"This is the first time we're taking a delegation of sorts to Canada," said the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations. "I was in Canada last year and had some conversations with their GMP and ecumenical officers to talk about what we can do to be more intentional about working with each other."
Thompson is making the trip April 3-4 to Toronto along with the UCC's Collegium: the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president; W. Mark Clark, associate general minister; the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister for Local Church Ministries; the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries; and the Rev. James Moos, executive minister for Wider Church Ministries.
"We want to learn more about their First Nations work," said Thompson, referring to the Church's relationship with the indigenous First Nations Peoples of Canada. The church apologized to First Nations in 1986 for its role in imposing European culture on First Nations' peoples. A second apology, in 1998, addressed the legacy of Indian residential schools more specifically."We're saying that what can we learn from the United Church of Canada might be helpful for us in our American Indian ministries involvement," said Thompson.
On the flip side, the eight leaders from the Canadian church want to learn about the UCC's partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), said Thompson.
"The United Church of Canada has no full-communion agreements. We have our Disciples partnership," said Thompson. "We also have our Formula of Agreement with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America."
Centuries of division between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestant Christianity in America ended in 1997 when those churches agreed on a relationship of full communion through the "Formula of Agreement."
"The United Church of Canada has no agreements of a similar nature," said Thompson. "They may be in partnership, but they don't have any written agreements that begin to codify how they do, for example, orderly exchange of ministers, or any kind of reconciliation around that."
The UCC and the Disciples have been in full-communion partnership since 1989, recognizing each other's sacraments and ordained ministry, and committing through their partnership to seek opportunities for common ministry. The Common Global Ministries Board, formed by the UCC's Wider Church Ministries and the Disciples' Division of Overseas Ministries, unites the international mission work of the two churches.
On the heels of recent ecumenical meetings with leaders of both the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Disciples of Christ, Thompson feels that the UCC is carrying momentum into Canada.
"Going into the meeting, we're very energized and open to the possibilities to what we can do in our lives together," she said.