TO: My Collaborators in the United Church (Confidential)

RE: Why we must keep atheists in our pulpits. (An Imaginary Memo)

You may have heard objections to the Toronto Conference (TC) settlement with an aggressively atheist pastor. It is suggested that TC settled to save the cost of litigation and it is wise to maintain this façade. No one can know the real reason for the settlement, since TC wisely sealed it in a non-disclosure agreement.

The anger generated by this decision – its lack of transparency, its defiance of the Conference Interview Board recommendation, its disregard for the  place of God in the very definition of church – this anger is to our benefit.

It has been rightly observed that any financial savings the national church experiences through avoiding this litigation will be negated by the loss of membership from congregations, and resultant loss of income. Don’t worry: that’s the congregations’ problem, not ours.

We will ultimately benefit from this outcome.

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

         “Wake up, O sleeper,

         rise from the dead,

         and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:11–16)

You will hear, over and over again, from United Church sources that the decision to allow Gretta Vosper, an avowed atheist, to continue in ministry as an ordained United Church Minister is nothing to worry about.  They will tell you that this decision, though troubling, is an isolated incident, which does not change the United Church in any substantial way. Do not drink the Kool-Aid.

To be a Church, that is to be an organisation which is in some way distinct from a social club - the Lions, or Kiwanis, is to have some attribute, central to its life and character, regarding God. The Unitarians are not, from what I can see, an actual church in the normal meaning of the word, for no particular belief in God, nor any belief in God at all, is required. (Is it a philosophical fellowship?)
There has been lively debate about the faithfulness of the United Church for many decades.

 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 
The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (2 Co 5:17–21). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
A friend and colleague asked a question about forgiving himself. His question came at a moment when I was thinking through the same issue. Responding to him helped me to find, for him, some thoughts that I needed to hear, and perhaps you will find these thoughts helpful:


A quick Lenten commentary on the four Gospels, chapter by chapter.

New 2-3 chapters will be published each day through Lent 2020.