An open letter to the General Council Executive of the United Church of Canada.

November 26, 1997.

One is tempted to say that the United Church General Council Executive's declarations on thewhence and whither of our doctrine(November 25) are irrelevant. The church's doctrinalstandard is safeguarded by the requirement that any change to the Basis of Union requiresapproval from a majority of presbyteries or, if advisable, congregations throughout the church.Further, no change is permitted which would define membership by standards foreign to theNew Testament of the Bible. So the Executive is correct to say that our faith has been "expressedfurther in such documents as the 'New Creed' [although it has always been meekly called 'ANew Creed' until now!](1968...), 'The Lordship of Jesus' (1978), and the Authority andInterpretation of Scripture [AIS] (1992)." It would be wrong to say that our faith has been revisedby these documents.

Further, General Council (1992) never approved the "AIS" study document. It was "received,"which is to say the report was politely accepted (perhaps the reader has "received" certainwedding presents in the same way). In response to the document, the 1992 General Councilstated "[we] endorse the following standards of evaluation for any claim to authority in the lifeand work of the United Church of Canada:

-God's historic self-revelation in Jesus Christ is crucial in establishing what has legitimateauthority in Christian community.

-Legitimate authority, in every case, enhances the community of the whole created earth.

-The Word of God, in every case, is larger than the text of the Bible."

The Council went on to "endorse the following convictions:

-God calls us to engage the Bible as foundational authority as we seek to live the Christianlife.

-God calls us to engage the Bible as a church seeking God's community with all people,living creatures, and the earth.

-God calls us to engage the Bible to experience the liberating and transforming word ofGod.

-God calls us to engage the Bible with an awareness of our theological, social and culturalassumptions.

-God calls us to engage the Bible with a sense of sacred mystery, and in dynamicinteraction with human experience, understanding, and heritage.

-God calls us to engage the Bible trusting God's Spirit to enliven our understanding, andto empower our acting."

As you can see, the actions of General Council in this matter give no shelter to the Moderator orto the Executive. It is plain to see that Bill Phipps, has dismissed the "historic self-revelation inJesus Christ," and "the Bible as foundational authority as we seek to live the Christian life,"anddisqualified himself from his offices. Phipps quotes the Jesus of the Bible at will, but asAugustine apparently wrote, "If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you donot like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself."

Much as I would like to see this controversy come to an end, it must not end with our Executiveignoring their mandate to do their legitimate work of upholding the constitution of our Church asit is given to them by the Church.

Mr. Phipps can be lauded for his many gifts, not the least of which is his integrity, andforthrightness in expressing his views. Perhaps there are many who do not reach even thisstandard. But neither his gift with words, nor the Executive's, can hide the fact that he does notbelieve in: the authority of Scripture,

-the full humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ,

-His death for the sins of all the world,

-His resurrection from the dead, nor even

-that by grace, the Father has determined that our eternal destiny will be decided by Jesuswho died for us all, rather than by the admittedly poor record of our own righteousness.

The church "is organized for the confession of His [Jesus'] name, for the public worship of God,for the administration of the sacraments, for the upbuilding of the saints, and for the universalpropagation of the Gospel;"{Article 15, Basis of Union}, and the one elected as Moderator hasshown that he cannot encourage the church toward these goals. Mr. Phipps has made itimpossible for the Executive to quietly await his repentance, or they will discourage themembership, and severely test their loyalty.

Consider the question this way: If the Cancer Society discovered that their chairman was atobacco lobbyist, what action would their executive have to take, and how quickly? And if theirexecutive took no action, what action would Cancer Society supporters take and how soon?General Council Executive itself suggests an answer in our context through Monday'srecommendation (#9) directing "the General Secretary to respond to letters specificallyrequesting that the Moderator be removed from office by informing the writers. . . of the optionsavailable to them."

With this warning to the Executive to show some initiative, and with their encouragement, I mustof course take initiative myself. Therefore, with thanks to the Executive for affirming theFaith expressed in the documents of our church, I request that the Moderator be removedfrom the offices of moderator and ordained ministry: for the healing of the church, forwitness to the truth, and in loving rejection of all his heresy. Would Virginia Coleman,General Secretary of the General Council, please inform me of the proper procedures to facilitatethis.

To the whole body of the Church, I appeal to the 18th article of the Basis of Union, "that althoughthe visible church may contain unworthy members and is liable to err, yet believers ought not tolightly separate themselves from its communion;" instead let us put away all those things which divide us from the source of our unity, and as one body "Stand up, Stand up for Jesus,"our Risen Saviour, our Lord, and our God.


Rev. Brian Wilkie.

Dominion-Chalmers United Church

Ottawa, Ontario.

E-mail Brian &Erica Wilkie