by Carole Burton
February 1998

It all started with an interview (1 3/4 hours long) on Oct.24 with the Ottawa Citizen's editorial board at Rev.Phipps' request (because they did a negative article about him after he was elected as Moderator. Probably he thought he could win them over!) Complete transcript of interview available at United Online website.

2. Phipps made similar statements during November in his subsequent interviews with the media e.g. CBC Newsworld with Bill Cameron, CBC Radio "This Morning" with Michael Enright, and at large gatherings in Parkdale UC, Ottawa (300 present) and Metropolitan UC, London (500 present). i.e. it was not a one- time statement.

3. He posted a statement on the UC website on Oct. 30, apologizing for any hurt he had caused by his remarks, but not retracting his earlier statements! He reiterated his belief that Jesus is not fully God. He said, "In Jesus we know as much of God as is possible in a human being." He said that the Ottawa Citizen, "with one or two minor exceptions, did a good job of summarizing the discussion." So he was NOT misrepresented by the media!

4. General Council Executive met in Toronto in Nov. and a major topic was the Moderator's remarks and the ensuing controversy. They released a statement (available at UC website) which in effect says doctrine is not important in the UC, therefore they would not discipline the Moderator for the views he expressed. In other words, they upheld him in these beliefs.

5. Because of all the controversy (and maybe the financial effects!), Phipps made a NEW statement on "Spirit Connection" (Vision TV) on Nov. 24 which caused even more confusion. He said, "I believe with all my heart and soul that God was in Jesus reconciling the world to God's self; that as much of God that was possible was revealed in Jesus of Nazareth and therefore we can say with confidence that Jesus was the Son of God, that Jesus is the Word made flesh, that Jesus is God incarnate."

Many of us believe that in this statement Phipps is using orthodox Christian phrases in order to pacify UC people, but he MEANS something different by the phrases. Jesus is SOME of God incarnate, SOME of God made flesh. By this he can still hold to his belief that Jesus reveals as much of God as is possible in a human being- but he is not fully God.

HOWEVER, Phipps stated clearly, at both the Parkdale UC and Metropolitan UC meetings in November, that he believes we are NOT to WORSHIP Jesus. He said, "We worship God. We do not worship Jesus. Jesus pointed us to the God we are to worship." And WORSHIP is the acid test of whether or not we truly believe Jesus is divine.

At the meeting in Parkdale UC in Ottawa, a woman stood and read Colossians 1:19 from her Bible (re. Jesus- "In him all the fullness of God dwells"), and asked Rev. Phipps if he believed this. He said no, he did not believe it. (She might have asked him also if he believed Colossians 2:9 and John 1:1,2,14.)

In his new statement, Rev. Phipps said, "I also believe in the mystery and power of the Resurrection...", but basically he believes that the INFLUENCE of Jesus is still powerful in the world today. He does not believe that Jesus is actually still ALIVE and present in the world. Jesus is "WAS", not "IS".

In his Nov.24 statement, Phipps said Jesus is the Son of God. But many today say we are ALL sons and daughters of God-- in the New Age sense.

He also said in the "new" statement, "I believe... God was in Jesus reconciling the world to God's self". But I believe he is using "reconciliation with God" only in the sense in which it was used in the report adopted at the last General Council, "Mending the World" - NOT in the orthodox Christian meaning of reconciliation which was accomplished by the Atonement, when Jesus bore our sins on the cross. (What on earth DO they mean by this "reconciliation"? We need to press them on this. It is VITAL to the Christian faith.) Note: Reconciliation, in orthodox Christian teaching, is something which must be individually appropriated. It is not a blanket coverage.

6. On Dec.20, Rev. Phipps was on CBC Newsworld's "Face-off" with Rev. David Snihur, and clearly stated once again his beliefs-- which were far from Biblical, orthodox Christian faith. This show was taped on Dec.11, AFTER the Nov.24 statement on Spirit Connection.

Our moderator is not the only one in the United Church who holds views which are contrary to the basics of our Christian faith. Many of our UC theology professors believe this way also, and many UC ministers. Several Presbyteries have come out in support of the Moderator' s beliefs, also some congregations. Other Presbyteries and many congregations are totally opposed to such theology, and have conveyed this to General Council Executive.

The President and Executive Secretary of London Conference sent an open letter in November to London Conference, supporting the views of the Moderator.

On the Internet, there is a website called Project 2000, set up for debate on the Twenty Articles of Faith, with a view to presenting a new doctrinal statement to the next General Council in the year 2000. Peter vanderKam, the facilitator of this website, has posted a letter on United Online stating that he understands there is a move underway to declare the Twenty Articles of Faith a historic document.

A real struggle is shaping up within the United Church, between those of orthodox Christian faith, and those who want a more "modern" faith-- one which rejects the divinity of Jesus, his resurrection, the authority of the Bible, etc. Which way will our church go?


  • Sign the "Christmas Confession;"
  • Write General Council Executive protesting the unbiblical views of the Moderator;
  • Appoint a delegate to District who will speak up to express the views of your congregation (most of our delegates never speak in District meetings.)
  • Respond to the study document sent out by the national church -- "Who is Jesus for the World Today"
  • Order Fellowship Magazine for your congregation, to keep informed (free copies available from 1-800-678-2607)

    INFORMATION AVAILABLE on the Internet:

  • United Online: united-online.html
  • Rev. Mark Fearnall's website
  • Tony Copple's website
  • Rev. Brian Wilkie's website


  • Maclean's Dec.15 cover story "Is Jesus Really God?"
  • Globe and Mail editorial Nov.27 "United in a Secular Faith"