Atheist pastor resolution making its way up United Church of Canada chain

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LITTLE CURRENT—A resolution from the Little Current United Church pastoral charge aimed at revising the church’s national policy was presented to the United Church of Canada’s 44th General Council. The resolution came about in reaction to a southern Ontario church governing body’s 2018 decision to allow Rev. Gretta Vosper to remain as the minister of Toronto’s West Hill United Church despite her open admission of being an atheist and having lost her faith.

Little Current United Church had sent a letter protesting that decision following news breaking of the decision, but Little Current United Church council chair Scott Mosher received correspondence from United Church of Canada executive officer of ministry and employment and human resources Rev. Alan W. Hall. Rev. Hall informed Mr. Mosher, and the church, that due to the parties having reached a settlement (the details of which were to be held private), the national church body could not initiate any sort of formal hearing or further action on the matter. That was in early 2019.

Concerned that allowing one atheist minister into the church fold would open the floodgates to non-faith-based leaders continuing in pastoral roles, members of the Little Current church moved forward with a resolution they hoped would strengthen church policies in future disputes.

“The intent of our motion was to investigate, identify and implement measures to prevent what happened with the Vosper decision, in the spirit of continuous improvement,” Mr. Mosher told The Expositor’s Warren Schlote at the time.

The original motion has since passed up the United Church’s decision-making chain to the 44th General Council learning sessions where Mr. Mosher’s video presentation on the motion last Wednesday, March 23 was made available for study and questions were entertained “for clarification purposes only.” No opinion statements or debate on the proposal itself was permitted. That debate and discussion will take place later this year in June and any decisions will be made and announced in August.

At the time of the initial presentation, Mr. Mosher had pointed out that general assemblies are held every three years, but he believed that it was important to “get head office to start thinking about investigating, identifying and implementing measures so they’re ready to adopt it at the next National General Council meeting.”

Mr. Mosher’s presentation on the issue was not the only one: similar concerns emanating from two other regional councils across the country were also presented to 248 national commissioners to general council last week.

The members of Little Current United Church Pastoral Charge unanimously passed the resolution at the March 2019 Annual Meeting of the church, sending it to the next level, the Canadian Shield Regional Council.

Mr. Mosher presented the local church’s concerns in the form of a resolution at a regional council meeting in June 2019 in Sault Ste. Marie and although some members of that assembly from across Northern Ontario were not of a mind to send the issue forward, the resolution was passed at that time for consideration by the national church for policy-making purposes and that is now taking place.