- by Tony Copple
For a good part of my life I felt that priests, vicars, ministers, nuns, bishops and lay workers all believed that God created the world, that in human form He came here via the virgin birth to redeem our sins so that we could have everlasting peace, and that He rose bodily from the dead. My study of the Bible supported these beliefs. I couldnít imagine why anyone would enter these professions without these beliefs in abundance, or how an organization could call itself a church whose leaders did not hold these beliefs.
In 1960 I was an early reader of Playboy, and I was struck by a letter from a reader asking for advice on whether he should enter the ministry. He didnít have any particular religious conviction, but he thought the salary was attractive for the work involved. Playboy advised against.
In 1984 the great evangelist Luis Palau, who converted me to Christianity, warned against elements in the hierarchy of some denominations, who did not fully believe in the divinity of Jesus. In fact they were working effectively to crucify him again, just as the religious leaders had in his time. Much of the influence was coming from theological colleges, seeking to update Christ for our time!
In 1987 I joined the United Church here in Glen Cairn and found its welcoming attitude to all comers a breath of fresh air. I detected more voices that would differ from my beliefs from early childhood, reinforced by Luis, but among regular members of the congregation, that didnít bother me. I was happy as long as I sensed the minister believed that his message was consistent with the divinity of Jesus Christ as the son of God, and His physical resurrection.
In a congregational church like the United Church, spiritual leadership comes as much from the members of the congregations, including ministers, as from the General Council. Since we have no hierarchy of bishops, any of us is eligible for election to General Council, which therefore reflects the diverse beliefs of the membership. Once General Council has a majority who do not hail the incarnate deity, (as we sing in "Hark the herald angels sing") I question whether we can still call ourselves a church. We havenít reached this point yet, thank God, but I have a concern for those who have singing the carol this Christmas.
Those within this church whose beliefs are what are now called Ďtraditionalí have a struggle ahead, to do all in our power to see General Council revert to a majority of those who would lift up Christ rather than sweep Him aside. There is a tremendous potential here for work to be done. I feel this is where I want to be, for that reason. Why join a church where the majority are born again already? Here there are people in positions of influence who presumably would have empathized with the letter writer to Playboy.
If you would like to review the material published in the Citizen, and a considerable amount of comment on it, visit the Moderator website, which I set up at the start of these events to be a record of them. This is not an initiative of Glen Cairn United Church.
On February 2 1998, the Council of Glen Cairn United Church sent a letter to General Council expressing our concerns about the effects of his statements in the press. The letter deliberately does not address matters of faith, but is limited to addressing the confusion that was created when the moderator expressed his views without also explaining sufficiently the basis of faith expressed in the creeds, articles, and Basis of Union.
Here is the GCUC Response.