Tuesday, 12 January 2016

An Atheist Minister? The Case of Greta Vosper

The United Church of Canada, the country's largest Protestant body representing a fusion of Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and others, is fraying at the edges. This 'liberal' denomination is trying to deal with the reality of an articulate minister who is also openly atheistic.

This is, naturally, like a red rag to a bull for outsiders (some COG sects, for example, have taken delight in reporting these developments) eager to prove that 'mainline' churches have lost the plot. Then there are those within the UCC itself who feel threatened by someone with pastoral responsibility who can no longer affirm what they regard as the essentials of Christian belief.

CBC's The Current provides an insightful backgrounder that gives a voice to both sides of the debate, and has just aired on CBC Radio 1.

Many have walked the same path as Greta Vosper. Some have simply abandoned their church as a result; others - many others - have learnt to just shut up, go through the motions and pretend in front of their congregations. A very few like Greta Vosper have taken what must be a tough decision to remain and be honest about their position.

But is her position either defensible or credible? Have a listen (the programme is 22 minutes long) and decide for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. There isn't enough data about her position in this piece to accept or reject it. It sounds as though her stand asserts a definitional, rather than essential difference. Her definition of what is "god" or "deity" departs from the traditional definition(s) held and advanced by Christianity for a very long time. If definition is merely semantic, then there is room to accept her defense. (Hint: changes in definition are rarely just semantic) Otherwise, a different definition may necessarily mean also a different essence, in which case claiming "unity" is merely semantic, not substantial. There may be some sophisticated a-theology of unity with hers and her congregation's understanding of "essential" to that of what most experience as theological Christianity, but I think it is a stretch. One does wonder whether they should just jettison the label "church" into the same ether where they sent the Lord's Prayer. They appear to be more like one of the early common era associations of the Roman Empire than a Christian assembly of the later forms.