An atheist preacher has been allowed to stay in office by the Protestant Church of the Netherlands.
The regional church assembly in the southwestern town of Zierikzee decided that preacher Klaas Hendrikse’s views do not fundamentally differ from those of other liberal theologians in the Protestant Church.
A clerical court case against Mr Hendrikse has been suspended.
The decision was opposed by about a quarter of representatives at the regional meeting.
Mr Hendrikse was subjected to an inquiry following the publicaton of his book, Believing in a God who does not exist. In it, Mr Hendrikse explains that he does not believe in a personal God, or in his words, “To me God is not a being, but a word for what can occur between people.”
He has since been loosely referred to as “the atheist preacher”, although he has not declared himself a total non-believer.
Trouw reports that the Netherlands is still living up to its age-old reputation for religious tolerance.
A Protestant church in Zeeland has ruled that one of its ministers, Klaas Hendrikse, can continue to preach even though he’s been labelled “an atheist”. An internal inquiry was ordered after conservative church members balked at the minister’s publication of a book entitled Believing in a God that doesn’t exist in which he argued that God does not exist but “happens”.
Tension mounted within the church, with the minister refusing to defend himself at a local session because he no longer wished to be branded “a suspect”. The church has now concluded that the minister’s words do not damage the foundation of the church and “can be seen as part of the theological debate”.
It looks as if they haven’t entirely succeeded in papering over the cracks, however. The offending minister himself responds by saying “If my view is allowed, then there’s something wrong with the foundations of the church.”