43rd Moderator Richard Bott (left), Dr. Carmen Lansdowne, and General Secretary Michael Blair (right)

Photo Credit: The United Church of Canada | Facebook

Standing United

Indigenous woman becomes one of the most influential religious leaders in Canada

Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne, also known as Kwisa’lakw, has become the 44th Moderator of the United Church

Canada is (at least, in theory) making efforts to place Indigenous people into more leadership positions.

The United Church of Canada is following suit.

The Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne, born in Alert Bay and a member of the Haíɫzaqv First Nation, was chosen Saturday as the institution’s Moderator.

Kwisa’lakw, Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne
The United Church of Canada | Facebook

For those who have no idea what a Moderator is, think the United Church’s less extravagant and fairly elected “for the people” Pope.

The Moderator’s job is to be a spiritual leader, counsellor, and primary spokesperson for the church.

As far as Churches go, the United Church has been ahead of the game when it comes to making reparations with Indigenous folks. Though she understands that some Indigenous folks have a complicated relationship with any church.

“There are divisions or mixed feelings, and rightly so, within the Indigenous community about Christianity,” Lansdowne told CBC. “And at the same time … the Christian story has been one that has been hopeful for some Indigenous people.”

The United Church of Canada apologized “for its part in colonization” back in 1986. As opposed to the Catholic Church who’s Pope only made the rounds to apologize last month.

Lansdowne will also not be its first Indigenous leader. Stan McKay, of the Fisher River Cree Nation, filled the role from 1992 to 1994. 

This year, they are also forming an autonomous Indigenous Church within the United Church.

“The Indigenous Church identified this as a clear action to truly move away from the missionary past and toward being ‘partners in God’s call to all the earth,’” it explained.  

As the new Church Moderator, Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne wants to build more reconciliation between the United Faith and Indigenous Nations and peoples.

Her main goals are “[t]o build new connections and rebuild old ones. To work towards social change that sees a world cared for, and human dignity honoured. To walk together every day in repentance and reconciliation. To march and fight and change unjust systems together. To pray together. To sing together. To discern together,” she said

As of last weekend’s ceremony, she’s now one of the most significant religious leaders in Canada.

When she’s finished her three-year term, she’ll return to her work as Executive Director of First United Church Community Ministry Society in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. That’s where her parents were married. And according to her letter to First United, the place feels like home.