Archive for the ‘United Church of Canada’ Category

Chas McCarthy to Pope Francis — Theology in the Vineyard   Leave a comment

This is the mere opening of that incredible apostle of the nonviolent Jesus, Emmanuel Charles McCarthy Dear Pope Francis, Christ is in our midst. He is now and ever shall be. I am aware that several hundred Catholics and Americans of goodwill have appealed to you by letter, petitioning you regarding your upcoming visit […]

via Chas McCarthy to Pope Francis — Theology in the Vineyard

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Citizens in God’s Commonwealth   Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:33-34When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.  Leviticus 19:33-34 NRSV Anglicized


As we live through these “interesting times”, I found inspiration in the words of The Rev. Desmond Jagger-Parsons. Desmond is concluding his service as Chair of the ecumenical coalition known as KAIROS.  His concluding paragraph in his recent post on the KAIROS website reads:

“Like many of you, as an individual, I have a partisan opinion about what has happened in the US election and I have them in Canada as well.  Some in KAIROS have the same opinion, some different.  It doesn’t matter.  Our common work is the work of Love – let us profess it boldly, with conviction, employing our rights as citizens and demanding the same for all.  And although the times may be times of fear, let us remember proclamation of the angels in both testaments: Do not be afraid.”

The full reflection on “Citizens in God’s Commonwealth” is at:

http://www.kairoscanada.org/spirited-reflection-citizens-gods-commonwealth?

 

 

Rev. Vosper and the heretics of Scarborough   Leave a comment

Toronto Star column by Rick Salutin

United Church minister Gretta Vosper holds sevice at West Hill United Church on Sunday.
United Church minister Gretta Vosper holds sevice at West Hill United Church on Sunday.  (RANDY RISLING / TORONTO STAR) | ORDER THIS PHOTO  

The Rev. Gretta Vosper and her heretics — pardon, congregants — had their brief moment at the Inquisition yesterday — pardon, hearing. The deciders in the United Church of Canada will now pray, ponder, then render judgment.

Vosper is charged with not believing “in God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit,” for which she could be defrocked — a term sounding newly pertinent in the era of the burkini. She calls herself an atheist, as regards the traditional “God” but says she understands “god” (she prefers lowercase) in her own way; so she both denies and affirms.

This isn’t Richard Dawkins’s atheism. The issue surfaced when she wrote an open letter on the Charlie Hebdo massacre saying bad things can be done in the name of God — hardly controversial or atheistic either. You could even argue that the Bible’s second commandment against worshipping false gods makes exactly her point.

As a teen, at Holy Blossom Temple, I read a novel by a rabbi, As a Driven Leaf, about a Talmudic-era sage named Elisha ben Abuyah, who raised impudent theological questions. He was in effect excommunicated and henceforth referred to as “the other” but remained revered by some sages and in subsequent tradition. Heresy in the name of faith and the truth — especially about the divine — has always been an intrinsic part of religions.

So, starting in the 1200s, a book known as The Atheist’s Bible — attacking Moses, Jesus and Mohammed — was denounced by religious authorities — and it didn’t even exist. Eventually, centuries later, it got written, as if it was necessary. In the 1960s, there was a “Death of God” movement inside U.S. Protestantism.

Vosper is in this tradition. She’s obsessed with god and writes books defining her concept. She says she believes in “a metaphorical God, as a symbol for a set of values.” She argues we “create god,” which in turn empowers us.

So yes, she’s being metaphorical but in theology, what isn’t? Surely most Greeks didn’t think actual gods lived up there on Olympus. There’s a developed theology of “demythologization” in Christianity. Atheism could end up as just another metaphor. One minister insisted the United Church “typically” affirms something “beyond material reality … more than the eye can see.” Okay, but who in the era of quantum physics wouldn’t affirm that? There are also groups of clergy who, like Vosper, “no longer hold supernatural beliefs.” But even that seems murky since it’s unclear what supernatural means today.

UCC clergy are expected to be in “essential agreement” with basic church doctrines but that can get pretty metaphorical too (“God is Holy Mystery … Mother, Friend, and Comforter”), leaving, says the UCC’s own journal, “plenty of leeway, God-wise.” And just how much is “agreement” really worth? Conrad Black, in his press lord days, apparently considered buying the Star so he was shown the leftish Atkinson Principles, which are legally built into the paper’s DNA. He looked at them and said something like, “Yah, I could sign on to that.”

If there’s anything innovative in Vosper’s challenge, it may be her serious treatment of the term, atheism. “New” atheists, such as Dawkins, just toyed with it, setting up simplistic, primitive versions of religion that they then debunked, like naughty kids in Sunday school. Vosper agonizes over the word, searching for any meaning it might have in religious settings. Such efforts keep religions vital.

In my own transition out of seminaries, for a long time I’d call myself an agnostic, till one day I thought, “Oh hell, I’m an atheist.” It wasn’t dramatic, more like the way a snake sheds its skin or, perhaps, being defrocked. In Obama’s first inaugural he mentioned atheists respectfully, which may have been a step along the way to rehabilitating the term in the U.S. context.

