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Dominion-Chalmers United Church, Ottawa: A Branch from which Vine?


By Carman Bradley


















Jesus Christ said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:1-8).

Surely branches attached to the true vine are not to be described in terms of absence of spiritual anointing and desperation of faith.  Yet on the occasion of the Eightieth Anniversary of the United Church of Canada, church moderator, The Right Reverend Doctor Peter Short, gave a sermon at Worship Matters, Halifax, titled “Roses Are Difficult Here.”  Dr. Short asked the congregation: “Suppose you had to choose a title for your life and your work.  Suppose you had to say in a phrase what it’s like to be inside your skin and to live the struggle you live.  Don’t you think that might be a good title, ‘Roses Are Difficult Here.’  [He went on…]   We,ve got a lot of problems in The United Church of Canada…People are all the time telling me that roses are impossible here…It’s not the presence of problems or the presence of stress that makes roses difficult here.  In fact, it’s not the presence of anything.  It’s an absence.  It’s an abandoned and boarded up heaven.  It’s the empty space in the soul where wonder used to live light in the spring.  It’s the silence of God and the aloneness in facing the world that makes roses so unlikely.” [i] 

Only a few weeks after the "Evangelical Fellowship of Canada: A Year of Prayer, National Launch" from Dominion-Chalmers United Church (advertised above), Geoff Wilkins, Chairman of the National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations (NACC) wrote to Dr. Short.   Representing 100 reform churches within the 3,500 UCC congregations, Wilkins described what should be called “orthodox or evangelical dissonance.”  He said in the letter, “At the end of 2003…membership stood at 608,243, down a massive 460,692 from 1965... We are an exhausted, depleted church.  Those who still have the energy to care, once again find themselves divided by controversy.”[ii]  Moreover, the Community of Concern (COC) within the UCC commented in their paper Concern, back in December 2003, that the decline is in its 39th consecutive year with an average of 16,000 members leaving each year since 1988 - “one good sized congregation every 5 days.”[iii]

On the other hand, another congregation (Grace Methodist Church) described their spiritual state after winning a Bermuda Supreme Court case to allow them to separate from the UCC.  Gwyneth I. Lightbourne put the excitement this way:

The Sparks among The Ashes, who experienced harassment and humiliation, have come forth, shining as pure gold.  We know what it is like to cry tears of joy, because we are free, yes free to worship according to the principles and practices of Methodism as outlined by Rev. John Wesley. [iv]  [more on this congregation later in the article]

The heart of the danger in the notion of evangelicals supporting or partnering with churches choosing to remain within an apostate denomination like the UCC, is the risk in properly accessing the true spirit of the single church and of its membership, separate from the overarching denominational spirit of falsehood.  Unless we adopt the double-minded theology of the United Church, we must seriously consider the difference between a church that chooses to remain within the UCC and one that is over-joyed at escaping the apostasy.  God is not indifferent, there are real consequences for the choices people make.  Evangelicals thinking of a national prayer launch would not partner with the Church of Scientology because such an alliance would compromise their witness and jeopardize God’s anointing and blessing.  So why would evangelicals expect a different result, partnering with a United Church?  Why would God overlook the counterfeit state of the denomination for this 2005 prayer event?  Why would He bless believers for associating as if denominational beliefs did not matter?  Do we really think the on-looker viewing the National Launch poster above, perceives anything other than the EFC is perfectly ok with partnering with the United Church?  Who gains credibility and who loses credibility in this association?  Does such an association serve the public witness of biblical truth? The sixty-four thousand dollar question: “From which vine does Dominion-Chalmers United Church draw?”  A study of Dominion-Chalmers United Church will allow you to draw your own conclusion.

However, before looking at specifics, there are some general points to ponder.  What might God think of a United Church that holds a vote to decide whether to offer same-sex marriages, but acquiesces to homosexual ordination or fellowships with unrepentant homosexuals as Christian brothers or sisters; or fellowships with others in their denomination that hold a homosexist worldview?  How is God to react to a church that loses a vote to separate from the UCC by only ten per cent?  Would a congregation that votes by a five per cent majority against some liberal heresy be less entitled to divine favor, than one with a twenty percent majority?  Is there anything democratic about God’s will?  What scripture permits the notion that it is okay on pivotal matters of theology, like same-sex marriage, homosexual ordination, and the sexual moral code, if you remain in fellowship with a third of the congregation or the leader behind the pulpit, knowing that they radically disagree with God’s Word and your beliefs?  Does it matter if a sister church in your town disagrees with your church’s theology?  What does God think of a United Church telling searching homosexuals: “If you come here you will need to repent of your lifestyle and we won’t marry you because homosexual marriage is against God’s will, but Centretown United Church, only four blocks away, will accept you, bless your lifestyle, and if you choose to marry, they will perform the ceremony with alacrity”?  What does God think about the refusal to marry two gay men by an Anglican minister on religious grounds, yet the two men find a UCC minister to volunteer to perform the ceremony?  Where does scripture say “denominational loyalty and unity” trump orthodoxy?  Where is there evidence of the early Church condoning so-called “embedded” orthodox believers, who claim to be called to witness from within an apostate Gnostic sect?  Where is there evidence of orthodox congregations knowingly remaining within Gnosticm for some altruistic goal of their reformation? Christendom does not allow dual (conflicting) citizenry - claiming an evangelical identity but holding a passport (membership) with apostasy, essentially claiming roots in two vines.  And the idea of a hybrid spiritual branch is implausible - an orthodox branch grafted into a heretical vine or an orthodox branch surviving on a heretical vine? 

