Gossip, the bane of global Christendom, will be in the crosshairs of the United Church of Canada when delegates gather for their triennial summit in Ottawa next week.
The United Church — which will be dealing with controversial resolutions on “Israel/Palestine,” oil pipelines and Canadian mining activities in Central America, among many other things — should also “take a stand against the spreading of gossip in the same manner that it has taken a stand against gambling and other evils of society,” reads a resolution put forward by Manitoba’s Assiniboine Presbytery.
In addition to ripping apart families and destroying reputations, notes the two-page proposal, gossip “can cause people to switch churches or in some instances to stop attending church altogether.”
Bruce Faurschou, the executive secretary of the church’s Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario conference, described a “riveting and energized” discussion overtaking the Brandon, Man., meeting of the Presbytery when the proposal was first put forward. “I think what it was about was that almost everyone in the room has been a victim of gossip,” he said.
Along with family reunions, hair salons and other intimate gatherings of people, churches have a reputation for being uniquely susceptible to gossip. Some Christian bloggers have even taken to calling it the “Christian cancer.”
“[Gossip] has always been an issue in the church, it’s always been viewed as a bad thing and something to pay attention to,” said Rev. Ephraim Radner, an Episcopal priest and a professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College. “It’s one of the few things for which I’ve seen someone excommunicated,” he added.
The United Church does not practice excommunication, and the gossip resolution does not come with any disciplinary requirements. “I think because I’m a church bureaucrat when I first heard about the proposal I went ‘oh my goodness, how are we ever going to enforce that?’” said Mr. Faurschou. “But it’s an educational point.”
The Bible is quite specific on the issue of gossip, with numerous warnings against “idle words, “false reports” and “mischievous tongues.” The practice even gets a mention in the Ten Commandments (Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour).
Well, without discipline, their stand is meaningless.
Still, nice to see the UCC actually get one thing right, for a change.
Would that other churches – all other churches, esp. real ones as opposed to liberal, mainline, apostate ones – followed suit, and focused their attention on gossip, a sin some might think of as minor, but one with very real and potentially devastating consequences.