I used to ask people I knew at Union (protestant) seminary in New York how serious they were about Christian doctrines, like sin and salvation. Or was their Christianity just an autobiographical accident of birth through which they got attached to certain rituals, music, images etc., they were reluctant to abandon. I think those remain issues, especially in a globalizing world. In a way, Vosper is just stating the obvious and her opponents, merely postponing the inevitable.

She and her flock sound like they simply want a little meaning in their lives that feels really — meaningful. Can the United Church accommodate that?

Church: thermometer or thermostat?   1 comment

A reflection by Ted Schmidt

Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

ML King Jr “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” April 16,1963

One of the sad developments over the years has been the loss of power and agency in the institutional Catholic church.

“While it is inevitable that large institutions run down and in uber-capitalist countries will be co-opted by the culture, there will always be counter-movements fighting against such lassitude. History is full of examples beginning with the early church in the Roman Empire, then the Beguines, Francis of Assisi, Wesley’s challenge to high church Anglicanism, the Catholic Worker.” The examples are too numerous to mention. The Church at Vatican ll stated that it was “ecclesia semper reformanda”, a church always in need of renewal.

Today a Vatican ll pope has arrived, a man who understands that the church must be thrust into society as leaven.his theology is focused on Jesus’s call to God’s reign. Too many bishops are still locked into the church as the heart of the gospel. Sadly they resist Pope Francis.  The world today ruled by corporate power will always resist the gospel. Vatican ll reminded us that “we to must shoulder the cross which the world and the flesh inflict on those who search after peace and justice.” As King reminded us the church should not be a thermometer.

ML
In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.
Birmingham Jail

All of the above and below reminded me of a remarkable student I had in the 80s. John Popiel went on to do significant development in the Dominican Republic and today coordinates the Jesuit Volunteers in Canada.

In the nuclearized 80s I sent out students 2X2 to knock on doors and join the resistance to Canada  testing the Cruise Missile. Johnny came in with  a harrowing tale of some guy running him off his porch , telling him to eff off , saying he was all for testing.

I just laughed and had John read the gospel for that day in home room class. The gospel was Luke 10:5 ff

When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’”If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Earlier the Jesus of Luke gave this advice If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

John was stunned. The gospel had leapt off the page as it always does when we turn it into action. It’s like putting on 3D glasses—you see a new reality.

Chris Hedges recently wrote (below) about an Anglican bishop who basically asked the church to become the leaven, stop mirroring the corrosive culture and take a stand for God’s reign of peace and justice.
Carrying out sustained acts of civil disobedience is the only option left to defy the corporate state, says retired Anglican bishop Packard, who over the years has been arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest and other demonstrations. It will be a long, difficult and costly struggle the decorated Vietnam vet says. But there are moral and religious laws—laws that call on us to protect our neighbor, fight for justice and maintain systems of life—that must supersede the laws of the state. Fealty to these higher laws means we will make powerful enemies. It means we will endure discomfort, character assassination, state surveillance and repression. It means we will go to jail. But it is in the midst of this defiance that we will find purpose and, Packard argues, faith.

PACK
“This is the renewed presence of the church, people of spirit wandering around in the darkness trying to find each other,” Packard said to me before he was taken into custody by police during the Montrose protest. He stood holding one corner of a large banner reading, “We Say No to Spectra’s Algonquin Pipeline Expansion.” “When you find a cause that has spine, importance and potency you find the truth of the Scripture. You find it inside your gut. There is an ache in the culture.” Gesturing toward his fellow demonstrators, he added: “These are a few of the people who are speaking to it. This is what the church used to be. It used to be standing in conscience.”

Life is more than …   Leave a comment

The sermon shared on Sunday at Beach United Church interpreted a challenging story from Luke’s Gospel – Luke 12: 13 – 21. The preacher, Rev. Lawrence Nyarko, suggested that we listeners consider also the words of Gandhi:

There is enough in this world to satisfy human need,

but not enough to satisfy human greed.

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Open Minds – open doors   Leave a comment

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A wise woman once told me that,

“Your mind is like a parachute: it works best when it is open.”

On Good Friday the Toronto Star published a column titled, “An Easter Wish for Christianity” composed by Michael Coren. In it, Coren writes:

An authentic relationship with God is a dialogue,

involving questions,

arguments and even doubt.

The full column is at: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2016/03/25/an-easter-wish-for-christianity.html

Easter, 2016   Leave a comment

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Sunrise in Toronto: Easter, 2016

“True faith is the antithesis of a triumphant confidence. To be sure, there is a certitude of faith. The certitude of faith is not a matter of demonstration or success, but a matter of trust: trust in the promise of a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that are not (Romans, chapter 4), a God who creates ex nihilo, who according to the scriptures raised his Son from the dead.”

Douglas John Hall in “Lighten Our Darkness”, page 120