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    • Gretta Vosper
    • Vosper was raised in the United Church and is now pastor of West Hill United in Scarborough, Ontario, where she “remains captivated” by the ministry being explored by the congregation. She has been growing the CCPC since its impressive launch in November of 2004. The Centre’s contact list has grown from a few isolated individuals in Ontario to include members in six denominations and every province across the country.

      Gretta's notoriety grew following an article, “Believing Outside the Box,” published in The United Church Observer (Feb, 2005) in which her unorthodox beliefs about a non-interventionist God and the authority of the Bible were exposed. The article provoked a stream of letters to the Editor that continued for a full year alternately vilifying her or lauding her honesty. Several demands were made for her dismissal from her position as a minister in the United Church including an attempt by a colleague to convene a panel to question her about her beliefs, a process internationally renowned author Bishop John Shelby Spong, immediately labeled a heresy trial. Bishop Spong introduced Vosper to the readers of his weekly online column calling her “a brilliant, insightful and courageous young woman…one of the most exciting voices in 21st century Christianity” and “the leading voice for a scholarly and progressive Christianity” in Canada.

      HarperCollins Canada has recently published Gretta's book With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important that What We Believe. Met with both acclaim and vitriol by those inside and outside the church, With or Without God was listed as a Maclean's bestseller within a week of its release following the publication of the Easter weekend cover article “Jesus Has an Identity Crisis” which featured the book. She has appeared on two of the CBC’s national radio shows, Tapestry in 2006 and The Current in 2008, and on local talk shows across the country. She is a regular on the “Culture Wars” segment of the John Oakley Show on AM640 Talk Radio in Toronto. Her work has been featured in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Toronto Star, The Vancouver Sun, The Calgary Herald, The Kingston Whig-Standard, and The Ottawa Citizen and has taken the blogosphere by storm showing up on pages launched from Australia to the United Kingdom. A profile article on her appeared in The United Church Observer in December 2006 and a review of her book appeared in that magazine in its April 2008 issue. A sought after speaker, Gretta has led workshops in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nova Scotia and spoken at many conferences and engagements.
      Gretta's partner, Scott Kearns, is the Music Director at West Hill United Church and a songwriter for the progressive movement. His music, found in the collection The Wonder of Life, is gaining in popularity across the country and in the US.

Are you no longer drawn to the faith of your community?

I am an Anglican, but having accepted the concept of a non-theistic God, I feel uncomfortable attending church with all its outdated forms of worship. To leave the church, however, is to lose my “church family” and the human contact, as well as my part in the church’s ministries, all essential to the expression of God’s love.

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How can we get conservatives to accept the idea that we are responsible?

The question is how can we get the conservatives to accept the idea that we are responsible? Jesus showed us what to do. How can we get them to accept that now it is up to us to do it?

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A Curated List of Songs for Worship and Gathering

When we realized because of COVID19 we couldn’t sing together, we refused to give up the use of music in our Gatherings; it is just too important. So we turned to the only source of music we thought could offer the same experience even if it didn’t involve singing along: YouTube.

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Hope in the low places

In an article I posted to Facebook shortly after reading, that tells us the oceans are heating up at a rate equal to five Hiroshima bombs being dropped into them every second. No. I did not want to learn that this week, but I did.

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Why is the Bible sacred?

One of the reasons I wanted to reread his book was to see if I could get a different viewpoint on being a Christian within the “church.” I am still flummoxed as to why Bishop Spong is a Christian. He appears to be more of a humanist (non-capitalized).

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What “exactly” is an atheist?

Just as the term “believer” means very different things to those who use it, so do to does the word “atheist” include a wide set of definitions.

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The human race seems to need rituals.

The human race seems to need rituals. Christmas, Easter, Baptisms and Eucharist/Communion are times and events that attract the most people to the church and corporate worship. Yet these same rituals are the ones where the theistic God is most evident and reinforced. How can we address this paradox?

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How does a progressive Christian exist with no Christian community?

How does a progressive Christian exist with no Christian community of support even from clergy who certainly do discuss modernized theology? It certainly is a lonely vigil. 

