September 14, 2016

“Big tent, small chapel”: United Church finally defrocks atheist minister

David MacKenzieRebel Columnist

An official Interview Committee report is now complete. And the committee has recommended that the Rev. Gretta Vosper— the self-described “theological non-realist” (atheist) minister of the United Church of Canada— is to be defrocked, placed on the Church’s official “discontinued service list.” 

Well, I know how that feels— except that, in my case, it was the voluntary thing to do. Biblically, I couldn’t walk with the United Church anymore. And, once I came to this conclusion, the process for me was relatively swift.   

In Vosper’s case, however, stretching back even prior to 2008 when she banned the Lord’s Prayer in her church, the broader question might still be: Has the disciplinary process for this minister taken so long because, sadly, these are days of profoundly stubborn, intellectual dishonesty? Politically, do we now consider professional duplicity to be a given?

In the 18th Century, many Unitarian ministers chose to leave their Christian congregations because they understood themselves to have rejected Christian doctrine. Some two hundred years later, though, there is no less doctrinal criticism, but far less doctrinal honesty.

The Rev. Vosper is not Christian. Vosper is an atheist. Nevertheless, her ecclesiastical saga somehow manages to fit these progressive times like old slippers.

The United Church of Canada was ratified by an act of Parliament in 1925; arguably, no other Canadian denomination is as much a religious reflection of the broader liberal culture. Hence, in a day when social progressives define tangible gender as “merely a social construct”, we should not be surprised to find a pastor who describes the intangible God as a “construct” as well.

If it isn’t culturally unusual for liberals to masquerade as conservatives, for marxists to be part of the establishment, or for one to waltz into any old bathroom on the basis of one’s feelings today, why should it be shocking that a minister could be a pastor all while denying every major Christian tenet— right on down to the attempted repudiation of theism itself? Maybe, it’s just “Shania” theology— the equivalent of “Man, I feel like a woman!”

“Sheep! I’m truly a wolf!” 

No— we should not be shocked. On matters of incongruous identity, social progressives are King— or “Qu/ing”, or whatever! 

What is equally predictable, as well, is to hear the minority report from the Interview committee expressing their regrets at Vosper’s potential dismissal: 

“(T)he United Church should be a big tent and, rather than defining the boundaries of that tent, [should] consider instead how far from the centre Ms. Vosper really is.”

To these “tabernacle tears”, we may also add the sniffling of radical American Episcopalian Bishop John Spong's official sentiment:

“If the United Church of Canada is not broad enough to embrace this creative and unique pastor then this church that I once admired so much has sounded its own death knell.”

Well, John ought to know about institutional death and dying— his singular tenure as bishop was responsible for a membership decline in the Newark Diocese by between 42 and 44 per cent.

Yet, this column shouldn’t dwell upon mere statistics— that would smack too much of reality. Rather, we might ask: if Spong’s idea of church is so doctrinally grand in its accommodation, then why did it become so insignificant in real time?

Why is “big tent” so increasingly “small chapel”?
It’s no secret. Radical disciples of diversity often turn big doctrinal domes into utterly meaningless homes. Fabrics stretch until the Emperor is naked. Although social progressives increasingly treat “binaries”— like men and women, theist and atheist— with cosmopolitan indifference, the church of everything always becomes the cult of nothing.

And belief means something. It always has. To pretend doctrinal differences are irrelevant is to stop analyzing— to stop thinking like a human.

As Chesterton once reminded his readers, “trees have no dogmas; turnips are singularly broad-minded.”

One wouldn’t want to overplay this turn of events— that, incredibly, the United Church should have taken a creedal stand. They still tend to strain out gnats while swallowing camels. They still act like the NDP at prayer. Theirs is still a dog-eat-dogma world.

Yet, by a vote of 19-4, one committee said something significant. They looked to their roots and not their rutabaga. They decided they were theists.

As steeped in theological and moral permissiveness as mainline churches have tended to become in Canada, one committee has actually implied that even jello may have a cutting edge.

This may be better news than we realize.

