In Toronto, a United Church minister who says the Bible is a fairy tale and God doesn't exist, will continue to deliver her non-Christian message from the pulpit with the blessing of the folks who call the shots in Canada's second largest Christian denomination, the United Church of Canada. Instead of giving her the heave-ho, the United Church moderator (aka big cheese) has asked members to pray for the atheistic pastor and her congregation. Sounds like we should be praying for the United Church...
So I responded:
November 16, 2018
To the editor:
I always enjoy reading Claude McIntosh’s column, and he fits a lot of material onto the page. His November 14 discussion of a United Church of Canada minister did not include important parts of the context which are necessary for readers to understand what is happening in this case.
People who attend United churches are at many different points on their faith journey, but clergy are held to a standard of being found to be in essential agreement with the Church’s statements of faith before they can be ordained or commissioned. As Claude noted, a minister in Toronto who professes to be an atheist was placed under review. He says that she will continue to serve “with the blessing of the folks who call the shots,” but this is not the case. In the United Church, discipline of ministers is the responsibility of local jurisdictions, just as in Canada the federal government and the provinces have different areas of responsibility. Toronto Conference of the United Church was conducting the formal hearing into her ministry and then settled the case with her and her congregation, which does allow her to continue in ministry. Legal actions often end in settlement, so this hardly represents a “blessing” by any part of the Church; this resolution was not made by the national Church, does not affect any other minister or any other jurisdiction in the Church, and does not imply any acceptance of atheist beliefs as being in agreement with what the Church believes. Claude mentions that the Moderator of the United Church (as he puts it, “the big cheese,” which is a good way to explain this position) asked for prayer for this minister and her congregation, which I believe is entirely appropriate. Claude omits that this call for prayer came at the end of the Moderator’s letter which states explicitly that as a Christian church, we continue to expect that our ministers will offer their leadership in accordance with our statements of faith. This follows a statement by The United Church of Canada that the resolution of this case does not alter in any way the Church’s belief in a God must fully revealed to us as Christians in and through Jesus Christ. The Church’s statements of faith have all been grounded in this understanding.
Claude says that we should be praying for the United Church, which I appreciate. Please pray for us as we try to be faithful and loving followers of Jesus, and for all of the churches and faith traditions ministering to the people of the Seaway Valley.
Rev. Daniel Hayward UE
Minister, South Stormont Pastoral Charge
(Ingleside-Newington United Church and St. Andrew’s-St. Mark’s United Church, Long Sault)
The United Church of Canada