Interview - Stephen Kendall and Alyson Barnett-Cowan

An Interview with The Rev. Stephen Kendall, President of The Canadian Council of Churches

Interview - President and Past President of The Canadian Council of Churches
Interview – President and Past President of The Canadian Council of Churches

The Canadian Council of Churches is pleased to announce that The Rev. Stephen Kendall (Presbyterian Church in Canada) has been elected and installed by the Governing Board as President of The Canadian Council of Churches for a 3-year term running to 2021. The Rev. Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan (Anglican Church of Canada) completed her term of service and takes up her new role as Past President.

On Thursday, May 24, 2018, the Past President interviewed the new President on his new role.

Alyson Barnett-Cowan: Congratulations on your new office as the CCC President. What are you looking forward to the most in this new position?

Stephen Kendall: Thank you. I am very honoured to be in this role. I’m looking forward to working with the members of the CCC Governing Board, and with our member churches. I think that the CCC is one of the places that gives a good glimpse, a tangible experience of the unity of the Christian Church, and this is a precious thing. I’m looking forward to nurturing this, working together with our Governing Board and our member churches to strengthen and deepen this unity.

A B-C: You have a full-time job as the Principal Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and now this new position. How will you balance your time and tasks?

SK: Well, I will be relying heavily on you, our past President! (laughs) In all seriousness, I count it a privilege, in my position with the Presbyterian Church in Canada, to have been involved with the CCC for 20 years, and I’m grateful for the opportunity my church gives me to do this work. As the CCC President, my time will be a little bit more limited, but we have a wonderful Executive Committee, with Sr Gill Goulding (CCCB), Pat Lovell (ELCIC), and Kathy Vandergrift (CRC-NA) coming in as the three Vice-Presidents. I’m eager to share responsibilities and work collaboratively with them. I’m confident that a good balance will be possible.

A B-C: I remember that, coming into my term as the CCC President, I was surprised that I had to outline some presidential priorities for my three years of office. Have you been giving some thought to these already?

SK: I would like to be guided by the Governing Board, and its Executive Committee and Officers, in this process. I anticipate that my priorities will connect in significant ways with implementing the new CCC Strategic and Program Plan, which has been ‘in the works’ for some time. I would also like to devote my three years as President to celebrating and nurturing ecumenical relationships in Canada and beyond. When I think back on my time with the CCC, I find that relationships have always inspired my work and given it meaning. In my new role, there will be opportunities to build and nurture these connections, particularly with the newer member churches of the Council. One of the relationships we’ll be working on is with Project Ploughshares, the operating division of the Council, and a great gift to the CCC and the churches in Canada. We will be establishing an Operating Protocol to better coordinate our work and relationship. I have a particular interest in governance, and love to help organizations become more sustainable and confident in their functioning. I hope to facilitate this for the CCC and its Governing Board.

A B-C: In your view, what is the profile of the CCC in Canada?

SK: Oh, I think it varies; it’s all over the map. An ongoing question and challenge is: What kind of impact does the CCC have on ‘people in the pews’? I would say it’s one of our primary challenges, and an important focus for work going forward. As an organization, the CCC is quite limited in scope and ability. But we are good stewards of precious resources, and we need to not over-assume and over-extend what we’re able to accomplish. In my view, the Council is a very compelling ecumenical body. Anyone who is interested in ecumenism, and certainly any individual member of the Council’s 26 member churches, would benefit from engaging with us. We need to find ways to highlight our work to these ‘people in the pews’, and we need to work together to accomplish this.

A B-C: What are you dreading the most about this position?

SK: I don’t dread too many things… I suppose, some personal inadequacies come to mind. For instance, I think of not having sufficient French, and I hope to meet with those who speak French on the Governing Board and talk about how we can compensate for this. As the CCC President, I hope that, when we need to work and speak in French, we can share some resources and work collaboratively. I also won’t be able to devote the majority of my time to the CCC, so I will need to be strategic with how I spend the time available. I will treat the time given to the CCC as a precious resource.


Bio for The Rev. Stephen Kendall

Since 1998 Stephen Kendall has served as the Principal Clerk of the General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. In that role he participated in addressing the legacy of Indian Residential Schools in Canada first hand. He also serves as ecumenical officer for the denomination and has been a member of the Governing Board of The Canadian Council of Churches since 1998. Internationally he served on the Executive of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and is part of the Ecumenical Officers network for the World Council of Churches.

The Rev. Stephen Kendall is a minister of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, ordained in 1987. He has served five years as minister of a new congregation in Calgary, and seven years in a congregation in Toronto. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Carleton University and a Masters of Divinity from Knox College, University of Toronto.

Stephen lives in Toronto with his wife and has three children and three grandchildren. He plays bass guitar in the bluegrass/folk band Lost Pilgrims.

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