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In Support of The Reverend Gretta Vosper

Dear Esteemed Colleagues in the United Church of Canada,

I am writing on behalf of The Reverend Gretta Vosper who is a friend, a colleague and an occasional speaker for our organization. I am currently the President of ProgressiveChristianity.org, a position I have held for over ten years after a serving the local church for over twenty years. Our website experiences over 500,000 visitors a year. Our Facebook page is one of the most active religious sites in the country and our weekly email/blog goes out to approximate 15,000 readers. I have shared the podium with Gretta on several occasions at conferences in different parts of the world and heard her speak at others. We publish her articles regularly. She has opened the eyes, the ears and the minds of literally thousands of people. More importantly she has represented your United Church of Canada extremely well.

Gretta represents a small but growing number of clergy who are best described as courageous. The have spoken the truth when others too often fumble for words or refuse to look any deeper than their online sermons. While clergy all over the western world are saying the same thing Sunday after Sunday to declining and aging congregations, there are those who are willing ask questions that challenge their congregations to think and rethink. They are willing to ask the people in their congregations to discern the difference between faith and beliefs. By this I mean to recognize that beliefs change as our information changes or at least should change. Faith is more of an attitude. It is a matter of giving one’s mind, heart and soul to the highest value. For Christians, that value is love.

The world we live in today is nothing like the world of Biblical times, nor is it the same world after Darwin and Einstein. At the end of the 19th century and the early twentieth century, there was a valiant attempt to change what we mean by Christianity. Some of the greatest theologians of the time tried to make a change in everything from what we mean by the term God to what was Jesus actually teaching.

In 1892 Lyman Abbot referring to the state of Christianity suggested that it was time to “Put the new wine into new bottles, that both may be preserved. Spiritual experience is always new. It must therefore find a new expression in each age.”

Walter Rauschenbusch warned in 1917 that by striving vainly “to keep Christian doctrine unchanged, we shall ensure its abandonment.”

And finally Harry Emerson Fosdick once reflected that the progressive colleagues of his time, “deliberately, sometimes desperately worked to adapt Christian thought and to harmonize it with the intellectual culture of our time…adaption was the only way we could save our faith and its achievement was a matter of life and death.“

Quite frankly that attempt failed in part because it did not have the support of the denominations. I hope we do not do that again.

What more important task could we assign a church than to decide what symbols we want to cherish and which ones we want to lovingly place in our museums? Certainly the meaning of God should fall into that category. How should we do church in the 21st century, should follow closely behind. Gretta is doing both of those things and lot more. Let’s not repeat the past. There is no turning back at this point.

Fred C. Plumer, President
ProgressiveChristianity.org

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