More than a year after a Toronto Conference committee found Rev. Gretta Vosper “not suitable” to serve as a United Church minister, the formal hearing that could officially remove her from ministry has not been scheduled.
Vosper, who calls herself an atheist, is still minister at West Hill United in Toronto, where she has served for more than 20 years. She is strongly supported by her congregation. The complaint that sparked the review of her ministry came from another church in her Presbytery.
Early in 2017, Toronto Southeast Presbytery rejected a last-ditch move to suspend proceedings against her. By October, though, Vosper and members of her congregation were told the formal hearing previously scheduled for November would not take place.
The General Council Judicial Committee has 40 members from across the church, and its executive has the task of setting up a panel of three to five members to hear Vosper’s case. They will decide whether she should be placed on the church’s Discontinued Service List (Disciplinary), revoking her credentials for ministry and effectively firing her. Members of that panel are normally United Church members, says General Council Office’s head personnel officer Rev. Alan Hall.
So far, no one has signed up for the job.
Along with judicial and legal experience, panel members must have knowledge of United Church beliefs and bylaws, but also be impartial. “[Potential] panellists have been identified,” says Hall, “but it’s difficult for a panellist to commit until they know how much time will be required and when that time will be.” Picking a time means co-ordinating all the players involved.
“We hope it would be sometime in the winter, this winter,” says Hall.
Congregational life at West Hill United carries on, albeit hampered by the uncertainty. Vosper says congregational plans for innovative programs have been denied Presbytery and Conference support, and a plan to sell West Hill’s property and move to rented facilities was also thwarted.
The review of her ministry, says Vosper, has put her life and that of her congregation on hold for two and a half years. “It needs to be resolved,” she says.
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