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Toronto’s ‘atheist minister’ to face church hearing

The Rev. Gretta Vosper, an ordained United Church of Canada minister who believes in neither God nor the Bible. Photo courtesy of Gretta Vosper
The Rev. Gretta Vosper, an ordained United Church of Canada minister who believes in neither God nor the Bible. Photo courtesy of Gretta Vosper

The Rev. Gretta Vosper, an ordained United Church of Canada minister who believes in neither God nor the Bible. Photo courtesy of Gretta Vosper

TORONTO (RNS) An ordained minister of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination is facing dismissal because she is an atheist.

The Rev. Gretta Vosper, spiritual leader of West Hill United Church in suburban Toronto, made her God-denying views known as far back as 2001. She stayed on course a few years later when she ended the practice of reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and some two-thirds of her congregants quit.

Her 2008 book, “With or Without God,” alienated some churchgoers anew.

Vosper, known as the “atheist minister,” is back in the news now that a church court will soon begin a review process to determine if she should be removed from the pulpit.


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“I don’t believe in the god called God,” Vosper told The Canadian Press wire service this month. “Using the word gets in the way of sharing what I want to share.”

Asked in a March Toronto Star interview whether she believes that Jesus was the Son of God, she said, “I don’t think Jesus was.”

Things came to a head earlier this year after she wrote an open letter objecting to a prayer a fellow minister had written following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Vosper said the prayer should have acknowledged that belief in God could trigger extremism.


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The United Church of Canada’s Toronto executive began looking into Vosper’s fitness as a minister. In May, the denomination’s top administrative body, the General Council, laid out the procedure for determining whether Vosper was true to her ordination vows, which included affirming a belief in “God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

“This is the first time an ordained minister has been asked to confirm her vows,” said David Wilson, editor of the United Church Observer.

Vosper, 57, was ordained in 1993 and joined the Toronto church in 1997.

The 70 or so congregants who remain in her church are said to be staunch supporters.

Founded in 1925, the United Church is known for its liberal leanings and social justice activism.

The denomination has been closing churches at a rate of more than one a week — 59 in 2013, according to Wilson.

YS/MG END CSILLAG

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Ron Csillag

32 Comments

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  • The woman has been a professed atheist, going as far as saying “Jesus never was” since 2001 and in 2015 the Protestant church is looking into her fitness as a minister?
    Good Lord, are they just waiting for Lucifer to apply for the job?
    Silly woman, silly congregation, crazy world.

  • You’re an incredibly honest, intelligent, and brave woman. I applaud you. However, you really need to leave the church. You can do so with honor and integrity. Check out the humanist organizations in Toronto area. I’m sure you’ll fit in and be able to make enormous contributions to society outside the church which doesn’t want you. Congratulations….you’re free.

  • Honest? Really? Well, I suppose for an atheist she is, but she’s been posing as an ordained minister for a Christian church. The ” humanists” can have her. The standard is neo-Neanderthal with them.

  • In lieu of a trial, I suggest they just trade her to the Unitarians for cash and three seminary prospects.

  • There are a number of errors in the story. First, every minister in the United Church is asked to confirm the same questions of faith, including a commitment to God, Father Son and Holy Spirit every time they begin a new pastoral relationship. This is not the first time a United Church minister has been asked to confirm their vows. It is done all the time. As much as I know and respect David Wilson, he got the context wrong.

    Second the review process is not a church trial. It is a church process intended to answer questions which have been raised. The United Church system is complaint-driven. There were complaints. The review is proceeding. There can be many results. The church’s process is intended to be restorative, not punitive. How do I know? I have been the subject of a review myself.

    The accuracy and balance of the story is in doubt. Curiously, it hits the headlines at the very same time the church’s General Council is meeting in Newfoundland. Coincidence? I wonder.

  • Do you mean that humanist have lower standards than people whose morality is based on fire insurance?

  • “Vosper, 57, was ordained in 1993 and joined the Toronto church in 1997.

    The 70 or so congregants who remain in her church are said to be staunch supporters.”

    Also, the 70 or so congregants, are known as the Stupid 70 or so congregants.

  • “Vosper, 57, was ordained in 1993 and joined the Toronto church in 1997.

    The 70 or so congregants who remain in her church are said to be staunch supporters.”

    Also, the 70 or so congregants, are known as the S. T. U. P. I. D. 70 or so congregants.

  • Why so full of hate and intolerance? Is that what Christianity taught you? Have you met and spoken with those 70 congregants heart to heart?
    Just wondering…

  • What is so mean about calling the 70 congregants stupid? That’s what they are…..arrogantly stupid.
    How is it possible that 70 congregants of this faith support an avowed atheist? If they want to form a cult, let them move to another building. This whole mess could be settled with two words: GET OUT !

