Liberal Faith in a Secular World?


Roundtable with Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor
Author of "Faith without Certainty"
Sunday. March 19, 2017, 2:00-4:00 pm.

An event to celebrate the Unitarian Church of Montreal's 175 years of liberal religion in Montreal.

The original question posed to the panel participants: Remaining Religiously Relevant

Texts (pdf):

Keynote by Dr. Paul Rasor (pdf 653 KB)

Response from Rabbi Ellen Greenspan
(pdf 336 KB)

Response from Rev. Carly Gaynor
(pdf 74.3 KB)

Videos of the panel responses:



This was a gift to our community from the Unitarian Church of Montreal. We are celebrating our 175th anniversary as the first Unitarian church in Canada. Since our founding in 1842, we have been dedicated to building interfaith relationships with our neighbours. 

Join us to consider the future
Join us for a thoughtful and lively conversation about the future role of liberal religion in secular society. Our keynote speaker and panelists have hands-on experience at the front lines, as parish and community clergy and as leading scholars working with the next generations in Quebec, Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. 

Our focus
In our 175th year as a liberal religious congregation, we're considering the future for liberal faith here and elsewhere. 

Since the 1960s, Quebec has become an increasingly secular society. A growing majority of people say they have no religious affiliation, yet a large number of people consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Our individualistic and consumer-driven society leaves many thirsting for something more, without knowing how to find it.

So we're wondering, what's in our future? Will liberal religious communities become institutions of the past or can liberal religion offer an alternative and relevant path between secular life and orthodox religion? 

Keynote Speaker

Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor has focused for years on the future of liberal faith that doesn't offer the security of certainty -- in a world that is increasingly divided by fundamental interpretations of religion and secularism. He is currently the Gerard van der Leeuw Fellow in the faculty of theology and religious studies and Visiting Professor of Law in the faculty of law at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, where he continues to teach an interdisciplinary course on Hate Speech. 

Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor

Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor

For nearly 30 years, he taught law, theology and religious studies at several American institutions, including Andover Newton Theological School, Harvard Divinity School, Washburn University School of Law, and Pendle Hill Quaker Study Center. From 2005 to 2013, he was Director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom and Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Virginia Wesleyan College. 

Paul has published widely in law and theology for both scholarly and lay audiences, including Reclaiming Prophetic Witness: Liberal Religion in the Public Square (2012) and Faith without Certainty: Liberal Theology in the 21st Century (2005) which has been translated into Dutch, Hungarian and Czech. 

Paul received his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Ph.D. in the study of religion from Harvard University and his Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) from the University of Michigan. He is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister.


Rabbi Ellen Greenburg

Rabbi Ellen Greenburg

Rabbi Ellen Greenspan sees a growing number of people seeking conversion to liberal Judaism in her role as the Rabbi-Educator at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, Montreal’s only Reform synagogue. She served for many years as a rabbi in the U.S., and was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York. She holds two Masters Degrees from HUC in Los Angeles: a Masters of Hebrew Letters and a Masters in Jewish Education.

Rev. Carly Gaylor

Rev. Carly Gaylor

Rev. Carly Gaylor is a Unitarian Universalist minister who has worked in a variety of congregational and community settings. She is currently working on a national project to help Unitarian Universalist congregations welcome, serve and integrate young adults. She and her partner, Curtis Murphy, are preparing to launch a new ministry in Ontario centred on slowing down, deepening relationships and spiritual practice and creating alternative communities where people have neither too much or too little -- but enough.


Rev. Wies Houweling

Rev. Wies Houweling

Rev. Wies Houweling is the General Secretary of the Vrijzinnigen Nederland, a liberal religious movement with Christian roots in the Netherlands. Developing and implementing organizational policy, she supports a large number of volunteers and ministers as they face the future and seek to strengthen the liberal religious voice in Dutch society. She has international experience in several organizations and has been a minister for over 20 years. Theology is her passion.

Prof. Charles Blattberg

Prof. Charles Blattberg

Prof. Charles Blattberg offers a broad socio-cultural perspective as a professor of political philosophy at the Université de Montréal. Educated at Toronto, McGill, the Sorbonne, and Oxford, he has taught political philosophy at the Université de Montréal since 2000, except for two separate years when he was a Lady Davis Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His published work on political philosophy focuses on the search for justice, the common good (not victory) and a call for conversation to find new ways to live together. He has explored a diversity of issues such as "how nationalism is not really secular," ethics and the distinctions between the good and the beautiful, the rabbinic nature of modernism and why most philosophers are actually artists.

Rev. Diane Rollert

Rev. Diane Rollert

Moderator, Rev. Diane Rollert is in her 11th year as the 11th settled (and first female) minister of the Unitarian Church of Montreal. She has preached, written and researched extensively on the topic of liberal religion in the Western secular world, as well as having served as a sabbatical minister in the Philippines. She received her Masters of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School.