The United Church and “signs of the times”

The great Washington Christian writer from Sojourners Jm Wallis has a rule of thumb which Catholic churches( and (indeed all  churches) need to apply in contemporary church life :

Regarding church meetings—if this meeting is not connected to secular movements outside the church, you are basically wasting  your time and gazing at your navel…..

It seems that the United Church here has a deeper sensitivity to the ‘signs of the times” than the Roman church.The irony of course was that the Second Vatican Council was a “signs of the times” council and one of the most insistent signs was the  cry of the earth…..We have been very slow in integrating this summons into our church life and our liturgies. It appears that other communions are quicker on the uptake.



Friend Alan Baker  a United Church minister apprised me  of the United Church’s approach to Earth Day.


Earth Sunday

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Earth Day is celebrated in communities around the world on April 22 each year. Churches have chosen to mark this time of reflection and action for the care of the environment and the atmosphere by participating in community events and through liturgical celebrations.

New for 2013

• One Earth, One Sea, One SkypastedGraphic.tiff [PDF: 1 p/188 KB]
Plan your Earth Day/Sunday service around the theme “One Earth, One, Sea, One Sky” using this bulletin. Includes take action ideas, prayers, and hymn recommendations.

Additional Resources

Earth Sunday Worship ServicepastedGraphic_1.tiff [RTF: 5 pp/73 KB]

This service, created by Bruce Sanguin of Canadian Memorial United Church, Vancouver, follows an ancient liturgical tradition of the four pathways of the heart.

Earth Day Service: Choosing Life for All EarthpastedGraphic_1.tiff [RTF: 9 pp/209 KB]

This worship service for Earth Day links the resurrection of creation with the resurrected Christ.

• Hymn: “It Is Good!” by Carol GrolmanpastedGraphic.tiff [PDF: 3 pp/89 KB]

• Hymn: “Give Back to the Earth” by Jack WitmerpastedGraphic.tiff [PDF: 12 pp/1.3 MB]
First-prize co-winner of the Earth Day Sacred Song contest.

◦ Give Back to the Earth soprano/alto/descantpastedGraphic.tiff [PDF: 9 pp/424 KB]

• Hymn: “With Respect in Creation” by David KaipastedGraphic.tiff [PDF: 4 pp/136 KB]



  1. 1

    Ted, Ted, Ted: Let’s just look at the evidence. You are right, the United Church has a different approach, one more in line with what you are proposing than with what the Catholic Church believes. But Teddy boy, look what’s happening to the United Church. This is from the Globe and Mail:

    But today, the church [United Church] is literally dying. The average age of its members is 65. They believe in many things, but they do not necessarily believe in God. Some congregations proudly describe themselves as “post-theistic,” which is a good thing because, as one church elder said, it shows the church is not “stuck in the past.” Besides, who needs God when you’ve got Israel to kick around?

    The United Church is not alone. All the secular liberal churches are collapsing. In the United States, the Episcopalians – facing many issues similar to those of the United Church – have lost a quarter of their membership in the past decade. They’re at their lowest point since the 1930s. Not coincidentally, they spent their recent general meeting affirming the right of the transgendered to become priests. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it doesn’t top most people’s lists of pressing spiritual or even social issues.

    Is that what you want for the Catholic Church? And I thought people are leaving the Church in droves because it is not relevant? And the United Church is relevant, profoundly relevant, and yet they are dying: the United Church is dying. How do you explain that, Ted? Consider this article here:

    United Church attendance dwindling
    By Daniel Proussalidis, Parliamentary Bureau

    As the United Church of Canada struggles to fill many of its pews, the denomination will delve into contentious political issues at its 41st General Council in Ottawa this week.

    “An appropriate price put on carbon, such as a carbon tax, would penalize the use of fossil fuels and could generate revenue for sustainable energy,” a group of high-ranking church officials from Toronto argues in its submission to delegates.

    The 130 proposals up for debate also include a ban on oilsands expansion, opposing the Northern Gateway oil pipeline proposal and a partial boycott of Israeli products.

    Other proposals call for improvement of the world’s oceans through the transmission of “healing love to Creation” and for the inclusion of the gay rights activists’ “rainbow symbol” in church offices and websites.

    However, the United Church of Canada also has to deal with a dramatic decline in membership: membership has dipped from more than a million in the mid-1960s to less than 500,000 now.

    Retired United Church minister David Ewart estimates that by 2025 membership will drop to around 250,000.

    “If the trend of the last 10 years does not change, then yes, indeed that would be the membership in 2025,” Ewart said.