There are four strong reasons to look closely at the launch site for the crucial 2005 A Year of Prayer in Canada: National Launch, January 8, 2005.  What spiritual risks was the EFC taking in this association?  First, one month before the National Launch, Dominion-Chalmers United Church was asked to clarify their position on same-sex marriage and the other pro-gay theological positions and policies of the UCC.  The senior minister responded that the church elders had voted against offering same-sex marriages; he did not answer questions on other pro-homosexual UCC doctrines.  Second, Dominion-Chalmers has never been a member of the NACC reform congregations.  Third, through feedback from a member of Dominion-Chalmers, it was discovered that Rev. Robert Oliphant was guest speaker for the UCC Eightieth Anniversary celebrations at the church in June 2005.  Rev. Oliphant's name is third on a list at an Equality For Gays and Lesbians (EGALE)[v] web site declaring ministers who have signed EGALE's Equal [same-sex] Marriage Clergy Endorsement Statement.  Now Rev. Oliphant is more than entitled to hold his liberal views and Dominion-Chalmers is equally entitled to have him as their Anniversary guest speaker.  But the point is this.  One spirit tells evangelicals (and Apostle Paul!) that same-sex marriage is wrong and another spirit tells Rev. Oliphant, the United Church and other liberals that marriage redefinition is right.  Logic dictates on such a pivotal theological matter that one spirit must be false.  The Holy Spirit knows past, present and future; and therefore, knew at the time that our “national” evangelical prayer hopes for 2005 were being petitioned from the pews of Dominion-Chalmers United Church, who would be their honoured anniversary speaker and from which vine that Ottawa United Church is rooted.

Revelation 3:15-16 tells us that spiritual compromise made Christ sick and that He will not enter a lukewarm (compromised) church.  The month after the EFC Prayer Launch, the Moderator of the United Church, at a prayer breakfast for parliamentarians hosted by the UCC (and not far from Dominion-Chalmers) said:

My hope is that the contribution the [UCC] has offered in this debate is a window for politicians to see the possibility of balancing human rights, tradition, faithfulness, and religious freedoms by voting in favour of civil same-sex marriage. [vi]

Dr. Short is offering a compromise between two diametrically opposed worldviews, which in spiritual truth cannot exist.

Fourth, Dominion-Chalmers United Church lists five statements of faith (a sixth “coming soon”) on their website including the Twenty-five Articles of the Methodist Church.  Leaving aside their silence on UCC doctrines, their non-NACC membership and their pro-homosexual Eightieth Anniversary guest speaker, can one safely assume the posting of these Wesleyan tenets constitutes a spiritually “right” United Church congregation?  For the UCC situation the answer is no, not ever.  The denomination headquarters itself declares no theological incongruency between its policies and the Wesleyan creed and lists the exact same tenets on their national website.  If compromise in the Church of Laodicea made Christ sick, how does He feel about the abject apostasy of this denomination that claims to be Canada’s largest mainstream Protestant Christian church?  The spiritual risk in association with the UCC, no matter how sincerely contrived, is huge.  It bears repeating - there is only one Holy Spirit out there?  What omnipotent and ubiquitous Spirit shines His light on some congregations burdening them to flee and yet withholds the same light from others or shines a different light on others?  Did the orthodox faithful of the true vine leave or stay?  Congregations, like Grace Methodist Church in Bermuda, which saw the light and chose to separate from the UCC some ten years ago (and the many individuals who have chosen to leave on their own) have witnessed to a full blessing of Spiritual light.  All others within the UCC appear to be suffering some level of shade, blindness, denial or full darkness.

