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Dominion-Chalmers United Church, Ottawa: A Branch from which Vine?
By Carman Bradley
said, “I am the true vine and my Father
is the gardener. He cuts off every
branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He
prunes so that it will be more fruitful.
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must
remain in the vine. Neither can you
bear fruit unless you remain in me. I
am the vine; you are the branches. If a
man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can
do nothing. If anyone does not remain
in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are
picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish,
and it will be given you. This is to my
Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my
disciples” (John 15:1-8).
On the other
hand, another congregation (Grace Methodist Church) described their spiritual
state after winning a Bermuda Supreme Court case to allow them to separate from
the UCC. Gwyneth I. Lightbourne put the excitement this way:
The Sparks among The Ashes, who experienced
harassment and humiliation, have come forth, shining as pure gold. We know what it is like to cry tears of joy,
because we are free, yes free to worship according to the principles and
practices of Methodism as outlined by Rev. John Wesley. [iv] [more on this congregation later in the article]
heart of the danger in the notion of evangelicals supporting or partnering with
churches choosing to remain within an apostate denomination like the UCC, is
the risk in properly accessing the true spirit of the single church and of its
membership, separate from the overarching denominational spirit of
falsehood. Unless we adopt the
double-minded theology of the United Church, we must seriously consider the
difference between a church that chooses to remain within the UCC and one that
is over-joyed at escaping the apostasy.
God is not indifferent, there are real consequences for the choices
people make. Evangelicals thinking of a
national prayer launch would not partner with the Church of Scientology because
such an alliance would compromise their witness and jeopardize God’s anointing
and blessing. So why would evangelicals
expect a different result, partnering with a United Church? Why would God overlook the counterfeit state
of the denomination for this 2005 prayer event? Why would He bless believers for associating as if denominational
beliefs did not matter? Do we really
think the on-looker viewing the National Launch poster above, perceives
anything other than the EFC is perfectly ok with partnering with the United
Church? Who gains credibility and who
loses credibility in this association?
Does such an association serve the public witness of biblical truth? The
sixty-four thousand dollar question: “From which vine does Dominion-Chalmers
United Church draw?” A study of
Dominion-Chalmers United Church will allow you to draw your own
before looking at specifics, there are some general points to ponder. What might God think of a United Church that
holds a vote to decide whether to offer same-sex marriages, but acquiesces to
homosexual ordination or fellowships with unrepentant homosexuals as Christian
brothers or sisters; or fellowships with others in their denomination that hold
a homosexist worldview? How is God to
react to a church that loses a vote to separate from the UCC by only ten per
cent? Would a congregation that votes
by a five per cent majority against some liberal heresy be less entitled to
divine favor, than one with a twenty percent majority? Is there anything democratic about God’s
will? What scripture permits the notion
that it is okay on pivotal matters of theology, like same-sex marriage,
homosexual ordination, and the sexual moral code, if you remain in fellowship
with a third of the congregation or the leader behind the pulpit, knowing that
they radically disagree with God’s Word and your beliefs? Does it matter if a sister church in your
town disagrees with your church’s theology?
What does God think of a United Church telling searching homosexuals:
“If you come here you will need to repent of your lifestyle and we won’t marry
you because homosexual marriage is against God’s will, but Centretown United
Church, only four blocks away, will accept you, bless your lifestyle, and if
you choose to marry, they will perform the ceremony with alacrity”? What does God think about the refusal to
marry two gay men by an Anglican minister on religious grounds, yet the two men
find a UCC minister to volunteer to perform the ceremony? Where does scripture say “denominational
loyalty and unity” trump orthodoxy?
Where is there evidence of the early Church condoning so-called
“embedded” orthodox believers, who claim to be called to witness from within an
apostate Gnostic sect? Where is there
evidence of orthodox congregations knowingly remaining within Gnosticm for some
altruistic goal of their reformation? Christendom does not allow dual
(conflicting) citizenry - claiming an evangelical identity but holding a
passport (membership) with apostasy, essentially claiming roots in two
vines. And the idea of a hybrid
spiritual branch is implausible - an
orthodox branch grafted into a heretical vine or an orthodox branch surviving
on a heretical vine?
