When is a Christian minister not a Christian minister?
by: John Tyrrell
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Since the Kim Davis affair, there has been a spate of stories about people refusing to perform part of their duties for religious reasons.
The strangest one, in my view, is the case of the Reverend Gretta Vosper - an avowed atheist who insists on remaining in her position as minister in a United Church of Canada church while refusing to preach the basic doctrines of the church.
Her religious beliefs preclude her from teaching Christianity - and she's the minister in a Christian church!
For those unfamiliar with the United Church of Canada, it has been for many years Christianity Lite among the major denominations in Canada. It has tended towards a social justice activism and has embraced a diversity of opinions. But, it retains a Christian core - the current Statement of Faith - a masterpiece of new age babble - still speaks of God the Creator, God the Spirit, the Risen Jesus, and Scripture.
That entire Christian core held by the United Church of Canada is rejected by Gretta Vosper. She does not believe in God as creator or as spirit. She rejects the Bible as myth. She doubts that Jesus even existed as a real person
I have no problems with her rejection of that Christian core - though I disagree with her view of the probability of whether Jesus existed as a human being. But - what is she doing holding on to a job as a minister in a Christian Church if she is not prepared to preach Christianity?
Apparently, she uses the pulpit to "praise the glory of good."
Along the way, she drove two-thirds of her congregation out of the church, the last straw being her decision to ban the Lord's Prayer. Her preaching has brought in a few new members, but the church still has less than half the congregation it did in 2008.
There have been calls for her resignation - calls from those she drove out of her congregation - calls from other United Church ministers - and calls from senior levels within the church.
She refuses to go. And the United Church has been forced to develop a procedure to try to expel her. (Before Vosper, it felt no need for such a procedure.) She's fighting that every step of the way.
There are some in the Canadian non-believer community who support her unquestioningly. They view her as some kind of heroine.
In my view, Gretta Vosper is just an atheist Kim Davis - using her [lack of] religious beliefs to refuse to do her job while continuing to draw a salary - and her job is a United Church of Canada minister, not an atheist minister.
She is free to quit. She is free to take what is left of her congregation and preach her beliefs in her own church - a church funded solely by her own congregation. To insist on preaching in a church building owned since 1962 by the United Church of Canada is pretty near theft in my view. And that kind of theft does not seem to me to be praising the glory of good.
Regardless of being in sympathy with her atheism, I cannot be in sympathy with her actions. I consider them morally wrong. She should resign.
By holding on, she casts the non-believer community she claims to represent into disrepute. It is one thing for us to try to insist on secularism in the public sphere. It is quite another to try and force disbelief into a strictly religious organization.
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