Photo credit: CTV News

Photo source: Creative Commons

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.”

Mic drop.

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.

 

I used to think ____ but now I think _____. [an #OutofSortsBook synchroblog]
Ordinary Work
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  • Kelly

    What a profound post, Sarah! My prayer is that the church, too, will realize that it is 2015, and become just as inclusive and equality-minded, as God intended and as Jesus showed us. I’m excited at the prospect! Thank you for once again clearly articulating so many of my own thoughts and emotions, translating them from the muddled mess in my mind and heart into something that makes me say, “Yes! Exactly!”

  • Caren Swanson

    *mic drop* indeed. I have no words other than YES!!! And thank you.

  • Very great post. Perhaps if the church would reflect the power of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of man would change 🙂

  • Melissa

    Amen!

  • Jory Micah

    This is a great post Sarah…Love that you pointed out that it is not just because it’s 2015, but because it’s the kingdom of God moving towards redemption. Love ya! Xo

  • This is fantastic. Thank you so much for painting a beautiful, hope-filled picture of Kingdom living and how it can happen here on earth!

  • lndwhr

    Love love love this.

  • This is wonderful, Sarah. I’m “standing on guard” out here in Ontario to celebrate your post. 🙂

  • I could watch the “because it’s 2015” clip over and over it’s just so perfect. I love seeing the very clearly chosen “to send a strong message” cabinet. I’ve always known voting was important and something that I had to do because of how hard my sisters in the past worked for that simple right, but it was somewhat meaningless to me. I felt like it didn’t actually matter. Now that I’ve gotten to live through the, Nenshi as underdog takeover as Calgary’s mayor, and the Notley’s NDP takeover of Alberta I’m having hope that people still believe in change and holding politicians accountable whatever party they may be from. Definitely finding myself far more interested in politics these days! It’s so interesting to watch it play out. After starting Out of Sorts though, where you talk about Phyliss Tickle and the rummage sale, I feel like I’m seeing the Church in a new light as well. Where I thought all hope was dead, I see the light trickling through in all the places. Hope is a beautiful thing. I think we are getting to live on the cusp of big changes for what christianity looks like as well.

  • Jonathan

    I can see men in the shadowy corner of Christianity, watching these changes in the church, singing “Blame Canada! Blame Canada!”

  • Clayton

    Diversity is nice, but the far larger issue is whether Trudeau will be an effective leader and his policies beneficial to Canada. I would rather be ruled be an effective [fill in the blank] than by a fool who happens to look like me.

    “I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian.” — Martin Luther

  • Allan

    Interesting article… BUT.. By Church, you mean Catholics? Not all faiths.. Pope needs to get moving on the issue. Second, regarding women in power positions… Nothing new.. Does do you know who Kim Campbell is? SHE had the PMs job. So the bar is set… This isn’t anything new?! The question is, will they be a TEAM and Move Canadians forward? Personally, I hope that the new PM hires a Historian as an advisor. Why? Because it could stop Canadian History from repeating itself… The honeymoon is over and it is time to get some serious work done for the benefit of Canadians! And I voted for this Government….

  • pastordt

    Yes, please. Sooner rather than later, please.

  • Saskia Wishart

    YES and AMEN. If Christian leadership started to reflect the whole body of Christ, like this cabinet reflects the diversity of Canada, I can just get giddy thinking of the potential! This is how we show who Christ is, by giving up positions of power to let ‘the other’ take a place alongside.

    • James Paul

      But every time a position of power is TAKEN by ANYONE in the church, the words and example of Jesus are contradicted.

      • Saskia Wishart

        Perhaps in this context, the use of the word ‘take’ would be more akin to that of ‘taking up’, or stepping into, the roles that God has called a person to but perhaps have not been open to them vs ‘taken’ as in grabbing for yourself. I think the first reflects the teachings of Jesus, and I would agree the other does not. Hope the clarification helps.

  • James Paul

    Love your heart for justice and equality, Sarah. If you have time, here’s a question for ya…

    Do you believe hierarchical power structures and clergy/laity distinction are New Testament, New Covenant concepts? By pushing for gender equality among elites in an “old creation” church system, are we truly aligning ourselves with the Kingdom of the “new creation” Jesus talked about and demonstrated – or are we just rearanging used furniture?

  • Andrea

    Hello from a fellow BC coaster. To cut to the point— I really hope and pray that Trudeau and his cabinet do not represent the values of all Canadians. He may come across as inclusive and for diversity and representing all the people of this country but it’s a falsehood because this: He mandated that any person running for the Liberal party had to adapt HIS value that killing the unborn is okay. In Trudeau’s party (he said), there is no room for those who don’t hold his beliefs on abortion. The worst part is, is that Trudeau is not wise enough to see how this contradicts his “mantra” for inclusiveness, diversity, welcoming people from all backgrounds. Yes, it’s 2015 all right and we have Prime Minister who is not only leading the charge in NOT protecting the rights of unborn babies but worse, you can’t work with him if you believe in protecting the lives of the unborn. It’s not all “sunny days” when millions of babies are being killed in a modern, democratic country. All kinds of diversity in his cabinet and yes half women but not one, no not a single person who is allowed to believe that abortion is not okay. Scrap your values and yes, you can join Justin. Because as along as you believe what he believes, he will welcome you. October 19th was a sad day for Canada. I have no problem making a sweeping statement like that. Wise, moral, humbles leaders matter. We don’t have one.

    • Roberta Harms

      Abortion and Single Issue Politics

      The campaign to criminalize abortion has dominated evangelical politics for the past thirty years.
      In the minds of many, perhaps most, lay evangelicals, it doesn’t ultimately matter what a politician is doing to combat economic oppression, help marginalized groups, promote
      world peace or even promote [national] interests….at the end of the day all that really matters is that the politician identifies as “pro-life”.

      And quite logically. For a community that thinks embryos are morally equivalent to fully developed humans, abortion becomes genocide on an unprecedented scale. .. settling for abortion reduction becomes settling for legalized murder. Allowing for abortion in so-called “hard cases” – for raped women or pregnancies resulting from incest — is equivalent to allowing the murder of one person to improve the lot of another.
      Uncompromising single-issue politics flows naturally from the belief that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder.

      Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics by Jonathan Dudley

      • Andrea

        The issue, to make my point that Trudeau does not include and respect and value the diversity of all Canadians happens to be abortion. My point was not about abortion and politics. My point was that unless you hold the same beliefs and values of Trudeau he will not allow you to run for the Liberal party. I am pro-life but would vote for a pro-choice PM. No problem. (obviously one issue politics are long over. thank you Harper btw.) But I will not vote for a PM who will not even allow me to hold my pro-life view let alone respect my right to have a different position than he holds.

        • Terri

          The pro-choice view lets people act on their free consciences and according to their circumstances. The anti-choice view mandates ONE “choice” for ALL. Trudeau is making sure that politicians around him respect the PERSONAL choices of each individual rather than letting them be people who don’t allow anyone a personal choice in her reproductive life.

          Free choice, versus one government-mandated law, your personal choice made for you by the government. There is really no comparison.

  • Nisha Benny-Varghese

    Thought-provoking post i’ve never thought about the lack of gender equality in churches before.

  • Brilliant. In the Australian Pentecostal Church (Australian Christian Churches) we laud our statistics (50%) as an expression of our egalitarian theology, but those stats are comprised of mostly women in the role of secretaries and children pastors, not executive leaders (that’s more like 2%!) Time for the church to take the lead rather than drag their feet.

  • Well done Sarah! I feel hope again.