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An offer: Invigorating and empowering individuals

 

Max Dodd is a subscriber who lives in Sydney. Based on work he has done over several years, he is offering free to groups of people and congregational leaders who would like to make worship experiences more personally invigorating and empowering his time and knowledge. He says:

October 2022

Christianity seems so much in decline with falling numbers in congregations of all mainstream denominations.    Too often I fear we are hearing that the problems are insoluble and that we have to accept the situation.

I could not agree less.   While I am well aware of the falling numbers and the aging of those found in the pews on Sundays, I feel that we are too willing to see the situation as irreversible.

What we need to do is again to be clear of what it is we are offering.   For too long churches have offered first class accommodation in some abstraction (post death) of heaven and have been preoccupied with institutional survival for its own sake.   Contemporary people see these issues with astonishment as absurdities of the highest order and pass by on the other side.    We are rarely seen for the leadership of the world and earthly effectiveness or for the invigoration of the spiritual experience to which all teachings of all religions (of both East and West) all point.

I am sure that the solution lies in our discovering that the ultimate truth of existence we are offering is an existential experience of the Greater in our daily lives and the empowerment and invigoration that goes with that experience.   As one whose Sunday morning involves some time in a coffee club which has had a “service of worship” with which to commence, I am so disappointed that what is offered seems so little to have to do with the challenges of life of Monday and their due management.

I wish to be allowed to present to the members of your congregation a vision of spiritual experience that is of the empowerment and invigoration of which I spoke in the preceding paragraph.   Such presentation could take the form of an address to a service or even as a special event.    I would indeed be providing a small book of inspiration to spiritual growth that I call Ambitious Transcendence a series of essays I put together in Europe in 2013.   I shall be happy to make a copy of it available to you.

I am suggesting all of this not as one who is simply wishing “to stir the pot” but as an older and (dare I suggest?) reasonably intelligent citizen whose life experience has been blessed by the development of spiritual wisdom and its most practical application to the day by day adventures of a complete life.

Please do not be offended by my candour.   I am on the same side as you are with the same hopes for the presentation of spiritual wisdom and life-giving encouragement to action.

To examine some of my material go to: Maxwell Dodd

MAXWELL DODD

A Gift of Encouragement

Spooner Dodd Consulting Services

Post Office Box 462

EDGECLIFF    NEW SOUTH WALES     2027

 Telephone: 0410 940 183

 maxdodd23@gmail.com

oOo

 

 

Featured post

Events: Update on some Group Gatherings

Redcliffe Explorers:

Greetings all,

For various reasons we’ve decided not to hold our usual monthly gathering in October. We’ll let you know as soon as possible about the November programme.

Shalom, Ian.

St Lucia Spirituality Group:

Telling our faith stories – Dr Kevin Treston

We write to draw your attention to Kevin Treston’s latest book because its themes resonate strongly with our objectives at the St Lucia Spirituality Group.

Kevin has been involved in adult faith education and ministry for over sixty years throughout Australia and many countries. His qualifications include BA(Hons) MA (Hons) MEd. PhD and post-doctoral studies in Boston, Chicago and Washington. He resides in Wilston, Brisbane.

In reviewing the book, Peter Maher, editor of The Swag, a national religious affairs publication, writes:

“Hans Kung tells the story of a journalist who asked Kung if he believed in the resurrection. Kung’s answer was that, as a Catholic, he believed in the resurrection, but the real question is not whether he believed in the resurrection but rather what the resurrection means.

Kung’s point is that we are no longer in a world where doctrinal affirmation or legal regularity rings true to people trying to understand and navigate the modern world and the existential angst and confusion of the world of quantum physics and an evolving universe. We live in a new world where change is the existential reality in which we make meaning.

Treston is making much the same point in this book. In the 21st century, the gossamer truth of gospel spirituality and practice expressed in a genuinely Catholic way will enshrine the gospel values and Catholic tradition but will need to be articulated and expressed in today’s cultural and historical context. Things once relevant to Catholic life in the 12th or 18th century may be expressed and lived in different ways in the 21st century. Change has always been a constitutive element of Catholic tradition.”

John Scoble has read the book. He liked Treston’s plain English explanation of concepts and admitted to a great deal of confirmation bias, as he found he was agreeing with many of Treston’s propositions. John also noted that as an experienced adult faith educator, Treston posed important questions for a faith seeking reader to consider.

Robert.

Caloundra Explorers:

On Sunday evening many of us had the pleasure of listening to Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson’s presentation titled Can we name the unnameable: Searching in the woods for the God tree. It was a wonderful link from Gretta Vosper and George Stuart to our next book study and Gathering on Our benevolent cosmos: embracing the mystery of life by John Humphreys.

Lorraine told us about the many people who have experienced the mystery that we call God, from a 10 year-old girl lying on her back gazing through a blooming apple tree at the blue sky beyond, to many great scientists, composers and organists. She quoted the last sentence of Stephen Hawking’s A brief history of time.

‘If we do discover a theory of everything . . . it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would truly know the mind of God.’

Lorraine gave us so many things to think about it is so hard to remember them all, but one that hit home for many of us was ‘Love is God’. Hopefully later in the year I may be able to send you a copy of her presentation that you can digest at your leisure.

Ken.

Dayboro Explorers:

Our group has been meeting for several years and only recently adopted the name Dayboro Explorers. We meet after morning tea and after the 9am service on the fourth Sunday of the month. We welcome newcomers. The last two sessions focused on anonymous questions about the Bible put to a panel for their responses. Many of the group go to a local cafe for lunch after the meeting.

Paul.

Progressive Christian Network Victoria

The 4th Roy Bradley Oration 2022
to be delivered by Linda Walter

The Strength of Kindness and the Courage to Grieve
Sunday 16th October 2022 at 2.00pm (AEDT) online via Zoom
RSVP by Thursday 13 October to secretary@cscc.org.au or call 0408 586 297
A zoom link will be sent by Friday 14 October. This is a free event; donations are appreciated.

In times of desolation, as we are learning right here, right now, it’s hard to know if anything can make a difference. How do we care for those who are faithfully serving us, for those whom we love and depend upon? In their weariness, can we protect them from disillusionment and despair? Or is the task of a rather different nature?
How might we keep company with them in the dark places of their (and our own) fear and sorrow and grief? Is there any hope to be found? These questions lead us to the heart of the mystery of God. While finding the courage to grieve is central to this path, it is often the strength of kindness that helps us take the first steps.

Linda Walter has worked in nursing, hospital chaplaincy, bereavement counselling, psychotherapy, and spiritual direction. While a pastoral counsellor at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, she taught postgraduate nurses and medical students. She has conducted bereavement support groups and facilitated grieving among health professionals and lectured at Yarra Theological Union on “Death, Grief & New Life: Conversations of Faith”, and led clergy retreats. Linda has been active

in the Christian feminist movement and co-authored, Women of Spirit: Woman’s Place in Church and Society. She now enjoys retirement with her husband Nick in Anglesea, along with family and friends who stay often in what is affectionately called their bush mission hospital.

PCNV.

Merthyr Road, New Farm, Explorers

Our group meets at 10am on the 4th Wednesday of the month. The next meeting will be on Wednesday 26th October, and we shall be giving details of that session shortly.

Desley.

Progressive Christianity Network, South Australia.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH and GLOBAL CONCERNS

OCTOBER 6TH    BRIAN PHILLIPS
Hope in a time of impending catastrophe.

October 13th RICK SARRE
Freedom in the context of a global pandemic.

October 20th      ESMOND DOWDY
Worship for postmodern times.

October 27th      HELEN PHILLIPS
The significance of the interior life to global concerns.

For bookings:
https://effectiveliving.ucasa.org.au/progressive-christianity-network-sa/seminary-of-the-3rd-age/

Effective Living Centre
Phone: (08) 8271 0329
Email: office@effectiveliving.org
Address: 26 King William Road, Wayville SA
Office Hours: Tues – Fri, 10am-2pm

oOo

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Opinion: Sacred and Secular Events in OZ

The conduct of the Queen’s memorial service in Australia’s Parliament sets a very good example for future sacred secular events.

There were references to the Queen’s faith in God being at the core of her life of service, but there was no mention of specifically Christian ideas.

The speeches were about values and ethics and beliefs but were based on the things she’d done and the way she’d lived out her commitment to serve.

The songs were about values that are important in a democracy… caring, helping, serving.

The memorial was inclusive. People of all colours and creeds met in a unity of purpose.

The ceremony of the Wattle wreaths was an original and fitting expression of Australian gratitude for the Queen’s reign. Perhaps it will begin a tradition.

In a country with people from so many different parts of the world, so many different beliefs, we need to devise ceremonies and deeply meaningful rituals that exclude no-one.

Bev Floyd

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Merthyr Rd Explorers (Q) – The Religious Joke

In the right hands, the pencil can illuminate serious issues and bring the most unlikely people together. While editors and writers would often be threatened and intimidated into reining in their content, cartoonists were largely left alone. And with lack of oversight, they could criticize unjust policies without consequence – Patrick Chappatte

The cartoon is an art form that comes in many shapes and sizes, from comic strips to editorial cartoons and political satire. To be a successful cartoonist, one must not only be gifted artistically – i.e., able to draw – but also highly intelligent, with a keen eye for the ironic and an ability to see the humor, albeit sometimes sardonic humor, in current events. Today, for example, cartoonists are as influential as any political strategists in how people see politicians and other community leaders. Cartoonists are skilled illustrators offering at once either a humorous or mordant take – or sometimes both – on the state of current affairs.

In short, cartoons play a very important role in shaping culture and should not be underestimated or dismissed – Christy Tennant.

In this seminar the jokes will be used to amuse and raise a response about the irony displayed.

YOU are invited to join in at Merthyr Explorers on Wednesday 28th September Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.

10 am for morning tea (a few contributions to this will be welcome)
10:30 we begin our exploring of the topic.

A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated.

oOo

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Next PCNV Event

“The Time is Now”.  A Call to Action
Sunday 25th September 2022 from 4:00pm to 5.30pm
(A ‘Zoom only’ meeting)

How does Christian faith connect with the contemporary world?

What are the implications now of being Christian?

In this address, ‘The Time is Now’, Sr Joan Chittister calls on listeners to become modern day prophets, to confront the power-hungry institutions and systems of the world, and to move toward a world of justice, freedom, peace and empowerment.

Sr Joan Chittister is an American Benedictine nun, theologian, author and speaker.  She has written more than 50 books and received numerous awards for her work on behalf of peace, and of women in church and in society.

Her context is the Catholic Church and society in America, but her words have resonance in Australia also.   She spoke to a packed Melbourne Town Hall earlier this year.

Download the flyer HERE

Click here for the Zoom Link at 4.00pm

For further information email info@pcnvictoria.org.au

Rod Peppiatt  – PCNV Secretary

oOo

 

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Our faith journeys – a guide

From the feedback after the publication of Kevin Treston’s Telling Our Faith Stories, it seems that readers generally are being stimulated to reflect on the winding paths of their own faith journeys, discoveries, new insights and reframing of perspective. Kevin has kindly offered the following guide to the process for doing this:

TELLING OUR FAITH STORIES: MY STORY AND YOUR STORIES

WITHIN THE GREAT STORY OF THE UNIVERSE

 A READING GUIDE

You have a copy of the book. From your experiences of reading such a book, you have your own approach to how best to appreciate the book. The book is less about information but more about faith and life enhancement. The following suggestions from the author may help you in better accessing the focus of the book.

  1. The author encourages you to reflect on your own faith journey using the personal story genre style where the author tells some significant features of his own faith journey while inviting you to invite memories and questions about your own faith journey eg. When he speaks about journeys which influenced his faith journey, you will be invited to recall memories of significant journeys and people who shaped your own faith journey.
  2. You will notice recurring questions such as, ‘What changes have emerged in your faith journey throughout the previous thirty years? (p 90). Suggestion: pause and reflect on the questions. That process is the point of the book – to help readers to recall, name and celebrate the mysterious occasions of grace and enlightenment in one’s life. 
  1. The book does not intend in any way to summarise in any depth key contemporary trends in church life today. Useful resources are listed if readers so choose to follow up on topics of interest. However, several of these movements are named to alert readers of significant developments of the Spirit in church life within an unfolding universe eg. How church teachings are being reviewed (eg the doctrine of original sin), how the Christ Story is celebrated within God’s evolving revelation throughout all time, full inclusion of women, the centrality of the reign of God in the teachings of Jesus, synodality, renewal or refounding? the universalism of Christ within the whole of creation, responses to critical justice questions, clergy/laity dualism etc. 
  1. Our First Peoples have so much to teach us how to live within a bounteous creation. 
  1. A fundamental premise in the book is that the church is entering a Third Great Epoch in its 2000 – year- old history and the new paradigm of evolutionary consciousness, especially emanating from quantum physics, cosmology, modern science, information technology, connectivity with the whole world, all these movements invite, even demand, the reframing of the Christ Story within this Great Story of the Universe. Readers are asked, ‘Where does that leave you in living your Christian faith now?’ ‘How is your faith story evolving? ‘What is happening?’ 
  1. A core question which permeates the book is ‘What is a spirituality now that energises you on your faith journey?’ At the conclusion of the book, the author shares his two loadstars for spirituality: the quest for ‘life in abundance’ and the ‘oneing’ (Julian of Norwich). 
  1. The book would be a useful resource for a small faith sharing group.

Contact: kevintreston@gmail.com

oOo

 

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Opinion: Why theologians may be wrong

Theology uses words to frame an understanding of religion… studying ancient texts (like the bible) and ideas formulated by religious practitioners. By this method it seeks to bridge the gap between religion and the secular world.

Science and increasing knowledge has destroyed many traditional beliefs. The question becomes ‘Is there anything about “religion” still worth defending?’ and if there is, will it be possible to frame words to achieve this?

Many modern theologians emphasise the role of ‘ethics’ as if that is all we can rely upon in the ‘religion’ corner.

I think there is something else. It is ‘experience’… not an immediate personal experience of a divine presence but what Jung would call the ‘Collective unconscious’ perhaps even a ‘genetic inheritance’ from ancient times. Within each of us there is an impetus to grow, to understand ourselves and the world, to bring the conscious and the unconscious parts of ourselves into alignment.

Evolution is continuing. Why aren’t theologians taking more notice of this? Thinking and analysis and scientific study isn’t the only way to understanding. EXPERIENCE is also a formidable and reliable method of understanding ourselves and the world.

None of these methods of understanding the world and ourselves needs to stand alone. Clearly, they are complementary. Just the same, at present we see them not always aligned or fully called upon.

Theology based simply on thinking or analysis can go terribly wrong.

Science which doesn’t factor in the fully lived range of human experience, cannot explain everything.

Even experience alone, can be difficult to comprehend… it is slow, often confusing and takes considerable effort to understand… but it is a significant human factor that must not be overlooked. ‘Experience is the raw material… the source of revelation.

The word ‘experience and the word ‘experiment’ come from the same Latin root ‘experiri = to try’

Theologians and thinkers EXPLORE.

Scientists EXPERIMENT.

Ordinary folk EXPERIENCE.

The wisest people do all three.

2 Philipians 12-13

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose. 

Computer operating systems have a back door into the program to enable changes and improvements. Could we not imagine that a Creator would have a way to communicate with the hidden inner life of human beings.

Bev Floyd (August, 2022)

oOo

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Excitement building at Caloundra Q

Dear Explorers

Exciting news! On Sunday 25 September Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson will be the guest speaker at our second Gathering as we continue our exploration of What is God? The title of Lorraine’s presentation is Can we name the unnameable? Thinking about what we call God.

We have previously studied two of Lorraine’s books—The world according to Jesus: His blueprint for the best possible world and Made on Earth: How Gospel writers created the Christ. Lorraine also spoke to our group in 2013 and 2016.

 

As usual the Gathering will be in the Caloundra Uniting Church hall from 5.30 until 7 pm and it would be great if you could bring a plate for our shared meal. This is quite an event, so tell anyone who you think might be interested.

Ken Williamson

oOO

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Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery

The Doctrine of Discovery established a spiritual, political, and legal justification for colonization and seizure of land not inhabited by Christians. Foundational elements of the Doctrine of Discovery can be found in a series of papal bulls, or decrees, beginning in the 1100s, which included sanctions, enforcements, authorizations, expulsions, admonishments, excommunications, denunciations, and expressions of territorial sovereignty for Christian monarchs supported by the Catholic Church. Two papal bulls, in particular, stand out: (1) Pope Nicholas V issued “Romanus Pontifex” in 1455, granting the Portuguese a monopoly of trade with Africa and authorizing the enslavement of local people; (2) Pope Alexander VI issued the Papal Bull “Inter Caetera” in 1493 to justify Christian European explorers’ claims on land and waterways they allegedly discovered, and promote Christian domination and superiority, and has been applied in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas.

From a stamp engraved on copper by Th. de Bry, 1590: “Discovery of America, 12 May, 1492, Christopher Columbus erects the cross and baptizes the Isle of Guanahani by the Christian Name of St. Salvador.”

Following an inquiry by a subscriber to the UCFORUM we have, with the generous help of Rev Dr John Squires, found this information about the UCA response:

At the 2015 Assembly in Perth

15.22.03.  Doctrine of Discovery

  1. a) repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, and its theological foundations as a relic of colonialism, feudalism, and religious, cultural, and racial biases that have no place in the treatment of First Peoples; and
  2. b) affirm the World Council of Churches “Statement on the Doctrine of Discovery Impact on Indigenous Peoples”, and encourage its consideration in the Church and, in particular, in theological colleges. (Agreement)

https://johntsquires.com/2018/08/13/affirming-the-sovereignty-of-first-peoples-undoing-the-doctrine-of-discovery/

And see also

https://johntsquires.com/2018/10/13/on-covenant-reconciliation-and-sovereignty/

And see Uncle Ray Minniecon’s paper

https://assembly.uca.org.au/images/events/PNMC2017/Doctrine-of-Discovery-Pastor-Ray-Minniecon.pdf

Rev Dr John Squires, Presbytery Minister—Wellbeing Canberra Region Presbytery, Uniting Church in Australia
johns@nswact.uca.org.au      https://canberra.uca.org.au/  
blogs on ‘An Informed Faith’ at https://johntsquires.com/
Acknowledging the people of the Ngunnawal, Ngambri, Ngarigo, Yuin, and Gundungurra peoples, custodians from time immemorial of the lands on which the people of the Presbytery worship, serve, and witness.

oOo

 

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From the St Lucia (Q) Spirituality Group

Coming hot on the great discussion at Merthyr Road last week comes the St Lucia Group’s consideration of the argument for staying connected and looking at the options for progressives including accepting “the new knowledge and use it to develop a more mature understanding of what lies at the core of your beliefs.” (John Feehan, The Singing Heart of the World, 2012, page 148)

At our August meeting we completed our two-part series on Praying with Scripture, at which we
considered Imaginative Prayer in the Ignatian tradition. The basis for our discussion was the parable of the Prodigal Son, in particular, on Rembrandt’s painting of this well-known parable. The meeting was very well attended and the discussion wide ranging and insightful.
What’s Coming Next in the Butterfly Series As we report on our private Facebook page, the purpose of our group is to support those who adopt the third choice in the paragraph below, particularly those who live in or near to St Lucia:

“When you are confronted by evidence that the faith in which you were brought up no longer provides an adequate explanation for the nature, meaning and purpose of your life, you have three choices. You can refuse to accept the evidence and continue as before. You can abandon the faith you grew up with, because it proved to be inadequate. Or third, you can accept the new knowledge and use it to develop a more mature understanding of what lies at the core of your beliefs.”
(John Feehan, The Singing Heart of the World, 2012, page 148, emphasis added.)

As we move forward with our Butterfly series over the coming months, we will be placing our focus on current Christian thinkers and the implications of their writing for ourselves, our community and Christianity in general. It will become evident that science and religion are not in competition with each other, but merely two sides of the same coin and therefore complementary.

We also hope to explore the mystery of creation, the connectedness of all sentient beings to nature and the critical role that all of us play in bringing about God’s kingdom on earth, which Judy Cannato redefined as the Field of Compassion. Ultimately, we seek to develop a more mature understanding of our beliefs.

At our next meeting we are going to embark on this journey by considering a discussion paper that examines some key themes influencing the development of theology and dogma.

Find the discussion paper here and click on PDF Historical Influences on Beliefs

Next Zoom and Face to Face meeting:

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting – Historical Influences on Beliefs
Our Episode 12 meeting will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 20 September.
To register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.

If you are concerned about your ability to participate in these zoom meetings, we can
accommodate you by simply allowing you to listen. Just let us know.

oOo

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Next gathering at Redcliffe Q

The Influence of Paul on the Beginning of Christianity

Greetings everyone,

Our next meeting, on Monday 5th September, will be expertly guided via DVD by American Professor Bart Ehrman, who will explore the influence of the Apostle Paul in marking the beginning of Christianity as a non-Jewish world religion. The author of six New York Times best sellers, Ehrman is a University of North Carolina New Testament scholar with a particular interest in the development of early Christianity. Those who’ve managed to read the hard-hitting novel Damascus may like to give their reflections on author Christos Tsiolkas’ portrayal of the life and times of Saul/Paul, and how they align with Professor Ehrman’s non-fictional account.

Bart Ehram

As usual we’ll meet in the Function Room at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe) at 6 p.m., with coffee and chat until 6:30. If you’re not a regular Explorers attendee, please be aware that the security gates at Azure Blue are locked early in the evening, and won’t be attended by a key-card holder until just before 6 p.m. For more information about the group or access to the venue, please call Ian on 0401 513 723. Our meetings are open to everyone prepared to discuss life’s big issues (sacred and secular, theological and philosophical) robustly but respectfully.

Shalom, Ian

oOo

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Congratulations Duncan MacLeod

Thanks Dick Carter for sharing this news with us:

New Executive Officer for eLM Victoria and Tasmania Synod

Rev Duncan MacLeod – currently Presbytery Minister, Port Phillip East Presbytery, Melbourne

Duncan was part of the team facilitating the establishment of the UCFORUM in Queensland more than 2 decades ago.

The position is one of the most influential in the Synod particularly because it contains Pilgrim College and the other units involved in the preparation & ongoing education of clergy & also of lay education. He replaces Rev Dr Jenny Byrnes, a good friend of the progressive movement, who is retiring.

The Uniting Church in Australia
Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
Port Phillip East Presbytery
Thursday 16 August, 2022

Dear friends,
I am writing to inform you that Rev Duncan Macleod has accepted the call to become the Executive Officer, eLM (equipping Leadership for Mission), commencing 1 February 2023.
Rev Dr Jenny Byrnes has retired from the eLM EO position, with 30 April 2022 as her last day active in the role. The updated placement profile was approved by the Placements Committee in November 2021. Discernment by the Placements Committee was undertaken and the role was advertised twice, but no appointment was made.

In May 2022, the Placements Committee resolved that the position be classified as a priority placement. This means that the Placements Committee could approach a person still within their first five years in a placement.

Duncan was approached, and after discernment he agreed to enter a conversation. His appointment was confirmed by the Synod Standing Committee at its meeting on Saturday 13 August, and a letter of call was issued
on Monday 15 August. Duncan has now accepted the call.
Duncan will be taking up a significant missional leadership role in the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. eLM is focused on serving and resourcing the presbyteries and congregations, the individuals and groups across the Synod to increase their capacity to engage, lead and thrive as disciples in mission. It has four streams:
• Education and formation for leadership
• Priorities, focus and advocacy
• Relationships and connections
• Marketing, functions and administration

We in the Presbytery of Port Phillip East know that Duncan is well equipped to carry out this role with distinction. He takes on the role with our support and prayers. While we are sad to lose Duncan from his position as Presbytery Minister: Team Leader, we look forward to working closely with him in his new role.

The Presbytery Standing Committee has commenced the process for finding someone to take up the Presbytery Minister: Team Leader role. We will keep you informed of our progress in this important task.

Yours in fellowship
Tom Spurling
Presbytery Chair

oOo

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Performing Arts: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

For Brisbane residents:

Set in a courtroom in Purgatory, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot?is a hilarious, poignant, thought-provoking work by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. Boasting a large, zany cast of characters, the play asks one of the most plaguing questions in the Christian ideology: what happened to Judas Iscariot? The facts (we think!) we know are these: Judas was the disciple of Jesus who betrayed his friend and teacher to the authorities. He is seen as the man responsible for Jesus’s death; afterwards, Judas fell into despair and hung himself from an olive tree; since then, he has been suffering for his deeds deep in Hell, and will continue to do so for all eternity. Is that really fair? Was Judas the duplicitous master of his own fate, a much-suffering pawn used for Jesus’s ends, or just a man who made a mistake?

The play uses flashbacks to an imagined childhood and lawyers who call for the testimonies of such witnesses as Mother Teresa, Caiaphas, Saint Monica, Sigmund Freud, and Satan.

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT

by Stephen Adly Guirgis

By arrangement with Music Theatre International Australasia Pty Ltd, on behalf of Dramatists Play Service, Inc.

25 August7:30pmBurke St Studio Theatre
26 August7:30pmBurke St Studio Theatre
27 August2:30pmBurke St Studio Theatre
27 August7:30pmBurke St Studio Theatre
01 September7:30pmBurke St Studio Theatre
02 September7:30pmBurke St Studio Theatre
03 September2:30pmBurke St Studio Theatre
03 September7:30pmBurke St Studio Theatre
Queensland Conservatorium – South Bank
140 Grey St, South Brisbane
oOo
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Lots of catch ups

Have been away in Outback Queensland so now catching up on some posts. Sorry if we have missed publicising your event.

  Brisbane

  1. YOU are invited to join in at Merthyr Explorers on Wednesday 31st August Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.                                                                                      10 am for morning tea (a few contributions to this will be welcome)
    10:30 we begin our exploring of the topic.Tim O’Dwyer will share part of a 1992 tape recording of an award-winning Radio New Zealand Connexions programme (subsequently broadcast on ABC‘s Radio National). Please bring pen and paper to jot down anything which catches your attention.Tim intends to invite those present then to comment critically on what they have heard, agree or disagree on the speakers’ views and offer their own thoughts on how we might effect change within or without the Church.Neville Glasgow leads three controversial theologians in discussion – Reverend Don Cupitt, Bishop John Spong, and Lloyd Geering. Cupitt and Spong particularly have remained within the church despite being labelled as heretics by conservatives. They talk about their personal faith, dissent from the traditional Christian church, and their role as theologians.Here are wiki-links to each of these radical thinkers:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Cupitt

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shelby_Spong

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_Geering

    A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated.
    Desley Garnett

  2.           AdelaideBook launch A4 flyer

‘Charles Strong’s AUSTRALIAN
CHURCH: Christian Social Activism
1885-1917
Book Launch
Saturday 17 September at Editor: Marion Maddox


Endorsed by: Dr Norman Habel, Chair of Charles
Strong Trust
Charles Strong was a progressive Christian,
social activist, public pacifist and intellectual
genius who died more than 100 years ago
and had no time for creeds. Strong and his
wife, Janet, founded or led organisations for
causes ranging from peace to penal reform.
Join former South Australian Premier, Rev. Dr
Lynn Arnold, for the launch of this book,
followed by refreshments

Free event, but registration is required
Please book through Humanitix – at humanitix.com/au
Effective Living Centre
26 King William Road Wayville, Sth Australia
Email: office@effectiveliving.org
Phone: 08 8271 0329

3.    Melbourne

“After Jesus Before Christianity”

with Revs Dr Lorraine Parkinson, John Gunson and Dr David Merritt

Sunday 28th August 2022 from 4:00pm to 6.00pm
(A ‘Zoom only’ meeting)

What happened in the first two centuries CE after the death of Jesus?

What did groups influenced by Jesus actually do?  What attracted people to them?

A recent book by scholars of the Westar Institute reports the challenging findings of recent research.

Join our panel in reflecting on the book, and considering how it might impact our understandings and faith practices

Click here for the Zoom Link at 4.00pm

Download the flyer HERE

For further information email info@pcnvictoria.org.au

Rod Peppiatt  – PCNV Secretary

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Anglican Church in Australia splits

Anglican Church in Australia splits

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-17/australia-anglican-church-splits-over-same-sex-marriage/101341078

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjSnd6Toc35AhVR9zgGHaEcDTIQFnoECAYQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.smh.com.au%2Fnational%2Fanglican-church-splits-conservatives-form-australian-breakaway-20220816-p5bact.html&usg=AOvVaw3YODTd7arJOZrLSJEGgTXZ

Please copy and paste into your search engine.

 

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More on gender transitioning

From ABC TV

Compass explores the Australian soul – our beliefs, our ethical dilemmas and the changing face of our spirituality. Stories of individuals and communities tackling life’s big questions.

Julie Peters is a legend in the trans community in Australia and was the first person to transition at the ABC. Over the years she’s collected one of the most comprehensive trans archives in the country.

Series 36 The Accidental Archivist : ABC iview

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Event: Redcliffe (Q) Explorers

Do you, a family member or someone you know have an issue, concern or question about gender transitioning or understanding gender identity?

If so, you’re warmly invited to join the Redcliffe Explorers on Monday evening 1st August to hear a broad-ranging talk by sex therapist, relationships counsellor and sexual health educator Catherine Raff and find answers to your questions! Catherine has worked for 20 years helping teenagers, families and individuals reach their full potential connecting their life, relationships and purpose. Her numerous professional qualifications include a Master in Science in Medicine (Psychosexual Therapy), Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology), and membership of the Society of Australian Sexologists and the Australian Counselling Association. We’re pleased that one of our Explorers – Eli Best – has agreed to come and reveal some real-life experiences of his frequently traumatic journey gender-transitioning in adulthood.

