Speaker Profile – Rev. Gretta Vosper
Sometimes, it’s hard to believe we live in the 21st century. With technological advancements, global communications networks, the ability to watch the history of stars unfold in real time, and information accessibility continuing to expand, you’d think we’d have evolved beyond tribal fears and the violence associated with them. But we haven’t and all you have to do to convince yourself of that frightening fact is spend a little time in church.
Not just any church, of course. There are a lot of nice churches out there. I mean a fundamentalist church. Or, for that matter, a fundamentalist synagogue or mosque – anywhere people gather to have archaic ideas and the prejudices trapped within them traded for contemporary knowledge and understanding. As for the nice churches and synagogues and mosques, well, their messages – lovely though they may be – reinforce a divine hand in the documents that underpin hateful, fundamentalist beliefs. They’re guilty, too. I should know, I’m a minister in one of those churches.
My congregation belongs to The United Church of Canada, probably the most progressive Christian denomination in the world. It ordained women over seventy years ago and has been ordaining openly LGBTQ leaders for decades. But theologically it remains in the closet about the human construction of religion and all its trapping. I couldn’t stay in that closet. I came out as an atheist in 2001 after I spontaneously preached a sermon in which I completely deconstructed the idea of a god named God, rather than fire me, the congregation chose to step out on an unmarked path. With them, I’ve labored, lamented, lost, and loved. It’s a hard road but a worthy one with no finish line in sight. I have been speaking publicly on the forefront of this work since launching the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity in 2004.
In May 2015, however my denomination took a hard turn to the right and created a ruling that requires all its clergy be in ongoing affirmation of their ordination questions. My denomination, which has been shaped by the wisdom and insight of its founders, has never required assent to any particular statement of doctrine. We have always considered ourselves a non-creedal church. Yet with that ruling, made by the General Secretary in accordance with a request from Toronto Conference, the United Church of Canada became a creedal church with new rules for clergy.
As a result, I have been under disciplinary review since that time. It is now the end of 2017 and there is no end in sight. I was found “unsuitable for ministry” by a Ministry Personnel Review Panel in September 2016. Still, I have been allowed to continue to lead my congregation until the denomination’s Judicial Committee determines the just result of such a finding. My conference has asked that I be stripped of my credentials and removed from ministry.
Thanks for your interest in my work. May the conversation be rich! The following is a prayer that Rev. Vosper and her husband wrote for use at her church.
As I Live
As I live every day,
I want to be a channel for peace.
May I bring love where there is hatred
and healing where there is hurt;
joy where there is sadness
and hope where there is fear.
I pray that I may always try
to understand and comfort other people
as well as seeking comfort and understanding from them.
may I choose to be
a light in the darkness
a help in times of need
and a caring, honest friend.
And may justice, kindness, and peace
flow from my heart forever.
gretta vosper and Scott Kearns
(c) 2005 West Hill United Church
Link to Gretta Vosper's books on Amazon -
Video link to Gretta Vosper lecture on Faith Without God