Indefinite Delay in Ecclesiastical Court Hearing for Minister Gretta Vosper

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By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Minister Gretta Vosper is in the news, once more, circa November 14, as the ongoing review of suitability for the position in the United Church of Canada has been delayed, indefinitely (Perkel, 2017). It has been postponed, without a reason or a specified date to reschedule the “unprecedented ecclesiastical court hearing” (Ibid.).

Vosper was ordained in 1993. She took the ministerial position at West Hill United in 1997 (West Hill United Church, 2017). Over time, several years, she lost many beliefs in the faith. She is the “Ye” in “Ye of little faith.” She self-defined as an atheist in 2013 (Vosper, 2017).

It was public for some time. Some congregation left her; others stayed. Why? She came out as an atheist. An open atheist in the ranks of the religious leadership, ministering to United Church of Canada members at West Hill United Church.

As those aware of The Clergy Project (2017), nothing new to this, but threatening to the leadership, possibly – and if so, likely embarrassing to them, too.

Because coming out in the midst of what is seen as a cultural monolith begs questions for some of the membership, “Who else in the church doesn’t believe? How many? Do the congregation know about it? Do the leadership know about it? Has it been covered up? If so, why? Also, if covered up, how long has this been the case?”

The church is seen less as a block without problems and more as a series of shards. The question then, “Which one might cut?”

Her review, according to the committee, is based on lack of belief in a supernatural interventionist God, the divinity of Christ, and the existence of the Holy Spirit: hence, the “a-” part (Johnston, 2017; Perkel, 2017). As Seinfeld would say, “So, what’s the deal?”

The deal is, this makes Vosper questionable, in the eyes of the United Church of Canada in terms of her suitability for being a minister – almost a liability.

From a personal sympathetic view, for Vosper, that’s stressful enough: being out as an atheist, losing congregation, being put in the national news, and placed under suitability review, and then to have this public in the national news – live.

Perkel (2017) wrote:

“It is now clear that the panel will not be established in time to hold the hearing on the dates that you are holding in November 2017,” according to the church letter sent to her.

Acting on complaints about Vosper, a United Church reviewing panel in September last year recommended in a split decision that Vosper be defrocked for her beliefs. The hearing scheduled for this month was to make a final church decision on her fate.

“I understand the judicial committee executive has not finalized dates for the hearing,” Mary-Frances Denis said this week. “The parties are still working on a number of preliminary matters that need to be addressed, including finding dates that would accommodate everyone’s schedules.”

Vosper has her own views. She thinks the reasons run farther than scheduling problems. She thinks it is a challenge for the United Church of Canada to create and coordinate an unbiased committee to meet the standards of civil courts. The notoriety of the context around Vosper makes this a possibility.

More to come, I assume.

References

Johnston, M. (2015, November 25). Q&A: Gretta Vosper, the United Church minister who doesn’t believe in God. Retrieved from https://torontolife.com/city/life/gretta-vosper-united-church-minister/.

Perkel, C. (2017, November 16). United Church postpones hearing for atheist minister indefinitely. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/11/14/united-church-indefinitely-postpones-hearing-for-atheist-minister.html.

The Clergy Project. (2017). The Clergy Project. Retrieved from http://clergyproject.org/.

Vosper, G. (2017). About. Retrieved from http://www.grettavosper.ca/about/.

West Hill United Church. 92017). West Hill United Church. Retrieved from http://www.westhill.net/.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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