Toronto minister Reverend Gretta Vosper is a brave woman. Defiantly, every Sunday morning she stands before the congregation of her West Hill United Church as both a professed atheist and an ordained minister. To me an atheist minister sounds a lot like a vegan hunter or a pacifist mercenary but then again, we live in a world where reality is running for dear life with its pants down around its ankles.
Until last week the United Church of Canada planned to put Rev. Gretta Vosper on trial for heresy but instead reached a settlement in which the maverick minister could keep both her skeptical faith and her job. Until then the woman was about to be ‘defrocked’ which I’m guessing, sounds like something Stormy Daniels would do at a bachelor party for ten bucks a head.
Ordained 25 years ago, Rev. Vosper has been upfront about her atheism and non-belief in the Bible. While most church goers find her split beliefs at fundamental odds with the doctrine and values of the United Church, her own congregation seems to be quite supportive of her leadership.
Interestingly enough, her situation grabbed headlines when she wrote a letter to the church’s spiritual leader after the January 2015 terrorist massacre at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office in Paris. Her point: belief in God can motivate bad things.
With her contradictory situation now resolved, Rev. Vosper feels vindicated and free to preach church doctrine despite her non-belief in a “theistic, interventionist, supernatural being known as God.”
The Reverend and her followers are confident she can deliver on the standard tenets and basic faiths of the church while still denying the belief of one God as the creator and ruler of the Universe. Still any sermon criticizing non-believers will be very, very awkward.
Gretta Vesper may be the first atheist minister in Canada but you can bet she won’t be the last. With members fleeing the churches of all mainstream religions these days, allowing some personal choice and free thinking may slow the exodus. Trust me, there will be more preachers doubling as doubting Thomases.
Here then are sure fire signs your minister might also be an atheist.
• She spells God with a small “g”, He with a small “h” and She with a capital “S.”
• He refers to the Garden of Eden as both “the original paradise” and “a nifty little time share opportunity.”
• When someone in the congregation accuses him of making a deal with the Devil he laughs and says: “Satan! Hell, I thought you said Santa!”
• She chastises the Three Wise Men for giving the baby Jesus gifts of frankincense and myrrh by asking: “Who forgot the diapers?”
• He arrives at the church food drive wearing a T-Shirt that reads: “Hear No Evil Have No Fun.”
• She urges her parishioners to attend her special Saturday night sermon: “What is Hell?” followed by a practice session of the church.
• When confronted about his belief in the Bible he refers to it as “a gassy novel that sold so badly they had to give it away.”
• She breaks a finger nail on the pulpit and yells: “Holy Crap!”
• In a sermon about the Jews place in Christianity, your minister gets ‘catechism’ confused with ‘circumcision’ and the service had to be cancelled due to excessive laughter.
• Blaming her dyslexia, she often refers to the faithfulness of the dog, instead of God.
• He ends each sermon with a rousing sing-a-long of: “Darwin Loves You, Yes He Does!”
• Claiming he has converted Jehovah Witnesses to his congregation, she warns her flock about people coming to their doors on Sundays who do not want to talk about ‘God’.
• From the outset she has followed two books of religious thought – The Bible and The Rebuttal.
• Noting the murder, rape, stoning and eye-gouging in the New Testament, your minister suggests a label on the cover of the Bible: “The following pages contain scenes of violence and animal sacrifice. Viewer discretion is advised.”
• You get the feeling he’s not big on Blasphemy when he refers to Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar Jr. as “a real pair of A-holes!”
• She claims the “Light at the end of the tunnel” prophecy has been eliminated by the high cost of energy since Kathleen Wynne sold Ontario Hydro.
• When cornered about his emphasis of superstition over religion he throws up his hands and says: “Don’t get me started about the Amish!”
• She has reduced the Ten Commandments to six and wants “Though shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house” based on fair market value.
• His sermon on Easter Sunday featuring the Resurrection was titled: “Christ Calls In Sick.”
• And finally, you know your minister is sitting on Christianity’s fence when she refers to Heaven as “a bridge too far with really nice gates.”
For comments, ideas and copies of
The Legend of Zippy Chippy,
go to www.williamthomas.ca