are four strong reasons to look closely at the launch site for the crucial 2005 A Year of Prayer in Canada: National
Launch, January 8, 2005. What
spiritual risks was the EFC taking in this association? First, one month before the National Launch, Dominion-Chalmers
United Church was asked to clarify their position on same-sex marriage and the
other pro-gay theological positions and policies of the UCC. The senior minister responded that the
church elders had voted against offering same-sex marriages; he did not answer
questions on other pro-homosexual UCC doctrines. Second, Dominion-Chalmers has never been a member of the NACC
reform congregations. Third, through
feedback from a member of Dominion-Chalmers, it was discovered that Rev. Robert Oliphant was guest
speaker for the UCC Eightieth Anniversary celebrations at the church in June 2005. Rev. Oliphant's name is third on a list at an Equality For Gays and Lesbians (EGALE)[v]
web site declaring ministers who have signed EGALE's Equal [same-sex] Marriage
Clergy Endorsement Statement. Now Rev.
Oliphant is more than entitled to hold his liberal views and Dominion-Chalmers
is equally entitled to have him as their Anniversary guest speaker. But the point is this. One spirit
tells evangelicals (and Apostle Paul!) that same-sex marriage is wrong and
another spirit tells Rev. Oliphant,
the United Church and other liberals that marriage redefinition is right. Logic dictates on such a pivotal theological
matter that one spirit must be false.
The Holy Spirit knows past, present and future; and therefore, knew at
the time that our “national” evangelical prayer hopes for 2005 were being
petitioned from the pews of Dominion-Chalmers United Church, who would be their
honoured anniversary speaker and from which vine that Ottawa United Church is
3:15-16 tells us that spiritual compromise made Christ sick and that He will
not enter a lukewarm (compromised) church.
The month after the EFC Prayer Launch, the Moderator of the
United Church, at a prayer breakfast for parliamentarians hosted by the UCC
(and not far from Dominion-Chalmers) said:
My hope is that the contribution the
[UCC] has offered in this debate is a window for politicians to see the
possibility of balancing human rights, tradition, faithfulness, and religious
freedoms by voting in favour of civil same-sex marriage. [vi]
Short is offering a compromise between two diametrically opposed worldviews,
which in spiritual truth cannot exist.
Dominion-Chalmers United Church lists five statements of faith (a sixth “coming
soon”) on their website including the Twenty-five Articles of the Methodist
Church. Leaving aside their silence on
UCC doctrines, their non-NACC membership and their pro-homosexual Eightieth Anniversary guest speaker, can one safely assume the posting of these Wesleyan
tenets constitutes a spiritually “right” United Church congregation? For the UCC situation the answer is no, not
ever. The denomination headquarters
itself declares no theological incongruency between its policies and the
Wesleyan creed and lists the exact same tenets on their national website. If
compromise in the Church of Laodicea made Christ sick, how does He feel about
the abject apostasy of this denomination that claims to be Canada’s largest
mainstream Protestant Christian church?
The spiritual risk in association with the UCC, no matter how sincerely
contrived, is huge. It bears repeating
- there is only one Holy Spirit out there?
What omnipotent and ubiquitous Spirit shines His light on some congregations burdening them to flee and yet
withholds the same light from others
or shines a different light on
others? Did the orthodox faithful of
the true vine leave or stay?
Congregations, like Grace Methodist Church in Bermuda, which saw the light and chose to separate from the UCC some ten years ago (and the many
individuals who have chosen to leave on their own) have witnessed to a full
blessing of Spiritual light. All others within the UCC appear to be
suffering some level of shade, blindness, denial or full darkness.
tough fight of Grace Methodist Church for its orthodox freedom from the UCC is
splendidly recorded in Gwyneth I. Lightbourne’s The Sparks among The Ashes: A Mother Church Loses Her Way…But the
Sparks among the Ashes Keep Burning. Their
struggle for possession of their church properties took them to the highest
court in the land. Five days after the
Supreme Court of Bermuda laid its landmark ruling in favor of the separationist
congregation, lay minister Gwyneth Lightbourne give the first “free” Sunday sermon titled: “The Iron Gate.” She recounts from Acts 12:1-11:
As we look behind that Iron Gate, we
see a prisoner, and that prisoner is Peter…He’s bound with two chains, and two
soldiers are guarding the door…The angel gives Peter a touch and says, ‘Peter,
rise up quickly.’ The scripture says the chains fell from Peter’s hands. I’ve come to tell you this morning, when God
uses His power, he can deliver us from behind our Iron Gates, O yes! But we have to believe that the touch from
the Master’s hand can bring deliverance…We remember when the prayer group met
on Tuesday nights to pray, and the only means of entry into our church was
through the windows…We remember when we sat huddled in our church hall, Sunday
after Sunday, because we were banned from worshipping at our regular 11:15 A.M.
