I was a founding member of the Bermuda Interfaith Network which was formed to bring the faith communities together to respond to some of the violence on the back streets of Hamilton. I taught four courses at the Bermuda College on World Religions. I researched and wrote a history of the Church in Bermuda, a fun project that required finding sources from four different countries.

During my time in Kingston, I served as Clerk of Presbytery for the Presbytery of Kingston serving part-time in 3 congregations in Lansdowne, Caintown and Kingston. I had the dubious honour of being on the roll and responsible to two different presbyteries and synods. I also served for a short time on the Assembly Council.

Recently, I am serving on the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee and am a member at large on the Calgary Interfaith Council and have served on the Calgary Council of Christians and Jews. I also sit on the implementation committee for the poverty reduction strategy for the city of Calgary and have been active over the past few years working with other partners to inspire faith communities in Calgary to be seen less as walled communities of faith and more as important parts of their communities. I am former Moderator of the Synod of Alberta and the Northwest and serve on the presbytery’s Mission and Strategy Committee. Last year, I organized an event on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights for Indigenous People that was funded by Kairos and the PCC. A video has been made available of the event.

What are your earliest memories of church?

My earliest memories of St. Andrew’s, Kingston surround church school and worship. I remember being in worship with my grandmother and brother singing hymns. I can still hear her high voice. I also remember the dash to get to the Church school class room to be the first one there.

What three verses of scripture do you return to over and over and find especially formative?

Deuteronomy 30.19 – I have set before today blessing and curse, life and death – choose life.
Ecclesiastes 1.2 – Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.
Hosea 6.6 – I asked for mercy and not sacrifice

What is your favourite hymn?

My childhood favourite was Standing by a Purpose True (Dare to be a Daniel). We sang it almost every week in our church school class. It gave me the permission and determination to stand out.
As an adult one of my favourites has become Brother, sister, let me serve you. It highlights the importance of service on equal terms with one another.

What are you reading for pleasure these days?

I am in the middle of three.
Mychal Denzel Smith’s Invisible Man, got the whole world watching. A young Black Man’s education.
Blair Stonechild, The Knowledge Seeker, Embracing Indigenous Spirituality
Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ.

What is your image of the church at its best?

My favourite image is the church as the gym or training centre. It is a safe place, a source of community where we can train, learn how to do things in the world. We get spotted by others, encouraged by those who have tried what we are trying now. We are supported to complete what we started, go further, push harder, strive to be better equipped to deal with what happens to us outside the church. The odd time we see people standing at the mirror admiring what they have accomplished but mostly we find people like ourselves training, learning what it means to be God’s children and to look out for one another.

Who are some of your heroes? Why and how did one of these people reform your understanding of life and faith?

In the classical understanding of hero as champion or victor, I have none. However, there are 3 authors and 1 person who have significantly influenced my understanding of life, compassion and the important matters of faith. My wife, Liz, has more than any other helped me learn about life and compassion. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Frederich Nietsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein have provided method, challenge and inspiration for over 25 years.

Reading Heschel’s philosophy and theology helped me understand the corrective of action to our thinking. Who we are trying to be as a child of God and follower of Jesus is more important than what we think or believe. Heschel wrote that the Bible should not be understood as man’s theology but God’s anthropology. I have learned that the human example of how Jesus lived is far more inspirational and powerful than any creed or statement of theology any Church has produced. The truth of any theological statement is found in the actions, in the lives of people who choose to live out that theology. It is in living and in the decisions we make about our lives that are influenced by what we believe that we can recognize, see, the truth, the beauty of or the falsity, the difficulties with, our theology.

What makes for excellence in faithful discipleship?

Good to Great author, Jim Collins, has shown that excellence is a matter of choice, a matter of discipline. As Christians, our goal is to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the better question is: What practices instill faithful discipline? That can only be answered when we understand the kind of faith that we desire or think important. Our model is Jesus and the question becomes what practices, conditions and goals might help us live and be like Jesus? I will simplify my answer to identifying one practice, condition and goal: prayer, community and action.

