In Victoria, B.C., on August 24, 1988, the thirty-second General Council for the United Church of Canada approved homosexuality.  It did it in the most affirmative way possible, namely by designating it an acceptable “lifestyle” for its clergy.  Historians will indicate in a footnote that the decision was made by a majority of 58 per cent of the 365 delegates, after eight years of discussion and controversy.

The August 1988 decision came at the end of 30 years of trying to adapt the Church’s earlier traditional Christian views on family and sexual morality to the mores of a recent secular permissive society.  Gradually adaptation became adoption.

The process of erosion started as early as the thirties, but did not really get underway until the firm approval of contraceptives in the fifties.  With the appearance of the Pill in the early sixties and the full-blown revolt of moral permissiveness which followed it, the United Church leadership felt it their duty to conform the Church’s attitude to the secular society of which they themselves were so much a part, to an ever greater degree.

Already there was a built-in process whereby faith was replaced by feeling, theological doctrine by sociology and religion by secularism.  As familiarity with the theological, moral and cardinal virtues, never strong to begin with, faded into oblivion, together with the notion of sin, vice began to look like a virtue.

A key example was the Church’s attitude towards abortion.  It was accepted in 1960, wholeheartedly approved in 1968, and declared to be a national necessity in 1972.  Subsequently, United Church leaders and ministers throughout the country pursued the issue with open support for Henry Morgentaler and his brutal crusade.  At the same time the Church continued to proclaim a belief in the family and the sacredness of human life.

The Church abandoned other moral principles common to society for thousands of years in the most offhand manner.  This was inevitable when sin was no longer recognized as the responsibility of the individual, but is said to be structural and found only in economic and political oppression.  “It is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge,” the Sacred Scriptures tell us: “fornication, theft, murder, adultery, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride and folly…” (Mark 7, 22-23)

In the seventies and eighties, the United Church decided that it had no knowledge by which to judge any of these actions as sinful.  It declared a hands-off policy towards pre-marital and extra-marital affairs, divorce, multiple affairs, divorce, multiple marriages, suicide, soft pornography and sodomy.

In August 1988 a number of delegates, perhaps unaware of how deeply an immoral practice had already eroded traditional wisdom within the ranks of the Church, pointed to the difference between homosexual orientation and homosexual practice.  They expressed a willingness to accept the reality of the first without accepting the latter.  But it was not to be.  Those who did not acknowledge homosexual orientation to be a moral disorder – something to be resisted and overcome – were not about to deny its natural fruit, homosexual practice.

Confessional Statement

The approval for a homosexual clergy is clothed in a “Confessional statement.”  It mentions (the Lord) “Jesus Christ” several times, but it contains not a single biblical quote or reference.  Instead, it employs the homosexual terminology: it confesses to “a history of injustice and persecution against gay and lesbian persons.”

The key paragraphs are three and four:

“3. That all persons regardless of their sexual orientation, who profess faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to Him, are welcome to be or become full members of the Church.

“4. (a) All members of the Church are eligible to be considered for ordered ministry.”

The context of the discussion makes it clear that orientation and practice are seen as one and the same.

It is remarkable – for historical interest if for nothing else – that these paragraphs are preceded by the sentence:

“We acknowledge that we are unclear at the present time as to what God’s complete intention is in relation to human sexuality…”  (emphasis mine)

The acknowledgement parallels that of the Church’s morality, especially its 1968 statement on abortion.  In that instance the delegates also first acknowledged that they didn’t know when human life began, immediately after which they recommended that the country proceed with legalizing abortion.  As in 1966, with abortion, so in 1988 with homosexuality, uncertainty of knowledge did not inhibit the General Council for acting and, indeed, from suggesting to society that it join the Church in the vigorous pursuit of its chosen course of action.  The Confession closes with a call to arms:

“8. That the 32nd General Council:

(a)    urge all levels of government in Canada to guarantee and ensure that the human rights of their gay and lesbian inhabitants are fully protected by law.

(b)   urge all courts, congregations and appropriate divisions of the United Church of Canada to become active in support of human rights for lesbian and gay people.

Drive for acceptance

These last resolutions are not to be dismissed as harmless formulas.  The so-called “gay drive for acceptance” which began in the mid seventies, has been accelerating in the last few years.  The AIDS disease, which is directly related to homosexual perversion, has had the opposite effect of what might have been expected.  Instead of silencing the homosexual community, it has introduced a new aggressiveness.  This is evident in politics, in health policies, in a quest for legal, social and church recognition.

This boldness is expressed in many ways: in the “coming out of the closet” of MP Svend Robinson; the annual homosexual parades in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver; in the demand for legal recognition of homosexual liaisons as true marriages (presumably soon to be acknowledged by the United Church); in the constant badgering of all government levels for huge sums of money; and in individual acts such as the public kissing on the mouth of two men standing up in St. Thomas More Catholic Church, Niagara Falls, just before they proceeded to receive holy communion (Sunday, August 21, 1988).


