03 September 2005

A denominational anniversary

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the United Church of Canada, which in 1925 brought together the Methodist, Congregational and most of the Presbyterian churches into a single denomination. Since then it has followed a social and religious agenda making it virtually indistinguishable from the attitudes of the larger secular society. Why then is it gradually fading? Sociologist Rodney Stark offers an assessment, as recounted in this report:

Stark says when a faith group like the United Church proclaims that it is just one path among many that a spiritual seeker might choose to wander down, it's shooting itself in the foot. It's akin to the makers of one product saying in their advertisements: "Go ahead and buy our competitor's model. It's just as good."

Perhaps this explains why Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, could so easily assert that "there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him." Though he took heat at the time for affirming this, he would hardly have reason to remain a Catholic if he didn't believe it to be true. Ironically, the United Church, by failing to distinguish itself from any other organization, much less from other churches, appears bent on making itself redundant.

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