The practice of prayer can only be nurtured and followed if one is clear about its point and/or content. Prayer cannot be to convince God of what I, my family or my community needs. It must be for my transformation, my family and my community on the basis of the expression of love and mercy. Also, it is not a momentary event but an expression of words and action that makes up every waking moment. Prayer, at its deepest, like breathing centres us, inspires us to express love and mercy.

We cannot act or live in isolation. In order to fulfill God’s commandment to love we need one another. It is only in community that we find people to love and people to teach us about love. We must surround ourselves with people who are trying to live the same way we are; we need a community. We need a circle of friends who can reinforce who we are trying to be.

The goal of being a follower of Jesus must always be in mind. Being an excellent, faithful disciple in God’s kingdom means embodying the example of Jesus every day. It is to serve others and not to be self serving.

What would you say is the core calling of the Church?

I believe the core calling of the church is make disciples of all so that the church might present itself to the world as the example of what the kingdom of God could look like; that is its aspirational goal. That means that it should never presume to have the final answer on any matter because it is always conditioned by its culture and place in time.

This alternative aspirational goal provides an alternative to the reality we experience in the world. It is alternative because it is not based on privilege and exclusion. We do not seek to produce an exceptional class of special human beings but a community where everyone has a place as a child of God. That uniqueness is based on equality of power and is good news. This aspirational goal stands as a reminder that life is a gift from God and creation provides all that we need to survive.

Moreover, we have a responsibility to one another. The church models the abundance of a safe, inclusive community. That model is Jesus in whom we find no example of turning one away for who they are or how they live. Ultimately, the Church represents the possibility of individual transformation, not merely the transformation of others who are seen as outsider but the transformation of those inside as well. The expression of love to the stranger (hospitality) means that the possibility of transformation and encountering God is present for all people in that new relationship.

What does it mean to be a Presbyterian in Canada in 2016?

It is to face the reality that we are a small church, a minority, and to accept that we are only a small voice amid the cacophony of religious voices. Just as we cannot be, individually the kingdom of God without others, we cannot be, corporately representatives of that kingdom without other denominations and religions. We are called to help transform a society and a world that embodies Christ in all aspects of life, that cares for other humans, animals and the environment.

We should know and understand what we do well. What would be missing on the Canadian religious landscape if the PCC completely disappeared?
A community that believes in a process of how things stay the same and how they change and who insists on measured decision making while discerning God’s will.
A community of equals, where no one has more power or say than another; where the removal of all occasions of tyranny, bullying, is our first and perhaps most important rule for how a church courts functions.
A community of communities ruled by a hierarchy of courts each empowered with its own responsibilities and rights.

On account of our size we have learned to collaborate and build partnerships with others. Through these collaborations and partnerships, we influence and we are influenced, we discover the presence of God in ourselves and in others.

It means to be part of a small community struggling with a mixed and complicated past while being concerned about what the future holds. It is to be genuinely conflicted about our theology and practice over the hypocrisy our theology encourages. But, it is also to be hopeful that, as our ancestors in the faith have done, we can work it out if people are committed to talking in order to discern God’s will and not simply to propagate their own will.

What area of public life do you believe the PCC should be more involved in than it currently is?

The PCC is diverse, and Canada is even more diverse. If the PCC is going to be relevant I believe it needs to be true to some of the fundamental principles of Presbyterianism. The first and foremost is that every individual and every community has a say in what happens within the community and in his or her life. No voice should be silenced. If that is true for us as Presbyterians, then it should also be true for all Canadians. The implications of that makes some people uncomfortable but it shouldn’t.

As a national church, the PCC should be a reminder to those within the church and those outside the church that all voices need to be at the table and need to be heard regardless of whether the issue is sexuality, public prayer, the environment or economics.

