The Star

O, Canada! And no, this 'God optional' story isn’t from The Onion or the Babylon Bee

O, Canada! And no, this 'God optional' story isn’t from The Onion or the Babylon Bee

Maybe you saw this headline, or variations on it: “Clergy No Longer Need to Believe in God, Liberal Protestants decide.”

That looks like a satirical “news” headline from TheOnion.com or its religion equivalent, BabylonBee.com. However, it’s a real-life precedent set by the United Church of Canada — an event with considerable interest for religionists and journalists. The progressive UCC (not to be confused with the edgy United Church of Christ in the United States) has allowed ample flexibility on much else, but the optional God is brand new.

The Rev. Gretta Vosper (see www.grettavosper.ca), far more publicized in Canada than the U.S., is the pastor of West Hill United Church in Scarborough, Ontario. She faced a church tribunal this month over her atheism. But a terse announcement Nov. 7 said Vosper and the UCC’s Toronto regional body “have settled all outstanding issues” and she “will remain in ordained ministry.” Further explanation of the deal is sealed by court order.

Vosper, who took over West Hill in 1997, says she “came out as an atheist” in 2001, stripping language about any supernatural God from prayers and hymns, followed by her 2008 book “With or Without God.” She openly embraced an “atheist” identity in 2013. Meanwhile, her congregation officially defined itself as “theists, agnostics and atheists” with “roots in the Judaeo-Christian tradition” who seek truth and justice.

There’s no mention of any role in this for Jesus or the Bible

The UCC was formed in 1925 through a union of Canada’s Congregationalists, Methodists and a majority of Presbyterians. On paper, it still enshrines an orthodox founding creed that includes worship of “the one and only living and true God, a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being and perfections.” The United Church of Canada was a celebrated ecumenical milestone, the world’s first major Protestant union across denominational lines. In 1962, U.S. “mainline” Protestant churches launched a similar merger effort that fizzled.

As with U.S. “mainliners,” the UCC has suffered steady decline in numbers and vitality. By government data, Canadians identifying with this body went from 3,769,000 in 1971 to 2,008,000 in 2011. The number of congregations dropped a third over those years to the current 2,894. Currently, the church reports only 424,000 full “communicant” members and average attendance of 139,000.

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Muslims at slain priest's funeral: AP thinks they should be seen but not heard

Muslims at slain priest's funeral: AP thinks they should be seen but not heard

What a wonderful story of solidarity: Muslims joining French Catholics at the funeral of Father Jacques Hamel, uniting in sympathy for the victim of knife-wielding ISIS sympathizers. 

Let's hear the thoughts and feelings of the Muslims after the funeral. 

Or not. At least not if you read the Associated Press' account. Or those of many other media.

Muslims are mentioned six times in the AP story, including the headline. A hundred of them, just at the Rouen cathedral. And dozens more around France and Italy for Mass, "as a gesture of interfaith solidarity following the attack on the priest."

Yes, it's nice to show not that all Muslims are haters. And it's true that actions speak louder than words. But since a news story is made of words, shouldn't some Muslims have gotten to say a few of them?

I'm not even sure how much original reporting AP did here. Looks like at least some of the story is borrowed from other reports:

ROUEN, France — French media reported Tuesday that roughly 100 Muslims attended the funeral Mass of a Catholic priest slain by two men who claimed allegiance to the Islamic States, capping a week in which Muslims in various European nations attended Masses to express sympathy and solidarity.
The Archbishop of Rouen, leading Tuesday’s solemn funeral Mass, said Father Jacques Hamel tried to push away his attackers with his feet, saying "go away, Satan," remarks that underscored the horror of the murder at the altar that touched a chord throughout France.
Hundreds of priests and bishops filled the sumptuous Rouen cathedral along with many hundreds more people, including Muslims who have joined in the grieving since the murder of the 85-year-old priest, slashed by his attackers while celebrating morning Mass.

Who were those 100 Muslims? Imams?  Professors? Quranic scholars? How many mosques did they represent? Why did they feel the need to come? 

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