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United Church of Canada

From Academic Kids

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St. Paul's-Eastern United Church in Ottawa
The United Church of Canada (l'Église Unie du Canada) is Canada's second largest church (after the Roman Catholic Church), and its largest Protestant denomination. About 250,000 people attend United Church services each Sunday, although some 2.8 million Canadians reported the United Church as their religious affiliation in the country's 2001 census. The United Church describes itself as having a presence in "all parts of Canada except rural Quebec".

The current Moderator of the United Church, elected for a three-year term, is the Rt. Rev. Peter Short.

Contents

History

The United Church of Canada was inaugurated at a massive worship service at Toronto's Mutual Street Arena on June 10, 1925, and recognized and legitimated by Act of Parliament as well as provincial laws dealing with church property. It was the merger—negotiated and planned over more than twenty years—of three prominent Protestant denominations, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Congregationalists. Also participating were a number of "local union churches" that had already been established in small towns in the rapidly developing Canadian west.

At the time of the original merger in 1925 approximately 30% of the Presbyterian congregations in Canada chose not to merge and they continue today as the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Such a merger was unprecedented in world history; Canada was the first country where the Protestant churches elected to pool their resources and become one large nondogmatic church, and creation of the United Church was a model for similar unions that followed in Australia, India and elsewhere. The United Church has continued a policy of openness to church union.

In 1968 the Evangelical United Brethren Church of Canada (EUB or "Unionists"), having been orphaned when the parent body in the United States joined what became the United Methodist Church, joined the United Church of Canada. Union talks between the United Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in the 1970s were unsuccessful. There have also been conversations about union with the Disciples of Christ. The United Church is active in the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

About the United Church

The United Church is a broad church with a range of congregations from moderately conservative to very liberal. But in general, and especially at the national level, it is one of the most socially liberal of the world's large Protestant denominations. It began ordaining female ministers in 1936 and has long shied away from a rigid interpretation of the Bible. United Church of Canada members moving to the United States often find themselves most at home in the United Church of Christ.

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Statement in favour of equality of all sexual orientations, posted by a United Church in Montreal
The United Church is generally very open to gay and lesbian members. Corporately, the church formally states that homosexuality "is not in itself a barrier" to becoming a minister. Some congregations celebrate same-gender holy unions, and United Church spokespersons advocate for gay rights in the greater community. Church delegates presented evidence in favour of same-sex marriage to the House of Commons Justice Committee during its cross-country hearings in 2003 and welcomed court decisions that legalized same-sex marriage in certain provinces. However, the process of coming to a church-wide decision on issues of human sexuality has been difficult, with some congregations electing to leave the church entirely during a 1988 controversy. See Homosexuality and Christianity.

In 1997 the limits of the Church's openness were tested when the Church's Moderator, the Very Rev. Bill Phipps commented that he was not sure the resurrection of Jesus was a scientific fact. This sparked great debate in the church, and some congregations passed motions asserting their faith in Jesus' literal resurrection.[1]

The polity of the United Church is largely Presbyterian, with a hierarchy of governing bodies (Presbyteries, Conferences, and the General Council) each having equal membership from ministers and lay people. Its social policies owe the most to the Methodist strain in its heritage. The freedom available to individual congregations owes much to the Congregationalist part of its roots.

The United Church issued a Hymnary in 1930, the Hymn Book (jointly with the Anglican Church of Canada) in 1972, and a new hymnbook under the title Voices United in 1996.

Churches

See list of churches in the United Church of Canada

External links

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