Get to know the four nominees on the ballot for Moderator of the 2024 General Assembly as they answer questions about their faith, most memorable experiences in serving the church, their image and vision for the church at its best, and how they understand the role of moderator. The four nominees are The Rev. Harry Currie, The Rev. Dr. Patricia Dutcher-Walls, The Rev. In Kee Kim, and David A. Robinson. Read more here.

The Rev. Harry Currie

The Rev. Harry Currie, B.S.C., B.ED., M.Div.

The Rev. Dr. Pat Dutcher-Walls

The Rev. Dr. Patricia Dutcher-Walls, B.A., M.Div., Th.D.

The Rev. In Kee Kim

The Rev. In Kee Kim, B.A., M.Div.

David A. Robinson

David A. Robinson, C.D., M.A.

The Rev. Harry Currie graduated from Knox College in 1983 and went to Armstrong, British Columbia for his ordained mission appointment. In addition to serving congregations in Arthur/Gordonville and Oshawa, Ontario, Yorkton/Dunleath, Saskatchewan, and Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Harry has been at First Church Edmonton, Alberta, for the last 20 years.

Harry was clerk of the Synod of Saskatchewan and was the clerk of the Presbytery of Edmonton-Lakeland for 20 years and for a few years, clerk of the Presbytery of Central Alberta. He is currently the clerk of the Synod of Alberta and of the new Presbytery of the Northwest that amalgamated three presbyteries and covers two-thirds of Alberta, the northeast corner of British Columbia and the two Territories.

Harry has always focused on a strong preaching ministry, using an inductive method, where one keeps the listener engaged working towards a conclusion, much like a mystery movie. His preaching heroes are Fred Craddock and Eugene Lowry. Harry loves to use contemporary illustrations from movies and books, believing that God appears in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of places.

Harry worked with the John Savage Calling and Caring Ministries and is a level 2 instructor. Harry, for a while, was an RCMP volunteer chaplain and also an on-call city chaplain. He also is a certified spiritual director and a certified yoga teacher. He did extensive work on family systems applied to congregations through the work of Rabbi Edwin Freedman and others and presented workshops at a couple of synods and at APCE (Association of Partners in Christian Education) on understanding congregational and family life as a system.

In his younger years, Harry was very involved with youth ministry, leading youth groups, PYPS and was a conference youth speaker at various synods. He also coached basketball and soccer and coached the Yorkton regional high school girls’ soccer team to a provincial championship. Harry played a lot of basketball, soccer and squash but these days walking and yoga are his main sporting hobbies.

Harry’s hobbies include hiking, reading, television, movies and yoga. He lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta, is married to Fiona and they have four children (who all have partners), and three granddaughters. Harry and Fiona have had several dogs and over a year ago adopted a sheltie named Azura.

Harry’s fundamental belief is that God is love and Jesus is God’s word of love to us. He has been accused of preaching too much love, to which he readily pleads guilty.

What are some key moments of your faith journey and how have they informed the person you are today?

I grew up attending a Methodist church in England and then a United Church of Canada congregation when we moved back to Canada when I was ten. As a child I didn’t really think much about God or talk to God. Going to church was something I and my brothers did because our mother made us go, even when I wanted to watch Batman on tv on a Sunday night. But mother would make us go to church.

When I was about 13, my mother changed churches and took us to a Baptist church. It was there that I first really started thinking about God and made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ. After a few years, I joined a large Pentecostal church that had a big youth group, a choir, a band, a gospel group and the pastor’s daughter who I wanted to date.

What I learned from those evangelical days was foundational for my relationship to Jesus Christ. Although I have grown in a different direction, those were good days with lots of fun, times of prayer, exuberant worship and learning about what it means to have a relationship with Christ.

It was first at a church camp that I felt called to ministry and spent a year in Bible college after high school. One time visiting my father in Ontario, I went to Knox Presbyterian Church in Cambridge and somehow God spoke to me. It was like I heard a voice saying that this is where I could be a minister.
In some ways I came home to a similar tradition with which I grew up but with a new sense of sharing about Jesus Christ. I met the minister, the Rev. Bob Jackson, who helped me in the discernment process, and I went to Knox College.

Knox College was not easy for me. I had been a mathematician and now I had to write lots of essays. It was also difficult theologically coming from an evangelical background and being forced not to accept a party line but to think for myself and being faced with all kinds of theologies I had not even known existed.

Doing an internship at St. Andrew’s Church Kitchener, Ontario, helped put a lot of things into focus as I was able to talk things out a lot with the assistant minister. I was introduced to some theologians, to good books, to practical experience and to more thinking and discerning.

That whole process of Knox College and this internship changed me and made me a thinker, a preacher, a learner and a person who wanted to follow Jesus wherever Jesus was leading me.

What have been your most memorable experiences in serving the church and how have those particular experiences shaped or guided your views?

One of my first memorable experiences was my first funeral. As I was preparing for the service, I had a vision of the prodigal returning home to the father and being met with hugs and kisses and joy and love and no condemnation. I used the prodigal son story to talk about this person being met by God with love and welcome and no condemnation. It was a remarkable change for me coming from a background where a literal hell was pretty high of the list of things to preach.

In Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Huckleberry has found friendship with a runaway slave. He knows he will go to hell if he doesn’t turn the slave in and he is caught in a moral dilemma. Turn his friend in and be saved from hell or save the slave and go to hell. Finally, he says that he will go to hell. That’s what I believe Jesus did for us. That first funeral set me on my journey to a deeper understanding of the grace and love of God, which means Jesus would go to hell to love us and save us and that we should never underestimate the grace of God. Funerals have always been important for me to touch people with the love and grace of God.

