Moderator of the 147th General Assembly

The Rev. Dr. Robert (Bob) Faris, B.A., MDiv, M.Th., PhD

Bob is a lifelong Presbyterian who has an ecumenical spirit and openness to the new thing that God is doing. This has included more than 35 years of innovative ministry within the PCC that has been focused on understanding and working toward the improvement of lives and communities negatively affected by social injustice and colonialism.

Raised in Newmarket and Sarnia, Ontario, Bob completed his undergraduate studies at Queen’s University. Both his parents were elders and Bob felt called to ordained ministry early in life. His involvement in the Presbyterian Young People’s Society and Camp Kintail led to his ordination to camping ministry as the first fulltime director of Kintail in 1984. His creative ministry influenced a new generation of leaders and helped set Camp Kintail on a path toward becoming a model of church camping.

The Rev. Dr. Robert (Bob) Faris

After receiving an M.Div. from Knox College, he worked for some time with a congregation in Hamilton where issues of child poverty were part of the ministry. His passion for the life of the global church was fed at New College in Edinburgh, where Bob completed an M.Th. in 1987, then responded to a call to serve with the Presbyterian Church of Mozambique as a professor at the Seminário Unido de Ricatla. He was the first Canadian Presbyterian to be appointed to Mozambique. After language study in Brazil, Bob spent six years in the context of Mozambique’s civil war as well as the ending of apartheid in neighbouring South Africa. His admiration for the courage and witness of Christians in Mozambique in the face of immense violence and poverty informed his doctoral thesis at the University of Cape Town, which was published with the title, Liberating Mission in Mozambique: Faith and Revolution in the Life of Eduardo Mondlane. His experience in southern Africa also opened his eyes more fully to the legacy of colonialism in Canada and particularly to the catastrophic harm done to Indigenous peoples.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada has benefited from Bob’s academic work and teaching. He has taught courses in pastoral ministry and mission at Knox College and accompanied students to Cuba. In the lay education program at Knox College, he taught a course in spirituality and politics.

Bob has been a key ecumenical leader at a time of significant challenge and change. He was Director of the Canadian Churches’ Forum for Global Ministries and the Churches’ Council on Theological Education in Canada. He also served on the PCC’s Church Doctrine Committee and was convener of both the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee and the Cutting Edge of Mission Committee. He chaired the Board of Cooperation Canada Mozambique, was a member of the Governing Board of the Canadian Council of Churches, was a delegate to the Uniting General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and accompanied the Moderator’s visit to Lebanon, Israel and Palestine in response to the KAIROS Palestine document.

In 2011, Bob was called to St. Andrew’s Church in downtown Toronto. He shares in worship leadership, coordinates Out of the Cold and Refugee Sponsorship programs, has provided innovative leadership in adult education and has fostered a partnership relationship with Marabella Church in Trinidad. He has had a significant role in St. Andrew’s growth among a younger demographic living in condos and working downtown and its deepening commitment to being an intercultural and inclusive congregation. He has also taken a leadership role in the Presbytery of East Toronto.

Bob has taken some time to reflect on the year ahead and on some of the matters he would like to focus on while Moderator. Relationships are at the forefront in his mind, especially in two different but connected themes. First, Bob spoke about the importance of working toward new relationships with Indigenous people.

“Truth-telling around the experience of Indigenous people and the church’s history in Canada is of highest priority for the church’s attention.” He hesitated to move too quickly to use the word reconciliation because there is still much truth-telling yet to be done. “Telling the story is how we forge new pathways,” Bob said.

Second, the church’s work toward inclusion of LGBTQI2+ people is important for Bob, who said, “We still have a long journey ahead of us on that front.”

Bob served as co-convener of the General Assembly’s Special Listening Committee re LGBTQI, known as Rainbow Communion. As a gay man, Bob has experienced the harm done to people who identify as LGBTQI2+ in the church. He has sought to live with integrity, while calling the church to change its doctrine and practice that has diminished and harmed God’s beloved LGBTQI2+ children. He rejoiced when last year’s General Assembly adopted the remits that allowed for same sex marriage and the ordination of people in same sex relationships as well as all the recommendations brought by the Rainbow Communion.

Bob doesn’t believe that the church is beyond the divisions around sexuality and inclusion and knows that important discussions will continue to be part of the conversation that the church is having. “But decisions have been made and we are in the place where we are working out what it means to be the church with these new decisions,” he said. “It is hard work, but it is where we are called to be. I hope we can still listen to each other and all the perspectives among us, recognizing that some of the voices we will hear now will be new.”

Bob sees these two focuses as part of the larger issue of inequality and injustices in Canadian society and globally. He says that the church needs to understand the reality of injustices from a biblical and theological perspective and recall scripture’s focus on God’s call to justice.

