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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 24 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 34
United Church of Canada installs first Gay leader
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United Church of Canada installs first Gay leader

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

An openly Gay man is now head of Canada's largest Protestant denomination.

On August 18, the United Church of Canada installed Gary Paterson of Vancouver as its new moderator - the presiding officer of the church's general council and the church's principal spokesperson. With an estimated active membership of 200,000, the United Church is Canada's second-largest Christian body (after Roman Catholicism). Paterson is thought to be the first openly Gay cleric to lead a major Christian denomination anywhere.

'I am so humbled by the trust and the responsibility you have placed in my hands,' said Paterson at a news conference, following the announcement of his election on August 16. 'Among mainline denominations, as far as I know, this is probably a first.'

Paterson added that he does not want his sexuality to become a distraction.

'I sure hope it is not the central issue of my being a moderator, because I think there are huge issues that we are called to address,' he said at the news conference.

POWER COUPLE
The United Church was the first mainstream denomination in the country to allow the ordination of Gay ministers. In 1988 it declared that everyone who 'professes faith in Christ,' regardless of sexual orientation, is welcome in the church, and all members are 'eligible to be considered for ordered ministry.'

In 1992 the church ordained its first openly Gay minster, Tim Stevenson, who is now a member of the Vancouver, B.C., city council. Stevenson is, coincidentally, Paterson's husband and partner of 30 years. The two were wed when same-sex marriage was legalized in British Columbia in 2003.

Today, the church has many Gay and Lesbian clergy, and the issue is no longer contentious for most church members. Paterson was one of three openly Gay candidates for moderator.

Having an openly Gay person as moderator 'is good news,' said Paterson. 'I see the possibility for so many young people who may still be struggling with their orientation being able to look up and see role models.'

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