Recently, a story has come up in Canada regarding a pastor of a United Church is who is fighting a decision by the United Church of Canada to fire her – a move she says is completely unprecedented. In an interview with CBC News, Rev. Gretta Vosper stated that the congregants support her view that how you live is more important than what you believe in, and that she doesn’t believe in God, adding that using the word gets in the way of what she wants to share.
Before going any further, I want to make it clear that I personally have nothing against anyone who changes their mind on faith, and their beliefs. Some of the most intelligent, interesting people I know (particularly some I’ve found through blogging), are in that situation.
But, the first thing I take issue with is that this Reverend immediately makes it clear that teaching about ‘god’ in a church no less (oh my word, the BLASPHEMY), gets in the way of what SHE wants to get across. Now, we all know that as leaders of a church, they are allowed some leeway in their teachings, but all churches also have a mission statement and belief system which the leaders of their churches must adhere to, much like any other job. Part of their job description IS to teach the Word, to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and to help lead their congregation in a lifestyle requested by Christ, while following Him. The job requirement IS a belief in God, in Christ, and in the teachings of the Word.
Specifically, in the United Church of Canada, part of their ordination vows include affirming a belief in “God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
In any other job anywhere, when your actions and words, when what you are doing begins to go against the mission statements, goes against the requirements that you claimed to fit, that is automatic reason for dismissal. It’s not unprecedented.
Even as a journalist, I am allowed to utilize my job as a platform, to a small degree, to speak my mind. That comes in the form of a column I get to write once in a while. But, in the rest of my work, it requires an impartial direction, reporting on the news and situations as is – writing based on the facts and commentary I am given by the people I am interviewing. Were I to begin utilizing my stories as a way to put my personal opinion across, to use it as a platform to share my personal beliefs, I am over-stepping the boundaries of the job, and that would be reason to be fired.
Based on the article, and the comments Vosper has made, she seems to believe that the rules of a job, that a job description and requirements should not apply to her. A church is a place of faith, a place to worship, to learn about the Word, and to grow in one’s relationship with that faith. Recently, the bigger outrage over Vosper’s beliefs have not come from her Atheism itself, but because of her choice to remove the Lord’s Prayer from the church, and to identify the Bible as a part of mythology.
Towards the end of the article, Vosper says “If the cost of that is that we are no longer welcome within that denomination, it will be because that denomination has defined us out of it, not because we have defined ourselves out of it.”
Vosper believes that both the mission and beliefs of the Church, particularly in that of God, are part of an outdated worldview, and believes it needs to change.
I’m sorry, but no. The United Church of Canada did not define you out of their denomination, because a definition of their denomination, particularly in their leadership, includes the need to believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
A church, which is the meeting-place of a congregation of people believing in God, in Christ, in the Holy Spirit, does not owe you the right to try to force your beliefs (aka lackthereof) on them. They do not owe you the right to allow you to stand on the pulpit and tell them that their faith is fake, that their god is false, and that their beliefs are nothing more than a myth.
I am all for Vosper’s right to change her mind about her faith, to explore different avenues, and even to share her discoveries with friends and colleagues she has made through the church. Many of the discussions I’ve had with true, good atheists, are ones that have not only challenged my faith, but have made my faith stronger because they’ve forced me to look beyond just what I am told to believe to find what I really believe.
But that right to change belief does not include the right to force a church, to force a denomination to change their beliefs solely so someone can keep their job.
If someone working in a women’s shelter decided that they no longer believed that marital rape, or that abusing one’s spouse should be illegal and punishable, they would no longer be able to work in a shelter, because they would not be teaching these women who have been victimized how to get their lives back, and that they have the right NOT to stay in those relationships.
If someone working at Planned Parenthood decided that they were 100% Pro Life and started pursuing that mission, they would be fired for standing against what Planned Parenthood Represents.
If a butcher decided he was now a vegan and could not condone the killing of animals; guess what, he too would lose his job for being unable to fulfill his job.
I’m sure I could go on for hours with more examples. But I won’t. Instead, I will conclude this. From the little I’ve read about Vosper and her fight, she is not someone who is fighting on principal. She is fighting on a belief that she is somehow better than the Church, better than what the Church is about, because she has determined that their faiths are based in fantasy. She believes that she is more enlightened, and therefore should have the right to supersede the qualifications that all other church leaders should have to adhere to. This is an argument based on sheer arrogance, and when this goes before a tribunal, I truly, truly hope that the tribunal rules on the merits of the job, rather than the supposed superiority of her beliefs.