Welcome

West Hill is a people, a place, and an idea. We are a community living out a progressive faith, striving to make a positive difference in our own lives, the lives of others, and the world.

Our mission:

Moved by a reverence for life to pursue justice for all, we inspire one another to seek truth, live fully, care deeply and make a difference.

Over the past many months, we've been challenged to engage broadly about who we are and what we see the future of church can be. We'd be delighted to talk with you about it and have extended an invitation to congregations across the country to reach out if they are interested in having a conversation with us. It can be about what this "theologically non-exclusive" church is really like. It might be about the rise of the "Nones" and how we are engaging them. You might want to just talk about the review of our minister. Whatever your interest, we will find a way to engage. So be in touch and let's set a date. 

Support West Hill!  Learn more or donate now through CanadaHelps.


The latest news, videos and perspectives from our community:

Want to contribute?  Email the webmaster.

Thursday
Sep222016

Toronto Conference Sub-Executive Have Returned a Decision in the Review of Gretta Vosper

A MESSAGE FROM THE SUB-EXECUTIVE OF TORONTO CONFERENCE REGARDING THE REVIEW OF THE REV. GRETTA VOSPER

September 22, 2016 | By 

Background: On Thursday, September 15, 2016, the sub-Executive of Toronto Conference met to receive a report of the review of the Rev. Gretta Vosper and to consider the recommendations contained in the report.

The report from the Conference Interview Committee concluded that Ms. Vosper is not suitable to continue as an ordained minister in The United Church of Canada. The committee did not recommend any form of remediation because Ms. Vosper has been so clear and unequivocal about her beliefs.

The report states:
The Committee read the submissions and listened very carefully to determine whether Ms. Vosper’s beliefs are in essential agreement with the statement of doctrine of the United Church. This is a crucial question asked of all potential ordinands to determine whether they are suitable for ministry within The United Church of Canada.

We have concluded that if Gretta Vosper were before us today, seeking to be ordained, the Toronto Conference Interview Committee would not recommend her. In our opinion, she is not suitable to continue in ordained ministry because she does not believe in God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. Ms. Vosper does not recognize the primacy of scripture, she will not conduct the sacraments, and she is no longer in essential agreement with the statement of doctrine of The United Church of Canada.

On September 15, the sub-Executive heard from Ms. Vosper and her legal counsel, from representatives of West Hill United Church, and from representatives of Toronto Southeast Presbytery. They made presentations and responded to questions from the sub-Executive.

Deliberations and decision-making: The sub-Executive explored the remedial options set out in Section J.9.4 of The Manual (e.g. ordering a directed program, requiring a psychological examination, dissolving the pastoral relationship, suspension from ministry, etc.) and discussed various proposals that had been made during the presentations or in correspondence, e.g. putting the report on hold, having a debate, adjourning the decision of Toronto Conference for one year, stopping the process and taking no action, weighing the adverse costs to the church arising from a protracted process, and refusing to participate in the process.

If a minister is found not to be suitable to continue in ministry in the United Church, then he or she is entitled to a formal hearing in which it will be determined whether his or her ministry within the church should end.

After a second day of deliberations, the following four motions were passed regarding Ms. Vosper:

that the sub-Executive of Toronto Conference…

  • Request the General Council of The United Church of Canada to conduct a formal hearing to consider whether to place the name of the Rev. Gretta Vosper on the Discontinued Service List (Disciplinary);
  • Confirm that Ms. Vosper may remain in ministry at West Hill United Church, Toronto Southeast Presbytery, until the results of the formal hearing are known;
  • Confirm that until the results of the formal hearing are known, no call, appointment, or transfer for Ms. Vosper will be approved by Toronto Conference;
  • Confirm that no further restrictions will be placed on Ms. Vosper’s functioning at this time.

Impact of the decision: The decision to request a formal hearing does not presume that Ms. Vosper’s name will be placed on the Discontinued Service List (Disciplinary). That decision will be made by the formal hearing panel.

Having said that, the sub-Executive recognizes that this is not the decision that some people had wanted. Some will be disappointed and angry that this action has been taken, believing that the United Church may be turning its back on a history of openness and inclusivity. Others have been frustrated that the United Church has allowed someone to be a minister in a Christian church while disavowing the major aspects of the Christian faith.

There is no unanimity in the church about what to do. The sub-Executive received correspondence and a petition urging the church to take no action, and was aware that others wanted the church to act. A number of observers from West Hill United Church and other places were present on September 15. E-mails and phone calls came in saying that the sub-Executive was being held in prayer, no matter what the outcome.