Reflecting on the decision that the General Assembly will again meet online this year, Bob noted that meeting in person encourages relationship building and a greater sense of community and connection. At the same time, he acknowledged that there are good things to be learned by the church that come from meeting online. “Meeting online does not need to limit our discernment; for some it made participation easier and enhanced their ability to contribute. It is good for the church to know that we can do both and look at hybrid models.”

Amid the many challenges and periods of grace experienced during the pandemic, Bob continues to look forward to responding to God’s calling and to sharing the journey into this new time that lays ahead for us all.

Letter to Prime Minister re Permanent Residency for Migrant Workers September 2022
This 2022 letter advocate that the government develop pathways to permanent residency for migrant workers and develop processes to regularize undocumented migrant workers. These steps will better protect the rights of migrant workers and decrease opportunities for exploitation.

Letter to His Majesty, King Charles III re condolences upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II September 2022
This letter to King Charles III expresses gratitude for the life of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and deepest sympathies from the PCC upon her death.

Letter to Minister Hajdu re call to action 21 August 2022
This 2022 letter encourages the government to take action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 21 regarding the need for healing centers to address the harms caused by Residential Schools and colonization.

Letter to Ministers Hussen and Mendicino re domestic violence and housing August 2022
This 2022 letter advocates for supports, and especially for safe affordable housing, for people who are trying to escape domestic violence.

Letter to Minister Hussen re housing August 2022
This 2022 draws attending to the affordable housing crisis and advocates for a rights-based approach in affordable housing strategies as well as the need to address systemic barriers faced by Indigenous and racialized people, who are at greater risk of housing insecurity.

Letter to Ministers Bennett, Champagne and LeBlanc re vaccines and domestic production August 2022
This 2022 letter advocates for developing domestic vaccine development capacity, and that a fixed portion of all vaccines produced in Canada are allocated to low- and middle-income countries that face barriers to adequate vaccine supply.

Letter to Ministers Guilbeault and Wilkinson re climate crisis August 2022
This 2022 letter advocates for research and funding to assist communities at risk from impacts of the climate crisis. It addresses the need for the oil and gas sector to reduce carbon emissions and for support and a just transition and recovery plan for those affected by a transition to a low-carbon economy.

Previous Moderators

2021
The Rev. Dr. Daniel Scott
The Rev. Dr. Daniel D. Scott
Moderator of the 146th General Assembly

2019
The Rev. Amanda Currie
The Rev. Amanda Currie
Moderator of the 145th General Assembly

2018

The Rev. Daniel Cho
Moderator of the 144th General Assembly

2017

The Rev. Peter Bush
Moderator of the 143rd General Assembly

2016
The Rev. Douglas Rollwage
The Rev. Douglas Rollwage
Moderator of the 142nd General Assembly

2015
The Rev. Karen Horst
The Rev. Karen Horst
Moderator of the 141st General Assembly

2014
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Farris
The Rev. Dr. Stephen C. Farris
Moderator of the 140th General Assembly