Dickens wrote that it was the best of times and the worst of times. That is what I feel about the church. The best and most memorable experiences of church for me have been the legions of kind, loving, amazing people. The worst thing and most negative memorable experiences have been the small number of not so nice people, who have made life hell for others and sometimes for me.

Preaching is another memorable experience for me. I studied Fred Craddock and Eugene Lowry, read their books and copied their style of preaching, using an inductive method, much like unfolding a mystery novel. I have read Barbara Brown Taylor, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Walter Brueggemann, Sarah Travis and all kinds of sermons. What I find is that in some ways preaching a sermon is like a conversation I have with God, asking God questions, struggling with different texts, asking God what this means and how it relates to life. In some ways my sermons are me preaching to myself and inviting the congregation to listen in on this conversation with the divine. What I present, is the gospel according to Harry knowing it is filtered through this fragile and broken clay jar called Harry and yet I know it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that touches lives, in spite of me, and sometimes even because of me. While preaching is not an official sacrament, I believe it is sacramental in that people experience Jesus through preaching.

Is there a particular experience that has caused you some regret and what did you learn from it?

I went through a very difficult time in one particular congregation. There were those who wanted rid of me and put enough pressure on me, the congregation and the presbytery that eventually I was basically forced to leave.

It is hard to put into words all what actually happened and why it all happened. I wasn’t perfect, but I worked hard, did my best, had no major sins but a certain small group felt I was too something, bad, selfish, egotistical or too something, even though the majority of the church thought I was great.

It was devastating. I died as minister. I thought I was done as a minister. The late, the Rev. Ian Victor recommended a book: Generation to Generation: Church and Synagogue in Family Process. It literally changed my life as I learned about emotional systems. I learned that many of the things I did actually were like throwing gas on the fire. I learned to calm down, be myself and not worry so much. I learned about triangling and about being a non-reactive presence. I learned about self-differentiation. I learned that the best way to make change is not by coercion or by consensus but by changing yourself and becoming healthier. I learned to avoid getting stuck in someone else’s unresolved issues. I became a better father, a better husband and a better minister and I was kind of born again as a humbler, wiser, minister.

What is your image and vision of the church at its best?

When I did the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which are based on the life of Jesus, part of the exercises is to imagine yourself in the biblical setting as an observer or one of the people.

When I imagined myself being at the birth of Jesus, somehow, I imagined myself as the midwife who first held the baby Jesus. I imagined myself as one who helped Jesus being born. I held the fragile, vulnerable Jesus in my arms, and imagined that we all could be midwives.

The church at its best is helping Jesus be born in the lives of people. My vision of the church is of caring, loving, healing, people who by their words, their actions, their stories, their prayers, their worship, their service and their lives help Jesus be born in themselves and in others; and help people cradle the vulnerable Jesus in their arms, and look after Jesus. When they do that, Jesus becomes alive in them. Like the Christmas carol says: “Be born in us, today”.

The other image and vision of the church that I have, is of the church becoming more human or more humane. Walter Wink, the great theologian, biblical scholar, and activist wrote a book on the idea that Jesus kept referring to himself as the “Son of Man” and according to Wink, we could translate that today in modern idiom as “the human one” or maybe even, he writes, “the truly human one”. So according to Walter Wink, we don’t have to know what it means to be human to understand Jesus Christ becoming human. It is the other way around. Jesus becoming human tells us what it means to be human. For Jesus is the true human. Jesus’ way is the way to be human.

We look at the way he had love for everyone, and especially for those whom society had despised and rejected, sometimes unjustly and sometimes deservedly so. We look at the way he treated people of different religions or faiths. We look at the way he treated women and children with respect and inclusion in a culture that demeaned them and thought them of lesser value. We look at the way he healed and was inclusive and challenged the social order that kept certain people rich and in power. We look at the way he challenged us to share and to be servants of others. We look at his teachings of non-violence, and non-judgement, not being angry, not worrying and being thankful. We look at his death and how he loved us even when we humans were being inhumane to him. So, we pray that his humanity would be incarnated in us and specifically in The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

How do you understand the role of Moderator?

I suppose it should go without saying that the Moderator moderates General Assembly with grace, patience, wisdom, fairness and with relying on the clerks for help.

However, beyond that I think that part of the role of Moderator is to visit congregations and presbyteries with a view to listening. The Moderator is getting a sense of where the church is at, where it is hurting, where it is struggling, who needs help, and who is helping. The Moderator is listening to people share the story of Jesus in their lives and their ministries and their congregations. The Moderator is listening to good news stories, of lives changed, of people healed and touched, of divisions mended and service given to those in need.

Then the Moderator is sharing, not only personal experience, but sharing stories of what the Moderator hears with others, looking for places of resonance, and common themes.

Then the Moderator is praying. The Moderator intercedes on behalf of the church, not that the Moderator’s prayers are more effective, but the Moderator is setting an example of a life of prayer.

The Moderator also needs to be aware of the decisions and standards and positions of The Presbyterian Church in Canada and support those decisions and on occasion (with advice) be the spokesperson of the church to speak what the church has already spoken.

The Moderator, I assume, would be invited to bring greetings and participate with other churches or organizations in shared ecumenical or humanitarian endeavors.

Finally, the Moderator should bring a bit of humour and playfulness to the role. It truly can be healing medicine.

If you were elected Moderator, what interests would you bring to the role?

