Each year at General Assembly, an award is given to recognize a person or group for their work on the cutting edge of mission.
2019 Cutting Edge of Mission Award Recipient:
Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Environmental, Cultural and Human Rights Advocate
The recipient of the Award in 2019 will be Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an internationally-recognized environmental, cultural and human rights advocate for almost 25 years. Drawing attention to the impacts of climate change that people in the Arctic have been experiencing first-hand, she has identified Inuit people as “sentinels” to the rest of the world on this issue.
Born and raised traditionally in an Inuit community in Nunavik, Quebec, at age ten Watt-Cloutier was sent to schools in southern Canada and Churchill, Manitoba; later she studied counselling, education and human development through McGill University. Watt-Cloutier was President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Canada for two terms (1995 to 2001) and elected the ICC’s International Chair in 2002. Representing the 155,000 Inuit of Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Russia, she was instrumental in the global negotiations leading to the 2001 Stockholm Convention that banned the generation and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) contaminating the Arctic food web. In 2005 she filed a legal petition through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging the violation of Inuit human rights by practices contributing to climate change. This was the first international human rights legal action ever advanced on the basis of climate change.
A 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Watt-Cloutier is the recipient of many awards including Aboriginal Achievement Award (2004), the Norwegian Sophie Award (2005), the International Environmental Leadership Award (2006), the Mahbub ul Haq UN Human Development Award (2007), and the 2015 Swedish Right Livelihood Award (considered the alternate Nobel Prize). She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has received twenty honorary doctorates. She is the author of the book The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic, and the Whole Planet, which was nominated for the 2016 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. In 2017, the book was shortlisted for CBC Canada Reads and the Kobo Emerging Writer prize. Watt-Cloutier is a Commissioner on Aspen Institute’s Commission on Arctic Climate Change and teaches courses on the Human Dimension of Climate Change at Bowden College, Maine, and Mount Allison University, New Brunswick.
Watt-Cloutier was witnessing the impacts of climate change on human life, culture, economy and the environment in Arctic communities long before the rest of the world began debating them. She has made connections with actions – and inactions – in other parts of the world and identified how climate change threatens Inuit human rights. Her unique life experiences have given her a prophetic perspective and opportunities to offer global leadership. Communicating clearly, passionately and with hope, she persistently challenges the rest of the world to see beyond boundaries of nations and cultures and disciplines, and to make decisions in the best interests of all creation.
As Sheila says,“I remind the world that the Arctic is not a barren land devoid of life but a rich and majestic land that has supported our resilient culture for millennia. Even though we are small in number and living far from the corridors of power, it appears that the wisdom of the land strikes a universal chord on a planet where many are searching for sustainability.”
The Dr. E.H. Johnson Memorial Fund was established in 1981 to continue The Rev. Dr. Edward “Ted” Hewlitt Johnson’s commitment to a global view of mission and to extend the horizons of that mission. He lived his view of and commitment to mission through service with his wife Kitty as missionaries of The Presbyterian Church in Canada in Manchuria and as Secretary for Overseas Missions. He also became involved in ecumenical agencies covering many aspects of mission. When Dr. Johnson was elected Moderator of the 95th General Assembly, mission in all its variety and aspects marked his service in that office.
What is “Cutting-Edge Mission”?
Read more about “the cutting-edge of mission” in this Presbyterian Connection newspaper article (Fall 2017) by the Rev. Glynis Williams, Associate Secretary, International Missions.
For Service on the Cutting Edge of Mission
In making the award, the committee desires to recognize both the person and the church or organization with whom the person works, with the understanding that God’s mission is incarnated in relationships with sisters and brothers.
The recipient delivers an address to commissioners and guests at the General Assembly. The address is made available in print and is posted on the website. The recipient often makes time available for meetings with leaders in the wider church and secular society and with congregations.