    Even more strikingly, Ewart estimates that if current trends hold, by 2025 the United Church will be attracting zero new followers.

    Ewart attributes that to liberal theology.

    “Because we’re so liberal … we have a hard time selling ourselves,” he said.

    Ewart acknowledges the only firm doctrine of his church is that “there is no such thing as a final statement of doctrine.”

    So, while the United Church calls people toward environmental activism, it doesn’t call for personal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

    “It’s dropped off our agenda, I would say, and consequently membership declines,” he admits.

    Even so, the church has found 600 people to attend its week-long Ottawa meeting, with enough local volunteers to bake 50 dozen muffins and 100 dozen cookies for them daily.

    There’s only one problem, Ted. Those muffins and cookies are contaminated with pesticides and other contaminants. They are also supporting corporate greed, if those muffins and cookies are made with sugar and flour.

    Listen Ted, you’ve lost ALL credibility. And that’s not the only thing you lost. You’ve lost your faith, buddy. There’s no evidence that you have any faith (in the true sense of the term: a supernatural virtue, by which one assents to truths that are beyond the grasp of human reason). The faith is reduced to issues of natural justice. Not only that, the faith is reduced to a left wing political agenda, so even as politics, your position cannot stand up to “reason”–I would happily debate you on all these issues. But you’ve lost your faith. If you haven’t joined the United Church already, I recommend that you do so asap, because they need members, and you’d fit right in. You don’t think like a Catholic, you don’t see the world as a Catholic does, i.e., through the eyes of faith. Do what your buddy Joanna Manning has done: she left. She had the guts to leave. But you just can’t do it. Nope. It’s the Roman Catholic Church that has to change and conform to the vision of Ted the anointed one.

  2. 2
    wmgrace Says:

    Clearly, this blog is providing excellent resources for those interested in honouring Earth Day – and in today’s world shouldn’t that be all of us? Thanks to Now Magazine, Allan Baker and the United Church. What is the Catholic church doing in this regard? Isn’t it time the Catholic church joined the 21st century?

    In my attempts to follow what is happening in the Catholic church I rely on the NYTimes, among other resources. I would say that at least 50% of the NYTimes alerts which are sent, refer to the Catholic church’s legal issues stemming from the actions of pedophile priests and the inactions of various bishops in protecting them. Catholics know there are grave problems in the church. It can’t hide behind archaic theology forever.

  3. 3

    Ted: Here’s someone who understands the causes of poverty. This is an interview with Cardinal Bergolio before he became pope. Read this and weep, then repent.

    The following is a transcript of an interview between Christ Matthews, MSNBC American journalist and then Cardinal Bergolio. It is clear why the interview was never broadcast. This Pope is a breath of fresh air; a very enlightening, clear understanding of social justice. It is clear that Matthews never understood or learned a thing.


    REPORTER: Welcome Cardinal.

    BERGOGLIO: Thank you. Happy to speak with you.

    REPORTER: Well, let me get into it directly. Last conclave, you were almost elected Pope. Can this happen again?

    BERGOGLIO: What? That I will almost be the Pope, again?

    REPORTER: No. Will you be the next Pope?

    BERGOGLIO: Friend, I’m only jesting with you. I understand the question. I will not be the next Pope

    REPORTER: Why not?

    BERGOGLIO: I chose not to. God has someone else in mind I’m certain.

    REPORTER: But you would take the job if it were offered.

    BERGOGLIO: I think not.

    REPORTER: Why not.

    BERGOGLIO: I believe I’m too embroiled in the secular fiasco. It is a spiritual job, and I’m a soldier. Look at the nature of power. In Europe first and now in America, elected men have taken it upon themselves to indebt their people to create an atmosphere of dependency. And why? For their own selfish need to increase their own personal power. I’ve been a keen observer of the effect this has on the people, especially the poor. They are very good at creating poverty where there is no reason to explain it. My job is try to alleviate poverty and if that means to oppose the cause then I will not be Pope.

    REPORTER: But you are worried you would be a spend thrift pope?

    BERGOGLIO: Friend. Where did you go to school?

    REPORTER: La Salle College High School in Pennsylvania and.

    BERGOGLIO: And after that?

    REPORTER: College of the Holy Cross.

    BERGOGLIO: They told me you were Catholic. Once elected the Pope is by virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error. God would change any spend thrift politician into a responsible Pope. I’m just saying I’m not that man.

    REPORTER: So what is your job?

    BERGOGLIO: My job is to ask you? Why are men creating poverty?

    REPORTER: What do you mean?

