It’s not too often that the world is very interested in the Canadian federal election.
Things have changed.
For the past ten years the Conservative Party has been in power here in Canada. In a parliamentary system, this meant that their leader, now former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, had been at the helm, relatively uncontested by the more left-leaning parties. But in our recent election, change had been brewing and the storm finally broke over Ottawa. In a landslide victory, the Liberal Party took the majority of the seats across the nation and became the party in power. The Conservatives are now Her Majesty’s Official Opposition and the New Democratic Party is back in their familiar territory as third-place in the House of Commons. The leader for the Liberal Party has become our Prime Minister, the leader of our nation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (whose father was former and now late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau) is now our first Prime Minister from my own generation and he’s moving into 24 Sussex Drive with his young family.
Personally I didn’t vote for the Liberal Party but like many Canadians, I spent the morning of the swearing-in for the new cabinet glued to my television, cheering and even finding myself a bit teary. And it wasn’t only because it’s such a privilege to witness a peaceful transfer of power in this day and age.
So why the elation?
Because – arguably for the first time – the cabinet finally looks like Canada and reflects our values.
I’ve been quite cynical about politics over the past ten or fifteen years, like most Gen-Xers, I’ve given up on the sport. I still show up to vote but my expectations for real and lasting change or positive impact is subterranean.
But this cabinet ceremony gave me hope because of what I saw with my eyes: equality, inclusion, and diversity.
First of all, our new Prime Minister followed through on a campaign promise to form the first gender-equal cabinet. Out of 30 cabinet positions, 15 of them went to women. And we’re not talking the Mickey Mouse spots, women hold priority portfolios. Each of these women were chosen based on their merit, not simply because of their gender. They legitimately earned their spots. Women are now serving as Minister of Justice, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Minister of Trade, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour, and even Chief of Staff. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still plenty cynical about politics and I’m under no illusions of perfection, there are still gaps. But even so.
Other bright spots of the day’s events for me were:
- Jody Wilson-Raybould became the first female Aboriginal Justice Minister in Canadian history. With a promised inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women on the top of many of our minds, her appointment is powerful statement. Plus, she’s a total boss.
- Maryam Monsef was a refugee to Canada from Afghanistan in the 90s along with her mother and sisters after the Taliban killed her father. Now she’s serving as the Minister of Democratic Reform. During this current refugee crisis, I think it sends a powerful message.
- The Minister for the Status of Woman is actually a woman. (Imagine that!)
- Really, across the board, quite a few Canadians are feeling mighty proud of this cabinet for many reasons.
As I watched the ceremony, I kept one eye on my Twitter feed. Across Canada, people were – for the most part – celebrating these choices because they so tangibly represented our values.
Whether one voted for the Liberal Party of not, Canadians were thrilled to see a cabinet that reflected a fuller picture of who we are – First Nations, immigrants and born-and-raised Canadians, men and women, regional representation, gay and straight, Christian and Sikh and atheist and Muslim among other religions, differently abled, different socio-economic stories, and so on.
At the press conference following the swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Trudeau was asked why gender parity was so important to him. Perhaps we were all expecting a few carefully crafted talking points, the typical boring old political speech with stats and taglines designed to humble brag a bit and provide a snippet for the evening news.
But instead, our new Prime Minister said, straight-forward and without guile, “Because it’s 2015” and then he shrugged like a hockey player picking a fight, as if to say “come at me, bro.”
Of course, as you all know, I love to over-spiritualize all the things so I began to think….
So often we hear from Christians that we value these same things….we claim to honour women and minorities and other ones our culture often despises or disappoints or devastates like refugees or immigrants or the differently abled or indigenous, the marginalized and oppressed and so on. We claim to honour the “least of these” and to be a people who lay down power, who believe that the greatest is the servant, and that the way to really get ahead in the Kingdom of God is to put others first, to amplify other voices, to make room at the table. We want to be a beacon, a city on a hill, an outpost for the Kingdom of God. We see in Scripture a vision for the Kingdom of God that celebrates every nation and every tribe, every tongue and every person.
But instead, we often simply maintain the status quo in our churches and on our conference stages and in our non-profits or parachurch ministries: white men up front and in the lead.
And so the church can be just like most of the world, perpetuating archaic and cultural standards for leadership, rather than God’s standards for leadership, just doing things the way they’ve always been done with the same people.
I believe it’s past time for the church to prophetically lead here. For too long, we’ve confused a 1950s Leave It to Beaver episode with the wild ways of the upside down Kingdom of God.
The world is hungry to see what reconciliation and equality look like – so what if we made it a priority to model it?
What if we placed a priority on gender parity in our pastoral staff?
What if we made it a priority to give positions of power and visibility and vital decisions to people who come from a different socio-economic backgrounds?
What if we didn’t just look for a balanced photo op to keep Twitter off our back but instead really and truly welcomed and promoted and amplified the voices and experiences of women, minorities, immigrants, refugees, or those less formally educated right into valuable positions of power and influence at our conferences?
For too long we’ve hidden in the false justification that “there just aren’t enough leaders of colour or women or whomever” to choose. That’s a lie. And it’s an admission that your circle is too small. The leaders already exist. And we won’t lose a single speck of leadership capability or anointing by choosing them either – no one’s asking for a hand-out, buddy, don’t do us any favours.
And while I’m at it, how about that equal pay, folks?
Can’t you see? By placing a priority on the Kingdom ways, the entire church will receive the favour, we only stand to benefit and to be blessed from a richer tapestry of leadership, a vision for leadership that includes the whole people of God.
I think this commitment to equality in our institutions would signal hope. It would signal that we believe what we preach about the ways of Jesus. I think it would signal that we actually believe that we have much to learn and that sharing power is prophetic. I think it would signal that we honour the ones whom the world dishonours, that this is a safe place and a good place and a holy place.
I think it would change our churches and our ministries and each other for the better as we learn friendship and respect for one another. I think it would change how we minister and how we worship and how we speak of the mysteries of God and how we read Scripture. I think it would change the church coming up behind us and heading into the future, we would see leaders empowered among our children from all corners.
I think we would be changed, from the inside out, as a worldwide church – transformed even.
I think it would surprise and amaze and intrigue the world, giving a glimpse of what God intended for wholeness within the body of Christ – and it would be a sigh of “finally at last” from the Holy Spirit.
And then when people ask us, why is it so important to you? Why is it so important to you to have men and women leading together, to have visible minorities in positions of power, to seek out and elevate and amplify and submit yourselves the voices of people outside the usual leadership and power narratives? Why do you make it a priority to model this crazy way of working together?
Then we can reply it’s not because it’s 2015, but because this is the Kingdom of God, hallelujah, taste and see.
So, what would it look like if our churches looked like what Scripture tells us about the Kingdom of God?
I think they just might look a lot more like the new Canadian cabinet.