Skip to comments.Taking Christ out of Christianity (You are NOT going to believe this!)
Posted on 03/22/2008 6:56:04 AM PDT by mkleesma
That triumphal barnburner of an Easter hymn, Jesus Christ Has Risen Today Hallelujah, this morning will rock the walls of Toronto's West Hill United Church as it will in most Christian churches across the country.
But at West Hill on the faith's holiest day, it will be done with a huge difference. The words Jesus Christ will be excised from what the congregation sings and replaced with Glorious hope.
Thus, it will be hope that is declared to be resurrected an expression of renewal of optimism and the human spirit but not Jesus, contrary to Christianity's central tenet about the return to life on Easter morning of the crucified divine son of God.
Generally speaking, no divine anybody makes an appearance in West Hill's Sunday service liturgy.
There is no authoritative Big-Godism, as Rev. Gretta Vosper, West Hill's minister for the past 10 years, puts it. No petitionary prayers (Dear God, step into the world and do good things about global warming and the poor). No miracles-performing magic Jesus given birth by a virgin and coming back to life. No references to salvation, Christianity's teaching of the final victory over death through belief in Jesus's death as an atonement for sin and the omnipotent love of God. For that matter, no omnipotent God, or god.
Ms. Vosper has written a book, published this week With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe in which she argues that the Christian church, in the form in which it exists today, has outlived its viability and either it sheds its no-longer credible myths, doctrines and dogmas, or it's toast.
She is considered one of the bright, if unconventional, minds within the United Church, Canada's largest Protestant Christian denomination. She holds a master of divinity degree from Queen's University and was ordained in 1992. She founded and chairs the Toronto-based Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity.
Other Christian clergy and theologians have talked about the need to dramatically reform the doctrines of a faith that, with the exception of its vibrancy in the United States, has lost huge numbers of adherents throughout the Western world it once dominated as Christendom. In Canada, where 75 per cent of the population self-identifies as Christian, only about 16 per cent attend weekly services.
Addressing those statistics, what Ms. Vosper proposes is not so much reform as a scorched-earth approach.
A number of leading theologians in Britain where the decline in adherents is more dramatic than in Canada are on the same path, people like Richard Holloway, former bishop of Edinburgh and primate of the Scottish Episcopal (Anglican) Church, who has likened the Christian church to a self-service cafeteria stacked with messy trays of leftover food urgently in need of being thrown out.
Like Bishop Holloway, Ms. Vosper does not want to dress up the theological detritus her words of the past two millennia with new language in the hope of making it more palatable. She wants to get rid of it, and build on its ashes a new spiritual movement that will have relevance in a tight-knit global world under threat of human destruction.
She says there's been virtually a consensus among scholars for the past 30 years that the Bible is not some divine emanation or in Ms. Vosper acronym, TAWOGFAT, The Authoritative Word of God For All Time but a human project filled with contradictions and the conflicting worldviews and political perspectives of its authors.
And yet, she says, the liberal Christian churches, including her own, won't acknowledge that it is a human project, that it's wrong in parts and that, in the 21st century, it's no more useful as a spiritual and religious guide than a number of other books.
She says now that the work of biblical scholars has become publicly accessible, the churches and their clergy are caught living a lie that few people will buy much longer. I just don't think we can placate those in the pews long enough to transition into a kind of new community that doesn't keep people away.
She wants salvation redefined to mean new life through removing the causes of suffering in the world. She wants the church to define resurrection as starting over, new chances. She wants an end to the image of God as an intervening all-powerful authority who must be appeased to avoid divine wrath; rather she would have congregations work together as communities to define God or god according to their own worked-out definitions of what is holy and sacred. She wants the eucharist the symbolic eating and drinking of Jesus's body and blood to make the congregation part of Jesus's body to be instead a symbolic experience of community love.
Theologians asked to comment on her book said they wouldn't until they've read it.
But one of her colleagues who knows her well, Rev. Rob Oliphant, the progressive pastor of Toronto's Eglinton St. George's United Church, said, While I'm somewhat sympathetic to the aims of it all getting rid of the nonsense and keeping the core faith I think that there is something lacking in it all. Gone is metaphor, poetry, symbol, image, beauty, paradox.
Ms. Vosper said she and her congregation have tried hard not to lose those elements in their search for the sacred and the transcendent in life.
She met with members of her congregation last Sunday to discuss what the impact might be of her book.
She said it would take only a single vote of a presbytery a local governing body of the church to bring her before the church courts if a complaint against her is made, and the courts could be interested in examining what it means to be in essential agreement with the church's statement of faith.