    BERGOGLIO: I mean that poverty is part of the natural condition and that is bad enough. But my task is to prevent the aggravation of this condition. The ideology that adds to the poverty must be denounced. I have and this is the reason I will not be Pope. I have a saying for myself, no more poverty than God originally intended in the fall from Grace?


    BERGOGLIO: It is a spiritual choice, and I’m a political person. I’m sorry. I know you will make more money from this interview if I’m Pope. Or want to be Pope. But I’m sorry. I can’t help you. God has already chosen someone anyway.
    Right? You learned this in school?

    REPORTER: Yes. Well? Where are you on the issues that matter most, issues about contraception, women priests?

    BERGOGLIO: This might be a surprise to you, but I am Catholic. We are Catholic. It isn’t an issue and for you to pretend that it is being debated goes against God.

    REPORTER: If you were Pope, then you would not change anything.

    BERGOGLIO: Certainly God would direct the new Pope to have more compassion for these newly created poor. And if there is any social justice in the Church, the new Pope would have a stern word for the creators of the new situation.

    REPORTER: But you are staunchly orthodox on the issues of abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage.

    BERGOGLIO: I am catholic.

    REPORTER: You were punished for opposed same-sex marriage in Argentina. You opposed free contraception and the government exiled you. What do you have to say about that?

    BERGOGLIO: I am catholic.

    REPORTER: In the secular world, as you say, you follow the conservative line. You oppose, uh, same-sex marriages, very popular with young people. You are conservative on birth control. Won’t that be the doom of the Church, alienating
    young people who support reality based faith?

    BERGOGLIO: Since God created the world, he also created reality. You seem to be arguing that a man can’t be Catholic in reality. Son, you are a Catholic?

    REPORTER: Yes, of course. I meant no disrespect.

    BERGOGLIO: You don’t have to worry about offending me.

    REPORTER: Okay, good. Can a, uh, Pope even be elected if he is pro-choice or pro-love? I mean isn’t the election sort of fixed in favor of anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage?

    BERGOGLIO: Yes, the election is fixed by God.

    REPORTER: Very witty.

    BERGOGLIO: Well, you did ask.

    REPORTER: It is being reported in America that you are against marriage equality. Is that why you feel that you can’t be Pope?

    BERGOGLIO: God chooses the Pope, and God also made men and women different.

    REPORTER: But you are… a conservative and oppose abortion!

    BERGOGLIO: Friend the expression on your face gives you away.

    REPORTER: I’m sorry, I’m just trying to do my job.

    BERGOGLIO: And what job is that?

    REPORTER: I’ve been sent to interview eight men in line for the papacy.

    BERGOGLIO: And I guarantee you that they all oppose abortion. So?

    REPORTER: But?

    BERGOGLIO: So, you feel like you need to alienate the eight from the flock?

    REPORTER: That isn’t it. How can the church attract young people when it is opposed to abortion and contraception?

    BERGOGLIO: Young people are just as attracted to the truth as they are convenience and expediency. So we will call it a draw.

    REPORTER: Doesn’t the church need to modernize?

    BERGOGLIO: Finally, I’ve met someone who will advocate publicly painting over the Sistine Chapel with one of the contemporary street artists. Are you sure you support this and in public?

    REPORTER: What?

    BERGOGLIO: Forgive me, I was rude.

    REPORTER: Won’t the new pope, don’t these cardinals realize what they’ve gotta do if they want to attract young people to the church?

    BERGOGLIO: I am a cardinal.

    REPORTER: Won’t the new pope, don’t you and the other cardinals realize what they must do if they want to attract young people to the church?

    BERGOGLIO: I’ve explained the mysteries of the atom to rural young people and also I’ve explained the Grace of God. And you know what? They can understand both perfectly well. Frankly, I have more trouble with adults understanding both.

    REPORTER: But they have done focus groups; if you want to spread your message you can’t have this position that’s anti-gay marriage and anti-contraception.

    BERGOGLIO: And you treat the church as a political institution.

    REPORTER: So we were not gonna see any kind of change when it comes to things that matter like abortion or gay marriage?

    BERGOGLIO: All eight of the men you will be talking to are Catholic.

    REPORTER: Okay, I understand. Let’s talk about your controversial stand on poverty.

    BERGOGLIO: You want it to be controversial?

    REPORTER: But don’t you blame various governments around the world for poverty?

    BERGOGLIO: Some. Yes.

    REPORTER: But you refuse to blame corporations for their role.

