Multilateral conversations: ELCIC, CRC, PCC, UCC
What follows is a brief (and no-doubt incomplete) history of the multi-lateral conversations prepared by Stephen Kendall of The Presbyterian Church in Canada from memory and notes of meetings.
Since late in the year 2000, The United Church of Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, The Evangelical Church in Canada and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (through Canadian members of the Interchurch relations committee) have engaged in a ‘multi-lateral conversation’.
The initial reason for this came as a result of discussions among various ecumenical officers about the Lutheran-Reformed conversations in the United States that led in October 1998 to A Formula of Agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ. Some of us wondered if a similar agreement would be a good idea in Canada, and at the very least, if discussions should be held to consider the question.
Hence an invitation was made by the then Ecumenical officer of the United Church of Canada (Peter Wyatt) to the four churches, to begin a conversation. The term ‘conversation’ was chosen specifically to respect those churches that require more formal decisions of governing bodies to enter into ‘dialogues’ or ‘partnership negotiations’ beyond what we were initially intending.
The conversations have been fruitful for those in attendance, and representatives have been keeping various levels of governing bodies informed of their work. There have been periods of more activity and less activity.
Meetings have been held as follows:
1. 4 Dec 2000 Waterloo CRC Peter Wyatt, UCC chaired this first meeting, being the one who invited participants. Communiqué re Baptism was produced recognizing each other as churches in Christ, joined to Christ and to one another through baptism. The purpose of the conversation was articulated as: growing in knowledge of our history, worship polity and doctrine; identifying and discussing theological sacramental or practical issues that unite or divide us and; envisioning and proposing to our governing bodies any steps that might lead to fuller expressions of the unity in Christ to which we are called. (Summarized from Communiqué)
2. 5 Feb 2001 Waterloo CRC (It was agreed that chair, hosting and providing refreshments would be shared in turn among the churches. Various foundational documents of interest to each church were circulated, presented and discussed over the next few meetings.)
3. 22 Mar 2001 Woodstock (2 denominations presented foundational documents)
4. 11 Oct 2001 Maranatha CRC Woodstock (reports of authorization from PCC, ELCIC, 2 more denominations presented foundational documents)
5. 30 Nov 2001 St. David’s United, Woodstock (Looked at ordination procedures and questions and liturgies)
6. 22 Jan 2002 Kingsway Lambton UC (Questions arose about the direction of the conversation now that the history sharing had taken place. Lutherans spoke in more detail about the bilateral agreement with the Anglican Church of Canada)
7. 18 June 2002 Kingsway Lambton UC (Conversation on Christology)
8. 5 Nov 2002 Kingsway Lambton UC (A lapse in energy seemed to take place after this meeting resulting in a hiatus before the next meeting. Changes in denominational offices and membership appointments were taking place.)
9. 14 May 2004 Trinity York Mills, Toronto (This was the first meeting that was connected to the Canadian Council of Churches meetings in an attempt to make travel and cost arrangements easier for member churches. It was a brief gathering following the CCC meeting. There was a re-commitment made to gathering and clarifying our raison d’etre.)
10. 16-17 Nov 2004 Mississauga (Note – on Jan 14, 2005 the PCC and the CRC began bi-lateral conversations)
11. 24-25 May 2005 Montreal (By and large new members were present at this meeting, discussions again focused on affirming a purpose for meeting and there was agreement that there were benefits to continuing our conversation but perhaps with a revised mandate that revisits the original intention for gathering.)
12. 16 Nov 2005 Pickering (Scheduled)