Meet the ordained minister who doesn't really believe in God
Published Wednesday, January 13, 2016 9:55AM EST
An ordained Toronto minister at risk of losing her job says her understanding of God is metaphorical, rather than literal.
Rev. Gretta Vosper has presided over West Hill United Church, located at Kingston Road and Orchard Park Drive in Toronto's east end, for 19 years.
Six months ago, Vosper said she understood her beliefs better and announced that she no longer believes in God.
"I recognize that the use of traditional language to describe them suggested that I still did believe in those very traditional concepts, so I stopped using the language to make that clear," Vosper told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.
She said she realizes why it appears "problematic," but that she believes that her atheism should not preclude her from preaching.
"In the United Church of Canada, we don't actually take vows, we answer questions... The understanding of the questions could be metaphorical."
Vosper said she doesn't believe in a deity as a being, but has faith in a different concept than the traditional view of God.
She said her understanding of God is relationships of trust, love and forgiveness between people.
"If you think of the positive relationships you have with people and how they strengthen you and give you courage, that's the kind of God development that I believe we are all responsible for doing and making in the world."
Vosper said she felt sorry that her revelation was hard on some members of her church. Vosper said some members left because they didn't support an atheist preaching in a house of God.
Others outside of her church community have made comments expressing their disapproval. A columnist for the United Church Observer called her ideas "dangerous," and said she overlooks centuries of conversation within the Christian community.
"While I appreciate Ms. Vosper's call for the United Church to act with greater clarity and integrity … I can’t help but wonder what sort of example she herself is setting," columnist and Rev. David Ewart wrote on his blog.
Ewart wrote that he felt she should admit she no longer preaches the church's core beliefs, and "take the steps to leave the United Church."
Despite negative feedback from some people, Vosper said other United Church members left nearby churches to join West Hill because of her beliefs.
Though her parish has changed, she said she has no regrets.
"Humanity is at the stage in its evolution that it has to actually step away from institutions that have in the past been very, very important for its development, but that now really just continue to divide the human community in what can be a very violent and dangerous way," she said.