I can find myself in there [the statements of faith] but there's whole parts of it where I go, Oh my goodness, this is terrible.' If someone says to me, Do you believe in God?' I can come up with an answer that would satisfy the courts of the United Church. But would it reflect what's stated in their statement of faith? I don't think so. But it wouldn't be very far from what my colleague down the street, and what his colleague down the street from him, would say. That's the problem.
lucky for them I’m not God.
As the Man said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Glorious Hope? H-O-P-E? Sounds like Obama would fit right in there.
“By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
I see churches in my hood who do not/refuse to display the Cross out of fear they will offend someone.
She can call it that, when she retitles her book FATASS, For All Time, A Simpering Sophistry
Without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sin.
If Gretta Vosper really believed she would heed this but it is a fulfillment of Peter’s prophecy:
The world has two choices - you can believe in the son of God and join with the faithful in his church or you can hang with others who play church.
“She said it would take only a single vote of a presbytery a local governing body of the church to bring her before the church courts if a complaint against her”
So how does one go about doing that. Personally I think this twit and her adherents should be burned for heresy.
It’s all about change you can believe in...bwahahahaha... this is truly sad, but the Bible warns against going with every wind that comes along. I noticed the church was referred to as “progressive” sounds like LIBERAL to me!
I had people all this week wish me a “Happy Holiday”.
Isn’t it EASTER? What Holiday? Now you can’t say Easter. I made sure I replied by saying “Happy Easter to you”.
They might as well stop calling themselves Christians and rename their church to a branch of the Unitarian Universalists.
Liberals demand to be called "progressive" because they are ashamed to be called what they are: liberals.
Every thing in its time...
Why don’t they call themselves a mutual admiration society and quit the facade?
Better to believe in God and find out you’re wrong when you die, than vice versa.
Satan should be well-pleased.
Well its more than just a Holy Day since it’s called Holy Week. You know Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday :)
There’s a special place in hell for these folks.
You hit the nail on the head. Many preachers thrive on the lost, and they make a lot of money from them. What they forget is “Where do you get hope from?”
And that God guy, too.
The United Church of Canada is where the socialist New Democratic Party sprang from so I can confirm this.
Quakers don't have steeples either ~ (traditional Quakers).
They all share the same basic belief that America is a retrograde force in the world, that national sovereignty needs to be done away with, that gay relationships should be celebrated, that there needs to be massive global wealth redistribution mediated by international political bodies, and that the gospel should be understood through the lens of progressive politics.
These beliefs are not always carried by churches on the local level (not yet, but they're getting there), but at the highest levels the views must be acceptable to the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, which are made up entirely of dedicated socialists.
“Personally I think this twit and her adherents should be burned for heresy.”
That is left up for the Lord at a later date.
As my Priest said yesterday at Good Friday services, you can’t have Easter without the Cross.
Dumb question: is the United Church considered “Christian”?
Did anyone else see that puke on PBS last night spouting religious relativism? God.
We already know.
Aging congregations, breeders flee, homosexuals come in, can't pay the heating bill, denomination disappears - and that's BEFORE they meet Satan at the end...
Quote from a Pentcostal pastor from my youth.
Meeting with Satan isn’t what they need to fear most.
Another dumb question. Is this part of the United Church of Christ?
This church should definitely learn the words to “At the Name of Jesus, Every Knee Shall Bow”.
I respond to “Happy Holidays!” with “Happy Holy Days to you” which I cribbed from someone on FreeRepublic, but I don't remember who.
Our society is moving further away from God. This action is a rejection of Christ and a turn to humanism. The turning to secular-humanism is an evolution to the total rejection of God and the eventual persecution of Christians.
We need to teach our children to be strong because they may have to face this persecution. The fact that this is happening in a “church” is suprising now, yet one day may be totally expected and common.
“Be not afraid”
No I believe people are scared to say Happy Easter.
It’s followed by “Alleluia, Alleluia!”
“Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.”
—Screwtape, “Screwtape Proposes A Toast” by C. S. Lewis
So why even call yourselves a “church”?
2 Timothy 3
1. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4. Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7. Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
8. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
9. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.
10. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
11. Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
13. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
14. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15. And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Ms. Vosper is a throwback to the late 1800’s when all sorts of people were coming up with forms of desacralized Christianity. She’s repeating history as farce.
The West Hills Hopean Church.
I'm not at all surprised, and neither should you be if you believe Jesus' own words. He foretold the apostasy that would come to prominence in the last days of this dispensation and eventually pervert true Christianity throughout the world, culminating in the false, perverted "church" of the AntiChrist and his false prophet sidekick.
I have glorious hope that this church has a big enough lightning rod.
God is not mocked. What a man sows, that shall he reap.
This is humanism is yet another form.
And destined to the same end.