Bishop John Sherlock of London was elected a vice-president during the CCC’s Triennial Assembly in Montreal during the second week of May, 1988. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops joined the Council as an associate member in May 1986, and Bishop Sherlock is its first Catholic officer. “Associate membership in the CCC,” said a news release, from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops “provides an ongoing witness to the unity which already exists among the Christian Churches and provides a forum in which that unity can be experienced further.”

The announcement came just as the Anglican and United Churches were showing once more how distant they are from traditional Catholic and Christian moral teaching on abortion and on homosexuality activity.

Anglicans

Toronto

A report by a three-member task force was endorsed by the Anglican Church’s National Executive Council on May 13. Historian Phyllis Creighton, family counselor Diane Marshall, and theologian Rev, James Reed opposed abortion on demand and easy access to abortion in the early stages combined with restricted access in later stages. Any such dividing line is arbitrary, they said, and seems to discount the seriousness of abortion in the early stages: “Abortion is always the taking of a human life, and, in our view, should never be done expect for serious therapeutic reasons.”

The report tried to find a middle ground between utter rejection of abortion and regarding it as a personal matter for the woman. New legislation ought to provide equal access to abortion, all across the country, for women “whose pregnancies endanger their lives or physical or mental health.” The report’s so-called therapeutic reasons would apparently include economic hardship or other stressful situations.

Anglican Primate Archbishop Michael Peers said that the report tried to identify a position that is “normally consistent” but “not so extreme that it eliminates an enormous number of people.”

The report was consistent with the Church’s 1966 statement on abortion, prepared by a committee of which Phyllis Creighton was also a member. It was consistent as well with the stand taken by the official Anglican newspaper. The Canadian Churchman in the Morgentaler abortion clinic and in the Constable David Packer case.

Last January, in describing the constable’s refusal “to guard an illegal abortion clinic from pro-life picketers,” it said that “Toronto police are not guarding the clinic as a show of solidarity in favor of abortion. They are guarding it because the people who work there have been subjected to threats and acts of physical violence from protestors who have seemingly forgotten what is involved in peaceful protest.” Several years earlier the paper had hailed Morgentaler’s acquittal and approved Morgentaler’s Toronto abortion clinic.

Not all Anglicans agree with the recommendations of the task force. An Anglican priest from Toronto, the Rev. W. A. Collins, has described the Supreme Court judgment as “more suitable to the Court of Herod than to the Supreme Court of Canada.” The week after the Supreme Court decision, the Synod of the Diocese of Nova Scotia affirmed the rights of unborn children to live. Similar resolutions have come from Fredericton Diocese. Speaking at a pro-life rally in Fredericton, Very Rev. Dean Wright told those on hand that they had a responsibility to speak out on behalf of the unborn.

United Church

In March the United Church of Canada released a task-force report entitled Toward a Christian Understanding of Sexual Orientation, Lifestyle and Ministry which recommended the ordination of homosexuals. The report caused a storm of controversy all across Canada.

An account of a hostile reaction in Shelburn County, NS, was headed, “No homosexuals! No AIDS virus!” From Moncton came news that the parishioners of St. John’s United Church had voted 95 percent against ordaining homosexual ministers. From Ottawa came the headline “Ministers threaten to rebel over gays.” At a meeting in Regina, more than 450 ministers from across Canada, including former moderator Rev. Clarke MacDonald, signed a declaration of protest against the proposal and based it on sound principles: they said it was contrary to the moral standards of the United Church. From the executive secretary of the B.C. United Church Conference, as it prepared to discuss the issue, came the statement, “It’s a no win situation. Whichever way we go, one side will be upset.”

And from the Toronto Star columnist Gary Lautens came a piece headed, perhaps appropriately, “Is the United Church going sex mad?”

On May 6, The Globe and Mail featured a lengthy article by a former moderator of the church, Dr. Angus MacQueen, entitled “Why the church should say no.” An accompanying photograph showed a picture of Christ with arms outstretched, and underneath a passage from Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

Dr. MacQueen said that “our Christian understanding of truth is provisional, conditional and contextual.” It is futile to look to Scripture for clear answers to such questions, he stated; we should be guided by the spirit of Christ rather than the letter of the law. Christ, he said, was more tolerant of sins of the flesh than of the spirit.

Having made these qualifications, MacQueen lit into the report with gusto. He described it as almost a Te Deum of praise to personal happiness and physical gratification. It ignored the numerous passages in the Bible condemning fornication, adultery and homosexual acts. It regarded sexual fulfillment as just as necessary as air, food, and water and took little notice of self-control, abstinence and other spiritual and moral values. It capitulated to the permissive age, to the sexual “experts,” and to situation ethics. It made claims which could not be substantiated, such as that homosexuality is a gift from God. And it took a nasty swipe at heterosexuality, which it called “a systematic form of oppression.”

Dr. MacQueen said that this was not simply a human rights issue, since it involved the theology of the ordained ministry, and such basic questions as an individual’s fitness and acceptability. “How, in the face of the storm of protest from coast to coast,” he asked, “can a practicing gay or lesbian candidate be regarded as acceptable for the ministry of the United Church?”

Having expressed his dissenting opinion strongly, he closed weakly with a plea for loyalty and tolerance. “The United Church has long been a church of theological and social diversity,” he said, “and is the richer for it. We should not be a monolith of the right or the left.”

The decisive vote on the question will come when the church’s general council meets in Victoria in August. Whether some congregations leave their ministers or some ministers leave their congregations, the United Church divides into disunited factions. Whether it retains some semblance of traditional moral thinking or takes a completely sentimental approach to sodomy – these are issues which must concern all.

Lutherans

Winnipeg

The practise of abortion, its promotion and legal acceptance, “are destructive of the moral consciousness and character of the people of any nation,” according to some 470 delegates at the founding convention of Lutheran Church-Canada here, May 18-21.

The resolution was adopted in response to the Supreme Court decision last January which struck down the Criminal Code on abortion, creating a state of “abortion on demand.”

The Lutheran resolution stats that “abortion takes a human life”, and that “as persons, the unborn stand under the full protection of God’s own prohibition against murder”. The motion passed without a dissenting vote.