We should assert and maintain a strong voice against all occasions of tyranny (bullying). We could help give a voice to those who have been silenced because they are uncomfortable reminders of the effect of our choices, our culturally conditioned understandings of the gospel, or simply because they challenge our tradition.

What do you believe the next significant issue the PCC should be addressing within the denomination?

I think the issue of healing and reconciliation with our indigenous people’s is very significant. We must understand that it is not simply about our indigenous brothers and sisters being healed and reconciled to us, it is about us being healed and reconciled as well. Article 4 of the PCC Confession to Aboriginal peoples and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples need to be explored more carefully and deeply to understand our culturally conditioned beliefs and what lies before us as opportunities for growth in our theological and spiritual teachings.

Additionally, I believe it is paramount that the Church examine economic alternatives. The dehumanizing effect of the current path of capitalism is not in line with the covenantal economics of the Bible. The Church needs to be speaking up and out on matters of distribution of wealth and income inequality. We need to be reminded about the abundance and not the scarcity of the resources that God’s creation has for us all.

Understanding that congregations are one of the key places where the continuing ministry of Christ is most dynamically and dramatically lived out, could you say a bit about what is key, in your understanding, as the most important features of faithful congregational ministry?

If I could sum it up in one phrase, it would be, “building relationships that transform lives.” It is the application of the Biblical image of seeking the lost sheep. The programs, ministry and studies that any congregation offers should build and deepen relationships – people should come to a deeper understanding of others, themselves, God and their environment. From that deepened context, experience has taught us that amazing things happen.

One of the objectives of the PCC’s Strategic Plan is “Visionary Leadership.” What is visionary leadership to you?

Visionary leadership is prophetic leadership: it sees possibility where many see closed doors. It means seeing things from God’s point of view. It is a true metanoia experience. Prophetic leadership always seeks to expose the blind spots in our faith and policies where people are marginalized or ignored. It always helps us to see what a more inclusive expression of faith could be.

Visionary, prophetic leadership never seeks to exclude and understands the implementation of change as the metanoia experience both for individual and the institution. Such leadership is always uncomfortable because it challenges the way things are and never simply affirms that we are doing the right things. As such it is always looking for ways to grow the past forward. The biblical image of God as spirit means God is always moving, inviting humanity to move and growing with it.

Finally, visionary, prophetic leadership understands that the vitality of faith and the church is not what it has been in the past but in how it can still have a message of hope and life for the present thereby ensuring its future.

One of the goals of the Strategic Plan is to pursue spiritual renewal and faith formation as the basis for transformation within congregations. What does pursuing spiritual renewal look like for you personally and what could it look like for the denomination corporately?

There is no doubt that all transformation begins with the individual and /or the individual congregation. Being able to see oneself differently, the possibility of new life, is a moment our scriptures call metanoia that can lead to conversion or transformation. One might also understand this as seeing it from God’s point of view.

I maintain a relational understanding of spirituality. One’s spiritual health is revealed in four primary relationships – one’s relation to oneself, one’s community, the environment and God. Seeking to see myself, my neighbour, the environment and God from the point of view of God, is an attempt to get beyond my personal or selfish concerns – when I stop using or manipulating people and the environment for my own gain and realize I have a responsibility to care for others, the abundance of what God has given us and not the scarcity the world teaches us becomes a reality.

Our ancestors in the faith found that hospitality played an important part enabling that metanoia or experience of transformation. However, in modern terms, we have lost the roots of hospitality. For many it means being pleasant with others and giving them what we want to give them if we feel they deserve it. The Greek phrase that we translate hospitality is love of the stranger. It involves much more risk than our modern understanding suggests, and our scriptures are full of examples of encounters with God when risk is taken, when love is shown for strangers.

Heschel writes that one’s spiritual maturity consists in growing from reflexive concern, concern only for one’s self to transitive concern, concern for the other. That displacement of selfishness or the ego can be examined in those four relationships and can help us as individuals and as a church grow into a healthier spirituality.

