The end of the struggle for the Community of Concern group within the United Church is in sight. All indications are that they have lost the struggle to stop the “ordination” of homosexuals as U.C. ministers. (The use of the term “ordination” for the calling of men and women to the ministry in Protestant churches is really inappropriate because it has none of the sacramental character of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. It consists of simply issuing a license. But we are following popular usage here.)
The group’s executive director Gordon Ross says he has no illusions about what to expect from the Church’s General Council (G.C.) meeting in London next August. (Toronto Star, June 16). And he has good reasons Regional Church conferences everywhere have rejected resolutions challenging the August 1988 ruling that sanctioned the sodomite lifestyle for ministers of religion.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ross has settled out of court his lawsuit against U.C. Secretary Howard Mills for derogatory remarks about the Community of Concern. (see The Interim, May 1990, p.27).
One exception to the general trend is the Maritime Conference. There, traditionalists won the day. In Sackville, N.B., on May 26, a majority of the 1,000 in attendance voted to call on the General Council to issue a new declaration nullifying the 1988 Victoria statement. But even here Rev. Eric Fullerton of Sackville, claimed the request has no chance whatever of being accepted. (Telegraph Journal, May 28)
On the other hand, in Quebec, four resolutions critical of the church’s present “liberal” stance came to the Quebec conference in Lennoxville from local congregations and were quickly voted down. Delegates took what reporter Harvey Shepherd called “the extraordinary step” of voting 123-112 of not even transmitting a single critical resolution to the G.C. (Montreal Gazette, May 26)
The Toronto Conference too received similar resolutions with a big yawn. The over 550 delegates meeting in Pickering could see nothing wrong with sodomy, whether for their members of their ministers. They gave decisive thumbs-down signals to those who hold the lifestyle to be repugnant and contrary to God’s commandments.
Legal rights for “gays”
The Alberta and Northwest Conference went even further. First, it reaffirmed homosexuals ‘eligibility for the ministry. Then the 600 delegates voted in favour of civil legislation to protect the “gay” lifestyle. This move follows an earlier 1988 national directive to actively promote what are said to “human rights for homosexuals.”
Coercion is around the corner
What may not be so obvious to readers is that there is an unforeseen consequence attached to the resolutions. This was pointed out in Theological Digest (July 1989), a publication of another worried group of United Church adherents named “Church Alive.” Because it summarizes the situation cogently, I simply quote the relevant passage which concerns the legal status of those United Church people who do not agree with the pro-homosexual stand of their church.
“The Ontario Human Rights Code, for example, is one of four provincial codes which includes sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in employment. Section 4 (1) of the code, since 1986, has read that:
‘Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or handicap.
“There is however, a religious exemption built into the Ontario Human Rights Code. Section 23 (1) reads that the right to equal treatment is not infringed where (a) a religious…institution or organization that is primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by their…creed…employs only or gives preference to persons similarly identified, if the qualification is a reasonable and bona fide, qualification because of the nature of their employment.
“This means, for instance, that the Roman Catholic Church is free to refuse women elevation to the priesthood. Their creed or set of beliefs holds that such an action is improper. The Roman Catholic Church does not break the law when it discriminates against women on this basis. On the other hand, such a refusal on the part of the United Church, in such a situation could be successfully sued.
“Likewise so long as the United Church holds that the standard of behaviour for its ministers includes loving fidelity within a marriage or loving chastity in singleness, human rights legislation is not contravened when sexually active homosexuals are refused ordination.
“What may be deeply troubling to many members of the Untied Church is this: should the General Council the highest court of the Church, decide that a homosexual lifestyle is, after all ordained by God, any congregation, presbytery or conference that refused to ordain a person on the basis of homosexual activities might be breaking the law and indeed, might be successfully sued for damages and costs. Further, should a practicing homosexual seek employment as a minister and should a local congregation refuse because it found such sexual activity unacceptable, that congregation might have to pay damages.”
Fall-out of 20,000
Earlier in May, the church published its membership figures for 1989, showing that 20,000 members quit the Church during 1989. Spokesman Dory Flanders was reported as saying that the loss couldn’t be blamed on the 1988 Victoria decision alone. There has been an 8,000-10,000 annual loss over the last ten years, she point out (Toronto Sun, May 17)
The homosexual controversy has been festering since the mid-seventies. Dr. John Trueman of Hamilton, president of the Community of Concern, interprets the decline in members as directly reflecting “widespread dissatisfaction with out church leaders.”
Others, such as former moderator Bruce McLeod who also is a regular columnist for the Toronto Star, belittle the damage. McLeod who supports abortion and homosexual “rights” and every other shibboleth of the new immorality, scoffs at the steady exodus of members,” he wrote on May 8. People, “are bored by the one-note righteousness of self-styled protectors.”