In 1990 the United Church refused to reverse its 1988 decision to accept active homosexuals as ministers. This led a number of people – sometimes whole congregations – to leave the denomination.
Among those who have departed is Rev. Gordon Ross, executive director of Community of Concern (COC), an organization that, together with the broader United Church Renewal Fellowship, has been fighting the disintegration of Christian belief and morality in the United Church.
Mr. Ross became Program Secretary for Church Development in the Reformed Church of Canada as of December 1, 1990.
Remaining members of the COC have reorganized around Rev. John Trueman of Zion United Church, Hamilton.
They have launched a new National Alliance of Associating and Covenanting Congregations. Among the first to join was Metropolitan United in London, the largest UC Congregation in Canada.
New ‘Articles of Association’ have been drafted.
The first, On Faith, confesses belief in Jesus Christ and states in part, “We affirm our belief in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the primary source and ultimate standard of Christian faith and life. We acknowledge the teaching of the great creeds of the ancient church. We further maintain our allegiance to the evangelist doctrines of the Reformation.”
The United Church establishment, meanwhile, refuses to abandon its ‘nominalist’ theology, which allows for Christian terms but not content.
Moderator Walter Farquaharson thinks the real solution is “to leave yesterday behind to open new opportunities.” His denomination, he thinks, should focus on ethnic, aboriginal and feminist ministries.
And some do.
The Toronto Star (Jan. ’91) and the Western Report (March 18, 1991) tell how at Toronto’s trend-setting Bloor Street United Church, a group of women, calling themselves Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, meet ever month on the Thursday closest to the full moon.
In their ceremonies they pass a candle and name their mothers and other women who have exerted an influence on their lives.
Ms. Pauline Graham – she doesn’t like the title Reverend – who leads the group, sees the Babylonian goddess Ishtar as their Queen of Heaven and believes that “we are on a journey to find the goddess within each of us. We’ve moved in the last 10 years beyond transforming Christ into a crucified woman of beauty to a goddess who comes in every size and shape.”
“The women here are terrific. There’s energy and acceptance. The journey is what’s important, not the doctrine. We try to be inclusive,” Ms. Graham says.
In her quest for inclusivity, Ms. Graham wants to allow people “to be who they are. We don’t question gays and lesbians. We have many as Sunday school teachers because they know it’s safe to be here.”
The women meet with the blessing of both the national church and their local board. Membership in Bloor United has dropped form over 800 in 1982 to 250 in 1989.
Aftermath of war
Because this column did not appear in May due to lack of space I want to make some final comments on the Gulf war.
It is now crystal clear that Israel has no intentions whatever of returning the West Bank to the Palestinians who live there. That ends the idea of peace between Jew and Arab.
Having failed to break the Palestinians through political and cultural strangulation, the Israelis now proceed to slowly drive them out through an enlarged Jewish settlement policy and economic strangulation. For the secular Israelis who are a majority it is a matter of the survival of the nation; for religious Jews it is because “God said this is our country,” as one settler put it recently.
By April 11 Israel and the US had agreed to put aside “temporarily” Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. This means that the US will continue to finance Israel while registering an occasional protest about new settlements on the West Bank just for the record. By the end of the month the settlement of an additional 50,000 Jews to the 100,000 who already live there was well underway.
In the United States the elation about the quick victory in Kuwait has been eroded by the devastating consequences of encouraging opponents of Saddam Hussein to revolt while leaving Suddan himself in power. Victory parades continue but nobody now denies that reality of millions of Kurds and Shiites in the North and South of Iraq living under incredibly difficult and harsh conditions as permanently “displaced persons” and refugees.
The Pope’s description of war as “an adventure without return” is being played out on the TV screens of North America.
On this sad note I end my commentary on the aftermath of war.