My home congregation is in some ways emblematic of the dilemmas facing mainline Protestants. Bethel Peniel Presbyterian Church is located in a small town in upstate New York where Presbyterians were dominant in the 18th century and numerous in the 19th. A century ago, one of its predecessor churches had more than 300 members—as many as the building could hold.
You can tell a lot about people by what they hang on their walls. If
it’s someone with an office, it gets even more interesting. In my office
at the church I serve, I do not have any diplomas hanging. No awards.
No trophies or medals either—not that I ever won any. Not even my
ordination certificate is on the wall.
We are in the thick of it: Friday evenings have been
given over to wedding rehearsals and to discreetly bowing out of the
dinners afterwards. Saturdays are dedicated to joining couples in holy
The United Church of Canada has decided to proceed with the review of Gretta Vosper, an ordained minister, that could lead to her being defrocked. Vosper openly says that she believes neither in God nor the Bible, going against the denomination’s ordination vows, which include belief in a triune God. Her lawyers have submitted 1,687 pages challenging the review, but the judicial committee responded with a terse, one-page response saying it saw no reason why the review, not yet scheduled, shouldn’t proceed. Vosper’s Toronto congregation is standing behind her. The review was initiated after Vosper sent an open letter to the church’s spiritual leader following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. In the letter Vosper argued that belief in God can motivate people to do bad things (Canadian Press, March 31).