One interest I would like to bring to the role is that of spirituality. In a time of much change, when the church is changing rapidly and there is a plethora of different theologies, and in a time when many have turned away from church, I think that spiritual health is an important factor. About 25 years ago, a retired Presbyterian minister from the United States was chaplain to ministers in the Synod of the Atlantic Provinces. Charles Taylor introduced me to the daily office and to a practice of daily scripture reading and prayer. I wonder if we could emphasize for all Presbyterians the value of spiritual practices, prayer, scripture, meditation…but not just those classic practices, also practices that give people peace and that connect them with the divine, such as silence, story, nature, walking, healing, embracing one’s pain, service and other practices.

Along with spiritual health, I think we could also do more with emotional health. The health and dental plan has increased the amount for our professional people to get professional help but emotional help can be valuable in situations before there is a crisis. I am wondering if churches, presbyteries and synods could pick up on valuable educational opportunities to bring in professionals and have workshops on various kind of health issues, and especially emotional health issues, like communication, conflict, family dynamics, the importance of play and fun, listening, being calm, making decisions. Whenever we bring a bit of health to one part of the system it brings health to the whole system.

Patricia Dutcher-Walls has been involved in service to the church throughout her career and currently is an active session member and minister-in-association with Trinity Church, a three-congregation amalgamation and transformational ministry in New Westminster and Burnaby, British Columbia. She retired as Professor of Hebrew Bible and Dean of the Faculty at Vancouver School of Theology on July 1, 2021. Several decades of The Presbyterian Church in Canada students, first at Knox College and then at Vancouver School of Theology, began their study of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament drawing a map of ancient Israel and figuring out their ‘interpretive principles’ in her introductory year-long course. During her vocation as a professor, Pat published five books on the social world and interpretation of the Old Testament, authored several scholarly articles and presented numerous papers at academic conferences. Academic administration became a consistent part of her work, and she found a happy balance as a teaching administrator, including becoming Dean of the Faculty at VST from 2013–2020.

Beyond the colleges of the church, Pat has had an active teaching and preaching ministry across the country, offering numerous sermons, adult education courses, retreats, workshops, and lectures for congregations, synods, women’s groups and conferences. Other offerings for the church include articles in the Presbyterian Record and The Presbyterian Connection, and more recently, web series and podcasts. Many lay people have participated in her Bible studies, where they have used the approach of underlining biblical texts with pencil crayons to discover theological themes and sharing in small discussion groups, all to search out new insights of wisdom and interpretation for God’s people today.

Pat has been active in the courts and committees of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, including serving on the Church Doctrine Committee, as president of the Board of Directors of Evangel Hall, as convener with Hummingbird Ministries Council and Moderator of the Presbytery of Westminster 2020–2021. Her most recent project has been the 2023 Presbyterians Read Advent study guide on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s God is in the Manger Advent devotions. Pat continues as convener of the General Assembly Design Team and chair of the Strategy and Leadership Committee of the Presbytery of Westminster.

What are some key moments of your faith journey and how have they informed the person you are today?

Growing up in a Presbyterian family, I recall the quiet, thoughtful faith of my home church through the example of our minister whose sermons communicated that one’s faith deserved intelligent engagement. In the high school youth group of that same church when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour, I discovered the joyful enthusiasm of believing. As I matured in faith, both of those youthful experiences taught me how authentic faith could be understood and lived in different ways, integrated within the life of a follower of Christ.

At university, I became involved with a Christian group on campus that was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and participated in an anti-racism campaign and protest. That experience shaped my life-long commitment to living out my faith in ways that embody Christian values of justice and compassion. This commitment has carried through in my continued activism on social issues such as affordable housing and in my most frequently taught course, in which the strong words of the prophet Amos encourage students to create their own biblically-based responses to current social justice issues.

As a ministry student, I discovered with amazement and joy how much fun it is to read Hebrew and do my own translations. A language shapes the world and learning Hebrew opened the ancient world of the Hebrew Bible in ways that still inspire me to this day. Understanding the Bible becomes an encounter with a living God who speaks into our hearts, minds and lives through the words of ancient texts. Peaching from that living word and helping faithful people listen well to the Bible have been the heart of my vocation as a teacher and preacher.

Motivated by a desire to learn and be an ally for Indigenous peoples, throughout my years in Vancouver I have volunteered with Hummingbird Ministries Council, the group that has sustained the Rev. Mary Fontaine in carrying out her ministries of healing and reconciliation. Mary became a mentor for me as I listened to the stories of Indigenous elders and learned how to support her work of truth telling, peace-making and healing. This engagement has shaped how I think about the gospel interacting with culture, as I have yet much to learn about my own complicity in harm caused to Indigenous people and ways I can contribute to justice and healing.

What have been your most memorable experiences in serving the church and how have those particular experiences shaped or guided your views?

When I was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) before emigrating to Canada, one ordination vow particularly impressed me. When asked, “Will you pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?” my 26-year-old self sincerely but brashly answered, “yes, indeedy, I will.” This has stayed as a guiding theme of my service to the church.

Early in my ministry, I discovered that by God’s grace I had a gift for teaching, leading students in classes and congregations to discover insights about the world of the Bible and its meanings and interpretation. Teaching in the colleges of the church and through numerous workshops, lectures and retreats across the country, it has always been a privilege to share in the faith journey of the people of God. Thoughtful and informed biblical interpretation is a key element for following God’s ways in and through the life and witness of the church.

When I was at Knox College, I served as a member and then president of the Board of Evangel Hall, the Presbyterian street mission in Toronto. This allowed me to help in the huge effort needed to fund and construct the current Evangel Hall building, which contains both program space and much needed housing. Through this service, I saw the possibilities for the church to live out the gospel in action. Being a Christian creates not only a private reassurance of God’s mercy and love but also a calling to mission, to living out the same grace we have received in Christ through sharing that grace with our neighbours.