The debate about Ms. Vosper and her statements has been a catalyst for much discussion within the United Church and in places outside the church.

The sub-Executive laments the division that has occurred amongst people within the church, and is saddened by the vitriol that has been directed by some at Ms. Vosper and West Hill United Church, and at Toronto Conference for engaging a process to properly investigate concerns that had been raised. The sub-Executive hopes for respectful discussion that allows people to explore and share their own faith and to hear from others.

The way forward is costly in terms of emotional and spiritual energy. The way forward is costly in terms of time and finances for both Ms. Vosper and the church. At the same time, the sub-Executive moved forward believing that a clear answer was required.

The report from the Interview Committee is clear that the doctrine of the United Church has never been a static thing. The sub-Executive affirms that there has always been evolution in how the church describes what it believes. The United Church has experienced the delight of seeing God and our faith in a new light depending on the context in which we were living. There have been times we have said things that have caused joy in the church and the wider community. We’ve also over the years come to realize that some of the ways we have said things and the ways we have acted have been cause for regret, sorrow, and repentance. But whether we have stated things in good, bad, or evolving ways, there has been the constant that the church believes in God, follows the way of Jesus Christ, and is led by the Spirit.

The sub-Executive calls on the church to show loving kindness to everyone, irrespective of belief or no belief. It asks for prayers for those who are angry, confused, or worried about the impact of this decision. And it calls on all of us to consider ways in which our current actions and expressions of our faith may put up barriers for those who are seeking a new or renewed commitment to a life of faith within the Christian tradition.

The sub-Executive calls on the church to continue the theological conversations that have taken place since long before The United Church of Canada was formed.

See all related documents 

 

Friday
Sep162016

Gretta's Words to the Toronto Conference sub-Executive on Thursday Sept. 15th

Thursday, September 15th, saw the Toronto Conference sub-Executive meet to consider the Conference Interview Committee's recommendations regarding the suitabliity of Gretta as a United Church minister to determine her if she is "effective" in her minisrty at West Hill United Church.

Many folks from West Hill, alongside supporters from beyond our doors, attended the meeting to offer a visible sign of support to Gretta and to hear the words offered by Board chair, Randy Bowes (joined by WHU members, Ruth Gill and John DiPede), the position offered by the Toronto Southeast Presbytery Executive, and of course by Gretta herself.

"And so I am framing my words today in terms of earthquakes, the earthquakes that happened, that brought the United Church into being, that have taken place during the history of the United Church and recognize that the moment that we are in right now is a moment of an earthquake."...gretta vosper

We invite you to read the complete, transcribed presentation Gretta offered to the sub-Executive during the meeting.

CLICK HERE TO READ

Tuesday
Sep132016

Urge the Sub-Executive of United Church, Toronto Conference to reject the recommendations of the Conference Interview Committee Re: Gretta Vosper

The On-Line Petition Reads:

Disheartened by the flawed and unfair process that led the Conference Interview Committee to conduct an unprecedented review of the suitability of Gretta Vosper for ministry in The United Church of Canada;

Recognizing the grave implications of creating a new disciplinary process without denomination wide study, consultation, debate and appropriate decision making;

Aware that the recommendations of the Conference Interview Committee, if implemented, have grave implications for Gretta Vosper, Westhill United Church, an unknown number of clergy within the denomination, many members of The United Church of Canada across the country, and the reputation of the denomination in the Canadian public;

Conscious that the repercussions of adopting the recommendations in the report include:
- silencing important conversations about our faith that have been stimulated by the ministry and writings of Gretta Vosper;
- disenfranchising many seekers who have found spiritual community within congregations of The United Church of Canada because of an emphasis on their values rather than beliefs;
- discouraging new candidates for ministry who seek to commit to life-long learning and evolving in their faith within an inclusive denomination without fear of recrimination;
- creating disunity for many progressive individuals and congregations who face the reality of no longer seeing a place for themselves within The United Church of Canada;

Valuing diversity (including theological diversity) within the United Church of Canada, honoring the important ministry of Gretta Vosper within this church and celebrating the unique and essential presence of Westhill United Church as a spiritual community within the large umbrella of the United Church of Canada;

Recognizing that there is a significant expression of dissent within the report and a significant expression of dissent across the church from the recommendations of the majority in the report;

Persuaded that the theological conversation Gretta Vosper has provoked is a matter for dialogue and not a matter for discipline;

We, the undersigned, urge the sub-Executive of Toronto Conference to reject the recommendations of the report of the Conference Interview Committee.