What do you see as the role of the Moderator during the time we are discerning the mind of Christ regarding sexuality and the church?

The role of any moderator on any issue is to encourage respectful discourse and ensure that all voices have the chance to be heard.

I wonder sometimes if we still believe that God is present in our process, in our discussions? There are people on different sides of the debate who seem convinced that God is present only if their opinion wins. Respectful discourse is not about trying to convince the other side that they are wrong; We do not wrestle with each other but with ideas. Our debate and conversation is about the exchange of ideas, information and opinions held by God’s children. Margaret Wheatley, an Australian community organizer, wrote that whatever the problem, community is the answer. The Presbyterian system was founded and built on such confidence combined with the community’s willingness to listen for God’s voice.

Climate change has implications for all aspects of our lives from the energy sources that power our daily lives to relationships between countries in the Global North and Global South. What is your vision for The Presbyterian Church in Canada and for Presbyterians in Canada as people who seek to honour creation as God does?

The reality of climate change is part of larger value and economic systems that our ancestors have handed on to us. Though there has been momentary questioning of these values and economic systems, they have, for the most part, been understood to be ordained by God. However, more and more, we are re-examining that understanding and coming to terms with what it means to be a steward of creation responsible for what happens to the environment rather than simply given dominion over creation with the right to exploit it for any purpose. We need help exploring those values and economic systems that have enabled exploitation and we need examples of how our values and economic systems can change and be different.

In the short term, the church could become an example to our members and the wider community. We have so many buildings that could stand as the example, a testament to good stewardship. It could be an interesting way for a church community to engage a younger generation to initiate discussions of how to make our faith practices more environmentally sustainable, how to make our buildings and services greener and how to reduce our carbon footprint. Imagine if we had Net Zero Energy buildings.

Where do you see signs of hope for the world and the Church?

I see hope in the possibility that things can be different, they can change. Though there are great challenges in the world, in the church and in our lives, the facts, reality, points to the possibility of moving forward. Some seem to face the changes confronting our church and our culture with despair but it need not be so. Our lives, the world and the church will be different. However, for a people who believe that we have fallen short – and that state of being fallen extends to our institutions as well – this possibility of things being different is good news!

If we start from the premise that the world, the church and our lives are not as they should be then the possibility of change is hope. When that is combined with the assurance that God is present with us there many signs of hope.

Who are some of your most treasured Christian thinkers and writers?

Though not all are Christian, I would include in no particular order:
The prophets Isaiah and Amos
The gospel of Matthew
St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the five theological orations – particularly No. 2
Erasmus of Rotterdam, In Praise of Folly
Abraham Joshua Heschel, I have read everything he has written but return to the volume of his collected articles, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity the most along with his commentary on the Prophets and the Quest for God.
Fredrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals and Thus Spoke Zarathustra
David Hume, The Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Rush Rhees, On Religion and Philosophy
Walter Wink, The Human Being
Martin Luther King Jr., I have a Dream, Speeches and Writings

What should the Church make more time for?

In addition to making more time for celebrating and sharing the life and abundance we have with one another; the church should spend more time on experimenting and innovation. Though people like what is familiar, they also like variety. Too often we have given priority to thinking through or from a particular theological perspective before we act. We must be wary of turning a particular theological perspective into an idol. We seem to be afraid of making mistakes. Our friend, Kennon Callahan encourages us to make excellent mistakes! In doing so, we will discern God’s will.

What book(s) do you wish everyone in the PCC had or were reading?

Leo Tolstoy, A Confession
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Abraham Joshua Heschel, I asked for Wonder
D. Z. Philips, The Problem of God and the Problem of Evil
J. Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors
Walter Wink, The Human Being
H. Cox, How to Read the Bible
M. Kurlansky, Non-violence, The history of a dangerous idea
Voltaire, Candide

What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

I like most flavours of ice cream, though I am not a fan of chocolate and mint together.