The newly elected Canadian Council of Churches president Major Jim Champ

‘Speak boldly to the government’: Canadian Council of Churches president

By 
  • May 30, 2012

The Canadian Council of Churches has questions and it has plans. The questions are for the government and its plans are for Canada’s Christians.

As the CCC executive committee elected new officers, including the first Salvation Army president in the Council’s 68-year history, it also trekked to Parliament Hill to ask politicians and bureaucrats about environmental policy and plans for an Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

“We went there knowing there are issues on the horizon that we would like to ask questions about and simply learn more about,” said CCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton.

In meetings with DFAIT officials, Liberal leader Bob Rae, NDP Environment critic Megan Leslie, NDP Leader Thomas Muclair and an unscheduled appearance before the House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, the CCC discovered they would be included in further consultation about the Office of Religious Freedom and that environmental plans remain contentious and unclear.

“We’re clear that Canada is not going with Kyoto at this point,” said Hamilton. “So, what next? What is the government’s plan going forward?”

The CCC has a “keen interest” in how the Office of Religious Freedom will work and what it’s mandate will look like, said newly elected CCC president Major Jim Champ.

The government is being cautious in proceeding with the office, given that there are few such government-sponsored religious rights monitoring bodies in the world, said Champ.

But DFAIT will be seeking advice from faith leaders, including Hamilton.

“The CCC looks forward to its involvement in the process,” Champ said.

Poverty, human trafficking and environment will continue to be key issues for the CCC, whose member churches represent about 85 per cent of Canada’s Christians.

“It is a responsibility of the Christian Church to speak boldly to the government,” said Champ in an email to The Catholic Register. “It is particularly critical that we speak for those people who are on the margins and have little, if any, voice in policy matters.”

While engaging government is a duty of the CCC and all Christians, the first responsibility of the organization remains working for Christian unity, said Champ.

“There is no more important work than this for the Council. Unity is an imperative of Scripture,” he said.

The CCC added a 24th Church to its membership, welcoming the Atlantic Baptist Fellowship at the annual meeting this year.

“It expands our geographical representation in a good way,” said Hamilton.

The new, provisionally named Atlantic Baptist Fellowship joins three other groupings of Baptists who are members of the CCC.

The CCC’s Faith and Witness Commission is about a year away from bringing out a new document on “Christian Witness in the World,” said the commission’s newly elected chair, Jesuit Fr. Gilles Mongeau. Mongeau has been a member of the Faith and Witness commission for the last three years.

Work on how Christians can and should be present in the debates, institutions, movements and politics of our time is part of the essential work of unity, said Mongeau. “When we talk to each other about Scriptures, or when we talk to each other about pastoral care — the witness side of the faith and witness conversation — we discover there is a lot more communion among us than we might initially have thought,” said Mongeau.

New vice presidents of the CCC are Archpriest Fr. Cyprian Hutcheon of the Orthodox Church of America, Rev. Dr. Das Sydney of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec and the Rev. Dr. Susan Eagle of the United Church of Canada.

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