In recent years, with my retirement from teaching at VST, but continuing as an elder on the session, I joined an effort with other leaders of the presbytery to discern and discover ways to help the church meet the challenges of demographic and cultural changes that have reduced its influence, size and impact. How can congregations imagine new ways to do mission with their neighbours or reimagine clusters or groupings of congregations to do ministry or use the space or the legacy of their buildings to become the church in new ways? I am persuaded that God is calling us outside of our comfort zones to discover new efforts in being Christ’s church, in as many ways as we can imagine with the Spirit’s leading.

Is there a particular experience that has caused you some regret and what did you learn from it?

I often thought, during my more active teaching career, that I should work up a course on the book of Isaiah and regret now that I never made the time to do this. Isaiah is an amazing book in so many ways. In all probability, the faithful writing and collection of the book as we now have it, preserved the prophetic word of Isaiah to Jerusalem in the time of the Assyrian Empire around 700 BCE and that word’s continuing truth down through the Babylonian Exile around 550 BCE and onward through the era of the Persian Empire, to about 400 BCE. The relevance of Isaiah’s prophetic word continued into the New Testament era, where the earliest followers of Jesus used their knowledge of the Isaiah traditions to help express who Jesus was as God’s son and chosen servant. It’s not that I ignored this beautiful part of scripture; I preached on it numerous times, taught its themes and specific passages within other classes, created workshops and lectures from the richness of its texts. However, I never made the time to do the extra research and course construction that teaching the full book would entail.

I have learned from this regret at least three somewhat paradoxical things: first, some humility in accepting that my dreams are sometimes bigger than my available time; second, to be more forthright in acting on an inspiration that might be both a fun project for me and a service to the church; and third, that I need continuing prayer and wisdom in discerning how to keep a balance between the many good projects that present themselves and a life sustained with needed family time, rest and restoration.

What is your image and vision of the church at its best?

In recognizing the good work of the agencies, colleges, boards and committees of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, I offer the following as a vision of how a local congregation could live out their calling to serve Christ.

This vibrant congregation ministers with a large and diverse group of people eager to worship, to learn and to engage with one another and with a world in need of God’s love. As a welcoming multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-generational group, they let the love they have received through Christ’s new life shape who they are in the world.

The church nurtures spiritual vitality as a worshipping community, recognizing that they must be rooted in dynamic worship and praise of the God who has graced them with blessings through Jesus Christ. Their lively worship services are vibrant, sermons firmly based on scripture, thought provoking and relevant, in music, a combination of inspiring praise songs and traditional hymns that stir the soul. They have extended their worship well past the bounds of the building through online options.

Their ministries are grounded in ongoing education, both for their members and for the community, including an online community. In addition to biblical teaching and spiritual practices, they offer discussions, podcasts and blogs on issues such as reconciliation with Indigenous neighbours, climate concerns and understanding between races and sexual identities.

Many people of all ages and backgrounds take part in worship, volunteer work and in the congregations’ varied missions, events and groups. This welcome is rooted in their understanding that the community builds its life by reflecting the values of the incarnation – humans beloved by God are treated with compassion, respect, honesty and integrity. The pastoral leadership of the congregation works at involving folks in the life of the church and they are skilled at recognizing and employing everyone’s gifts and strengths.

Compassionately embodying missional vitality means living out God’s love through being connected and active within the broader community. Their focus is always on the caring, love and redemption represented by the life and teachings of Christ presented in a way that speaks to the culture. A variety of programs and services, including affordable housing and food security programs, either run by the church itself or in cooperation with other faith and secular groups, meet the needs of the congregation’s diverse local neighbourhood.

In all the congregation does, they remember a prayer from one of their members, “Help us, Lord, to not be afraid to live larger and wider lives so that we can reflect your glory. Amen!”

(This was adapted from the vision my home church, Trinity, developed during our amalgamation process as a vision for our future together.)

How do you understand the role of the Moderator?

The first few days of a Moderator’s term are defined by the Book of Forms – the Moderator’s duties at the General Assembly include: to open and close each sederunt with prayer, to see that the business is properly conducted, and to take the vote and announce decisions. For the other 361 days of the year, I understand the Moderator’s role as a roving ambassador and herald who connects a widely spread out church, speaking and preaching, bringing news of the denomination, listening to the concerns and prayers of the people and congregations, meeting with committees and councils as needed or invited, speaking on behalf of the church to the wider society under the guidance of the statements of the General Assembly and theology of The Presbyterian Church in Canada and holding all of that in prayer without ceasing. I would hope to do those tasks as I have tried to live my whole vocation, with energy, intelligence, imagination and love.

If you were elected Moderator, what interests would you bring to the role?

Two endeavours where I find myself investing my energy these days draw from my experience and would be efforts I would enjoy contributing to the wider church as Moderator. First, I would love to share my enthusiasm for lively Bible studies that bring new insights to scripture and empower people to read the Bible well – and have fun doing it! The Bible is the witness to God’s love for the world through the stories, psalms, prophetic writings, wisdom traditions, gospels and letters of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament; it is the heart of our faith. Learning more about the times of its writing and ways it communicates its truths can enliven and energize the people of God. Second, I would be glad to bring whatever encouragement I could for exploring ways the church can imagine new futures for itself. The cultural changes of Canadian society have presented challenges for congregations but there are lots of possibilities for new life in reimagining what the church could be. It would be fun to learn about what congregations are already experimenting with and to encourage stories of witness and service for the neighbours whose lives we touch.

