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Spiritual Myopia: Failure to Recognize a Successfully Hijacked Denomination


By Carman Bradley

The UCC “reformer” is like the blind man at Bethsaida.  After Jesus had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, He asked, “Do you see anything?”  The man looked up and answered, “I see people. They look like trees walking around” (Mark 8:23-24).  UCC reformers are not suffering from the full blindness manifest among most of their denomination, but their sight falls well short of those who saw the denomination for what it is and left.  Is the United Church reformer unable to see the big picture or unwilling to accept that the once orthodox and thriving denomination (pre-1960s) has been hijacked and is now irreversibly flying into a thunderstorm of liberal pro-homosexual heresies?  It is sad to see that this denomination has been on a liberalized pro-homosexual flight path, without deviation for decades, and yet professed evangelicals still keep going along for the ride and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) keeps waving them on, even after both acknowledge the intended route and destination.  The EFC policy to not have an official position or policy on relations with the United Church is unfortunate.[i]  The EFC has in fact encouraged the status quo witness of evangelicals within the UCC by allowing the National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations (NACC) to remain members of both the UCC and EFC in spite of a longstanding dearth of reform evidence within the United Church.

In 2005, the Alberta Association of Covenanting Congregations said on their website:

We are a group of people and congregations who love the United Church of Canada with all its diversity.  We wish to stay in the church while upholding traditional Christian values, theology and morals.[ii]

An ad, posted by the National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations, in the United Church Observer reads: “ROOTED IN THE FAITH! RELEVANT TO THE TIMES!”  The NACC offers as its purpose:

To help a congregation make a public statement of beliefs affirmed by the majority of its members, and so hold its people together within the United Church of Canada with integrity.

Imagine coming before God in corporate prayer acknowledging only a majority are in obedience.  Does the righteousness of the majority give Christian integrity to the apostate minority?  Does the righteousness of the NACC (or COC) give Christian integrity to the UCC?  The NACC web site states under “WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS”: “the NACC offers a way to remain in the United Church of Canada with a clear conscience and hope for the future.”[iii]  Ironically, in the UCC there are both “counterfeit Christian” congregations and what can best be labeled “counterfeit United Church” congregations.  The characteristics of a counterfeit United Church congregation (not all are NACC) are: little communication or association with UCC Head office, psychological detachment from the denomination, denial of ownership or responsibility for national church theology and policies, acceptance that periodically voicing contention with denominational heresies is sufficient witness for Christ, and a constrained public witness against their Church.  What is meant by constrained is that verbal friction with the direction the denomination has taken is never allowed to reach the breaking point of civil unrest i.e. picketing the Toronto national office, refusing to financially support the denomination or leaving.  For these counterfeit United Church congregations, UCC unity has become a sacred cow, separation a sacrilege.  They do not see that their presence in the UCC compromises their witness and also misleads the uninformed onlooker who assumes “denomination” means something.  Paul in his first letter to the Church at Corinth confirmed that schisms are a purifying process:

No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval  (1 Corinthians 11:19).  [ NIV Study Bible footnote: As deplorable as factions may be, they serve one good purpose: they distinguish those who are faithful and true in God’s sight.]

In a letter to Members of Parliament, to undo the intent of their Moderator’s January 17, 2005 communication, (asking MPs to a breakfast and lobbing them for a pro-same-sex marriage vote), the Chairman of the NACC Steering Committee wrote:

The NACC believes this slump [drop of 460,00 members] is largely attributable to the UCC establishment’s having been out of touch with the general membership for decades, often making decisions those in the pews find highly objectionable.  What it implies for those in political life should be obvious…We are an exhausted, depleted church.  Those who still have the energy to care, once again find themselves divided in controversy.[iv]

Rational politicians (irony acknowledged!), who read Geoff Wilkins letter, would ask themselves, if it has been so bad for so long, why do these people stay on?  The question begging a reply, “What heresy would it take to convince NACC congregations to separate from their denomination?”  Moreover, what unorthodoxy has the NACC prevented?  On 22 March 2005, in response to my plea to separate from the UCC: “Your voice of protest is needed more now then ever,” and thereby publicly support the struggle against marriage redefinition, the NACC Chairman replied:

Thank you for your email, but you should understand that the NACC believes that speaking from within the United Church, uncomfortable as that may be, is more effective than from outside.  UCC organizational mechanisms guarantee that, as part of the UCC, our voice must be heard.  I might add that one of our supports and guides through all of this particular 20-year battle (there are others) is the Book of Job.  We believe the Job story speaks with intimacy and power to our particular Nineveh situation,[v] and my personal hope is that we will only stop doing so, and leave, when (and if) the Lord clearly tells us to, …and not before.

What would constitute such a message?  What would it take to recognize it? Obviously hundreds of thousands have received the burden to escape, why not the NACC? Frankly, the overriding premise of the NACC is to remain within the UCC. One is reminded of three sailors abroad a vessel which has lost its power in choppy waters flowing inevitably towards Niagara Falls.  They loved their boat which they had painstakingly built over many years.  All prayed for God to deliver them (and their boat) from disaster.  First, a small tourist boat came by and offered to take them to safety.  But they refused the help saying no thanks God will rescue us and the boat.  They prayed and prayed for power to turn the boat around.  A little later a merchant vessel came by and offered to take them onboard.  Although much weaker from the stress and in far greater peril, they still refused to get off their boat.  They kept praying for power to turn around and overcome the current.  A third opportunity came in the form of a rescue helicopter.  A rescue specialist dropped down to attach them to a pulley.  Although completely exhausted with their boat about to go over the falls they once again rejected the help holding on to their prayer.  There have been so many missed turning points to see the light, to be called out of the UCC apostasy.  Twenty years of the status quo witness has not produced the desired result.  When the NACC says, “We will leave the United Church when God calls us and not before!” they need to reassess reality and consider their motives behind remaining in the boat.  Hundreds of thousands have had the spiritual burden to leave before the “falls.”  Were they wrong?    


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[i] Email Janet Epp Buckingham, Director, Law and Public Policy, EFC, dated 29 March 2005.

[iv][iv] Geoff Wilkins, Chairman, for the NACC Steering Committee, “NACC Letter to MPs,” re. The January 17 Letter of the Moderator of the United Church of Canada 24 January 2005, www.unitedrenewal.org/archives/2005/02/nacc_letter_to.php, 10/30/05.

[v] See “Spiritual Roses Are Difficult in the United Church of Canada" for background on the "Job-Nineveh” commentary.