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(An open letter to evangelicals within and outside the United Church)

By Carman Bradley 

“I knew I would have few if any problems with the so-called liberal churches.  Liberal churches do not usually deeply involve themselves with Scripture.” - Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Churches for homosexuals.

Laurie-Ann Zachar, author of Moderator Controversy, found that a 1981 Observer poll showed only 10 per cent of the UCC membership was evangelical.  By 2000, Moderator, Marion Pardy, said this conservative remnant had fallen to 5 per cent (say 30,000 souls).  How is it that evangelicals can still be found in the UCC in spite of the exodus of hundreds of thousands burdened to flee?  Are the remaining evangelicals offering their best witness for Christ or are they an unwitting shield of sympathy and false hope for reform, conveniently protecting the majority from the full castigation of Christendom? And what of their lobbying people to remain in the UCC?  How is the uninformed on-looker or seeker to differentiate the 5 per cent good from all the liberalism under the brand name United Church?  Does it matter if the person in the pew next to you swears same-sex marriage is all right?  Is it appropriate if the minister resolves such differences through a vote?  What should the scriptural-minded do if their congregation votes to perform homosexual unions?

The status quo witness of evangelicals inside (and outside) the UCC is simply not good enough given the times.  Dostoevsky warns, “If God is dead, then everything is justifiable.”  And marriage redefinition will symbolize just such a paradigm shift in our governance, i.e. the state’s full replacement of our founding Christian worldview with a world paradigm anchored in secular-humanism.  Professing to be “a mainstream, established Christian church” the UCC proclaims before the Supreme Court, “there is no theological impediment that should prevent same-sex marriage,” and “it is absurd to suggest that allowing same-sex couples to have access to the institution of marriage somehow undermines the institution.” Moderator Right Rev. Dr. Peter Short lobbied MPs at a Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in February, paid for by the UCC: “My hope is that the contribution the United Church 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 favor of civil same-sex marriage.” No greater heresy can be committed.  As an evangelical associating with the UCC ask yourself, “If not this, then what apostasy would trigger my separation from the United Church?”

Equally disconcerting and symbolic of evangelical misguided goodwill, if not blindness, is the participation of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada with the United Church for Prayer Launch 2005 in Ottawa.  What is the public (and Christ) to make of such an ironic theological and prayerful mix?  The article covering the Prayer Launch by the Ottawa Citizen highlighted the rally launch point Dominion-Chalmers United Church.  This congregation is not a member of the National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations, some 100 reform churches of the UCC’s 3,677 congregations.  Indeed, the church minister would not declare the congregation in disagreement with their denomination’s policies on homosexuality, although a majority of elders were against performing same-sex marriages at their church.  If most evangelicals cannot see anything wrong in continuing an association with the United Church, we should not be surprised when our orthodoxy counts for nothing with others.  The follow-on analysis is a prayerful attempt to dislodge all evangelicals from complacency and even complicity in the on-going battle of worldviews, often called “The Morality Wars” or “who has the right to decide what’s right.”

Rev. Dr. Donald Faris writes for the Community of Concern Within The UCC: “With the approval of gay, lesbian, and bisexual marriage - the foolhardy blessing of behavior that God condemns - the paganization of the United Church is almost complete.”  Rev. Dr. Allen Churchill writes: “Our own United Church is in a state of free fall…76% of our theological professors think it is not important to affirm Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.”  In testimony on behalf of a Wesleyan congregation choosing to separate from the UCC, Rev. Dr. Victor Shepherd, chair of Wesley Studies at Tyndale Seminary, said in 1996, “The [UCC] documents on sexuality cannot be reconciled and would be rejected outright by Wesley.  The new Creed and the Amendments to the Hymn Book ‘Voices United’ are non-Methodist.  The ‘Authority of Scripture’ is totally offensive to Wesley’s 25 Articles and Mending The World violates the principle centre piece of the Christian Faith…namely the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ.”  In 1997, UCC Moderator Right Rev. Dr. Bill Phipps denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and Christ’s divinity.   When asked, “Is there any truth that the United Church, or Bill Phipps, agrees with?” Dr. Phipps replied, “The fundamental truth to me in the biblical story is that God loves us and the world unconditionally…The whole biblical story is one of unconditional love.”  After publication of the Phipps interview, the UCC leadership backed his response.  Indeed, reflecting the level of support for such thinking within the UCC, Dr. Phipps was the first of the 36 UCC moderators elected on a first ballot.  And the future portends more of the same.  The New Statement of Faith for the UCC, issued for the 2006 General Council, names God “Mother,” and speaks of the triune God as the “Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.” Jesus Christ is not acknowledged as Lord or the Son of God. The chronology of events ending in the creation of this pseudo-Christian church (a denomination empty of biblical Christian theological content) is as follows (sources are available):

1960 - first religious body to advocate abortion

1962 - sanction divorce and remarriage

1965 - condone pre-marital sex

1968 - issue a New Creed which does not name Jesus as God’s Son, Savior or Lord

1980 - issue sex report In God’s Image:Male and Female approving of marriage infidelity: “it [fidelity] includes openness to secondary relationships of emotional intimacy and potential genital expression but with commitment to the primary marriage.” 