Born in Seoul, Korea, In Kee immigrated to Canada in 1977 with his mother and younger brother. After two extra years of high school, learning English and preparing to enter university, In Kee went on to study at the University of Toronto, majoring in Philosophy. During his undergrad years, he received the calling to go into ministry. He graduated from Knox College with the Master of Divinity degree in 1987 and was ordained at the Toronto Korean Presbyterian Church immediately thereafter.

In 1992, In Kee felt called to serve at a new start-up church, Living Stone Church. Eventually, in 1995 this congregation joined The Presbyterian Church in Canada and went on to be amalgamated with North York Church. With the vision of church unity, the name was changed to St. Timothy Church. In Kee has been serving this church since its beginning in 1992 and is currently its senior pastor within a multi-staff context.

Outside of his immediate pastoral charge, In Kee served The Presbyterian Church in Canada in various capacities, including being a member of the:

  • Committee on Theological Education
  • Canada Ministries Committee
  • Board of Knox College
  • Pension and Benefits Board

In Kee was one of the founding members of the Asian Canadian Theology and Ministries at Knox College and served as the chair of the board for over 20 years, organizing several “cross-culture” seminars. One of the fruits of being a part of the Asian Canadian Theology and Ministries was the co-authoring of a book called, People of Faith, People of Jeong, The Asian Canadian Churches of Today for Tomorrow.

He participated in many guidance conferences of The Presbyterian Church in Canada in different roles, whether as a counsellor, a director, a theological reflector or a chaplain.

In Kee played a key role in the creation of the two Han-Ca Presbyteries and was appointed by the General Assembly as the first clerk of the Presbytery of Eastern Han-Ca. Eventually, he also served as its moderator.

In Kee was involved in ecumenical work early in the ministry. He was the chair of CAWG (Canada Asia Working Group) which eventually became a part of KAIROS. In this capacity, he was privileged to travel to Kyoto, Japan to participate in the historical consultation of North and South Korean Christians’ dialogue, funded by the United Church of Canada.

In Kee is married to the Rev. Sarah Kim who is the Executive Director of the Women’s Missionary Society of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. They have two married children, Joshua and Grace, as well as five grandchildren.

In Kee loves to read. In his spare time, he listens to jazz and classical music. He also enjoys playing the flute and golf.

What are some key moments of your faith journey and how have they informed the person you are today?

I can see two key moments in my faith journey. The first one was when I was in university. I was involved in the Korean Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. This involvement helped me tremendously by giving me a sense of belonging and a purpose for life during the difficult years of living as an immigrant in a foreign country at a young age. During this time, I received a calling to go into ministry. In this phase of my faith journey, I experienced the mysterious work of God that controls human history. I wanted to be a part of it.

The second one was when I was in the final year of studies at Knox College. I came to the realization that Jesus’ life had very much to do with the marginalized people of his time. This idea of marginality profoundly affected me. That discovery propelled me to explore my immigrant experience in a critical way. Jesus’ teaching was not just to comfort and pacify my suffering but also to empower me to embrace my marginalized existence and to be in solidarity with those who were marginalized in different ways. Jesus’ teaching was not just to help me to adjust and adapt to this society but also to transform it. The new realization liberated me in a profound and powerful way. I started to see myself not simply as a victim of my harsh reality but as God’s instrument in bringing about change. As my eyes were opened, the scripture was also opened up to me. I saw the liberating power of the Word of God. I started hearing the marginalized voices in this society. This shaped my theology, my ministry and my life.

What have been your most memorable experiences in serving the church and how have those particular experiences shaped or guided your views?

All my immigrant life, I have been living a hyphenated life. I am not just a Canadian or a Korean but a Korean-Canadian. It is not an existence of “either-or” but one of “both-and”. I am very comfortable with this dual existence. I can see both sides and so it expands my view of the world. I experienced the same thing when I went into ministry. I have served one church for over 31 years. What is unique about this church is that it has both Korean-speaking and English-speaking members. They are two totally different congregations but they form one church. They are culturally different, generationally different and even theologically different. I have been preaching in both worship services and have served both congregations. My vision was to create a co-existence model: it is one church but two very different congregations. I created this model because I believed that unity could exist only in diversity. Uniformity kills diversity while unity needs diversity and therefore it celebrates the diversity. When I first started this church, this model was only in concept, in theory. But after 31 years, I see the fruits of it and people truly appreciate the fact that two very different congregations can coexist in love and harmony. So, it is no longer just a theory nor just an idea in my brain. It is the reality that was made possible. This is the message Jesus taught us and this is the message this world desperately needs.

Is there a particular experience that has caused you some regret and what did you learn from it?

When I finished my ministry at the Toronto Korean Presbyterian Church, my first charge, in 1992, I really wanted to go back to academic studies. But when a small group of Christians approached me for help, I accepted their call. Occasionally, I regret not pursuing my academic career. But now, I am glad that I didn’t. My theological understanding was deepened and enriched through my ministerial experiences. I was able to live out the praxis, not just practice or theory but the critical exchange between practice and theory. I learned so many things from the mundane struggles of my people. They worked from early in the morning until late at night, for many years without taking any vacation. They struggled with what they were experiencing in their dehumanizing environment as immigrants. I felt their devastation, their helplessness but also their hope and faith. All these things became tremendous resources for my theological reflection.

What is your image and vision of the church at its best?

I see at least four images of the church. It is something that I have been trying to live out in my own church. There is no hierarchy in its importance because these four are all connected and influence each other.

