The inevitable splintering of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination—over the issue of the ordination of practicing homosexuals—should be handled like a marital breakdown, according to the new moderator of the United Church of Canada (UCC).

But the leader of Community of Concern (COC), representing the church’s evangelical and moderate wings, believes the church hierarchy is forcing them either to conform or get out.

The United Church of Canada’s General Council, the denomination’s highest court, meeting in London, Ontario, voted 302 to 74 on August 21 to reaffirm a 1988 decision to open the door to ordaining openly practicing homosexuals. The affirmation conceded that the church “is not of one mind” on the human sexuality issue, and that “further struggle, dialogue and prayer are necessary to discern fully where God is calling us as a church.”

For incoming moderator Walter Farquharson, 54, a long-time rural Saskatchewan pastor and hymnwriter, a major goal for his two-year tenure is to promote “the greatest possible respect for one another and the honoring of each other’s integrity.”

But for Gordon Ross, executive secretary of the COC, the fight is almost over. And, he maintains, the people who want to use gay ordination to change the United Church’s 65-year-old Basis of Union have won the battle. The COC will, in fact, meet September 15 to decide its future. On the agenda will be at least two options: the forming of an association of dissenting congregations within the UCC and the possibility of churches leaving the denomination to affiliate with, for example, the Reformed Church of Canada.

The rapport between COC and UCC’s head office ...

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