1984 - declare God indifferent to all sexual orientations and recommend ordination of homosexuals

1988 - unrepentant homosexuals who profess faith in Jesus can join and gays can be ordained

1992 - clarify policy on inerrancy of Bible in report “The Authority and Interpretation of Scripture” -members are “to engage the Bible to experience the liberating and transforming word of God…with an awareness of our theological, social and cultural assumptions…with a sense of sacred mystery and in dynamic interaction with human experience, understanding and heritage…trusting God’s Spirit to enliven our understanding and to empower our acting.” - summarized by Moderator Marion Pardy

1997 - adopt a policy to lobby teacher’s unions to promote homosexual affirming programs in public schools

2000 - adopt a resolution to affirm civil recognition of same-sex unions

2003 - amend the resolution from 2000 to redefine marriage inclusive of homosexual couples.  Rev. J. Clark Saunders reports, “Out of over a hundred commissioners, I saw only four hands raised in opposition to the motion.  So I think we can say that the General Council’s support was overwhelming.” -

2005 - Rev. Dr. Jim Sinclair, General Secretary of the General Council declares, “Marriage will be enhanced, not diminished, religious freedom will be protected, not threatened, and Canadian society will be strengthened, not weakened, as a result of this [same-sex marriage] legislation.”

So why do evangelicals stay and others outside the UCC partner with the denomination?  Cognitive dissonance theory predicts that people will attend to information that conforms to their values while ignoring information that is inconsistent with their beliefs.  Moreover, once a decision is made (in this case to hold evangelical beliefs and to remain in association with the UCC) dissonance is aroused.  In response people alter aspects of the decision alternatives to reduce dissonance, which leads to viewing the chosen alternative as more desirable and the rejected alternative (fleeing their apostate denomination or severing ties with longtime UCC associates) as less desirable.  This effect is called the spreading of alternatives, and the theoretical paradigm is termed the “free-choice paradigm.”  NACC Chairman Geoff Wilkins describes what may be called evangelical dissonance within the UCC: “At the end of 2003…membership stood at 608,243, down a massive 460,692 from 1965... We are an exhausted, depleted church.  Those who still have the energy to care, once again find themselves divided by controversy.”  The decline is now in its 39th consecutive year. 

Two possible reasons why evangelicals associating with the UCC have not entirely smothered in cognitive dissonance is that they have not fully measured (in their hearts) the magnitude of the apostasy of the denomination or they do not accept responsibility for the vicarious actions of the UCC leadership.  But these positions are really chosen states of denial.  Many have succumbed to the liberal epidemic of indifference, placing denominational loyalty ahead of Scripture.  Twenty years ago hope of reform had credibility.  However, today the obvious question is whether there is anything that could dislodge the last evangelicals or cause outsiders to terminate association.  2 Corinthians 6:14-17 reads, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers…what fellowship can light have with darkness…Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” Consider the heresy disclosed in the following five points.

Is Jesus Christ Savior And Lord?  Yes or No! The United Church denies the witness of ex-gays and ex-lesbians who testify that it was Christ’s grace that freed them.  Ignoring scientific evidence for successful sexual reorientation, UCC theology cleaves to the discredited notions of Derrick Bailey’s invert theory and the gay gene theory.  Bob Davies of Exodus Ministries writes, “Many former homosexuals tell us that there is only one genuine reason that they have been successful: they have abandoned homosexuality in obedience to God’s Word.  They see changing their homosexuality as a side effect of an ever bigger goal: being conformed to the image of Christ.” Christ’s image cannot be re-cast for self-serving purposes.  Freedom of religion is a Charter value, but not for the preservation of counterfeit theologies.  If the UCC wishes to downgrade Jesus Christ to be like a gifted sage (Mahatma Gandhi), the denomination should not claim to be “Christian.”  Candice Chellew, editor of Whosoever, an on line magazine for gay and lesbian “Christians” describes the new image of a pro-gay Christ: “Getting stuck worshipping Jesus as a name, as a person, or as a Messiah, detracts us from the real goal.  Getting to God, becoming the living embodiment of God here on earth should be our ultimate aim.  Jesus points us in the right direction…Worrying about getting our dogmas right about Jesus and who he is only leads us to an idolization of Jesus.” 