 

Please sign the petition HERE.

 


Thursday
Sep082016

Gretta found unsuitable for ministry

The report of the Toronto Conference Ministry Personnel Review Committee has been submitted. Their findings are that Gretta is no longer suitable for ministry in The United Church of Canada. The Review Committee recommends no remedial action and a formal hearing to be held. A formal hearing is scheduled for September 15, 2016.  

Report of the Toronto Conference Ministry Personnel Review Committee

Gretta's submission to the Committee

We invite you to share this information with other members and supporters of West Hill United who may not be on our mailing list or on the internet. We of course, are disappointed in this decision and will continue in our unwavering support of Gretta.

Saturday
Aug272016

BOOM! With our very own Rick Miller

If you haven't seen BOOM!, the trip to Mississauga is a must. The show, a whirlwind tour through the boomer years, presented in Rick Miller's inimitable style, is being staged at Mississauga's Living Arts Centre on September 16th, its only scheduled appearance in the GTA for the coming year. It's an "explosive solo performance that documents the music, culture and politics that shaped the Baby Boom generation (1945-1969). BOOM takes us through 25 turbulent years, and gives voice to over 100 influential politicians, activists and musicians. It's a mind-blowing experience for audiences of all generations."


Don't wait to get your tickets. We can work out the carpool later!

See more at: BOOM! 

 

Thursday
Aug182016

Communion Sunday and Welcome to New Members

Earlier this spring, we opened our arms and welcomed people into our extraordinary space and the inspirational community that enlivens it. In fact, we do that every Sunday.
On October 2nd, we will celebrate once again with a special communion service that will offer a pledge to be present to everyone who, on that special day, chooses to become a member of our congregation and, through it, of The United Church of Canada.
 
While we, as a community, make that pledge to the individuals choosing to make West Hill their church home, they, too, make a pledge to us. In so doing, they are making it known that the principles by which West Hill guides itself are those they wish to use to guide their own lives. And they commit to helping us do that as a community.

 

In his ground-breaking book, The Exceptional 7 Percent: Nine Secrets of the World’s Happiest Couples, Gary Popcak presents his analysis of the most successful marriages. Noting that when each partner can identify what he or she wants to be when she or he dies, in other words, the most important ideals or goals in that person’s life, Popcak argues that the best marriages are those in which the partners commit to helping one another meet those goals. And that’s what we’re doing when we embrace new members; we’re committing to help them as they become the people they want to be and they are committing to help us become the church we want to be. It is a beautiful moment in time and one to celebrate. 

If you would like to join West Hill on Communion Sunday, October 2nd, please let gretta know by emailing or phoning the office.

Tuesday
Aug162016

West Hill Men's Spirituality Group

The West Hill Men’s Group is looking forward to their first fall meeting on Wednesday, September 7th. 

An opportunity for men to examine your own spirituality in a safe, respectful, small-group setting.
Facilitator Kevin Jackson will offer topics and questions to stimulate discussion about our personal spiritual journeys.
There is no charge for this program, and we would be glad for men in the congregation, or friends from the community to join us.
We look forward to meeting for a couple of hours every second Wednesday morning in  the West Hill lounge, 10 a.m.- noon.

 

 

Monday
Aug152016

Women's groups forming this fall.

In syn●the●sis, women gather to celebrate life, explore its many beautiful but often ravaged elements and weave them together into a whole. Creating an atmosphere of intimacy and support, syn●the●sis encourages engagement on many levels, bringing to the fore the layered depths of our being that sometimes take a back seat to the many demands on our time.

Here, we can unwind, discover, share, create, consider, and become known – to ourselves as much as to the others gathered with us.

Getting it all together is a start. 
Keeping it together is an art. 
syn●the●sis provides a place where wholeness can happen.

Please hold time to join us this fall. Our six week introductory program will run Friday mornings from 10 a.m.-noon, beginning October 28th and running through December 2nd.

Saturday
Jul022016

Pride Toronto - July 3rd Parade

Sunday July 3, 2106
The 2016 Pride Parade starts at 2 P.M. at Church and Bloor, travels west on Bloor to Yonge, then south on Yonge to Dundas.  
 
