The United Church of Canada is grieving the loss of one of its beloved moderators, the Very Rev. George Tuttle. George died on Saturday morning, in his 97th year.
I spoke with George most recently on February 16th. He had just received my invitation to attend our 41st General Council as a former moderator and was calling to explain that precarious physical health would make his attendance impossible. But he remained very keen and deeply interested in issues coming before the Council. He wanted to be sure that he would receive all of the pre-Council materials, and see the results and statements from the meeting. “I would be hesitant to comment… but if I see anything left out, I’ll give you a phone call on any issue which I think needs greater attention.”
This is the generosity of spirit with which I first became acquainted when I met George in 1977. I was a 25 year old leader at our church’s first national Youth Forum at the 27th General Council – the meeting at which George was elected moderator. George’s passion for youth ministry was evident from our first meeting and ever since. When we last saw one another in January of last year he told me that in his visits throughout the church as moderator, there were always two questions which he asked congregations:
- What’s happening with your youth? and
- How is your relationship with Native persons?
And he always made a point of speaking with local leaders, adding that he learned so much from church custodians.
The world is sagging today from the loss of George’s thoughtful, gentle and caring approach to ministry. Perhaps being the son of a moderator (the Very Rev. Aubrey Tuttle, our 9th moderator) helped prepare him for his strong, loving leadership of our church.
The church has always been transformed more by love than by anything else. And the church became a welcoming place for me as a young adult leader – with George’s loving invitation and interest in what was happening with us.
I invite you to add your memories of our 27th moderator here, and to join me in prayers for Eunice and their family.
Finally, here are more details about George’s life-work, as prepared by staff in the General Council Office:
“Dr. Tuttle had wide experience throughout the church, including several mission fields (also had a special period of service in Kenya during the nation’s year of gaining independence), a pastorate in Sangudo, Alberta, and a term as an assistant minister in Toronto. On the administrative and educational side, he was at one time National Director of Youth Work prior to appointment as Professor at Union College, Vancouver (now Vancouver School of Theology). He was principal of St. Stephen’s College, Edmonton, also. In the church courts, he worked consistently on committees at presbytery, Conference, and General Council levels. He was president of the British Columbia Conference in 1963, and was appointed a member GCE in 1974. He was elected the 27th Moderator in 1977.”