*********** Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 21:30:41 -0800 From: Marie Brydges Reply-to: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com 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 Church"? 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 here?" 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[SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: November 14, 1997 10:05 AM To: Copple, Tony Subject: moderator's commentsGreetings:
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.
****************** From: Allan Taylor[SMTP:email@example.com] 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? ****************** From: firstname.lastname@example.org[SMTP:email@example.com] 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 himself: 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 work. 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 pulpits. 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 disciplined." 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.
Dr. Ronald R. Read
Nov 14, 1997