GROUP BANNERS 
Metropolitan United Church, with support from other congregations, is coordinating a United Church walking group for this year’s Toronto Pride parade, under the banner of Radical Love, Walking Proud, see the photo below. We will also have a general banner that says, The United Church of Canada, at the front of the group.  Bring your congregation banner as long as you want to carry it.  We hope to have some folks who will also want to carry our United Church and Radical Love banners -- it's great to spell off half way.  
 
MEETING PLACE AND START TIME
Our marching permit # is G62, titled AFFIRM-UNITED-INTERFAITH and our check in time is 2:15 at Ted Rogers Way (Jarvis) and Bloor.   We will gather on the south-east corner and we will try to hang the United Church banner up so it can be a visible gathering spot. Please be aware that although our group has been given the 2:15 time to check in, we don't know the actual time that we will be queued into the parade. Come prepared to wait. In the past it has been an hour or two (or more) before we are able to join. It depends on how many other groups are registered and where we are in the line up.  If you have not already let us know you are planning to join, please let Susie Henderson or John Joseph Mastandrea know. 

Once the parade begins the walkers are behind the barricades so you cannot join the group from the sidelines.  Nor is it easy to leave.  So please consider the challenges. Pride Toronto provides accessibility shaded/seating areas available for people to watch the parade on a first-come first serve basis.  See the Pride website for more information. 
 
Twitter connections
Follow @TorontoConferen 
#UCCan is the hashtag to share with the wider United Church 
#PrideTO is the hashtag for Pride Toronto
#Pride2016 is a global Pride hashtag

Facebook
Interfaith Pride 
Toronto Conference 
Affirm United Group 
Wednesday
Jun292016

West Hill's Submission re: Gretta's Review by Toronto Conference

West Hill was permitted by Toronto Conference to make a submission in support of Gretta, in advance of the review that took place on June 29, 2016.  The document below is that submission (view PDF here), which was provided to the Executive Committee and the Interviewers on June 17, 2016.  Unfortunately, Toronto Conference did not permit our representative to speak to the issues during Gretta's review on June 29th.

 

Submission to Toronto Conference Interview Panel and Executive Committee

Re: Rev. Gretta Vosper

From West Hill United Church

 

Dear Committee Members and Rev. David Allan, Executive Secretary, Toronto Conference:

We welcome this opportunity to present our unyielding support for Rev. Gretta Vosper by offering our perspective on the review and our relationship with Gretta, providing some clarification around West Hill and our evolving theology, and responding to challenges that have been voiced about our place within the United Church of Canada.

In 1997 Scarborough Southeast Presbytery, the congregation of West Hill, and Gretta Vosper entered into a covenant.  The members of West Hill have taken a very active role in enriching and supporting this covenant. In 2004 we created a document we call VisionWorks that articulates our shared values and reflects what we hold to be of utmost significance in our community life. It calls us to examine ourselves in light of these values as we set priorities and make decisions, both individually and as a community.  This document was created by members of our congregation and was affirmed by our Presbytery at its 2005 oversight meeting.  Our covenant remains strong and has not been broken.  In living out that covenant, Gretta meets and exceeds our standards of effectiveness.

Effectiveness is measured by outcomes and we are the ones best suited to measure those because we are the ones to set the goals and objectives for our congregation – and yet we have never been approached regarding our vision, our strategies, our objectives or the effectiveness of our minister. 

Almost throughout our 66-year history, West Hill United Church has been on the forefront of progressive theology, many of our congregants have grown in knowledge of biblical critique as a result of yearly book studies of works by John Shelby Spong, Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Tom Harpur, Elaine Pagels, and Riane Eisler, for example. And, like Gretta, many of us are products of the United Church’s New Curriculum.  When Gretta was called to West Hill, the Search Committee conscientiously sought candidates that were progressive in their theology and selected Gretta as we recognized in her the leadership qualities we sought to help us push the envelope of what church could mean in the coming years. 

She has done that both through her own development as a minister and also by being emboldened by this very congregation to align our values, language, and Sunday services to better reflect contemporary progressive understandings and a focus on non-exclusive gatherings. It is vital to understand that this was not done in isolation by Gretta but in conjunction and coordination with the congregation and the Board of West Hill.  Gretta has never acted unilaterally in any of these decisions but sought the advice or consent of the Board.  West Hill and Gretta were – and are – inextricably galvanized in this work.

We believe it is essential to recognize that when the congregation called Gretta we embraced her progressive value-centred views because they aligned with how the congregation itself viewed and embraced the concept of god.  When she began using the label atheist rather than non-theist, in solidarity with Bangladeshi bloggers who were being murdered for their secular perspectives, the congregation again supported her and indeed, there are many here who would align themselves with the fundamental issues at hand.

