The United Church of Canada came into being on 10 June 1925, bringing together the Congregational, Methodist and most Presbyterian (71 per cent) churches in Canada. In 1968, the Canada Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined the Church. The UCC has 573,424 members in over 3400 local congregations in Canada and Bermuda, with another million or more adherents.
Methodism was established in Canada as early as 1765 by Laurence Coughlan, one of Wesley’s preachers, who went from Ireland to Newfoundland. The various branches of Methodism in England and the United States in due course established themselves and by 1884 they were all united to form the Methodist Church of Canada. The United Church of Canada is the inheritor of the Wesleyan tradition in Canada and is a member of the World Methodist Council. The United Church is non-episcopal in character and is governed by a conciliar system.
The United Church of Canada has a history of involvement in justice issues both in Canada and overseas, much of this coming from its Methodist and Reformed traditions of caring for people who suffer economic and social injustice.
Canadian society is multicultural and multifaith. It is a culture in which the pervasive economic worldview impacts relationships, values, identities, and understanding of church. integration through free trade and continental security arrangements. Through advocacy and outreach the church ministers to those marginalized in this economy of exploitation, in addition to providing the traditional ministries and pastoral care. A growing area of work is with ethnic ministries and integration of churches brought to Canada by new immigrants; ministries in French are also an important focus. The church also has oversight of eleven theological schools, five United Church-related colleges or universities and four education centres. Commitment to global justice is expressed through work with overseas partners in some 38 countries with whom we partner in ministry, education, and development work, sharing people and resources in God’s mission, including acting and advocating in solidarity with those most affected by systemic injustice.
Continuing the traditions of the earlier denominations, the Church has spoken out strongly and consistently on controversial issues, including Aboriginal justice and the legacy of abuse in church-supported residential schools that housed Aboriginal students, systemic justice issues (race, gender, sexuality, economic inequalities, etc.), ecology, and the rights of refugees. In all such matters, educational resources are provided for church groups and official positions are made known to governmental or other agencies. Working in a framework of “whole world ecumenism” focused on the mending of the world, the church has also supported processes of interchurch and interfaith dialogue, and published important statements on Jewish-United Church and Muslim-United Church relations.
Through all these ministries, the United Church seeks to express the integral connection between Christian faith, care for creation, and commitment to social justice, remembering that “We are not alone; we live in God’s world.”
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