Little Current United Church petition urging national church policy gains regional support

SAULT STE. MARIE – Little Current United Church (LCUC) member Scott Mosher has just returned from the Canadian Shield Regional Council meeting of the United Church in Sault Ste. Marie this weekend with positive news for his church’s push to revise the national policy—the regional council moved to accept the proposed resolution.

“There were four proposals that were supposed to be presented. I was the first to present and I was told I had two minutes to make my presentation, and then have an open period for questions and answers,” said Mr. Mosher.

LCUC has been involved in the resolution since January, which is when the church council sent a letter to the United Church of Canada protesting the decision to allow Rev. Gretta Vosper to remain as the minister of Toronto’s West Hill United Church, this despite her open religious views as being an atheist.

In response to that letter, Mr. Mosher received correspondence from UCC 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 reaching a settlement (the details of which were unable to be released), the national church body could not initiate any sort of formal hearing or further action on the matter.

LCUC was concerned that allowing one atheist minister to continue practicing may pave the way for future non-faith-based leaders to continue in these faith-dependent roles. Church members submitted this resolution in the hopes that the policy would be strengthened and elaborated upon so that reference material would be available in future disputes.

Some of the questions asked by the delegates at this weekend’s meeting were whether the decision on Rev. Vosper’s ministry was to be made by the Toronto conference or the national body, which is indeed a decision that would be made by the local body. The next question asked whether new procedures were really needed, considering the national United Church recently adopted a new manual which included a number of governance policies and procedures.

“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,” said Mr. Mosher.

The executive body of the regional council moderated the question-and-answer period before heading to the vote. Mr. Mosher said incoming council chair Barbara Nott was the first mover on the motion. Although it was not unanimous, due to some thinking the issue was not worth pursuing futher, the motion passed to move the LCUC proposal upward to the United Church of Canada’s general council and executive of the general council.

“My encouragement to them was, general council is held every three years. I said, let’s not wait another three years, let’s get head office to start thinking about investigating, identifying and implementing measures so they’re ready to adopt it at the next council meeting,” Mr. Mosher said.

That decision will ultimately be made by the higher body, meaning LCUC’s saga to see strong action on this issue remains ongoing.