United Church indefinitely postpones atheist minister's hearing

The United Church was supposed to hold an ecclesiastical court hearing on the case of an atheist minister this month, but now, the church has indefinitely postponed it without stating a reason for the delay.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / SimonP)Victoria Park United Church, Toronto. 19 May 2009.

Gretta Vosper, the minister at West Hill United Church in Toronto, could be defrocked after complaints emerged about her atheist beliefs. However, she received a letter informing her that the hearing, which was set months ago, was to be delayed, The Star detailed.

United Church spokesperson Mary-Frances Denis suggested that the delay could have been due to logistical reasons and that the parties involved still need to work on certain matters and set dates that would suit everyone's schedules. However, Vosper thought there was more to the cause of the postponed hearing than merely problems with the schedule.

"I do think that it will be a challenge for them to put together an unbiased committee as they are required to do in order to meet the standard set by the civil courts," explained Vosper. "Even if they were to find a United Church member who had never heard of me, as soon as the issues were shared, the individual would very likely have a strong opinion."

In September last year, United Church's Toronto Conference Committee concluded that Vosper was no longer suited to function as a minister since "she does not believe in God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit." Instead, the atheist minister talked about love, the human connection, and kindness, The Star said in a separate report.

In an email to the publication at the time, Vosper conveyed her sadness for the clergy and individuals gearing up for leadership in United Church who were allegedly being told to stay quiet on their belief. She remarked that being open about one's belief could entail censure from the church authority.