United They Fall – The National Post on The United Church

Here’s an interesting one for my United Church friends and classmates.  The National Post on May 14 did an article entitled United They Fall about the decline of the United Church of Canada.  I’m not particularly involved in the United Church.  I grew up in one and do currently go to one, but I also have been known to grumble about it too (although if you read this blog you know I also grumble about pretty much every other denomination too).  For those outside the United Church, this article does a great job of summing up the direction of the United Church over the last generation or so.  I thought this quote from Connie denBok said it well:

“In the 1960s and ’70s, we became embarrassed about Jesus. And so we distanced ourselves from Jesus, and the point is, without Jesus there’s no point in having a church. iTunes has better music and the NDP has better policies; everything else we do now somebody else does way better. The only thing we can do is this Jesus thing,” she said.

That’s a point I’ve made lots of time: take away Jesus, or God entirely in some cases as with atheist United Church minister Vosper who is praised by the Moderator in this article, and what’s left?  A social group and/or a political advocacy group. And there are better social groups – see my post Facebook Killed the Church?  It discusses an article that claimed that since the church’s purpose was a social group, we don’t need it anymore with Facebook and other electronic communication tools. I argued against that because I don’t think that’s the main point of the church, but sometimes it is, not just in the United Church but in lots of churches who just aren’t as blunt about it. And there are better political advocacy groups, too, like the NDP as referenced in the quote above.

Back to Vosper for a bit. I can respect having an atheist in dialogue with the church. In fact, I love it, wish it happened more often. But I do still fundamentally disagree with the idea of having somebody who has written books on her unbelief as a minister in a Christian church. The well-spread video of Bill Maher on Christian Hypocrisy of Violence makes the same point on a different issue. If you are pro-torture, sure, you’re welcome to your opinion and we should discuss, but you can’t claim the name of the obviously nonviolent Jesus in that opinion by calling yourself a Christian. To me the same is true for not even believing God exists or that Jesus was not God incarnate. I don’t even care if you’re a modalist or a traditional Trinitarian or have some other framework of the relationship of the Godhead. But can you really call yourself a Christian if Christ is not central? Like Maher said about violence, I’m not saying you’re a horrible person to not believe in God, but it is a contradiction in terms to call yourself a Christian and not be following Christ.

There are lots in the United Church who do still hold to a centrality of Jesus and who do still have a lot of other clearly-defined views. The article and even some of my own writing makes it sound like it’s a minority of people who still care about Jesus. I don’t think that’s true, but I do think it’s a shrinking group. The United Church is on a path toward being a moderately-successful social group and a moderately-successful activist group. Ok, those things are good, but that isn’t the Christian church. The Christian church is called the body of Christ and the bride of Christ.  How does that work when there’s no Christ?

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.