We will meet in the Activities Room at the Azure Blue Retirement complex (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe) at 6 p.m. for a cuppa and chat prior to the start of proceedings at 6:30. The Centre management strongly recommends that we’re all fully Covid-vaccinated and observe mask-wearing and hand-sanitising. Of course if you have any Covid or flu-like symptoms you’re encouraged to stay at home. If you’d like to come along but aren’t a regular at our gatherings it would be advisable to give Ian a call on 0401 513 723 about access and parking arrangements, as the centre’s vehicle and pedestrian security gates will only be manned between 6 and 6:30 p.m. On-site parking is limited, but there is a spare block next door and ample street parking nearby.

Redcliffe PCN Explorer gatherings are open to everyone interested in discussing life’s big issues robustly and respectfully.

Shalom, Ian

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Event: Merthyr Road UC, New Farm, Brisbane, Q.

Brian O’Hanlon will lead our Exploration of Love.
The Love presentation is based on how did Jesus go about Loving us?  We can have a physical state of anger, or calmness; a physical state of happiness or sadness;

Is there a physical state of Love?
How do we produce this being Love?
We shall explore these questions.

Everyone is invited to join in at Merthyr Explorers on 27th July.
Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.
10 am for morning tea (a few contributions to this will be welcome)
10:30 we begin our exploring of the topic.
A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated.

I hope to have fellowship with you there, and maybe at lunch to follow at a local cafe if you can stay a little longer.

Desley Garnett

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Fiction as message: The Conversation

Something different! Grab a coffee and enjoy this story written by one of our subscribers.

The Conversation

by Paul Mavromatis

 Chapter 1 – The Restaurant

He woke, blinked at the sunlight streaming through the half opened blind louvres and pulled the covers over his head. I must make sure I close them completely tonight. Eventually he emerged stretching and reached for his watch, 6:50: A.M. The day ahead was full of promise, he knew what he had to do. It was going to be the most important conversation that he would ever have with another human being. He could not however contemplate any understanding at this time that his conversation experience, would be altogether different and beyond the reality of his frail existence.

Lucas stumbled into the kitchen and fiddled with the espresso machine. He took a slurp and grimaced. Ahh forgot the sugar again. After slipping in half a teaspoon, he sat at the television sipping his coffee and watching the early morning ABC News program. His head full of the conversation he wanted, no needed to conduct.

He called the number. No response just her voicemail. “Eleonore can you please call me when you get a moment. I want to make some time to catch up when I get back from my trip. And yeah I know we haven’t spoken in months.”

After showering and drowning his body in ‘Basil Number Four,’ he slipped into his work clothes. He shot a peek out the window. Smoky, looks like another bush fire somewhere. The days seemed an endless repetition of each other. Surely there was more to dragging your butt around doing the same thing with the same outcome.

Another Tuesday at the restaurant. The cooks and waiters were already working when he arrived. Scrambled eggs, sunny side up, omelettes, poached eggs and eggs practically hatched on the spot were flying out of the kitchen and onto customer tables. No one appreciated that an excellent restaurant like this could only perform at a high level with good organization. Highly competent management like his.

He approached the head waitress. “Hi Brianna, how’s the morning looking?”

“O hi Lucas. All good from this end but chef’s in a bad mood again,” Brianna said.

“Don’t worry I’ll check with him,” Lucas walked over to the Romano Espresso machine and hissed out another coffee. This time a short black with half a sugar, just as the barista brought back a new bag of coffee beans from the storeroom.

“Hi boss, I would’ve made that for you.” Roger poured the coffee beans into the roaring grinder.

“That’s ok Rog you’ve taught me well,” Lucas yelled above the din.

Roger smiled without lifting his eyes off the disintegrating coffee beans.

Lucas with coffee cup in hand steeled himself and entered the kitchen. “Hi chef how’s it going this morning?”

Chef a slim muscular man in his forties, with neatly trimmed ginger beard looked more like a personal trainer than someone who imbibed more food than was necessary. He fixed his gaze across clanging dishes that his kitchen staff were preparing for customers. “Those fuckwit overnight cleaners have helped themselves to another three-course meal and messed up the freezer and the kitchen area. I’ve had it with cleaning up after them each morning. Last night they used up quite a bit of my cheddar cheese and I think our supplies won’t last the whole day. You said you were goanna talk to them.”

“They arrive after we’ve all gone and I haven’t had the chance. I’ll make sure I’ll get onto it pronto,” Lucas said.

Chef frowned and turned his attention once more to a simmering pot. He grabbed a handful of cinnamon from a jar and threw it into the porridge, simultaneously stirring with a large wooden spoon in the other hand.

Lucas sauntered back out into the customer area. Some days simply didn’t have the pleasant start one would like but hey it wasn’t a bad job and besides there was always food to take home too.

He motioned to Brianna to come over and they sat in a quiet corner. “I just wanted to run through a few final things before I go on leave and make sure you’ve got all the info you need to manage while I’m away.”

“Yeah I’ll be fine. The only thing that worries me is that Chef’s likely to blow up about something. Gees he’s a miserable bastard,” Brianna said.

“He’s been going on about the overnight cleaners. I’ll talk to them before I go. Anything else he gets unhappy about, tell him you’re only filling in and I said it’ll have to wait til I get back,” Lucas said. “Anything else you need?”

“No all good. My wait staff are great and Chef’s kitchen staff are pretty good too. Nothing we won’t be able to handle,” Brianna smiled.

After the busy lunchtime period had finished, Lucas said goodbye to his staff and headed out for his 10-day holiday. It’d been a long year and he could really smell that fresh mountain air and feel the brisk nip of coolness against his face. He headed home to finish packing before heading to the airport for the evening flight.

He always made sure he had plenty of time. Sydney traffic wasn’t something you could ignore if you wanted to be anywhere on time. Better to overestimate than to be sorry. He arrived with time to spare and put through his luggage to the airline. He grabbed the umpteenth coffee of the day and sat at a table thumbing through his mobile contacts. He stopped at a photo of Eleonore. It’d been six months since they broke up but everything still felt raw. His finger hovered over her number. If he could just hear her voice again, not her recorded voice but to have a proper conversation that would’ve been really nice. A dark shadow of grief gripped his being. He shivered and washed down some more coffee as if to ward off the evil spirits.

Lucas was 38 years of age. Slinky black hair, deep brown eyes and high cheek bones had endowed him with a pleasing appearance. But he felt rootless and lost. Most of his friends were having families or at least had families and were now separated. They were connected to and meant something to someone. His life largely consisted of his work at the restaurant. He was still renting and never seemed to have much in the way of savings. It was desired but there was no one to love and be loved by.

Eleonore pushed him aside in a manner that he could never understand. She said that it wasn’t about him but that she felt restless and didn’t know what she wanted anymore. He tried reasoning. He asked if there was anything he could do to change her mind. He could be a different person for her if she told him what she needed. But Eleonore was determined to leave and during a sundrenched smokeless Saturday, the last of her things were squashed into the vehicle. She wrapped her arms around him briefly, tousled his hair and swung into the car. He stood motionless and stared as the back of the green hatchback spluttered down the street.

Lucas never noticed the beauty of that exquisite clear Saturday. His mind was a desolate shipwreck, dashed upon the rocks of despair.

 Chapter 2- Vacation

Soon he was on board the 747 winging to the Swiss Alps. He pushed his seat into recliner position and settled down to enjoy a movie. This was his holiday and he was dam well going to relax.

After a 25-hour flight via Abu Dhabi, he staggered out at Geneva airport. Lucas hated these long flights. Armpits smelling like rancid camembert and a mouth tasting like a Yorkshire bog. A bed beckoned. However, the train to Le Chable where he would meet his mountain trek group the following day, was leaving from Geneve-Aeroport via Martigny in 90 minutes. He had to steel himself for some further travel before he could rest. He passed through customs, pulled his luggage off the carousal and dragged himself into the train station café to wait for the train. There he observed the other travellers laughing and talking while the drank their coffees. They didn’t seem as washed out as himself. Perhaps they hadn’t travelled so far.

When he arrived at Le Chable, he set his google maps for Hotel Neige. Great only 350 metres. I’d kill for a beer and a bed. He threw his luggage into his room and fell on the bed. Two hours later he regained consciousness, staggered to the bathroom, stripped and had a shower. As he emerged from the shower his eye caught the view of Mont Fort from the bathroom window and he stopped almost breathless. The snow tipped mountain top appeared, postcard pretty. This really was Alps country.

The next morning packed, he assembled in the foyer to meet the rest of the trekking group and their French guide who would take them over the historic route from Verbier to Zermatt. Most of the trekkers had not yet had the opportunity to meet and relax, so the atmosphere was quiet. Each would be trekker surveyed the others. Lucas glanced about while wondering who might hold them up, who would be the group troublemaker, the pace setter and the know it all.

The twelve trekkers, a mixed bag of ages and sexes from France, Australia, Britain and Germany, led by their bi-lingual French and English-speaking guide, caught the cable car to Les Ruinettes where their trek would begin. As the group members began to unwind, the crescendo of excited chatter increased. They questioned each other about their backgrounds, careers, and interests in mountains. Combinations of French and English peppered the conversations.

They carried their full packs and straining up their first incline, the Alp du Val de Bagnes, Lucas wished he’d done a little more serious training around Sydney Park and its hills. This was going to be tough.

Everyone surfaced early the next day from their overnight bunks in their Gite at Louvie where they had stopped for their first overnighter. Lucas groaned as he sat up stretching his back and rubbing his legs. Ohhh those legs. After breakfast they set off. Today they would cross a glacier at 3000 metres and the excited laughter by the group members indicated they were looking forward to this experience.

Pierre the guide, a fit and experienced trekker and mountain climber stopped the group and addressed them as they approached the glacier. “Please use your poles and secure them into the ground for each step, as it is tres slippery on the glacier. I don’t want to lose any of you.” He smiled.

They filed one by one onto the edge of the glacier. A 500-metre drop fell below them as the track was only a metre wide. Lucas gingerly secured his pole tips and dug them into the ice as much as he could. He stepped onto the glacier and as he did, he slipped instantly knocking the poles from their precarious positions and he slid helplessly over the edge. One of his fellow trekkers screamed as she stood behind him. The guide moved carefully over to the edge and could see he had fallen onto a ledge some 30 metres below their position. He lay still with one leg balanced precariously over the edge.

The guide called out. “Lucas, Lucas can you hear me. Don’t move, don’t move.” He took out his phone and let out a deep breathe. There was reception and he immediately phoned the helicopter rescue service. Luckily, they were at the top of the glacier and a helicopter could land on stony ground some 100 metres away.

Lucas continued to lay still as the guide peered again over the edge.

   

Chapter 3 – Who Could Have Imagined

Now Lucas joined the guide and looked down at his own body. Really what am I doing here? This is really weird I must be hallucinating. He looked around and could see the speechless horror on the faces of his fellow trekkers, but they were not gazing at him. They were observing his body on the ledge below.

Soon he felt as if he was moving at incredible speed as he left that scene. The journey seemed to be sucking him along what appeared to be a tunnel. Except it didn’t have any walls. It just seemed like a tunnel. He wasn’t frightened but felt confused about what he was experiencing. Maybe it was a dream but he sensed somehow that it was real.

After some time, his movement slowed and he came to a gradual stop. There in front of him stood Eleonore. He tried to speak to her but didn’t have that ability.

“No, no-one is really dead here. You don’t need your body with all its imperfections. You’re here right now for a reason and that will be made clear to you.” Eleonore communicated with him but via his thoughts.

There were no verbal words and she had answered the question he had been thinking.

He tried to speak again but made no sound.

“You’re asking why I’m here! We can’t speak just think what you want to say. I can read you and you can read me. This is where I need to be. I know I hurt you and I’m sorry for that but here you will not experience any hurt,” Eleonore communicated.

“But I don’t understand why are we meeting in this place? Where is this?” Lucas craned his neck to look around but only a void existed. There was no landmark of any description. Just himself and Eleonore.

“You and I have met so that I can apologise to you for the pain I caused you and to let you know there are no ill feelings here. But you must go now. You’re going to meet someone who will be able to answer the questions you had on your mind before you even came here. Goodbye Lucas,” Eleonore disappeared into the distance.

“Wait a minute!” Lucas had so many questions he wanted to ask Eleonore.

However, he seemed to be moving again and in the distance he saw a bright light approaching him. The light was so bright he shielded his eyes although he was not sure how he did that. Then the light faded. In front of him stood a Being. The Being exuded tranquility that touched Lucas deeply. He wore clothes so white they were luminous and he communicated with Lucas also via thoughts.

“I am here to answer some of your questions,” The Being communicated. “The first question you have been asking is:”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” 

Lucas floated or stood he wasn’t sure in a transfixed state.

The Being continued: “Your question seems to pre-suppose that God if he existed would step in and stop those bad things. God gave people free will along with an enormous ability to do good to others. If everyone did that, there would be no wars, no hunger, no suffering. People would not do bad things to each other. He/She left us with guidance and directions about how that might happen and gifted us free will so we would not be enslaved. Unfortunately, some people choose to treat others badly including kill them. He/She also chooses not to intervene necessarily. Although having said that, people do attest to miraculous experiences in their lives. So, some people may attribute certain actions to God’s intervention and others may attribute certain miraculous happenings as chance or good luck. Why for some and not others? You’d have to ask God about that. But that is not for you to know at this time.”

“I guess I think about all those people in the world who experience wars and abject poverty in third world countries who never have a chance at any good life. Little children who die of starvation and war. It just doesn’t seem fair,” Lucas said.

“No, it isn’t and God has given all people the power to stop all that, but that is not the choice of many,” the Being said.

“Your next question,” the Being said.

“Why does everything seem to go against me?”

“Your question pre-supposes that you are having a bad life. Are you really? One of your own community, Tim Costello summed it up beautifully calling it the ‘lottery of life.’ For example, why might one person be born into a family of wealth and privilege as opposed to a starving person somewhere in Africa or a woman in Afghanistan whose options in life in some instances may best equate to slavery. Again, God has given humanity a guide to love and if love was followed, everyone would win this lottery of life.”

“I know I shouldn’t be saying this but it sounds like God couldn’t be bothered with us again once he created the world. Sounds like he said. There you go, now look after yourselves. But we didn’t quite have the resources to do it.” Lucas winced at his own criticism of God.

“On the contrary God loves each and every person and gave all people the ability to choose love for others or greed for one’s own needs which excludes the pain of others. That is the root of the problem,” the Being said. “I’ll get on with the next one, shall I?”

 “I feel like I’ve been a good person (or tried to be) but haven’t felt rewarded for it and life has felt like a slog?”

It seems to me this one is less about God and more about your own life’s frustrations. First of all, how we want to live our life and how God has given us a guide about how to live our life may be two different journeys. This is bound to cause us unhappiness. It’s like a child who at a moment close to mealtime seeks a sweet from its parent. The parent has prepared a meal and knows that what the child needs is not the sweet but the meal to grow healthy and strong. The parent does not give the child what the child seeks and so the child is miserable.

The Being was suddenly quiet as if ‘listening’ and then continued “I have a question for you. What sort of reward would you like? A pat on the back, more money, more satisfaction with what you want to achieve? A useful book to read is called ‘Feel the Fear and Do It.’ The author identifies that life’s frustrations are simply a part of life. She suggests the best option instead of continuing to hit one’s head against the brick wall because a particular outcome is desired but not happening, is to consider other less palatable options and see where that journey leads. Perhaps it is one of those other journeys where you might feel ‘rewarded,” The Being said.

“You seem to be saying that we need to take more responsibility for the decisions we make in life and that God isn’t necessarily going to be supportive because we think He should be,” Lucas said.

The Being responded no further but continued: “Your next question was”:

“I want to communicate with God but I feel that no-one is listening and I’m screaming into the void.”

The Being beamed and an indescribable warmth and a sense of serenity firstly enveloped Lucas and then almost as if he were a human sponge seeped into all the nooks of his inner self. The power and unexpected nature of his experience rocked him and he wished with all his essence that he could stay in this wonderful state.

The Being stood in silence for a period observing Lucas and then appeared closer. “You have just been given a great gift. He/She is always listening. This is a difficult question to answer in a few words. There are certainly books you can read and groups you can join who can teach you how to talk to God, but more importantly how to listen. You are not going to necessarily hear a voice. But if you learn to ‘listen’ with all your senses and intuition, it is possible to ‘hear’ from God. However, God chooses how and when He/She might communicate. So, it may require lots of patience but also an openness to recognize when God is communicating with you. It could be through an event that brings the answer for example. Or through a friend or work colleague who speaks to you with the answer, even though that friend is having a normal conversation with you and is not aware that they have given you valuable direction.  Having said all that, the answer may not be the one you would like to hear. So, in fact you might end up not ‘hearing’ the answer as it is not the one you expect or desire.”

Lucas now noticed that the Being continued to exude the serenity that had previously overwhelmed Lucas and the wisdom of his words permeated Lucas’s mind in the same way that tranquility had soaked into him previously.

The Being continued “This connection with God will not generally be served to you on a platter while you do no preparation in seeking God. It may seem like a very long time before you understand that you have connected. This is a great gift from God and has to be earned.”

Lucas still tingling with indescribable joy had no follow up question this time as he processed what he was hearing.

The Being smiled once more and gazed into the distance of the void “For your next questions I have to pass you on to someone more senior than myself.”

The Being moved away as if floating and disappeared into the distance. Lucas sensed that he was somehow on the move again and almost instantly appeared in front of another light. This time the light was so bright he could not discern anything else. Lucas sought cover from the light but there was none. The light faded but did not entirely extinguish, so that he could not clearly observe the source of the light.

A new voice entered his thoughts so welcoming that Lucas felt instantly at ease and drawn towards the Being who exuded perfect wisdom.

“You say that you’ve never had proof that God exists (even though you’ve been asking).”

This sounds like you would like God to play under the rules you set. For example, you say to God. “I’ll believe in you if you prove that you exist.” Your faith therefore depends on whether God is going to meet your demand. Sounds like blackmail. Don’t you think? Perhaps God chooses to ignore such approaches. There is a relevant story about Jesus in the bible. He was addressing a crowd and he is quoted: “I perform great wonders and miracles in the name of God in front of your eyes but still you do not believe.” Perhaps if you were given proof you too might respond like that crowd.”

Lucas was filled with awe and a longing to stay and listen and learn. He had never heard words with so much power and meaning.

“You have four more questions and I shall proceed to answer them,” the Being said. “Your next question is:”

What’s my purpose in life? I feel rudderless.

“Ahhh this is the question that plays on the mind and efforts of so many humans. There are many and varied proposals by people themselves about the purpose but it is simple.

When you live your life without connection to God, then your existence is indeed rudderless. This sense of purposelessness is all pervasive. There is ‘something missing.’ You yearn for a completeness that only a relationship with God brings. Of course, there are aspects of life that bring great satisfaction. A family, children, good friends, enough money, an interesting career, hobbies, being creative, all offer much joy. But ultimately in our quiet moments we know something is missing.

So, God’s plan for all humanity is to connect with Him/Her and in that way your purpose becomes clear. You learn to understand and cease to feel rudderless as you put it. A real sense of inner peace and contentedness becomes the dominant antidote to the sense of purposelessness.

You must make the effort to build your knowledge through reading and talking to others who are exploring their relationship with God. In short if you are waiting for a lightning bolt to hit you so that you may learn your purpose then it’s possible, but highly unlikely. You must make that effort and if patient you may be surprised at the result.

The simple answer to the purpose of life is LOVE. Make love and care for others, the centre of life and decision making and you will be expressing the essence of who God is. Take this love connection also to your relationship with God. This is the core purpose of your life and although it does not guarantee your life will be smooth sailing, your will feel less discombobulated and clearer eyed about the meaning of your existence.

All this new knowledge seemed to be pouring into Lucas almost simultaneously. It was as if time was standing still and he knew this was where he wanted to stay.

“You are giving me this information for what purpose? It doesn’t seem to me that I have earned the right to know these things,” Lucas said.

“All will make sense to you in time.” The Being nodded to Lucas. “Let’s go to your next question:”

“You ask if you have a predestined path in life and if so, does it matter what you do in terms of your actions. If your fate is already laid out, are you in fact even answerable to a higher being and do you have to take responsibility for your actions. Or is life simply a series of random events and we’re all thrown into the mix together?”

“My first response here to your question regarding a predetermined path is that you should remember as we discussed earlier that you have free will. If that’s the case then your path is not predetermined. You have a lot of control over how you live your life. In situations in life where that control is more limited, say where someone does not have enough to eat, the individual still has some control over how she/he lives and copes or even takes their last breath on Earth in that difficult situation. So, for those like yourself who have more than you need, then you should be sharing it with those who have less and this improves their control over their life.

So, if your path was predetermined you may as well fold your arms, sit down and not bother about anything. You always have options and can decide which one. Of course, each option has consequences, some positive and others not so.

“You ask if you have responsibility for your actions?” The Being said.

Of course, you do. You can choose of your free will to drive on the wrong side of the road at 100 kph if you want, but ultimately whatever the outcome of that is, it will be your responsibility.”

“You also ask if you are answerable to a higher being?”

“As a part of the free will you have been granted, you have also been given a conscious to help you be answerable first and foremost to yourself. Are you doing what you know deep down is right? Or is it bothering and unsettling you that you haven’t acted correctly regarding some issue or in some situation? So, you are answerable to yourself and God has gifted you a conscious voice so that you can act appropriately and live a peaceful and loving life, that then impacts positively on others around you.

“The final part of this multi part question is around whether you have a higher purpose?” The Being said.

“Again, here there is some overlap with what we have discussed earlier. Our higher purpose is to love as much as we can not only those friends or relatives but all people round us. Ultimately our purpose is to also connect with and love God who loves us and gives us life. God will help with this aim should we seek that help. But we must be open to the fact that help may not necessarily come in the form we would like or expect. If I am a farmer praying for rain because it has not rained and my crops are thirsty, I may ask for God’s help. But my farmer neighbor who lives next to the river is praying it does not rain because if it does the river will rise and flood his house and crops. Our needs are complex, and God acts in a manner to connect with us in His/Her way, not necessarily our way.

Lucas sensed that they were coming to the end of their conversation. He felt no impatience and although he didn’t quite understand why he was granted such wonderful wisdom, he felt like the parameters of the universe had stretched way beyond his imagination.

“Your final question is about why people believe in the ‘fairy’ in the sky and are willing to go to war over disagreements about a mythical being,” the Being said.

 “First of all, I’m not sure God perceives a role as a ‘fairy’. Let’s say people are going to war on behalf of God to defend the beliefs that they possess about God. Well, that is a choice they make that is not rooted in any perspective that is God. These warring sides have missed the main message about God. God is God of love not war. The warring factions in such a situation are using God as an excuse to go to war. They may even believe that God is on their side. This loving God does not support war. It goes against everything my father believes in. So, if war is conducted in His/Her name, it is something that humans are using to give credibility to their violent actions.

The ideas that Lucas had been hearing in his thoughts were more than words, they were existence itself. He felt at one with the world. The constant accompanying feeling of stillness and love and joy was beyond description. He did not want to lose this indescribable sense of singularity with the being who had addressed him and with what he could sense were many others around him.

“You have another question,” the Being said.

Yes, I refer to my Father as He/She. Gender differentiation is a human construct and God is not confined by human concepts.

I have answered your questions and the reason for your experience here will come in time. When that time arrives, your life will be very different from the one that you have known. You must return for now to your earthly existence. You have been given a great gift,” the Being said.

Before he could respond, Lucas felt himself drawn once more along what he could only describe later as the same tunnel he had previously travelled to arrive at his destination. He found himself emerge at the mountain scene. His body had been rescued and now lay at the top of the mountain. Paramedics were counting and pumping furiously on his chest. The members of his trekking group stood around in various states of distress. He did not have long to witness this scene before he zoomed back into his body. This final awkward and painful conversion drew the boundary between the joy of a perfect existence and the turmoil of earthly life.

“Il est revenue….il est revenue.” He heard the paramedics shout as he regained consciousness. The pain in his body whacked him. What had previously been a calm and painless existence as he communicated with the bright light Beings, had disintegrated into disturbing noise and suffering. To top it off an unimaginable sorrow gripped his heart. Why did I have to come back? As he sucked in air, his lungs burned and his ribs sent throbbing spasms shooting into his thorax. He tried to move his legs and the paramedics caught his right leg and began to fasten a splint to it. His head throbbed. But worst of all was the misery of being back in his body. How could he ever regain the beauty of what he had experienced.

Chapter 4 – Back to Earth

A week later he was discharged from the closest hospital and after two more days he flew back to Sydney and was admitted to Westmead hospital for observation and further MRI’s. He was nursing five broken ribs, a broken leg, and more seriously a fractured skull. In more ways than one this had not been the trip he had imagined.

He called his work. Hi Brianna. “I’m back but they’re keeping me in hospital for a few days so I’m going to need some more sick leave. Are you able to handle things there for another week or so?”

“Sure, but how you going? It sounded like quite some accident when your mother called me?” Brianna asked.

“I’m getting there but tours that include mountain falls shouldn’t be popular really.” Lucas said.

“Sounded nasty. Ok keep in touch and look after yourself. Chef’s been the usual pain here but he’s gotten used to me telling he’ll have to wait and moan to you when you get back,” Brianna said.

“Great can’t wait. Anyway, hopefully catch up with you guys’ next week. See ya.” Lucas clicked off the phone.

He sat quietly remembering his contact with Eleonore. She had been on his mind constantly while recuperating in France and he needed to chat with her. He hadn’t spoken to her since they had broken up six months previously but he craved to share his experience with her. After all, it was out of the ordinary and she had been a part of it. He called her number but there was no answer. He tried calling several times over the next two days but still no response. Finally, his need had built to such a degree that he put aside all reticence he had about calling Eleonore’s mother.

‘Hi Katherine, its Lucas I’m sorry to disturb you. I’ve been trying to contact Eleonore but she’s not answering.

There was silence at Katherine’s end.

“Katherine, Katherine are you still there?” Lucas’s tone increased an octave.

“Is this a joke. It’s really not funny,” Katherine said.

No seriously I need to speak to her. I know we haven’t spoken for months but I really need to touch base with her.

“Lucas don’t you know, Eleonore passed away in a car accident about a couple of months after you two broke up,” Katherine said.

Now it was Lucas’s turn to be speechless. “What…….are you serious? Where did this happen? No doesn’t matter. O my God……. I’m so sorry Katherine I didn’t mean to stir things up for you.”

“You know she never really stopped loving you. She just needed time to work a whole lot of things out but time………I’ve got to go…….. Goodbye Lucas.” Katherine’s voice began to crack as she hung up.

Lucas sat with the phone in his lap desperately trying to process the news. This was all too much.

The experience I had on the mountain….and Eleonore, dead. There was a message in this experience but what is it? I have more to do in life. I’ve been given another chance. My questions about the meaning of life were answered but I feel more confused than ever. It’s as if I should have died up there on the mountain but I was sent back to do something. If only I knew what. O hell I miss Eleonore. I wish I hadn’t come back.

 Chapter 5 – Two Years Later

Lucas held the bottle in his lap and shot a glance in the direction of the front door as the key turning heralded the opening. Ava entered and tossed her bag onto the lounge. “Don’t tell me you’ve lost another one,” Ava said.

A mildly slurring Lucas focused on the kitchen bench across the room from Ava’s position. “Don’t start again, just don’t.”

“What do you mean don’t start again. Every time we start to get back on our feet again, you lose another job,” Ava said.

“I’ll get another one. Those bastards don’t deserve a good manager like me,” Lucas said.

“Yeah but they deserve a sober one. This is the fourth job you’ve had in two years. I’m surprised they put up with you this long,” Ava said.

Lucas rubbed his nose. “I’m a bloody good restaurant manager and I’ve never…. ever let a little tipple interfere with my good management. Any staff meber…. meber…. member that needed me I was there for them. I sorted the customers too.”

“Well, I can’t go on like this. You’ve got to get some support for your drinking or I’m getting out of here. I can’t take this anymore Lucas. I’ve just managed to recover financially from your last sacking. Now I’m going to have to cover the fucking rent and all those bills by myself again.”

“I’ll get another job you’ll see. I always do,” Lucas said.

“That’s not the point anymore I want you to stop drinking. Its two years since your horrible accident but that doesn’t mean you need to keep feeling sorry for yourself. For fuck’s sake you were given another chance on that mountain and you’re determined not to take it.” Ava said. “When I first met you just after you recovered from your accident, I didn’t realise you drank like a fish. My old man drank himself to death early in life and you look like you’re going to do the same.”

“Ohh leave me alone will you,” Lucas said.

“Yep that thought is crossing my mind more and more. I’m going to leave it for now because It’s no use talking to you while you’re pissed,” Ava said.

***

Ava marched into the bedroom and closed the door behind her. She sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the mauve hydrangea outside the bedroom window. It had been a tough couple of years since she first nursed Lucas in hospital. Fresh from his mountain accident, he didn’t display then the sense of hopelessness that pervaded his waking moments since. He had confided in Ava and in hushed tones of awe told her about his miraculous meeting with his dead ex-girlfriend and the beings of light.

In her professional capacity she had nursed many physically and emotionally damaged individuals but none like this gentle soul as he struggled to understand his supernatural experience. Her feelings towards him intensified in the weeks following his hospital release. This was the one for her. They moved in together but as the months passed, she began to understand that although she could help heal his physical wounds, his emotional injuries lay outside of her powers.

***

Lucas slunk into an inebriated unconscious sleep and the following rolled out across his deeply disturbed hippocampus.  In the pub he met a man who told him he had been tortured in his home country because of his minority religious beliefs. He had fled to Australia leaving behind his wife and two daughters. He cried as he asked Lucas to help him get them to Australia. Lucas downed his last drop, apologised that he couldn’t help the man and exited the pub. Sitting on the footpath outside the door he almost tripped over a woman with her dirty handkerchief laid out in front of her next to a sign that read: “I have no one and nothing, if you could spare a little change I would very much appreciate your help.” Lucas read the sign and walked on. He staggered on into the night past the late-night open shops and a man in a wheelchair outside the IGA stuck out a hand with a bunch of pens. “Sir would you buy a pen to help people with a disability.”

