Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Badcock, Gary


Rev. Gretta Vosper (1958–), currently a serving United Church of Canada Minister in Scarborough, Ontario, has sparked debate in Canadian religious circles as a self-proclaimed atheist. In 2015, her unorthodox approach to public worship and her media statements about the high concentration of atheism among Ministers in the United Church brought matters to a head, and Vosper came under formal review by the Church’s Toronto Conference Ministry Personnel Committee. Meantime, the surrounding controversy left many people asking questions about what the United Church of Canada really believes. This thesis will examine the origins, progress and implications of the Vosper case, partly for its own sake, and partly as a lens through which to explore the history and possible future of the United Church. The argument will affirm a key Vosper contention, which is that her atheism can coherently be regarded as a product of her denominational background and of her theological education. Major theological movements that came to fruition during Vosper’s childhood years in the 1960s, and that appeared in the United Church theological mainstream in subsequent decades, can legitimately be said to make Vosper’s progressive, but atheistic version of Christianity possible. Though the atheistic implication is possible, however, it is not necessary. The thesis will, therefore, address the future of the United Church of Canada, maintaining that while Vosper’s progressivism chimes in well with current sensibilities, her atheism appears increasingly to be culturally outdated. Given the religious disposition of Millennials in particular, a more overt commitment to theism is needed in the United Church of Canada.