Where do you score on the Gretta Vosper heresy scale?

The credal trial of the Gretta Vosper, the rebel Canadian cleric, has highlighted a difference in tone between progressive Chistianity and traditional Christendom.

Where do you score on the Gretta Vosper heresy scale?

Canadian minister, Revd Gretta Vosper, looks increasingly likely to be defrocked on theological grounds. The Toronto regional conference of the United Church of Canada has decided that she is not suitable to continue as a minister of the church at West Hill in Toronto city. Her case will now go before a formal panel of the church’s national General Council.

The findings which led to this outcome were outlined in a report from the ‘Interview Committee’ which was delegated to question Gretta Vosper about her beliefs. Having read their recommendations, I was struck by the possibility that the eight reasons given for defrocking Gretta Vosper might be thought of by many as a reasonable starting point for evolving a new Christianity for the 21st Century. OK so perhaps not all of them, but at least five of them, in my opinion.

Here is their list of the 8 shortcomings of faith and practice of which Gretta was accused.

“Ms. Vosper told the Committee that she

1. does not believe in a Trinitarian God. Instead, by ‘god/God’ she means what is created between people in relationships, but does not exist separate from us, and the construct is not divine.

2. does not use the word ‘God’ because its use is a barrier to some people.

3. does not believe that Jesus was divine. He is not the Son of God. Jesus is not her Saviour.

4. no longer calls herself a Christian.

5. does not believe that there is a Holy Spirit.

6. does not believe that there is a God who calls anyone to ministry.

7. does not administer sacraments.

8. does not consider scripture to be the primary source, but merely one source of information amongst many.“

When Gretta Vosper addressed a joint conference of PCN Britain and Sea of Faith in 2014, the spiritual warmth of the event was widely appreciated. And PCN Britain has for some time supported Gretta and her church at West Hill in Toronto as they seek to keep her as their minister. A year ago we made the following statement,

“PCN is sensitive to the fact that not all trustees or members agree with her theology, (or atheology). Yet we believe the vast majority of our members recognise the worth of her ministry and believe that a trial based on loyalty to credal statements is a backward step for faith.” (Read the full letter).

What do you think of this list of Gretta’s offences, both its nature and its content? On how many of these counts would you be found guilty? (Give yourself a score out of 8). Where would you part company with Gretta Vosper, if indeed you would? Be assured, nothing in this list should disqualify you from joining PCN Britain.

You are welcome to comment below or you may prefer to make your comment in our Discussion Forum, where it will be easier to have a conversation since you will then receive alerts of future contributions.


1 On 01/10/2016 Logos Ledbury wrote:

Thanks for this, Andy.
Comment posted in forum.

2 On 09/11/2016 Geoff Hillier wrote:

I remember reading on the Patheos website a post that said that progressive Christianity was just a staging post to atheism. I remember really hoping that that wasn’t the case with me. The sound of “De-frocking” sends chills up my spine but in many ways I cant blame the Church of Canada for considering this stance. She certainly seems to have decided upon a faith system that includes little of what an orthodox faith might be expected to contain. As for me I would probably go along with 2, 4 and 8 and maybe 7 as I don’t think a priest needs to administer sacraments. The rest, I feel negates too much and brings me back to that uncomfortable question on Patheos. Deconstruction is good and necessary but if it leaves you just with a pile of rubble what use will it be to anyone?

3 On 07/01/2017 Robert wrote:

While I admire the stance that Gretta is making I feel very strongly that there is some compatibility between her view and credal Christianity. As I see it she is assuming that “God” is something about Being - ontotheology. For centuries, but especially under Heidegger’s influence in the twentieth century, Christian theology has consistently approached its inquiry through the language of ontology and within the framework of Being. These attempts to find a rational way to articulate religious life and the mystery of God, making spiritual praxis secondary to theory, not only run the danger of reducing God to a set of propositions, but also risk condoning violent indifference to interhuman relations. I suggest that it is the otherness (alterity) of God that opens the possibility of some credal acceptance. At the moment I am reading Glenn Morrison “A Theology of Alterity” (the above is part of the abstract) in which Morrison discusses the insights of Levinas and Von Balthasar in creating a non-ontotheological Christian theology.

4 On 12/04/2017 Justin wrote:

It is a shame all these statements are essentially negative ones, with little here about what she affirms. On the face of it, I can hardly blame the United Church for acting the way that they are, as she now seems to have little in common with the denomination as a whole, and its statements of faith - even its very appealing -at least to me - ‘A Song of Faith’ (2006). Still, not a happy process for anyone and I hope she finds a home somewhere else where her views would be, more or less, the orthodoxy (like the UUs).

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Back to Blogs