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1988: United Church allows gay ministers

The Story


 Today at 12:40 a.m. council delegates of the United Church of Canada, exhausted from hours of emotional discussion, came to a final decision. The church will now officially consider gays and lesbians for ordination as ministers. At the meeting in Victoria, British Columbia last night, gay parishioners begged for acceptance. "Be considerate of the perhaps half-million members of our church that fly with a right wing," said one delegate. But because of the vague wording, a contingent of gay parishioners isn't convinced the church will comply. The decision says it is up to individual congregations to decide whether they will ordain homosexual ministers. Today, one parishioner, who disagrees with the decision, says homosexuals who have had a calling "should go and be in their own church."

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Aug. 24, 1988
Guest(s): Rev. Eleanor Geib, Mary Howe, Rev. Roger Jackson, Rev. Len Mills, Karen Toole Mitchell
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Ian Hanomansing
Duration: 3:36

Did You know?


• In the weeks following the decision, several United Church ministers resigned because they disagreed with the new policy.

• Ten years after the 1988 decision, only nine churches across Canada publicly admitted that they would ordain homosexual ministers. Four are in Toronto, two in Vancouver, two in Winnipeg and one in Saskatoon.

• A decade after the amendment, there were 27 openly gay ministers and at least 200 more are gay but have not come out, according to Alyson Huntly in her book on the United Church.

• Muriel Duncan said in a 1998 United Church Observer article that most gay and lesbian ministers still believe they're better off in "glass closets." In other words, telling few congregation members of their sexual orientation.


Also on August 24:
1814: Major-General Robert Ross leads 4,000 troops in an attack on Washington, D.C. The British burn the Capitol, White House, National Library and other government buildings, to retaliate for the burning of York (Toronto) and Newark (Niagara) earlier in the War of 1812.
1922: René Lévesque is born in Campbellton, N.B. He is raised in New Carlisle, Que. Following a career in journalism, including a job at Radio-Canada, Lévesque becomes Natural Resources minister in the Quebec Liberal government in 1960. He guides the nationalization of the province's private electric utilities, which became Hydro-Quebec.
Lévesque would quit the Liberals in 1967 to found the pro-independence movement, which would become the Parti Québécois. The party wins the 1976 election and Lévesque's government passes Bill 101, which strengthens the status of French as Quebec's official language. Lévesque died on Nov. 1st, 1987.


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