Response to this Site

November 13, 1997

Thanks to all of you who sent in responses today: they are all reproduced verbatim below. For a while Freenet was jammed with the volume of visitors to the site.


To: Rev Katherine Gregory
Fm: Tony Copple
Date: Oct 24,97

Kate: I was so mad when I read the Citzen this morning, and the beliefs of the new moderator.

Here's what I think. Am I out of line? This is up on my faith page, and Iíve sent it as a letter to the Citizen [it was published]

I dissociate myself from the remarks of the new moderator of the United Church of Canada, Bill Phipps, and the 400 delegates in the United Church who elected him to office. He does not believe Jesus was God: headline, p1, Ottawa Citizen, October 24, 1997. I suggest Phipps attends an Alpha course, and reads "The Signature of God". Unfortunately, many outside the United Church will not understand that the moderator is more like a clerk than a spiritual leader. He should not talk about his personal beliefs in public, in case people think he speaks for us. He doesn't speak for me. Helping the poor and fighting the government is not my idea of the essence of Christianity.

Tony Copple, Kanata, On


From: (Kate Gregory)
Subject: Re: United Church moderator
Date: Fri, 24 Oct

Tony: You may be right that the Moderator should not be telling his personal faith stance to newspapers. However, I think the article made it clear that these were Phipps' ideas, not those of the UCC. But, Tony, if people do read this as the Moderator's present faith stance they will know that the UCC allows people to be on different places in their faith journey. Phipps says "I don't believe Jesus was God" and then he says "...but I'm no theologian." (He's wrong there, by the way, we are all theologians as soon as we start discussing the nature of God....but we are all learning, too!) He does not say that the UCC does not believe, or that every member of the UCC does not believe. That particular bit of theology has been argued as long as Jesus has been with us. And the "jury" is still out. The church even split over the question of whether Jesus was the "Son of God" or "God". We do try to live with the understanding that Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God Creator are both "themselves" and "all one" at the same time. It remains one of the great mysteries of the faith. Mystery: not understood. Mr. Phipps also says that "it would be a mistake to say that he does not believe in Jesus. But is Jesus the totality of what God is?" We know a lot about what Jesus was. Jesus was healer, teacher, liberator. Jesus was also a man who "helped the poor" and "fought the government" -both the Roman and the Jewish governments. His disciples helped the poor and fought the government as the government persecuted them and killed them. We are called as his disciples to help the poor and fight the government when the government is seen to be doing injustice. Read the UCC Creed for more on that. I have to agree that that creed is the essence of Christianity, at least for me, at this point in my faith journey.
The Bible is a big book. Parts of it are historical record. Parts of it refer to other historical records (such as the Book of Kings). But other books of the Bible tell us different truths. The story of Job is largely accepted as a work of fiction, and so is Ruth. The Psalms are songs of faith, hymns. Proverbs are wisdom. The gospels are historical but can't be exactly accurate in detail, since they are different. They are different, yet they are the same. They are the same because they do what they need to do: tell us of the story of the life and death and life again of Jesus, of his work, of the people he helped, of the impact he had on the lives of everyone he met. All of these books: stories, poems, histories...all of these tell us the TRUTH: that God loves us, that God has loved us forever, even though we are frail and fallible and make mistakes over and over. And that God has a purpose for us: to take care of the world, and MEND the world where we have broken it: in human relationships, in human/environmental relationships, in brokenness of all kinds. In other words, to help the poor (poor in body, mind, spirit) and fight the government (if and when it is involved in injustice, or in "breaking the world".) Even God fought the government (eg Saul) after people decided that they had to have a mortal king, instead of God being the King. Even God's choices went wrong sometimes (Saul, David, Aaron, Peter).
Remember, too, that you did not hear the whole interview. Remember that the people at General Council are often moved by the Holy Spirit to do what they do, and unless you are there and see it, it's hard to understand. But remember as well that Bill Phipps is a human being, with whom "God is not finished yet" (as the saying goes) just like you and me. And remember that the Anglican prayer book and our old UCC prayer book always called us to pray for our leaders, political and religious. Don't give up on Bill Phipps or the UCC. Access the web page ( and read the moderators page and let him know what you think ( . Keep in touch. Let me know what you think.


