Priest forecasts church’s demise

Published September 1, 1999

A Toronto-area priest says God has withdrawn his blessing from the Anglican Church, particularly because of its dalliance with homosexuality, and is letting it kill itself.

In his self-published book Suicide: the Decline and Fall of the Anglican Church of Canada? Rev. Marney Patterson presents statistics about the church. Some, noting the large drop in total membership or Sunday school attendance are straightforward. But no context is given, such as presenting birth rates for Canadian society during the periods in question.

Other statistics appear selective. For example: the book notes that in less than 30 years, there has been a loss of 33,000 identifiable givers (people who support the church on an ongoing basis); a quote from the November 1994 Anglican Journal states that “22 of 65 members of national staff (had been) relocated, retired or laid off;” and Mr. Patterson says 526 churches were closed “in that ? tragic three-year period of 1992-1994.”

But available statistics suggest a slightly different picture. The number of identifiable givers was more than 237,000 in 1996 (the most recent figures available), an increase of almost 4,000 since 1994. More than 100 staff now work at national church headquarters in Toronto. And the number of congregations (Mr. Patterson’s church statistic) in the country was 2,957 in 1996, just 69 fewer than in 1992, indicating either a huge rebound in congregations or faulty statistics for a couple of years.

Nevertheless, Mr. Patterson is pessimistic.

“Personally, I feel there is little chance it can be saved,” Mr. Patterson said in a recent interview with the Ottawa Citizen.

Mr. Patterson has spent most of his ordained ministry travelling Canada and the world, preaching and leading evangelical missions.

“I don’t believe we have more than two or three years to make changes; otherwise the ball game is over,” he told the Citizen.

“The church has 20 years at the outside. By that time we will be a chapel rather than a church, and it will last only until the old faithful die off,” said Mr. Patterson, 71, who lives in Thornhill, Ont.

He suggests several solutions to the Anglican church’s problems, including better music, youth outreach ministries, and better training for priests.

Most importantly, he says, the church must return to what he regards as scriptural standards of morality. He says the church implicitly condones common-law and same-sex unions by providing benefits to members of those unions who work for the church.

Others say Mr. Patterson is confusing morals with the law. Geraldine Sperling, a human resources consultant and vice-chair of the Diocese of Toronto’s human resources committee, says the church doesn’t make it a requirement for lay employees to be Anglican or even Christian to work for the church. As a result, she says the church respects and implements federal and provincial law requiring employees to be offered benefits, regardless of whether they are in a heterosexual, officially married, common-law or homosexual relationship.

“Church discipline is separate and apart from the legal requirements relating to employees,” she said. These laws must be followed “and church discipline does not supercede them,” she said.

Mr. Patterson’s biggest issue with the church seems to centre on male homosexuality – and, in fact, on anal sex. He prints in his book a letter from a Dr. David Miller of Beaverlodge, Alta., who makes detailed medical comments on anal intercourse. Dr. Miller, whose letterhead says he is in family practice, goes on to refer to “a common homosexual practice” that doesn’t even rate in the latest data from Kinsey on same-sex practices.

Dr. Miller than goes on to say that: “The extent to which the homosexual community have unnaturally degraded sexual intercourse, is surely seen in the homosexual practice of ‘______'” – a bestial act he describes in detail.

But a spokesman in the Christian homosexual community says the bestial act is fictitious, an “urban myth.” Chris Ambidge, president of the Toronto Integrity chapter, called it “shock porn.” He said a recent survey of medical literature “couldn’t find one such reported incident.”

Data from Kinsey in 1994 indicates fewer than half of male homosexuals engage in intercourse. Cuddling is the most common practice.

Dr. Miller was on vacation out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

Although Mr. Patterson discusses homosexuality at length in his book, he says the church shouldn’t be talking about it and, because it is, it is not honouring God. As a result, “God, by withdrawing His blessings from our church, and everything points to the fact that He has, has left it to flounder on its own, and ultimately, to take its own life.”

He said disgust with this decline of standards is one of the main reasons many Anglicans have left the denomination for evangelical churches, although he provides no statistics to back this claim.

“I know that people will say Patterson is judgmental, that he’s a fundamentalist,” he told the Citizen, “but I feel that liberalism is a major contributor to the decline of our church.”

Mr. Patterson borrowed $25,000 to publish and promote his book.

He told the Journal he approached Anglican Book Centre publishing first but that they refused to publish the book because it would be too hurtful to some people. Mr. Patterson said he pressed for a detailed response as to the hurtful passages so he could consider changes but was told there were too many. But publishing manager Robert Maclennan said ABC didn’t refuse to publish the book. He said manuscript readers sent Mr. Patterson editorial comments and “he never got back to us” as expected.

The book was released in June and is being sold by mail order to supporters of Invitation to Live Ministry, through newspaper ads and Anglican bookstores.


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