Lucas rolled over on the sofa, still sozzled but now half conscious, stewing in the disturbance of his dreams. He tried to close out his thoughts and emotions as he tossed restlessly. His pores infused the sheets with the sweaty stench of beer and gin.

As dawn shot the first rays of light through the open blind widows of Lucas’s neighbourhood, he wobbled off the lounge where he had sat before unconsciousness claimed him. First to the bathroom where the contents of his bladder could have replenished the dam. Then off into the kitchen. He collapsed on a stool balancing precariously and rested his hands against his cheeks. What a shit life. A coffee, strong black no sugar beckoned but standing up at the kitchen was a journey too hard.

Ava entered the kitchen rubbing her eyes.  You didn’t come to bed and you look just great. A coffee might help I suppose?”

Lucas rounded up a sheepish smile and nodded. He pulled himself off the stool and collapsed at a kitchen chair. He watched as Ava plopped the coffee capsule into the coffee maker and winced at the sound of the noisy machine.

Ava pressed the hot cup into his hand and proceeded to fix herself a coffee also. She sat at an adjoining kitchen chair and observed Lucas as he sipped his coffee. Neither spoke for some time until Lucas breached the silence.

“You know I can’t exactly think straight right now, but I had this dream last night that keeps playing over and over in my mind and it’s really important. I just don’t know what it means exactly,” Lucas said.

Ava downed the last drop of her coffee. “I hope you figure it out. I’m off to a shower and some breakfast. Although you and your Niagara Falls have woken me pretty early so I can get ready for work in a relaxed state of exhaustion for a change.”

Lucas lay down and drifted off once more, only to rouse around midday. Shit I’ve been asleep all day. Instantly that dream insisted itself into his being. He fried some eggs, added toast and sat contemplating the dreams once more. I know that was a message. But what is it? Instinctively he walked over to the fridge and reached for an inviting beer. His arm froze in the fridge before he could touch the beer can. I need to think. He pulled out the water bottle instead and poured a cool glass of water. Another coffee sounded good, this time not the horrible black stuff but with milk. Ahhhh no milk. He headed off to the local IGA and as he approached a man sitting outside in a wheelchair thrust a handful of pens at him. “Please buy a pen to support people with disabilities.”

Lucas froze to the spot. This was surreal. Am I dreaming again? The man withdrew his pens.

“Do you know me,” Lucas felt his saliva seemingly the size of a golf ball stick in his throat.

“No this isn’t my usual spot. My organization has decided to try some different locations to grow our exposure to the public,” the man said.

“Tell me about your organization,” Lucas said.

“The ‘Care Centre’ is run by a fabulous bunch of mainly volunteers who provide a range of services like temporary overnight accommodation. It has a kitchen with hot meals at least once a day although we mighten be able to continue the kitchen and also the centre provides clean new clothes. All sort of people come there, some are homeless, some have disabilities, some aren’t well for all sorts of reason. Sometimes we get single mums and their kids trying to get way from a particular bastard whose abusing them,” the man said.

“What’s wrong with your kitchen?” Lucas asked.

“Nothing really, it’s just that we lost our cook and the other volunteers don’t feel capable of running a kitchen for a couple hundred people each day,” the man said.

Lucas felt his knees wobbling and this time alcohol had nothing to do with his reaction. “So, are you saying they need help to keep the kitchen going?” Lucas said

“I guess so.”

“Can you give me the address. I might be able to help,” Lucas said.

“Sure.”

The next day Lucas showered early.

“What do I owe this enthusiastic company to,” Ava said.

“Don’t know I’ll tell you tonight if it all works out,” Lucas said.

Ava sighed and continued with her breakfast.

Lucas walked with purpose. The Care Centre was only two kilometres from his home. He arrived as the centre volunteers were rousing their activities. He could smell frying breakfast snags as he entered. Dozens of people some clean and neat, others disheveled and beyond any concern about their own appearance were cuing up for breakfast. Lucas headed towards the volunteers behind the counter.

A woman with a well-rounded figure adorned by a blue dress covered in an explosion of white carnations looked up. “I’m afraid you’ll need to get in the queue darling,” as she pointed in the desired direction.

“No, I’m not here for the meal. I’m wondering if I could help,” Lucas said.

“Ohhh.” The woman stopped banging plates onto the counter and observed Lucas closely. “In that case hop over this side. I’m sure we can find you something to do,” The woman handed Lucas a spatula. “Maybe you could shovel the scrambled eggs onto each person’s plate as they approach.”

As the last of the diners straggled away and the volunteers washed up, the woman buried in carnations asked. “How did you hear about us?”

Lucas explained and mentioned the trouble with the kitchen.

“Yes, unfortunately a cooked breakfast is the most we can handle alone. But not everyone makes it to breakfast so some of the people we used to offer a cooked meal at lunch or dinner time don’t get any hot meal,” the woman said.

Lucas mentioned that his experience had been around managing restaurants and offered to help.

“We can’t pay anything you know,” the woman said.

“I know,” Lucas said. “That’s not why I’m interested.”

That evening Lucas cooked dinner and set the table. Ava returned from work and stopped in her tracks as she entered their open plan living area. Lucas’s grin lit the space like beacon.

“I thought it about time I took some responsibility around here,” Lucas said.

“I promise I won’t try and talk you out of some responsibility.” Ava wide eyed dropped her things on the lounge.

Over dinner Lucas recounted his dream and the experience with the man in the wheelchair and finally the ‘Care Centre.’

“I think this community centre is what I’m supposed to be doing. Its why God gave me this second chance at life. I can’t waste any more time. I had other signs these last couple of years but I just never noticed them.”

“Yeah you were too busy drinking,” Ava said.

“I know I know,” Lucas bowed his head.

“So that’s all good and I’m really glad for you but you know we can’t afford the rent and all the bills just on my wage,” Ava said.

“I’ve thought about that. I’m going to get work as night relief manager for whichever restaurant needs a fill in when their manager is sick or on holidays or whatever. I’ve already put my name down at an agency that specialises in restaurant staff placements. They said people with my experience are rare so I should be able to get regular casual work and the night work pays better. That way I can manage the Care kitchen during the day and get those hot meals back on again for lunch. So many people rely on those meals,” Lucas said.

“Wow look at you, you’re flying. What about us? Where will there be time for us in all this?”

Lucas pushed his chair back and walked behind Ava. He threw his arms around her as she sat. “You have put up with all my shit for the last couple of years. You deserve my appreciation……I do love you, you know and I promise I’m going to make sure there is an us. It’s been all about me this last couple of years and I don’t ever want it to just be about me again.

“What about your drinking?” Ava asked.

“I’ve already joined AA. I know that’ll be hard but I expect I may have some help from above too.” Lucas smiled. “Already I feel…… even when I get the urge that I really don’t need that stuff anymore.”

Ava placed her hands tentatively over his arms as they had continued to envelop her. “I don’t want to put provisos on this but I need you to really understand I can’t live the way we have up to now. I so hope we can make this happen.”

“We can with the right support and I know we’ll get it.” Lucas stared at the far wall at the Ichthys symbol of the fish on the wall plate. “I know we will.”

oOo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured post

Connecting up people in isolation

Our efforts to find people who would like to be in an email discussion group because they can’t access any of our seminars has not at this stage produced significant numbers. The invitation still stands. We had a handful of people who like the idea but this is really not enough to generate worthwhile conversations. In the meantime we will interpret this as telling us that the regular posts from the UCFORUM are providing most people with all they need. We are always open to suggestions.

Regards,

Paul

Featured post

Meetings coming up at the St Lucia Group (Brisbane)

St Lucia Spirituality Group
Newsletter July 2022

Greetings

Our recent meeting in June on the subject of meditation was well attended and provoked much discussion. Consequently, at our July meeting we shall turn our attention to Praying with Scripture.

Each of us has had a personal experience of Scripture that can vary from passive listening to deep contemplation. The common Catholic experience was to hear Scripture at Mass and to have it unpacked for its meaning by a priest. Many did not discuss the sermon after church, so were effectively “taught” to be passive listeners. Vatican II encouraged Catholics to adopt an active and contemplative approach to Scripture by reading the Bible on a regular basis at home and reflecting upon it. Anecdotally, it seems that only a small percentage took up that challenge.

In our next meeting we will examine three aspects of praying with Scripture.

  1. Rules for reading Scripture for accurate meaning
  2. Reading Scripture with Commentary
  3. The traditional practice of Lectio Divina

Our focus will be on Lectio Divina. We will briefly outline the practice and then provide a recommended scriptural passage to help you experience this practice before our meeting. Our meeting will focus mainly on member’s experience of using this process.

At our following meeting in August, we will focus on the Ignatian practice of imagining oneself inside the Gospel scene.

There is no single best way to pray with Scripture. Through the next two meetings, we hope to give you some well-established methods for improving your understanding of Scripture and deepening your experience of it and therefore of God.

Plenary Council of Australia – Second General Assembly

Many of you will be aware that the Second General Assembly took place in Sydney on 3-9 July. This is a significant event in the life of the Catholic Church in Australia and, just like the Anglican Synod that we reported on in May, it had its moments of controversy. You can find the final motions and voting at https://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/. Significantly, the Council passed landmark motions to elevate the status of women in the Church. See https://catholicleader.com.au/news/australias-plenary-council-passes-landmark-motions-to-elevate-women-in-the-church/

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting – Praying with Scripture Part 1

Our Episode 10 meeting will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 26 July. To register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.

If you would like a copy of our pre-reading material, simply email us. It is also available on our Facebook page. There is no obligation to join our meeting.

Butterfly Series – What’s Next?

Our practice has been to introduce the content of our meetings through our newsletters and then provide pre-reading material to those who register for our meetings on Zoom. However, we are aware that there is interest in our activities amongst some who observe from a distance or who do not wish to participate in Zoom meetings. Consequently, we are examining some options whereby we can access relatively short videos through links to the internet so that anyone receiving our newsletter can watch them if they wish. In this way, we can disseminate the material we are considering more widely. Those who wish to examine these ideas further can then meet for discussion online via our Zoom meetings. Or over coffee.

If you are aware of any videos or podcasts we could use for this purpose please let us know.

 Our Facebook Page

The St Lucia Spirituality Group is a community seeking to develop a more mature understanding of what lies at the core of spiritual beliefs, embracing explanations for the nature, meaning and purpose of life. We currently have 35 members, of whom about half are active. Interaction is the lifeblood of a community. Therefore, we wish to encourage you to make posts on Facebook about questions you are considering, books you have read or interesting podcasts you have listened to. Furthermore, we would ask you to invite friends who you believe may be interested in spiritual enquiry and development to join us. You could share this newsletter and invite others to our next meeting.

We invite you to find our FB group by clicking on this link, it will take you to our page where you will be able to apply to join.

If you are not a Facebook user, we can help you set up your account with maximum privacy, you can be anonymous and even use a nick name or an alias if you wish. Consult Robert or John if you want help.

You can also contact us by email slsg4067@gmail.com.

Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik

oOo

Featured post

The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria
invites you to join
Dr Val Webb
in
“The view from where I stand today”
Reflections on life, context, and theology
Sunday 24th July 2022, 4:00pm to 6.00pm.
(A ‘Zoom only’ Meeting)


Dr Val Webb is an Australian theologian who has worked in the USA and
Australia and written ten books. Val has a long association with PCNV,
having attended its inaugural meeting and spoken here many times.
In this video made last year during COVID for Perth Progressives, Val
reflects on issues on her mind. What made each of us “us”, the good
and the bad? How have our minds changed over the years and why?
She reflects on ageing, agreeing and disagreeing with books written
about it. She talks about losses with retirement and wonders about our
“spirituality” if our minds diminish.

And what of churches – institution, congregations, ordination – as
numbers decline? Given institutional emphasis on attracting the young,
what of the elderly holding these churches together while waiting for the
young – their financial and physical struggles while also caring for partners?
Val will join via zoom for discussion after the presentation.

The Zoom link for this meeting is:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85307260734?pwd=Zy9JN0NuaHFzVWVYMDRseDgwcFBkdz09

Open by copying above link and paste into your browser.
(If needed, the Meeting ID is 853 0726 0734, and the Passcode is 699541)

This is a free PCNV event

Everyone Welcome

oOo

Featured post

The Role of Imagination and Theology in the Public Space.

This book explores the vital role of the imagination in today’s complex climates—cultural, environmental, political, racial, religious, spiritual, intellectual, etc. It asks: What contribution do the arts make in a world facing the impacts of globalism, climate change, pandemics, and losses of culture? What wisdom and insight, and orientation for birthing hope and action in the world, do the arts offer to religious faith and to theological reflection?

These essays, poems, and short reflections—written by art practitioners and academics from a diversity of cultures and religious traditions—demonstrate the complex cross-cultural nature of this conversation, examining critical questions in dialogue with various art forms and practices, and offering a way of understanding how the human imagination is formed, sustained, employed, and expanded. Marked by beauty and wonder, as well as incisive critique, it is a unique collection that brings unexpected voices into a global conversation about imagining human futures.

Imagination in an Age of Crisis: Soundings from the Arts and Theology. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2022.

Available now at a special introductory price of 40% off. Use the code “Crisis40” at checkout through Wipf & Stock, or through customer service by phone (1-541-344-1528), or via email.

The Editors

Rev Dr Rod Pattenden is an artist, art historian, and educational facilitator interested in the connection between spirituality and the arts. He has written and lectured widely on these aspects of the arts and creativity in Australia and overseas.

He was for many years the chairperson of the Blake Prize for Religious Art and a founding Director of InterPlay Australia.

He has particular strengths in the areas of the visual arts, performance skills, movement and exploring the processes of creativity. Rod has a BA Visual Arts (Arts Practice), M Phil (Art History), M Theol (Hons), PhD and a Dip Ed. For more information about Rod go to Rod Pattenden.

Rev Associate Professor Jason Goroncy teaches in the area of Systematic Theology at Whitley College. He has served as pastor in Baptist and Uniting churches, and held academic positions in Thailand, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

He holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Melbourne, a Bachelor of Theology and an Advanced Diploma of Ministry from the Melbourne College of Divinity, and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of St Andrews (Scotland).

For more information about Jason Goroncy go to Jason Goroncy.

Rod says:

It is a rich collection of articles on culture and religion interspersed with reflections by artist and poets. A global collection that includes many Australian contributors plus leading international voices. Richly illustrated in colour – it will be of wide interest to those who take a progressive approach to faith and are interested in the role of imagination and theology in the public space.

oOo

 

Featured post

Book Review: Don Cupitt’s “The Meaning of the West”

Thanks to Peter Robinson for recalling this review after attending our very stimulating seminar last week with the Merthyr Explorers. If you can’t find time to read the whole review, key statements are highlighted and indented.

Greg Spearritt reviews The Meaning of the West: An Apologia for Secular Christianity (SCM, 2008) by Don Cupitt

(Reviewed April 2009)

Does Australia feel like the Kingdom of God to you? Would America? Okay, how about Sweden?

A decade ago Australian sociologist John Carroll declared the West all at sea and “lost in a crisis of meaning”. 1. He has subsequently traced the cause of the crisis to the unravelling of the mythos and authority of religion which once held everything together.2. Postmodernism and humanism, for Carroll, have much to answer for.

In stark contrast, Don Cupitt in his latest book argues that the postmodern, humanistic West just is Christianity nowadays. It’s the inheritor of Christianity, the logical and unravelled end point, the Kingdom Come (to quote another Cupitt title), and it is to be embraced and celebrated.

Who to believe?

West is best

I’ve heard people talk of exotic locations around the world as very special places that are still in touch – and can put you in touch – with the sacred, that essential dimension of life so often said to be missing from good ol’ Australian (or American, British etc.) materialist culture. I’m thinking of Angkor Wat, Mandalay, Kathmandu, Luxor and Mecca. But I haven’t heard of too many Western folk who actually want to move permanently to those places, or for that matter to anywhere outside the fold of progressive, liberal-democratic Western countries. There are plenty from elsewhere, however, who desperately want to live in the West.

And for good reason. They may not be perfect, but Western societies look after their own like no-one  else does, including their weaker members and even those who dissent from prevailing political or social views. (Would you rather be gay in Abuja, Riyadh, Beijing or Sydney?) Western technology is the envy of the rest of the world, even of people like Osama bin Laden who use it to attack the West. Western medicine gives us an ever-longer, healthier lifespan. Western governments actively seek the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of their people and contribute to the well-being of the world’s poorest through (relatively) string-free aid budgets. (That’s not to mention the work of Western NGOs such as Oxfam, Red Cross, Amnesty International and Medicins sans Frontieres.) The West is innovative, constantly on the move, and – most important of all? – it loves life wholeheartedly.

For all of this, says Cupitt, we have the Christian tradition to thank.

We’re all Christian now

Western humanitarianism, for example, is a straightforward continuation of Christian ethics and derives ultimately from Jesus, who was “quite uninterested in dogma and cared only for the ethics of human relationships – and especially, for our response to a fellow human in need.” (140) Jesus’ unique attitude to women is the reason we have women’s shelters which, unless run by Westerners, are not to be found in the Middle East.

To be clear, this is not the old Church-Christianity at work:

The Church clings to its old inefficiencies, discriminations and injustices, and repeatedly demands for itself opt-outs from legislation that would require it to get its treatment of its own employees, women, gays and other groups up to decent contemporary secular standards. (34)

Organised Christian religion, always intended as a stop-gap measure, cannot let go of influence and power and deliver the final redemption from itself that it promised:

[I]n the traditional language of theology, Christ has returned and the Church is obsolete (though, as Dostoyevsky foresaw, the Grand Inquisitor is far from pleased; he loves the Church and spiritual power much more than he ever loved Christ). (10)

No, we have now what a dying Christian tradition has bequeathed: the secular West, vibrant, post-metaphysical, non-theistic and with a radical vision of the Kingdom of God. Contra Carroll, the very fibre of the West is infused with religion: it’s Christian to the core.

The place of religion in our lives “is now taken just by an intense, quasi-religious love of life and the assiduous cultivation of life skills”. (2) This world is what matters, not some future supernatural home. Cupitt contrasts the West with a theocentric, disciplinarian and less humanistic Islam: “The Islamist”, he says, “loves death, but the Westerner loves life”. (9) In truth, you see very few Australian, American or European suicide bombers.

The ancient biblical dream of a blessed future world, however, is alive and well in the West. Secular peace and prosperity for ordinary folk: that’s the goal, derived from a Christian theology of history which informed the Enlightenment view of steady historical progress. Our “indelible” belief in the betterment of ourselves and our society, says Cupitt, is Christian through and through.

Another major distinguishing feature of the West is the importance accorded to reason and critical thinking. In science and technology Western societies are second to none. Why so?

The monotheistic Judaeo-Christian tradition taught us that there is one divine Law, one Truth operating everywhere: the Creator made it all, made it consistent, and made it for our benefit. It was all made to make sense. In the creation and incarnation we see the transfer from God to man of the power to “impose language upon the chaos of experience, and so create an ordered, law-governed world” – and the impetus to see that world as valuable. (7)

Then, too, we have the monk in his cell struggling with sin and obedience, living a radically ‘examined life’ of continual self-criticism. His asceticism, says Cupitt, became in time externalized and “was transformed into the professional discipline of the scientist” (55), the same rigorous scepticism and testing that is the hallmark of the modern science. Ironically, given this origin, critical thinking means nothing is sacred: everything is open to reform and reappraisal. Christianity, it turns out, is self-secularising.

Life in the void

Critical thought is one hallmark, also, of postmodernism, in which, as Richard Tarnas describes it, “the value of all truths and assumptions must be continually subjected to direct testing.” 3.

The effect of this endless questioning is the realisation that “all human understanding is interpretation, and no interpretation is final.” (Tarnas again, 397) In Cupitt’s terms, the end of the religious life is nihilism. We “see through” it all and – like Buddhists – find nothing substantial behind our fictions, images and metaphors:

The whole point of the idea of God is that God is impossible… we have to go all the way in the religious life (guided by someone like St John of the Cross) before we can fully understand our human situation and learn both to love life and to make the most of it and to accept death.” (109)

The nihil, this Nothingness or lack of Meaning, can be frightening and depressing, but it’s not necessarily so – nor is it the last word. In the end there is not even nothingness: just the dance of life to delight in and assent to while it lasts. Cupitt’s practical advice? “Just love your neighbour and live as affirmatively as you can until you drop.” (153)

There is much more in The Meaning of the West than I can convey here to persuade us that we are indeed living out secular Christianity. Cupitt the theologian, though he has given up on the church, is enthusiastic about what it has spawned, and he describes and accounts for our secular life in theological terms with, in my view, remarkable success.

On earth as it is in heaven?

If Cupitt is right, however, why does life in the West not feel like the Kingdom come? Very few Westerners would claim to be living in paradise, even, I suspect, in Sweden. There is a definite downside to the West.

What, for example, of our rampant consumerism, cancerous economic growth, exploitation of poorer countries through unfair terms of trade, environmental degradation and so on? (And now, the West presents… the GFC!). They’re all well-known and oft-remarked shortcomings of Western life. However, that’s the point. They are remarked upon, examined, criticised – and ultimately acted upon. Cupitt is not saying we’ve made it: indeed, we wouldn’t be the West if we had. We’re an inexorable work in progress, going substantially nowhere much like a soap opera, but making small and what Cupitt calls “indelible” gains. And the gains cannot be denied. Slavery, sexism, racism and child exploitation all still exist, but they’re officially outlawed and for the most part swiftly jumped upon when they come to light. It’s hard to believe that any of them could ever again be accepted practice in the West.

Then there is the question of meaning, the issue John Carroll takes up with largely pessimistic gusto. There is indeed in the West psychological disconnectedness and fragmentation, not to mention the malaise of ennui. (Don DeLillo in White Noise describes us as a society in which we’re all queued, amusing ourselves with bright, trashy magazines as we await the final checkout.)

Of course that’s not the whole picture; it’s no more true than Cupitt’s positive portrait of Westerners hard at work, joyfully creating and cultivating their own lifestyles.

It’s true, however, that year by year fewer of us find any real nourishment within the churches. As Cupitt puts it, we have outgrown “the repressive boarding-school culture of the Church” (72), not to mention its ludicrous supernatural claims. But I don’t believe most of us are ready yet to just accept transience and secondariness as utterly beautiful, and at the end “be content to pass away along with everything else.” (14)

For many years, Cupitt has been trying to persuade us that we must do just this, but he knows it’s no easy sell:

[E]ven today completely demythologized thinking remains too difficult for most people… even today people remain reluctant to recognize the extent to which we construct our world and ourselves within the motion of our language. (24-5)

I’m not convinced that it will ever be possible to achieve widespread acceptance of this. The fact is, we need stories. We need to remythologise (and again, Cupitt knows it: unless we can infuse the liberal-nihilistic story with “religious feeling and symbolism” it will never win people over – 31).

Unfortunately, it’s hard to persuade ourselves that the stories we make up can be as valid and fulfilling as those that are passed down to us, even when we know those old tales to be fictions (and even, at times, outrageous and despicable lies). In fact, Cupitt acknowledges this: we do need fictions to think with, he says. But his caveat is salutary, and I see it as the rationale, short, simple and complete, for the Sea of Faith network: we don’t have to be enslaved by them.

Can we truly live by a story that we know to be fiction? It works for art; can it work for life? I regret to say that I expect I’ll still be wondering on my death-bed.

So is the West to be joyfully embraced because it’s simply the closest thing to paradise that we’re ever going to achieve? While it has much to recommend it over theocratic dictatorship and over the world-denying Christianity of the past, if I’m honest I’d have to say it still has the cast of a consolation prize, a poor second-best to the old story of Life Eternal in a Better Place. Oh well, we all have to grow up sometime. Learning to love being grown-up: that’s the challenge.

Notes

  1. Ego and Soul: The Modern West in Search of Meaning (HarperCollins, Sydney, 1998) 1. See my 2000 review.
  2. See The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited (Scribe, 2004)
  3. Richard Tarnas The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped our World View. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991) 395.

The Reviewer: Greg Spearritt is coordinator of SOFiA. SOFiA is a network of Australians interested in openly exploring issues of life and meaning through reason, philosophy, ethics, religion, science and the arts.

For more information about SOFiA go to SOFiA.

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Film Review: Elvis

From Everald Compton

Enjoyed a relaxing and interesting evening at the local cinema.

It was a movie filmed recently on the Gold Coast of Australia that powerfully depicts the spectacular life and sudden death of Elvis Presley.

45 years have passed since Elvis died, so he may not be on the radar of many younger Australians, but back in my more youthful days, he was a legend.

Neither his singing nor his acting ever impressed me at that time in my life, but he captured the hearts and minds of my generation in a hugely impressive fashion. Almost unbelievably, 500 million recordings of his music were sold and his movies were big box office attractions.

His style of singing was ultra physical, hurling and shaking his body in every direction and this caused far too many women to descend into a state of hysterical fantasy. Church leaders in America tried to have him banned from performing because he was ‘sexually provoking’. What particularly upset them was that, at every one of his performances, many women, both young and old, took off their panties and thew them on to the stage, right at the feet of Elvis.

Elvis had become a God and this upset Church leaders even more.

But we all have Gods because we have a very human need to worship heroes or believe in causes.

It is usually a singer, actor, sports champion, charismatic community leader or politician, or a football club or many similar obsessions. Gods can also be alcohol, gambling or sex.

In my life, my role model is Jesus of Nazareth.

There are other people whose lives have greatly inspired me too, such as Martin Luther King, St. Francis of Assisi, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi. In the sporting world, I am a huge fan of Roger Federer and I never miss plays or movies in which Judi Dench or Maggie Smith are acting.

What is sadly lacking in my life is a political leader to inspire me,

Just look at our current world leaders.

Putin (murderer) Biden (weak) Boris (irresponsible dill) Xi (utterly without personality), and until recently, Morrison (Australia’s worst ever Prime Minister).

But, I live in hope. This is an asset none of us must ever lose.

Nevertheless, back to Elvis. At the conclusion of the movie, I really did feel sorry for him.

His professional career was dominated by a retired Colonel who signed him up as a highly promising unknown with a contract that earned him half of whatever Elvis earned, plus endless expenses paid solely from Elvis share. This meant that Presley was constantly in a sparse financial situation.

It all got too much for him. He had to perform superbly every day or his fans would be stricken and, to keep going, he took huge number of pills daily, all washed down by lots of Coca Cola, a deadly combination. At the same time, his marriage broke up and his relationship with the Colonel became vitriolic.

Eventually, he just collapsed and died. Many say that his stage performance at Las Vegas the night before he died was his greatest.

Tom Hanks acts the fat old Colonel. Does it superbly. In the end, you hate his guts. This is not a trivial matter for any of us. We all tend to find people in our lives whom we hate and this, too often, sadly fuels our lives as much as our heroes do.

May, I make this trivial comment of personal fantasy in closing.

In my public life, I have made more than 10,000 public speeches in 26 nations in many settings that have occurred in my public life which has so far lasted for 70 of my 90 years, They were mostly about campaigns I have been organising or public issues in which I have been involved or sermons at Churches or talks at service clubs and conventions.

While, I was often able to stir up enthusiasm in the crowds of listeners, I did not ever cause women to rush forward and throw their panties on the stage. Elvis left me struggling far behind in the skills of human motivation. My life really has been a terrible failure in comparison.

However, I am absolutely certain that the world needs an Elvis from time to time.

Cheers, Everald

Books by Everald:

THE MAN ON THE TWENTY DOLLAR NOTES

DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS

A BEAUTIFUL SUNSET

You can buy them online, in print or kindle, at Booktopia, Dymocks, Amazon, Book Depository etc

or from his website:   EVERALD@LARGE – Everald Compton

and click on BOOKS

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Resource: Being actively and ecologically responsible

The Season of Creation in the month of September

With Love to the World is a locally-produced resource which provides short commentaries on the biblical passages offered in the Revised Common Lectionary, which is used by mainstream denominations of the Christian church around the world. The four passages offered each week are read in worship and one or more of them usually form the basis for the sermon in that service of worship. The publication seeks to prepare people to think about the passages in the week before they hear them in Sunday worship.

The next issue of With Love to the World will contain material submitted by a group of contributors who have been working with the usual four lectionary passages, but also with an additional three biblical texts which feed into the overall theme of Creation. These passages have been chosen because this theme is the focus for the month of September each year in churches around the world.

This year, the Creation theme has been expanded to include, not only the four Sundays of September, but also the weeks around September, from Pentecost 11 (in mid August) through to Pentecost 23, just before the festival of the Reign of Christ brings the church year to an end in November.

As a complement to the four passages offered each week from the Revised Common Lectionary (Hebrew Scripture, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel), a further three passages are included in each week’s selection of seven passages for reading and reflection. These additional three passages are all drawn from Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). These scriptures have their origins in a culture and society which was closely connected to the land, where people lived in harmony with the annual cycle of agricultural seasons. Their intimate knowledge of land, sea, and sky is reflected in the understanding of animals, fish, and birds, and in the knowledge of “events of nature”.

This extended Season of Creation issue of With Love to the World is intended to assist readers to grapple with how their lifestyle and their personal practices cohere with the need to respect the creation and to live a life that lessens their carbon footprint. Scripture encourages and challenges us in this regard. The series of passages through the 13 weeks are intended to build a strong understanding of God’s love for the creation, and God’s expectation that people of faith will live with ecological responsibility.

The 14 contributors are theologically-astute, environmentally-active people from five states across the continent, who have written thoughtful and informed commentaries on the passages for the week. The issue begins with a reflection on the creation story of Genesis 1 from a First Peoples perspective. Each week, a different writer invites us to consider how scripture informs our discipleship and can shape our environmental awareness and action.

If you are looking for a way to focus your thinking on how to live in harmony with the whole creation, and deepen your discipleship practices of sustainability and environmental responsibility, through a daily reflection on a scripture passage—why not subscribe to With Love to the World?

