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In the name of ‘diversity,’ an atheist allowed to pastor a church in Canada

United Church on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia Canada converted into a museum. Credit: Harvey Barrrison/Flickr/Creative Commons

With declining membership, is this the future for the United Church? United Church building on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada converted into a museum. Credit: Harvey Barrrison/Flickr/Creative Commons

It is a bizarre world when an atheist is allowed to pastor a church, but that is exactly what happened recently in Canada. Now to be fair, it took place in the United Church of Canada, a very liberal denomination and holds some flexible opinions on God, Jesus and the Bible.

Over the past several years, attendance has been in a free fall in the denominations with church closings happening regularly as congregations are no longer viable.

But being a religious organization, one would have thought that there would be a line drawn in the sand somewhere on how liberal its views would get, but apparently not.

Rev. Gretta Vosper, 60, pastors West Hill United Church in Toronto. In 2001 she came out publicly as an atheist in a sermon to her congregation. It had an impact as over the next several months people started leaving including 100 who left when Vosper decided to no longer say the Lord’s Prayer during Sunday services.

The United Church was aware of Vosper’s announcement, but in the name of diversity decided it would put up with an atheistic pastor. However, that all changed when she sent a letter criticizing the prayer of a pastor written shortly after the 2015 Paris massacre resulting in 11 deaths at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdow after it published cartoons of Mohammad.

Vosper criticized the prayer stating that it should have included a statement that a belief in God could cause violence. At that point, the denomination seems to have decided Vosper had crossed a line. A committee set up to investigate Vosper concluded she was no longer suitable to serve as a minister in the United Church. This started the process to have her reconfirm her vows, when she was initially ordained, that required a belief in God.

If she was unwilling to do this, it would “probably” result in her dismissal.

But it was a smaller “probably” than originally thought.

Three years later, the United Church announced it had reached an agreement with Vosper and would no longer be pushing for her dismissal. The United Church is fine with having an atheist serve as one of its pastors.

Rev Richard Bott, who serves as the United Church moderator, stated Vosper would be allowed to stay on as a pastor as part of the denomination’s diversity mandate. Some suggest that the denomination balked at going through what would fundamentally have been a heresy trial.

However after the announcement, several questioned the church’s decision. Writing for a major Canadian daily newspaper, The Toronto Star, Rosie DeManno expressed her disdain for the decision. In an article entitled By swallowing its opposition to the minister who doesn’t believe in God the United Church shows just how irrelevant it is,” DeManno wrote:

“But what a cross to bear that gigantic wooden crucifix at the front of the Church of the Master must be, constant reminder of everything this parish rejects.”

However, diversity is not just impacting the Christian faith in Canada. The University of Colorado allegedly used the same excuse when it would not register a Christian group, Ratio Christi, on campus because it is refuses to allow people to lead the group who do not embrace its mission statement and beliefs.

Ratio Christi is a campus apologetic’s group defending the Christian faith and the university was demanding in the name of diversity that it allow atheists, as an example, to lead its Bible studies.

Fortunately, Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization dedicated to defending free speech in the US, is taking the university to court on behalf of Ratio Christi alleging the university cannot discriminate against a group because of its religious beliefs.

Despite it name, it seems that “diversity” has no allowance for Biblical faith.


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