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Why won’t intelligent clergy step up to the pulpit and tell the truth?

Why won’t intelligent clergy step up to the pulpit and tell the truth at least about the many Biblical things that can be explained with mechanisms known in the last 2000 years? (e.g Darwinism, radio carbon dating, our world is not earth centred, and earth is round not flat!)

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Building community around humanistic values.

Would it be fair for me to promote the notion that you – a self-declared atheist leading a United Church of Canada congregation – and your church are generally promoting humanist values as well as providing the community benefits that churches normally provide?

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Choosing a Bible

Many of my peers use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) because it is the updated version of the classic Revised Standard Version (RSV) upon which many of us grew up. Published in 1989, the editors recognized that much misunderstanding had entered into the interpretation of the text because English is inherently biased toward the masculine. In order to mitigate such abuse of the text, all references to humanity are gender-neutral. So it is really one of the better “inclusive language” texts despite it continuing to provide exclusively male language in references to God. At the very least, I would recommend that you not read anything that hasn’t managed to get to a place of gender neutrality with respect to humanity.

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How to hold a Children’s Christmas Pageant today

If, as you say, the stories of Jesus’ miraculous birth are pious legends, what are the implications for staging a children’s Christmas pageant in a small suburban church?

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Prayer and God

Whether the person engaged in the act of prayer believes in a supernatural deity or force or the benevolence of the universe, we are the only answer we’ve got to the challenges facing our world. Some will work toward solutions compelled by the god in whom they believe. Others will work toward solutions compelled by theirs own sense of compassion and responsibility. Goodness comes into the world through our own hands, voices, and actions.

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What do you see as the ideal church?

If you were the moderator of the United Church of Canada with no restrictions… what would the church look like? What do you see as the perfect/ideal United Church of Canada?

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Thoughts on Atheism, God and Religion

I don’t think an atheist does need God. My colleagues who identify as non-theists or post-theists or panentheists need the word ‘god’, but not the traditional understanding. They need the word because, as the late scholar Marcus Borg believed, if we lose our exclusive Christian language, we will lose Christianity.

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How to experience a living relationship with God

The most enduring challenge faced by those who want to help others have the experience of a living relationship with God is our utter refusal to come up with a succinct definition of god that everyone will agree upon. Further complicating the challenge provided by the sheer number of ideas we are left with about the god we call God, is our assumption that everyone else shares the same idea we have. I think it was Peter Jennings, in a convocation address to Carleton University, who named our penchant for assuming that even people we know nothing about believe exactly the same way that we do, “the Vanna White Syndrome”.

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We All Breathe

A new collection of poetry and prayer. Vosper once again gives expression to the beauty and complexity of life in ways that can touch and move us on many levels. Identifying our interconnectedness as a core principle of our common, human journey, Vosper plays with imagery and symbol, weaving us into a whole that lifts and ennobles us all.

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What do you make of the Season of Lent? How should the Christian Church observe it?

The season of Lent is traditionally understood to be a time for reflection, contrition, and consideration of the sacrifice Jesus undertook for our sins. It has been, as you know, traditionally recognized for the forty days leading up to Easter. Preceded by Shrove Tuesday, upon which Christians are to prepare to confess their sins, Lent is entered into as a holy season of penitence.

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Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief

In Amen, Gretta Vosper, United Church minister and author of the controversial bestseller With or Without God, offers us her deeply felt examination of worship beyond conventional prayer, a new tradition built on love and respect rather than on the rituals of ancient beliefs.

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Gifts of the Season

What if we spent a good part of one day filling our chest cavity with a vision of love at every deep breath? What if the 25th was spent sending light and love outward to unsuspecting people. People we lived with daily. They might not guess we were doing it. Or people we thought about that day. What if we consciously directed what we know of God toward them? What if we did nothing more than nurture our sacred flame in the remembrance of a single soul lit in Bethlehem so long ago? Would Christmas be big enough to hold such a thing, or would it spill out into 12 days, or ordinary days, or 365 days?

