You can’t make this stuff up

It was one of those articles I had to check to see if it was on a satire web site.

An ordained United Church of Canada minister who believes in neither God nor Bible said Wednesday she is prepared to fight an unprecedented attempt to boot her from the pulpit for her beliefs.

Unprecedented? Is there a history of the United Church of Canada applauding its atheist pastors? No. It turns out the church had never investigated a minister for fitness to be a minister. Never. How is that possible?

Here is some of what stirred the hierarchy into action:

“I don’t believe in…the god called God,” Vosper said. “Using the word gets in the way of sharing what I want to share.”

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1997, said the idea of an interventionist, supernatural being on which so much church doctrine is based belongs to an outdated world view.

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.

“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.”

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.

Things came to a head this year after she wrote an open letter to the church’s spiritual leader pointing out that belief in God can motivate bad things — a reference to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

So the story ends with the United Church of Canada convening a process to examine whether this pastor has broken her ordination vows, which include expressing belief in God shockingly enough. But the pastor is appealing the process because, and I quote from the story here: “it puts any minister at risk of being judged and found wanting.”

So she is appealing an investigation of her fitness to be a minister because it may discover that she is not fit to be a minister. The church leaders admit that is a bit worrisome to them as well.

You should read the story yourself. It is not long and gets comical near the end.

I had a few thoughts while reading that — or maybe three.

First, John Wesley must be horrifying for people in this church to contemplate.

Second, thank you, Jesus, that we in the United Methodist Church are not here yet. We aren’t, are we?

Third, maybe instead of all this commissioning paperwork and evaluation I’m doing this year, I should just head up to Toronto.

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8 thoughts on “You can’t make this stuff up

  1. Hum… No knowledge of or commitment to the faith once delivered. Sounds like something someone once wrote about the rise of a generation that knew not Joshua. Does not bode well for the members of that church/denomination who are followers of Christ.

  2. This kind of thing is not typical of UCoC, at least among the colleagues I’ve worked with there and come to know over the last decade. From what I can see, denominational leadership was as taken off guard by this as anyone– and they’re making the kinds of good faith efforts their polity allows them to make to address it appropriately.

    Because of my work with UCoC leaders in the area of worship, I participate in the UCoC Facebook group as well. There’s no sense among the pastors and others there that UCoC does or should “tolerate” non-theistic teaching by its clergy. There are serious questions about how to address this situation while causing the least additional harm, but there’s no lack of support for the steps now being taken. Really about the only ones questioning those steps are the pastor in question and some of the leadership of that particular congregation who seem to be under the mistaken notion that the UCoC is a spiritual society in general rather than a Christian church.

    So US clergy with atheist commitments who seek pulpits in the UCoC probably shouldn’t quite starting their packing their bags for Toronto just yet.

  3. It causes me to wonder how far off a lot of church leaders and professing Christian’s in America are from having similar feelings as Vosper has. Perhaps not so much by blatant verbal proclamations, but most certainly by subtle and not so subtle complacency and compromise.

  4. This type of unbelief is far too common I fear — she just seems to be shockingly honest about it, having convinced herself that her unbelief is actually a more mature form of faith. It’s interesting that she continues to do everything she possibly can to keep her salary coming while publicly denouncing the beliefs of the church as “mythology”. Losing her pastorate would take away her bully pulpit, so I expect she will fight to the bloody end.

    How many of our own leaders hold similar beliefs and simply go through the motions to keep their salary coming and/or misuse their positions as a platform to promote their personal agendas?

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