    BERGOGLIO: Okay, they also told me you have a degree in economics. No buyer, or seller either, enters into any exchange against his will. It is the nature of the economy. Man is frail, and he makes mistakes and sometimes is greedy and they enter into exchanges that don’t help them. Sometimes they become poor, but they made choices. There is nothing the Church can do except try to educate people to become good consumers. Chiefly, for me, it is an education solution on
    that side. And the Church has more schools around the globe than any other faith. I say teach the people to save their souls, and also teach them how not to become poor. And now not to allow the government to trick them into poverty.

    REPORTER: And you blame government.

    BERGOGLIO: No, I blame the self-serving politicians.

    REPORTER: So your solution to poverty is to change the nature of politics?

    BERGOGLIO: Please feel free to broadcast this; I don’t want to be pope. Friend, you are a socialist and your friends are socialists. And you are the reason for 70 years of misery in Russia and Europe now is seizing in pain from your
    policies. You believe in the redistribution of wealth and it makes entire populations poor. You want to nationalize everything and bring every human endeavor under your control. You destroy a man’s incentive to take care of his
    very own family, a crime against nature and nature’s God. You want social control over populations and incrementally you are making everything against the law. Together this ideology creates more poverty today than all the corporations you vilify have in the history of man.

    REPORTER: I’ve never heard such from a Cardinal. I’m not sure if you are here to help yourself or disqualify yourself.

    BERGOGLIO: Please air this interview. People being dominated by socialists need to know we don’t all have to be poor. Some poverty is part of our being cast out of the Garden of Eden. But look at the empire of dependency created by Hugo Chavez. Promising them, tricking them into worship of government and his very own person. Giving them fish but not allowing them to fish. If a fisherman does develop a talent today in Latin America; he is castigated and his catch stolen by the socialists. He stops?

    REPORTER: You would be the first pope from the Americas.

    BERGOGLIO: He stops fishing. I will not be pope, but yes I am from Argentina.

    REPORTER: And you didn’t want to be pope?

    BERGOGLIO: God didn’t want me to be pope.

    REPORTER: Perhaps he changed his mind.

    BERGOGLIO: Ludicrous.

    REPORTER: Okay, I’m sorry. I feel like we are getting off on the wrong path. I’m sorry.

    BERGOGLIO: Yes, let’s be productive.

    REPORTER: You are a classic conservative Catholic theologian?

    BERGOGLIO: Of course there’s politics clearly in the Curia throughout the Vatican, but in terms of church teaching, it’s not a political institution. It’s religious.

    REPORTER: I heard people, in fact, media people, “Is this cardinal, is he a liberal? Is he a conservative?”

    BERGOGLIO: Tell them please, He’s a Catholic. It’s no more complicated than that. Catholicism is what it is. You don’t have to believe it; you may not. You don’t have to follow it; you may not go to Mass. But it’s not up to you to
    modernize us.

    REPORTER: You see no room for reform?

    BERGOGLIO: It’s not up to any religion, although some do this, ’cause they want the money. They want the membership. But the Catholic Church doesn’t do it. It’s not up to them to bend and shape and mold itself to accommodate the shrinking depravity of a worldwide culture. It’s to provide the exact opposite. It’s to provide a beacon out of depravity, socialism and sin, among other things.

    REPORTER: If pope you would be bad news for the left.

    BERGOGLIO: I won’t be pope. But I am opposed to abortion. I’m opposed to euthanasia. The pro-choice movement is a culture of death. I oppose the demonic same-sex marriage. I oppose gay adoption on the grounds that it is discriminatory to the child. I was exiled by the Cristina Kirchner government, but I hold no grudge. How is this bad news?

    REPORTER: John Paul II rescued you?

    BERGOGLIO: He made me the archbishop of Buenos Aires. Yes.

    REPORTER: And so you feel like you owe the Right some sort of repayment?

    BERGOGLIO: There are many values and many types of people. Perhaps it is my interest in mathematics, but I’m the type of human who is interested most in the truth. God gave me a healthy love for the truth. Loyalty is only a virtue if in
    support of the truth or another important value.

    REPORTER: Cristina Kirchner said you held a grudge.

    BERGOGLIO: Funny I’ve never spoken her name. Not once. And it is a battle of ideas not a battle of two or more people. I’m only concerned with ideas.

    REPORTER: She said you refused to speak up for civil rights violations.

    BERGOGLIO: As a spiritual leader, I opposed cultural modernization, and so I became a political enemy. I understand politics as well as I do mathematics.

    REPORTER: And the Jesuits, they were eager to cast you out, which they did.

    BERGOGLIO: So you are implying that I’m a vengeful priest?

    REPORTER: Do you feel that you need to erase the progress recently made in Latin

    BERGOGLIO: I say poverty. You say progress.

    REPORTER: Let’s talk about poverty.

