I trained for ministry at Queen’s Theological College where the foundations for my post-theistic work were laid. There, I learned that the Bible was a human construction. For the past thirteen years, I’ve applied the extrapolation of that truth to my work within and beyond the church. In 2013, I came out to my congregation as an atheist; few were surprised. For the most part, my denomination – one I consider to be the most progressive in the world – tolerates me as I continue to irritate it toward publicly stating what so many who lead within it believe: god is a metaphor for goodness and love lived out with compassion and justice, no more and no less.
I have been speaking publicly on the forefront of this work since launching the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity in 2004. My first book, With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe, became a national bestseller within days of its publication in 2008. In 2009, I was named one of the most compelling women in Canada by More Magazine and With or Without God was placed on Amazon’s Top 25 Books to Cause a Commotion alongside To Kill a Mockingbird, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation.
I have spoken across Canada, in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States presenting keynotes and workshops at conferences and leading congregational events and Sunday services. I have appeared on programs on the Canadian, Australian, and British Broadcasting Corporations’ radio networks and talk and magazine shows across Canada. For six years, I was a weekly panelist on the Culture Wars segment of the John Oakley Show on AM640, Toronto’s most listened to Talk Radio program. I have participated in online lecture series, the most notable hosted by Michael Dowd and including thirty-seven spiritual leaders from across North America and been interviewed by numerous online media channels. My work is regularly addressed in the national magazine of my denomination, The Observer, and fuels controversial conversations on Facebook. Twice, I have narrowly avoided heresy trials, once by a margin of three votes.
My second book, Amen: What Prayer Can Be in a World Beyond Belief applies the reality of a godless world to a spiritual practice that holds incredible meaning for so many. Current scientific discoveries regarding the effects of prayer on the brain bring surprising elements to the fore and we recognize that belief is not as important in our spiritual nurture as we have thought it once was. Amen has become an important book in congregational study groups.
The work I do within my congregation has allowed me to amass considerable resource material for use in humanist or religious gatherings; all of it is post-theistic or humanistic in language and assumption. Of that work, I have self-published three poetry collections and, with my partner, Scott Kearns, a collection of rewritten and revised songs for use with traditional church music. That work continues.
I am currently writing resource material for use in traditional transitioning congregations and plan to publish that in electronic form through a subscription service beginning in 2016. I love photography, beadwork, upcycling creative projects, and walking. An ovarian cancer survivor, I walked 60 km (about 40 miles) to raise $6500 for cancer research last year. I hope to build a team and raise even more this year!
In the spring of 2015, the United Church instigated a review of my effectiveness as a minister. Effectiveness was determined to require suitability which was determined to require ongoing affirmation of the questions of ordination separated from the concept of essential agreement which, until that time, had been central to establishing the diversity of belief the UCC has enjoyed. You can find much in the media with respect to this review. I am also providing you a glimpse of the letters of support and concern that have reached West Hill and I during this time. You can find them here: Letters
I live outside of Toronto with my husband, partner, and best friend, Scott Kearns by whom I am regularly challenged to live up to the values we have chosen to guide our lives. I couldn’t ask for a better guide and companion in this, my only life. He is a composer and songwriter, working to bring those values into the world that they might provide inspiration for those who need no doctrinal language to frame the work of creating meaning in their lives. I couldn’t do what I do without him.