Canadian Church Moves to Defrock Atheist Pastor

The United Church of Canada (UCC) is the latest denomination to confront how to handle an outspoken pastor who freely claims to be an atheist

The 57-year-old Vosper says that she does not believe in an interventionist, supernatural God. Her views are not new, in 2008 she authored With or Without God: Why the Way We Live Is More Important Than What We Believe. Later she published Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief. However, it was not until three years ago that Vosper chose to identify herself as an atheist.

 

The United Church of Canada (UCC) is the latest – but far from the only – denomination to confront how to handle an outspoken pastor who freely claims to be an atheist.

In a Toronto Star story from September 8, UCC minister Gretta Vosper of Scarborough, Ontario is reported to be at risk of defrocking by the Canadian church:

“In our opinion, she is not suitable to continue in ordained ministry because she does not believe in God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit,” the church’s Toronto Conference Review Committee concluded in a 39-page report released Wednesday.

“We have concluded that if Gretta Vosper were before us today, seeking to be ordained,” said the report, the committee “would not recommend her.”

According to the Star, the 23-person committee voted 19 to 4 in favor of a motion that found Vosper “unsuitable to continue serving.”

Several European churches have already faced a similar predicament; the Protestant Church of the Netherlands decided in late 2009 to drop a clergy discipline case against Atheist minister Klaas Hendrikse. In 2011, the BBC reported that 1 in 6 clergy in the Dutch denomination identified as Atheist or Agnostic.

An organization formed in 2011 called The Clergy Project seeks to assist non-believing clergy in departing from vocational ministry, a transition that some claim is difficult. The group describes its mission as “to provide support, community, and hope to current and former religious professionals who no longer believe in the supernatural.”

The 57-year-old Vosper says that she does not believe in an interventionist, supernatural God. Her views are not new, in 2008 she authored With or Without God: Why the Way We Live Is More Important Than What We Believe. Later she published Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief. However, it was not until three years ago that Vosper chose to identify herself as an atheist.

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