The United Church of Canada will be deciding on the future of minister Gretta Vosper, who serves at West Hill United Church in Toronto’s east end. Vosper claims she has been shaped by the church, but the denomination is concerned because Vosper is also an atheist. Vosper shared that some have been extremely hostile toward her over the question of God’s existence.
Why this story matters for church leaders:
It may seem obvious to most Christians that a pastor must believe in God, but do your church’s by-laws and official documents spell out the qualifications for ministry?
- Don’t assume you know what leaders believe: While most churches won’t need to grill their pastors about the finer points of their theology, make it clear up front what you expect your pastors and staff to believe. A simple statement of core beliefs is often sufficient.
- Spell out the process for staff who change their beliefs: It’s understandable that a staff member may change his/her beliefs about God, but it’s also understandable that a church may find that certain beliefs are not compatible with their ministry or denomination. How will you handle a staff member who needs to be removed over doctrinal issues?
- How does the church treat atheists? Surveys of religious beliefs consistently reveal that Christians view atheists very unfavorably. How can your church charitably dialogue with atheists without alienating them?
How can your church better clarify its beliefs and staff policies?
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