Hello. First of all let me thank you for taking the time on Monday, October
27, 1997 to talk with me on the phone. I also appreciate your willingness
to address concerns in Ottawa at Parkdale United Church.
From our telephone conversation there is no doubt that we would disagree in many areas of theology. We could probably have long discussions on many of them, but I note just one issue that I see as of utmost importance… the deity of Jesus Christ. This teaching, I believe, has great implications for our unity and worship. Let me explain.
In answering questions at Parkdale United Church you said at one point that we worship God, "we don't worship Christ" [I am not the best note-taker but I believe this is accurate]. In truth I wanted to yell out, "I do". And I think that is the seriousness of the issue. Can we, or can we not worship Christ? I do not see how we could possibly honor both views for when (and if) we are together you (in good conscience) could not worship Jesus Christ, while I must (in good conscience). How can we be united in worship when we cannot agree as to who can receive worship? If you are correct about Christ, I am committing idolatry… the worship of a creature!
That is a serious issue, but believe it or not it is not my main reason for writing. My main concern revolves around the United Church Basis of Union, in particular our Doctrine, and what is known as "essential agreement". In our original telephone conversation I read the following to you from the Basis of Union… "We worship Him in the unity of the Godhead and mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons of the same substance, equal in power and glory."
I then asked whether you believed that and you responded, "I don't believe that".
I then read the following, again from the Basis of Union, "We believe that faith in Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive Him, trust in Him, and rest upon Him alone for salvation…" I emphasized, if I recall correctly, the "alone" aspect of this confession. Again I asked what you thought of this and you responded, "I don't believe that".
It is in this context that I decided to ask you one question at Parkdale United Church. Your response was that you are in essential agreement with the Basis of Union. Unfortunately, because of time limitations you were not able to tell me what you mean by "essential agreement".
I admit that I am confused. I do not understand how a person can say they don't believe something but then affirm that they are in essential agreement with it? Is it just the two statements that I read to you from the Basis of Union that you don't believe, and perhaps you agree with all the rest? That might explain how you could be in essential agreement, but I don't want to answer the question for you.
I am asking if you could explain this to me, please. How can you not believe something but still be in essential agreement with it? I am baffled. I know there can be and are differences in interpretation, but there are also limitations to interpretations… one can't make "agree" mean "disagree". We cannot make the words mean anything we want them to mean. Can we? I thank you for listening to my concerns and I look forward to your reply. Yours,
Pastor, Shawville United Church. (819) 647-2624.
PS. I should let you know. I am publishing this letter on the Internet at
my web site as well as on the Forum at United Online. There will also be a
few people who receive a copy of this letter via email. I do this for two
reasons. First, I hope that others with the same concerns will see your
response, and second, I hope this provides an opportunity for dialogue with
others. Of course, I will publish your response to the same places.
If you should care to examine my web-site you can find it at
http://www.iosphere.net/mfearnall/response.htm and should you wish you can respond by email to me at email@example.com
Again, I thank you for your time and willingness to discuss these important matters.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Moderator's CommentsHi all,
Anyway, bravo to Mr. Phipps. I come from the generation that was force-fead Christianity. In grade school we were taught religion and prepared for the sacraments etc. Not once did any of my teachers ask me what I believed they just told me what I should believe. Is that right? I don't think so. For about 12 years or so I have not gone to church because of this. I am quite angry at the church for doing it and am very concerned when I see someone like Mr. Phipps persecuted for his/her beliefs. Its like a Spanish Inquisition.
I do, however; find the reaction quite typical. I understand the need for human beings to have something larger than themselves to believe in. I have also noticed that conservatives don't like to have their faith questioned...it just doesn't occur to them that they could be wrong and that the true path to God could be through Budda or the like. Questions must be answered if religion is to find a place in the 21st century.
Because of Mr.Phipps I am seriously considering going back to the church. But only if things start to change. We need to re-evaluate a belief system that is grossly outdated. Unless more people like Mr. Phipps come forward, the conservatives will see their worse nightmare come true...religion will die and technology will take its place.
