Thursday, 30 January 2014

United Church of Canada: eternally irrelevant

A group of United Church of Canada ministers from Ontario have joined Unifor.  No, this is not the name of a new gospel-centred ministry within the United Church...the denomination hasn't been gospel centred or Scripture-based for quite some time.  Unifor is Canada's largest private sector union, comprised of about 300,000 workers in an amalgamation of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions.  You can read about the details of these United Church ministers joining the union here.

Preaching the gospel and shepherding God's people have not been a priorities for the United Church of Canada for quite some time, at least generally speaking, although I recognize that there are still (probably) a few (fairly) faithful and (largely) orthodox churches still within the denomination (I least there was 15+ years ago when I was invited to preach in one such church).  This new move is indicative of just how far the United Church has fallen.  It apparently sees no problem in allying itself with a completely secular labour organization that has a completely different purpose than the church.   

When I first heard this story on the radio, one of the retired ministers interviewed complained that for years United Church ministers had no recourse to seek job protection in cases of disciplinary issues or dismissal or to ensure that if their congregations fell apart and their local church closed its doors, they would still have a secure pension.  Don't forget the Apostle Paul's instructions to Timothy, after all, to guard the sacred deposit entrusted to him...mind you, he was referring to the gospel and sound biblical doctrine, not his RRSP.  One can imagine some minister committing adultery with the secretary, the church board getting wind of this and dismissing the minister, only to hear from the union's heavyweight lawyers the next day.  Hey, at GM, Canfor, or Chrysler, you can't fire someone for falling in love with a co-worker and abandoning spouse and kids.  If you can't do this on Ford's assembly line, why should you be able to do this to those who lead the assembly of the saints?  One man manufactures transmissions, the other transmits spirituality.  To Christians for whom the Bible is still authoritative, the problems with this latest move by United Church ministers are manifold and they should be obvious.

The inset quote in the CBC article is dripping with irony.  The president of the unionizing ministers, himself a "Rev.", says, "The institutional church wasn't able to do much for us."  That about sums up the ethos of the United Church of Canada and the errant message(s) of cultural conformity they have been preaching for many years.  When it comes to the mission that Christ gave the church, to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you...", preaching the gospel of repentance from sin and salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, calling people to submit to the universal Lordship of Jesus, the eternal Son of God the Father, the United Church of Canada long ago abandoned it.  The quote above sounds like it could have been made by people in need of the gospel who, at one time, tried the United Church:  "The institutional church wasn't able to do much for us."  Indeed, this quote sounds as if it might have been spoken of the United Church by the three persons of the Triune Godhead (something you don't have to believe in to be an ordained minister in the United Church, along with the inspiration of Scripture or the deity of Christ).

Perhaps the saddest part of this article is that the United Church of Canada can't seem to figure out why it is declining so rapidly, shrinking by 20% since 2004, with 50-60 churches closing their doors every year.  The the United Church of Canada website claims they are the largest Protestant denomination in Canada according to how people self-identified to Statistics Canada in 2011, but with approximately 479,000 members, and only about 167,000 weekly attendees - and shrinking daily - one wonders if joining a labour union was a strategy for membership growth. 

The National Post ran a very telling article about the United Church of Canada's deification of liberal causes over against their abandonment of all things distinctly Christian.  In their rush to embrace every new liberal band wagon and societal trend of the increasingly godless culture around it, everything from gender-neutral language in Scripture and worship, egalitarian all-roads-lead-to-light interfaith dialogue, syncretism with every form of new age spirituality, same sex marriage and ordination, embracing abortion, ultra-egalitarianism and extreme feminism, pro-Palestinian advocacy, to "climate justice" and decreasing humanity's carbon footprint, the United Church of Canada has become a champion for every cause but the one that Jesus called the church to in the first place.  They no longer identify even a minimum requirement of what someone must believe to be part of the "church", and so they have really become no true church at all.  To be ordained a minister in the United Church of Canada, you don't even have to believe that God actually exists.  Some of their ministers self identify as atheists or "post-theists" (clearly a much trendier way of saying you don't believe in God).  So, if there need be no God of the church, then this is no longer the church of God.  Of course, one only has to read the above National Post article to see that there are many individuals within the United Church that still hold to enough remnants Christian orthodoxy to be outraged at some of the more overtly liberal and non-gospel related shenanigans within the church (here's another example if you need more).  One wonders why there are still so many such folks within the denomination.

In their passion to be universally relevant, the United Church has long ago made themselves irrelevant for those who need the gospel of the cross of Christ, which is everyone.  Indeed, they no longer know what the cross of Christ even means.  The ironic thing is, many people to whom the United Church is trying to appeal recognize it's attempts at universal relevance as the very factor that makes them irrelevant.  How are they any different from any number of other advocacy organizations, except perhaps some candles and a stained glass window or two?  The United Church has exchanged the glory of the immortal God and the eternal truth of the gospel for the fleeting pleasures of an ever-evolving-cultural-relevance-flavour of the day.  As C.S. Lewis once said, "Whatever is not eternal is eternally irrelevant."  He wasn't speaking of the United Church of Canada, but he sure could have been.