Response to this Site

November 14, 1997

Date:          Fri, 14 Nov 1997 21:30:41 -0800
From:         Marie Brydges
To:  ,

     This letter is in response to the articles appearing in local papers
concerning the Right Rev. Bill Phipps, Moderator of the United Church of
Canada.  Christian Doctrines are inherent or implicit in most hymns. 
Therefore, I would like to pose some more questions to Rev. Phipps:

     "What hymnal would he suggest be used in the United Church?"  The
recently published "VOICES UNITED" hymnal has included in the first page of
the "Index of Topics and Categories": "Holy, Holy, Holy" - "The Day of
Resurrection" - "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" - "All Hail the Power of
Jesus' Name" - "What Child is This " - "Lift High the Cross" - "Just as I
Am" - "Amazing Grace" and many more hymns with similar content.  There are
38 pages in this index with 145 hymns listed on the first page alone.

     Our church has recently spent several thousand dollars, generously
donated in memory of loved ones, to purchase this new hymnal.  Is Rev.
Phipps insinuating that it is full of misconceptions?  Would he suggest a
new committee be formed to "once again" produce a suitable United Church
hymnal?  Should it include such hymn titles as: "Jesus Was Not God" -
"Christmas and Easter are Deceptions" - "Your Church Wedding is
Unnecessary" - "I Don't Know if There's a Heaven or Hell" - "I Have No Idea
Where You Go When You Die."  Would these new hymn titles be of assistance
to the Moderator in his responsibility as noted in the United Church
"MANUAL" section 511: "to give leadership to the United Church, especially
in spiritual things, quickening in the hearts of the people a sense of God
as revealed in Christ, and heartening and strengthening the whole United

     I am in a quandary.  In my church, I am "Music Minister" and I choose
music, teach, accompany and direct five music groups: Senior Choir, Junior
Choir, Praise Group, Youth Orchestra, and Singspiration (young children's
singing time).  I am also responsible for choosing some hymns for each
worship service.  I ask Mr. Phipps and his supporters, "how can I continue
to look into the faces of pre-schoolers to grandparents and teach them the
misconceptions you say are found throughout the Bible?"

     Just one final question: "if you are right, where do we go from

                                Marie Brydges  A.R.C.T., R.M.T., C.R.C.C.O.
                                                          Minister of Music
                                         Trinity-St. Andrew's United Church
                                                           Renfrew, Ontario

From: 	Scott Worsfold[]
Sent: 	November 14, 1997 10:05 AM
To: 	Copple, Tony
Subject: 	moderator's comments

My name is Scott Worsfold. I am an ordained minister in the United Church, although I have since left that career, and I am a practicing lawyer in St. John's Newfoundland. I for one applaud our moderator. All the while I was studying theology, I kept asking myself, "why are the lay people of our church not exposed to interesting and challenging theological ideas and discussion?". The inexorable conclusion to which I kept being drawn is that the leadership of the church chooses to keep its head in the sand, much like the proverbial ostrich. Clifford Hospital, the principal of Queen's Theological College while I was studying there, wrote a book entitled "Breakthrough". I will outline for you the premise of the work (although here I must assert the disclaimer that I am NOT making any claims to represent the views of the author, as it has been a few years since I read the book). However, my understanding was that throughout history, God (as divinity) has made available to humanity many "breakthrough" moments, in which the divine has been revealed to the human. One of these, the most significant for Christians, is the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Buddhists, it has been the teachings of the Buddha. For Muslims, it is the incarnations of Krishna, for Islam, the prophet Mohammed.

It is so egocentric for Christians to think that they have cornered the market on the truth of the Divine Being we call God. Who is to say that the eastern spiritual traditions cannot bring the people who practice them close to the Divine? Who are you, or I or anyone else to suggest that these people have no concept of God, and cannot be close to God because they have not accepted "Jesus as Lord". You may say, "Well, that's what it says in scripture". But there are also prohibitions in scripture about wearing clothes made out of a mixture of fabric. There are references to plucking out your eyes, and cutting off limbs if they offend you. There are stories about the beloved King David deciding he wanted another man's wife, and subsequently "taking her" by having her husband arbitrarily killed. All are in scripture. But the conservatives in this Church pick those that they want to "proof text", and ignore the rest, which is very convenient, if you ask me.

I believe that all the Moderator is attempting to convey is that we, as Christians, must use the God-given intellect and reason which we have been given, to keep dialoguing and attempting to understand. The road to spiritual wholeness and understanding is a life-long process of discovery, learning, dialoguing, and "becoming". I have serious difficulty in believing those who say they are already "there" and that there is nothing further they need to know.