To Kate Gregory
Fm Tony Copple
Date Feb, 98

Kate, it's an age since you sent me this, and I've read so much since then and created my moderator web site ( which tracks the progress of the controversy.

I would like to insert your thoughts which are very well written into the first response page. Do you mind being up there on the www?

There's much discussion on whether Jesus = God.
Here's my take: Jesus forgave sins. Only God can forgive sins. QED.



From: (Kate Gregory)
Subject: Re: United Church moderator
Date: Sat, 31 Jan, 98

Yes, but. Jesus also prayed to God, his Abba (Father). Would he pray to God if he was God? Not QED yet!
Sure, if you want to put my thoughts up on the WWW, go ahead. I read them over and still think they are valid, though we have all been through a lot of discernment since then. You could leave the date of origin on them, so people will know when I wrote them.



From: Todd Smaridge[]
Sent: November 13, 1997 9:36 AM
To: Copple, Tony
Subject: Faith and the United Church

Hello Mr. Copple,
Our paths cross again. A few weeks ago I attended a seminar put on by Eagle Consulting Services, where you impressed me with the ethics of your business philosophy - and again today I find you in the Ottawa Citizen with a reference to your web site on the comments and controversy of our Moderator.

I have been asked by a minister at Dominion Chalmers to come up with a web site to broker some of the discussion which is flaming up about the basis of beliefs in our National Church body. I hope that we may collaborate in the near future and pool our efforts.


Todd Smaridge


From: Mark Raegele[]
Sent: November 13, 1997 2:40 PM
Subject: Faith Not Enough

I was raised in a United Church family and in fact my grandfather was a UCC minister. I respect the way my parents lived and am convinced that Christian belief was a major factor in molding their lives - and mine. However, I could not blindly follow that faith and accept the "miracle" stories with which the Bible is riddled. As a result, I have not attended church seriously for about 40 years.

Bill Phipps has, by his courage, reached out to a large portion of the population and said its OK to think. He has enunciated what many of us lapsed Christians have thought for years and provided something that we can "believe" in.

I say bravo and hope that all those currently caught up in the hysteria of countering what they see as an attack on their religion, will eventually pause and consider the relevance of Rev Phipps' words.


Mark & Lorraine Fearnall
Response to United Church Moderator
If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject
what you like, it is not the Gospel you believe,
but yourself. - Augustine


From: R. Pastuch\L. Solvason[]
Sent: November 13, 1997 11:22 PM
To: Copple, Tony
Subject: Moderator's Comments

The reaction of the United Church to Mr. Phipps' comments is not surprising, and I must say, hit very close to home. However, what is of much more concern is the fact that our dear Mr. Phipps is an ordained minister of the United Church. How does he reconcile his apparent beliefs with his calling? I don't see how he can be both a minister of the United Church and have the views he has.

To the matter at hand, with the views he has, HE SHOULD NOT have run as Moderator. I do not support his views, how can I, as they are contrary to the United Church, or any Church for that matter. I'm deeply hurt, but also strengthened, that there could be someone in our own midst who wants to tear us apart, turn us into a charity, or what??? Our Mr. Phipps doesn't even seem to be sure?

The question was asked on television earlier today. What do you preach on Easter??? I find that other ministers have a problem preaching on Easter and Chistmas was the answer. But at least the others believe!!

Simply and to the point, Mr. Phipps, leave or be impeached, if that is possible.

Russ Pastuch
Lynn Solvason
Kristjan Solvason-Brown
Kristine Solvason-Pastuch


From: John "Jack" E. Falt[]
Sent: November 13, 1997 11:52 AM
To: Copple, Tony
Subject: Support for the Moderator

I want to proclaim my support for Bill Phipps. We are in this controversy because although this has been taught at theological schools for years, it has not filtered down to the pew. Mainly because the "big givers" were the older people who were also very conservative.

