As we hit the middle of March we can look forward to the announcement of the results of the vote for the Moderator Designate for the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The ballot for Moderator of the the 2015 General Assembly was announced last Fall along with a supplemental sheet with brief biographies. There are six clergy – no ruling elders this year – four women and two men who geographically span much of the Dominion. Here are the honored individuals in the order presented in the press release. The links on the names go to more detailed profiles published by the Presbyterian Record.
The Rev. Marion R. Barclay MacKay – Rev. Barclay MacKay has served as the pastor of St. Andrew’s Church in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, since early 2009. Before that she served with the International Ministries program working with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Her work there included helping develop the lay training and catechist program. Her first ordained position was with a different St. Andrew’s, that one in Calgary. Her education includes Ewart College (before it was integrated into Knox College) and the University of Toronto, the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia (now incorporated into Union Presbyterian Seminary), and Knox College. Among her leadership roles are serving as Moderator of both Calgary-Macleod and Cape Breton Presbyteries and as the first Canadian to serve as president of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Cocks – She is currently the pastor of St. John’s Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta but her resume also includes academic and international experience. She has taught at the Vancouver School of Theology and the Atlantic School of Theology after finishing her Th.D. at Knox College. She was the first Associate Secretary for Faith and Witness at the Canadian Council of Churches as well as serving on the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. She also spent four years with the Iona Community in Scotland as Deputy Warden of its Island Centres. She says in her profile that this experience showed her “that language in worship can be clear and simple yet still profound.” She also talks of her passion for children and she has authored 16 books for children.
The Rev. John Barry Forsyth – Rev. Forsyth currently serves as the pastor of St. Andrew’s Church, Sherbrooke, Quebec, but has also served churches in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. In his various positions he has been the Moderator of three presbyteries and two synods. While his ministry focus has focused on parish work he has also spent some time in education teaching English as a second language and history. He has used his love of triathlon as an outreach opportunity and has a weekly radio broadcast. In the Record interview he mentions the challenges the church faces but says “it will be important that we not lose sight of what we are as a people.” He goes on to talk about “a covenant which we share; a binding promise to work together for the gospel of the kingdom of Christ.”
The Rev. Karen Horst – Currently serving the congregation of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Orillia, Ontario, she began her work in the diaconal ministry helping with educational resources and leader training. She has served extensively in the wider church including on numerous committees at the national level and as the convener of Presbyterian World Service and Development committee for six years. She has been the emcee for two national Presbyterian Women’s Gatherings and she served on design teams for Youth Triennium with the PC(USA). In her interview in the Record she talks of her passion for “the alleviation of suffering for humans and creation itself,” a motivation reflected in her time working with PWS&D. Under concerns she speaks of “the growing polarization between ideologies.” For fellowship and recreation she and her husband enjoy riding with her church’s “motorcycle gang.”
The Rev. Dr. J. Kevin Livingston – Rev. Livingston currently works in academia where he serves as an Associate Professor of of Pastoral Ministry at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto. In his previous parish ministry he served a church in British Columbia and two churches in Ontario. His education is varied with a B.A. from Seattle University, an M.Div. from Fuller Seminary and his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen Scotland. He was originally ordained in the PC(USA) before moving to British Columbia. He has been a presbytery Moderator for East Toronto and has served on national boards including the Special Committee on Sexual Orientation. He chairs the Board of Trustees for Latin American Mission Canada and has published articles on missiology. In the Record interview he talks about his passion for being a pastor and preaching. Speaking of his concerns he says “I am concerned about the numerical decline of our Presbyterian Church in Canada in terms of a shrinking membership and the closure of churches. But I am even more concerned by what seems to be a loss of hope, rooted in a decline of confidence in the gospel as God’s power to change lives, churches and whole societies.” As for a theme for his moderatorial year, he talks about what it would mean for the PC Canada to be missional.
The Rev. M. Helen Smith – Currently serving Centennial Presbyterian Church in Calgary, Rev. Smith has also served a church in Alberta and two churches in Ontario. In addition, she has done non-parish work: she served as Program Director at the Evangel Hall Mission (an inner city mission in downtown Toronto), as the Director of Camp Kannawin in Alberta, and as the minister on staff at Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS) (a homeless ministry). She has served as the Moderator of three presbyteries and on multiple national committees. At an even wider level she has served on the North America Area Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. When the Record asked about a theme for her time as Moderator she said simply “Sowing seeds of shalom.” This echoes back to her reply about where her passion lies and her discussion of doing mission locally and nurturing shalom in the community. The phrase is taken from a book on that topic by Dan Steigerwald.
So there are the candidates. As I went through the list is was difficult not to be impressed by the years of service and the hope they have for the church. They are a diverse group in many respects but it was difficult not to notice that five of the six have one thing in common – they are, or have, served a church named “St. Andrew’s.”
The Clerk’s office will announce the results of the balloting in just about two weeks and so as that date approaches we pray for the six of them in their waiting and the discernment of the church in their choosing.