Begun in 1983, the award recipients comprise a list of distinguished church leaders, both in Canada and countries around the world. Our award winners in the last several years have been Dr. Elsa Tamez, Dr. David Pandy-Szekeres, The Very Rev. Dr. John Dunlop, The Rev. Nangula E. Kathindi, The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, The Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi, Ms. Karuna Roy, Dr. Ernie Regehr, Dr. Mercy Oduyoye and His Excellency Archbishop Elias Chacour.
Previous Award Recipients
Dr. George Sabra
Professor of Systematic Theology and President of the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut, Lebanon
Dr. Cindy Blackstock
Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
Dr. Bernard Sabella
Executive Secretary of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) in Jerusalem
Canadian Council for Refugees Conseil canadien pour les réfugiés
Accepted by Loly Rico (President) and Janet Dench (Executive Director) on behalf of the organization
Canadian Foodgrains Bank
Accepted by Don Peters (Board Chair) and Jim Cornelius (Executive Director) on behalf of the organization
Rev. Dr. Abraham Berinyuu
Campaigner for Disability Rights; Champion for Ethnic Reconciliation
Sister Eun Sook Han
A Founder and Member of the Diakonia Sisterhood in Korea
Boarding Homes Ministry
Accepted by Rev. Rodger Hunter, Chaplain
Rev. Dr. Terry LeBlanc
Founder, North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies
Archbishop Elias Chacour
Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Akka, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee; Founder, Mar Elias Educational Institutions
Dr. Mercy Oduyoye
Founder, The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians
Dr. Ernie Regehr
Co-Founder, Project Ploughshares
Ms. Karuna Roy
Coordinator, HIV/AIDS Program, Church of North India
Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi
General Secretary, The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC)
Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rev. Nangula E. Kathindi
General Secretary, Council of Churches in Namibia
The Very Rev. Dr. John Dunlop
Former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; peace activist
Dr. David Pandy-Szekeres
General Director of Schools for the Hungarian Reformed Church of the sub-Carpathian Ukraine
Dr. Elsa Tamez
Professor of Biblical Theology, Seminario Biblico Latinoamericano, San-Jose, Costa Rica; women’s advocate
Rev. John Bell
Church of Scotland, on behalf of Iona Community; composer of hymns; inner-city youth worker
Rev. Héctor Méndez
Pastor of the First Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba; ecumenist
Rev. Dr. John Fife
Past Moderator, PCUSA; co-leader of Sanctuary Movement for Central American refugees
Rev. Dr. Daniel Szabo
Chief Curator, Hungarian Reformed Church
Rev. Dr. Timothy Njoya
Minister, Presbyterian Church of East Africa, Kenya
Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu
President of the All Africa Conference of Churches; Nobel Laureate
Rev. Dr. John McIntosh and Dr. Clarabeth McIntosh
Minority Rights leaders with The Korean Christian Church in Japan
Rev. Russell Self
Presbyterian missionary; Bible Society leader
Rev. Glenda B. Hope
Inner City Minister in San Francisco
Rev. Barbel Wartenburg-Potter
Theologian; advocate against injustice; ecumenist
Ms. Barbara Jackman
Canadian advocate for refugee and immigration rights
Mr. Gabriel Habibe
General Secretary, Middle East Council of Churches
Rev. Dr. Byers Naude
General Secretary, South African Council of Churches; anti-apartheid activist
Rev. Dr. C.M. Kao
General Secretary, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
Most Reverend Edward Scott
Archbishop, Primate, Anglican Church of Canada
Rev. Dr. In Ha Lee
Minister, The Korean Christian Church in Japan
Rev. Dr. Roy G. Neehall
General Secretary, Caribbean Conference of Churches
- The Rev. Joan Masterton (convener), the Rev. Shahrzad Kandalaft, Ms. Annemarie Klassen, Ms. Anne Saunders, the Rev. Bob Smith, the Rev. Gordon Timbers.
- Ex Officio: The Rev. Ian Ross-McDonald, General Secretary, Life and Mission Agency, the Rev. Stephen Kendall, Principal Clerk of the General Assembly, the Rev. Dr. Glynis Williams, Associate Secretary, International Ministries, Life and Mission Agency (secretary)