Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press
Rev. Gretta Vosper — who says she doesn't believe in “the god called God” —
is facing to a review of whether she is following her ordination vows.
Unprecedented United Church probe could lead to removal of non-believing Toronto minister (National Post, Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press | August 5, 2015
TORONTO — An ordained United Church of Canada minister who believes in neither God nor the Bible said Wednesday she is prepared to fight an unprecedented attempt to boot her from the pulpit for her beliefs.
In an interview at her church in the Toronto suburb of West Hill, Rev. Gretta Vosper said congregants support her view that how you live is more important than what you believe in. (Perhaps the Rev. Vosper has heard—and forgotten—the maxim "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi". The phrase in Latin literally means the law of prayer ("the way we worship") is the law of belief ("what we believe"). It is sometimes expanded to as, "lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi", further deepening the implications of this truth - how we worship reflects what we believe and determines how we will live.—Catholic Online.)
“I don’t believe in … the god called God,” she said. “Using the word gets in the way of sharing what I want to share.” (Where does one start? Vosper's phrase is, in a nutshell, the epitome of idolatry.)
Vosper, 57, who was ordained in 1993 and joined her east-end church in 1997, said the idea of an interventionist, supernatural being on which so much church doctrine is based belongs to an outdated world view. ("World view". How true. Vosper's views are decidedly worldly.)
What’s important, she says, is that her views hearken to Christianity’s beginnings, before the focus shifted from how one lived to doctrinal belief in God, Jesus and the Bible. (Aha! She's not wrong. It's the rest of the world that's wrong. She's just misunderstood.)
“Is the Bible really the word of God? Was Jesus a person?” she said.
“It’s mythology. We build a faith tradition upon it which shifted to find belief more important than how we lived.” (1. Another Vosper unnecessary dichotomy. Faith pitted against works. 2. It's been said here and elsewhere that the UCC, by departing further and further from the Apostolic Faith (...not that it has ever been an Apostolic church with valid orders...) has made itself into nothing more than a religious social club. Or is that a religious socialist club?)
Vosper made her views clear as far back as a Sunday sermon in 2001, but her congregation stood behind her until a decision to do away with the Lord’s Prayer in 2008 prompted about 100 of the 150 members to leave. The rest backed her. (1. Did the departing two-thirds leave the UCC or shift to another congregation? 2. When 60% of one's constituents walk out the door, a normal person would be right to ask herself 'Am I wrong?' Apparently, her subsequent actions indicate she thinks she's right.)
Things came to a head this year after she wrote an open letter to the church’s spiritual leader pointing out belief in God can motivate people to do bad things — a reference to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.
“That didn’t go over well,” Vosper said. “(But) 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 endeavour.” (Vosper has painted herself into the unenviable corner of having lost balance. That is, the Catholic balance of faith and reason (fides et ratio). Faith illuminating reason, not trumping it. Faith elevates reason. God gives man the grace to transcend false dichotomies such as the one Vosper has created for herself.)
Rev. David Allen, executive secretary of the Toronto Conference, said he took various concerns about Vosper to the church’s executive, which decided it wanted to investigate her fitness to be a minister.
First, however, they needed to know the process.
“We’d never done it before,” Allen said.
In response, Nora Sanders, general secretary of the church’s General Council, issued a ruling in May laying out a review process that could ultimately lead to Vosper’s defrocking. (The empress has no clothes. What's to defrock?)
Essentially, Sanders said, the review should determine whether she was being faithful to her ordination vows, which included affirming a belief in “God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
Vosper is appealing Sanders’ ruling, saying it puts any minister at risk of being judged and found wanting. An ecclesiastical court (Oh how positively medieval sounding, eh?) is set to hear her appeal in the fall. (Why doesn't Vosper muster the courage to leave the UCC and start her own non-denominational denomination, as all dissidents are wont to do?)
Allen concedes the issue could cause disunity in the United Church, which prides itself on tolerance for diversity and inclusiveness. (Unity founded on anything other than the Truth and charity (caritas, love) is no unity at all.)
“What we don’t want is to limit the scope of beliefs within the church, and yet what was being questioned here was: Has she gone too far?” Allen said. (cf video by Bishop-elect Robert Barron: The Limits of Tolerance: click HERE.)
“The vision of the United Church of Canada is: There is a God in whom we believe, and our statements of faith are very clear about that.” (No, not really. Click HERE.)
Randy Bowes, board chairman at West Hill who led the search committee that hired Vosper, said he’s had no complaints from congregants. (Low information Christians? Humanists more than Christians?)
People want to engage in critical thinking as they explore new ways of expressing their faith and values, he said, and that conversation is “alive and rich” in the community. (Why call yourself Christian?)
In the interim, Vosper said she and those who support her will continue to hold true to her humanistic views. (UCC = cultural Christianity?)
“If the cost of that is that we are no longer welcome within that denomination, it will be because that denomination has defined us out of it, not because we have defined ourselves out of it.” (The same argument has been used by Anglicans of the continuing Anglican movement when parent bodies—ACIC, TEC, CofE—kicked them to the curb. Though, ACNA has a better claim to the argument than a UCC minister who is decidedly "post-christian". I.e., non-Christian.)
The Canadian Press
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.
Rev. Vosper has not been the only point of theological controversy within the United Church.
In 1997, then-moderator Bill Phipps, said the divinity of Jesus and the reality of heaven and hell were irrelevant.
“I don’t believe Jesus was God, but I’m no theologian,” Rev. Phipps said at the time.
In 2008, then-moderator David Giuliano said of Ms. Vosper: “I don’t remember Jesus requiring anyone to subscribe to a doctrine before he healed them. To suggest that one needs to subscribe to a narrow understanding of who God is and who Jesus is seems antithetical to the understanding I have of Jesus revealed in the Gospels.” He also suggested the term Christian was outdated.
That same year, church organizers held a conference called, Should the United Church Just Throw in the Towel? Rev. denBok said at the time: “If the people who are allegedly in a position of leadership, vision and inspiration for your organization are having that question, it tells you there is something very disturbing at the heart of the Church.”—National Post, The Split in the United Church.