Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Atheist United Church Minister Fighting Review That Could Lead to Firing

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Atheist United Church Minister Fighting Review That Could Lead to Firing

Article excerpt

Atheist United Church minister fighting review

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TORONTO - 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.

In an interview at her West Hill church, Rev. Gretta Vosper said congregants support her view that how you live is more important than what you believe in.

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1997, said the idea of an interventionist, supernatural being on which so much church doctrine is based belongs to an outdated world view.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

"That didn't go over well," Vosper said. "(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."

Rev. David Allen, executive secretary of the Toronto Conference, said he took various concerns about Vosper to the church's executive, which decided it wanted to investigate her fitness to be a minister. …

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