January 19, 2004
Dear Ken Bellous and the BCOQ Council:
It is with deep sadness that we write this letter. As a Deacons Board we have discussed the issue of same sex marriage and any implications for us as a Church at which time we came to the decision that we would not be involved in performing same-sex marriages. Shortly after that we received the directive from the BCOQ Council. While our Church stance is in accordance with the BCOQ directive we have several concerns which revolve around the fact that any directive was made by the Council for the clergy and the local Churches. This directive has raised several concerns for us.
One concern revolves around the heavy handedness of the declaration by the B.C.O.Q. Council. It was stated that the "BCOQ Council has received a number of requests urging them to provide further details for how churches and pastors might respond in light of the June Assembly resolution on marriage." The B.C.O.Q. Council did not provide us with details for how the Churches and Pastors might respond but instead they instructed how we will respond or face having our marriage credentials removed. This seems to be heavy handed in its approach.
The 2003 BCOQ Assembly passed a resolution affirming: 1. The dignity and value of all persons regardless of sexual orientation; 2. That marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others; 3. That sexual intercourse is to be confined to one man and one woman in marriage; and 4. That all the appropriate rights and benefits should be accorded to all other relationships recognized in law. This does not make this binding on all local churches. If resolutions passed at assembly were binding on the local Churches and Pastors then all Churches in the BCOQ should be open to ordaining and having women Pastors. Since we know that this is not the case the question needs to be asked "Will Council, DPR or the Credentials now work to pass a directive to the Churches and Pastors instructing them that they must be open to ordaining and calling women as Pastors or face having part of their credentials removed. Since this action has not and will not take place, one can only assume that there is a double standard that allows us to have freedom of conscience only on certain Assembly Resolutions.
It should also be noted that no time did the Assembly give any direction to the BCOQ Council or any other body to form a directive for Pastors or Churches. The actually resolution only deals with the government and the legal side and definition of marriage. Thus the Division of Pastoral Resources and Council can claim no mandate from Assembly for such an action.
In regards to the Credentialing process, our churches have given the responsibility for approving credentials to the Convention, but it does not logical follow that this entitles or provides Council with an established role to give direction to pastors on interpretation of scriptures. Others things that should be noted are 1) It is the Church and Association which examines the theology of the Pastor at their ordination council 2) the definition of marriage affirmed at Assembly was not unanimous and therefore we already have elected representatives of local congregations dissenting 3) The issue should be one which is worked at a local level between Church and Pastor. 4) Pastors are not having their credential removed only part of them and this will only serve to punish the local church. If it is an issue of a Pastor doing something that Credentials believes is immoral then normally all credentials are suspended not just part of them- there seems to be a different standard being applied here.
In 1923 the Baptist responded to an invitation to join in the Union that would become the United Church of Canada and this is what they wrote "
"In their organization of independent local churches and in their associational gatherings and conventions Baptists have not infrequently made use of brief statements of doctrines which they hold to be Christian, as a basis of mutual co-operation, but do not seek to establish a uniform confession for all their churches, nor do they regard assent to any fixed confessional statement as a pre-requisite to membership in a Baptist church or to a place in the Baptist ministry. They feel that the free and independent interpretation of the Scriptures by each man for himself, combined with the spirit of love and obedience, is not only promotive of earnest reflection on divine things and strength of personal conviction, but is a surer and more enduring way of securing unity among Christians. They oppose any tendency to erect a human standard of authority over the conscience, to lessen the sense of direct personal responsibility to God, or to obscure the consciousness of immediate relationships with Him. ... The Baptist belief in the immediacy of each man's relations with God and in the necessity of personal faith in Christ in order to salvation carries with it the rejection of all forms of church polity, which admit the spiritual distinction of clergy and laity or the subjection of the individual Christian to any spiritual authority but Christ himself. This does not exclude the necessary disciplinary function of the local church, but, in reality, carries with it the dignity and autonomy of that organization and its freedom from all subjection to a higher authority." (Why The Baptist Cannot Unionize Taken from the book entitled, ""Church Union in Canada"", 1923,)
It was only by protecting those Baptist principles then that Council today has had the opportunity to make their decree and violate these same principals. If we had unionized back then, the decree today would have been reversed. What a twist of fate
Another concern revolves around the issue of Baptist Polity. The following is taken from the B.C.O.Q. core values as found on the B.C.O.Q. web page. "We recognize the autonomy of the local congregation to act according to its understanding of God''s will. We have already considered the great value Baptist Christians place on the concepts of the priesthood of all believers; a believers'' church; soul liberty and freedom of conscience; the autonomy and interdependence of local churches; and the local church as a community of believers who covenant together how they will walk in obedience to Christ. All of these positions together lead us to recognize the autonomy of the local congregation to act according to its understanding of God' s will." (B.C.O.Q. core values)
The B.C.O.Q. Council has violated these principles of soul liberty and freedom of conscience; the autonomy of local churches; and the local church as a community of believers who covenant together how they will walk in obedience to Christ by instructing the churches and pastors how they must respond to the issue and not allowing those churches or individuals the freedom of conscience.
Our final concern revolves around the process. It has ben reported to us that the Advisory committee had not completed their work and that it was only certain members of the team that brought this forward to D.P.R. If this is true then in not only call into question the process but is a serious breach of trust.
Yours In Christ
The Deacon's Board of Selkirk Baptist Church