Atheist Minister Will Keep Her Job After Church Calls Off “Heresy Trial”

This one has me scratching my head. Confusing.

The context is important:

If a church wants to fire a minister because they are an atheist, I have no problem with that (even as an atheist). Churches are free to do what they want within cultural norms.

What I do find interesting is the United Church fills a role that many doubting christians fear losing: a congregation. For many people, the social structure of a congregation is really important. Although they may be heretical in some sense, the United Church does sound like a wonderfully human invention.

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I honestly don’t have a problem with them having an atheist minister.

They’re inclusive, that’s great, I’m all for inclusivism and I applaud them, However, this particular atheist? From what I’ve heard and seen, she’s an evangelical atheist and that’s why most of those ministers revolted.

I mean, these are people who fought for LGBT rights since 80’s, they don’t really care about having an atheist minister, they do however care when that minister starts writing how the church should leave what she calls ‘superstition’. It’s gonna make people leave the church and go to another one, destroying the UC of Canada in the process. And, considering that this is one of the LGBT inclusive Christian churches, that would be a real pity.

This is clearly mainline Christianity, the one that @patrick is sure will vanish soon.


Well, if this is Christianity that’s gonna vanish (and, after this, I agree with him) then the consequences of that won’t be as great as he hoped for.

Maybe millennials might join.

Maybe Christianity in these Churches might evolve into something more like secular humanist Christianity with young people leading the way.

Not very much like me though. That shift is far more likely in conservative churches.

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For all of you here, I was known as a fundamentalist in my last chaplaincy group because I affirmed Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection, the Nicene creed, etc. Yet I doubt most people on this forum would refer to me with that label.

I’m honestly not sure I see much of a functional difference between some Mainline denominations in NY and a positive pluralistic humanism. I’m not saying this to insult anyone, I don’t think that would be taken as an insult.


Wait, where was that and what church/denomination?

Honestly, I don’t either.

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I’m not giving any more info than that. Sorry.


Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis commented on the Canadian Atheist Minister:

I did not find anything surprising there.

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I think that Patrick is right about the outcome, though not necessarily about all the reasons for the outcome. One thing that seems certain, based on just about all polling results over the past 50 years: in both the USA and Canada, mainline church attendance is declining. Whether it’s United Church of Canada or United Church of Christ, Canadian Presbyterians or American Presbyterians (at least of the more liberal branch), Canadian Lutherans or American Lutherans (at least of the more liberal branch), Canadian or American Methodists, Anglican Church of Canada or Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA, the numbers are in virtual free fall, with many congregations consisting almost entirely of elderly members, and others with some younger members, but almost exclusively women and children.

It’s not surprising that this trend should show up in two countries which share much in common in their geography, economic patterns, social patterns, etc.

The common charge among those who are outsiders (i.e., who know little about church life) is that the churches are losing members because they are failing to keep up with the times, i.e., failing to liberalize their ethics, theology, and so on. But the opposite seems to be the case. The churches which have bent over backwards to modify traditional Christian doctrine and ethics in order to please the secular humanist element in society are precisely the churches which have had the greatest losses, where the non-mainstream churches who have held the line on doctrine and ethics have done comparatively much better.

On the whole, fundamentalist, evangelical, and Pentecostal types of churches have lost far fewer members, and in some cases have actually gained members, while all the mainstream churches have been losing them at unprecedented rates.

Thus, as in the case of the United Church mentioned, which has an atheist minister, we have a situation which, if it were presented 50 years ago on, say, Monty Python, would be intended as a vicious satire on liberal trends in the church, a reductio ad absurdum which no one actually envisioned would ever be the case; but now what would have seemed comical is mundane reality – people actually go to churches like that with a straight face. The modern world is in some respects impossible to satirize any more, because satire can only work if the humorist can take a present trend to the extreme, to show how silly it is. But when the extreme is already realized, and accepted as normal, there is nothing for the satirist to work with.


It seems like the “liberal” churches may be even driving off people who are moderately liberal, who want church to be church and not just another political organization. And if you are conservative but you don’t have the more or less Baptist theology of the non-denominational churches, and especially if you don’t have Young Earth Creationist leanings, you have a few options in Protestantism but you also might be looking toward Rome or Orthodoxy.

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Or just staying home on Sunday mornings or doing more enjoyable things with family and friends than church services. Most of the people leaving religion are becoming Nones. Being a None is a nice way of life.

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I guess this is probably more of a personal statement colored by my upbringing and background rather than any universal statement, but I’ve never found such close fellowship between friends as in a functional, healthy, tight-knit church community. I have participated in wonderful non-religious communities as well (especially to do with music and other hobbies), but knowing that despite your differences you are all brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing the same ultimate hope and love, really adds something different and special.

I feel that the love between friends in a secular club has conditions attached to it - I’m friends with you because you seem to be a likable person, and being friends with you makes me feel good. Whereas in the church we are commanded to love each other as Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19). Instead of making the love feel forced and not genuine (as some might counter), there is this level of non-conditionality that just isn’t there in a non-religious friendship. It is especially weirdly powerful when I apply this to people of very different political persuasions or views of the world. I should normally be expected to cut that person out, but grudgingly, I have to try to love them as fellow Christian. In a secular context there is just increasingly less basis of commonality for people who are politically very different from us.



It depends on what the purpose of life is. If we make our own arbitrary purpose, then sure. But if the purpose of life is union with Christ, then church on Sunday, and for Orthodox, participating in Christ’s life, death and resurrection through the liturgy, gospel readings and eucharist is the only essential thing IN life.

Pretty big difference.

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Even more so, the corporateness of Church is ontologically effected because we BECOME one body, Christ’s body, through the Eucharist. Pretty different from a social club.