Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Defrock Atheist Minister, United Church Panel Urges in Split Decision

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Defrock Atheist Minister, United Church Panel Urges in Split Decision

Article excerpt

Oust atheist United Church minister: panel

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TORONTO - An unabashedly atheist minister who does not believe in the Bible should be defrocked for her beliefs, a United Church committee has recommended in a split decision that seems likely to stir further dissent in the church.

In its unprecedented report, the reviewing panel said Gretta Vosper would not be ordained were she applying today given her extreme beliefs.

"She is not suitable to continue in ordained ministry because she does not believe in God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit," the report by the Toronto Conference interview committee states.

"Ms. Vosper does not recognize the primacy of scripture, she will not conduct the sacraments, and she is no longer in essential agreement with the statement of doctrine of the United Church of Canada."

Not everyone on the interview committee, comprising 23 lay and ordained members of the church, wanted to see Vosper gone. In a dissenting view, four members concluded that Vosper was "suitable" as a minister. The church has evolved since its founding and must continue doing so to meet the spiritual needs of Canadians, they argued.

"Many of Ms. Vosper's theological positions, while not in the mainstream, are not unique amongst the ministers and lay persons of the United Church," the dissenters said. "The United Church has a history of welcoming theological diversity, and to find Ms. Vosper unsuitable could stifle exploration and stunt that diversity."

Vosper, 58, who has been fighting to keep her job as minister of her supportive West Hill congregation in east-end Toronto, seized on the minority view. What it shows, she said in an interview Thursday, is that a "significant number" of people in the church share her views.

"This conversation is not over and indeed might get ramped up," Vosper said. "This has been a very adversarial process and so that, in and of itself, has cost the United Church greatly."

In June, Vosper appeared before the committee to defend her views, arguing she was on the receiving end of a church inquisition. …

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