Gretta Vosper, the atheist and Humanist minister of a small United Church of Canada congregation in Ontario, is facing expulsion from her church for heresy. You can read the full story in the National Post. Vosper is a member of The Clergy Project which supports current and former religious professionals who have lost their beliefs in the supernatural.
It will be interesting to see how the United Church treats Vosper. Their attendance has been dwindling over recent years and leaders are faced with a choice of sticking to older dogmas or to continue to broaden their liberal tent to include atheist ministers. Canada is becoming increasingly non-religious but if the church waters down its beliefs too much, some members may choose to move to more fundamentalist churches instead.
But it’s not my place to tell a Church how to slow its decline.
I do think there needs to be space for atheist ministers in Canada though. The success of The Sunday Assembly has shown there is an appetite, particularly among young people, for a community of shared beliefs without the supernatural elements. Humanist groups should be open to these new movements and perhaps one day Vosper’s church will be (officially) part of the broader Humanist movement in Canada.
Maybe if her congregation is expelled from the United Church, Vosper will choose to affiliate with one of the Humanist groups in Ontario, leading the way for other congregations across the country.
I’d love to hear from any atheist priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, or other congregation leaders there might be in British Columbia. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.