The tough fight of Grace Methodist Church for its orthodox freedom from the UCC is splendidly recorded in Gwyneth I. Lightbourne’s The Sparks among The Ashes: A Mother Church Loses Her Way…But the Sparks among the Ashes Keep Burning.  Their struggle for possession of their church properties took them to the highest court in the land.  Five days after the Supreme Court of Bermuda laid its landmark ruling in favor of the separationist congregation, lay minister Gwyneth Lightbourne give the first “free” Sunday sermon titled: “The Iron Gate.”  She recounts from Acts 12:1-11:

As we look behind that Iron Gate, we see a prisoner, and that prisoner is Peter…He’s bound with two chains, and two soldiers are guarding the door…The angel gives Peter a touch and says, ‘Peter, rise up quickly.’ The scripture says the chains fell from Peter’s hands.  I’ve come to tell you this morning, when God uses His power, he can deliver us from behind our Iron Gates, O yes!  But we have to believe that the touch from the Master’s hand can bring deliverance…We remember when the prayer group met on Tuesday nights to pray, and the only means of entry into our church was through the windows…We remember when we sat huddled in our church hall, Sunday after Sunday, because we were banned from worshipping at our regular 11:15 A.M. worship service and felt too sad to worship at all.  We remember when we were referred to again and again, as ‘rebels,’ by reporters of The Royal Gazette newspaper and how many people expressed their perceptions of us in derogatory ways.  And we also remember when some persons, whom we considered to be our friends, turned out to be traitors, but it doesn’t matter now, our Iron Gate has opened of its own accord and we The Sparks among The Ashes, who experienced harassment and humiliation, have come forth, shining as pure gold.  We know what it is like to cry tears of joy, because we are free, yes free to worship according to the principles and practices of Methodism as outlined by Rev. John Wesley…Let us never forget, that the battle was the Lord’s, and it was He Who kept us as Sparks among The Ashes, so that He could preserve us to carry on His great work.  I truly believe it was because of our faithfulness and the sincere and dedicated prayers of God’s people that the Almighty God has caused us to climb the mountain of despair, and allowed us to walk safely through The Iron Gate.  Maybe I am speaking to someone here this morning who doesn’t know Jesus.  I encourage you to find Him today.  Jesus says, ‘I am the way the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.’  Repent of your sin, and by faith move ahead in the service of the King of Kings.  May the Lord bless you, and keep you.  May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and give you peace. Amen. [vii]

In testimony before the Bermuda Supreme Court, expert witness Dr. Victor Shepherd said:

…it is my opinion that the United Church of Canada has, in its articulation of its formal theology, and in its fostering of its day-to-day operative theology, contravened the Twenty-five Articles of Faith.  Such infringement has occurred not once but many times, and not witlessly by inadvertence (as might be the case with a denomination that drifted doctrinally on account of theological naiveness).  Such infringement has occurred, rather, as successive positions and policies have been adopted intentionally.[viii]

The court ruled against the United Church authorities concluding in favor of the separationist argument that the theological and doctrinal differences within the UCC were so fundamental and deep-seated as to be irreconcilable with the founding Methodist creed.  This finding occurred more than a decade ago and yet the UCC and most of its churches still proclaim the Twenty-five Articles of Faith.  So what can the on-looker trust in deciding whether Dominion-Chalmers or any other United Church is a spiritually safe orthodox church?

Perhaps one is destined to remain a lone voice crying in the “internet wilderness,” but logic and a huge spiritual burden under gird the belief that the poster below (see also Article 2 ) implies that the United Church isn’t all that bad, after all the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is comfortable partnering with one of their congregations and petitioning God from within one of their churches.  Only nine days after the January 8 event, the United Church Moderator petitioned (by letter) Members of Parliament to vote for same-sex marriage and to join him for a prayer breakfast paid for by the United Church.  Dominion-Chalmers United Church or any other United Church must not be allowed to be, or even give the impression of being, a bridge between orthodoxy and apostasy.  The idea of a branch from two spiritual vines is flawed.  Had Dominion-Chalmers publicly denounced UCC theology in the middle of the titanic struggle over same-sex marriage legislation, their prominence in the 2005 Prayer Launch might have been less risky from a spiritual warfare perspective, less offensive from a public relations perspective.  Had the congregation picketed the Moderator’s prayer breakfast or caused a fuss for the sake of orthodoxy, one could be more sympathetic to the church’s denominational blight, if truly against the UCC's many heterodoxies.  The criterion by which the EFC chose to partner with Dominion-Chalmers United Church and differentiate this congregation from the other 3,400 UCC churches constituting the apostate denomination remain a mystery. 




Copyright © 2008 StandForGod.Org


[i] See UCC website for full text,

[ii] NACC Letter to MPs, 1 February 2005, regarding the January 17 Letter of the Moderator of the United Church of Canada to MPs,, 10/30/2005.

[iii] “What General Council Never Mentioned: United Church Membership Loss (1988-2002), CONCERN, Vol. XIV No.5, December 2003, p.2.

[iv] Gwyneth I. Lightbourne, The Sparks among The Ashes (Enumclaw, WA: Winepress Publishing, 2002), p.127.  Available at or 877-421-7323.

[vi] News Release, United Church of Canada, “United Church Moderator Hosts Parliamentary Breakfast on Marriage,” 24 February 2005,

[vii] Ibid, pp.123-128.

[viii] Ibid, pp.112 and 113.