The “window” that UCC theology offers politicians (and its followers) is not a Christian portal.  God’s intent will not be “balanced,” as Right Rev. Dr. Short suggests, with novel secular-humanist notions.  Scripture speaks of obligations to God and not secularized notions of inalienable human rights.  In its Factum to the Supreme Court the UCC declares same-sex marriage to be a “constitutionally protected right.”  In fact the Charter Preamble states “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God” and the Supreme Court did not rule the existing definition of marriage unconstitutional.  Some 76 per cent of Canadians claim Christianity as their religion.  The Holy Bible declares God made humans male and female.  Like the designer of a lock and key, God thought of man and woman simultaneously and made them anatomically matched for procreation.  This heterosexist worldview is the foundation of our Constitution and also the beliefs of Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and indeed Darwinism.  When Canadians speak of tolerance of homosexuality a heterosexist worldview is implied.  UCC theology rejects heterosexism, ignores a clear and consistent Biblical record against homosexuality and asserts incorrectly to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals that God is solely unconditional love (total indifference) and that they will inherit His Kingdom regardless of orientation.  Right Rev. Dr. Short writes in a letter to MPs, “Some will protest that we must have faith in the Bible, and that the Bible takes an unfavourable view of intimate same-sex relationship.  But I would answer that Christian faith is not an uncritical repetition of received text.  It is a mindful commitment to the power of love, to which the text seeks to give witness…In fact, change is the only medium in which faithfulness can truly become faithfulness.  Uncritical repetition is more like being on autopilot…the measure by which we choose a course of action is the measure of the love of Christ, a measure that judges even scripture.  It is never legitimate to use the words of scripture to promote a loveless agenda.”

God Is Not Indifferent To Sexual Orientation.  Rev. Jackie Harper, Program Officer for Family Ministries comments that the UCC understanding of marriage is grounded in love - “God’s love for humanity, love between life partners who seek to live in relationships based on trust, mutuality, and commitment.” The UCC Factum states that marriage is “one of the fullest expressions of the covenant between God and humanity” and that to “exclude same-sex couples from this covenant relationship undermines their basic human dignity.”  There is no Scriptural basis for this assertion and God will not be mocked.  No one has ever caught a sexually transmitted disease from following the Leviticus Code.  On the other hand, UCC theology simply ignores the unholy nature of homosexual intimacy and denies the scientific ecological hazards of gay sex.  The very existence of the “Condom Code” with its inevitable failure rate undermines any notion of virtuous gay sex.  There is nothing dignified about AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.  The marriage covenant between God and humanity is explained in Matthew 19:4-6: “‘Haven’t you read,’ Christ replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together let man not separate.”  In God’s plan heterosexual marriage is the pre-condition for sexual intimacy and “one flesh” is essential for procreation.  Sex outside of the covenant institution of marriage is not to happen.

God is Not Indifferent To Experimental Sex.  UCC theology offers no guidance to the “wavering youth” - the child who is capable of either sexual orientation.  An extract from a gay-affirming pamphlet at Calgary Public Schools highlights the heart of the heresy of such pro-gay thinking: “Our sexuality develops over time.  Don’t worry if you aren’t sure.  The teen years are a time for figuring out what works for you, and crushes and experimentation are often part of that.  Over time you’ll find that you are drawn to men or women - or both - and you’ll know then.” God is not indifferent.  The notion that there is no relationship between the human body God designed (anatomy and genitalia) and His intent for gender is false and sexual experimentation is both a trap and a sin.