    BERGOGLIO: Sure, there is voluntary poverty that is virtuous. Many understood the nobility of making themselves independent of the fleeting things of earth. They are distractions from our pursuit of the truth. I have no problem with
    this. I only oppose involuntary poverty.

    REPORTER: That is what I thought you would say.


    REPORTER: Because you are a capitalist right?

    BERGOGLIO: Yes, I think capital is needed to build a factory, a parochial school, or a church or hospital, all. Do you oppose factories or churches or hospitals?

    REPORTER: Of course not, but don’t you think the capital is sucked out of peoples hands by greedy business types to pay for these factories?

    BERGOGLIO: No, I think people agree, through their economic choices, that some of their money goes to build these. Capital building should be voluntary. Only when the politician confiscates their wealth to build government factories, government schools, government hospitals; only then do the people not agree. Money given voluntarily is legitimate to build with. Money coerced from the people is not legitimate to build with, because it isn’t given voluntarily.

    REPORTER: You are opposed to all government?

    BERGOGLIO: No of course not. But it isn’t the seat of wisdom in any society I’ve seen in my life. The best government was created by the Americans, in which they admitted that people are endowed by their creator and most of the administration of society was left to the relationship between God and man. However, slowly that has been eroded by the atheists on the left who would replace man’s relationship with God with a new relationship with an opportunist like Hugo Chavez.

    REPORTER: I just found it fascinating that you were willing to stand up to an entire government in Argentina. You where cast aside. Didn’t you care about your career?

    BERGOGLIO: Yes, there are people who cave to worldly authority. Even priests.

    REPORTER: But you didn’t?

    BERGOGLIO: No, I changed nothing. How did I have the power to change anything in church teaching? My opinion? The democrats, seeking votes, only wanted me to change my opinion and legitimize their decadence. I did not, as evidenced by the fact that I was teaching high school math in small isolated town.

    REPORTER: I’m sorry that happened to you.

    BERGOGLIO: Why don’t you feel for others oppressed for their interest in freedom.

    REPORTER: Freedom isn’t punished anywhere, is it?

    BERGOGLIO: Certainly it is.

    REPORTER: In Latin America?

    BERGOGLIO: I’m afraid Latin America is lost. The people of the entire area are controlled by a bloc of militant socialist regimes in the region, most prominently Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. They have a gun pointed
    at their head. So their heart is now captured. Who will save them at this point?

    REPORTER: So the game is over. Checkmate?

    BERGOGLIO: Friend, I’ve been studying America this month before the Pope chose to resign. You must not have fear at speaking the truth. It is for the salvation of souls and the recovery of Thomas Jefferson’s people. America must not fall to the new painted communism. Even the low information voters don’t want America to be sold into slavery. I pray they cast out the money changers in their government! What manner of government is there that condones sin? Abomination upon abomination–giving monies for the murder of children, giving monies for the murder of the elderly! You are an American. Your government, My child, has been infiltrated by men of sin.

    REPORTER: These are pretty radical ideas.

    BERGOGLIO: No. Perhaps reactionary. Radical means something different. But a very long time ago, Khrushchev warned that we cannot expect Americans to fly from capitalism to communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving Americans small injections of socialism until they suddenly awake to find out they have Communism. This is what is happening now in an ancient bastion of freedom. How can America save Latin America when they are slaves to the government themselves?

    REPORTER: I’m having a hard time digesting most of this.

    BERGOGLIO: The truth can be painful. You look angry; do you want to stop or ask a question? But you have created a new type of state, the so-called welfare state. This has happened in order to respond to the needs of the politically created poor. However, intervening directly is depriving the original society of its responsibility. Families escape responsibility in the welfare state. And churches even escape responsibility. People stop giving to charity and see every poor person as the government’s problem. I am a Catholic priest and there are no poor for me to take care of, they are made permanently poor and the property of the politicians.

    REPORTER: I’m not sure this interview is going to work.

    BERGOGLIO: You asked and now you will listen, my son. The social assistance state leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic thinking than by real concern for helping people. Needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them who act as neighbors and parish members to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response which is not simply material but which is capable of perceiving the deeper human need. This is not to mention the welfare states excesses and abuses.

    REPORTER: I think we are done.

    BERGOGLIO: Wait. If I speak on the ordination of women, on celibacy, on divorce, will you air this interview and my message?

    REPORTER: No, we are done.

    BERGOGLIO: Partially what irritates me to the core is the media’s inability to look at anything without looking into the cause of the various problems. People are made poor so they will vote for the very candidates that made them poor.

    REPORTER: Have a nice day and thanks for your time.


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