P.S. How can I contact Mr.Phipps?
[Answered: by e-mail to email@example.com]
From: firstname.lastname@example.org ("Steve") To: email@example.com Subject: A message from God Date: Mon, 17 NovYou mention "Even though the Bible clearly speaks out against homosexuality, it is not for us, but for God, to judge." Rightly so I believe. This is reminiscent of the attempt to stone the adulteress. 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone'. As you know only the adulteress and Jesus remained. Jesus was teaching that indeed we are not to judge 'Judge not and you shall not be judged'. However, to the adulteress, he gave a stern command 'Go and sin no more'. She committed a sin much like the homosexuals are in 'using their bodies for unnatural purposes.' I do not condemn them nor anyone, but we must not confuse the command for us not to condemn/judge with Gods instructions on the matter. For the wages of sin is death.
As for the divinity of Christ, the Bible can not be clearer: 'In the beginning the Word was with God ...All things came into being through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into being.' 'The Word became a human being and lived among us' . Jesus said 'You are from below, I am from above. You belong to this world, I do not belong to this world. 'Jesus said to them, In very truth I tell you, before Abraham was born, the I AM existed, am I am he.'
All of the above quotes are found in the book of John. Bill Phipps may wish to read John again.
'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'. I ask you, who is the "us" in this quote taken from Genesis? (Jesus said he was from above and not of this world)
As to your the comment that Jesus is not the only way to salvation see John 3 vs 35, 36 and John 5 vs 22, 23.
I don't judge you nor Bill Phipps nor anyone. I know this though, If it is from God, it will stand, if it originates not from God it will fall, eventually. None of us are without sin, no not one, and only through the grace of Jesus will we be resurrected to a new and everlasting life-- for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever should believe in him should have everlasting life.
Bill Phipps word will be swept away if they are not in accordance with Gods word.
Subject: Democracy? Date: Mon, 17 NovLest anyone is considering counting the votes, pro and con, it is sad but not relevant to my faith how many are persuaded with Rev. Phipps that some of my beliefs may in fact be psychological phenomena or fairytales, like Santa Claus. My guiding light is Jesus Christ (God seems somewhat more remote but I pray to him also) and I feel Christ’s presence in many aspect of my life, in terms of events that happen and decisions I am guided to make. This is not my imagination; the ordering of my affairs, looking back, has been along a narrow path towards an ever more satisfying life and relationship with him. If he can guide the life of an insignificant speck such as I among 4 billion humans on earth, and if his Word contains hundreds of overt prophecies fulfilled with his life and death, with countless more coded into the very letters and words of the Hebrew text, and if he can create a Universe so detailed and diverse based on principles of physics and mathematics that our brightest cannot yet fully fathom, then miracles and resurrection are relatively simple for him to achieve and for me to believe in their entirety.
The Bible is far the most reliable document we have from its era, and we doubt it at our peril, (except obviously semantics in those areas where the writers spoke in words available to them in those days, describing events in metaphor). Thomas found it a hard truth, until he placed his fingers in Jesus wounds.
So: believe what you like, but were I to be the last in the United Church to believe that Jesus is indeed God, born of the virgin and rose again, physically and actually, I will still know it to be true, and with his strength I shall still proclaim it. I have heard and learned this philosophy from men and women I consider to be holy. When I see such people in a pulpit, or singing in front of a band or choir, the holiness just shines through. I’m not inclined to be influenced in my faith by people who don’t have that holiness about them. Believe all of these things, or believe none of them. There is no intermediate position tenable. There is no sitting on the fence with Jesus; either you are for him or you are against him. If I did not believe this, you wouldn’t catch me inside a church. I’d probably be worshipping astrology or the occult or some other alternative fostered by the god of this world.
No: faith is not resolved by a majority decision.
In his holy name
T. Copple, Kanata