Like the LGBTQ community taking back language that was once used to hurt, Gretta and others have reclaimed the word “atheist” in the same manner, to destigmatize the concept and to remove its power to harm. For these reasons, the congregation supports Gretta.

Our congregation itself is formed with roots in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and we embrace theists, agnostics and atheists.  Many here would agree with the 24% of the ministers responding to a 2011 United Church Observer survey who indicated their belief in god was wholly dependent on how god was defined.  That is to say, we are a congregation diverse in our beliefs yet embracing the groundedness, guidance, and growth experienced through living in right relationship with ourselves, each other and the planet.  This is manifested through Gretta’s ministry, our own connection with each other, and by our focus on non-exclusive services.  We are brought together by a desire to belong to a community of shared values that seeks to make a difference in the world, rather than through beliefs that divide.  West Hill is a vibrant and growing church, celebrating the joys and triumphs of our community on Sunday morning and sharing our burdens in times of need. 

Finally, many have voiced concern about why Gretta and by association, our congregation, wish to remain within the United Church.  We want to respond to this as a congregation.  There are several reasons.  The first is that many of us have very deep roots in the United Church of Canada, some of us for more than 70 years.  It is our home.  We believe in its ability to change the world for the better through its focus on social justice and its attention to issues relevant to Canada and the world.  Others within our community have come to the United Church later and have embraced its values and focus on justice and have described the feeling as coming home.

We also recognize the UCC as a church of firsts; first church to ordain women, then married women, the first to have a woman moderator, the first to welcome LGBTQ folk as clergy, the first to recognize the tremendous harm done to indigenous peoples of Canada.  We are proud to belong to a church that lifts up peace, seeks justice for the marginalized, supports equity, has a process of supporting sanctuary to those refugees who can only turn to churches as a last resort, and that walks in solidarity with other organizations seeking these same goals.  At West Hill, we lift up these values as well and our outreach is focused on many of these same concerns.  These include our First Nation’s Study Group which, among many other projects, worked tirelessly to bring the gap in funding and the living conditions of indigenous people to the attention of local representatives of the previous federal government.  Our outreach also includes voting unanimously in 2009 to become an Affirming Ministry, support for a Bangladeshi refugee family, provision of sanctuary to those who have nowhere else to turn, local community outreach and support for the M&S fund of the UCC.

We also believe strongly that the United Church of Canada is a big tent, big, bold, and strong enough to embrace those whose beliefs are on the margin of both conservative and liberal or progressive values.  We have not heard of congregations or ministers being reviewed when their beliefs adhere to more evangelical, literal, and dogmatic systems, yet there is ample room in the UCC for those groups.  By the same token, West Hill United and Gretta have always had a place within the fold, and should continue to do so.

We have been assured by presbytery and conference that if Gretta should be placed on the Discontinued Service List, the West Hill congregation will remain.  Yet Gretta is a doorway to many who are averse to church for a number of reasons, not the least of which is compliance to doctrines that can be restrictive to those who are looking for an ethical , values based approach to living in right relationship with themselves, each other, and the planet. The congregation of West Hill and Gretta Vosper are walking along the same path bound together by the values of love, compassion, integrity and a quest for justice.  These of course are the deepest values of Christians as well as others seeking to live a life of right relationship.

Respectfully, if you have concerns about Gretta, then you have questions with us as congregation members. Because we view the United Church as our home, this feels very much like family members marginalizing and dismissing us.  It is both hurtful and harmful and, given our covenant with Gretta, sets a dangerous precedent. We raise this issue not as a way to create leverage. Rather, we believe it is crucial that we identify this hurt and allow it into this space in order to name and legitimize our deep sense of betrayal in the way this process has been undertaken and carried out. We further believe it is important for you to be aware of this hurt and help carry the burden as something that the Conference has created and must mitigate.

Thank you again for the opportunity to give voice to our perspective and highlight our concerns about the review.  The congregation of West Hill United Church has crafted this document mindfully, with openness and care, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to the process and its outcomes.  It is our most sincere hope that we can walk together in this openness and that the committee will find much here that they recognize within their own ministry and perspective.

For your reference, we have enclosed copy of our mission statement, our values and beliefs as outlined in our VisionWorks statement, and the prayer that espouses the values we try to live by, every day: “As I Live”.

Respectfully,

 

Randy Bowes
West Hill United Church Board Chair

 

 

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 29 Next 10 Entries »