Te 1988 General Council of the United Church of Canada (UCC) could be an historical one, depending upon how it deals with the issue of ordination of homosexuals.
Dr. Anne Squire, UCC moderator, provides an interesting preview into the council, in a Religion Page interview published last December in the Halifax Chronical Herald, with a David Harris byline.
Harris leads with Squire announcing it is a “tricky time in the life of the church” because this issue has aroused more emotion than any other issue in recent years. Harris informs the reader “the issue is the ordination of self-declared homosexuals.”
The interview followed a week-long “meet the moderator’ visit in Nova Scotia, including an address to Halifax Presbytery on the topic, “Alienation within the Church.”
Back grounding tells the reader, that the emotion was generated by a task force of the National Church studying “Sexual Orientation, Lifestyles and Ministry.”
The task force was formed at the 1986 General Council and followed an earlier report, which found “no good biblical or theological reason for restricting ordination of homosexuals,” said Squire.
The moderator then admits the report of the task force at the ’88 council could be seriously divisive.
The next question is not so much sexual orientation as whether a person is a practicing homosexual.
One of the first real kickers in the article is Squire’s assertion that opinion in the UCC ranges from regarding “homosexuality as a sin, end of discussion,” to treating it as an illness which can be cured, in seeing it as God’s gift to certain people.
The reference to United Churchmen who regard “homosexuality as a sin, end of discussion,” certainly depicts these churchmen as a rather intolerant lot. It seems there is something inherently wrong with taking an absolute position that homosexuality is, of its very nature, an intrinsically, immoral practice, or in other words, plain ordinary sin.
This leads to the next group which views homosexuality as a curable illness. An illness it certainly is, for it is a psychosexual abnormality as well as a spiritual vice.
The only cure for homosexuality is spiritual, beginning with repentant healing and following up with a personal rehabilitation program, which incorporate a chaste lifestyle.
The crowning groups are those who view homosexuality as God’s gift to certain people. The moderator here must refer to those churchmen who see life through rose-tinted glasses.
Homosexuality definitely is not a “gift” for certain people and in fact, is ore like a curse for those afflicted with this condition. If God is to be blamed for this “gift” then let it at least be said the Lord may permit homosexuality like any other social evil, but that He would never wish it upon anyone, let alone disguise it as a gift.
The article continues with the claim that the Bible speaks directly only about sodomy, a capital crime in ancient Israel. Perhaps those bestowing giftedness upon homosexuality should read St. Paul (See Romans 1:26-67).
The moderator then caps the interview with the comment “Our ministers are married, they practice their sexuality. So is it fair to tell homosexuals they cannot? That’s the issue. Does it mean homosexuals must be celibate?
Squire here neglects to point out the fact married ministers are heterosexuals and of course they practice their sexuality within the confines of lawfully constituted Christian marriage.
The equate the right of married ministers to exercise their conjugal rights, to whether homosexuals have the right to practice their aberrant behaviour, is false comparison on the part of Dr. Squire.
The point of whether it is fair to tell homosexuals they cannot exercise their sexuality, is rather like bleeding heart theology if nothing else. Of course this means homosexuals must be celibate. It is the only way a homosexual can lead a Christian life in any sense of the word.
A clean, chaste lifestyle then is the only one, which can be contemplated in the context of ordained ministry. Dr. Squire then concludes this subject by stating any rules governing ordained ministers would also apply to lay members of the UCC.
This must be an oblique assertion, that opening the ranks of the ordained to practicing homosexuals also entitles homosexuals to status as church members.
It is foolhardy of course to say a practicing homosexual should be admitted as a candidate for baptism. Anyone who is a practicing homosexual is neither a fitting candidate for admittance to the ranks of the baptized nor to holy orders.
The interview ends with Squire referring to this issue and to the issue of inclusive language, as causing alienation within the UCC.
Alienation could lead to people leaving the UCC but the moderator says this can be overemphasized.
“We do admit there are some people leaving the church over these issues but not in the large numbers some people would like to claim. It’s a very minimum number.”
The moderator can portray UCC disaffection any way she wishes but let the size of any exodus from the largest Protestant denomination in this country, speak for itself. What’s more, the way Squire is able to speak from both sides of her mouth on the homosexuality issue, is certainly a good argument for allowing her to be the first and last layman as UCC moderator.
The position of the current UCC moderator and indeed the whole homosexuality debate within the UCC, calls into question the participation of other churches with UCC in theological education.
One example is the Atlantic School of Theology (AST) in Halifax, an ecumenical theology school involving Catholic, Anglican and United churches, affiliated with Dalhousie University.
Given the entirely feasible scenario of the UCC General Council approving ordination of practicing homosexuals in 1988, what does this mean for ecumenical theology, if not for other inter-faith enterprises?
Can the Catholic and Anglican churches of Atlantic Canada tolerate the specter of their seminarians attending AST alongside UCC candidates who are practicing homosexuals?
The question is how long will the orthodox establishment within all three of these mainline Christian denominations in Canada, tolerate the abomination of practicing homosexuals right within the walls of the institutional church itself?
It is quite obvious that many more than those within the UCC itself, will be intently watching to see what happens with the issue of homosexual ordination at the ’88 General Council of the UCC.