The (Previous) Moderatorby Tony Copple
"... and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds" - Hebrews 10:24
It was Remembrance Day 1997 when this site was started as a result of the controversy surrounding public statements of belief made by our then United Church moderator, Rt.Rev. Bill Phipps, under the headline: "Is Jesus God?"
The Ottawa Citizen stories and other published articles are given below, with responses to this site by readers and e-mails distributed at the time by concerned people, and a selection of relevant writings on faith reflecting both sides of the controversy.
In November 1999 the debate was partially re-kindled when the Ottawa Citizen published a story: "Church ready to ditch Father, Son and Holy Spirit." I see this as a worrisome
progression from the debate started by the "Is Jesus God?" article of October 1997.
Bill Phipps completed his term as Moderator in 2000. This site continues, under a modified title, because the
issues raised have been with us since long before his statements to the press, and will continue long into the future.
Subsequent additions to the site cover matters of general concern to renewal groups.
Whether this site has helped others to a better understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ as Lord I cannot say, though that remains its aim. For myself, however, it has influenced my whole life and my hopes for the one to come. When the site began I knew nothing of the renewal movement, and had just started to attend an Alpha Course. Now, writing in August 2000, I have
co-lead numbers of Alphas, and have been married for more than a year to Laurie-Ann, whom I met through her response to the site, and whose scholarly writings now form its backbone. Praise the Lord for his mysterious ways!
More recently - 2002 - a group of eight Anglical parishes in Vancouver have stood up to their Bishop in opposition to his intention to permit the blessing of same-sex unions. This debate has international repercussions, and not just within the Anglican church. I have added links to this
issue, which is a further eposide in the conflict between liberalism and othodoxy.
Indeed, from this point on, this site will be widening its scope to cover the issue of the erosion of orthodoxy in the face of the march of liberalism, a trend that fills me with sadness, but sparks my ministry and makes it worth while.
- Bill Phipps' interview with Fellowship Magazine, Sept 1997
- The "Is Jesus God?" article - Bob Harvey, Ottawa Citzen, Oct 24, 1997
- Moderator raises Cain Citizen, October 25
- Moderator 'undermines' faith Citizen, October 27
- Bill Phipps' response from the United Church Web Site Early November
- Complete original Citizen interview - courtesy Lorraine Fearnall
- Views reveal fault lines - Calgary Herald, November 8
- Parkdale United meeting, Ottawa, November 10
- Growing uproar, Citizen, November 13
- Church has a place for all of us, Citizen, November 14
- Antonio Gualtieri, Citizen, November 15
- Marion Best The Vancouver Sun, November 15
- Ottawa Ministers Survey 50/50: Citizen, November 19
- Moderator a heretic? Yes / No Citizen, November 21
- Moderator on Spirit Connection Vision TV, November 24
- General Council supports..everyone! (except Jesus) Citizen, November 25
- An Open Letter to General Council by Brian Wilkie, November 26
- Calgary Herald - Editorial and public response
- United in secular faith Globe & Mail Editorial, November 27
- Phipps' remarks may hurt all churches Halifax Herald, Dec 6
- New debate cuts to the heart of Christian doctrine Globe & Mail, Dec 6
- Phipps agrees to cancel Ottawa CBC taping Citizen, December 11
- Three stereotypes and a confirmation - Doug Koop, Christian Week, Jan '98
- Is Jesus all of God? - Sermon by Rev. Victor Shepherd
- The Moderator Controversy by Carole Burton, Feb 98
- Jesus debate rocks United boat - Toronto Star, Feb 8,98
- A Response to Bill Phipps's Vision of the Gospel - Presbyterian Record, Feb 98
- The Divinity of Jesus - Bishop Eddie Marsh, Anglicans for Renewal, Spring 1998
- Resurrecting Good Friday - Bob Harvey, Ottawa Citizen, Apr 10,98
- The Renewal/Reform Groups of the UCC - by Laurie-Ann Zachar, Dec 11, 97
- The United Church of Canada Moderator Controversy - Laurie-Ann Zachar, May 14,98
- United Church reaches out to Jews - by Joan Breckenridge, Globe & Mail
- CS Lewis on Jesus' claim to be God" - by Randy Boswell, Ottawa Citizen, 29 Sept,98
- The Trinity: Irrelevant or Essential? - by Rev. Dr. Andrew Stirling, Fellowship Magazine
- From Church to Cult? - by Don Faris, Community of Concern
- Church ready to ditch 'Father,Son,Holy Spirit' - Hattie Klotz, Ottawa Citizen, Oct 30,99
- Church changes blasted by Anna Maria D'Angelo, North Shore News, Nov 8, 99
- Mainstreaming the mainline - Thomas Oden sees encouraging return to orthodoxy in the UMC
- Evangelism to be banned in Australia?
