United Church of Canada responds to atheist minister
“Some find her refreshing, others have serious doubts”
TORONTO, ON—An ordained minister of the United Church of Canada (UCC) recently stated that she believes in neither God nor the Bible. Gretta Vosper, minister of West Hill United Church, says that how you live is more important than what you believe.
“The belief that the Bible is the authoritative word of God is one such presupposition that must be let go if we are going to seek the truth,” Vosper writes in her book, With or Without God: Why the Way We Live Is More Important Than What We Believe.
The majority of her congregation supported her views until a decision to remove the Lord’s Prayer from the service in 2008 prompted two thirds of the congregation to leave. The remaining members of the congregation support her.
David W. Allen, Executive Secretary of the Toronto Conference of the UCC, says there is no single reaction to what Vosper is saying, either within the UCC or outside of it.
“Some people find her refreshing and candid, and have expressed appreciation for the care they have received from her and the West Hill United Church congregation,” says Allen. “Others, though, have expressed serious doubts about how a minister can say some of the things she says about God and Jesus, and still function as a minister within the church.”
Allen recognizes that this is a stressful time for Vosper and many others—no matter where they stand on what she says. He encourages those who are invested in the matter to maintain thoughts and/or prayers for Vosper and also for the United Church of Canada.
“My hope is that at the end of the process, we’ll have a good reason for maintaining her as a minister – or we’ll have a good reason for saying she is not to continue in that role,” says Allen. “What we have not done is to pre-judge the outcome and we, like many others, await the recommendations that will eventually come to us.”
The Toronto Conference initiated a review of Vosper, which she has appealed using the process outlined by the UCC’s General Secretary. The Toronto Conference has suspended the review until the results of the appeal are known, anticipating the outcome sometime this fall.
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