One of the ore remarkable but wholly unnoticed characteristics of the August 1988 debate was the complete absence of any reference to the position of other Christian faith communities.  Over the last 25 years it has been characteristic of the United Church (and the Anglican Church of Canada, as well) to ignore other Christian communities in the country and, for that matter, in the world, in matters of family and sexual morality.

Despite its own origins as an ecumenical project of three protestant denominations, the United Church has coveted a spirit of inward provincialism.  Church leaders prided themselves as “the Canadian Church par excellence” without realizing the concept’s perversion of Christian theology, not to mention its narrow cultural and even geographical restrictions.

The August 1988 decision, then, was arrived at without reference to the views of Evangelicals, Baptists, Reformed, Pentecostals and other fellow Protestants.  There was no inter-church consultation.  Neither was there consultation with the Christian body ten times its size in Canada, the Roman Catholics.  Yet ecumenism is a much mentioned term, indeed something which almost all Christian groupings are pursuing earnestly and with great deliberation today.  But the sad truth is that, in practice, the gap between the United Church (and the Anglican Church) on the one hand and the Catholic Church and various evangelical communities on the other, is wider today than it was before 1960 when Protestants and Catholics ignored one another. The explanation lies in the adoption of moral permissiveness by the United Church.

As pointed out earlier (see J McDonald, “Church rift over homosexuals,” Interim April 1988, page 11) one of the first results of the United Church decision to approve of homosexual activity ought to be a questioning of the United Church participation in the theological education of their clergy in ecumenical programmes at such places as Halifax (the Atlantic School of Theology) and Toronto (University of Toronto School of Theology). If abortion divides the denominations in the academic communities on the intellectual level, the approval of homosexual practice introduces moral contamination for all adults on the personal level.

Bruce McLeod

The press covered the controversy from its own news-reporting point of view.  Here and there the standard “permissive society” bias would come through strongly as in John Allemang’s “Church Changes Thou Shalt Not, to Thou May,” Globe, August 27. His analysis pits urban, “progressive” and “enlightened” leaders against rural, backwoods “ignorant dinosaurs.”  Such report can be safely dismissed.

But attention should be drawn to at least one brazen attempt at distorting what happened in Victoria.  This appeared in a column entitled “The Church’s quiet centre has prevailed” (Toronto Star, August 26, 1988). Its author, Bruce McLeod, is a former Moderator of the United Church and one of his church’s most vociferous and shallow secular champions.

According to McLeod, the General Council “refused to change the United Church by introducing discriminatory clauses…”, refused to change (the Church) by making two classes of members…” refused to change the Church by adding prescriptive requirements for Christian living….” (my emphasis)

This distortion is twofold, historically and morally.  First, it is a falsification of history to imply that the United Church somehow accepted or approved of homosexuals in the past when very clearly the homosexual drive for acceptance did not take off until less than 15 years ago.  Although active homosexuals appear to have been appointed ministers before the mid-seventies, this always took place on a surreptitious and ad hoc basis.

Victoria 1988, therefore, is formal approval of quite a different order.  It represents the formal religious approval of homosexuality and homosexual activity by the highest authority of this faith community, its General Council.  This makes the United Church the first body in the world of what is often called “mainline” Protestants to do so.  Thirty years ago members of the United Church would have rejected such a view out of hand.  They would have been repelled by it.

Mr. McLeod’s second distortion is embodied in his argumentation.  In line with much else that is put forward in favour of homosexual practice, things are turned topsy turvy: good becomes bad and bad good.  The Scriptures call this the sin against the Holy Spirit, unforgivable because it leads a person into a trap from which he cannot free himself.

According to McLeod, opposing the homosexual lifestyle is (a) discrimination; (b) a form of elitism creating two classes within the church and (c) most baffling of all, it is an (outrageous) attempt, in trying to prescribe requirements for Christian living.  Thus he boldly transforms truth into falsehood.

Mr. McLeod closes this summary by describing the decision as “a fresh leading of God.”


The victory won by Bruce McLeod and company is a victory for Satan.  Homosexual practice is part of the current anti-family, anti-life syndrome.  It was given a new impetus by the “reproductive choice” philosophy of the radical feminists of the sixties.  As a deliberate philosophy and way of life, it is a rejection of Divine Providence.  It cannot be lead to personal disaster and, if permitted and promoted as expressed in the United Church’s Confessional Statement of August 1988, it would lead to society’s destruction.

The thirty-second General Council of the United Church was a sad day for Canada as well as for its own Christian faith community.  Victoria, August 1988, signifies the end of the United Church as a viable and credible Christian community in Canada.