The United Church of Canada has decided to retain Gretta Vosper as a minister in the UCC despite the fact that she is an atheist. Two years earlier the UCC had declared that Vosper was unfit for ministry because she could not affirm her vows or the UCC confession. Yet now in a joint statement between the UCC and Vosper’s church, we learn that the “Toronto Conference, the Rev. Gretta Vosper, and West Hill United Church have settled all outstanding issues between them.”
Yet Vosper still denies God’s existence. One might be tempted to think that the existence of God is no longer an outstanding issue for the Toronto Conference. But the UCC released a statement on November 7th assuring its readers that “This doesn’t alter in any way the belief of The United Church of Canada in God.”
So the UCC confesses the existence of God while affirming the validity of a pastor who denies the existence of God. Something changed between 2016 and 2018. In September 2016, a 24 person committee discovered that Vosper could not affirm her ordination vows nor the confession of the UCC. Nineteen members of the committee naturally concluded that she was unfit for ministry. Now, in November 2018, Vosper’s inability to reaffirm her vows and her atheism no longer seem to matter. There are no “outstanding issues” between the UCC, Vosper, and her church.
Canadians must conclude that the UCC no longer sees the existence of God as a primary issue when it comes to pastoral ministry. The UCC has told the nation that UCC pastors need not believe in God to serve in the church.
How different are the words of Jesus who said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The foundation and end for all Christian ministry is knowing God.
God went to great lengths to reveal himself. The heavens declare his glory, his invisible attributes are known in creation, and Christ revealed him to humanity. He sent his only begotten Son into the world in large part to make himself known to the world (e.g., John 1:18).
So while the UCC may no longer have an issue with Vosper, God does.