History of the United Church of Canada

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A Very Brief History

The United Church of Canada is one of many denominations of the Christian faith. The Christian faith began about 2,000 years ago with the followers of Jesus, and grew enormously in the centuries after his death and resurrection.

Disagreements about theology and practice eventually led to the three major streams of Christian churches that exist today. All three trace their history to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and his early followers. The Roman Catholic Church identifies a direct connection between Peter, Jesus’ disciple, and the popes of today. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches diverged at the beginning of the second millennium. In the 16th century, Pastor Martin Luther and like-minded followers broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, beginning the Protestant movement that saw the rise of many denominations in many countries.

In 1925, three of these Protestant denominations, the Methodist, Congregationalist, and two-thirds of the Presbyterian churches in Canada amalgamated to create The United Church of Canada through an Act of Parliament. The agreement between these different traditions is found in the Basis of Union.

Since 1925, other smaller groups of churches and individual congregations have joined The United Church of Canada, so that there are approximately 3,200 United Churches in Canada today. History of the United Church describes our history and traditions in much more detail.

 

What We Believe

Like other Christian churches, The United Church of Canada is rooted in God, Jesus, and the Bible. However, the way we understand God, practice our faith, and read the Bible is distinct, just as it is distinct in other denominations of the Christian church.

A New Creed and A Song of Faith outline some of the basic elements of Christianity as understood and practised in The United Church of Canada.

We have two sacraments, baptism and communion, both of which are open to people of any age. We recognize the sacraments of baptism from other Christian denominations.

The United Church works together with other Christian churches whenever possible, and among people of other religions in Canada and throughout the world, on matters of social justice, peace, and human dignity.

See Overview of Beliefs for more detail.


Congregations

The community of people who gather together in a church is the congregation.

It is served by a minister who is paid by the congregation and provides leadership, education, and worship. Other staff people, such as music directors, organists, office administrators, caretakers, teachers, and so on are either paid or volunteer.

All staff, including the minister, can be female or male, single or in a committed relationship. The money for the staff salaries and to maintain the church building comes from the weekly giving (offering) of the congregational members. The offering also supports the work of the church around the world through the national Mission and Service Fund.

While the minister and staff may have special roles in the life of a congregation, the members and volunteers are responsible for “running” the church.