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.


(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.