To me my belief in the message of Jesus has nothing to do with his divinity. I do believe that Jesus is the Son of God and I also believe that we are are children of God. Otherwise the the gosple message is a mockery. Whether there ever was a physical resurrection of the physical man Jesus in no way interferes with my belief that Jesus was resurrected. A group of people were profoundly changed even though they at first believed that their leader had been killed.

For to long we have emphasized the divinity of Jesus without also celebrating his humanity. Unless he too is human how can we mere mortals expect to be able to be joined with him after we die.

As I understand it, Alpha is geared for beginning Christians. It is time for more members to moved out of kindergarten and move up the Christian Education path. I am more impressed with opinions expressed by those who have studied at an academic level than parroting scripture verses that are out of context both within the Bible story or historical perspective.

Jack Falt


From: Paul Ivany[]
Sent: November 13, 1997 11:08 PM
To: Copple, Tony
Subject: The Moderator's comments

Tempest in a teapot! Phipps is saying nothing new. These are views which have been expressed within the United Church, Divinity Schools, and Universities for decades.

Phipps is not taking the easy way out. It would be easy for him to follow tradition, follow the well-trodden path, not question anything. His challenge demands more of my faith than the oft-times trite repetition of ancient creeds which fail to speak to the depths of my being.

Phipps demands more of me. God expects more of me. Who is Jesus? For me. Today. In my life. This is a difficult question, a challenging question, for me a fundamental question. I need to find an answer relevant to me, in 1997, in my situation.

Allow the question to be asked with the honesty and integrity with which Phipps approaches the issue. Consider the answers. Allow God to speak. Don't fall into the trap of easy condemnation. What is Phipps saying? What deep yearnings is he attempting to voice? Don't castigate the man. Encourage him. Bless him. Thank him. For allowing us to ask the questions that many have felt but, perhaps, dared not utter.

This is not the end of faith, this is the beginning of new growth and new life.

Thanks for your web page. Thank God for the United Church, which gives us the freedom to deal with difficult questions.

Paul Ivany
Norval, Ontario


Sent: November 13, 1997 1:59 PM
To: Copple, Tony
Subject: The Teachings of Jesus

If your intent in quoting Mark 12:38-40 was to suggest that Bill Phipps is one who is heading for punishment then I suggest you re-read the passage along with the October 24 article in the Ottawa Citizen. In the gospel passage Jesus is clearly talking about those who rob from the poor and outcasts of society ("devour widows' houses). It was the writers of scripture who were concerned about heaven and hell and divinity. If you read the newspaper article you will note that Phipps comes very close to the concerns of Jesus. (eg. "Your soul is lost unless you care about people starving in the streets.")

Personally, I like a church and a moderator who reflect the teachings of Jesus.

Irene Greenwood


From: Jack Waller[]
Sent: November 13, 1997 2:37 PM
To: Copple, Tony

Good afternoon!

I am deeply saddened that the moderator of the United Church has chosen to further erode support and interest in the church.

The M&S cannot afford to support Port Wallis United, who is bulging at the seams, until at least the year 2000.

I have 3 sibling with families to whom I have entrusted my faith. At what price is it being undermined.

The Basis of Union 2.4-2.11, and o2o-21 on the Order of Ministry are tenets which I accept, not because of the printed word, but articulate for me, as do the creeds, ancient and modern, what I know to be truths, as I witness to the love of God.

As an Easter person, having just been traumatized by the death of two of the most significant persons in my life, I know that I would not be able the tenacity within myself to believe.

The effect of such comment as those of Mr. Phipps marganize those of us who believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, as I have alluded to, in the creeds of the church universal.

May the God of love sustain and strengthen us as we stand united.


Jack Waller +

Matt. 28: 17-20