With Love to the World can be ordered as a printed resource for just $24 for a year’s subscription (see http://www.withlovetotheworld.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Ordering-and-paying-for-Website-7.vii_.2020.pdf) or it can be accessed on phones and iPads via an App, for a subscription of $24.49 per year (go to the App Store or Google Play). For subscription enquiries, contact Trevor Naylor on 02 9747 1369 or wlwuca@bigpond.com

For a discussion of the biblical passages used in the Creation 2022 issue, see https://johntsquires.com/2022/05/29/the-season-of-creation-in-with-love-to-the-world/

John Squires, Editor  0408 024 642

editorwlw@bigpond.com

http://www.withlovetotheworld.org.au

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More on Who or What is God?

Who or What is God?

I do not know. Nobody knows. There is no certainty in religion: faith and doubt must go hand-in-hand. Faith derives mainly from the innate human search for meaning, and although our life experiences are so different, inevitably we ask, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” Fortunately, in human life there is the puzzling little additive called intuition, which occasionally pricks us to think that there may be more than just the material world. It alerts us to the Mystery in which we exist.

Concerning the nature of God, anthropomorphism does not worry me because in the Mystery there is humanness. We are in the Mystery. We can do no more than try to apprehend it in human terms, but as Martin Buber argued, any type of I-It relationship with God should be avoided. In the Mystery the dialogue is I-You.

Abstract ideas about God such as panentheism sound reasonable, even scientific like physics, but they do not mean much. Religion is largely a human construct, and I think it is better to approach the Mystery from the human side.

As the psalmist wondered, what are we as human beings? We are not angelic beings. Our lives are limited in time and space, and our understanding is limited. As Christians we believe that the key to understanding our situation is Jesus. He emerged out of the environment of 1st-century Judaism, and using the tools at hand he constructed a religious edifice based on the assumption that at the heart of the Mystery there is something positive. Call it Love, goodness, holiness or whatever. As Christians we joyfully enter the wonderful edifice that Jesus created.

The main ‘tool’ that Jesus used in constructing Christianity was given to him by the prophet Isaiah, and that was the idea of the Suffering Servant. Jesus took on this role believing that the Kingdom of God would result. What is truly mind-blowing is that it did. The establishment of the Kingdom of God confirmed Jesus’s belief and Isaiah’s prophecy.

Although we do not know the exact nature of God or whatever is at the heart of the Mystery we can be confident that it is something good. As Christians we are in the Kingdom of God: we are “alive to God in Christ Jesus”, and we try to obey the commandment to love God and neighbour.

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A new initiative – Finding similar minded people

You are not alone.

Often we receive requests for information about other progressives living in a particular area. Sometimes we are able to link people up but all too often we are unsuccessful. There are many individual subscribers who are not near seminars or progressive congregations or prefer not to be involved with organisations. They are thinkers and readers and often tell us they enjoy our posts but would like to chat to someone and share their own thoughts in a safe setting.

We are also often asked how many progressives are there? The good news is that there are thousands and the numbers are growing. We have hundreds subscribed to the UCFORUM and many represent groups or partners. They share what we publish and often have group discussions around our postings. We are also linked to major groupings in Australia and overseas such as the Victorian, South Australian, Queensland, and Western Australian Progressive Christian Networks and smaller groups across denominations and outside of any church affiliation in most States. It is also wonderful to have many subscribers from overseas, in particular New Zealand, USA and Great Britain.

To try and fill a need we are inviting individuals who have no contact with a group of progressives to let us know whether they are willing to be in an online group.

This would simply involve these people providing their email address to the group and whenever they wanted to, raise issues, comment on readings, express opinions and react kindly to each other’s thoughts. There are ways to agree or disagree that are friendly and in 22 years we have never had evidence of any nastiness. You can be in the group and not comment or just occasionally comment or make a brief comment. Or you can try to stimulate conversation with something challenging or controversial!

So, if you are one of these people, and want to participate in our UCFORUM ONLINE GROUP just drop me a line by email and I will make up the group. Be aware that in this group you will share your email address and can drop out by request to me at any time. You can chat with one or all of the group.

 

Paul Inglis

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Event: Redcliffe (Q) Explorers – Why did the Church reject Jesus own people?

At our next gathering – on Monday 4th July – Rev. Dr Lorraine Parkinson will consider the question Why did the Church reject Jesus’ own people? and provide an answer via an exploration of the relationships between Christians and Jews over two millennia.

Lorraine is a retired ordained Minister of the Uniting Church, with a Doctorate in Biblical Studies and Early Judaism.  She worked for 30 years in the area of interfaith relations, particularly those between Christians and Jews.  She was Chair of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania’s Working Group on Christian-Jewish Relations for 12 years, and a member of the National Dialogue between the Uniting Church Assembly and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry for 10 years. Lorraine majored in Jewish Studies in an Arts Degree at Melbourne University, which included two years of studying antisemitism and the Holocaust.

Her presentation will be illustrated by slide images and there will certainly be opportunities for small group discussion of questions.  All participants will receive a summary of the Uniting Church Assembly’s official policy statement regarding its relationship with Jews and Judaism.

This is not an old issue that is no longer relevant to the life of the church in the 21st century – the central issues between Jews and Christians still exist in 2022.

 All are welcome – we’ll gather in the Activities Room at the Azure Blue Retirement complex (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe) at 6 p.m. for a cuppa and chat prior to the start of proceedings at 6:30. The Centre management requires that we’re all fully Covid-vaccinated, and if you have any Covid or flu-like symptoms you’re encouraged to stay at home. If you’d like to come along but aren’t a regular at our gatherings it would be advisable to give me a call on 0401 513 723 about access and parking arrangements at the Centre.

Shalom, Ian

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Event: Gathering at Merthyr Road UC: Evolution is Ongoing

Everyone is invited to join in at Merthyr Explorers on 29th June
Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.
10 am for morning tea (a few contributions to this will be welcome)
10:30 we begin our exploring of the topic.

Bev Floyd will lead our exploring around themes in her recently published book  ‘A world without religion …or?”

Here’s a teaser of the content:

  • The drift of believers from the Christian Church in Australia and why it is happening.
  • It canvasses the role of evolution and the concept that the underlying principles of material evolution are still working to bring humanity to a higher level of consciousness.
  • That, in fact, evolution is ongoing!

A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated as we do pay for the cleaning and give a donation to Merthyr Road Uniting Church each year for the use of the facilities.

I hope you can join in this discussion following morning tea. Perhaps you would like to continue the conversation at lunch at Moray Cafe.

Looking forward to our time together.

Desley Garnett

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Book of interest available from author

by George Stuart

George says: “If you are wanting to buy a copy of my book, ‘Starting all over again? Yes or No?’, I have some at present, available for purchase at $25. Please contact me on george.stuart@exemail.com.au.”

John Smith has this to say about George’s book:

““Starting all over again? is a timely book from a man of faith, because it provides encouragement and wisdom for all who are struggling to find a faith grounded in honesty, integrity and most of all in compassion. George is well known by progressive Christians for his composing of modern lyrics expressing the theology that has developed as a result of his search for his unique spiritual voice. Christians seeking to express their spiritual beliefs have been blessed by George’s compositions (Singing a New Song), because they can now sing with integrity as well as passion. For all who are searching for a faith with integrity George’s book is a must read.”

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Event + Zoom PCNV Invitation

“After the Vote” – Justice issues for Australians in the light of a Federal Election with 

Dr Mark Zirnsak

Sunday 26th June 2022 from 3:00pm to 5.00pm at
Ewing Memorial Centre of Stonnington Uniting Church
Cnr of Burke Road & Coppin Street, Malvern East

The new Labor Government offers improvements in areas of social justice, response to climate change, justice for First Nations people, people seeking asylum in Australia and aged care. However, we face challenges of a government that has promised to make our tax system more regressive and spend up big on the military, limiting its ability to respond to many areas of important need in our community.

It remains to be seen how a Labor Government will tackle some less prominent justice issues, such as corporate crime and online child sexual abuse, which had been a focus for the previous Coalition government.
Download the flyer HERE

The meeting will also be live streamed via zoom for those unable to attend physically.  See Link below.

Click here for the Zoom Link at 3.00pm

For further information email info@pcnvictoria.org.au

Rod Peppiatt  – PCNV Secretary

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Events: Stage 2 – What is God? Caloundra Explorers

We will soon be moving into stage 2 of our exploration of the question What is God?

Our first book study starts on Tuesday 19 July at 2.30–4 pm in the Weyer Room of the Caloundra Uniting Church, when be will be discussing George Stuart’s wonderful book Starting all over again? Yes or No? I have included a plan for this study over 6 weeks. Rev John Smith, a leader in the progressive Christianity movement in Australia, had this to say about George’s book:

Starting all over again? is a timely book from a man of faith, because it provides encouragement and wisdom for all who are struggling to find a faith grounded in honesty, integrity and most of all in compassion. George is well known by progressive Christians for his composing of modern lyrics expressing the theology that has developed as a result of his search for his unique spiritual voice. Christians seeking to express their spiritual beliefs have been blessed by George’s compositions (Singing a New Song), because they can now sing with integrity as well as passion. For all who are searching for a faith with integrity George’s book is a must read.”

Starting all over again? Yes or No? by George Stuart
July-August 2022
Tuesdays 2.30–4 pm in the Weyer Room
Week 1 19 July
Introduction and Area of questioning 1—Biblical God (p 16–64)
Week 2 26 July
Areas of questioning 2, 3 & 4—Sin & redemption (p 65–96)
Week 3 2 August
Area of questioning 7—The Bible (p 161–234)
Week 4 9 August
Area of questioning 8—Creator God (p 235–286)
Week 5 16 August
Area of questioning 10—Prayer (p 303–331)
Week 6 23 August – Area of questioning 11—Life after death & What comes next for me? (p 332–

   

 

I know it is early, but I would appreciate it if you could let me know whether you plan to attend this book study.

Ten people already have copies of George Stuart’s book (389 pages) and there are two more on order. So I have another eight that you can order from me for the bargain price of $25.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Ken Williamson

Coordinator

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Book Review: Telling Our Faith Stories

My story and your stories within the great story of the universe.

Kevin Treston

Dr Kevin Treston, OAM has been involved in educational ministry for over 60 years and worked in many countries. He is a member of the Association of Practical Theology Oceania.

Written in the context of a crisis in Western Christianity, a global pandemic that changed social mores and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kevin Treston has provided us with a great resource. It invites each of us to reflect on our own faith journey, note the steppingstones, share the accounts, and observe how they together form ‘the story of the universe…woven into a magnificent and mysterious narrative”.

Life is lived forwards but understood backwards Kierkegaard.

My observation of Kevin over a long period is of a person who has instinctive teaching skills. He is someone who lives every day as a learning experience to which he intentionally adds his own persona and gives witness to a driving force he calls the Divine Presence. But he warns of the limitations of language to describe the nature of all that is God and locking that into an orthodox doctrine.

Kevin takes a refreshingly rational approach, as an ‘insider’ of the faith, towards dogma and doctrine and the part they play in religions. He sees the limits they place on the ‘divine expanse of an inclusive God’ and how they lock out great possibilities for growing our consciousness away from bigotry and sectarianism. Clearly, our faith stories are enriched when we allow our consciousness to evolve as a result of our interaction with new perspectives.

The author has faced many faith challenges including from the Church itself but has refused to be distracted by negativity as he continues to seek after elusive truths and to encourage others to do the same. He unpacks many key doctrines and throws light on emerging questions about the universe and the ‘evolutionary progression of all things’ and how Jesus has bequeathed to us a new consciousness, ‘a prophetic dream’ of love and compassion across space and time in the face of much gloom and cultural pessimism.

This is a book to enjoy, to study, to share and discuss and to interact with. If it leads to personal reflection on one’s own journey it has served its purpose well. The author manages to take his own Catholic faith journey and demonstrate how anyone regardless of denomination or religion can benefit from pausing to consider where their journey has been and where it may be taking them. I was greatly moved by the depth of critical thinking in this book. A great read.

Dr Paul Inglis, UCFORUM, June 2022

Can be purchased directly from Kevin Treston. Contact Kevin at 07 385 1712 or kevintreston@gmail.com. Cost $25 plus postage.

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Jesus and the Sacrificial System

Dr Peter E. Lewis

The religious culture in which Jesus lived was the sacrificial culture centred on the temple in Jerusalem. It provided the background to his thinking and that of most other Jews including Paul, and the idea of sacrifice continued to influence the thinking of the first Christians. Paul spells this out in his first letter to the Corinthians: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:3)

In the “Scriptures” the prophet Isaiah had written that an individual would be an offering for sin and bear the sin of many. (53:10-12). Jesus took on the role of this individual who became known as the Suffering Servant. In the gospels Jesus says that the son of man (meaning himself) must suffer and be killed. (Mark 8:31). He says he came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:44) Accordingly Jesus and the first Christians thought of the Christ event in terms of sacrifice.

In the time of Jesus, animals of various kinds were sacrificed in the temple, which must have been more like an abattoir than a place of worship. Today the whole idea of making sacrifices to appease a wrathful god is abhorrent to modern Christians because it is not in keeping with the loving God that they encounter in Jesus Christ. Even the emphasis on sin seems out of keeping with their experience.

Sin is not all the naughty things that we do from time to time. It is everything that separates us from God. Paul said something similar in his letter to the Romans: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Rom 14:23b) So if sin is removed, we are with God. As Paul said, “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11)

Being alive to God is what is meant by the Kingdom of God. It is not something that happens to good people when they die. By taking on the role of the Suffering Servant Jesus believed that he would bring in the Kingdom of God. According to Isaiah, the Suffering Servant “will justify many”. (Isaiah 53:11b) They will be acceptable to God: they will be with God.

It is important to understand that the sacrificial system was just the background to what needed to be revealed. It was a stepping stone that enabled a further important step to be made. It was the stage on which a drama of revelation could be performed.

In the Kingdom of God everyone is loved by God. With this love there is acceptance, forgiveness, and healing. The key idea is ‘love’ (Greek: agape), which in the New Testament means a self-giving concern for others. Jesus does more than talk about the Kingdom of God: he demonstrates what it is like by caring for others, and he does this in a self-giving way. Actually, he gives himself completely: as Isaiah says, “He poured out his life unto death.” (Isaiah 53:12)

As modern Christians we do not have to sacrifice animals or anything. We can abhor the old system because it is irrelevant today. What is essential is that we follow Jesus’s example and behave in a way that overcomes selfishness. We must not be self-centred but open to the world, and love as Jesus loved. The key idea in Buddhism is overcoming self, and this is also what Christianity is about. The Buddha was not interested in gods, but Jesus used the prevailing Jewish system to reveal the loving God that he believed in and which Christians believe was with him and in him.

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Thanks for the great response

Request for your church connection

Clearly many of our subscribers are ‘refugees’ from the Church or not involved with a congregation now and could not tell us the name of their congregation. But many are also remaining within the Church and managing somehow to sustain their progressive perspective. From the many responses we received to our request for information, we have read personal stories of journeys which were often very challenging, even sad. It is good to know that the UCFORUM is meeting the needs and interests of so many people. Even though we did not intend to identify people in this process a few have used the Reply button to share their details with everyone. Special thanks to those people. We have been able to add to our list on the front page of the blog showing places that have members of our UC Progressives Network. This invitation remains open and we welcome further responses.

Thanks,

Paul

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Book Review: Does Australia Love its Neighbours?

Lived experiences of Queenslanders working with people seeking Asylum.

 

 

Compiled by Rebecca Lim

Edited by Brigid Limerick and Fiona Hardy

 

 

Article 14 (1) of United Nations Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1947 provides a guarantee to the “right to seek and be granted asylum in a foreign territory”. But the declaration leaves it up to each country to constitute its own definitions of ‘asylum seeker’, or ‘refugee’ and construct its own policies on treatment.

Rebecca Lim is a Brisbane-based immigration and community engagement practitioner who co-founded the Brisbane On Arrival Refugee and Asylum Seeker Response Group. Together with Dr Brigid Limerick, former Associate Professor of Education at QUT, Dr Fotina Hardy a qualified social worker, and 17 other writers have produced a very timely publication. A significant number of refugee related organisations related to the work of Rebecca and her team, often themselves becoming better informed by the relationship. The result is a collection of first-hand, experiential accounts of episodes in one of the most important contemporary issues challenging the world. Clearly, Australia has not demonstrated that it adheres to international humanitarian and refugee laws.

One doesn’t read a book like this for entertainment or relaxation. It provokes and stimulates and draws out the emotions because of the hard truths it presents. From the highs of the huge public response in demonstrations and voice to the lows of ever harsher government retaliation, this material will challenge readers to evaluate their own position on refugees.

So many of these stories have never before reached the public – so much of the cruel depth of treatment has remained hidden. So much of the immense cost has been buried. They are stories of an Australian government that had increasingly made ‘detentions’ more unbearable while distancing itself from the lives they were crushing.

Nevertheless, the book offers hope and solutions that would change the context and mindset towards integrity and humanity. It is an acknowledgement and exposure of the issues as well as a recognition of the volunteers while being a plea for compassion and justice. It is also an appeal to Australian governments to get back on track with the historical commitments to refugees established by Menzies and championed internationally by successive Labor governments.

This book should be read and understood by every thinking Australian. Any Australian who has an ounce of compassion for refugees should do a close reading of these case studies. Every Australian who has no feeling for people seeking asylum as refugees should read it in order to reconsider their position.

The work goes on through many faith-based and other groups and individuals including the Indooroopilly Uniting Church Refugee and Asylum Seeker Hub, the St Vincent de Paul Queensland Social Justice Committee and others acknowledged in the book.

Highly recommended.

Available from:  Gregory D’Arcy for $25 (Concession $20) plus postage. Any money from this book will be returned to the refugee community.

Paul Inglis, June 2022

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From our Explorer Friends at St Lucia Q.

 

St Lucia Spirituality Group
Newsletter June 2022GreetingsThomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Roman Catholic Trappist monk, poet, and prolific writer on spiritual and social themes, and one of the most important American Roman Catholic writers of the 20th century. James Finley, who we know as one of the leaders at Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation, was a student of Merton at Gethsemani, Merton’s monastery in Kentucky for several years. He subsequently wrote Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, featuring and interpreting Merton’s writings.

In this book, Finley examines Merton’s interpretation of the true and false self, concepts proposed by the psychologist, Carl Jung, but further developed by Merton.

There is a great paradox in that each of us constructs our identity based on our own ego’s view of ourselves, our family and societal expectations of us, and our belief in our own independence, our autonomy. Yet this is not our true self as expressed by Finley:

“The issue is not what my father thought of me, nor my mother, my wife and others thought of me, the issue isn’t really what I think of me. The issue is can I join God in knowing who God knows that I eternally am before the origins of the universe hidden in God forever.”

Initially, the difficulty is that for most of us we don’t even think that our concept of ourselves is ill founded; as Merton says, “is unknown to God”. Merton continues: “This is the man I want myself to be but cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy.”

When we studied Anthony de Mello’s book Awareness in our discussion groups in the church hall in 2019, we wrestled with de Mello’s question “Who Am I?” Until we could grasp that concept and recognise our true self, de Mello said we could not be free.  Or as Marianne Williamson wrote, so often quoted by Nelson Mandella, we could not let our own light shine. We continued to struggle with these concepts in our initial Butterfly series meeting on Waking Up.

How can we recognise our true self? One way is to meditate.

At our next meeting we will explore Finley’s writings further and examine these ideas, and learn about Christian Meditation –its history, how to meditate, its difficulties and benefits.

As we have reported previously, there is a trade off between holding physical meetings and Zoom meetings and we have decided, until we can resolve our location and technical issues, to continue with Zoom meetings for the time being.

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting – Introduction to Meditation

Our Episode 9 meeting on Meditation will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 21 June. To register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.

If you would like a copy of our pre-reading material, simply email us. It is also available on our Facebook page. There is no obligation to join our meeting.

Butterfly Series – What’s Next?

Our practice has been to introduce the content of our meetings through our newsletters and then provide pre-reading material to those who register for our meetings on Zoom. However, we are aware that there is interest in our activities amongst some who observe from a distance or who do not wish to participate in Zoom meetings. Consequently, we are examining some options whereby we can access relatively short videos through links to the internet so that anyone receiving our newsletter can watch them if they wish. In this way, we can disseminate the material we are considering more widely. Those who wish to examine these ideas further can then meet for discussion online via our Zoom meetings. Or over coffee.

If you are aware of any videos or podcasts we could use for this purpose please let us know.

 Our Facebook Page

The St Lucia Spirituality Group is a community seeking to develop a more mature understanding of what lies at the core of spiritual beliefs, embracing explanations for the nature, meaning and purpose of life. We currently have 35 members, of whom about half are active. Interaction is the lifeblood of a community. Therefore, we wish to encourage you to make posts on Facebook about questions you are considering, books you have read or interesting podcasts you have listened to. Furthermore, we would ask you to invite friends who you believe may be interested in spiritual enquiry and development to join us. You could share this newsletter and invite others to our next meeting.

We invite you to find our FB group by clicking on this link, it will take you to our page where you will be able to apply to join.

If you are not a Facebook user, we can help you set up your account with maximum privacy, you can be anonymous and even use a nick name or an alias if you wish. Consult Robert or John if you want help.
You can also contact us by email slsg4067@gmail.com.

Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik

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Places: The Avenue Uniting Church, Blackburn VIC

Seeking a Fairer World:
Peace, Justice and the Environment.

1. Monthly Vigil
Monthly Vigil in support of people seeking asylum in Australia.
On the second Sunday  of each month, we meet after the morning church service in the Avenue Centre, to focus on our concerns about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.  We discuss media items on the current situations, spend some time in prayer and frame letters to parliamentarians expressing our concerns and requesting a fairer deal for people seeking our protection.

2. Justice for all, compassion for those in Need.
Support for people seeking asylum in Australia through our participation with nearby Uniting Church congregations in the Outer Eastern Seeker Network.  Under the auspices of UnitingCare Lentara Asylum Seeker Project we raise funds to provide accommodation and household expenses for asylum seekers living in our local community.
The Network has operated since 2002, financially supporting and advocating for asylum seekers.  Members of the congregation are invited to financially support the project.
We also provide practical assistance by collecting toiletries and household cleaning products and household items for asylum seekers released from detention into the community.

3. Action
We publicise and act on social and political issues of concern to the Uniting Church in Australia as defined by the Assembly Uniting Justice and the Synod Justice and International Mission Unit.

4. Seeking
We seek a fairer world through our support of the Fairtrade initiative.  We endeavour to serve Fairtrade tea and coffee from our kitchen and encourage everyone to seek out the Fairtrade logo when purchasing tea, coffee and chocolate.

5. Recognition and Respect.
In the spirit of reconciliation, we honour the original custodians the land on which the Church is built, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, their elders, past and present.

6. Care for the planet and all its inhabitants.
We encourage our congregation to care for our environment by treading lightly on the earth and to live simply, so that others may simply live.

7. Faith in Action.
Each month we focus on a specific project or activity as we seek a fairer world.  This could be practical assistance or a special second mile offering for an emergency appeal or a project brought to our notice, example being Wesley Mission Lifeline,  Frontier Services and Uniting Care Connections family services.
In addition we conduct special appeals each year for the Christmas Bowl, the SHARE Lenten appeal and SHARE Winter community appeal.

Contact Ken Turner Social Justice co ordinator for more information.
Telephone:  9878 6887

About us

William Stone Pipe Organ (1879)

Going the Second Mile

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Request for information (voluntary)

Thank you for journeying with us.

With the steady and continuous growth of the number of subscribers to the UCFORUM we are keen to know where you come from. This is a voluntary exercise and in no way will your name be linked to a location on our blog. Two questions:

  1. If you attend a church we would like to add this detail to our list on the blog.  Name of Church, Location and Denomination?
  2. Where in the world do you live? Country, State, Town?

Of course, if you want to tell us more or send a photo, or tell us your story and interests we are very interested. We want to make sure our posts are matching interests and needs.

If you want to share an opinion, something you have read, or an experience that we can post and share please drop it on us.

If there is a link relevant to progressive christianity that you would like us to consider adding to the blog, please give us the details.

Send any of this information to psinglis@westnet.com.au

Regards,

Paul

Dr Paul Inglis, Moderator, UCFORUM.

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A more Credible Jesus of Nazareth

Thanks to Tim O’Dwyer for drawing our attention to Lloyd Geering‘s work once again. The recent opinion post with a description of progressive christianity has provoked considerable thinking in our growing subscriber list. This time we are looking at an article in the NSW UCA Synod’s paper Insights  from 2011.

Lloyd Geering, St Andrews Trust

Christianity without God

The visit to Sydney of a grand old pioneer and brilliant scholar of progressive religion has prompted me to study this booklet which he has written as a summary of his three lectures on the subject.

In 50 pages Professor Geering presents a succinct statement of all the wisdom I need to support my decision to relinquish the antiquated Christology still being promulgated today by most institutional churches.

It has also provided me with a summary of all the material I need to reconstruct my portrait of a more credible Jesus of Nazareth.

With characteristic forthrightness, Geering has presented a Jesus we have hardly ever known; he has documented the waning of orthodox Christian belief and in its place he has described the emergence of a Christless Christianity.

Surprisingly he reveals that this apparently new approach to a Christianity without Christ finds its origins among the followers of Jesus of Nazareth — but only in the few decades immediately following his death. (This was at a time before the church had the chance to make claims about a virgin birth and a physical resurrection, or elevate him to God’s right hand, or bestow upon him divine status, or credit him with miraculous feats in defiance of natural laws, or endow him with salvific powers.)

In doing so Geering has used the latest method of searching for the most reliable evidence about the historical figure on whom Christianity was founded. Approximately 200 independent world-renowned scholars from differing disciplines, including Geering himself, came together in continuing convocation to form the Westar Institute, which adopted this research methodology.

In the Institute’s Jesus Seminar, the scholars found that the truly human Jesus had been hidden under layer after layer of Christian fictions.

The trip of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the shepherds in the fields and the three wise men were all stories that were created around the latter half of the first century in order “to satisfy growing theological interests”.

Probably only an estimated 19 per cent of sayings attributed to Jesus by the gospel writers were thought to be authentic.

The real Jesus was neither intentionally the founder of an institution nor was he divine. He was a Jewish sage whose one-liners and stories about how to live were addressed to his fellow Jews but which, once memorialised, spoke universally to the human condition.

The Church itself largely created the portrait of the divine Christ, which became frozen after the first two or three centuries of the Christian era.

Nobody has yet found how the Church began. The studies lean towards the idea that it was the work of grieving followers of “the Way”, who were endeavouring to find meaning in the tragic death of their charismatic friend by looking for predictions of his sacrificial life in their Jewish bible, the Torah.

Despite the fact that the gospel record does not provide a substantially reliable account of who Jesus was and what he said and did, it has been possible to use it in conjunction with other ancient documents like the Didache and the Gospel of Thomas to describe what Geering calls “the footprints” and “voice prints” of the historical Jesus.

And, although this has meant the discrediting of much of traditional Christian doctrine and the “decline of Christianity”, it has provided a new foundation for Christian practice.

Far from being a relentlessly deconstructionist approach to traditional religion, these studies acknowledge the fact that the passing away institutions of Christianity have shaped a whole civilisation, given the world a Divinity which was and still is “an ultimate point of reference in terms of which all else is grasped” and helped people “practise their highest values” as Jesus must have done.

Lying deeply buried in cold orthodoxy, however, the real essence of what inspired the first disciples has been sensitively unearthed.

This way of loving and being has been minimised by a misrepresentation of the life of Jesus, whose words and actions have been masked by an ecclesiastical system.

This system was in many respects inconsistent with what Jesus said. But, underneath the mythical framework, the essence has remained.

It is ready to be revived and reclaimed by those who are willing to attempt to do what Jesus taught without relying on divine help from an imaginatively created Christ figure to do it.

In conclusion, Lloyd Geering throws down the gauntlet to modern-day followers of the Way, whose task is to keep the mission of Jesus alive and to witness to unconditional love in human relationships — which is what Jesus called the reign of God.

Eric Stevenson is a retired Uniting Church minister and Coordinator, Centre for Progressive Religious Thought (Sydney), www.cprtfreedomtoexplore.org.au.

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PCNV Seminar and Zoom session

REMINDER

The Church Triumphant as Salt
“Becoming the Community Jesus Speaks About”
with Rev Dr Sally Douglas
Sunday 29th May 2022 from 3:00pm to 5.00pm at
Ewing Memorial Centre of Stonnington Uniting Church
Cnr of Burke Road & Coppin Street, Malvern East

The Jesus community is called to be the salt of the earth, a metaphor that contains rich and disruptive challenge. Salt is little. We weep salty tears and grow up in dark salty wombs. Salt preserves. Salt draws out taste and too much salt spoils everything.

With scholarly insight into the biblical text, early church writers and theology, as well as her pastoral experience in ministry, Sally Douglas invites us to wrestle afresh with the metaphor of being salt. Here we discover a call into discipleship that is free from the success criteria of consumerist culture and free from nostalgia

Download the flyer HERE
The meeting will also be live streamed via zoom for those unable to attend physically.  See Link below.

Click here for the Zoom Link at 3.00pm

For further information email info@pcnvictoria.org.au

Rod Peppiatt  – PCNV Secretary
For past events click on links to PCNV website or YouTube channel.

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Opinion: Hell in the here and now

Voting for hell.

If in the last election you voted for the Liberals, the Nationals, One Nation or the UAP you voted for hell.

Some progressives think that hell does not exist. However, if you work with and for the most marginalized people in our society you know that it does. Hell is the rubbish dump, just beyond our fine city walls, where we dump the poor, those on government unemployment benefits, asylum seekers, people with disabilities, people with low incomes or insecure work; the list goes on and on.

Yet we are one of the richest countries in the world. We don’t need to have people dumps. There is enough for everyone to gather round the table and to be fed with abundance.

But that would mean the rich would have to pay their fair share of tax. “Communism” cries the Liberal voter, the National voter, One Nation and UAP. No, it is called progressive taxation and is one of the bases of a functioning democracy.