2013
The Rev. Dr. David Sutherland
The Rev. Dr. David Sutherland
Moderator of the 139th General Assembly

2012
The Rev. Dr. John A. Vissers
The Rev. Dr. John A. Vissers
Moderator of the 138th General Assembly

2011
The Rev. Dr. H. D. Rick Horst
The Rev. Dr. H. D. Rick Horst
Moderator of the 137th General Assembly

2010
The Rev. Dr. Herbert F. Gale
The Rev. Dr. Herbert F. Gale
Moderator of the 136th General Assembly

2009
The Rev. A. Harvey Self
The Rev. A. Harvey Self
Moderator of the 135th General Assembly

2008

The Rev. Dr. Cheol Soon Park
Moderator of the 134th General Assembly

2007
The Rev. Dr. J.H. (Hans) Kouwenberg
The Rev. Dr. J.H. (Hans) Kouwenberg
Moderator of the 133rd General Assembly

2006

Dr. M. Wilma Welsh
Moderator of the 132nd General Assembly

2005
The Rev. Dr. M. Jean Morris
The Rev. Dr. M. Jean Morris
Moderator of the 131st General Assembly

2004

The Rev. Dr. Richard W. Fee
Moderator of the 130th General Assembly

2003
The Rev. Dr. P.A. (Sandy) McDonald
The Rev. Dr. P.A. (Sandy) McDonald
Moderator of the 129th General Assembly

2002
The Rev. Dr. J. Mark Lewis
The Rev. Dr. J. Mark Lewis
Moderator of the 128th General Assembly

2001
The Rev. Dr. Joseph W. Reed
The Rev. Dr. Joseph W. Reed
Moderator of the 127th General Assembly

2000
The Rev. Dr. H. Glen Davis
The Rev. Dr. H. Glen Davis
Moderator of the 126th General Assembly

1999
The Rev. Dr. Arthur Van Seters
The Rev. Dr. Arthur Van Seters
Moderator of the 125th General Assembly

1998
The Rev. Dr. William J. Klempa
The Rev. Dr. William J. Klempa
Moderator of the 124th General Assembly

1997
The Rev. Dr. John D. Congram
The Rev. Dr. John D. Congram
Moderator of the 123rd General Assembly

1996
Dr. Tamiko (Nakamura) Corbett
Dr. Tamiko (Nakamura) Corbett
Moderator of the 122nd General Assembly

1995
The Rev. Dr. Alan M. McPherson
The Rev. Dr. Alan M. McPherson
Moderator of the 121st General Assembly

1994
The Rev. Dr. George C. Vais
The Rev. Dr. George C. Vais
Moderator of the 120th General Assembly

1993
The Rev. Dr. Earle F. Roberts
The Rev. Dr. Earle F. Roberts
Moderator of the 119th General Assembly

1992
The Rev. Dr. Linda J. Bell
The Rev. Dr. Linda J. Bell
Moderator of the 118th General Assembly

1991
The Rev. Dr. John R. Cameron
The Rev. Dr. John R. Cameron
Moderator of the 117th General Assembly

1990
The Rev. Dr. John F. Allan
The Rev. Dr. John F. Allan
Moderator of the 116th General Assembly

1989
The Rev. Dr. J.J. Harrold Morris
The Rev. Dr. J.J. Harrold Morris
Moderator of the 115th General Assembly

1988
The Rev. Dr. Bruce A. Miles
The Rev. Dr. Bruce A. Miles
Moderator of the 114th General Assembly

1987
The Rev. Dr. Tony Plomp
The Rev. Dr. Tony Plomp
Moderator of the 113th General Assembly

1986
The Rev. Dr. J. Charles Hay
The Rev. Dr. J. Charles Hay
Moderator of the 112th General Assembly

1985
The Rev. Dr. Joseph C. McLelland
The Rev. Dr. Joseph C. McLelland
Moderator of the 111th General Assembly

1984
The Rev. Dr. Alex J. Calder
The Rev. Dr. Alex J. Calder
Moderator of the 110th General Assembly

1983
The Rev. Dr. Donald C. MacDonald
The Rev. Dr. Donald C. MacDonald
Moderator of the 109th General Assembly

1982
The Rev. Dr. Wayne A. Smith
The Rev. Dr. Wayne A. Smith
Moderator of the 108th General Assembly

1981
The Rev. Dr. Arthur W. Currie
The Rev. Dr. Arthur W. Currie
Moderator of the 107th General Assembly

1980
The Rev. Dr. Alexander F. MacSween
The Rev. Dr. Alexander F. MacSween
Moderator of the 106th General Assembly

1979
The Rev. Dr. Kenneth G. McMillan
The Rev. Dr. Kenneth G. McMillan
Moderator of the 105th General Assembly

1978
The Rev. Dr. Jesse E. Bigelow
The Rev. Dr. Jesse E. Bigelow
Moderator of the 104th General Assembly

1977
The Rev. Dr. DeCourcy H. Rayner
The Rev. Dr. DeCourcy H. Rayner
Moderator of the 103rd General Assembly

1976
The Rev. Dr. A. Lorne MacKay
The Rev. Dr. A. Lorne MacKay
Moderator of the 102nd General Assembly

1975
The Rev. Dr. David W. Hay
The Rev. Dr. David W. Hay
Moderator of the 101st General Assembly

1974
The Rev. Dr. Hugh F. Davidson
The Rev. Dr. Hugh F. Davidson
Moderator of the 100th General Assembly

1973
The Rev. Dr. Agnew H. Johnston
The Rev. Dr. Agnew H. Johnston
Moderator of the 99th General Assembly

1972
The Rev. Dr. Maxwell V. Putnam
The Rev. Dr. Maxwell V. Putnam
Moderator of the 98th General Assembly

1971
The Rev. Dr. Murdo Nicolson
The Rev. Dr. Murdo Nicolson
Moderator of the 97th General Assembly

1970
The Rev. Dr. Dillwyn T. Evans
The Rev. Dr. Dillwyn T. Evans
Moderator of the 96th General Assembly

1969
The Rev. Dr. Edward H. Johnson
The Rev. Dr. Edward H. Johnson
Moderator of the 95th General Assembly

1968
The Rev. Dr. Clifton J. MacKay
The Rev. Dr. Clifton J. MacKay
Moderator of the 94th General Assembly

1967
The Rev. Dr. John Logan-Vencta
The Rev. Dr. John Logan-Vencta
Moderator of the 93rd General Assembly

1966
The Rev. Dr. G. Deane Johnston
The Rev. Dr. G. Deane Johnston
Moderator of the 92nd General Assembly

1965
The Rev. Dr. J. Alan Munro
The Rev. Dr. J. Alan Munro
Moderator of the 91st General Assembly

1964
The Rev. Dr. Hugh MacMillan
The Rev. Dr. Hugh MacMillan
Moderator of the 90th General Assembly

1963
The Rev. Dr. Harry Lennox
The Rev. Dr. Harry Lennox
Moderator of the 89th General Assembly