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The Basis of Union of the United Church of Canada.
The United Church of Canada was constituted, 1925, by the consolidation of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian bodies, and represents the boldest act, thus far, resulting in organic Church union. An impetus as well as a challenge was given to the union of Church forces by the formation of the Dominion of Canada, 1867, comprising all the British territories of North America except Newfoundland, and a pressing ground for union was given by the waste of means and men in the attempt of the denominations separately to reach the people and to prevent overlapping in the widely scattered and small communities of the Western provinces. The union of 1925 was preceded by consolidations within the Methodist and Wesleyan Canadian communions, 1833–83, and of the four Presbyterian groups, 1875, under a single General Assembly.
The larger movement,22532253E. L. Morrow: Ch. Unity in Canada, Toronto, 1923, 426 pp. Opposed to the United Church movement. J. T. McNeill, Professor in Knox College: Ch. Union in Canada, Toronto, 15 pp. An answer to Morrow—Basis of Union of the Un. Ch. of Canada. An. Hist. Statement, Toronto, 1924, 34 pp.—R. J. Wilson: Ch. Union in Canada after Three Years, Toronto, 1929, 52 pp. Also McNeill: The Presb. Ch. in Canada, Toronto, 1925, 226 pp. resulting in the United Church, had its formal beginning in the appointment of committees on union by the Congregationalists, Methodists, and Presbyterians in 1902, 1903. The exact event to be looked for as the starting-point of the union was the suggestion made by Principal Patrick of Winnipeg College as a fraternal delegate of the Presbyterian Church before the Methodists' meeting in 934General Conference in Winnipeg, 1902. In response, the Conference appointed a committee, 'for finding and formulating a Basis of Union with the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches.' In 1903 the Presbyterian General Assembly pronounced 'organic union both desirable and practicable' and placed Principal Caven as head of a committee appointed by it. The Congregationalists also having appointed a committee, the three committees met as a Joint Committee, 1904, in Toronto, and, 1909, it presented its report. Previously, 1906, the Joint Committee invited the Episcopal prelates in Canada and the Baptists to join in the movement, but the invitation was declined. The Methodist and Congregational Churches were almost unanimous in favoring the union. Within the Presbyterian Church a noticeable difference of opinion shewed itself from the beginning and grew more impressive as the movement progressed. The first vote on the Basis of Union, 1910, was as follows:
Congregationalists: Of 10,689 members, 2,933 voted for and 813 against.
Methodists: Of 293,967 members of eighteen years or over, 150,841 voted for and 24,357 against.
Presbyterians: Of 287,944 members, 106,755 voted for and 48,278 against. Upon the Basis of Union as amended—the call for amendment having come from the Presbyterian General Assembly—the vote in the Presbyterian Church, 1915, was as follows: Of the 76 presbyteries, 53 voted for, 13 against, the other 10 being either tied or sending no return. Of the members, 106,534 voted for and 69,913 against.
The Congregational and Methodist Churches having accepted the union, the Presbyterian General Assembly voted, 1922, to proceed 'to organic union as expeditiously as possible.' By act of July 19, 1924, "The United Church of Canada was authorized by 'his Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada.'" At the first meeting of the General Council, 1925, 150 delegates represented the former Methodist Church, 150 the Presbyterian, and 40 the Congregational churches. To this number were added 10 delegates from the Council of the Union Churches of Western Canada, which represented Christian communities that had united for worship or been amalgamated.
The Boards and Committees of the three constituent bodies, numbering 935twenty-six, have been merged into six agencies, the three denominational newspapers into the New Outlook, and the three missionary periodicals into one.22542254The Presbyterian element opposing the consolidation and continuing an independent organization has its main strength in Ontario and had, 1929, 179,530 members, the United Church 650,989. In a third poll, 1924–25, 113,773 Presbyterians voted for the union and 114,367 against it.
The Basis of Union contains sections on doctrine and polity and includes a statement of the qualifications and training for the ministry and on administration, together with an Appendix on legislation. The polity of the Church calls for three superintending bodies, the presbytery, the conference and the General Council, the last meeting every two years. The Basis of Union is as follows:
General.—1. The name of the Church formed by the union of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches in Canada, shall be "The United Church of Canada." 2. It shall be the policy of The United Church to foster the spirit of unity in the hope that this sentiment of unity may in due time, so far as Canada is concerned, take shape in a Church which may fittingly be described as national.