It would also mean an end to cronyism, corruption and undue influence in high places. No wonder the Liberals and Nationals opposed an effective Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Last week we elected a new Federal Government. If they deliver on their promises, the people dump will be smaller, but the pressure on Government will be tremendous. The rich and unscrupulous are powerful in this country and they control much of the media. They will hound this government, and if they cannot find weaknesses, they will invent them. We need to actively encourage this new Government and keep reminding them that we want no one left behind.

Now that the election is over, we cannot just sit back and hope change will come. We need continually to work with the most marginalized to ensure that their voices are heard. The reign of love in which no one is excluded does not depend on Christ arriving on a cloud, but on us each doing our little bit.

Len Baglow

Facilitator, Against the Wind, A new advocacy organization that you are welcome to join.

Details at  https://woden-valley.uca.org.au/groups-and-activities/against-the-wind/

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Roger Wolsey on Progressive Christianity

Some people confuse progressive christianity with all kinds of other progressive notions… but it is a unique use of the word ‘progressive’.

Progressive Christianity is the evolution of liberal Christianity. Liberal Christianity was a modern-era movement that was a fruit of the Enlightenment, which embraced academic biblical scholarship, and deferred to the authority of contemporary science. While open-minded in many ways, it was patriarchal, elitist, and ceded too much clout to the tentative insights of science.

Progressive Christianity is a post-liberal movement that seeks to reform the faith via the insights of post-modernism and a reclaiming of the truth beyond the verifiable historicity and factuality of the passages in the Bible by affirming the truths within the stories that may not have actually happened. Progressive Christians are open to the reality that God is vitally at work in other world religions; that Christianity doesn’t have a monopoly on the truth; and that it’s best to take the Bible seriously, but not always literally. Progressive Christians also tend to be pro-gay and view salvation more as a here and now phenomenon and not merely “where we go after we die.”

Progressive Christianity represents a post-modern theological approach, and is not necessarily synonymous with progressive politics.[1] It developed out of the Liberal Christianity of the modern era, which was rooted in enlightenment thinking.[1] As such, Progressive Christianity is a “post-liberal movement” within Christianity “that seeks to reform the faith via the insights of post-modernism and a reclaiming of the truth beyond the verifiable historicity and factuality of the passages in the Bible by affirming the truths within the stories that may not have actually happened.” (Roger Wolsey – Author, ‘Kissing Fish: Christianity For People Who Don’t Like Christianity’)

Who is Rev Roger Wolsey? 

Author, Spiritual Director, Soul Coach

“I’m a certified Spiritual Director through the Spiritual Direction Program of Benet Hill Monastery, an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church, and an advocate for progressive Christianity. I earned a Masters of Divinity degree from the Iliff School of Theology and am the author “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity.” I’m currently working on a new book – stay tuned!

I don’t pretend to be fully whole, saintly, perfect, or enlightened. I’m a work in progress who’s learned some things, often the hard way, that I am called to pass on. As I continue to evolve through life, I identify as a Christian mystic—or as a mystic who happens to be Christian. I hold an inclusive, inter-faith perspective, and don’t think that any one religion has a monopoly on Spirit, truth, love, grace, or God.

“I embrace all human beings as fellow children of God who are fully loved by the Creator just as they are. I’m here to support the Divine in us all. I foster Wholeness — in Body. Mind. Soul.

“My work can be summed up as helping you to:

Know Yourself.

Love Yourself.

Love Others & The World.

 Let’s work together Soul 2 Soul.”

Kissing Fish can be followed on Face Book at Kissing Fish Book | Facebook

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Merthyr Road, New Farm (Q) Explorers next session

Everyone is invited to join in at Merthyr Explorers on 25th May.
Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.
10 am for morning tea (a few contributions to this will be welcome)
10:30 we begin our exploring of the topic.
A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated as we do pay for the cleaning and give a donation to Merthyr Road Uniting Church each year for the use of the facilities.

We are moving into workshop/discussion groups this time and the following from Rev Dr Cliff Hospital is the background to the discussion. The focus is on Part B of this material, so a pre-reading of that is essential. Part A is for those who have the time and want to explore the way we interpret scripture.

Desley

Resurrection: Further Thoughts

Part A: Interpreting Scripture

 It might be helpful to set a wider context for the discussion I initiated last month.   Initially I think it is worthwhile to consider somewhat systematically the understanding of interpreting scripture that is the basis of my presentation; I didn’t want to make it the foreground, since that would have undercut the flow of my discussion of the issue, so I just mentioned some of the points in passing.  But if one of the major issues for contemporary Christian thinking is about how to understand the role of the Bible in developing an authentically Christian life, then laying out some principles appears to be in order.

The first point to make is that not all Christians give primacy to the Bible as authoritative in Christian life.  This is a peculiarly Protestant emphasis, developed initially by Luther due to his distress at what he saw happening in the church of Rome.  In his training of Augustinian priests, he was assigned the task of teaching the Bible, and it was his reading of Paul’s letter to the Romans that set him off.  The position of Rome was that the church was the central authority.  It alone, through its recognized scholars, was able to develop the basic intellectual underpinnings of the church’s life.  This did not mean that the Bible had no place in the Catholic scenario.  It rather meant that the Bible had to be interpreted and supplemented by appropriate experts.  To just allow anyone to read the Bible and try their own interpretation—a heretic is, literally, one which chooses (to make his or her own interpretation)–would lead to the dangerous loss of unity in the church.  This position also has the effect of implying that one’s salvation depends on believing the right thing, and this tended to be taken up by the Protestants.  And if on the Catholic side, to believe the wrong thing could mean that one would be subject to the Inquisition and its barbarism, on the Protestant side, it could mean being subject to a heresy trial and defrocked.  But what was crucial for Luther was that he saw the evident corruption in the church as due to loss of the central vision of the gospel, which was in turn a loss of the prime authority of the Scriptures.

 

Second, it is important to emphasize that most of the major religious groups that we call world religions developed what Christians have called a canon of Scripture, a people’s body of shared texts accepted as authoritative for the community. And this development was a long process.  In the case of the Christian Bible it was complicated by the fact that it involved assuming the Hebrew Bible, which was a compilation texts accepted as authoritative by the Jews (and a selection of its own documents was then added by the church).  But it wasn’t mainly the Hebrew Bible that was used; it had been translated into Greek, in a text known as the Septuagint, in which form it was used by many Greek-speaking Jews living outside of the land of Judea, scattered across the eastern Mediterranean and beyond.  But these two texts were not identical in their arrangement.  The Septuagint followed the order of books found in the Christian Bible: beginning with the Pentateuch, followed by a set of historical books, then a set of poetic and wisdom books, and finally a long series of proclamations by a class of religious specialists called prophets.  In the Hebrew version, known by the acronym Tanakh, there are three sections: Torah (identical with the Pentateuch), Neviim (the books of the prophets), and Ketuvim (“writings,” a kind of grab bag of all the rest: historical books, psalms, proverbs, etc.).  That the Septuagint followed a roughly historical trajectory from the creation, to the formation of the covenant with Abraham, and through the history of the people of Israel from the Exodus to the events to which the prophets were responding, meant that the expectations of the prophets could be seen by Christians as leading directly into the event of the coming of Jesus as the Messiah, as recorded in the New Testament (better: “new covenant”).  This could also be given an interpretation of a progressive revelation, with the laws of Moses seen as being refined and improved by the ideas of the prophets (some early modern critical scholars saw the prophets as inaugurating a stage of “ethical monotheism”), and then leading into the full revelation in Jesus Christ.

The order in the Tanakh leads to a different scenario:  the foundation is the Torah (and this is reflected in the fact that today in Jewish synagogue services, these five books are read through every year; the other books of the Tanakh are not part of the synagogue ritual); and this is followed by the Prophets, who are understood as God’s messengers conveying God’s judgment on the people for their lack of faithfulness to the laws of the Torah.  The other writings are rather in the background, providing context to Torah and Ketuvim.

I present this sketch just to make the point that how the scriptures are read can be affected by what appear to be rather small matters.  But add this point: that the compilation of the specifically Christian texts which resulted in an agreement on what comprised the New Testament took several centuries.  And there were always people around who objected to certain books: Luther famously called the letter of James “an epistle of straw;” and many scholars over the centuries thought that Revelation was too bizarrely crazy to be of help.  (And, of course, the obsession among fundamentalists over the last couple of centuries with using the symbolism to explain current events, to the extent that Revelation is arguably their most important book, gives some support to scholarly caution.)   But as well, the investigation of other early Christian texts that were not accepted in the canon has led scholars to the conclusion that there was originally a much wider range of interpretations in the church of the significance of the life of Jesus.  Feminists have noted the extent to which the materials we have reflect a patriarchal culture; other texts make greater use of female symbolism.

Beyond these two points—the extent to which the Scriptures are the primary authority in a religious community’s life, and the complexity of the socio-political background to the formation of an agreed upon text—it is worthwhile to think a bit about how the texts have been used.   At a popular level, one can reasonably assume, people did not discriminate; they just accepted what they heard or read.   Fundamentalists reflect a more articulated stage, beyond mere acceptance, in which people say something like:  the Bible is the word of God.  God is truth, God cannot tell a lie, so the Bible must be true—literally accurate.  How can I then decide that some bits—the story of the creation of the world, Noah’s ark, the tower of Babel—are not historically accurate?

At the level of sophisticated thinkers it has long been accepted that not every verse is equally true, equally authoritative.  The way in which some texts are accorded greater weight than others is perhaps demonstrated most clearly by the traditional position of the Jewish rabbis, the descendants of the Pharisees in the period following the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and the major leaders of the Jewish communities across the world for the last two thousand years.   They distinguished between two different kinds of material: halakhah, “walking” and aggadah, “narration.”    The former was the term used to refer to the 613 laws included in the Torah whereby the people were to guide their life.  This was clearly central to, normative in, the life of the community.  The other material is very wide ranging—psalms, used in the worship of God; traditional history—including a fair batch of stories of community heroes, such as the patriarchs, military leaders, kings (in many ways these are like Norse sagas, or the epics of Greeks, Romans and Hindus, or the indigenous Australians’ stories of the Dreaming); the utterances made by prophets to the community in judgment and encouragement; wisdom literature such as Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes–more general thinking about the nature of human life.   Although this material was often very interesting and provided illustrations of how the community understood the nature of the good life, it was not central.  What was central for the rabbis was the community’s faithfulness to their covenant with God in adhering to the injunctions and prohibitions of halakhah.

Another set of contrasts then comes into play with respect to following these laws: Mishnah and Midrash.  The laws as presented in the Pentateuch are scattered unsystematically throughout these five books.   Mishnahs were books that were developed to organize materials into various general topics.  The most famous of these, by Rabbi Judah, c. 200 CE, contained six large sections, which included: agriculture; the Sabbath and the festivals; women–marriage and divorce; damages–property, inheritance; sacred things–the temple, etc.; and ritual purity.   Midrash, meaning “inquiry, investigation” is the kind of thinking that Christians have called “exegesis” or more broadly, “interpretation.”  One of my Jewish teachers at Harvard said that the source of midrash is an irritant—e.g., lack of clarity, an apparent disagreement between two different laws, or a situation in which the commentator finds the ethical principles expressed no longer acceptable (a classic example is story of the binding of Isaac, in which God asks Abraham to build a sacrificial altar and then kill his son).  But more extensively midrashes are commentaries in which it is acknowledged that the written torah needs to be reinterpreted to deal with new and different circumstances.

This leads us to another pair: written torah and oral torah.   There is a nice little story that makes the point.  Moses is taken in a kind of time-warp to the academy of the great rabbi, Akiba, in the second century CE.   He is quite mystified.  The rabbinic students argue vociferously with one another, and Moses has no idea what they are talking about: all these new words, all these situations that he doesn’t understand at all.  Then at the end of the session, he is somewhat gratified, but still quite mystified, to hear Rabbi Akiba say: “This law was given to Moses at Mount Sinai.”

The point that is being made, somewhat paradoxically, is that the laws stay the same, and at the same time are continually changing.  Or to put it slightly differently: there is no written torah without oral torah.   Halakha, walking, is a short-cut for acting in the way God has mandated for the community (“walk in the way of the Lord”).  At any point in the life of the community, the commandment to action comes via the judgment of the great rabbis who are committed to a rigorous process of determining what a particular law involves at that specific time.

What this process clearly involves is a determination of what is central to the life of the Jewish community, and a process of contemporization in which the implications of a particular law are for the individual and community.

This clearly articulated process provides a good way of looking at how Christians look at the Scriptures.  Against the background of the Jewish community, Christians are focussed on the gospel, the good news of God’s reign—a vision of the world as God intends it for us in the realization of our full humanity–as mediated via the life and teaching and death of Jesus.   As Luther said, the central principle of interpretation for Christians is that it is Christo-centric.   He appears to have read this mainly via Paul.  I would argue that it is best to understand it via three major presentations: that of the Pauline letters, that of the synoptic gospels, and that of the gospel of John.   From the interplay of these, one can discern a core vision, but it is fairly complicated for these presentations involve different approaches.  Paul uses a rhetorical style of argument which presents his understanding of the life and death of Jesus–sometimes rather simply, but often in a highly complex intellectual tour de force; sometimes in response to questions and problems that are evident in particular communities, but at other times, a more general discussion for the church as a whole.   In the synoptic gospels—Mark, Matthew and Luke– the basic mode is the telling of the story of the life of Jesus with the central values mediated via Jesus’ teaching, in short aphoristic statements and via parables—both types of which have the effect of tossing the hearer beyond conventional thinking, providing another perspective best described as living in the context of God’s grace; and via his healings which are implicitly understood as mediated by, and signs of, God’s grace.   In John, usually accepted as rather later than the synoptics, the same mode of a combination of teaching and healing is in place, but the wider theological frame is different in that Jesus is understood via a kind of “high” theology, as the incarnation of the divine logos or word and hence as none other than God–his miracles, or signs, and his death, as a manifestation of the divine doxa, glory.  (The different theological frame is also reflected in the fact that Jesus speaks in a vocabulary that has little in common with the discourse of the Synoptics’ Jesus.)

These three basic corpuses are supplemented by other books, mainly letters from, or attributed to, other apostles—and, of course, the book of Revelation (apocalupsis), part of a series of texts referred to as apocalyptic literature (the gospels of Mark and Matthew each have a mini-apocalypse, in the form of statements by Jesus during the last week of his life indicating future devastations, but also giving assurance of the ultimate triumph of good over evil).   Revelation presents a similar picture but in an extensive exercise of the imagination, in which the history of the times is presented via vivid coded imagery, along with the assurance of the final triumphant consummation of all in God.   In the context of the New Testament, most scholars would emphasize that this speculative piece needs to be understood within the framework of the dominant vision of God’s grace.

One might say that in both the Jewish and the Christian communities the formation and interpretation of scripture involve an exploration of the central values of the community.  In the Jewish case, the exploration of the covenant relationship is focussed on the halakhic materials in the Torah and their application in the life of the community.  In the Christian case, the exploration is more of a new perspective on human life, Gentile as well as Jewish, and an extrapolation from that perspective–of the immense, unfathomed, unconfined grace of God–of the appropriate actions, centred on love for all people, commitment to the well-being of all, within the community and beyond. All mediated by the person of Jesus.

Because the basic Christian vision is exploratory and speculative—as is evident from the different overall perspectives of the three basic corpuses—the ongoing rethinking of that vision in terms of new philosophical thinking in new intellectual environments is not a particular problem.

However, the new circumstances occasioned by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment do impinge on this process in three major contexts.   First the view of the world, and the way in which human values are projected symbolically into the universe; the person who is critically aware of this process may still use the naturally felt power of the symbolism, but is now inevitably aware that the symbols are symbols, the myths are myths.  Second, the socio-political setting has changed radically since the time of the Bible, and it is therefore necessary to rethink how the gospel values are to be applied in new socio-political contexts (this is particularly significant in relation to the treatment of women and slaves, different ethnic and/or racial identities, sexual orientation, perceived sexual identity, and such issues as abortion).   Third, there are situations where the modern scientific view of the universe makes it impossible to accept what has generally been accepted as fact—resurrection, ascension, heaven and hell as locations, angels and demons and their interactions with humanity.

The implications of these factors need to be ongoingly addressed, in detail.

Part B:  A Few additional Points to Consider

I did not explore as fully as I might have the place of the problem of death in Paul and Gerard Manley Hopkins.   I pointed to the way in which the argument in 1 Corinthians, that because Jesus died and was raised, we shall be raised, moves to one in Colossians that because in baptism we have with Christ died to the old life and risen to the new life, we must live as those who are dead to sin and alive to God.   But I did not consider that still behind both of these is the Genesis view that death is a product of human sinfulness, and the resurrection is the mark of the defeat of the last enemy, death.   Gerard Manley Hopkins gives an updated version of this.  In the last section of exploring the “Heraclitean fire,” nature’s bonfire burns on, and the marvel of humanity is quenched, “in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark/ Drowned.”  “O pity and indignation!”  That we, precious beings that we are, go in death into oblivion, is an assault on all our sensibilities.  As a result we need the (comfort of) the Resurrection.

It has often seemed to me rather strange that Genesis, and Paul, massively intelligent as he was, following suit, should be persuaded that death was a punishment for sin.  Surely it must be obvious that death is a universal throughout all living beings!  But, of course, there is this point, that as far as we can tell, although some other beings, as part of their success at survival, instinctively respond to the threat of death with fear, and fight or flight strategies, they do not have the highly articulated self-awareness that results in a unique sense of our mortality.  For us, uniquely, death is indeed the last enemy.

So any other ways in which we interpret the implications of the idea of the Resurrection must take this reality into consideration.  More than I have laid out, I think.

However, there is another take on death which is worth considering.

There is a magnificent little poem, “Yaksha,” written by the great Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, as a kind of poetic commentary on another poem, one of the most celebrated in Sanskrit literature, Kalidasa’s Meghaduta, “The Cloud Messenger.”   In Meghaduta, a Yaksha, a low-level divinity, is dispatched to earth, and here on earth he pines for his beloved back in the heavenly Yaksha city of Alaka.   He writes beautiful, touching poems, expressing his longing for her, and asks a cloud to carry them to her.  Tagore in his poem suggests that the Yaksha’s condition is preferable to that of his wife, of whom he says:

The poet has given her pining no language,

Her love no pilgrimage–

For her the unspeaking Yaksha city

Is a meaningless prison of riches.

Permanent flowers, eternal moonlight–

Mortal existence knows no grief as great as this:

Never to awake from dreams.

On the other hand:

God has granted that the Yaksha may pound her door

with yearning.

He longs to sweep the beloved

Away on the surging stream of his heart,

Away from the motionless mounts of heaven

Into the light of this many-coloured, shadow-dappled

mortal world.

In his commentary on the poem, the translator, William Radice, notes Tagore’s idea “that the Yaksha’s state of imperfect yearning for perfection is preferable to the perfection itself.”

And further,

[Joy and pain each] need the other.  Hence the paradox that the immortal Beloved/Alaka ideal, which ought to be unalloyed joy, would actually be more unbearable than mortality, since it lacks the power to express itself through pain and yearning.  And hence Tagore’s yearning….   And hence Tagore’s dualism; for perfection unable to enter into a relationship with imperfection would be torment indeed….  The Yaksha is advantaged by his very mortality: his freedom to yearn is a gift from God.

What Tagore is doing in this poem is picking up on a theme which is quite common in the polytheistic traditions of India, that one of the major differences between the gods and human beings is that the former do not know death, and live in perpetually pleasant, paradisal conditions.  We human beings long for such conditions, but they are really only paradisal to us in our imagination and our longing, against the background of the painfulness and mortality of our condition.  To live in such conditions perpetually, with no other possibility, would not be what we imagine it.  We long for a condition where “sorrow and sighing shall flee away,” and where there are no more tears, but to be unable to know sorrow and sighing and tears means that the unalloyed joy would, in fact, be terribly superficial.  So, says Tagore, the human condition is in fact preferable to that of the gods!  Love, joy, pain and mortality all go together, none is what it is without the others.  But further, pain and death are fully as much part of the wonder of who we are as human beings, as love and joy!

One final piece for consideration.

I have recently been writing a bit of poetry.  One poem, perhaps part of a series on various parts of our human bodies, is called “Skin.”   But I begin it with a piece on “brain”:

In the evolution of humankind

from humanoid to

full-blown homo sapiens

it is the massive brain,

together with its protective skull

and its mysterious product,

mind,

that has claimed distinctive dominance.

And justifiably so.

For via its almost infinite network

(Who can count?)

of electrical impulses

the human mind-brain

created the universe—

allowed the universe to blossom

in self-contemplation,

self-analysis,

self-understanding—

at least to some extent—

and to experience wonder

and mystery.

As succinctly as I could put it, this takes some unpacking, and I will not try to explicate it.   However, I have been taken with the fact that in our evolution, in the finding of a niche in the competitive and cooperative venture that is life on earth, we rather puny creatures developed brains that are able to comprehend the structures whereby the physical universe evolves, and eventually evolved us.   (At least, some of us have had the intellectual capacities to see these structures, basically mathematical, and to transmit their insights to others.)  And much of the way life has changed for us, for the better, over the last few centuries, has been a result of the extrapolation of these insights.

But one of the things that has intrigued me from when I was about six or seven, is that there are limits to our understanding.  I realized one afternoon, mind-wandering while I was trying to take a nap—which I could not do in those days of early childhood—that I could not comprehend that the world, spatially, could come to an end.  When I tried to think of that, there was always something beyond!–or that is does not come to an end.  Later, I would extrapolate to say that we both can and cannot contemplate infinity.  Similarly, eternity.  (I love the line from the hymn: “E’en eternity’s too short to extol thee.”)

All of which is to say, that while I cannot comprehend Paul’s spiritual bodies, or think of singing God’s praises or enjoying the bliss of heaven in some non-physical body—aesthetics is so tied up with our physicality—I cannot assert that there is nothing beyond death.  I said that on such matters we are inevitably agnostic.  But there is a further point: that being agnostic is not just a fact; acknowledging our agnosticism is an appropriate humility in the face of mystery.

oOo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Redcliffe (Q) Explorers next gathering

Greetings fellow Explorers:

Our next gathering will be on Monday, 6th June, when Beth and Bill Heraghty will tell us about their passion for supporting needy school-age children through Give a Child a Chance (GACAC). This is a Vinnies programme focused on providing educational needs for struggling families in difficult times. The group liaises with the 29 State and Independent schools in the Redcliffe Peninsula, Deception Bay and Mango Hill areas, as well as local St Vincent De Paul Community Centres, to identify and reach out to families with children in need of support. The response from children in the program is remarkably positive; the catch-phrase being ‘put a child in a new uniform and you cannot stop them attending school’.

We’ll continue with a discussion of what we mean by ‘doing God’s work’, with reference to Hal’s questioning whether God preceded or followed the Big Bang [the birth of the universe], and whether the spiritual world – and God – may possibly have developed as part of the evolution of life itself. This was circulated in a recent Progressing Spirit post (see link), together with a thoughtful response by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, a mystic and regular contributor to progressive Christianity/spirituality discussions:

Progressing Spirit : Be Opened: A Post-Easter Reflection

The issue of how we ‘imagine’ g-o-d is fundamentally critical not only to Christianity but to all religions and faiths, and of course there have been countless books written on the subject. We‘ll be introduced to the left-field but related idea of ‘imagined realities’ developed by Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari in his 2011 best-seller Sapiens, which will be a ‘taster’ for a future and no doubt very robust discussion.

As usual we’ll gather in the Activities Room at the Azure Blue Retirement Centre (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe) at 6 p.m. for a cuppa and chat prior to the start of proceedings at 6:30. The Centre management requests that we’re all fully Covid-vaccinated, and it goes without saying that if you have any Covid or flu-like symptoms you’re encouraged to stay at home. If you’d like to come along but aren’t a regular at our gatherings, please give me a call on 0401 513 723 about access and parking arrangements at the Centre.

Shalom, Ian

oOo

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St Lucia Spirituality Group News

Newsletter May 2022

Greetings

Firstly, we are examining the possibility of holding hybrid meetings that enable us to combine a physical meeting, for those who desire it, with simultaneous access to Zoom to enable those unable to attend to participate. There are both physical (suitable venue) and technological (audio and visual) barriers to overcome in order to achieve this. Unfortunately, we cannot report any progress on this ambition, so our next meeting will be held on Zoom.

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting on Episode 8, Showing Up

Our meeting to consider “Showing Up” will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 24 May. To obtain your preliminary reading material and to register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.

Butterfly Series – What’s Next?

This meeting will conclude our examination of Wilber’s model of human development as a guide to understanding how we growing spiritually, along with what we understand our growth into maturity as adults looks like. Our meetings have produced thoughtful and constructive conversations that have expanded our views.

Ultimately, we are all looking for a coherent narrative that helps us make sense of our place in the world, that enables us to enjoy fulfilling and fruitful lives. Yet, it can be challenging to reconcile what we now know through academic and scientific research, as well as personal experience, with what we have learnt from our school days about religion.  For example, consider the alternative views of the origin and evolution of our universe or in psychology and social behaviour.

Cognitive dissonance is the term psychologists use when there is conflict between our existing beliefs and new information that we know to be true. There are many theologians who are examining these issues and their work is accessible through their books, podcasts and videos. They lead us in re-envisaging long established ideas that incorporate new knowledge in a way that makes sense to us, that leads us toward a new worldview and thereby enables us to overcome the cognitive dissonance. This can move us towards paradigm shifts in our thinking.

As we embark on examining new topics for our meetings, we shall explore some of these new developments. Just as longstanding beliefs such as the divine right of monarchs, the acceptability of colonialism and slavery, and the subjugation of women have been found to be deficient – even when justified through reliance on literal interpretations of the bible – we can reflect on these new areas of study and determine what we think to be more credible.

Some of these studies re-imagine concepts such as the creation story, atonement theory, salvation and resurrection, for example. As a result, our enhanced understanding can lead us to grow spiritually and to become more fully the people God desires us to be.

We would also be keen to hear from members if they have questions or subjects that they find particularly perplexing or interesting. We want to build the Butterfly Series on the foundation of members’ experience.

Anglican Synod

You may be aware of this synod meeting last week and reported in several articles in the Australian. This synod is the first since the legalisation of mixed marriages in 2017.  There are fears that the opposing views on same sex unions, on the one hand, but also whether or not these unions can be blessed, might lead to a schism in the Anglican church in Australia. There is discussion on these articles on our FB page if you are interested in seeing it.

Our Facebook Page

The St Lucia Spirituality Group is a community seeking to develop a more mature understanding of what lies at the core of spiritual beliefs, embracing explanations for the nature, meaning and purpose of life. We currently have 33 members on our private Facebook page, of whom about half are active.

Interaction is the lifeblood of a community. Therefore, we wish to encourage you to make posts on Facebook about questions you are considering, books you have read, interesting podcasts you have listened to or videos you have seen. Furthermore, we would ask you to invite friends who you think may be interested in spiritual enquiry and development to join us. You could share this newsletter and invite others to our next meeting.

The primary purpose of our newsletter is to supplement our Facebook page and to keep you informed about our activities. We invite you to find our FB group by clicking on this link, it will take you to our page where you will be able to apply to join.

If you are not a Facebook user, we can help you set up your account with maximum privacy, you can be anonymous and even use a nick name or an alias if you wish. Consult Robert or John if you want help.

You can also contact us by email slsg4067@gmail.com.

Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik

oOo

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A Progressive Take on Resurrection: “Which Resurrection?”

Rev Dr Cliff Hospital

[This was the subject of a seminar presentation to the Merthyr Road, New Farm Explorers Group recently]

It will be clear that in sending out an introduction asking the question, “Which Resurrection?” and then adding this long list of possibilities, I began with something of a red herring.  For the point of my list was, first, to make clear that what Christians usually mean when we talk of the resurrection is the idea that Jesus rose from or transcended death; and, extrapolated from this, that because he rose we too shall be raised at the last day.  But, second, what those who came up with this apparently simple picture understood by it is not clear, for it reflects a composite of disparate strands of tradition available to us in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Quran, etc.

It is helpful, I think, to look at how these various elements I mentioned fit together.   And a good starting point is to see that they all are a product of thinking, in the form of stories, but also more abstract and systematic ideas, about certain aspects of the human condition—and behind that speculation are profound existential questions.  The questions are rarely there in the texts.  Indeed it is helpful to note that in the earliest stages of our evolution as human beings, it is likely that the questions were not articulated verbally at all, but felt emotionally; for example, as grief, the grief a product of love and expressed in the shedding of tears and in the performing of actions that we call burial.

My mentor at Harvard, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, in 1962 considered what he regarded as evidence of the earliest expressions of religion or faith, a skeleton buried near the biblical Mt Carmel dating from perhaps a hundred to two hundred thousand years BCE.  He makes the point that some scholars have seen this as indicating a belief in immortality.  But he does not find this cogent: “Immortality is a somewhat sophisticated doctrine, a rather late endeavour to express in the form of ideas (human) attitudes to life, death, and the human spirit….I think it would be safer to take this early burial as indicating at the very dawn of human existence, humans, in the presence of the death of their comrade, felt—or, saw: or shall we say, experienced—something more profound  than the animal world for a hundred million years earlier had ever experienced.”

The only example in the Hebrew Bible of this kind of division between the good and the bad is in Daniel 12: 2: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever.”  This is clearly similar to the Zoroastrian picture, but in the book of Daniel, instead of happening immediately following death, it happens at a culminating point of history as the previous verse makes clear: “At that time, Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people shall arise.  There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.”

