OTTAWA, August 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - An openly homosexual United Church minister from Vancouver was elected as the 41st moderator of the United Church of Canada at the Protestant denomination’s General Council meeting held at Ottawa’s Carleton University last week.

Rev. Gary Paterson of St Andrew’s-Wesley United Church in downtown Vancouver was elected from a field of 15 nominees on August 16 to become the first openly homosexual leader of a major Christian denomination in Canada.

Paterson was one of three openly homosexual candidates for the moderator’s job, which according to the Ottawa Citizen carries a salary of between $119,000 and $135,000 a year.

Paterson succeeds the current moderator, Mardi Tindal.

At a news conference following his election, Paterson acknowledged that his open homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” to Rev Tim Stevenson, another United Church minister, as well as the fact that he has three daughters from his first marriage, would be seen by many to be “problematic,” but added that his sexual orientation was a non-issue to the voting members at the United Church General Council.

Paterson said that for some denominations, his election “will be problematic. I’m particularly aware that some denominations in what you would call the developing world will have very serious questions.

“What some denominations or some parts of the world see as a huge dilemma or problem has not, within our immediate community here, been seen that way at all,” Paterson said.

The United Church was formed in 1926 with the amalgamation of the Congregationalist, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations and had at that time more than 600,000 members. By 1964 membership rose to a peak of 1.1 million then began to dwindle to the current 500,000, with membership continuing to fall off dramatically, with the consequence of an accelerating financial crisis.

Paterson recognized this in his nomination speech when he told the commissioners, “Our church is in trouble, and we know it. . . . We are already living in Babylon.”

In a bid to boost its diminishing and aging membership, the United Church embarked on what Charles Lewis of the National Post identified as “a great experiment to redefine itself through an intense engagement with the surrounding secular world; whether it be through advocating for the environment, fighting for the rights of homosexuals to marry or taking on the cause of the Palestinians, the church has attempted to blur the boundaries between religion and the broader society.”

The United Church appears to revel in its liberalism while agonizing over falling membership. The United Church Observer last month published a poll showing that United Church members are significantly more liberal than the Canadian public on the issues of abortion, euthanasia and same-sex “marriage.”

In an attempt to bolster numbers the United Church has embarked on popularity projects such as advertising campaigns featuring a bobble-head Jesus doll with references to gay “marriage,” and a website where readers are invited to discuss “controversial” issues such as homosexuality.

The site features a video ad called “E-Z Answer Squirrel” ridiculing the doctrinal clarity of traditional Christianity, in which a squirrel answers religious questions. “Easy answer squirrel, does God hate me because I’m gay?” The squirrel pulls an acorn lighting the answer, “no.”

Brian Rushfeldt, president of the Canadian Family Action Coalition, considers the election of a homosexual United Church moderator an indication that the denomination has “lost its way.”

“It is difficult to understand a ‘Christian claiming’ denomination selecting a practicing homosexual as the moderator,” Rushfeldt told LifeSiteNews.

“The election of this moderator is indicative of a group that has lost its way and is under the control of a very liberal non-Christian element, more interested in their own ‘teaching’ than God’s teaching.”

Noting that many United Church members disagree with the direction the denomination’s leaders are taking, and are voting with their feet, Rushfeldt said, “The harm done to the denomination from such a choice will be irreparable, so it seems that concern for most members and the church has been ignored for the sake of liberalization and human agenda. This also indicates to me that truth and word of God is no longer and cannot any longer be the cornerstone of the United Church.

“This will hasten the decline of attendance and of influence of the United Church.”