The United Church of Canada is an ultra-liberal denomination in an already liberal Canadian religious environment.
During my undergraduate studies, I attended classes at a United Church seminary, and I can say from my conversations with seminarians of that denomination that they were barely Christian. Theist, yes, but Christian, no (for the most part). I would certainly consider them all candidates for evangelism.
Recently, one of their pastors, a Gretta Vosper, came out as an atheist.
Even in a denomination as permissive as the United Church, coming out as an atheist raised some eyebrows. Was that too going too far?
Can you believe they had to debate the issue? As if the answer was less than crystal clear?
I knew the United Church was lukewarm, even in outright rebellion against God in their welcoming and affirmation of sin and rejection of the gospel. But I didn’t think they were so far gone they were not sure if an atheist could continue to serve as a pastor in an allegedly “Christian” denomination.
Although I became aware of the story some years ago, I hadn’t heard of the outcome. Sadly, it was as predictably spineless as I imagined:
“Toronto Conference, the Rev. Gretta Vosper, and West Hill United Church have settled all outstanding issues between them. The Rev. Vosper will remain in ordained ministry at West Hill. We acknowledge the faithful work of all of those who have been involved in the process.”
I wonder if they saw the irony of calling the decision the result of “faithful work”?
Read the story here.
Shame on Gretta Vosper for hypocritically being an “ordained” minister in a “Christian” denomination, despite not even being a Christian! Please have the decency to live out your convictions. To put it in social justice terms, do not appropriate a religious tradition you reject.
But the greater shame is on the “Toronto Conference” which weakly reaffirmed its commitment to Christian beliefs and then immediately demonstrated they were lying by allowing an atheist to continue to remain as one of their ministers. That is like the Catholic Church expecting us to take seriously they are absolutely against abusing children, then agreeing to allow a group of priests to continue the abuse.
Are you aware of the Biblical doctrine of separation? It is something fundamentalists (and Anabaptists) emphasize but was lost to Evangelicalism. I think it needs to be recovered, and as the culture increasingly becomes post-Christian and deeply immoral, we will be forced to recover it.
There are (at least) three Biblical principles of separation that can apply to this situation and to others like it.
First, individual Christians should not receive false ministers like Vosper into the church or their homes:
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds (2 John 1:10-11).
Second, the church should have separated itself from Vosper, delivering her over to Satan for discipline:
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 5:4-5).
That kind of temporal discipline is for her own benefit, that she might realize her rebellion against God. Allowing her to continue enables her rebellion and gives her a position to lead others astray.
Third, given the United Church’s failure to authentically affirm even basic Christianity (I’m not even raising the issue of whether or not they believe or deny the saving message), any believers in that denomination should separate themselves from it post haste:
“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor 6:17).
You do not always have control over what an organization will do, but you do have control over what you can do. As an atheist, Vosper separated herself from God and truth. And as a believer, you must separate yourself both from false teachers and false organizations.