However, to complicate the scenario a bit, it should be noted that in later Zoroastrian texts there is evidence of a further development rather like that of Daniel. As the scholar Mary Boyce describes it: “…the last days will be marked by increasing wretchedness and cosmic calamities.  Then, it is generally believed, the World Saviour, the Saoshyant, will come in glory.   There will be a great battle between …good people and bad, ending in victory for the good.  The bodies of those who have died earlier will be resurrected and united with their souls, and the Last Judgment will take place through a fiery ordeal. Metals in the mountains will melt to form a burning torrent, which will destroy the wicked. …The saved will be given ambrosia to eat, and their bodies will become as immortal as their souls.  The kingdom of Ahura Mazda will come on an earth made perfect again, and the blessed will rejoice everlastingly in his presence.” (Hinnells, 244)

It is almost certain that this later Zoroastrian development precedes that of Daniel; and in general Biblical scholars have surmised that these ideas were taken over by the Jews, directly or indirectly, from the Persians, who were Zoroastrians.

There is, however, another strand of Hebrew thinking that feeds into the general picture of the Hebrew Bible and subsequently the New Testament.  If there is this Zoroastrian development of the division, a punishing of evil and a rewarding of good individuals, the Biblical writers tackle the issue of good and evil deeds in another way.  The great prophets whose proclamations are recorded there interpret the devastating invasions by the Assyrians in the 8th century BCE and the Babylonians in the 6th century, as God’s judgment upon the people for their unfaithfulness to their covenant with God.  In this scenario, God made the people of Israel his chosen ones, but being favoured in this way involves a responsibility to be a light to the nations, in keeping the specific laws of the Torah, or more generally, in lives of justice and righteousness, caring for the poor–orphans and widows—and welcoming strangers.  But the warnings of God’s judgment before the Babylonian invasion and the exile in Babylon, are followed by a promise to those in exile of a glorious return to the land.   In Ezekiel 37, there is an account of a vision by the prophet of the people in exile as a valley full of dry bones, which then are brought to life–bone to bone, sinew to sinew, clothed in skin, and then finally “breath came into them and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.”  But this vision of a “resurrection” of the people is just one of a set of visions of the return of the people to the land, the rebirth as a second Exodus, Jerusalem and the temple restored, a new Eden.  (e.g, Isaiah 35, 40; Ezekiel 47)

However, although there was a return of the people to the land, the glorious promise was not fulfilled.  Indeed, in subsequent centuries the land of Israel was overrun by the Greeks and then the Romans.  But the hope does not die, and eventually it is focussed in the idea of the Messiah,God’s anointed one, a great King, who will come and rule over God’s kingdom.

What is clear in this strand of tradition initiated by the great prophets is that the vision of human fulfilment is not of individual survival for the good in a paradisal heaven, but in the ultimate destiny of the people collectively, a remnant restored to God in a new covenant.

But by the time of Daniel—probably written around the time of the Maccabean revolt against the Greek ruler, Antiochus IV in the second century BCE–and then in various other books, written later than those included in the Hebrew Bible, but before the time of Jesus–the vision of hope given by the prophets is combined with details that originated from the later Zoroastrians–in particular, that things will get worse, calamities will abound, but eventually there will be the final triumph of good, God’s kingdom will be established, and the good will be raised from death and go to be with God in heaven.

Continue reading

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Recommended Book: About the Making of the Western Mind

Dominion

by Tom Holland, 2019, Abacus, London, 594 pages referenced.

We can highly recommend this book. It is a big read, but totally interesting, entertaining, and history with purpose and punch. This giant of a work of literature tells how Christianity changed the way humans understand life and is superbly written. Paul Inglis, May 2022.

“Dominion tells the epic story of how those in the West came to be what they are, and why they think the way they do. Ranging from Moses to Merkel, from Babylon to Beverley Hills, from the emergence of secularism to the abolition of slavery, it explores why, in a society that has become increasingly doubtful of religion’s claims, so many of its instincts remain irredeemably Christian. Christianity’s enduring impact is not confined to churches. It can be seen everywhere in the West: in science, in secularism, in gay rights, even in atheism. It is –  to coin a phrase – the greatest story ever told.” Publishers comments.

“Written with terrific learning, enthusiasm and good humour. Holland’s book is not just supremely provocative, but often very funny.” Dominic Sanderbrook, SUNDAY TIMES

I purchased from Dymocks for $24.95

oOo

 

 

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Being Loving People: Jesus and the Midrashic Method

Jesus and the Midrashic Method

Peter E. Lewis                                                                                                                1st May 2022

In his important book, Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes, John Shelby Spong pointed out that the followers of Jesus who wrote about his life were all Jews. Even Luke, according to Spong, was a convert who was steeped in Jewish thoughts. In trying to understand the Christ Event they searched the Hebrew scriptures for “the symbols and the stories of their sacred past.” (page 309) They were searching for some frame of reference and they found it particularly in the figure of the Suffering Servant as described in Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12. “This figure was clearly used again and again in the developing Christian story.” (page 224) Explaining events with reference to people from the sacred past was the midrashic method that the gospel writers used. The Jewish midrashic technique was “opening the scriptures so that Jesus could be seen as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.” (page 215)

Spong emphasized that everyone writing about Jesus was steeped in this midrashic way of making sense of it all. Actually every Jew who thought about Jesus would have been caught up in this method of interpretation. What Spong did not realize was that Jesus himself must have thought in this way. It is inconceivable that Jesus was not also steeped in the midrashic way of thinking, and once this is realized a whole new understanding is opened up.

Jesus was not a passive character in the story. He was in control all the way, and he saw his path forward in terms of “the symbols and the stories of their sacred past.” In the article that I wrote last year for Progressive Christianity entitled ‘Jesus was different’ I argued that Jesus identified with the Suffering Servant even before he began his mission at age 30. Jesus believed that by taking on the role of the Suffering Servant he would bring in the Kingdom of God. He would be an offering for sin and bear the sin of many. Through him the will of the Lord would prosper.

Jesus being the Suffering Servant was not a late development in the gospel story. In referring to the symbol of the Suffering Servant, Spong wrote, “This individualized portrait of a nation that was victimized, but nonetheless affirmed by God, was quickly incorporated by the early Christians into the story of Jesus.” (page 251) In his First Letter to the Corinthians written only about 24 years after the crucifixion Paul wrote, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:3) In his mission Jesus stressed that the son of man, meaning himself, must suffer, and in Mark 10:45 he said that he came to serve and give his life.

If Jesus willingly took on the role of the Suffering Servant, what motivated him to do it? I believe it was love. He did it out of love for each and every one of us. It was a self-giving sacrificial love. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) Spong believed that “Jesus lived the love of God. . . That love of God which Christians believe they meet in Jesus has one purpose: It is to invite us to be and to love us into being loving people.” (page 332) This was what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God.

 

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Opinion: It’s a miracle!! Voicing a pious religious political claim.

A PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN VOICE AUSTRALIA

[Ray Barraclough  – a member of the APCVA Management Committee.]

—————————————————-

Voicing a pious religious political claim.

Politicians voicing religious terminology are likely to receive a mixed response. While acknowledging that there is little searching scrutiny by politicians or journalists of religious claims, such claims are not holy writ.

In focus in this article is the Prime Minister’s use of the term ‘miracle’ to supposedly describe God’s sovereign intervention in an Australian election result.

And recently attention has focussed on the Prime Minister’s response to a question raised by a mother’s concern in regard to NDIS funding cuts affecting her family’s care of her four-year-old son who has autism. The initial reported words of the Prime Minister’s response to her question were:

“Jenny and I have been blessed; we have two children who haven’t had to go through that…And so for parents, with children who are disabled, I can only try and understand your aspirations for those children…”

Admittedly, the Prime Minister’s second sentence expressed his concern for the parents of disabled children. But the Prime Minister’s first sentence contained within it mixed theologies.

To unpack that last observation a little, in traditional Christian theology the counterpoint of a blessing is a curse.

Also, underneath the utterance is the implication that to have non-disabled children is a special gift from God, “a blessing”. It can suggest also a shadow side – a blessing withheld from parents not in that category.

What religious terminology then is appropriate for those parents who have a disabled child? Was God responsible for that as well? One could take it further and ask, is every miscarriage then a botched God job?

Anthony Albanese attempted to cover some of the theologically vacuous space by saying that “every child is a blessing”. But the underbelly of the pious claim remained.

Then there is the claim (repeated without any theological scrutiny by the media) that the 2019 federal election result was a “miracle” instituted presumably by the Prime Minister’s God. There is a history to this kind of claim stemming from the Christian scriptures. Without going into detail, a Christian scriptural passage, namely Romans 13:2, seems to buttress this claim by asserting that “[the governing] authorities have been instituted by God”.

Usually it is the victor (or their religious supporters) who claim such a victory as a “miracle”. An anecdote from history. A conservative and devout colleague of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (with this biblical passage in view) sought unsuccessfully to persuade Bonhoeffer that God had raised up Hitler to rule Germany.

Reliable news reports from America indicate that some 80% of white male evangelical voters helped elect Donald Trump as President of the United States. Does that show that the evangelical God has a preference for Trump’s rule? Is that to be regarded as another election miracle?

If the 2019 narrow victory in the federal election was a “miracle”, then statistically the huge margin won by the Labor West Australian government in 2021 was “a greater miracle”. That terminology could be applied too, for Annastacia Palaszczuk’s come far-from-behind win in the 2015 Queensland election.

But the Prime Minister,  given his political theology, seems to have been strangely silent in making what would appear to be reasonable claims for the miraculous for these two election results.

Does God decide who wins in elections in say Australia, Russia or China? Those are legitimate questions raised by the claim that the 2019 election result was “a miracle”.

Such a claim may go down well in fundamentalist Christian circles but mature theology, and a knowledge of electoral history, leads to valid scepticism. And if the forthcoming election leads to a change of government, what pious religious terminology can be used to describe that result?

Ray Barraclough. 

oOo

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Events in May at The Seminary of the 3rd Age, Adelaide.

The Effective Living Centre is a not-for-profit organisation that was established in 1998. Its primary vision is to promote living effectively in our present times and to share with people who wish to broaden and develop their own vision and passion for life.

It is open and available to people of any social, political or religious belief who share our values.

All our programs and events are offered in a conscious spirit of hospitality, inclusion and respect.

The Effective Living Centre is an ongoing community engagement project of
Christ Church Uniting – Wayville
.

Location

Effective Living Centre
26 King William Rd, Wayville SA 5034, Australia

The Seminary of the 3rd Age is an initiative of the Progressive Christianity Network of South Australia.

Now available by Live Stream

  • The costs remain the same: $15 each session, $12 concession, $10 Friends of ELC, Live-stream $5
  • To register go to the HUMANITIX links provided above or visit the Seminary of the 3rd Age web page and click on the booking links.
  • If you have questions, or need more information, please email the Effective Living Centre on office@effectiveliving.org

5th May 7-9pm

Event description

Hans Küng was the renowned Catholic Swiss theologian who greatly influenced the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). He stressed liberation, engagement, and reaching new horizons. For criticising Catholic teachings on papal infallibility, compulsory priestly celibacy, ban on women deacons, he was banned in 1979 from teaching as a Catholic theologian. A pioneer in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue he played a key role at the Second Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Chicago in 1993. Küng launched what is known as the “Global Ethic” calling on all religions to foster peace by practising interfaith dialogue. A “Global Ethic” is not a new ideology or a superstructure which would make the specific ethics of the different religions and philosophies superfluous (there can be no substitute for the Torah, the Sermon on the Mount, the Qur’an, the Bhagavadgita etc). Rather, “Global Ethic” is the necessary minimum of common values, standards and basic attitudes … a minimal basic consensus relating to binding values, irrevocable standards and moral attitudes. The presentation will elaborate on Küng’s understanding of the “Global Ethic” and its implications for interreligious dialogue and ecumenism, peace among nations, political life, economics, etc. It ends with the reactions from selected scholars.

Tonight’s speaker, Mario Trinidad, is a retired practitioner and lecturer in social work. He has postgraduate qualifications in social work, theology with a thesis on Latin American liberation theology, and history with a dissertation on the radicalisation of Catholic missionaries in Guatemala. He spends his time volunteering with St Vincent de Paul Society, Latin American refugee and asylum seekers, the Filipino community, and playing with his two granddaughters, aged 5 and 2.

Book your tickets here.

12th May 7-9pm

Event description

 Michael Dowling will present tonight on the topic What is the basis for creating a better world?

Do you remember the wonderful ABC Radio National program at the end of 1999, called A Thousand Years in a DayEach hour that day, every century from the 11th through to the 20th century was revisited. Hosting the discussion was the inimitable Philip Adams. One panellist was Richard Glover, a noted moral philosopher, author of the preposterously titled Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century” who inspiring Michael to describe his talk in much the same way; after all his title is “What is the basis for creating a better world?” He will ask, “what in the current world could indeed be “better” than it is and in what way?” Who determines what “better” means in this context? If we decide who is eligible to do this, then we can ask who is responsible for creating it? Some think that only God can bring about “the truly good,” so perhaps we will need to outsource the re-creation to God? Or does the buck stop truly with us humans? How do limited, fallible, often-self-interested individuals work out the answer to a question that transcends their own individuality? Transcendence may require deep humility: a humility that is not thinking less about oneself, but thinking about oneself less.  Whatever we decide about the basis for creating a better world, perhaps we should resist the urge to “go for gold,” seeking to create a much, much better world, with a more modest goal. Perhaps we should aim to create a world that is just a little bit better, because…we just might be wrong.

Michael was raised as a Catholic and studied science at the University of Adelaide claiming that in those days he was “absent without leave from the Christian faith”. Life however eventually led him back to the Christian faith and to share in a new blended family. With his wife Joy they worked as representatives for a number of scientific instrument firms. The question of Christian ministry arose to which Michael found himself saying yes having “developed an almost insatiable curiosity about the intersection between our lived human experience; the workings of the natural world of which we humans form an integral part; the ever-changing scientific understanding of the same; and our understanding of and faith in the God who loves us.” Sadly, when Joy suffered a debilitating illness. Michael became her carer. During this time he undertook aged care chaplaincy with Eldercare, which continued for six years until Joy died in 2018. He is now the minister of the Blackwood Uniting Church where he says “it is not so much that I feel at home here at Blackwood Uniting Church, but more that I have come home. It is a place of warmth and welcome, a place of hearts and minds, and a place for questions and curiosity.” Marrying again, Michael feels that his life has been transformed in ways beyond his imagining.

Book your tickets here.

19th May 7 – 9pm

Martin Samson will present tonight on the topic Jesus the basis for a prototype of applied ethics

The Imitatio Christi is often seen as the path to salvation and many a saint is considered to have perfected a Christ-likeness in their life. The journey of moral ennoblement is part of the Christian life. What is the relevance of the ethical life, in a time of moral-individualism, and how is it to be approached? This talk will ponder these issues by establishing an understanding of the effects of the life of Christ Jesus upon the human condition. Martin will show that an Imitatio Jesu, a path of inner transformation of the person of Faith, is as important for the modern ethical life as the understanding of the virtuous life.

Martin Samson is currently writing his PhD on the Christology of Rudolf Steiner. He grew up in South Africa where he joined the Redemptorist Order. Then, influenced by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner he became an ordained priest of The Christian Community, the religious body founded on Steiner’s insights. He has four adult children and has worked in Australia in various communities since 1992. He is currently not in the Ministry but continues to teach on religious and spiritual themes from his new home in Sydney.

Book your tickets here.

26th May 7 – 9pm

Dr Deidre Palmer will present tonight on the topic Ethics and its source – Freedom, love, justice, peace.

At the heart of Christian ethics, is the call to embody God’s vision for our world, seen so fully expressed in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christian communities are acting for justice, calling for liberation and working for peace, grounded in the radical call of Jesus for the flourishing of all people and the creation.  In this session, we will explore the source of this passionate commitment in Biblical and theological foundations. I will be exploring the topic through the praxis of the Uniting Church in Australia.  Participants will be invited to reflect on the source of their engagement in their communities and societies. We will together explore the narratives of hope, that are the source and sustaining power of our actions for love, justice, liberation and peace in our world today.

Dr Deidre Palmer served as President of the Uniting Church in Australia from July 2018 until July 2021. As ex-President, Deidre is continuing to teach, preach, and serve on a number of Uniting Church committees. Deidre’s theme as President of the Uniting Church, was “Abundant Grace, Liberating Hope”. She continues to listen for the narratives of liberating hope, that are expressed in the world around us and through the contemporary church. She believes the church is at its best, when its community life and engagement in the world is shaped by the generous hospitality and abundant love of God. Prior to becoming President, Deidre served as Moderator of the Uniting Church in South Australia. (2013-2016). Deidre has been involved in theological education for much of her life. She has served on the faculty of the Adelaide College of Divinity, Flinders University School of Theology and Uniting College in South Australia and Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Deidre is also a social worker. She worked for four and a half years with Uniting Communities as a counsellor with their Childhood Sexual Abuse Counselling team, prior to becoming Moderator. Deidre is a member of Brougham Place Uniting Church.

Book your tickets here.

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Redcliffe (Q) Explorers:

Greetings fellow Explorers:

The way most of us understand our Christian heritage was shaped very much by the events that happened in the 4th Century, three hundred years after the crucifixion of Jesus. However very little is known about the ‘historical’ Jesus, particularly his life before he began his teaching ministry, and even during the brief period of his ministry, most accounts of which have been passed down largely by word-of-mouth and only written down decades after his death.

Next Monday, 2 May (yes, Labor Day in Queensland!) we will listen to Professor Bart Ehrman’s DVD talk about The Historical Jesus, the third chapter of his Great Courses series From Jesus to Constantine: a History of early Christianity. Ehrman outlines what we know, with at least some degree of confidence, about the very early stages in the development of Christianity which he describes as becoming ‘..the most powerful religious, political, social, cultural, economic and intellectual institution in the history of Western Civilisation’.  Prof Ehrman is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, USA.

We’ll gather as usual in the Activities Room at the Azure Blue Retirement Centre (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe) at 6 p.m. for a cuppa and chat prior to the start of proceedings at 6:30. The Centre management requires that we’re all fully Covid-vaccinated, and of course if you have any Covid or flu-like symptoms you’re encouraged to stay at home. If you’d like to come along but aren’t a regular at our gatherings, please give me a call on 0401 513 723 about access and parking arrangements at the Centre.

Shalom, Ian

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Caloundra Explorers – What is God?

Dear Explorers

We are excited to begin our series of three Gatherings at Caloundra and two book studies exploring the question What is God?

For our first Gathering on Sunday 8 May at 5.30 pm in the Caloundra Uniting Church hall we are preparing what we think will be a very thought-provoking virtual Q & A with Rev Gretta Vosper (West Hill United Church in Toronto), based on her book With or without God: Why the way we live is more important than what we believe. Gretta describes her role as ‘irritating the church into the 21st century’. We will conclude the evening with a shared meal, so bring a plate.

I have obtained 20 copies of Rev George Stuart’s book Starting all over again? Yes or No? which we will be using for our first book study starting on 19 July. Copies will be available at the Gathering for a very good price of $25. There is a review at: ucforum.unitingchurch.org.au/?p=2458.

We are hoping you will be able to attend as many as possible of our three Gatherings and two book studies, which I will advertise throughout the year. If you know of anyone not on our email list who might be interested, please tell them what we are doing this year.

To start your exploration of What is God? here is a quote from Ludwig Feuerbach (1851): God did not, as the Bible says, make man in His image; on the contrary man, as I have shown in The Essence of Christianity, made God in his image.

Ken Williamson

For the Planning Group, Caloundra Explorers.

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Events at New Farm Q and St Lucia Q

Merthyr Explorers at New Farm

Our next gathering on 27th April will be facilitated by Rev Dr Cliff Hospital, who has given us this ’taster’ of what we will be exploring.

A Progressive Take on Resurrection: “Which Resurrection?”

My argument will be that in order to arrive at a critical take on the resurrection event and its implications for Christian faith and life in the contemporary world we need to begin with an honest awareness that traditional orthodox Christian thinking reflects a composite of disparate strands of tradition available to us in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Quran, etc.

So, to explain the question “Which Resurrection?”:
Is it the collective resurrection of the people Israel (Ezekiel 37)?
Is it the raising of dead individuals on the last day–the day of judgment–shared by the Pharisees, but not the Saducees, by Christians following Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52, by Muslims following many passage in the Quran such as sura 78: 17-40?
Is it the thinking reflected in Jesus’ words to the good thief crucufied with him:  “…today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 43)?
Is it the earliest accounts of resurrection appearances of Jesus found in Paul’s letters, and most fully in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8, which includes the appearance to Paul himself?
Is it the apparently related distinction made by Paul later in 1 Corinthians 15 between a physical body and a spiritual body (the latter being the body of the raised dead)?
Is it the resurrection as depicted in the gospels and Acts 1, with forty days of appearances (little in common among the accounts) culminating in the Lukan narrative of Jesus’ ascension into heaven from Bethany (Luke 24:50) or the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12)?

I will attempt to develop a plausible account of this diversity; thus Part A.

Part B of my talk will look at a variety of modern expressions of resurrection faith and hope that I find persuasive in the light of our conclusions in Part A.

Cliff

Everyone is invited to join in at Merthyr Explorers on 27th April.
Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.
10 am for morning tea (a few contributions to this will be welcome)
10:30 we begin our exploring of the topic.
A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated as we do pay for the cleaning and give a donation to Merthyr Road Uniting Church each year for the use of the facilities.

Desley

St Lucia Spirituality Group

Firstly, we apologise for not writing sooner or holding our meeting in March as we envisaged but, as you’d be aware, floods and disrupted internet curtailed our activities.

Secondly, we have decided as a result of feedback we have received, to no longer record zoom meetings. The benefits of holding a recording for others does not outweigh the perceived limitations that recording has on the sharing of intimate and personal thoughts. It is also important to understand that each of us is on a journey, formulating our own worldview and seeking to grow in our spiritual formation. Being able to participate in a group where everyone has this common objective is beneficial and it is helpful if we ensure an atmosphere that is gentle, respectful and non-judgemental – especially when we are exploring subjects that are not simply black/white or right/wrong.

Meanwhile, there is a trade off between holding physical meetings and zoom meetings and we have decided, on balance, to continue with zoom meetings for the time being.

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting on Growing Up

Our meeting to consider “Growing Up” will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 19 April. To obtain your preliminary reading material and to register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.

You will recall that we have been exploring Ken Wilber’s model of spiritual and personal development, which is founded in knowledge gained over the last century in psychology and other social sciences, along with Wilber’s extensive study of all religions.

To summarise, we have previously examined Wilber’s model that can be initially categorised as Waking Up, Cleaning Up, Growing Up and Showing Up.

  • Waking up refers to a realisation that the way in which we have viewed our world has been an illusion, that reality is something different and we want to understand what that is. Yet it is still only a starting point to a process that requires reflection and personal growth.
  • Cleaning up is necessary when we realise that our previous unconscious behaviour is not in accord with our new vision for ourselves. The psychologist, Carl Jung, identified this process as addressing our “shadow self”.
  • Growing up is the process of development of personal maturity as described by a number of different behavioural models.
  • Showing Up represents the fourth pathway that requires bringing our heart and mind into how we live our lives, to how we address the actual suffering and problems of the world.

Robert will lead our discussion on “Growing Up”.

Butterfly Series – What’s Next?

The St Lucia Spirituality Group is a community seeking to develop a more mature understanding of what lies at the core of spiritual beliefs, embracing explanations for the nature, meaning and purpose of life. We currently have 32 members, of whom about half are active. Interaction is the lifeblood of a community. Therefore, we wish to encourage you to make posts on Facebook about questions you are considering, books you have read or interesting podcasts you have listened to. Furthermore, we would ask you to invite friends who you believe may be interested in spiritual enquiry and development to join us. You could share this newsletter and invite others to our next meeting.

Regarding the Butterfly series, we expect to complete our current focus on Ken Wilbur’s integral theory at our May meeting. This leaves the open question of what topics we might consider afterwards.

We are seeking your help in providing guidance as to the topics of interest to you.

Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik

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Opinion: Make hope, inspire hope, become hope.

From Glynn Cardy

Minister of Religion at The Community of Saint Luke
This week, hoping for the best but expecting less, I await the church leaders’ published statement on the meaning of Easter.
Their task is not an easy one mind you. They are trying to explain the meaning of a death and life so wrapped up by the nuances of past controversies, and so overlaid with religious language, that its articulation is meaningless to most.
Each year I suspect these leaders draw lots, and one drafter drafts, and then others attach their imprimatur.
And each year, pretty much, we are told that God (who is invariably male) sent his son, Jesus, to die on a cross and rise again, in order that our sins are forgiven and we can live eternally.
Which I suppose is good news if you want to live eternally. Which I don’t. And is good news if you are feeling unforgiven and need this male risen sort of God to forgive you. Which I don’t. It’s been a long time since words of sinning and saving made much sense to me.
But my main problem with packaging Easter in this language is that it doesn’t seem to take seriously our experiences of darkness and light, of suffering and joy, of probable endings and improbable beginnings.
If one of the drafters one year just told a story about some of that probable and improbable stuff, without any in-house religious language, we might hear the message that Easter as a metaphor of hope that breaks free of the constraints that religion tries to keep it in.
They might not be PG rated but there are lots of stories about darkness and despair. The pain of an ongoing bad Friday hangs over so many people’s lives. There is loss, worry, physical and mental pain. There is violence. There is betrayal. There is fear that drains the soul. There is not having enough, not seeing any way to get more, and feeling hope sink further with each new bill, demand, or child’s cry.
Religious leaders know about some of this. Ministers, if they make themselves accessible (as most do), are among the few who you can call on at any time, with any need, for no fee or obligation. Ministers aren’t there to primarily serve their church members. They are there for the estranged.
Mind you to be called on ministers have to be known and trusted. Trusted to listen, and not to judge. Trusted with an other’s pain. Which is no small thing.
The problem with these stories of hardship, loss, and pain, is that they don’t often have happy endings. Well, not ones easy to see anyway. Dead people don’t come back to life. Wounded people might heal, but scars and limps remain. Fractures in families and communities can last generations, even after any warring stops. Occasionally the prodigals come home, the parents do forgive, the other siblings are understanding, and with all their pain and history they try to make it work. Occasionally.
Hope can be a fickle thing. One day blossoming, the next wilting. One day a kind word spoken, the next silence. One day a neighbour cares, the next gloom returns. The hard truth is if we expect a saviour to knock on our door, we are often disappointed.
But hope can also be something that we make and create. Against the odds. If we risk it. We can be the one who smiles when we feel like we have nothing to smile about. We can be the one who shares when we feel we have so little to share. We can be the one who notices the wind in the trees, the children playing, and give thanks for life, even though our own feels mangled, muddy, and often a sad mess.
And for those of us whose lives are only occasionally a mess, for whom light is more common than dark, the recipe for hope is similar. Bring what you can. Share what you can. Smile when you can. Listen and not judge, often and often and often. Build neighbourliness. Look out for the estranged. Make hope, inspire hope, become hope.
And together, in spite of all that has gone before, without ignoring the pain and hardship, we can connect with each other as family, neighbours, community, and together we can become that hope which Christians call Easter.
(Photo: Simon Bentley. The church is St Michael’s Leafield, where I once ministered).
oOo
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The dream that should never die

From Dr Richard Smith – Progressive Christian Network Western Australia

Ukraine and the Hope of EasterMy letter published in the West Australian last Saturday the last of three in that week.

Easter holidays, hot cross buns and chocolate eggs are with us, but this year against the backdrop of the agony of Ukraine. It is a poignant reminder of the first Easter when a Galilean Jew entered Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) to speak truth to the Roman Empire and their religious cronies about their gross abuse of power. Power used with massive brutality, fake news and corruption to accumulate massive wealth through conquest, enslavement and oppressive taxation of the poor. Justified by a compliant Senate that gave Caesar titles of pontifex maximus and son of God whose response to the Galilean’s appeal was to nail him to a wooden cross to die a painful death (Good Friday). But the Galilean’s followers remembered the day as Good Friday because his dream did not die but was repeatedly resurrected resulting over the millennia in our own democratic freedoms, institutions and opportunities.
This Easter story comes to its climax the following Sunday when the Galilean’s dream of a world at peace through distributive justice will be celebrated against the backdrop of the continuing epic struggle of the Ukrainian people for freedom from Russia’s brutal imperial past. Belief is that the Ukrainians’ dream of freedom and peace though distributive justice will never die, but eventually will come to fruition. A dream embraced by freedom loving people around the world who have joined the struggle with their prayers, donations and hospitality this Easter. A time for sober reflection, struggle and gratitude for our own democratic freedoms already being tested by our own impending election.
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A Progressive Easter Liturgy – Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson

Easter Liturgy

[Power Point images]     Easter 2022

Quiet music

 

PP     The God of Easter – Introduction

What on earth can we do with Easter?  What can progressive Christians say about the story of Easter?  Looking at it from any angle the church presents, brings us face to face with traditional creeds and doctrines.  It’s not for nothing that Easter liturgies are the central observances of the church.  Everything the church traditionally believes about Jesus as Christ the Saviour, is based on beliefs originating from the events of Easter – as set out in the gospels.

But before the gospels, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul passed on a formula – that according to the scriptures (what else but the Hebrew Scriptures – the Old Testament) “Christ died for our sins.”  Also that “he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.”   Problem is, none of that appears in the Hebrew scriptures.

But Paul then includes a list of people to whom he says Christ had appeared, including, last of all, to himself.  Paul had clearly never heard the story of the crucifixion itself, or a story of an empty tomb.  He doesn’t mention them. But that’s understandable.  That story was not written until decades after Paul died.

It’s the story of Easter that brings Paul’s writings into focus.  The problem was that Paul wrote like a philosopher writing a treatise.  So it’s fair to say that without the story of Easter as told by gospel writers, there’d be no such thing as the religion called Christianity.

The Easter story was told first by the gospel writer Mark, based on Paul’s writings.  Mark’s work then, is the foundational document for Easter.  Other gospel writers took from him events as he outlined them (some historical, some not), put their own spin on them, and reached similar yet differing conclusions.   For that reason, we’ll refer to parts of Mark’s Easter story – from Palm Sunday, to Good Friday, to Easter Saturday, to Easter Day.  Even so, it won’t surprise you that this will not be a traditional Easter liturgy.

