So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

'I'm a United Church of Canada minister... and an atheist!' Facepalm.

After getting in the requisite spastic dig against the Spanish Inquisition, a Vancouver Sun reporter sets about patting down the issue of a Untied United Church of Canada (UCC) atheist "christian" minister projecting her 'look-what-I-can-do' charm.

The Reverend Gretta Vosper is being hauled to the carpet—very gently of course. It is the UCC!—to review her "effectiveness". Presumably, the UCC authorities are questioning her effectiveness as a christian minister of the UCC. It's refreshing that the higher-ups, a few at least, in the UCC deem circumstances merit a review of someone's behaviour that calls into question her christian witness or lack thereof. Of course, the UCC will have a difficult time determining exactly what 'effectiveness' means in the UCC context since, for the past four or more decades, the UCC has done everything it can imagine to widen the definition of 'Christian' so as to render the word practically meaningless.

Douglas Todd of the Sun captures the essence of the UCC dilemma.
But it is the kind of exaggerated language (i.e., use of the word 'inquisition') that I’m sure is feared by members of the super-tolerant liberal United Church of Canada. I suspect they’ve been worried any attempt to review Vosper’s high-profile atheistic declarations would be seen as close-minded authoritarianism, with Vosper’s supporters portraying her as a “victim” and even a “martyr.”
Interesting use of the word 'martyr', eh? A pretend Christian minister might be tarred and feathered (... um, sent to a spa for a pampering massage?) for conduct unbecoming a UCC employee is seen as a potential martyr for abandoning the UCC religion, a religion of "An it harm none, do what ye will". Er, wait... that's the Wiccan Rede. UCC creed, wiccan rede—same difference (at least for some in the UCC)?

It seems that only in the UCC can an apostate be orthodox and anyone approaching orthodoxy can be labelled a closed-minded authoritarian.

Sidebar: What do you call an apostate among apostates?

Todd concludes:
It looks like the Toronto conference of the United Church of Canada is beginning a review process that happens from time to time in all religious groups, non-profit organizations, political parties, professional associations, NGOs and clubs. It’s trying to determine the minimum criteria an employee (as distinct from a member) has to meet to be considered a bone fide representative of the organization.
The United Church of Canada may consider its ministers to be employees. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops would do well to clarify that the UCC's definition is not binding on other religious bodies. It is difficult to imagine a Catholic priest limited to the definition of "employee".

The language of 'employee' applied to religious ministers is problematic, especially in these litigious times. Recent debates (cf. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC) in the USA concerning "ministerial exception" have provided a sobering reminder that religious bodies must assert their right to determine who and what constitutes a minister in their respective organizations versus allowing others, e.g., the government and courts, to dictate terms.

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