Despite very strong opposition among rank and file members, the United Church reiterated its acceptance of active homosexuals as ministers in November 1988.
Last August the General Council of the Church formally approved ordaining practicing homosexuals as ministers, a policy which earlier appears to have been permitted on an occasional basis in some places. Organizations such as the United Church Renewal Fellowship and the ad hoc Committee of Concern attempted to channel their strong disagreement with this decision in an orderly fashion, while waiting to see whether a revision was still possible. This had proved not to be the case.
The language employed in November’s affirmation, as well as in new agreements and promises, allows for the illusion that in the future there may6 still be a change of mind. Grasping at these straws, therefore, leaders of the Community of Concern have decided for now to discourage their supporters from leaving the Church, something most difficult and heart-wrenching for honest and trusting people to do at the best of times.
Others, believing the flood of words to be nothing but smoke and mirrors, have separated already. Some have left as individuals, others in groups or entire congregations. Two dozen congregations from across Canada seek to join the small Conference of Congregational Churches, a remnant of the Congregations Church, most of whose members joined Methodists and Presbyterians in 1926 to form the United Church of Canada.
Still others, again, resist the August 1988 decision by refusing to conform. The 65-member congregations of the Edmonton presbytery and the United Church’s entire Maritime Conference have announced that they simply will refuse to ordain homosexuals.
All these maneuvers, painful as they are, will be in vain for those involved as well as for those looking in from the outside unless one recognizes the heart of the matter, namely the rejection of the Bible, the Word of God, as truth and the way of life. Secularism, in recent times especially, by means of the permissive society, and its so-called new morality, has made the United Church into a nominalist community as, indeed, it threatens to do to all religions in our society.
Nominalism occurs when the packaging no longer cover the content when the names of religions become “mere labels, a convenient means for identifying large groupings of people, but pointing to or signifying no underlying reality, no shape or form except that which is fabricated by their members, i.e., those who pick and choose and decide for themselves what they wish to believe. But an entire church can become nominalist itself when as a body it adopts the same views as its nominal members and abandons belief in a framework of absolute truth.
In the past the United Church accepted the Bible, the Word of God, as the absolute truth, including the references to sodomy such as “Do not deceive yourselves…no sodomites…will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Cor. 6, 9-10). But the principle of private interpretation, today immeasurably enhances by the claims of numerous learned scholars who contradict one another as well as previous tradition, has left the church vessel full of holes, while bobbing on the waves without direction. It is a sure road to shipwreck. Sailors ought to force the officers to get the ship into a shipyard for a complete overhaul. Anything less than that will leave the ship un-seaworthy.