I would imagine that from childhood, most of us have memories of Easter – rituals, music, readings, imagery – from Palm Sunday through Holy Week, to Good Friday and then to Easter Day.  Those kinds of memories have shaped Christian understandings of Jesus.

Perhaps surprisingly though, Easter is not just about Jesus.  Equally, perhaps even more so, it raises questions about God.  What ideas about God are behind the traditional Easter events?  There’ll be opportunity to talk about that later this afternoon.  But we’ll proceed through this liturgy with an essential question in mind: Who was the God of Easter for Jesus?

No doubt Jesus knew he risked horrific death – if he promoted ideas opposed to the godship of Caesar.  And that’s precisely what his teaching is about – overturning the power of top-down hierarchical society and giving first place to the poor and downtrodden.     On the other hand, Paul’s proclamation of Jesus as the Saviour Christ was primarily concerned with the resurrection of the dead ‘in Christ’ – meaning life after death – a far safer topic in the Roman empire!

Jesus was in a very different situation from Paul’s.  From his entry into Jerusalem until his execution, Jesus travelled a dark and dangerous road.  Our question is: what kind of God did he believe went with him?

Relying on Paul, the church traditionally says it was the God who orchestrated the whole thing – who gave Jesus no choice but to go on to an agonizing death – so he could be raised from death and everyone would know he was the Christ, the literal Son of God – eventually to be known as the second person of the triune God.

So what?  What good would that do for the people of planet Earth?  Certainly not much at all, for non-believers in Christ the Saviour.   From its earliest time the church was interested only in people who agreed with its teaching about Jesus as the Christ.  The reward for those people would be a visa for heaven.  For everyone else – the church offered nothing – except perhaps, hell and damnation.   Paul’s writings include nothing about Jesus’ message of love for the world, only Paul’s focus on the death and resurrection of ‘Christ’.  The climax of the gospels is also the resurrection of Christ, not Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of heaven on earth.

So Easter was always guaranteed to be an exclusive Christian thing – excluding the majority of earth’s people.  What kind of God would preside over that?

PP     Dark Journey

Let’s be reminded now of the gathering darkness into which Jesus walked.  He went into Jerusalem with friends, but essentially he walked only with his God.

Audio – Vivaldi’s Adagio Molto.

(Green cloth on table, with leafy branches and little wooden donkey)

PP     Palm Sunday – what was Jesus’ motivation?

Mark 11: 7-10: Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.  Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

What happened to the palms?  Mark just calls them ‘leafy branches’.  Never mind.  Whether Jesus arrived in Jerusalem at Passover time or months before that, at the time of the Festival of Booths, when palm branches are waved, is nowhere near as important as why he went to Jerusalem in the first place.  After all, he was entering the lions’ den – the jurisdiction of the Temple leadership.  Most importantly, he was walking into the seat of Roman power in Judea.  So what was he doing there?  What did he bring with him that was worth risking death?  Not just any death, but the worst kind of death depraved Roman authorities could dream up.

Jesus’ motivation must surely have stemmed from the kind of God he had come to know throughout his life.  In everything we know about Jesus of Nazareth, and in everything we know of what he taught, lie the clues to his motivation on what we call Palm Sunday.   Quite simply, Jesus stood up and spoke out of love for humanity, on behalf of God, whom he had come to recognise as Love.   He did it for love.  He inspired countless people to do likewise.

Let’s consider four of those who have followed Jesus into dangerous places.  They knew what Jesus was doing two thousand years ago.  They loved the kind of God he loved.   Each in their own way, they followed Jesus to the utmost.

PP     Bonhoeffer – ‘we are not to simply bandage the wounds’

First, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who tried to rid the world of Adolf Hitler.  Bonhoeffer did not just feel sorry for people hounded to death by the Nazis.  He tried to do something to end the suffering.  Attempting to assassinate Hitler put Bonhoeffer in harm’s way.  He was hanged by Gestapo thugs.  He knew that could happen.  He did it for love.

PP     Kayla Mueller – God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine

Second, Kayla Mueller.  Young Kayla left her home in the US to become a human rights worker.  In 2012 she went to Syria with an organisation called ‘Support for life’.  She was captured by IS.  After reportedly undergoing unspeakable atrocities for over two years, Kayla’s body was found.  She was only 27.  Her motivation for going there?  In a letter to her father, she said, “Some people find God in church.  I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine.”  She did it for love.

 

PP     Martin Luther King – ‘everything Hitler did in Germany was legal’

And third, Martin Luther King.  King knew he put thorns in the side of the establishment when he stood up for the human rights of black Americans.  He opposed laws that unjustly favoured white Americans.  He endured prison, danger, dreadful insults, and eventually death, at the hands of hatred.  But let’s remember that he did it for love of white people too – that they would find their best non-violent selves when the option of violence was removed from the civil rights movement.  He followed the non-violent teachings of Jesus.  He did it for love.

PP     Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Oscar Romero was Archbishop of El Salvador (in Spanish, “The Republic of the Saviour”).  He crusaded boldly against social inequality and atrocities perpetuated by the state, and was a marked man.  On the night of March 25th, 1980 (38 years ago last night), Archbishop Romero was standing at the altar in a hospital chapel when a gunman broke in and shot him dead.  No one has ever been prosecuted, the assassin having been an agent of the state.  Oscar Romero did what he did out of love.

PP     Seats of power

Seats of unjust power were not confined only to ancient times – they are all around us even now.  Take a moment of silence to consider what it means to follow Jesus’ example in our age.

(removal of the green cloth, and placement of cross on black cloth) 

PP     Good Friday – why did Jesus risk this?

Mark 16: 20-24: After mocking Jesus, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him.  Then they led him out to crucify him.

The multiple crosses in this image are deliberate.  They remind us that Jesus’ execution was not unique.  Thousands of unfortunates were nailed or tied to pieces of rough timber until they died.  This was standard practice in the Roman empire if the authorities believed someone was opposed to the power of Rome.  Jesus would have known exactly how crucifixion was done and how dreadfully and slowly the victims died.  After all, he came from the Galilee where many rebels against Roman brutality and injustice originated.  They advocated the violent way of trying to overcome the Roman occupation.  There can be little doubt that some people he actually knew were crucified on roadsides, in full view of the passing public.

The difference was that Jesus resisted the power of Rome through non-violence – for love he recognised as God.   All the same, in the end he was slowly and agonizingly crucified until his life went out of him.

 PP     He has died –

Audio – Solemn bell tolls 6 times

PPx2 ‘Jesus, you hang upon a cross’ by Shirley Erena Murray

Recommended tune: St Columba TiS523

Let’s remain seated as we sing

 PP     We remember Jesus’ courageous faith.

We remember Jesus’ courageous faith in the goodness of God, and in the goodness of humanity.

All: We remember him.

PP     In Memoriam –

In your own time, you are invited to take your sprig of rosemary or your flower, and come forward to place it by the cross, in loving memory of Jesus and his love for all people, not just for those who believe in Christ the Saviour.

(Audio – My silent cry’– violin music – until all have sat down).

PP     Easter Saturday – where was Jesus’ God?

Where was the God Jesus loved, when the devastated, grieving friends gathered together for comfort and strength, on the dark day following Jesus’ death?  Did Jesus’ entreaties/searching question of God just prior to his passing continue to resound in their heads?  Had God forsaken them?  Did God evaporate with the death of their beloved teacher, guide and friend?  Where was the God Jesus loved in the darkness of their sorrow and despair, borne of the injustice they witnessed and their apparently broken dreams?  But in that time of friends gathering together perhaps they reflected on Jesus’ teaching and ministry; reminding them of the nature of God; bringing them some comfort and strength.    Silence (1 min)

PP     This day is the between time

This day is the between time – the dark time between death and new life.

Between what is gone and what is to come,

Between despair and hope.

Between the seed planted and the seed springing up.

Can we claim that hope in our own dark times?

Let’s sing about our fears for the world as it is now, its flooded towns and war, and our hope as followers of Jesus.

PP x 5  ‘We lay our broken world’  by Anna Briggs 

Recommended tune: Carlisle TiS234

PP     Walking into the light

When did the darkness begin to lift for Jesus’ friends and first followers?  Was it after one day, or two?  Or after a month, or a year?   Mark’s story says it was on the third day after the crucifixion.

Mark 16: 1-8: When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.  But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here.  Look, there is the place they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”  So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.

We don’t know how long it took the followers to realise something vital – something absolutely vital – for their own future, and for the future of the teaching for which Jesus had died.  Something woke them from their despairing sleep.  Something encouraged them get up and start walking – out of the devastation and hopelessness into a new future as followers of Jesus.  What was that something?  We can only think it was their growing awareness that what Jesus had given them lived on!  That it was indestructible!

His body no doubt was lost in the dust of Jerusalem, along with other victims of crucifixion.  But his message lived on!

And so they began to walk and talk again – as he had taught them.  At first they walked slowly and hesitantly, aware that what they were doing placed them in very great danger.  But they went on.  They walked with the God Jesus loved.  They carried his message to the world.

The music we will hear now, called Psalmus Ode, is in Latin.  It asks God to be with those who are walking slowly – in despair or danger.

(Audio – Psalmus Ode – first 2:30 mins)

(removal of black cloth and cross, and placement of candle on white cloth)

 PP     Easter Day – a day of rejoicing.  Did Jesus’ God rejoice?

Easter bells – audio

And so, into the light.  Traditionally, this is the day when Christians rejoice.  Everyone remembers singing ‘Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son.  Endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.’  Again, this is a Christians-only celebration.  Not for anyone else – not for Jews, or Muslims, or Hindus, or Buddhists or people of no religion.  Again, we must ask whether God would rejoice in the reasons traditionally given for celebration on Easter Day.  We have considered the new beginning that gradually dawned on Jesus’ original followers.  But the church has called it an immediate ‘victory over death’, teaching that Jesus himself returned to life on earth, before going ‘up’ to heaven.   Whichever way we may see that story of what is known as the resurrection, again there is a concentration on life after death for believers in Christ the Saviour.  That comes ahead of and often in place of, Jesus’ determination to make life on earth for all people, the best it can be.  To accomplish that, Jesus had a message for everyone.

PP     Jesus told the world

Jesus told the world what the world thought unbelievable – that God is kind, humble, compassionate, forgiving, just, non-violent, peaceful, faithful and enduring.

Jesus discovered that the God of what we call Easter has a name –

that name is Love.

PP     Where does this leave us?

Is it time for seeds of loving action to gather their strength?

Is it time for taking hold of love and walking the talk?

We will pray this three-part prayer together.

PP     Spirit of life

Spirit of life, we are thankful for the earth and sky,

For all that sustains and nourishes us on this planet.

PP     Spirit of peace

Spirit of peace, we are grateful for inner stillness and times of thoughtful reflection that nurture and shape us.

 PP     Spirit who is love

Spirit who is Love, we are grateful for Jesus, who spoke words of love and lived the way of compassion.

He showed us how to challenge the forces of evil.

PP     We light this candle in gratitude for Jesus

Candle is lit in silence.

Silence (1 min) 

PPx3 God is love, let heaven adore him.  Tune: Abbot’s Leigh

This is one of the few hymns that actually states: ‘God is love’.

So it’s a natural.  It’s one of the best Easter Day hymns we could sing.

Let’s all stand and sing it!

PPx4 Blessing for Easter

A blessing for Easter.

(PP = powerpoint slides)

________________________________________________________________

As author of this liturgy I give permission for it to be used by groups to make available a meaningful observance of Easter

for non-traditional/progressive  Christians.

I cannot share the powerpoint slides as some of the images are subject to copyright.  That applies also to words of hymns indicated in the script and to the words of a poem that I have read as a Blessing for Easter.

Other blessings can be substituted.

Lorraine Parkinson, April 2022

oOo

         

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Sharing of more on truth telling and the Bible.

At last month’s gathering of The Merthyr Explorers (New Farm Q), Tim O’Dwyer took home from the table of free books this slim volume:

WHAT JESUS DIDN’T SAY by radical biblical scholar GERD LUEDEMANN.

Booksellers Barnes & Noble give this overview:

Biblical historians have long held that the New Testament abounds in sayings incorrectly attributed to Jesus. In order to assemble as complete a collection of authentic sayings as possible, they have, for the most part, been intent on seeing how the sayings deemed authentic are connected to one another, and attempting to picture their specific contexts. In What Jesus Didn t Say, Gerd Ludemann flips the coin and focuses on the inauthentic words of Jesus not only those thought to be clear inventions, but also sayings that exhibit noteworthy alterations to their original form and intent. For his selection, he uses sayings that: are attributed to Jesus after his crucifixion; presuppose a pagan rather than a Jewish audience; involve situations in a post-Easter community; reflect the editorial influence of the author. According to Ludemann, the sheer abundance of inauthentic Jesus-sayings demonstrates that, soon after his sudden and dramatic death, he became the center of a new faith. From the very beginning, Christians imagined what answers Jesus would offer to the questions that arose among them. When the words they recalled no longer seemed adequate, they revised or invented new sayings to suit the existing situation.

Luedemann eventually reaches this prophetic conclusion:

FICTIONAL JESUS-SAYINGS AND THE QUEST FOR TRUTH

“We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” Paul, Ephesians 4:25

Any contemporary person who turns to the New Testament for objective information about Jesus is bound to come away feeling queasy. Although early Christians acclaimed truth as a component of holiness and condemned lying as one of the sins they had supposedly overcome, the utterances attributed to Jesus in the New Testament Gospels are for the most part heavily redacted or wholly invented sayings intended to edify the earliest Christians, many of whom were waiting for Jesus to return from Heaven. Unfortunately, the Church today often proclaims these texts to be the Word of God, even though scholars – many of them committed Christians – long ago discredited them as inauthentic.

It must be remembered, however, that the revisers and inventors were persuaded of the authentic nature of these sayings. Thus they were not acting deceptively, but rather believed that by their actions they were responding to a higher truth. Still, it is beyond question that by today’s standards these Christians propagated lies and that, since the lies remain part and parcel of Christianity’s received Scriptures, the Church’s transmission of falsehood continues unabated.

Clearly, this preponderance of spurious Jesus-sayings gravely undermines any assertions of their religious validity, and obliges the serious reader both to reassess the New Testament Gospels, and to recognise that apart from a relatively small number of authentic reports they are to be valued primarily as museum pieces.

Finally, it would seem axiomatic that the search for ultimate truths cannot afford to have its foundations riddled with untruths. Therefore, since these many falsely ascribed sayings remain fundamental elements of the Christian tradition taught in both church and seminary, it seems evident that only a radical and sweeping exegetical reform can save that tradition from increasing irrelevance and eventual self-destruction.

oOo

 

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Event: What is it with Meditation?

What is it with meditation?  Can silence and directed attention help us ‘put on the mind of Christ’?
with Dr Petrina Barson

Sunday 24th April 2022 from 3:00pm to 5.00pm at
Ewing Memorial Centre of Stonnington Uniting Church
Cnr of Burke Road & Coppin Street, Malvern East
Our first physical face to face meeting for 2022

Compassion is a quality intrinsic to all worthwhile religion. Dr Barson will speak about compassion as an expansive perspective that strengthens us to face the suffering of the world. She will explore compassion as a capacity that can be cultivated and one which takes us beyond the limitations of ego into a place where the small self dissolves into the vaster sphere of love. She will lead participants in a compassion meditation drawn from Tibetan Buddhist and Christian practice as an experience of putting the mind of compassion into the heart.
Dr Petrina Barson is a certified teacher of the Compassion Institute’s ‘Compassion Cultivation Training’, and has been teaching this to health professionals and others since 2014. She is a long-term member of a progressive Christian community, and explores contemplation through this lens – and in more recent years through practices derived from Tibetan Buddhism. She is a doctor (general practitioner), a mother, a poet, and an activist on issues of climate change and refugee rights.

Download the flyer HERE
The meeting will also be live streamed via zoom for those unable to attend physically.  See Link below.

Click here for the Zoom Link at 3.00pm
For further information email info@pcnvictoria.org.au

Rod Peppiatt  – PCNV Secretary

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New book: Faith and the Concept of God

https://grandadreflects.blogspot.com/2022/04/faith-and-concept-of-god.html

This small book by Rev Bob Ridley is available at the following link including a foreword by Rev. Dr Lorraine Parkinson.

Acknowledgements and explanation

This paper probably began with a pastoral visit to John Bodycomb and Lorraine Parkinson where, as usual, I gained more than I gave. We spoke of the meaning of God and the effect on prayer.

Not long after John took leave of this world, but Lorraine continued to encourage me in my thoughts and, when Covid gave the gift of time, to continue some initial notes. She continued to read the developing pages and to make extensive suggestions and correct many of the typos and poor phraseology. Despite her own considerable knowledge, she always encouraged me to record my own thoughts and never tried to direct or change them other than in improving the expression.  Lorraine also kindly wrote a foreword when the work was complete. I am grateful to them both for their generous time and sharing of their amazing scholarship and now it is time to record where my thinking is at present.

Some friends and family have taken the time to pore over a number of drafts and make comments and suggestions and raise their own questions. My thanks to all of them.

This is not a scholarly paper but a record of my own journey and current conclusions. I chose not to include references to keep the flow and avoid distracting the reader, but it will be evident that many great scholars have seeped into my consciousness and contributed to my development. My gratitude extends to them and their constant quest for truth.

My aim is not to produce a final solution in any sense but to encourage honest and respectful debate. Any contribution to this debate will be welcomed.

Bob Ridley, January 2022.

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When Spong visited Brisbane

Thank you to Dr Steven Nisbet OAM for facilitating yesterdays seminar for the Merthyr Rd Explorers.

For those who missed the seminar at New Farm, Brisbane, yesterday, here is the material that formed the basis of a very vibrant and enjoyable discussion by the large group.

The video:

(38) Bishop John Spong | The Weekly [Extended Interview] – YouTube

and

The top 25 Quotes by John Shelby Spong:

  1. “God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don’t think my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  2. “I do assert that one prepares for eternity not by being religious and keeping the rules, but by living fully, loving wastefully, and daring to be all that each of us has the capacity to be.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  3. “True religion is not about possessing the truth. No religion does that. It is rather an invitation into a journey that leads one toward the mystery of God. Idolatry is religion pretending that it has all the answers.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  4. “You can’t go to church without praying ten or fifteen times for God to have mercy on you. You can’t sing “Amazing Grace” without reminding yourself that the reason God’s grace is amazing is it saves a wretch like you. This self-denigration stuff – Jesus died for my sins – is nothing but a guilt message. That’s the thing we’ve got to get out from under. That’s not Christianity. That’s sort of fourth-century Christianity that got turned into doctrines and dogmas that we’ve never been able to escape.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  5. “I do not think of God theistically, that is, as a being, supernatural in power, who dwells beyond the limits of my world. I rather experience God as the source of life willing me to live fully, the source of love calling me to love wastefully and to borrow a phrase from the theologian, Paul Tillich, as the Ground of being, calling me to be all that I can be.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  6. “The church is like a swimming pool. Most of the noise comes from the shallow end.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  7. “When the dust settles and the pages of history are written, it will not be the angry defenders of intolerance who have made the difference. The reward will go to those who dared to step outside the safety of their privacy in order to expose and rout the prevailing prejudices.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  8. “Christianity is, I believe, about expanded life, heightened consciousness and achieving a new humanity. It is not about closed minds, supernatural interventions, a fallen creation, guilt, original sin or divine rescue.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  9. “The Bible has lost every major battle it has ever fought. The Bible was quoted to defend slavery and the bible lost. The Bible was quoted to keep women silent, and the Bible lost. And the Bible is being quoted to deny homosexuals their equal rights, and the Bible will lose.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  10. “Praying and living deeply, richly and fully have become for me almost indistinguishable. Prayer is being present, sharing love, opening life to transcendence. It is not necessarily words addressed heavenward. Prayer is entering into the pain or joy of another person. Prayer is what I am doing when I love wastefully, passionately and wondrously and invite others to do so.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  11. “I could not believe that anyone who has read this book would be so foolish as to proclaim that the Bible in every literal word was the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God. Have these people simply not read the text? Are they hopelessly misinformed? Is there a different Bible? Are they blinded by a combination of ego needs and naïveté?” ~ John Shelby Spong
  12. “The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  13. “The Bible is full of dreadful things. There’s a Psalm that says, “Happy will you be when you take your enemy’s children and dash their heads against the stones.” Don’t read that to me on Sunday morning and say “This is the word of the Lord.” It’s like that crazy man down in Alabama who wanted to put the Ten Commandments in his courtroom.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  14. “The Bible was written between 3,000 and 2,000 years ago, and it’s filled with the knowledge that people had in that period of time, some of which you and I rejected long ago. The Bible says that women are property, that homosexuals ought to be put to death, that anybody who worships a false God ought to be executed, that a child that talks back to his parents ought to be stoned at the gates of the city. Those ideas are absurd.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  15. “I think that anything that begins to give people a sense of their own worth and dignity is God.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  16. “So who is God? No one can finally say. That is not within human competence. All we can ever say is how we believe we have experienced God, doing our best to dispel our human delusions. Let me try to do just that. I experience God as the source of life calling me to live fully and thus to respect life in every form as embodying the holy.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  17. “All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  18. “In that process of coming to know that which we name as divine, the God who is love is slowly transformed into the love that is God. Let me repeat that…We breathe love in, and we breathe love out. It is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. It is never exhausted, always expanding. When I try to describe this reality, words fail me; so I simply utter the name God. That name, however, is no longer for me the name of a being.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  19. “All religion seems to need to prove that it’s the only truth. And that’s where it turns demonic. Because that’s when you get religious wars and persecutions and burning heretics at the stake.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  20. “If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed. For that view of resurrection is not believable, and if that is all there is, then Christianity, which depends upon the truth and authenticity of Jesus’ resurrection, also is not believable.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  21. “There’s no way a human being can escape his or her human-ness to be able to imagine God. We can talk about how we’ve experienced God, not what or who God is.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  22. “I look at American Christianity and I’m almost in despair. I don’t want to be identified with it. The Christian vote in America is an anti-abortion, anti-homosexual vote. I consider that to be anti-female and anti-gay, and I don’t want to be identified with a God who is anti-anything.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  23. “Paul’s words are not the Words of God. They are the words of Paul – a vast difference.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  24. “I think one of the things we’ve got to look out for is human beings claiming that they know how God operates.” ~ John Shelby Spong
  25. “Papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy are the two ecclesiastical versions of this human idolatry. Both papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy require widespread and unchallenged ignorance to sustain their claims to power. Both are doomed as viable alternatives for the long- range future of anyone.” ~ John Shelby Spong.

oOo

 

 

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Opinion: The Cosmos and our connection to it.

The Cosmos and our connection to it.

George Stuart

Huge numbers confront us when contemplating the mystery of the Cosmos.   Huge numbers!!!   A billion is a thousand million.   A trillion is a million million.

One of the numbers we need to try to understand relates to light.  A Light Year is a measure of distance.  It may not sound that, but that is what it is.    It is the distance light can travel in 1 year. Light does travel. It travels at about 300,000 klm /sec.  So, to calculate the distance of a Light Year, we need to find out the number of seconds in a year; about 31,000,000 seconds, and then to multiply that by 300,000; the speed of light.  So, the distance of 1 Light Year is approximately 9.5 trillion kilometres, or 9,500,000,000,000 klms.

In the Cosmos, there are approximately 2,000,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe – that’s 2 trillion.  Scientific estimates vary quite a bit.  Andromeda is the name given to the closest galaxy to the galaxy Earth is in, – the Milky Way.  However, it is more than 2.5 million Light Years away.   That is more than 20,000,000,000,000,000,000 klms!  Andromeda is bigger than the Milky Way.  In billions of years or so into the future, it will collide with our galaxy, the two will probably become a single galaxy, and all the structures of both will be changed, destroyed or modified.

The Cosmos contains countless stars. Our Sun is just one star, among astronomers’ estimate of about 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way.  Our whole cosmos contains approximately 200 billion trillion stars in the Cosmos. Or, to put it another way, 200 sextillion. That’s 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!  Quite a few!  Estimates vary, but this is science.  No one has made a count yet!

Have I lost you?   I have lost myself!   I just cannot understand or even begin to comprehend the meaning of such numbers and such distances.  They are just too gigantic!

Cosmologists and astronomers now believe that most stars have one or more planets that revolve in orbits around them.   Millions, if not billions, of these revolve around their ‘parent’ star in orbits that are in the ‘goldilocks zone’; the zone where it is not too hot nor too cold for some form of life, as we perceive it to be, to exist.   Surely there is life elsewhere in the Cosmos!

The ancient Hebrew, biblical concepts of creation.

The diagram below is from the Teachers’ Commentary, edited by Hugh Martin M.A., on page 406.

It is very important to read the biblical references accompanying the diagram.  They point to the physical features about the ‘Heavens and the Earth’, that were thought to exist at the time the Bible was written.   For us in the 21st Century, they are quaint ideas and without any semblance of valid foundation. We might learn some theological truths from the Bible creation stories, but we learn nothing at all that is helpful regarding its physical reality. It is absurd to think we can!

As you can see from the above diagram, this is not a diagram of the Cosmos.  It is totally different to that which is held today, but this is what the writers of the Genesis myths were writing about.   They had no idea at all about the cosmos as we understand it today.   You will not find the words ‘universe’ or ‘cosmos’ in the Bible.  The concepts we have today were totally beyond their comprehension and imagination.   We should not criticise these ideas too much, because the writers had no scientific information that is readily available to us today.   Biblical ideas belong to the human imaginations of more than 2½ thousand years ago.

If we seek verses from the Bible to use when speaking of the physical nature of the Cosmos, we will find none of any value.    We can find verses which point to very important theological ideas, but for the actual structure of the Cosmos itself, NO!  Nothing.

One of the theological ideas that comes to us from the 1st creation story in Genesis chapter 2, is that of humans, animals and birds being made from the dust of the Earth; Genesis 2:7, 18 and 3:19, ‘You are dust, and to dust you shall return’.  Theologically, this could remind us that we should practise humility and not think of ourselves ‘more highly than they ought to think’, Romans 12:3.  We are dust; dust of the Earth!

However, our modern knowledge suggests that we are ‘star dust’, not dust of the Earth.

Our/my connection with the Cosmos.

Humanity has always sought to discern how and when we, as humans, came to be.   We have been told numerous stories and myths about how we all started.   Many of these stories point to truths about humanity but none have given us solid information about this issue. As followers of Jesus, we are familiar with the Hebrew myths in the Bible, in Genesis. They point to theological insights but give us no solid information about the physical structure of the Cosmos.

We need a new origin story.  And now we have it and it has scientific validation.

A smattering of the science about the Cosmos.

This is not theological or poetical.  It purports to say what the situation actually was.

In the beginning, there was a tiny ball of matter of nearly infinite energy and density.  It underwent a sudden violent expansion; we call the Big Bang. This Big Bang happened about 13.7 billion years. After this sudden burst, the expansion continued at an astonishingly high rate, doubling in size every 10-34 seconds, creating space as it rapidly inflated. One of the results of the Big Bang was coming into being of stars, galaxies, as well as much of the stuff of the Cosmos, we can observe today. We know that Hydrogen, came to be with the Big Bang.  We also know that Oxygen, Carbon, and Nitrogen came to be with the burning of stars, a short time after the Big Bang – about 300 million years.

A smattering of chemistry, with comments about our physical human body.

 There are over 100 different elements.  Each element has been given a chemical symbol, e.g. Oxygen-O, Hydrogen-H, Carbon-C, Nitrogen-N, Chlorine-Cl, Sodium-Na, Iron-Fe, Calcium-Ca, and so on, for all the more than 100 different elements.  Using these symbols makes it very easy to tell us a lot about a compound.  Compounds are the results of ‘bonding’ of different elements.  For instance, water is formed by the bonding of Hydrogen and Oxygen – H2O.   The symbols denote what elements are present and the little number denotes how many atoms of each element are present.  For water, there are 2 atoms of Hydrogen to every 1 atom of Oxygen.  Another example is table salt. Another example is table salt. It is formed by the bonding of Sodium and Chlorine, NaCl – arranged in a crystal lattice with equal numbers of each atom.

Most importantly for us, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon, and Nitrogen atoms make up 96% of our human body, 65% Oxygen, 18% Carbon, 10% Hydrogen and 3% Nitrogen.  They don’t occur by themselves but occur as bonded with each other or bonded with other elements to form compounds, some of which are very complex.

Water, H2O – is the most abundant compound in our bodies.  Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. According to H.H. Mitchell, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.  Water is made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen, H2O.

The Hydrogen atoms in you and me came into being with the Big Bang, and the Carbon, Nitrogen, and Oxygen atoms in us, were produced by stars burning.   These atoms, 96% of us, existed at the time of the Big Bang and just after, when stars began to burn.   We have billions upon billions of these atoms in us, and they all are many billions of years old.  Being naturally indestructible, they have had an extremely long and complex journey, getting into us, but that is the result of the processes of evolution, over billions of years.   What we are made of, is as old as the Big Bang.  We may not look it, but that’s the truth! That’s where we originally came from.  We are star dust.  We are part of the Cosmos, always have been and always will be.

However helpful the teaching of Genesis might be, we have needed a new origin story.

Now we have it!   Actually, we have had it for some time!

It is very appropriate to use our 21st Century knowledge and say we are not really dust of the Earth, as Genesis tells us.  We are ‘star dust’. As such, we are physically part of the Cosmos.   We are all part, a very privileged part.  Let us be thankful and celebrate this, our origin.

And when I die?   The Cosmos will reclaim all the indestructible atoms of Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon, and Nitrogen atoms in me, that it has loaned to me for my 3 score years and 20, to use them in some other way for a different important purpose.  This is evolution.  I continue to belong.

To all this, I confidently add my belief, that the same unknowable life-force-energy mystery that was active in the Big Bang and exploding stars, etc, is now active in my life, as it is in all life around me.    This has been the case for always.  We are all part of this wonderful Cosmos, always have been and always will be.   This unknowable life-force-energy mystery, which I am comfortable calling ‘God’, has been, is, and always will be the active creative force in this changing, expanding and evolving wonderful Cosmos.  And in ME!!!

