On Oct. 6, 2019, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, The United Church of Canada and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will celebrate our God-given unity. The Full Communion agreement, passed by the governing bodies of the denominations in 2018 and 2019, will be enacted at a service of worship to be held at 10:30 am at Broadway Disciples United Church. The congregation is a shared ministry of our two communions, and it is a special gift to celebrate our agreement with them on World Communion Sunday.
The local and regional expressions of both churches have also been invited to be part of celebration by incorporating an affirmation of faith created by the Planning Committee for Full Communion, which is based on the confessions of the two faith communities, into worship services. You can find more information regarding the worship resources on the Council on Christian Unity’s website.
Back in the 1980s, the Canadian Disciples and The United Church of Canada were talking about an organic union but agreement proved elusive for theological and ecclesiastical reasons. However, more recently a new energy infused the conversations, led, in part, by Daniel Hayward, chair of the United Church’s Theology and Interchurch Interfaith Committee. You can hear him talk about the process here (7:32 min.).
This agreement is similar to the one between The United Church of Canada and the “other” UCC that Disciples are already familiar with, the United Church of Christ based in Cleveland, OH. In fact, there are two Disciple/United Church of Canada congregations already.
Through a series of conversations for the past two years, the Disciples and the United Church have also adopted these five marks as the indications of a true full communion relationship: 1) common confession of Christ; 2) mutual recognition of members; 3) common celebration of the Lord’s Supper; 4) mutual recognition of ordained ministry; and 5) common commitment to mission. These core partnerships could lead to additional educational and network opportunities and common works for social justices as the relationship grows.
The Right Rev. Richard Bott, moderator of The United Church of Canada, and our General Minister and President Rev. Terri Hord Owens had a conversation (8:53 min.) in July on the day of the full communion vote (GA-1922), in which they shared their enthusiasm for the agreement as well as why it makes sense. On that same day, the ecumenical representatives for both communions – Paul Tche, president of the Council on Christian Unity, and Gail Allen, coordinator of ecumenical, interchurch and interfaith relations for The United Church of Canada – also were able to reflect (8:01 min.) on the new relationship.
Many thanks to the Disciples of Christ Historical Society for making the video recordings of Bott and Owens, Tche and Allen, and Hayward available.