As Atheist Minister Undergoes Heresy Trial, Her Friends Are Asking for Support August 22, 2015

As Atheist Minister Undergoes Heresy Trial, Her Friends Are Asking for Support

I’ve written before about Gretta Vosper, a reverend for the United Church of Canada who doesn’t believe in God.

She’s been in the news a lot lately because, even though her congregation fully supports her leadership, the UCC doesn’t know what to do with her and there’s a chance they may remove her from the pulpit. Mind you, the UCC is already a very liberal denomination that has long ordained women and LGBT individuals, so an atheist who supports the community and philosophies of the church isn’t as radical as you might think.

While a decision hasn’t been reached, some supporters are now laying out the situation and asking for help to cover any legal fees connected with her “review of effectiveness”:

No one representing any level of the church has been to visit West Hill in over a decade to see what it is doing or to discuss its ministry. No one has tried to engage Gretta in dialogue about her beliefs and ministry. Nevertheless, believing dialogue to be the way forward, Gretta and her legal counsel asked the church to enter into a dialogue with a view to exploring an alternative to the normal judicial process; they turned that invitation down. The emphasis from the church’s position has been no dialogue, no conversation.

During this time many of you have been asking “what can we do?” In the hopes that a conversation with the church would be forthcoming we kept saying……”stay tuned”.

Now that the church has formally drawn a line in the sand we are asking for your assistance. A small group of supporters have come together to form The Friends of Gretta Vosper Association. The primary purpose of the association is “to raise funds to cover Gretta Vosper’s costs as a direct result of the United Church of Canada’s review”. A significant element of the costs are the fees associated with legal representation.

Even if you’re not sure why you’d want to support an atheist pastor or you believe the church has every right to kick her out, I assure you her congregation is eager to tell you what she means to them and why they want to keep her on board as their leader. There’s plenty the UCC does right — even non-religious people can admit that — and that’s why Vosper wants to remain with the organization, even as an open atheist. She can do a lot of good within that structure since she knows the church and its people so well.

By the way, some of you may be wondering how we can ensure the money is going to the right place. Will it actually be used properly? If the money turns out not to be needed, where will it go? Those are fair questions that should be asked of all fundraisers, and if you can’t get straight answers, you should be reluctant to hand over anything.

I got a response from John DiPede, who’s helping run the fundraiser, and this is what I can tell you:

“Friends of Gretta Vosper” operates separately from West Hill United Church. Vosper herself has no involvement with it. These really are her supporters working to help her out.

The fundraising goal of “not less than $50,000,” says John, is “based on best estimates of the expected costs associated with the engagement of Falconer’s LLP as legal counsel for Rev. Vosper.” It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much it’ll cost until it’s all over, but the association is committed to making sure the money goes to the right place. Everything will be accounted for, he told me.

What about excess funds?

The committee has had some discussion regarding the disbursement of possible surplus funds. Our goal would be to ensure that donations and expenditures are as aligned as possible to ensure that any surplus monies are kept to a minimum. The committee has decided that the disposition of any excess funds would be determined based on the outcome of the review. It would be somewhat premature to make this determination at this time. Any decision would require the consensus of the association committee.

He added that the committee would “provide a full accounting of all transactions following the completion of the campaign.”

If anyone has any questions about the money, you’re urged to contact this email address.

Please consider chipping in. Vosper’s cause is worth supporting.

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