- White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives - Bush announcement, Jan 29, 2001
- World Day of Prayer for Samoa. WICC changes the original text without authority
From this point, the links below expand beyond the affairs of the United Church of Canada into the wider debate of renewal vs liberalism.
In May 2004, fired up by the same-sex blessings debate in the Anglican church, which I had joined in 2003, I started a new site: Same-sex Blessings, which begins with some of the links below.
- Erosion of protestantism in America - UPI poll, July 2001
- Why I Walked by Anglican theologian Dr. J I Packer, Christianity Today, Jan 2003.
- Ottawa Synod postpones vote on same-sex blessings, Oct 19, 2002.&nsbp; Alternative motion by Rev George Sinclair, Anglican Essentials
- The Passion of The Christ - Official UCCAN statement, Feb 24, 2004
- The Passion of The Christ - Tony Copple's statement (having seen the film)
Bill Phipps is a remarkably articulate politician. He can sway a crowd. He truly believes in his view of Christianity. He is scupulously honest and ethical, and is currently building bridges within the church, and getting the church a lot of editorial. On Friday Nov 7,97 he took part in a conference call with about ten hostile to his views (including me, and I have a copy of the tape), and on Monday Nov 10 he debated with a large crowd at Parkdale United in Ottawa.
He has many supporters, both ordained and lay. He has received letters from former church members saying that his vision was appealing to them, and they wanted to come back to the church. He may feel that he can increase the membership and influence of the United Church by promoting a more liberal understanding of our beliefs.
Compared with Anglican John Spong, he seems conservative. The UCC is far from being the only denomination struggling with doctrine. Visit the 1998 Anglican Lambeth Conference
So why does this make me so sad? Not because Bill has spoken out, but because a sizeable number within the United Church are clearly sympathetic with his views and support him, if the attenders at the Nov 10 gathering are representative. I'm sad because he was elected by people who knew his beliefs. He is doing exactly what he was elected for. But they and he aren't reckoning with some significant Christian forces: those who have always believed in the Jesus of the Bible, newer Christians converted by the likes of John Wimber, Luis Palau, Billy Graham, and Nicky Gumbel of the Alpha movement, the power of the internet when harnessed for the Lord, and let's not discount the Christian music audience continually massaged by singer / evangelists such as Rebecca St. James
and Ruth Fazal.
Those who follow a more scripture-based faith are represented by Renewal Groups within the UC: Church Alive - 905-835-2884; Community of Concern - 800-465-7186, and The National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations, NACC, - 905-826-2104. Fellowship Magazine, 800-678-2607 is a platform of these Renewal Groups. There's a polarization appearing.
There are renewal groups in other denominations, such as Anglican Renewal Ministries - ARM.
On this issue we are debating the essential fabric of our faith. And, with God's grace, this confrontation could become a victory for Jesus against those who would crucify him, again.
We are talking about the very divinity and resurrection of Chist, without which Christ was a fraud and all of us fools to follow him. Bill Phipps said that the divinity of Jesus is irrelevant, and that He is not the only way to God. He sees Jesus as a subset of God; just the part that can be accommodated within the human body. No church expects all members to concur in all aspects. A church should ask for unity in essentials; charity in non-essentials. I see these matters as essential to our basic faith and are stated as such both in the traditional and modern creeds.
Bill Phipps thinks that a watered-down concept of Christianity, more easy to believe and accept, is what people want, and he's willing to give it to them (2 Tim 4,3-4). He's probably closer to Spong than he's yet ready to admit. He sees an influx of people to our church who are more comfortable with a rational interpretation. This is a view that has been taught in many theological colleges for 20 years, places known to be true tests of faith. Spiritual leadership these days often rises up from congregations. (If you are planning to go into the ministry, choose your college carefully.)