Firstly, the church should be a hermeneutic and prophetic community. The church should be able to interpret the word of God in a critical way and become a prophetic voice in the world. The church needs to have a critical understanding of what is going on in the world and have a vision to transform it according to the teachings of the Word of God. Bible studies should not be just information sessions where you learn what the Bible says. Bible studies should be transformative experiences where one can experience the liberating power of the Bible. The church should interpret the Bible in a critical way so that it is not only relevant but also transformative.

Secondly, the church should be an inclusive community where it welcomes and embraces all people. People of God are not defined by race, culture, social status, etc. In Christ, we have all become one. The church should fight against the rugged individualism which falsely defines one’s identity in isolation. We are all connected in Christ. This connectedness brings us together to form an inclusive community.

Thirdly, the church should be a compassionate community who reaches out to the weak and the vulnerable. The church should be in solidarity with those who are alienated and marginalized in society. The church should not be an instrument of the power and greed of this world. The church is not the servant of the world but of God. By identifying with the weak and the vulnerable, the church always transforms itself.

Fourthly, the church should be a spiritual community that always grows spiritually and cultivates and challenges each member to be deeply rooted in God’s grace. Each member should be connected deeply not only with God but also with each other. Worship needs to be spirit-filled and enlivened. Prayer needs to be sincere and fervent. Spiritual discipline needs to be taught and practiced.

How do you understand the role of the Moderator?

The Moderator is the embodiment of this church. The Moderator needs to hear what the members of the church say. The Moderator needs to feel what the body is experiencing. The Moderator also needs to hear what God is saying to this church. The Moderator not only needs to know where the church is but also points to a new direction the church needs to go. The Moderator cannot implement everything within a year but at least can help the church see a new direction.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada is going through a lot. As a matter of fact, not just this denomination but also many churches are going through a difficult time. Secularization and deconstruction of institutions have affected the church in a profound way. Many people don’t find the church and its teachings meaningful or relevant. What used to be meaningful to them is no longer meaningful. What used to be important to them is no longer important. Many churches are shrinking not only in size but also in their impact on people. The church needs to listen to the voices of people and the voices of this age. Before having a prophetic voice, we need to have prophetic ears. The Moderator can facilitate this process of collective hearing. When the church has good ears, it will be in a better position to do a relevant ministry. We are undergoing a crisis as a church. But this crisis can teach us valuable lessons. However, it is not our experience but rather our understanding of our experience that teaches us. Together, we need to reflect on what we are experiencing. Crisis always shakes off things that are not essential. It is time for us to shake off what is not essential and go back to the basics. I was once invited by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to attend a conference in Hawaii. I couldn’t sleep well and so early in the morning I woke up and went for a run on Waikiki beach. When I came back to my hotel I sat in the lobby and these words came to me, so I jotted them down on a napkin. Those words were:

  • Narrow Dogmatism
  • Soft Sentimentality
  • Hollow Rhetoric
  • Decorative or Ornamental Asceticism
  • Shallow Self-help Advice
  • Merely Keeping Status Quo

These are things that can be shaken off. We need new hermeneutics, a new way of reading the scripture, a deep and profound spirituality, a radical sense of social ethics, a deep awakening and transformation and a courage of bold change.

If you were elected Moderator, what interests would you bring to the role?

Diversity is what I like to see in this church. We should not be scared of diversity. We can learn so much from those who are different from us. Diversity makes a picture complete. We cannot define ourselves in isolation. Solipsism is not a healthy way of looking at ourselves. We are all connected. We are connected with each other and we are connected with God. That’s why Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love your neighbour as yourself and love your God. Loving your neighbour is the same as loving yourself because we are all connected. As the Moderator, I would like to build a strong bond to connect all of us. From west to east, from north to south, regardless of where you come from or where you are, we are all sisters and brothers in Christ. That was what St. Paul realized after meeting Christ in a meaningful way. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) We need to reach out to each other. We need to appreciate each other. We need to honour each other. We need to build this church together. That is what I am interested in.

David has been a church volunteer since his teens. The church is his passion. He was first elected a ruling elder at the Kirk of St. James, Charlottetown, in 2002. He has been re-elected on two further occasions and has been appointed action clerk of session in all three terms. He strives to provide leadership that is caring, generous, energizing and visionary. David serves as Sunday School Superintendent. He is on the leadership team for a $1.2 million capital campaign, which exceeded its goal. He was instrumental in resettling three refugee families from the Middle East and is now providing extensive support to a family that fled repression in Iran. He initiated a mission that supports at-risk mothers with badly needed baby supplies. He is currently helping to guide his church through The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s New Beginnings congregational renewal program.

David has served in all four of The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s courts, joining the Presbytery of Prince Edward Island in 2018, attending the Synod of the Atlantic Provinces in 2018 and 2019 and the General Assembly in 2018, 2019 and 2021. During 2021–2022 he served as convener of the Special Committee re Confession to LGBTQI People, whose report was adopted by the 2022 General Assembly. He has been the convener of the presbytery’s Congregational Life Committee. He was appointed an assessor elder to St. Columba Church in 2021, served as acting clerk of session and led worship there on a number of occasions. David was elected deputy clerk of the Presbytery of Prince Edward Island in 2021 and the following year became clerk of presbytery.

David served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1980 to 1999, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander. He was a public servant for 25 years, serving in a variety of ever more responsible roles, ending his career at Veterans Affairs Canada in 2005.

David is a sufferer of major depression, now under good control and speaks out frequently about the stigma associated with mental health challenges and the positive, faithful ways that one can live with the disorder.