My Old Testament professor at Queen's, the late Hal Parker, used some beautiful imagery to describe our relationship with the Scriptures. The Isrealites, as they were wandering through the desert after the Exodus, kept a "tent of meeting" at every camp, so that people could go in there and experience the presence and closeness of God. That is what the Bible is for us. A tent of meeting, where we experience and learn about the presence and closeness of God. It was written over many thousands of years, by many thousands of authors, who all had their own theological interpretations. Each book by each author reflects the social, political, theological and economic issues that were affecting the people of that time. The Bible brings us many insights and theological revelations. But we are still called to use our intellect and reason to find spiritual meaning in our own, very troubled times.


Scott Worsfold


From: 	Allan Taylor[]
Sent: 	November 14, 1997 7:11 AM
To: 	Copple, Tony
Subject: 	The Bill Phipps controversy

At Parkdale last Monday Mr. Phipps said at the outset that his remarks
to the editorial board of The Citizen were far less controversial than
many pronouncements by his predecessors, and he identified Robert
McClure and Ernest Marshall Howse. Does anyone out there recall details
which would substantiate that statement?


Sent: 	November 14, 1997 12:29 AM
To: 	Copple, Tony
Subject: 	The truth as I see it re Jesus as God.

Hi Tony,

I am responding to your comments I read today on your web page
regarding your views on the comments made recently by United 
Church moderator Phipps. I am a born again Christian and I 
believe that we share a good number of beliefs regarding our 
faith. I do not wish to judge you or anyone else by what I have
to say but I do want to let you know what I believe to be the 
truth in this matter. 

It saddens me to hear some of the things that I hear coming 
from professing Christians. In Mr. Phipps we have a man 
proclaiming to be a follower of Christ who does not even believe
that Christ was God - I say that he cannot call himself a 
Christian if he does not even believe what Christ said about 

John 14:9-10 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Phillip, even
after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has 
seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the 
Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that 
the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my
own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his

In 1 John 4 we are taught to test the spirits and that "
" ... every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God ...".

I also disagree with your the basis of your arguments against
Mr. Phipps. You use a poor example in the lifting up of the 
United church policy to accept homosexual clergy in your 

Leviticus 18:22 "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a 
woman; that is detestable.

Regarding elders or leaders in the church:

Titus 1:8 "Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what 
is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and 

If you hold up unholy people as your leaders it should not
be any great surprise to you that your church will be led 
into oblivion. If you re-write scripture to satisfy your
beliefs you will fail.

In Christ's Love,
Stephen Bernard

Thank you for your web page. I am proud to be a member of the United Church of Canada. I have specifically entitled my e-mail message "Prophet or Heretic?" to highlight the sad fact that we have let the media polarize communication within and among us by failing to allow our moderator to express his views fully before disseminating them throughout the country. To read the letters to the editors of the Ottawa Citizen and the Calgary Herald, or to read the responses to this web page, one would get the impression that this man is either a saint or a demon. There seems to be no middle stance, no common ground for discussion. To me, this is a double tragedy. On the one hand, Rev. Phipps has not been given a fair opportunity to tell the wider church just exactly what he did mean, and to put his comments into a broader (ie-more complete) context. On the other hand, we are now in a position where rational communication about this very important issue is difficult, if not impossible; the long knives are out, sides have been chosen, and our options have been severely limited.
    I have had the distinct pleasure of being a member of Scarboro United Church, Rev. Phipps' home congregregation. I know him, as you have stated in your web page, to be a man of the highest degree of integrity and committment. Although our congregation contains both liberal and conservative members, he has lovingly ministered to all of his flock, and in addition to his great passion for social justice, he suffuses us equally with a deep, rich spirituality. Although there is clearly great resistance to Rev. Phipps particular views regarding the divinity of Jesus and the nature of the resurrection, there is, within our own congregation, the same disparity of belief that we see mirrored on the editorial pages and in this web page. It is a tribute to Rev. Phipps that this diversity of belief exists without rancor under a single United Church roof, and yet all of us feel valued and included in the life and mission of Scarboro United. It is vital to understand that this diversity already exists within all of the United Churches in Canada and it will not go away if we attempt to sweep it under the carpet and ignore it. Let me be consoling to those who feel betrayed by the media portayal of Rev. Phipps, and let me additionally reassure us all that Bill Phipps is not our enemy, indeed I believe that he is a man who so closely follows the path that Jesus laid out for us in our holy scriptures that we as a church could have no greater ally. I propose that we make use of this ally to bring this issue to the front stage of the United Church for honest, respectful debate that will empower us, rather than to call for him to recant and resign, violent acts which will only serve to embitter, weaken and diminish us.
    Once again, I would like to thank you for providing this web page so that we may have an opportunity to talk to each other. I look forward to seeing how we as a church family deal with this issue. I would remind us, in closing, that the rest of Canada is also watching to see the outcome. Let us not lose this opportunity.

Dr. Ronald R. Read
Calgary, Alberta
Nov 14, 1997