Atheist Minister Refuses to Leave the Christian United Church of Canada

By Ducio1234 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Ducio1234 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Rev. Gretta Vosper, who has become atheist, is resisting efforts of those trying to fire her from the United Church of Canada.

Rev. Gretta Vosper, who was ordained in 1993 as a minister of the United Church of Canada (UCC), is now facing the biggest battle of her life. The 57-year old minister is under church scrutiny and at risk of being removed from her congregation and post on the grounds of being an atheist. But the minister refuses to leave her congregation.

Vosper does not believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. Instead, she argues that how a person lives is far more important than his/her beliefs. She added that the religious concept of a supreme being just affects the messages she wanted to share to people. According to her, the Bible is actually a mythology wherein people have built a religion. But in the end, Vosper insisted that her views and teachings are in line with Christianity’s beginning values.

Her atheistic views were already known to the public and her congregation in West Hill since 2001. In fact, the local congregation supported her. The population of the West Hill church only suffered negatively when in 2008, Vosper decided not to use the Lord’s Prayer during services. But still, many stood behind her. Even the church’s search committee that hired Vosper explained that church members are always exploring new ways of expressing their faith and values.

Her relationship with the church eventually became sour when early this year she wrote a letter to a church spiritual leader in connection to the Charles Hebdo attacks in Paris. In the letter, she argued that the massacre is just an example that belief in God can motivate people to do bad things. Vosper continued saying that “if we are going to continue to use language that suggests we get our moral authority from a supernatural source, any group that says that can trump any humanistic endeavor”.

This triggered several complaints that reached Rev. David Allen of the church’s Toronto Conference who in the end consulted Vosper’s case to the church’s General Council.

Certainly faced by a unique issue in the church, General Council general secretary Nora Sanders ruled that Vosper’s fate within the church shall be determined by her effectiveness as a minister and by certain standards of suitability as a minister of the UCC. Part of the standards that will be imposed is the minister’s faithfulness to her ordination vows. These include questions in her belief particularly of “God: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit”.

Currently, Rev. Vosper has made an appeal to an ecclesiastical court arguing that such ruling will only “put any minister at risk of being judged and found wanting”. Vosper expressed her determination and rejected the idea of abandoning her atheistic views. In the end, she said that if the church eventually decides to kick her out, it’s because “the denomination has defined as out of it, not because we have defined ourselves out of it”,


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