  • “What’s so mean about calling someone stupid?” Nothing more mean than calling Caitlyn Jenner a “tranny,” right Dominic? Don’t tell me, it’s just another example of your love.

  • It seems to me that there is a problem about understanding ” G O D ” . Every one has a “G O D ” of their understanding ,which is of their respected choice. When one says, theirs, is correct, then they are in judgement, and think they are GOD. You better have another look in the mirror. When you attack and point the finger, you have 3 fingers pointing back at you! The question is how to live in religious harmony with RESPECT for each other.

  • Although I do support your position on this, I am troubled by the part of your case re “Jesus never was”. Are you suggesting Ms. Vosper denied the earthly existence of Jesus? From the article, my understanding is that she goes no further than saying she does not believe Jesus was “the Son of God”. Some ardent Christians might even make the same statement “never was” to delineate a personal preference for “always was, is and ever-shall be”.

  • Always liked Greta. She is one that has a firm grip on what Stewardship is all about and a passion for helping many people. The sad thing about this situation is that I know a lot of ministers that have similar opinions but have never been able to “come out of the closet” I know it is rough but admitting that at least there are huge problems in the many interpretations of the bible and a acceptance of a God that allows some of the atrocities occurring to innocent children, is a responsible thing to do. Thanks Greta for all that you have done and may you be allowed to continue your good work.

  • There is no evidence of a real Jesus ever existing.

    The Bible is not evidence of anything. The supposed contemporary writers never mentioned Jesus.
    The texts like ‘Josephus’ are obviously biased forgeries as scholars like Bart Ehrman has said.

    Jesus is an imagined figure constructed as Xalmoxes and Zoroaster were – invented as part of the mystery religions of the time.

    The entirety of Christianity is built on contradictory texts and superstition.

  • Rev. Neil,

    “The question is how to live in religious harmony with RESPECT for each other.”

    How about let us just live in harmony with respect for each other?
    Skip the religious bit entirely!

    Religion only adds confusion and corruption to human affairs. You have every right to believe it if you want to – but for those of us who care about what is true will not be swayed by appeals to any empty claims.

    God appears to be a delusion. You are free to have it if you want it – but it is clearly more trouble than it is worth.

  • The Clergy Project.

    For clergy who have stopped believing in God
    and who desperately need a way to get out of preaching this contradictoy, divisive nonsense.

    “Thou shalt not bear false witness…”
    – YAHWEH (Exodus 20:16)

    “Blessed are those who have not seen yet testify belief !”
    – JESUS (John 20:29)

    It is contradictory and it is depraved to not acknowledge it.

  • “The texts like ‘Josephus’ are obviously biased forgeries as scholars like Bart Ehrman has said.”

    Bart Ehrman never said any such thing–nor is he a Jesus-myther.

  • Shawnee:

    You are wrong, as usual. On both counts.

    Bart Ehrman:
    “The problems with this passage should be obvious to anyone with even a casual knowledge of Josephus…. He was thoroughly and ineluctably Jewish and certainly never converted to be a follower of Jesus. But this passage contains comments that only a Christian would make: that Jesus was more than a man, that he was the messiah, and that he arose from the dead in fulfillment of the scriptures….there is simply no way Josephus the Jew would or could have written such things.”

    “When Christian scribes copied the text, they added a few words here and there to make sure that the reader would get the point.”

    In other words, Josephus is BS!

  • Bart Ehrman is the go-to person regarding Christian history.

    His worst book was his lame attempt to prove the historical Jesus.
    The New Testament is nothing but a rehashing and reworking of the Old Testament into new myths – and it is so obvious it is embarrassing.

  • Wow…put your foot in it this time,Maxie.I guess you forget to read Erhman’s book,”Did Jesus Exist?” In which,to his credit,Erhman makes mincemeat out of the tiresome claims of Jesus’supposed non-existence.Better get a copy.Only the fanatical,lunatic fringe keeps tooting that dented,rusting horn; no actual,serious scholars,religious OR secular,keeps beating the dead horse of Jesus “non-existence”.Get a clue,Max.

  • Ehrman never said that the Testimonium Flavianum, to which you are referring, is a “forgery.” He says exactly what the majority of scholars (including the foremost authority on Josephus, Dr. Louis Feldman of Yeshiva University, says about the Testimonium — that it is a mostly authentic passage with a few Christian interpolations.

    And there is no scholarly doubt at all as to the authenticity of Josephus’ other reference to the execution of James “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ.”

  • Well, you’re also in a cult, steve. you and your entire clan of at atheists? Y’all can be just as ugly and hateful as any other group, religion, cult.

  • Folks you know she’s an atheist. Just cut ties and PUT HER OUT!!! Good Bye, Good Riddance, Adios!!!

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