Church changes blasted
||N. Van minister speaks out
NEWS photo Mike Wakefield
REV. Dr. Don Faris says a proposed new service book is not biblically based and will never be used in his church, North Lonsdale United.
By Anna Marie D'Angelo
THE minister of the North Lonsdale United Church is concerned that his denomination is turning into a cult.
Rev. Dr. Don Faris wrote an article published last month about a proposed new service (prayer) book. The article -- From Church to Cult -- was printed in Concern, a publication which attributes itself as being produced "by the community of concern within the United Church of Canada."
Faris is critical of the proposed new 700-page service book called Celebrate God's Presence. In it "God" is replaced with "Creator" or the politically correct "Mother and Father." "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," is replaced with "Creator, Liberator or Healer."
"The United Church has just gone bonkers. It's gone far too far and opened itself up to proclaiming ideologies instead of the Bible" said Faris.
Faris has a PhD in Christian doctrine from New College in Edinburgh University. He ministers to a congregation of about 170 families.
Faris said the United Church is abandoning its reason for being by pleasing ideological pressure groups such as what he called radical feminists and the gay-lesbian bisexual lobby group.
Faris said that Jesus' prayers were recorded in the Bible with the word "abba" which was the Aramiac word for "dear father."
"We have no right to project human sexuality into heaven," said Faris. But we name God the way Jesus did. And we have no right to change that."
Faris said he is not a homophobe and is aware of other negative labels his views are garnering in some places. He said he supports the teaching of the Christian church.
Faris referred to the Bible's John 17 in which Jesus prays that all Christians may be one and that the world may be one. Faris said that Biblical text was the motto of the United Church: Christian unity.
"When the United Church stops naming God the Father, and goes on with this mother and father God bit, that turns off other Christians," said Faris.
He also took issue with a change in the traditional Baptismal formula that involves the words "baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." The words are replaced with the Creator, Liberator and Healer.
He said the Baptismal formula change will separate the United Church from other Christian churches. Faris vows never to use the proposed service book in his church.
United Church of Canada program officer Fred Graham in Toronto said the proposed service book has been distributed to Faris and about 100 people in the church for comment.
"We welcome all comments. I wish he (Faris) knew how many are writing to agree with his points," said Graham.
He added that the decision to change or use the new $65 service book will be made in April by the church's general council executive in Toronto.
Graham said that since 1980, the United Church of Canada has had an official policy of "inclusive language for human beings and broadening the images for God."
Graham said the service book warns that if the new wording of the Baptismal formula is used, other churches might not recognize the baptism.
The United Church of Canada has 700,000 members and is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. Faris said the church membership has declined over the last 35 years from 1.1 million. He said the decline is attributed to a movement away from an evangelical, biblically based Trinitarian theology. He said a lot of United Churches have become social centres or community centres, instead of places where the Gospel is spread.