God Is Not Indifferent To Family Variations.  UCC theology overlooks the inert nature of homosexual union, contends procreation is not the defining purpose of marriage and claims there are no grounds for marriage discrimination.  Yet redefinition of marriage opens the right to other sexual orientations.  Indeed, the fact neither the Government nor Supreme Court has raised the marriage rights of bisexuals and polygamists shows the political and not human rights basis of this issue.  The state currently allows marriage between one man and one woman but discriminates against marriage to a close relative.  This prohibition is so strong that sex amongst these relations is illegal and is defined as incest.  Without human cloning same-sex couples cannot procreate.  If the state now says marriage is no longer about procreation, then the prohibition on the marriage of a brother to a sister appears discriminatory and incest a defunct notion.  After disconnecting marriage from its heterosexual procreative moorings, the question becomes: “Why can’t a brother have sex with a brother or a father with a son if so oriented?”  No offspring are at risk.  Ironically, any reference to the morality of these acts begs the questions: “If it is OK for two men to have sex, why is it wrong for two brothers?”  If they were married would this make a difference?”  Rev. Jackie Harper, Program Officer for Family Ministries explains UCC policy, “It is the experience of the United Church that non-traditional family forms equally advance family values.”  In arguing that same-sex couples “can and do have and raise children” the UCC ignores the heterosexual origin of these offspring and implies indifference to whether a child has either a mother or a father.  The pro-gay theology further implies a biological relationship (one flesh connection) between a child and its parents is not God’s wish.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ Cannot Be Divided.  The implementation of UCC theology bears witness to its own irrationality. Right Rev. Dr. Short writes, “If the local Session denies its clergy the right to conduct same-sex marriages while in that pastoral relationship, we have a serious conundrum: a congregation denying its covenanting minister permission to conduct a worship ceremony.”  Choice Okoro, Program Officer for Human Rights explains that while the UCC unequivocally supports the right of same-sex couples to have access to marriage, it also unequivocally supports the right of religious communities to refuse to perform such marriages.  She argues, “The United Church does not believe that the faith stance of a community which supports same-sex marriage undermines the faith stance of a community that does not.”  The UCC Factum explains the “model process” to allow decisions regarding same-sex marriage to be made at congregational level: “One congregation decided not to vote.  One congregation, through their Session, decided they were not ready to accept same-sex marriages in the church building, but would be open to further discussion about the Minister performing marriages outside the church building.  The third congregation decided at the Board level not to have a congregational vote, but passed a motion affirming the present marriage policy which is as follows: That the Minister may marry people at her discretion if they have a valid marriage license.”  The UCC asserts religious freedom to the extent of not holding its membership to (any?) denominational beliefs.  What is the isolated evangelical to do in a pro-gay church, if not leave? The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be adopted piecemeal in self-serving ways to reflect congregational votes.  The Christian faith has nothing to do with democracy.  Parliament can vote to break the state away from its theist roots, but the revelation of Jesus Christ is not negotiable.  Christianity is not a political movement.  Similar compromised theology in the Church of Laodicea made Christ sick (Rev 3:16).

Beyond denial of the significance of their membership and the extent of apostasy of their denomination, evangelicals within the UCC reduce the cognitive dissonance in other ways.  First, they hold a diminished view of the impact that their individual or congregational separation would have for Christ.  Second, they exaggerate the impact their separation would have on existing salvation outreach ministries.  Indeed, some evangelicals have argued that the liberal identification with the UCC brand name has heightened their opportunity for evangelization among street people and homosexuals.  Can any good come of liberalism?  Surely such perspectives are sub-optimal.  These churches uphold the United Church label to be more inclusive and market the Gospel to certain groups, while their denomination thrashes Christ and overturns society on a national scale.  This is selective parochialism at best.  Third, many submit to the notion that their church facilities will be lost to the denomination and, therefore, refuse to take the separation step.  Even if the loss of property proves true, remaining in the UCC on the basis of “building extortion” is hardly a Christian witness.  This status implies the congregation would leave if a new donor gives them a home.  Fourth, some hold the unbiblical notion that a larger congregation of orthodox and liberals is better than a smaller membership following a split.  Fifth, many hold on to the defunct notion that it is a better witness to be inside the UCC.  What heresy has the inside evangelical voice prevented?  Some 150 same-sex marriages have all ready been performed!  And last, some hold a defeatist view that same-sex marriage legislation is inevitable so why rock the boat and risk any of the above consequences - if we wait out the problem, it may go away.  The problem is not going away and will only get worse if enacted into law.  And like abortion, the fact it becomes law does not make it right.

