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UCC Moderator Responds to Concerns Over His Letter Lobbying MPs for

Same-Sex Marriage


By Carman Bradley

In February 2005, eight UCC ministers from London raised concerns to the United Church Moderator:

Our concern with the redefinition of marriage doesn’t grow out of an uncritical repetition of a received text or unthinking adherence to a loveless and dead tradition or a parochial moralism…The redefinition of marriage is dependent on the deconstruction of the conjugal characteristics of marriage which are anchored in biological and social realities and, for Christians, rooted in Scripture.  The Biblical authors used the uniqueness of the male/female dyad to identify and describe the identity of God and God’s relationship to the Church.  Marriage redefined loses its specific meaning in Scripture...Your use of the term ‘equal marriage’ promotes the notion that marriage is an inherently discriminatory institution that violates the equality rights of homosexuals, and we would assume, though the United Church is disingenuously silent on this matter, also the rights whose alleged orientation is bisexual or transgendered since the General Council had identified such orientations as gifts from God and part of the marvelous diversity of creation.[i]

Paradoxically, after criticizing all evangelicals for unchristian repetition of received Scripture (faithfulness to the Word), Dr. Short refutes the ministers’ concerns with his own unrelenting faith in pro-gay liberal theology.  He leaves his denomination on liberal autopilot headed down a willfully planned course to same-sex marriage:

I understand your point of view to be deeply Christian.  At the same time, I understand the point of view of the General Council to be deeply Christian.  It is always troubling to the community when two Christian perspectives can lead to very different answers to a particular question.  To my way of thinking this often occurs when those in conversation begin from differing places or speak from differing theological platforms (eg. Natural theology or Covenantal theology).  I would want to question some of the conclusions you reach from a platform of natural theology as, I’m sure, you would want to question some of the conclusions that have been reached from a platform of covenantal theology.  The important thing to me is that in the body of Christ we keep learning from one another, not succumbing to the temptation to interpret differing positions as signs of unfaithfulness or moral inferiority...Reservations notwithstanding, I have come to the conclusion after thought, dialogue, reading, and prayer that the General Council has made the right decision.  Therefore, I am doing my best to represent the Council’s position faithfully.  This is my job.  It comes with the office.  I do it gladly and enthusiastically, trusting that where we are wrong God will forgive[ii]

Describing natural theology and Gnosticism, Cornelius G. Hunter writes in Darwin’s God:

Two important themes are discernible in the writings of Darwin and his fellow naturalists: Gnosticism and natural theology.[iii]

The deity is absolutely transmundane, its nature alien to that of the universe which it neither created nor governs and to which it is the complete antithesis…The world is the work of lowly powers.[iv]

Hunter observes that the Gnostic’s belief in “lowly powers” was fulfilled in Darwin’s evolution by natural selection - the theory that life was not divinely created but developed by random chance and selective survival of the fittest.  The acceptance of evolution, in turn reinforced Gnosticism in modern thought.  Wikipedia defines natural theology as theology based on reason and ordinary experience. It is distinguished from revealed theology which is based on Scripture and religious experience.  Howard Bloom, in The American Religion, writes that Gnosticism is the most common thread of religious thought today.  He calls it the "American Religion" and concludes: "even our secularists, indeed even our professed atheists, are more Gnostic than humanist in their ultimate presuppositions."[v]

Hunter records in Darwin’s God that philosopher Michael Ruse observed that Victorians in Darwin’s time had trouble with the idea that God created a natural world that often seemed devoid of His presence.  [What Moderator Short alluded to in his Eightieth Anniversary sermon titled: “Spiritual Roses Are Difficult in the United Church.”]   Ruse found:

Darwin is characterized as one held to some kind of ‘deistic’ belief in a God who works at a distance through unbroken law: having set the world in motion, God now sits back and does nothing.

And Baker’s Dictionary of Theology characterizes deism as follows:

Negatively, the deists generally denied any direct intervention in the natural order on the part of God.  Though they professed faith in personal Providence, they denied the Trinity, the incarnation, the divine authority of the Bible, the atonement, miracles, any particular elect people such as Israel or the church, or any supernatural redemptive act in history… Denying revelation and affirming natural theology only, they yet generally claimed to be within the Christian tradition. [vi]

The fact that Dr. Short keeps his denomination on its liberal course is troubling, but not as burdensome as his faith in natural theology and trust that where we are wrong God will forgive.”  The latter, is really an outcome of his belief God will not, cannot intervene.  He leads his denomination to its peril.  God will not be mocked.  God’s Law is not for experimentation.

In 1976, a Jesuit priest, Peter Fink, held the same disregard for God’s authority and Scripture.  Unwilling to see homosexuality restrained by orthodox theology, he argued that pastoral activity couldn’t be left in abeyance until complex theological questions are resolved with total clarity.  He proposed what he called “A Pastoral Hypothesis” - a theological experiment testing for the will of the God of all Creation.  Fink’s hypothesis was that the Church should explore the possibility that homosexual love is a valid form of human love, and consequently, can also mediate God’s loving presence.  Claiming an absence of any definitive condemnation of all homosexual activity, Fink argued that it is a valid theological method to explore this hypothesis and judge its validity on the basis of its consequences.  He wrote:

If homosexual love is sinful this will show itself as destructive of the human and disruptive of man’s relation with God…All I ask here is that the Church employs all its resources in an honest effort to lead gay people to love, to the human and to God through their homosexuality.[vii]

God would not be ridiculed then, nor will He be now or in the future.  Roughly a decade into Fink’s Pastoral Hypothesis, the results of the gay sexual liberation experiment were dead clear.  Trusting that God will forgive willful apostasy is incredibly disingenuous.  What will it take for United Church evangelicals and outside onlookers to admit the denomination has been irretrievably hijacked? 


Copyright © 2008 StandForGod.Org

[i] The Rev. Dr. Connie denBok et al., Letter to the Moderator dated 1 February 2005,, 4/20/2005

[ii] Response from the Moderator, The Right Rev. Dr. Peter Short, Letter to the Rev. Dr. Connie denBok et al., dated 10 February 2005,, 4/20/2005

[iii] Cornelius G. Hunter, Darwin’s God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2001), p.129.

[iv] Ibid., pp.149 and 150.

[v] Howard Bloom, The American Religion (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p.22.

[vi] Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, Everett F. Harrison Editor-in-Chief, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1960), p. 162.

[vii] John McNeil, The Church and the Homosexual (Mission Kansas: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1976), pp. 4 and 5.