Doctrine.—We, the representatives of the Presbyterian, the Methodist, and the Congregational branches of the Church of Christ in Canada, do hereby set forth the substance of the Christian faith, as commonly held among us. In doing so, we build upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone. We affirm our belief in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the primary source and ultimate standard of Christian faith and life. We acknowledge the teaching of the great creeds of the ancient Church. We further maintain our allegiance to the evangelical doctrines of the Reformation, as set forth in common in the doctrinal standards adopted by the Presbyterian Church in Canada, by the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec, and by the Methodist Church. We present the accompanying statement as a brief summary of our common faith and commend it to the studious attention of the members and adherents of the negotiating Churches, as in substance agreeable to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.
Art. I. Of God.—We believe in the one only living and true God, a Spirit infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in His being and perfections; the Lord Almighty, who is love, most just in all His ways, most glorious in holiness, unsearchable in wisdom, plenteous in mercy, full of compassion, abundant in goodness and truth. We worship Him in the unity of the Godhead and the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three persons of the same substance, equal in power and glory.
Art. II. Of Revelation.—We believe that God has revealed Himself in nature, in history, and in the heart of man; that He has been graciously pleased to make clearer revelation of Himself to men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; and that in the fulness of time He has perfectly revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who is the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of His person. We receive the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, given by inspiration of God, as containing the only infallible rule of faith and life, a faithful record of God's gracious revelations, and as the sure witness to Christ.
Art. III. Of the Divine Purpose.—We believe that the eternal, wise, holy, and loving purpose of God so embraces all events that, while the freedom of man is not taken away, 936nor is God the author of sin, yet in His providence He makes all things work together in the fulfilment of His sovereign design and the manifestation of His glory.
Art. IV. Of Creation and Providence.—We believe that God is the creator, upholder and governor of all things; that He is above all His works and in them all; and that He made man in His own image, meet for fellowship with Him, free and able to choose between good and evil, and responsible to his Maker and Lord.
Art. V. Of the Sin of Man.—We believe that our first parents, being tempted, chose evil, and so fell away from God and came under the power of sin, the penalty of which is eternal death; and that, by reason of this disobedience, all men are born with a sinful nature, that we have broken God's law and that no man can be saved but by His grace.
Art. VI. Of the Grace of God.—We believe that God, out of His great love for the world, has given His only begotten Son to be the Saviour of sinners, and in the Gospel freely offers His all-sufficient salvation to all men. We believe also that God, in His own good pleasure, gave to His Son a people, an innumerable multitude, chosen in Christ unto holiness, service and salvation.
Art. VII. Of the Lord Jesus Christ.—We believe in and confess the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man, who, being the eternal Son of God, for us men and for our salvation became truly man, being conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, yet without sin. Unto us He has revealed the Father, by His word and Spirit, making known the perfect will of God. For our redemption He fulfilled all righteousness, offered Himself a perfect sacrifice on the cross, satisfied Divine justice and made propitiation for the sins of the whole world. He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, where He ever intercedes for us. In the hearts of believers He abides forever as the indwelling Christ; above us and over us all He rules; wherefore, unto Him we render love, obedience and adoration as our Prophet, Priest and King.
Art. VIII. Of the Holy Spirit.—We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who moves upon the hearts of men to restrain them from evil and to incite them unto good, and whom the Father is ever willing to give unto all who ask Him. We believe that He has spoken by holy men of God in making known His truth to men for their salvation; that, through our exalted Saviour, He was sent forth with power to convict the world of sin, to enlighten men's minds in the knowledge of Christ, and to persuade and enable them to obey the call of the Gospel; and that He abides with the Church, dwelling in every believer as the spirit of truth, of power, of holiness, of comfort and of love.
Art. IX. Of Regeneration.—We believe in the necessity of regeneration, whereby we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus by the Spirit of God, who imparts spiritual life by the gracious and mysterious operation of His power, using as the ordinary means the truths of His word and the ordinances of Divine appointment in ways agreeable to the nature of men.
Art. X. Of Faith and Repentance.—We believe that faith in Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive Him, trust in Him and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered to us in the Gospel, and that this saving faith is always accompanied by repentance, wherein we confess and forsake our sins with full purpose of and endeavor after a new obedience to God.
Art. XI. Of Justification and Sonship.—We believe that God, on the sole ground of the perfect obedience and sacrifice of Christ, pardons those who by faith receive Him as their Saviour and Lord, accepts them as righteous, and bestows upon them the adoption of sons, with a right to all the privileges therein implied, including a conscious assurance of their sonship.