When asked, “How can you endure such apostasy?” some orthodox members have replied, “We will leave the United Church when God calls us and not before!”  In light of the above analysis, this response seems paradoxical.  First, the liberal 95 per cent of the United Church claim to be called to save the nation from Christian orthodoxy.  Second, what of all the orthodox members called to leave?  Perhaps they should have stayed.  The Community of Concern give as one of their founding motives, We intend to pursue a positive and healing ministry throughout the Church, encouraging members and congregations to remain within the United Church, working to resolve our concerns.”  The premise of the NACC is also to remain within the UCC.  The Alberta Association of Covenanting Congregations’  website states under the title REMEMBER: We are a group of people and congregations who love the United Church of Canada with all its diversity.  We wish to stay in the church while upholding traditional Christian values, theology and morals.” One is reminded of three sailors abroad a vessel which has lost its power in choppy waters flowing inevitably towards Niagara Falls.  They loved their boat which they had painstakingly built over many years.  All prayed for God to deliver them (and their boat) from disaster.  First, a small tourist boat came by and offered to take them to safety.  But they refused the help saying no thanks God will rescue us and the boat.  They prayed and prayed for power to turn the boat around.  A little later a merchant vessel came by and offered to take them onboard.  Although much weaker from the stress and in far greater peril, they still refused to get off their boat.  They kept praying for power.  A third opportunity came in the form of a rescue helicopter.  A rescue specialist dropped down to attach them to a pulley.  Although completely exhausted with their boat about to go over the falls they once again rejected the help holding on to their prayer.  There have been so many missed turning points to see the light, to be called out of the UCC apostasy.  Twenty years of the status quo witness has not produced the desired result.  When you say, “We will leave the United Church when God calls us and not before!” reassess reality and consider your motives behind remaining in the boat  

In closing this letter, here is a vignette of a model witness of hope all should commend.  A small congregation at Grace Methodist Church in Bermuda was part of a Synod of Wesleyan Methodist Churches governed by the Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada.  According to Layman News Grace Methodist was one of four “largely black congregations” of the synod that rejected the 1988 UCC decision to ordain homosexuals.  In 1993 a majority of the Bermuda synod (consisting of eight churches) voted to stay in the United Church.  Layman News reports,“Congregations with predominantly black membership voted strongly in favour of leaving the UCC while the larger, racially mixed or predominantly white congregations voted to stay.  At Grace Methodist, 83 per cent of the congregation voted to leave the synod.” Grace Methodist elders decided that if the synod would not leave the UCC, then their congregation would leave the synod.  In 1995 the congregation, led by elder Willard Lightbourne, informed synod officials that the church would cease to be associated with them.  Since the 1885 deed to the land stated that the property would revert to the heirs of the original donors (a Bermuda grocer John Hollis and his wife Susan) unless used for “religious and moral purposes in accordance with the doctrine, rules and usages of the Methodist Church and for no other uses intents and purposes whatever,” the congregation claimed title to its property.  Grace Methodist argued that the UCC had departed from the teachings of Methodism (Wesleyan evangelicalism) and in particular from the United Church’s own 1925 Basis of Union.  The synod reacted, claiming that the property belonged to the UCC and that the synod would take over the Sunday services on July 1, 1996.

On July 1, Rev. Victor MacLeod, secretary to the synod arrived at the church with a piano player to lead services.  Willard Lightbourne also arrived with his organist and the two side-by-side services began.  Rev. MacLeod announced one hymn and Mr. Lightbourne called another.  The organ being the louder won the day.  Unhappy with the competition, synod officials changed the locks on the church, but the congregation changed them back.  Each side filed lawsuits against the other and eventually, the suits came before the Bermuda Supreme Court.  Rev. Victor Sheperd, pastor of Streetsville United Church in Mississauga and chair of Wesley Studies at Tyndale Seminary was an expert witness for Grace Methodist Church.  The Supreme Court ruled that “neither in its formal theology nor in its informal theology can the UCC be said to be congruent with the doctrine of the 25 Articles of the late Rev. John Wesley which is the foundation upon which the Methodist Church was established…I therefore dismiss the case entitled action 280/1996 and find for the Plaintiff [Willard Rudolph Lightbourne].”*  Five churches in the synod have since broken away.

2 Chronicles 7:14 reads: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  What this avowed “Christian” United Church has done theologically in Christ’s name over the past forty years is an absolute spiritual travesty.  The same-sex marriage decision will be a huge turning point in the “Morality Wars.” Regardless of the outcome, evangelicals of Willard Lightbourne’s conviction will at least be able to claim they gave their best witness for Christ.  Where is the needed humility when denominational pride and loyalty trump Scripture?  Is the act of enduring any heresy for the sake of one’s denomination not idolatry?  The Apostle James warns: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins (4:17).”  Edmund Burke puts it this way: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [and women] do nothing.”  And Burke’s finger is pointing at us.  Most evangelicals are guilty of complacency.  Where is our counter witness?  The status quo is not working and Christ deserves more than our second best: “Therefore come out from them and be separate.” Faith without works is dead.

Carman Bradley


8 June 2005

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