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Between Tradition and Altruism

A tribute to Dr. James Fowler, 1940-2015

Like David, I, too, was highly influenced by Fowler as was the late Marcus Borg who focused the attention of liberal Christians on three of Fowler’s mid-stages, renaming them “Pre-critical Naivete, Critical Thinking, and Post-Critical Naivete. Borg’s interpretation of Fowler’s Stages of Faith picked Fowler’s work up from the theological college or university, dusted it clean of its academic, empirical language, and shared it with the people in the pews. That work has been central to the progressive Christian undertaking.

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What God is Supposed to be Saying

It’s a confusing world out there if you’re attempting to discern what a supernatural, divine being is trying to do and say in this world. Between, on the one hand, the millions of Seventh Day Adventists meeting to argue over whether the Bible permits or disallows the ordination of women, and, on the other, the Archbishop of Canterbury trying to placate his riven bishops after a vote to allow priests to perform same-sex marriages was passed at the Episcopal General Convention in Salt Lake City, the deity’s message is mixed, to say the least. On any given day, thousands of rival decisions made by the myriad arms of the Christian church are reported on around the globe. Add all the other religions and their interpretations of what morality and ethics mean in the twenty-first century, and you’ve got a lot of deity decisions, many of them contradictory, being shared.

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American Atheist: An Oxymoron?

  Before you get all excited about the Pew Research results and begin thinking that the rising number of those who report no religious affiliation means a more rational approach to all things religious, think again. Yesterday’s release …

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Can Progressive Christianity make a positive difference in the world? – Video

Rev. Gretta Vosper, of The Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity weighs in on our question: Can Progressive Christianity make a positive difference in the world?

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No Matter

No matter the absence of stars
that leaves the night in darkness;
no matter the empty bowls
when the children are not fed;
no matter criminal words
are spoken without recrimination;

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Not Without Courage

Moving further into the Inspired by Hollywood series, we went to see the movie Selma. What a powerful film and so timely. That black men are still twenty-one times more likely to be killed by police than white men* in America is staggering and the media’s attention, drawn to this truth by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, has drawn our attention, too. Watching Selma brought home the shameful truth that in far too many places, racism still rules the streets.

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Words – semantics sleight of hand

For me and for the many who no longer hold those stories as sacred, the cost is simply too high. The potential for posthumous reward or damnation has too often drained life of its beauty, wealth, diversity, and joy and the norms of civil society that are reinforced are often not in the best interests of humanity or, at least, significant swaths of it. So we need a way forward.

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What is Progressive Christianity? With Gretta Vosper

We asked several authors, pastors, theologians, and scholars questions about their beliefs, progressive Christianity, church, Jesus, social activism, spirituality, etc. We received this awesome answer from Gretta Vosper.

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Rev Gretta Vosper on Progressive Christianity

Progressive Christianity cannot be nailed down to one thing. It lives in flux. It always will because that is its nature. It always will because it must.

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Rev Gretta Vosper on Progressive Christianity

Once an idea has been embraced by the larger community, it settles into the realm of the status quo. No longer representing cutting edge thought about the particular issue it addressed, it becomes accepted as the norm.

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Rev Gretta Vosper on Progressive Christianity

Progressive thinking moves an individual or community to a new understanding of the world in which they live, work, and play. It threatens ideas that have been traditionally held by exposing them to ideas based on new experience or understanding.

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Evolving Affirmation of Faith

I am human.
My ancestors were stars;
their atoms move in me yet.

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An Easter Week Prayer

This light which bathes the world,
pours from a source so close, so near
and yet we cannot touch it
or fence it in that it not be lost.

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Easter Week Prayer

From We All Breathe, Poems and Prayers

  How beautiful the energy of those ignited by a dream! How filled with song and dance and passion! They set their sights on points of possibility and work, play, inch, leap, edge, sing themselves, (and often …

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A New Lord’s Prayer

Breath, love, hope, inspiration
— truth that sings forth from within
even as I am enveloped with its challenge,

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A Prayer from Holy Breath on Unity

Gretta Vosper offers this lovely prayer to use in community which focuses on the unity of all.

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