worship service and felt too sad to worship at all. We remember when we were referred to again and again, as
‘rebels,’ by reporters of The Royal Gazette newspaper and how many people
expressed their perceptions of us in derogatory ways. And we also remember when some persons, whom we considered to be
our friends, turned out to be traitors, but it doesn’t matter now, our Iron
Gate has opened of its own accord and we The Sparks among The Ashes, who
experienced harassment and humiliation, have come forth, shining as pure
gold. We know what it is like to cry
tears of joy, because we are free, yes free to worship according to the
principles and practices of Methodism as outlined by Rev. John Wesley…Let us
never forget, that the battle was the Lord’s, and it was He Who kept us as
Sparks among The Ashes, so that He could preserve us to carry on His great
work. I truly believe it was because of
our faithfulness and the sincere and dedicated prayers of God’s people that the
Almighty God has caused us to climb the mountain of despair, and allowed us to
walk safely through The Iron Gate.
Maybe I am speaking to someone here this morning who doesn’t know Jesus. I encourage you to find Him today. Jesus says, ‘I am the way the truth and the
life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ Repent of your sin, and by faith move ahead in the service of the
King of Kings. May the Lord bless you,
and keep you. May the Lord make His
face to shine upon you and give you peace. Amen. [vii]
testimony before the Bermuda Supreme Court, expert witness Dr. Victor Shepherd
…it is my opinion that the United
Church of Canada has, in its articulation of its formal theology, and in its
fostering of its day-to-day operative theology, contravened the Twenty-five
Articles of Faith. Such infringement
has occurred not once but many times, and not witlessly by inadvertence (as
might be the case with a denomination that drifted doctrinally on account of
theological naiveness). Such
infringement has occurred, rather, as successive positions and policies have
been adopted intentionally.[viii]
court ruled against the United Church authorities concluding in favor of the
separationist argument that the theological and doctrinal differences within
the UCC were so fundamental and deep-seated as to be irreconcilable with the
founding Methodist creed. This finding
occurred more than a decade ago and yet the UCC and most of its churches still proclaim
the Twenty-five Articles of Faith. So
what can the on-looker trust in deciding whether Dominion-Chalmers or any other
United Church is a spiritually safe orthodox church?
Perhaps one is destined to remain a lone voice crying in the “internet wilderness,” but logic and a huge spiritual burden under gird the belief that the poster below (see also Article 2 ) implies that the United Church isn’t all that bad, after all the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is comfortable partnering with one of their congregations and petitioning God from within one of their churches. Only nine days after the January 8 event, the United Church Moderator petitioned (by letter) Members of Parliament to vote for same-sex marriage and to join him for a prayer breakfast paid for by the United Church. Dominion-Chalmers United Church or any other United Church must not be allowed to be, or even give the impression of being, a bridge between orthodoxy and apostasy. The idea of a branch from two spiritual vines is flawed. Had Dominion-Chalmers publicly denounced UCC theology in the middle of the titanic struggle over same-sex marriage legislation, their prominence in the 2005 Prayer Launch might have been less risky from a spiritual warfare perspective, less offensive from a public relations perspective. Had the congregation picketed the Moderator’s prayer breakfast or caused a fuss for the sake of orthodoxy, one could be more sympathetic to the church’s denominational blight, if truly against the UCC's many heterodoxies. The criterion by which the EFC chose to partner with Dominion-Chalmers United Church and differentiate this congregation from the other 3,400 UCC churches constituting the apostate denomination remain a mystery.
[i] See UCC website for full text, www.united-church.ca.
[ii] NACC Letter to MPs, 1 February 2005, regarding the January 17 Letter of the Moderator of the United Church of Canada to MPs, www.unitedrenewal.org/archives/2005/02/nacc_letter_to.php, 10/30/2005.
[iii] “What General Council Never Mentioned: United Church Membership Loss (1988-2002), CONCERN, Vol. XIV No.5, December 2003, p.2.
[vi] News Release, United Church of Canada, “United Church Moderator Hosts Parliamentary Breakfast on Marriage,” 24 February 2005, www.united-church.ca/news/2005/0224.shtm.
[vii] Ibid, pp.123-128.
[viii] Ibid, pp.112 and 113.