No one said it was easy to believe in Jesus as Lord; to believe that He was born by a miracle, and that after He died He returned in the flesh (and ate broiled fish and regular food, unlike an apparition). It takes a leap of faith that even Thomas was not ready for, until he put his fingers into Jesus wounds. If it were all proven beyond the need for faith, every being could accept it without effort, and without reward. When Jesus is truly in your heart, you know He is Lord, and every part of your life becomes a rejoicing tool for God's purpose.
Hearing Bill Phipps debate these matters, I have the impression of a man whose journey of faith has not yet blossomed to that true joy in Christ, that certainty of His power as God incarnate, yet a Christ whose desire is for a personal relationship with us, His special creations. Bill has an intellectual concept that has come from study, rather than a love concept that has come from faith. Worship with any black congregation to see the difference, and then remember that white Christians are now the minority.
E-mailed correspndence on this subject
November 13, 1997 |
November 14 |
November 15,16 |
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December 4 |
December 15 |
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Jan 15, 1998 |
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Sep 6 - the Last Word?
|Articles on faith||Inclusion below does not necessarily imply endorsement of the views expressed by the compiler of this page.|
- Confession of Faith for Christmas Day - Brian Wilkie
- The Incarnation and the Moderator by Victor Shepherd
- The Philippians Hymn - sermon by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, July 16, 2000
- Gail Reid's Nfld Rally Message - from Newfoundland Rally 1999
- The Second Stanza of Christmas by Rev. Dr. Peter Wyatt, Gen.Sec.,
Theology, Faith and Ecumenism, UCCAN
- The 1924 Act incorporating the United Church of Canada
- The Basis of Union The original 20 Articles, 1924
- The Basis of Union The 20 Articles of Faith, 1995 Doctrine
- Don Faris' sermon November 16, 1997
- Fill the Holes by Gail Reid et al...
- A summary of core beliefs - by Don Anderson, 1971
- I Believe... - by Don Anderson, 1998
- Panentheism - by David Fisher
- Project 2000 - Download report, + 2nd phase, third Millennium
Read if you have a strong stomach. This link has a faith health warning.
- A Call for a New Reformation by Bishop John Spong
- Response to Bishop Spong's Call
- Theological Issues by Carole Burton
- Response to Theological Issues, by Tony Copple
- United On-line - A Grass Roots Network For Canada's United and Uniting Church
- United Church on line - UCCAN official on-line site
- The Christian Ladder by Tony Copple
- Does God Speak Through Dreams? - by Laurie-Ann Zachar
- Where's Jesus by Carole Burton, April 1999
United Church of Canada Renewal Groups
- National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations
- Church Alive
- Community of Concern
Other denomination Renewal Groups
- Anglican Renewal Ministries - ARM
- Renewal Ministries - listing
On line periodicals
- Cruxifusion - a new awakening in the UCC, 2010
- Fellowship Magazine. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Jerusalem Christian Review On-Line newspaper. Skeptical of the historical truth of the Bible? - Read this!
United Online: A Grassroots Network For Canada's United and Uniting Church
Conferences, future and past
- INTER-SEED - 2000
Other relevant links
- Church and Faith Trends - a history of renewal in the UCC up to 2010
- Lambeth Conference '98" - Anglican summit
- Billy Graham's 1998 Mission sows seeds in Ottawa - by Tony Copple
- PBS Frontline - Explores the life of Jesus and the rise of Christianity.
- Don Anderson's Site - tireless campaigner for church property rights
- Unofficial report on Faithfulness Today V" by Laurie-Ann Zachar
- Faith Page - by Tony Copple
- Personal statement to my own congregation (GCUC)
- Ottawa Lay School of Theology
- Zingers - Brian Wilkie
- Anglican Conference Canterbury 98
- The Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Tony Copple, Kanata, Ontario. Updated March 18, 2000
A Personal Announcement
ps. By strange coincidence, or by the power of the Lord depending on
your viewpoint, the Lectionary Reading for Sunday November 9, soon after this unfortunate story broke,
was Mark 12: 38 - 40, which another "coincidence" found me unexpectedly reading from the lectern. In the New International Version:
As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets.
They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."
2 Timothy 4:3-4
"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths."