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Saskatchewan minister elected Moderator

By Kevin Cox & Jim Cairney

General Council Report

The United Church of Canada has picked a Saskatchewan minister with a passion for social justice as its 42nd Moderator.

Rev. Jordan Cantwell, 48, who serves Delisle-Vanscoy United Church in River Bend Presbytery near Saskatoon, was chosen on the fifth ballot.

Cantwell, who blew kisses to commissioners giving her a  standing ovation, was joined on the podium by her partner, Laura Fouhse, a diaconal minister at McClure United Church in Saskatoon.

Jordan Cantwell (left) was elected to succeed Gary Paterson (riight) as Moderator.

The Moderator-elect thanked the commissioners for holding her and the 11 other people who sought the church’s highest office in their prayers.

“I commit to all of you and to our church that I will hold all of you, I will hold our church, in my prayers and in my heart as we walk together these next three years as we continue to do Christ’s ministry in new ways and old ways together,” she said.

Cantwell has been involved in social justice work for three decades and was an international observer in South Africa for the Ecumenical Monitoring Program in 1993. In 2011, she was part of the Moderator’s exposure tour to Israel and Palestine.She grew up in the Anglican Church, left it when she was in her 20s to seek out other spiritual paths, and joined the United Church in the late 1990s.

Cantwell was ordained in 2010 after studying for her Master of Divinity at St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon.

In her speech to commissioners immediately after her election was announced, she stressed discipleship and hope.

“We know that the life of the church is measured not by budgets, figures, and statistics, but by its faithfulness to the gospel,” she said.

“The reports and proposals coming before this court reveal a passionate commitment to the gospel values of justice, compassion and reconciliation.”

Cantwell was installed as Moderator at a buoyant and joyous service on August 14.

We believe that Jordan is worthy! Glory be to God!”

Those words rang out loud and clear as the whole General Council joyously spoke with one voice in response to the question, “Dear friends in Christ, do you believe that Jordan, by God’s grace, is worthy to be installed as Moderator?”

The installation of the Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell as the 42nd Moderator of The United Church of Canada was an intercultural worship celebration that concluded the 42nd General Council meeting, and capped off what had been a long day of business.

Cantwell was presented with symbols of the office of Moderator: a stole, a talking stick, a piece of cloth, a bowl, and a prayer shawl. She was also given a Heiltsuk eagle clan vest with abalone shell buttons by Jim White of Bella Bella, BC.

The new Moderator co-presided at Holy Communion with the Very Rev. Gary Paterson, the outgoing Moderator.

In her brief sermon, Cantwell spoke of the biblical story of the miraculous manna in the wilderness for the children of Israel (Exodus 16) and the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Mark 6:33-44).

“Manna teaches the principles of mutuality, justice, rest for people and the land, and trust—trust God with everything they’ve got, trust one another,” said Cantwell.

“Jesus did something far more radical and amazing than stretching five loaves to feed 5,000. What Jesus did that day on the hillside was to remind the people of one of the key stories and truths that shaped who they are as a people,” said Cantwell.

“He reminded them that they were a people constituted by an alternative vision of how the world might be, a whole different set of principles and values and therefore a whole different set of possibilities than the ones offered by the dominant culture.

“The miracle of the loaves and fishes is the power that our stories have to reshape our imagination and to give us the courage to act with hope, compassion, and generosity, even when we are deeply uncertain about our future.”

In a media interview following her election, Cantwell said: “My understanding of ministry and my role as a minister is to accompany people, The stories of our faith teach us that God is with us on the journey. Wherever we are, always God was in that. We are fundamentally a people of hope, Our story is one of hope. We have something to offer the world."

Cantwell is New York born, and was raised on the Canadian prairies from the age of two.

After working at the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg, which trains diaconal ministers, in 2006 she moved to Saskatoon to study for her Master of Divinity (M.Div.) at St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon.


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