"WHAT SHOULD I — WHAT CAN I — DO?"
Suppose someone on a rural charge calls you up, and tells you that her young new minister is full of enthusiasm for change, and is bent, bound, and determined to have his congregations approve same-sex marriage. What can you say that will help?
I begin with "Tell me all about it," knowing full well that what will follow will be yet another heart-rending story which goes something like this: A historic little church on a three-point charge has a minister fresh from theological college who in just a couple of years has managed to split the congregation. The session votes unanimously against approving same-sex marriage. Undaunted, the minister calls another meeting, but this time he has all three sessions in the charge there, having worked very hard to enlighten the objectors. This time the meeting accepts, by a single vote, the same-sex agenda, leaving the faithful with an overwhelming feeling of bitterness at the minister's conclusion that "if you're over 60 you don't understand the necessity for change."
"What should I do?" the caller asks.
(1) No matter how betrayed you feel, don't give up your membership in the United Church. You have a right to have a say in what happens to your denomination, and the only way to have any influence is to continue to be a member. If everyone left the Church who disapproved of its stand on matters of sexuality and its stampede from orthodoxy, there would be very few voices left to speak for the faith. We need all of you to insist on the continuing validity of the Basis of Union, our Church's constitution. Do you want to see Uni-tarianism become the lodestone of the United Church? Do you want the "New Statement of Faith" to be accepted without any critical discussion? Every person who leaves weakens the cause of reform. If everyone who disagrees with it abandons it, our Church will become isolated from all our fellow Christians in Africa and Asia who are unalterably opposed to the same-sex agenda. And with those who disagree with its ultra-liberal theology gone, the United Church would have little more effect than a service club in setting a moral tone for society.
John Wesley preached all his life against his Church's departure from Christ's message. His followers remained loyal despite harassment during Wesley's outdoor meetings, harassment that extended to baiting an angry bull and turning it loose on the crowd. Wesleyans even had their homes ransacked and burned. Yet they remained faithful, and Wesley himself never left the church he loved and yearned over — the Anglican church.
So, DON'T LEAVE.
(2) If you can't bear to listen to what's being dished out from the pulpit, find a congregation — perhaps another denomination — that will accept you as a devoted visitor. You'd be surprised how many are "stopping out", but still haven't given up on their United Church. To keep their sanity they go elsewhere on a regular basis but choose to devote a portion of their givings to reform and renewal organizations.
(3) Try inviting a few sympathetic church friends to your home for conversation and informal worship. Share your grief at the direction the church has taken. And tell them about COC, an organization that lives up to its name: a Community that has real Concern for its members. (You would be amazed how many have never heard of us!) There is nothing like sharing experiences to give you the incentive to try to work with others like yourself in the struggle to bring about change in our Church, the Church we love. Start with your own congregation. At least your group will not be threatened with imprisonment or even death, as were the early Christians. Small though their little groups were, they were strengthened by mutual love, faith, and a devotion to Christ which all the might of Rome could not stamp out.
Let not your hearts be troubled. We, too, have suffered. We understand, and would welcome your letters or phone calls. We'll do our best to help you in any way we can.