Moderator’s farewell warns of church’s danger

 — Aug. 19, 198819 aoüt 1988

from the Windsor Star

[VICTORIA, BC] In a strongly worded farewell speech, the head of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination decried its divisiveness and warned of the danger of excluding believers.

Anne Squire, the 67-year-old Amherstburg-born moderator, said what is at stake is whether the United Church wants to be “an inclusive or exclusive body.”

And she urged the 388 delegates attending the 32nd General Council meeting at the University of Victoria to make sure that no one is driven away.

Squire said there are many who may be denied access because of present policies and attitudes, but it isn’t just the divisive issue of whether gays and lesbians are given full membership in church life and ministry.

She flatly rejected that the current debate over sexuality has been the most troublesome moment in the church’s history and that she has been the cause of it all.

“To be moderator of the United Church of Canada is to learn that some of our members spend half of their time crying for leaders and the other half nailing them to the cross.”

She said the creation of the church 63 years ago was far more traumatic and she said she remained “neutral” on the recommendations.

Squire said the United Church faces other contentious issues:

Whether refugees will be made welcome;

Whether the church is prepared to make children full members at baptism or keep them at the status of partial members until they are confirmed at the age of 14;

Whether room would be made at clergy-dominated seminaries for more laity;

Whether the church is ready to include the newly formed 13th All Native Circle Conference in its structures.

An equally important issue, Squire said, is whether the United Church is faithfully representing the feelings at grassroots with its present method of making policies.

She asked if local congregations would be given more say in the decision-making process, a question raised strongly in the gay and lesbian debate.

Squire said her previous experience in church work did not fully prepare her for the job of moderator. She travelled more than 235,000 km, preached 100 sermons, attended more than 500 scheduled meetings and delivered 147 prepared speeches in two years.

In conversations with church members across Canada, Squire recognized “a depth of faith and breadth of vision that lifts my spirits, and a superficiality of faith and an intolerance that shatters my image of what a Christian is.”

Squire’s hope is that the church can “harness the passion and energy which has been generated by the sexual-orientation issue.”

Squire stressed it means resolving the present differences that divide the church – specifically those over the contentious and explosive report, Toward A Christian Understanding of Sexual Oriention, Lifestyles and Ministry.

“If only we could become incensed over other theological issues, over the preferential option for the poor, over the sin of apartheid or the desecration of God’s creation! What a powerful church we would be!”

Squire said coming to terms with the fact the church has been fractured by misunderstanding and bitterness means realizing that “unity doesn’t always mean conformity.” She said, “If God has made us all different this must mean God ordains differences, rejoices in them and celebrates them.”

Squire urged her church “to find within the seeds of covenant renewal which will bind up the broken body.”

Squire, the daughter of a Methodist mother and Anglican father, officially steps down Sunday night when the new moderator is installed. The elections for moderator were to take place today.

Two of the seven candidates are from the London Conference: John King, a farmer from Woodstock, and Rev. Morley Clarke, both of whom oppose the gay and lesbian report.

The other five candidates are: Rev. Sang Chul Lee, Toronto Conference; Bev Johnston, Hamilton Conference; Walter Farquharson, Saskatchewan Conference; Ralph Donnelly, Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Conference; and Morley Hodder, Newfoundland and Labrador Conference.

Posted: Aug. 19, 1988 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: human sexuality, United Church of Canada
Transmis : 19 aoüt 1988 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : human sexuality, United Church of Canada

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