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
Gretta Vosper, a United Church of Canada pastor in Toronto, is prepared to fight a process that could defrock her. An avowed atheist, she maintains that behavior, not doctrine, should be the foundation of the church. She has the backing of her current members, but about 100 of the 150 people in her congregation left in 2008 after she did away with the Lord’s Prayer. A review process has been launched by the United Church’s General Council to examine whether Vosper has violated her ordination vows, which include affirming belief in a triune God (Globe and Mail, August 5).