David holds a B.A. (First Class Honours) in Political Science from the University of King’s College, Halifax; an M.A. in Canadian Politics from the University of Calgary and completed three years of Political Science doctoral studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

David is married to Constance Robinson, who is a lawyer. They have two married daughters and one grandchild.

What are some key moments of your faith journey and how have they informed the person you are today?

When I left an abusive father to live with my mother, I was 12 years old. We began to attend the local Baptist church. After one year of Sunday School classes, I asked if I could be baptized. I found the stories of a Saviour who knows you, loves you and will protect you, very compelling. I wanted to tell the world that I was going to follow that wonderful heavenly friend.

At university, my campus had a very active Anglican chapel. I immediately joined the congregation, participating in the Server’s Guild and leading evening prayer services. That was my introduction to lay leadership in the church. I thoroughly enjoyed delivering evening prayers – so much so that I considered the possibility of a career in ministry. As a strong student, however, I was being encouraged to consider a career in academia and that is what I opted to pursue.

In 1998, when my public service career led me to Charlottetown, my family joined the Kirk of St. James. Both my wife and I actively volunteered and within a couple of years, I was elected an elder. The service of ordination, committing me to a life of leadership and service within the church, was profoundly moving. It opened my eyes to the possibilities for ministry without becoming a teaching elder. In short order I was asked to become clerk of session. I was tremendously honoured to take on this role and redoubled my work within the church. I became more aware than ever of opportunities for mission and ministry and began to feel that I was fully living into a life in Christ.

In 2021, I assisted a local church that was going through difficult times. I provided summer pulpit supply there for two years and immensely enjoyed the experience. It reinforced the idea that there are less traditional leadership roles that ruling elders can play. It also further confirmed my sense of vocation to mission and ministry that had first blossomed at university.

So, my faith journey has included increasing opportunities for service, an expanding role for leadership and a greater and a greater sense of personal vocation to ministry and my Saviour. The church has invited, embraced, sustained and fulfilled me. I have truly been richly blessed!

What have been your most memorable experiences in serving the church and how have those particular experiences shaped or guided your views?

As a naval personnel officer, my faith informed my work. One year a staff member got into trouble and then attempted suicide. As soon as he was out of hospital, I focused on supporting him pastorally. I advocated for him during disciplinary hearings. As a student who counted on his Naval Reserve pay to live, he was in difficult straits should he lose it. It was during the Christmas season – a time of increased suicide risk – so I provided him with a special Christmas food hamper and gifts. I supported him throughout that difficult time. The next Christmas Eve, he appeared at my door with a thank you gift – and told me that I had undoubtedly saved his life. That experience showed me just how outsized an impact a few kindnesses can make in another person’s life. I became determined to be a friend to the vulnerable and work for their safety.

My younger brother Richard, who was gay, died of AIDS in 1991. This made the fight for LGBTQI inclusion within the church a very personal and passionate one for me through the years. At successive General Assemblies, I have worked determinedly to support the Rainbow Communion and measures to ensure LGBTQI people feel at home in The Presbyterian Church in Canada. That advocacy led to my selection to convene the Special Committee on Confession to LGBTQI People in 2021–2022. That experience showed me that I could have a denomination-wide personal impact and affirmed for me the rightness of fighting for the vulnerable and excluded.

I also became the Kirk’s representative on a local refugee sponsorship committee in 2018. I helped resettle three families from the Middle East. We worked diligently, generously and tirelessly to help all three families. One that touched my heart deeply was a family of four whose home in Syria had been bombed and who fled to Canada for the safety of their young children. They became part of my family and I became a surrogate father and grandfather to them. Their faith and perseverance have inspired me deeply. One day, in thanking me for the support, the father, George, said that “You are Jesus to us.” I can think of no higher accolade for a Christian to receive – not that it made me proud but that it affirmed for me that I was living into a vocation as the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

Is there a particular experience that has caused you some regret and what did you learn from it?

One matter has caused me significant regret. When I fell ill with a severe military-related depression in 2005, I had to give up my career and also my volunteer activities. This included my role as clerk of session, which I had only recently begun. At that time, just being in the church building gave me panic attacks. In retrospect this was due to my feelings of failure related to giving up on the clerk role so quickly after starting. I felt that I had let the Kirk down. In addition, I felt that I had likely failed to support the minister as well as I might have during those first years as clerk.

During this acute illness, I was sustained by a Bible verse that my mother had taught me as a youngster: “All things work together for good for those that love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28).

It took a few years of excellent and determined medical care before I began to recover my health. I vowed then that if I was ever entrusted with the role of elder at the Kirk again, I would devote all of the time, talents and resources I could muster, in order to make it more successful the second time around.

In life one seldom gets a do-over. I was blessed, however, as in 2016 I was re-elected an elder at the Kirk and two years later entrusted with the role of action clerk of session. Re-elected to session in 2021, I was asked to serve a further term as the action clerk. I have done my best to live up to my vow of devoting all I could during this chance at redemption. I have strived to support the minister well. I have helped to lead the congregation through a successful $1.2 million capital campaign, helped to shepherd the Kirk through COVID-19 and led the congregation to the decision-making point in the New Beginnings congregational renewal program. I feel blessed that we have experienced a very successful time.

Through all of this, I have learned a few key things. God loves everyone, including those requiring health support and recovery. Our Lord never gives up on us and provides second chances. And if we truly love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbour as ourselves, we can transform the world around us!

What is your image and vision of the church at its best?