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commented 2016-09-27 19:40:28 -0400
In the UCC, she’s just slightly ahead of her time.
commented 2016-09-21 11:36:52 -0400
An atheist who cannot ‘live and let live’ but seeks to actively undermine a denominational Church and its teachings from within has something insidious within their souls. There are plenty of avenues for atheists to have discussion or debate, yet this woman decided to troll a church as a blatant act of defilement. I’m sure she felt very gratified taking a proverbial steaming dump on the altar every Sunday since her atheism took hold. It takes a special kind of ego to think that people would rather here her message and her ‘revisioning’ of the bible (how typically Marxist; revisionism). But from the article it seems that the United Church as a whole is coming apart at the seams. Imagine the symbolic ‘victory’ that would represent for the likes of Vosper and Spong and perhaps (New?) Atheists as a whole? I’m sure Sam Harris would be tickled pink.

I’ve never been one for “Big Church” -churches should be relevant to the community, and any association with it’s upper echelons should be theological, not some facsimile of bureaucracy run amok with finger-wagging EU-like bureaucrats; any large organization inevitably gets either corrupted, politicized, and grows out of touch as a result. This is a case in point: the United Church has been flirting with near total irrelevance by abandoning theological tenets in the wake of progressivism (i.e. politics) enabled by it’s clerics (i.e. bureaucrats), and has-as the article points out—become “a cult of nothing.”
commented 2016-09-20 00:41:35 -0400
@jay Kelly commented 2016-09-14 23:39:19 -0400
This is so cringe worthy. How do you do it?
Islam is not based on any teachings of Jesus. It is all based on what Mohammed did.
I notice you use the word ‘dictate’. They dictate a faith. So you are relating Catholicism to Islam in conversion methods? I can only imagine that the difference is the Catholic door to door preacher has a bunch of annoying pamphlets in a clipboard and a Bible in his hands; Whereas the Islamic door to door preacher is holding a sword in one hand and the head of last guy that he spoke to.

Both religions are controlled by evil greedy people that want to turn you into slaves. Only one is more bloodthirsty and murderous than the other. In fact it seems like they are polar opposites.

Then you wrap up and complete your cringe binge with this cute little bow.
“Probably this is a time for prayer. "

It really makes be want to vomit. Bravo.
commented 2016-09-15 18:26:00 -0400
Real Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with the living God. Many churches have been infiltrated by the father of lies. Many who attend church don’t follow up with studying the scripture. As we have learnt politically, liars like to change words and meanings.
commented 2016-09-15 00:04:51 -0400
Perhaps there are just too many who want religion to fit their needs, rather than fitting the religion.
We are just too ‘well educated’ to think something is bigger and better than we are.
commented 2016-09-14 23:39:19 -0400
I think it is painful for many Canadian Christians to see the state of the United Church of Canada and realize that Catholics and Muslims somehow dictate a faith based on the teachings of Christ — care for neighbor, care for the sick, and so on.

Canadian Christians should look for the truth. Maybe it is Catholicism, perhaps it is Islam.

Probably this is a time for prayer.
commented 2016-09-14 19:34:07 -0400
FYI – If you want to see how far the UCC has gone to the dark side – read some of the writings they have under the guise of “social justice” – reads like Ned Flanders meets liberation theology to me.
commented 2016-09-14 19:19:13 -0400
The question is, What took them so long?
commented 2016-09-14 19:18:34 -0400
The UCC has been a government corporate client and globalist actor for over 3 decades now – it’s the reason I’m no longer affiliated with any registered church.
commented 2016-09-14 19:13:47 -0400
To be honest about belief systems, this is why Islam has won. There is no Protestant church that adheres to a belief system of Christianity. The Roman Catholics have a pope that does not, and they were our last stronghold. Christianity and the belief system that brought democratic principles is only upheld by individuals, who are excoriated for being Christian, while musslemen are worshipped.

Mussels have no doubts as a theology, hence won.
commented 2016-09-14 18:30:02 -0400
Finally they booted her out! As a baptized member of the United Church in recent years I have become disillusioned. They have become politically active and now support causes with are anathema. No wonder their membership is dwindling.
commented 2016-09-14 17:58:39 -0400
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.