What do you see as the ideal church?


Question & Answer

A Reader from the Internet, writes:

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?

Answer: By Rev.Gretta Vosper

Dear Reader,

Thanks for engaging. My response is, necessarily, tied to my own denomination but I feel that it has something to say to many mainline denominations today.

I don’t actually speculate about what I would do were I the moderator! And it is important to note that the moderator doesn’t really have the power to shape the United Church. More and more, it seems, as the responsibilities of the church become more complex and centralized, the role relies on the direction set by the General Council and, even more heavily, I believe, on the direction established by General Council Staff in response to the General Council’s work. This isn’t, of course, the way the work of the church was structurally set up but it is the way it manages to function given the massive scale of responsibility and the dwindling local and regional human resources that support the church’s work across the country.

The United Church I knew and loved began its deepening relationship with fear in the few years after the 1988 decision to ordain LGBTQ leaders when it first realized the cold reality of decline. Having lost membership and experienced the serious financial impact of that, it stopped making the bold, sometimes irrational, decisions of its youth and began hedging its bets. That has been at great cost to it, to Canada, and to Christianity the world over.

Were I to find myself in the position of Moderator, I would challenge the church to give up fear and invite it to invert the terrifying charts of decline and find its “mission field”, if you will. If you invert the charts of decline, you see a growing group of people – the secular world – who are those the UCC spent its first sixty-three years preparing to serve. Lloyd Geering argues that the secular world is the evolution of Christianity; it’s where we were headed all along. If the church had continued to unflinchingly choose love, it would have continued moving in that direction and could have served the needs of those who inhabit that great growing curve.

I have no illusions about where the church is headed; like all Christian denominations, it will either wear itself out or veer back, dramatically, to the right and become, as religion always does, a sedative in the coming trauma of human existence. That sounds bleak. It is. If I were the Moderator, I wouldn’t be able to change that but I might be able to find a way to encourage those to whom we have failed to model courage by challenging ourselves to do so. There is much more work needing to be done in the world than shoring up a fearful denomination. If I could encourage the church, those within and those outside of it, to focus fearlessly on that work, then I think we’d lose ourselves in it and forget our fears about denominational preservation. That would be worth it.

~ Rev. Gretta Vosper

About the Author

The Rev. Gretta Vosper is a United Church of Canada minister who is an atheist. Her best selling books include With or Without God: Why The Way We Live is More Important Than What We Believe, and Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief. She has also published three books of poetry and prayers.

Review & Commentary