Peter Noteboom, general secretary for the Canadian Council of Churches.

75 years pursuing peace

  • September 28, 2019

The Canadian Council of Churches started in the middle of a war and it’s still trying to make peace.

“In the last year of the Second World War folks got together to say, ‘This really shouldn’t happen again.’ So the pursuit of peace has been in our DNA from then,” explained CCC general secretary Peter Noteboom as the group prepared to mark 75 years of co-ordinated Christian witness with a prayer service Sept. 26 at the same church where it all began — Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto.

“Canada signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (Sept. 19). Project Ploughshares of the Canadian Council of Churches has been instrumental on every step of the development of that disarmament treaty,” Noteboom told The Catholic Register. “The pursuit of peace is totally in our DNA.”

In addition to the special prayer service, the CCC is celebrating its anniversary by inviting people to take part in an online “cross-Canada conversation” that asks, “What is the place of Christianity in Canada today?”

“The place of Christianity is not the same as it used to be,” said Noteboom.

“Most people aren’t really in favour of churches and Christians and are opposed to religion in any shape or form. That maybe isn’t in our DNA yet. We need to do some reflecting on that. … We need to reflect on how we can be salt and light and yeast in the current context.”

The Oct. 26 bilingual webinar goes from 1-3 p.m. (ET) and features Valleyfield, Que., Bishop Noel Simard, former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Marie Wilson, Christian Missionary Alliance Pastor Ken Shigematsu, Presbyterian Pastor Mary Fontaine and Evangelical Lutheran Pastor JoAnne Lam.

The CCC became the first and still one of the very few national councils of churches in the world to include Catholics as full members in 1997.

That year the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops upgraded the associate membership it had held since 1986 to reflect its full commitment to the ecumenical project. The CCCB had, in fact, been collaborating with the CCC ever since the end of the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s.

In a letter to Canadian Council of Churches president Rev. Stephen Kendall, CCCB president Bishop Lionel Gendron praised the CCC for its “important witness to the possibilities of human solidarity, mutual collaboration and common efforts to achieve and sustain peace, despite the divisions among Christians.”

“We wouldn’t be the Canadian Council of Churches without the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. We would be something else now,” said Noteboom.

For most Christians — Catholic, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox — the CCC is very much in the background as the ecumenical organization mostly serves the various hierarchies and leaderships of Canada’s churches.

“We don’t have as a primary mission to be an advocate for Christians in Canada,” explained Noteboom. “Our main purpose is to respond to Christ’s call for unity and peace. That’s really the main thing.”

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