Gretta Vosper on spirituality vs. religion, prayer as placebo, and how to become an agent for change.

Gretta Vosper has been in the spotlight since founding the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity in 2004. Her first book, With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important that What We Believe, quickly became a national bestseller (and one of Amazon’s “Top 25 Books that Caused a Commotion”) and attracted media attention and debate across the country. Met with both acclaim and vitriol by those inside and outside the church, the book challenges the clergy’s silence on contemporary scholarship, arguing that people need to know the Bible is not the authoritative word of God for all time. Having twice narrowly avoided heresy trials, Gretta continues to lead West Hill United—”a progressive community of faith growing out of the Christian tradition”—in Scarborough, Ontario. In 2009, Gretta was named one of the Most Compelling Women in Canada by More Magazine. Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief is her latest book (HarperCollins Canada). Visit her at www.GrettaVosper.ca.
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Julie Wilson: From your site: I think it is high time we stopped feeding the acrimony between atheists and people of any faith tradition and start looking at the values that lie at the heart of whatever it is we believe. If those values are grounded in a respect for the dignity of all life and in creating and sustaining right relationship with self, others, and the planet, then who cares what religious or philosophical perspective one holds? I am seeking a way for liberal Christianity to move beyond the confines of its own divisive theology into the shared space of that values-based spirituality.
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This would answer “Why”, but, why you? How do you see yourself placed within this discussion?
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Gretta Vosper: I must admit, Julie, there are days when I read a particularly snarky email or another nasty letter in my denomination’s national magazine, or someone’s vitriolic blog and wonder, “Why me?” Walking the line between the atheists and the religious left is not easy, sometimes, but, right now, there is no other place for me to be.
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The reason I’m doing this work is tied to who I am and what I do. That seems obvious, but it’s the particularities that I’m talking about. I’m a woman in leadership within a mainline liberal denomination. Each one of those things is significant for different reasons: female; leader; mainline denomination.
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For the balance of recorded human history, women have been excluded from power circles. The gavel—or whatever it was that conferred its power in the past—hasn’t been shared with us for very long. Most of us haven’t even been allowed to mark a ballot for much more than a hundred years and some of us still can’t. Most of our history has been lived outside the circles of power.