United Church of Canada leader to preach at General Synod in Indianapolis
The spiritual leader of the United Church of Christ’s communion partner in Canada will be the featured preacher during community worship at General Synod 34 in Indianapolis next summer.
“I am very excited to be welcoming Rev. Lansdowne to General Synod as a preacher,” said the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, associate general minister and Synod administrator. “While we have always welcomed ecumenical guests and they have participated in a variety ways, involving Rev. Lansdowne in worship is a wonderful example of the commitment to the relationship we have with the United Church of Canada and to our commitment to journey together.”
That commitment was formalized in 2015 when governing bodies of both denominations approved a full communion agreement, with leaders coming together in worship to celebrate and sign the document in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
“I think that involving leadership from our denominations in each other’s governance as witness and participant is the best of what united/uniting churches can do together,” said Lansdowne. “I’m excited to join you!”
Ordained in 2007, Rev. Lansdowne was elected moderator of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination at its 44th General Council and installed during closing worship on Aug. 7, 2022. She chairs that national governing body and will serve as the church’s spiritual leader and public representative for the next three years.
Lansdowne is the first Indigenous woman to lead a religious denomination in Canada, and only the second Indigenous person involved in United Church leadership, the first being the Very Rev. Stan McKay, elected moderator in 1992.
Prior to her election, she was executive director at the First United Church Community Ministry Society, an incorporated ministry of the United Church in downtown Vancouver, B.C.
‘Indigenous way of being’
Her profile notes that Lansdowne is “committed to an Indigenous way of being in the world,” to “building an intercultural church committed to community” as part of “a denominational journey of repentance and healing.”
“I believe that there is much the non-Indigenous church can learn from Indigenous peoples,” she wrote in her vision statement prior to her election.
“Traditional Indigenous ways of life are deeply spiritual, based on protocols that govern our interactions with each other towards right action and a commitment to living in balance with the world and with each other. … So much of western civilization is focused on tradition, on the past, on facts. Those things are important, but rather than history and story being based on timelines and definitions of what is ‘true’ or ‘fact,’ history for Indigenous peoples is meant to teach us how to be together in this moment and into the future.”
“Rev. Lansdowne is a minister and theologian who will bring a global perspective to the preached moment,” Thompson said. “Her voice as an Indigenous woman will be reflected in her sermon. As we in the UCC continue to name Indigenous rights as a priority, having Rev. Lansdowne as a preacher and present with us in other ways is a gift as we explore ‘making all things new.’”
‘Art of possibility’
“Making All Things New” is the theme of the UCC’s biennial gathering, scheduled for June 30-July 4, 2023, at the Indiana Convention Center.
The Scripture verse is from Isaiah 43:18-19: “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Lansdowne said she’s been “reading a lot about futurism and the art of possibility, and wanting to imagine a world that is more abundant and live-giving than we could ask or imagine,” and expects her sermon to speak to that vision.
“It’s a beautiful time to be changing the world,” Lansdowne said. “I think that the idea of mission and ministry is that God calls us to active participation in creating the beloved community and learning to be better stewards of this earth we were born to.
“Regardless of whether you think that we were given the right to dominion over the earth and all that are in it — which is one interpretation of Genesis — or that we are here to steward the earth’s resources — which is another — we also know enough about how the world works to know that it is time, truly, to repent. In my traditional language, Haíɫzaqvḷa, we use the word haíɫcístut¸ which means ‘to turn around and make things right again.’ We are in a haíɫcístut time.”
Writer, speaker, ecumenical leader
Lansdowne, a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, is a lifelong United Church member.
Baptized in the church in 1975, she waited until adulthood to make a profession of faith and follow her call to participate fully in the life and work of the denomination.
She received her M.Div. in 2007, followed by her Th.M. degree in 2008, both from Vancouver School of Theology. After that, she moved to Berkeley, Calif., where she completed her Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union in 2016.
In addition to her work as a writer and speaker, Lansdowne has contributed to the church in a variety of roles.
She has served on the Executive and Central Committees of the World Council of Churches and on the Pension Board of The United Church of Canada. She currently chairs the Indigenous Candidacy Board of the United Church. Recently, Lansdowne joined the board of directors of the Vancouver Foundation, Canada’s largest community foundation.
‘Big, audacious goals’
Registration will open in early January at the General Synod website. Registered visitors, like all delegates, will have access to worship as well as the gathering’s many exhibits and business sessions.
Lansdowne is likely to speak about the potential she sees in the united and uniting churches of North America – including the potential to turn things around and make things right again.
“I think we need to set some big, audacious goals and work towards them,” she said. “I’m inspired by organizations like The Solutions Project and their campaigns at every level to move the U.S. to 100% renewable energy. For funding and celebrating the leadership of local heroes – largely women of color – who are making a difference on climate.
“The same goes with young people who are using STEAM education process to develop innovative ways to remove waste plastic from oceans and rivers without causing more damage to ecosystems. Can you imagine if we could harness all the best of what we can imagine and used that power for good? So often we set up programs and policies that are modifications of the status quo. I’m increasingly convinced that’s not what we are called to as Christians.
“If we are going to truly haíɫcístut then we have to imagine a different world and work towards that. I think futurists have it right.”
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