Art. XII. Of Sanctification.—We believe that those who are regenerated and justified grow in the likeness of Christ through fellowship with Him, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and obedience to the truth; that a holy life is the fruit and evidence of saving faith; 937and that the believer's hope of continuance in such a life is in the persevering grace of God. And we believe that in this growth in grace Christians may attain that maturity and full assurance of faith whereby the love of God is made perfect in us.
Art. XIII. Of Prayer.—We believe that we are encouraged to draw near to God, our Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and on our own behalf and that of others to pour out our hearts humbly yet freely before Him, as becomes His beloved children, giving Him the honor and praise due His holy name, asking Him to glorify Himself on earth as in heaven, confessing unto Him our sins and seeking of Him every gift needful for this life and for our everlasting salvation. We believe also that, inasmuch as all true prayer is prompted by His Spirit, He will in response thereto grant us every blessing according to His unsearchable wisdom and the riches of His grace in Jesus Christ.
Art. XIV. Of the Law of God.—We believe that the moral law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments, testified to by the prophets and unfolded in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, stands forever in truth and equity, and is not made void by faith, but on the contrary is established thereby. We believe that God requires of every man to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God; and that only through this harmony with the will of God shall be fulfilled that brotherhood of man wherein the kingdom of God is to be made manifest.
Art. XV. Of the Church.—We acknowledge one holy Catholic Church, the innumerable company of saints of every age and nation, who being united by the Holy Spirit to Christ their Head are one body in Him and have communion with their Lord and with one another. Further, we receive it as the will of Christ that His Church on earth should exist as a visible and sacred brotherhood, consisting of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to Him, together with their children, and other baptized children, and organized for the confession of His name, for the public worship of God, for the administration of the sacraments, for the upbuilding of the saints, and for the universal propagation of the Gospel; and we acknowledge as a part, more or less pure, of this universal brotherhood, every particular Church throughout the world which professes this faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to Him as divine Lord and Saviour.
Art. XVI. Of the Sacraments.—We acknowledge two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, which were instituted by Christ, to be of perpetual obligation as signs and seals of the covenant ratified in His precious blood, as means of grace, by which, working in us, He doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and comfort our faith in Him, and as ordinances through the observance of which His Church is to confess her Lord and be visibly distinguished from the rest of the world. 1. Baptism with water into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is the sacrament by which are signified and sealed our union to Christ and participation in the blessings of the new covenant. The proper subjects of baptism are believers, and infants presented by their parents or guardians in the Christian faith. In the latter case, the parents or guardians should train up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and should expect that their children will, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, receive the benefits which the sacrament is designed and fitted to convey. The Church is under the most solemn obligation to provide for their Christian instruction. 2. The Lord's Supper is the sacrament of communion with Christ and with His people, in which bread and wine are given and received in thankful remembrance of Him and His sacrifice on the cross; and they who in faith receive the same, after a spiritual manner, partake of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ to their comfort, nourishment and growth in grace. All may be admitted to the Lord's Supper who make a credible profession of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and of obedience to His law.
Art. XVII. Of the Ministry.—We believe that Jesus Christ, as the Supreme Head of the Church, has appointed therein a ministry of the word and sacraments, and calls men to this ministry; that the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, recognizes and 938chooses those whom He calls, and should thereupon duly ordain them to the work of the ministry.
Art. XVIII. Of Church Order and Fellowship.—We believe that the Supreme and only Head of the Church is the Lord Jesus Christ; that its worship, teaching, discipline and government should be administered according to His will by persons chosen for their fitness and duly set apart to their office, and that although the visible Church may contain unworthy members and is liable to err, yet believers ought not lightly to separate themselves from its communion, but are to live in fellowship with their brethren, which fellowship is to be extended, as God gives opportunity, to all who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.
Art. XIX. Of the Resurrection, the Last Judgment and the Future Life.—We believe that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust, through the power of the Son of God, who shall come to judge the living and the dead; that the finally impenitent shall go away into eternal punishment and the righteous into hie eternal.
Art. XX. Of Christian Service and the Final Triumph.—We believe that it is our duty as disciples and servants of Christ, to further the extension of His kingdom, to do good unto all men, to maintain the public and private worship of God, to hallow the Lord's Day, to preserve the inviolability of marriage and the sanctity of the family, to uphold the just authority of the State, and so to live in all honesty, purity and charity that our lives shall testify of Christ. We joyfully receive the word of Christ, bidding His people go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, declaring unto them that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, and that He will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. We confidently believe that by His power and grace all His enemies shall finally be overcome, and the kingdoms of this world be made the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.
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