TORONTO — An ordained minister with the United Church of Canada is resisting efforts to oust her from the pulpit because she is an atheist.
“I don’t believe in … the god called God,” Gretta Vosper told the Globe and Mail. “Using the word gets in the way of sharing what I want to share.”
She said that she believes the Bible is “mythology,” and denies that Jesus is the Son of God.
“We build a faith tradition upon it which shifted to find belief more important than how we lived,” Vosper said.
Vosper, 57, and who was ordained in 1993, first came out as an atheist in 2001. However, her congregation still supported her until 2008 when she sought to do away with the use of the Lord’s Prayer and lost approximately 100 members of her 150-member congregation.
Earlier this year, Vosper wrote an open letter asserting that a belief in God can compel people to commit evil, referencing the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France.
“That didn’t go over well,” Vosper, who also founded the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity, told reporters. “[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.”
She was soon reported to the United Church of Canada, which launched an investigation into her “effectiveness” as a minister. In May, Nora Sanders, general secretary for the UCC General Council, provided the denomination with standards on which to determine whether Vosper should stay or go.
“In my opinion, a person who is not suitable for ministry in the United Church cannot be ‘effective’ as United Church ministry personnel,” she wrote.
“Do you believe in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and do you commit yourself anew to God?” and “Do you believe that God is calling you to the ordained ministry of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care, and do you accept this call?” are expected to be among the questions asked to determine her fitness for service.
Now, Vosper is fighting the motion to review her effectiveness as well as Sander’s standards.
“We … must submit our arguments regarding the appeal by September 18th,” she told the Christian Post.
In the meantime, Vosper has refused to repent of her atheism.
“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,” she said.
Her appeal is scheduled to be heard this fall.