The Presbyterian Church in Canada is made up of thousands of members. My image of the church at its best sees them all performing at least one act of kindness each day. This is a practice that I try to follow in my own life. It can be buying a friend coffee and listening attentively to their concerns, sending a condolence to a person who has lost a loved one, congratulating a colleague on a major achievement, thanking a harried store clerk or buying a meal for an unhoused person on the street. I find that kindness begets personal gratitude – thankfulness for the ability to cheer or console somebody. Gratitude prompts generosity and generosity fosters love. And an act of love can change the course of a person’s life.

Some concerns are too big to be addressed by individual action alone. This is where the church’s collective influence comes into play. Through congregational action, presbytery camps, synod missions, theological college initiatives or the work of the national church via Presbyterians Sharing or PWS&D, we can have a real impact on these big issues. We can aid struggling churches within The Presbyterian Church in Canada and train a new generation of ministry leaders, both teaching and ruling Elders. We can help refugees in Palestine, Ukraine or elsewhere. We can start farms in disadvantaged communities abroad or provide disaster relief. In so many ways, we can reach out to the world through collective action, to effectively and practically be the hands and feet of Christ.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada also has a role to play in advocacy on the national and international stage. As one body, we can speak out to advocate for reconciliation with Indigenous people who suffer cultural genocide and inter-generational trauma. We can speak out about human trafficking and forced labour. We can fight homophobia, transphobia and heteronormative attitudes. We can call for peace with justice in war-torn countries. Through Justice Ministries and International Ministries, we can advance real transformation.

Finally, we can harness the power of prayer. We can all pray, together or singly, for Christ’s kingdom. We can all intercede for those who are disadvantaged, ill, grieving or imprisoned. And we can live into our prayers by doing that one act of kindness each day. Together, we really do have the power to change the world. This, in my view, would reflect The Presbyterian Church in Canada at its best.

How do you understand the role of Moderator?

There are a number of expectations of the Moderator. They preside at General Assembly in a manner that is unbiased and respectful. They lead the General Assembly in prayer. After the General Assembly, they visit congregations of The Presbyterian Church in Canada across the breadth of Canada, listening and bringing good wishes and meaningful messages to churches and colleges. They serve as an ex-officio on many national committees, bringing their particular perspectives to bear on a wide range of denominational issues. They will usually represent The Presbyterian Church in Canada abroad on one or more occasions, in mission fields or at ecumenical gatherings. This is all important work that must be performed to a high standard.

Beyond these roles, the Moderator is the moral compass of the denomination during their moderatorial year. The Moderator sets the tone of denominational activity and discourse. Each Moderator will also set out one or more specific objectives for the year, drawing attention and action to themes that are near and dear to their hearts and important for The Presbyterian Church in Canada. For each Moderator these themes will be different, reflecting the sum total of their experiences and aspirations. In the recent past these themes have ranged from Indigenous reconciliation and ecumenism to LGBTQI inclusion.

Addressing these themes is an important activity for The Presbyterian Church in Canada. With a wealth of issues to advance and advocate for, it is too easy for the denomination’s internal conversation to become fractured and ineffective. While all of these conversations are important, the Moderator uses their judgement to highlight one or two themes, ensuring that the attention of the whole denomination is devoted to them for a time. This develops conversations that are deeper, cohesive and consistent.

I believe in servant leadership, so in my opinion, the Moderator should always be seeking out and responding to opportunities to serve individual congregations, missions, presbyteries, colleges, synods and national church bodies. Christ was a servant leader and one who is worthy of emulation.
Finally, I believe that it is part of the Moderator’s role to advance The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s strategic vision. They will, during their moderatorial year, participate in many committee meetings and in collective decision making about The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s future. If their participation is anchored in a constructive and compelling vision for the denomination’s future, they will be much more effective in this leadership role.

If you were elected Moderator, what interests would you bring to the role?

As a ruling elder, I would advocate for and promote the purposeful role that ruling elders can play. My experience of eldership has convinced me that these lay leaders play a pivotal role in the life of the denomination and that they can do more. We are not producing as many teaching elders as we once were. Many congregations are without a minister and many interim moderators have insufficient time to look after all of the needs of vacant congregations. The constant in these vacant congregations is the presence of ruling elders who know their members well and often have the capacity to deliver pastoral care, lead worship or represent the congregation in the wider community. Some have taken special training in order to preside at communion or have taken lay leadership training at our theological colleges. These individuals are able to step into greater leadership roles in their churches and presbyteries. I would encourage ruling elders who wish to participate more fully in the life of the church to do so.

Reconciliation is a very important issue for me. Within The Presbyterian Church in Canada, there are three reconciliation imperatives: Indigenous reconciliation, reconciliation with LGBTQI people and reconciliation with those who have experienced racism within the body of Christ. We must strive with good faith and sincere efforts to advance all three reconciliation agendas.

Finally, I would want to bring attention to mental health issues. Many church workers, leaders and congregants are coping with fragile mental health. Burnout, stress and depression are widespread. I personally experienced profound and life-threatening depression. When I first fell ill, I prayed that God would heal me. Then, as healing seemed far off, I prayed that God would use me, despite my illness. Now, reconciled to my disability, I pray that God will use me because of my illness. God has purposeful uses for the broken. Christ fulfilled his greatest destiny on the cross, by being entirely broken for us. Paul had to be broken on the road to Damascus before he could take up life as an apostle. There is abundant life and possibility in brokenness. I am more understanding, patient, empathetic and worshipful now than I was before my illness. These are all traits that I believe have made me a better elder and leader. I would want to share my experience and help increase mental health support within the wider church.