I was there at the beginning, and I will be there at the end.

oOo

 

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Redcliffe Explorers offer a Progressive Easter Liturgy

The Redcliffe Explorers: Jesus and the God of Easter

Jesus told the world what the world thought unbelievable – that God is kind, humble, compassionate, forgiving, just, non-violent, peaceful, faithful and enduring.  Jesus discovered that the God of what we call Easter, has a name. That name is Love.

On Monday 4 April Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson and the Redcliffe Explorers invite you to an Easter liturgy for this time and this troubled world. Through beautiful music and imagery, and quiet reflection, we will trace Jesus’ courageous journey through Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Day.

We’ll meet in the Activities Room at Azure Blue Retirement Centre (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe) at 6 p.m. The Centre management requires that we’re all fully Covid-vaccinated, and the usual arrangements of mask-wearing, hand-sanitising etc. will apply. If you’d like to come along but aren’t a regular at our gatherings or are not on our e-mail list, it would be advisable to give me a call on 0401 513 723 about access and parking arrangements at the Centre.

ZOOM IN on Sunday 27th March when Rev Drs Greg Jenks, David Cohen, Lorraine Parkinson and Rod Pattenden will discuss the new Westar Institute publication AFTERLIVES: Jesus in Global Perspective in a Zoom session (link below) starting at 3 p.m. Queensland time. The three-volume set (edited by Greg Jenks) contains an international collection of essays exploring the impact of Jesus within and beyond Christianity, including his many ‘afterlives’ in literature and the arts, social justice and world religion during the past 2,000 years and especially in the present global context.

To join the Zoom meeting, click on the following link while holding the Control key https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89796404539?pwd=SlUzT0dwWS9MZGJLbXNqMjdpcnJJdz09 or cut and paste it into your browser. If needed, the Meeting ID is 897 9640 4539 and Passcode is 781878.

Shalom, Ian

oOo

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Caloundra Explorers asking the big questions

Dear Explorers

What is God? That’s a very big question and we plan to spend the whole year exploring it. There will be three Gatherings and two Book Studies addressing this question from different angles.

First Gathering  8 May  With or without God: Why the way we live is more important than what we believe

John Everall will lead a virtual Q & A session with Rev Gretta Vosper, who he met in Canada.

First book study  19 July—23 August

Starting all over again? Yes or No? by George Stuart, author of Singing a new song

Second gathering  11 September  Ways Christians see God

Back by popular demand, Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson, who now lives on the Redcliffe Peninsula

Second book study  11 October—15 November

Our benevolent cosmos: embracing the mystery of life by John Humphreys

John is a member of our group and his book blends together his career in science, technology and innovation, his personal journey, his interest in research and his love of literature.

Third Gathering  20 November  Our benevolent cosmos

John Humphreys wraps up our exploration of What is God?

Our planning group is excited about this program, and I will email you details throughout the year.

Ken Williamson

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Christian University Students – faith, fun, scholarship

 

Christian Students Uniting is an inter-denominational Christian group on campus at the University of New South Wales (UNSW)University of Technology Sydney (UTS)University of Sydney (USYD)Conservatorium of Music (CON) and Macquarie University (MQ). We are disciples committed to following Jesus as Lord and sharing God’s Word with the world.

Our time together is about faith, fun, biblical scholarship, Radical Discipleship, justice and community.

?Feel free to drop in to one of or Bibles Studies or social events or check us out on Facebook.

Visit the website for all the resources of CSU. Some samples:

LGBTIQA+ Resources

Poetry Blog

Climate Core Charter and Vision Statement

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Event: Spong Seminar at New Farm Q.

Friends,

We are learning to live with COVID, the flood waters have receded and The Merthyr Explorers is set to meet again. Our thoughts are with any folk who have been affected by the floods – I trust that the physical recovery of property damage will happen soon and the emotional recovery will be speedy.

We meet for the first time in 2022:

Wednesday 30th March 2022 at Merthyr Road Uniting Church
10 am for morning tea
10:30 to start our exploring
around 12 noon at Merthyr Cafe for those who want to stay on for lunch

 

Steven Nisbet will facilitate our exploring into some of the insights from Bishop John Shelby Spong. We will first watch a video of one visit to Brisbane and then have some discussion about our insights from that viewing. 

 

 

 

Government COVID Guidelines allow no more than 20 people attending an event if there is an unvaccinated person present. To that end, I believe we need to take the position that only vaccinated people may attend this meeting. You will be required to check in with the app and show your vaccination certificate.

Best wishes to all,

Desley

oOo

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Opinion: Responding to Evangelical Christians

by Jim Burklo

Senior Associate Dean, Office of Religious Life,
University of Southern California

All of us at some point will be approached by evangelical Christians attempting to convince us to become their kind of Christians.

What’s the most Christian way we can respond to them?  — whether we are Christians or not?

I’ll share here an outline of how I respond to the evangelical efforts to convert me, a Christian pastor for over 40 years, to Christianity.  I imagine myself and an evangelical Christian having a chat while taking a walk together.  Here I share my side of the conversation:

“I really sense the depth and significance of your faith in Jesus, and also the sincere concern you have for me.  I can at least begin to imagine how it must feel for you to believe that I am in danger of eternal damnation.  To think that I and so many other people you genuinely care about might experience such a horrible future – that must be deeply disturbing to you.  How do you cope with such a huge concern?  Tell me more about how that feels…

“Is it okay for me to respond?  I may say some things that could disturb you even more, though that is not my intention.  My goal is not to weaken your faith, but just to share what my faith is like.  I do hope that what I have to say might be helpful to you.  Should I continue?…

“It seems to me that our conversation about faith in Jesus involves some initial assumptions that we might best explore together before going much further.  Tell me, what do you mean by the word “God”?….

“My understanding about God resonates with 1 John 4 in the New Testament:  “God is love.”  It seems to me that this statement has very big implications.  Love is real, it is powerful, it is everywhere.  But the nature of love is that it does not force itself on the world:  it is attractive, not controlling.  It invites us to do good, but can’t prevent us from doing wrong.  If God is love, then God is natural – not supernatural or omnipotent.  If God is love, then God is a quality of personal relationships, so it is natural that we would use the language of personhood to talk about God, even though God is not a sort of “person” like you or I….

“You’ve quoted the Bible to me quite a bit as we’ve started our conversation.  What do you say the Bible is?…

“I read the Bible as a collection of ancient writings by people about their spiritual experiences.  I see it as a language of faith, rather than as a prescription of what we’re supposed to believe or do.  Its writings come from times and circumstances that in many cases are far removed from our own.  Its myths, stories, and poems have always been precious raw material for Christians to use in creative ways in expressing their journeys of faith.  That’s the way Jesus used the Hebrew scriptures, and that’s the way I read the Christian scriptures.  So for me it does not make sense to take the Bible literally, nor does it make sense for me to “believe” the Bible.  Instead I seek inspiration in it where it is to be found, seek to understand its historical contexts, and make creative use of it in expressing my faith and growing in it.  There is deep truth in many of the Bible’s myths, even if they are not based on facts.  So when you use passages from the Bible to “prove” your points, that approach does not fit my understanding of what the Bible is nor how we best can read it and use it….

“Yes, I understand that you believe the Bible to be the word of God, even though the Bible doesn’t refer to itself at all, since its writers didn’t know their writings would be gathered together later into what we now call the Bible.  The Bible does not say or even imply that the Bible is the word of God.  So clearly, much later than when the books in it were written, people decided what would be included in the Bible and what would be left out.  And then they came up with the idea that the Bible was the word of God.  I respect that idea as something important in the history of Christianity, but I don’t find it to be a useful idea today.  I treasure the Bible as a human record of human experiences of spirituality over thousands of years.  It is the language of myths and story and poetry that I use to express my faith.  What is the most meaningful part of the BIble for you?…

“I understand that you believe in the miracle stories in the Bible – that Jesus was literally born from a virgin, that Jesus literally walked on water and literally rose from the dead.  I take these stories seriously but see no point in taking them literally since they don’t fit with our modern understanding about how the world works.  There was nothing like science, nothing like history in the modern sense of the word, in the time of Jesus and the early church.  People believed that the Roman emperor was born from a virgin.  Lots of stories circulated of people rising from the dead and performing miraculous healings in the first century.  To me, it seems like a cruel threat to say that to avoid hellfire in an afterlife, we must accept stories as factual that were much, much easier to believe in the early days of Christianity than they are for us to believe today…

“I understand that you believe human beings are hopeless sinners who deserve eternal punishment for their sins, and that you believe that God sent Jesus to die on the cross as a sacrifice to pay for our sins, and that if we believe in him the way you do, then we’ll be saved from hell in the afterlife.  Is this what you think is the central “take-away” message of Christianity?….

“For me, Christian faith is the practice of compassion here on earth, while we’re alive.  So “heaven” is giving and receiving the unconditional love that is God  – and “hell” is a metaphor for what life is like when we fail to give or receive divine love.  When have you experienced that kind of heaven?  and that kind of hell?….

“I understand how important you believe the message of blood atonement for sin to be.  In the context of first-century Israel, that theology would have had a cultural context that made it deeply meaningful.  For instance, all meat that people consumed came from animals that had been ritually sacrificed to establish or maintain a relationship with various supernatural divinities.  So the idea of blood sacrifice was universal at the time.  Today, we buy meat in shrink-wrapped packages in grocery stores, with no rituals associated with the process.  So we are culturally very distant from the idea of blood atonement for sin.  I don’t find it to be the most compelling or meaningful message of Christianity.  I see the cross confronting us with human suffering, making us look at the ways we impose suffering on others, and pointing us toward reconciliation and forgiveness and compassion….

“The take-away message of my faith is this: Rabbi Jesus discovered that the center of his being was not his body or his ego, but God, who is unconditional love.  He taught people to discover this for themselves, and to practice the radical compassion that follows from this awareness.  He organized the church to cultivate this awareness and put it into action in the world.  He demonstrated unconditional love so profoundly that the Roman government considered him a threat to its authority and killed him on a cross.  Out of love he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus’ followers turned the cross into the symbol of his unconditional compassion, and his church has strived to follow his way ever since.  How do you practice Jesus’ way of compassion?….

“I hope that our conversation leaves us both with deeper understanding of each other… and that we can keep on sharing love – who is God – with each other!”

(See more of my “musings” here…)

oOo

 

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Opinion: Truth-Telling about our sacred book – the Bible. The story of the Exodus

About the author.

My name is George Stuart and I am married with four delightful daughters, who, with their partners, have presented my wife, Wendy, and myself with 7 equally delightful grand children.

I have been an ‘ordained’ minister for a number of years, as well as an analytical chemist, an administrator, working for the Broken Hill Pty Ltd and a Rehabilitation Counsellor. I have degrees in Applied Chemistry, Arts and Theology . I retired from ‘paid’ work in 1995 and Wendy and I live at Newcastle, Australia.

Truth-Telling and our sacred book.

In the pursuit of ‘Truth-Telling’, I believe the church has some difficult ‘Truth-Telling’ to do about our past particularly regarding our sacred book, the Bible. Why the Bible? Because it comes to us from our somewhat distant church past; 2000 years ago and more. This ‘Truth-Telling’ is not absent but I believe it has to be far more obvious to the general public and also needs to be given more voice within the church to help our members confront the issues this ancient book raises. By this, I believe the church will gain again some credibility in our world today.

With the call to excise from our present situation the ‘honoring’ of the names of historical figures who are now being exposed as slave-traders, violent leaders, racists, etc., along with the disfiguring and dismantling of statues of past prominent figures of history, some of it in the name of the ‘Truth-Telling’, maybe now could be an opportune time for some more hard thinking about what more needs to be said by the church about the our church’s past.

There are many issues raised by our sacred book but being specific, I believe it is very necessary for the church to ‘call out’ and repudiate the violent activity of the God which is depicted on so many of the Bible’s pages, particularly of the Old Testament but also to a lesser extent of the New. I think this ‘Truth-Telling’ about our sacred book needs to be done especially when Christians and Christian leaders make critical comments about the way some people, particularly non-church people like President Trump, use the Bible.

‘Truth Telling’ about the past, as we all know, can often be very difficult and painful because it can bring to the light those parts of history we wish to ignore or forget; parts that we do not wish to discuss with, or teach to those who may not know. It often raises those parts of history about which many of us take a very different posture today, thank goodness, but it can also raise guilt feelings which we find very uncomfortable and to a degree, sometimes resist.

Self-examination within the church can be unsettling particularly when it exposes our ‘dark’ past and thus can offend others who are members of our own ‘tribe’.

When Jesus involved himself in some ‘Truth-Telling’ about his Jewish history in the Hebrew Scriptures, he got himself into strife. Early in his ministry, we are told, he was in the synagogue at Nazareth, teaching. The reaction of those listening was,

And all spoke well of him and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth ;…(Luke 4:22.)

However, the gospel writer tells us that Jesus continued his teaching with,

And he (Jesus) said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon to a woman who was a widow. (Referring to a story in 1 Kings 17:8-24.) And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them were cleansed but only Naaman the Syrian. (Referring to a story in 2 Kings 5:1-14.) (Luke 4:24-27.)

Jesus certainly knew his Jewish scriptures. Very selective in his quoting, but the stories are there and were probably avoided by the current religious leaders and teachers. Some confronting ‘Truth-telling’! Was this exposing a side of their history his fellow Jews didn’t want to hear? The stories he was referring to were suggesting that foreigners were respected and even cared for more than their own Jewish ancestors. What was the result of this ‘Truth-Telling’?

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath, and they rose up and put him out of the city and they lead him to the brow of a hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away. (Luke 4:28-30.)

It amazes me how quickly crowds can turn from praise to persecution. I find it worrying that this can be the reaction to ‘Truth-Telling’. The fear of persecution may even lead to the avoidance of ‘Truth-Telling’ particularly if it is thought that this persecution could be carried out by members of one’s own ‘tribe’. It may also lead to unwanted division within the ‘tribe’.

So, I hope you find this paper useful. It is my honest attempt to do some ‘Truth-Telling.’, as I see it. I think we regular church-goers sometimes accept, without a great deal of scrutiny, what we are told in the church.

Although extremely difficult for me, I feel I need to construct this paper using the concepts of God that are nearly universal in the church and certainly promoted right throughout the Bible. These concepts include the anthropomorphic characterization of God and connected with this, that God is a being, a person, who ‘does things’. This biblical God intervenes in human history to execute God’s will and purpose. Being a panentheist I find all this unacceptable and I use quite different images when speaking of God. I am somewhat reluctant to use the word God at all, because of the immense unwanted baggage which it carries and which seems extremely difficult to throw off. My concept of God is that God is in everything and everything is in God, so for me, the life force, the inherent underlying foundation of all that is, is ‘involved’ but not intervening from ‘outside’.

So in this paper I use biblical images and concepts to try to connect with regular church-goers because I think this is where many start. But by using these images, I do not wish to convey the impression that I like using them or that they are the foundational images and concepts of God that I embrace. Not so!

In this paper I refer to ‘Reader-Response interpretation’, quite a few times. Because of the study I have done regarding the numerous Bible references I make throughout this paper, I recognise my interpretations can differ from other people’s interpretation. I have found that very different interpretations are given by various biblical commentators when they deal with the same text.

‘Reader-Response interpretation’ is reading into the text one’s own experience of one’s own day and culture, rather than reading the text itself; taking note of what the text actually states and then learning from it, always taking into serious consideration its 1st Century middle-eastern cultural context.

I think those who have preached, using the Bible as their prime resource, have indulged in this ‘Reader-Response interpretation’ a great deal, and in extreme cases, have created their own text and then proclaimed it as being what the Bible teaches. I have been and still am certainly involved in this sort of interpretation, hopefully not to an extreme.

Moises Silva expounds on this matter.

Insofar as every reader brings an interpretive framework to the text, to that extent every reader generates a new meaning, and thus creates a new text. [1]

Edgar McKnight, a respected proponent of Reader-Response theory, suggests that since we cannot completely break out of our self-validating system, ultimate meaning is unreachable. All we can hope for is to discover and express truth ‘in terms that make sense within a particular universe of meaning’. We may, therefore, continue to discover or create meaning, ‘which is satisfying for the present location of the reader’. [2]

With this in mind, in this paper I am claiming to do some ‘Truth-Telling’. That may be seen by some as being arrogant. Am I saying, “My interpretation of the Bible is one of ‘Truth-Telling’ whereas other approaches and interpretations are false and not concerned with ‘Truth-Telling’?” I certainly hope not. I don’t wish to give that impression but I suppose this is the predicament that one can get into when one expresses one’s views with passion and strong commitment. Others who disagree with me are ignorant and wrong!! I don’t wish to even suggest that. I certainly have passion and strong commitment to what I put forward in this paper, however, I wish, in no way, to say or suggest that other people who have different approaches are not as concerned with the truth as much as myself.

Their search for truth may be more productive than mine. For you to decide.

To read George’s paper click here.

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The Ukraine

A Time of Sadness and A Time for Action

[Thank you Peter Robinson for this article]

By Malkhaz Songulashvili

[Presently, Songulashvili is the diocesan Bishop of Tbilisi and head of Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi. Formerly he also served the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia as its leading Archbishop for 19 years.]

Many of us did not believe that Putin’s Russia would attack the coreligionist country of Ukraine. Now worst fears of brutalities and atrocities are coming true. The war as an organized mechanism of murder has been brought to motion. For me as a Georgian this war reopens some wounds of unhealed memories of Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008: deep feeling of helplessness, humiliation and disapointment in humanity. The same scenario, same tyrant, same lies, same venomous rhetoric. 25th of February is also the day when Georgia mourns its falling at another invasion of the country by the Russian troops in 1921.

Ukraine has been dragged into in the fratricidal war. The future of our civilization in Europe and beyond now depends on the courage, bravery and strength of the Ukrainian people. It is our duty as people of all faiths or none to support them.

Our support will require clarity, sacrifice, resiliency and intentionality. Clarity in our words to speak out against the injustices of war and the lies of leaders who care only for power. Sacrifice of our need to protect only ourselves. Resiliency to not give in when the days grow long and our souls become weary. Intentionality to pray continually for peace and to put our prayers into action.

Pray

 We are calling our fellow Ukrainians, Russians, Europeans, Americans and others to pray for peace. We suggest that every day at 7 am and 7 pm we meet in our churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and offer our prayers for peace. If we cannot meet in the houses of worship we should meet in our homes for prayer. If we are not allowed to pray openly for peace let us pray in the sanctuary of our heart. It is essential that we do not succumb to the fear of the murderous forces. The inadequate ambition of one single person inflicts suffering on tens of millions of people, animals, birds, and of course the mother earth. This is a suicidal attempt to push the whole of creation towards unprecedented disaster.

Act

 Praying is essential but this is not nearly enough; the prayer should be accompanied by action,n and this action will become a prayer itself. “I felt my legs were praying,” wrote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshel after the protest walk to Selma. Similarly we need to be engulfed into prayerful action:

If we can use our hands to stop the war, we should use our hands,

If we can use our brains to stop the war, we should use our brains,

If we can use voice to stop the war, we should use our voice,

If we can use our resources to stop the war, we should use our resources,

If we can use our time and energy to stop the war, we should use our time and energy.

Show compassion

 While striving to stop the war we should also need to commit ourselves to show compassion to the innocent people who have already been afflicted by the war: children, elderly, refugees from either side of cruel divide. There is no mother, no parent wishing to see their children brought in bags from the battlefields; there are no children wishing to see their parents dead. It is in such a time when our true identity is tested: who are we, what are the values we affirm, does justice and fairness mean anything to us. We need to be compassionate towards the suffering of the creation and all its members if want to maintain human dignity.

 Believe

 It is indeed the time of Sadness, frustration and anguish. But these circumstances should never blind our perspective that in the end justice will prevail, hatred and lie will be debited, love and compassion will definitely win. It is essential to believe that forces of darkness and stupidity will fail. It has always been the case; it shall always be the case. Therefore, let us heed the words of the prophet Amos: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Peace Cathedral, Tbilisi, February 25th, 2022

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Message: Peace not war against nature

WEMBLEY DOWNS UNITING CHURCH, WA  – Feb 13th 2022

Sermon   Jeremiah 17:5-10       Luke 6:17-26

Peace not War against Nature.

“We need War to have Peace”. These words I heard recently on the ABC News as a Lebanese man reflected on the solution to the disintegration of his country “We need War to have Peace”. Not too different from the mantra of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago of “First Victory then Peace”.

This is not a novel idea, as it is embedded in our own culture, whose wars and heroes shall soon be remembering. In Genesis (4:7) our Bible gives an early warning to humanity of the seductive attraction of such violence – physical, verbal and spiritual. God referred to it as SIN which escalates as people, like animals instinctively retaliate. Such SIN was illustrated in the fatal clash between Able, the hunter-gatherer and his brother Cain the Farmer.

This same SIN characterised the English settlement of Australia, when our agricultural culture clashed with the hunter-gathering Aboriginal people, resulting in massacres, genocide and the penal settlement on Rottnest Island. The repercussions of this are still being felt today, with our recourse to retributive (Prison) instead of distributive justice, to solve the systemic problem of indigenous disadvantage. A challenge facing the Boab Network as we seek to help aboriginal people of the NW Kimberley.

Over 2,500 years ago Israel was suffering a similar fate. As a small vassal State, the people of Israel suffered the brutal domination systems that Empires (then and now) used to maintain their power and extract wealth from the land and sweat of others. In response, the people of Israel followed the gods of violence, but Jeremiah warns them to trust in the one God who brings peace though distributive justice. He likened such people who bring peace to:

  a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; Jeremiah 17:8a

In our Gospel reading today, which was written against the back drop of the brutality of the Roman Empire who had crucified Jesus. Luke develops this theme of trusting in the God who brings peace through distributive justice, in his telling of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. He begins with four blessings that are directed at “YOU” (that is to us). Luke “materialises” Jesus’ Blessings – brings them down to earth, bluntly referring to physical hunger: “How blessed are you who now go hungry; your hunger shall be satisfied”. (6:21). His “poor” are the financially destitute, the powerless; those who are to receive the coming “Kingdom of God” that brings benefits to the common people through distributive justice – the equitable sharing of the blessings our world has to offer. This comes about when political power is shared with the people, which democracy aspires to achieve.

Democracy itself is constantly under the threat of violence from Authoritarian regimes, powerful multi-national corporations, or dominant racial or religious groups. This is well illustrated in the USA – the land of the free, as well as in our own Country, where the Fossil Fuel and Mining Industries exercise a dominant political influence. To protect our democracy, we are seeing the rise of independent candidates in the upcoming Federal election, to challenge the domination of these vested interests.

Luke identifies this abuse as he strikes at the heart of the matter by following the Blessings with a list of “woes” (“alas for you”) of which the “rich” and “well-fed” are cursed with future loss and hunger. Persons happy with the present social order and hold on political power are destined to regret their meanness (6:24-26). This harsh judgement on those who society generally considers fortunate, occurs only in Luke and represents one of Luke’s special convictions: God’s Kingdom will bring a radical reversal of presently accepted values and expectations. We witness such happenings and struggles in our present time – with the violent oppression by those wanting to hold onto their privileges and power. History is full of revolutions that have swept the rich and powerful aside. So, no wonder Autocratic regimes are as wary and oppressive as they were in ancient times. Now with more subtle means, using the tools of social media to propagate their distortions of the Truth.

Luke does not specify his objections to the wealthy as a class, but in material exclusive to his Gospel, he repeatedly attacks the rich, predicting that their present affluence and luxury will be exchanged for misery – which does not make for popular sermon material! (One exception is the fearless preaching of Fr Rod Bower of Gosford Anglican Church.)

Jeremiah used Nature to illustrate the many blessings we receive from God. We can also recognise many woes when we disobey God’s laws of nature. The consequences of which are being revealed to us by science – which many reject. This summer we are experiencing chaotic bursts of hot weather, catastrophic fires, cyclones and floods. For the ancients this was evidence of the Judgement of God, such as in NOAH and the flood. For us moderns it is the consequences of the rich and powerful ignoring Nature’s laws. However, the Bible and our Christian faith has not equipped us for the environmental crisis we are currently in and leaving the younger generations to face.

But let us not give up. There is hope, for Nature has much to teach us. For example, Nature survives and evolves through recycling everything – which Wembley Downs UC in your modest way are doing outside here with Containers for Change (Slide). Part of this recycling process are your magnificent collection of native trees. They shed their leaves and bark for you to clean up, but in exchange you receive the blessings of bees, honey, birds, oxygen, and on hot days shade and cooling.

Luke’s Woes for the rich are even more apparent when we consider all the other pollutants, we pour daily into the atmosphere that is causing an unprecedented warming of our planet. The catastrophic consequences of this are visited on the poor of the world who cannot escape.

The rich are being called to sacrifice their wealth to reduce emissions and help those being impacted – but we stumble when asked to put the welfare of our planet and people, ahead of our own material interests. After 15 years of political wrangling and five Prime Ministers, we have yet to effectively address the greatest moral challenge of our age and the relevance of our faith.

The revelation of God in Nature is among the oldest of religious beliefs. It is the basis of Aboriginal spirituality – the land owns us and not we the land. A spirituality which brings with it the moral obligations on each individual to care for a specific plant or animal. In the historical origins of our own religion, such beliefs are found in Hinduism from the sixth century BC. and Greek Stoicism from the 3rd Century BC, with a belief that the cosmos is active, life-giving, rational and creative. …

They identified the universe with God. Such a belief is evident in the Wisdom stream of our own scriptures and Paul’s own words to the Athenians about their unknown God (Acts 17:28) in which Paul says: – “in him we live, move and have our being”. In 2009, the Uniting Church revised the preamble to their Constitution to reflect that before English settlement… the Spirit was already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom and ceremony.

We are experiencing a decline in those following the Christian faith, which indicates the paradigms (to which we are heirs), have become intellectually and ethically exhausted. These paradigms are failing to provide a conceptual framework conducive to eliminating some of humanity’s worst scourges of perpetual war, environmental destruction, including the COVID pandemic – wars being waged on two fronts, one of which we barely recognise. This raises the issue of a successor, which necessitates a re-examination of first principles, starting with how we conceptualise God, the most ancient of symbolic words used for the Sacred.

As we live with these questions  – I believe, we are slowly discovering a new concept of God, which is offering us a new way of salvation, through a synthesis between science, the wisdom of other religions and our religion, found in the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

AMEN

References

Stephen L. Harris, 1998, The New Testament: A Student’s Introduction. Ps 170-71 Luke’s sermon on the plain.
Roger S. Gottlieb, 2019, Morality and the Environmental Crisis. Cambridge Studies in Religion, Philosophy, and Society. Pp. 248
John W. Grula, 2008, Pantheism reconstructed: Eco-theology as a successor to the Judeo-Christian, Enlightenment, and Post-Modernist Paradigms.  Zygon, Volume 43, Issue1 March 2008 Pages 159-180

Dr Richard Smith, 2022

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Event: In March at Westar Institute

Exploring the Early Jesus Movements

With Erin Vearncombe, Brandon Scott and Hal Taussig:

An Interview with Diana Butler Bass and Tripp Fuller

March 21, 2022

6:00 pm ET (Eastern USA)

Register for this free webinar over at Homebrewed Christianity with After Jesus Before Christianity writers Erin Vearncombe, Brandon Scott and Hal Taussig. The webinar explores the new book and how their research into the earliest Jesus Movements can challenge those of us who struggle to follow Jesus today. Hosted by Tripp Fuller and Diana Butler Bass!

This event is part of a larger Lenten series called Jesus De/Constructed that Homebrewed’s Tripp Fuller is doing with friend of Westar Diana Butler Bass! To sign up for this pay-what-you-can series visit: Homebrewed Jesus De/Constructed.

If you register and the time does not suit you will be sent a link to a recording of the seminar.

Register here

oOo

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Initial responses: Values driving youth

SOME EARLY FEEDBACK

The emerging responses to our request for material and survey show youth values falling into the following categories (maybe they are similar for many adults):

Relationships – with friends, family, work place people, teachers and include openness, trust, generosity, caring, openness.

Social – relating to the rest of the world – justice, freedom, respect, community, responsibility. abuse of power, discrimination, greed, current generation leaving for future generations

Young people are saying they want more – empathy, love, respect, loyalty of friends, and honesty.

They are already actively applying their values through social media.

Older youth are wanting to be treated like adults. They are looking for a purpose in life with males and females thinking differently. Males more than females are seeking wealth. Females more than males are seeking to make a contribution to society.

The Mission Australia annual survey of 20,207 15 to 19 year olds in 2021 gave the following overview:

As in previous years, responses to the Youth Survey 2021 reveal that, in general, young females have more heightened concerns than young males about some issues and were more likely to
experience certain negative outcomes. This includes in areas such as confidence in achieving study or work goals and barriers to achieving their goals, concerns about coping with stress, mental health and body image, and unfair treatment due to gender. The experiences
and concerns of gender diverse young people were even more heightened in relation to all of these and additional areas.

While the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people were connected to education, valued their family and friends and felt positive about the future, they also reported more and deeper challenges than their non-Indigenous peers, including being less likely to
feel happy or very happy with their lives. Particularly concerning is the higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents who reported having been treated unfairly in the past year compared with non-Indigenous respondents (47.1% compared
with 33.6% of non-Indigenous respondents). Half (52.5%) of those who had been treated unfairly said the reason was race/cultural background.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young females had more heightened concerns and were more likely to experience negative outcomes in a number of areas than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young males, including concerns about mental health and related issues. Of particular concern, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female respondents
experienced comparatively low levels of happiness and comparatively high levels of stress.
The marked differences based on gender and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status indicate that policy and service responses to the issues and concerns raised in the Youth Survey need a nuanced approach. The inclusion of data for gender diverse young people this year has
highlighted some particular challenges for this group.

These findings remind us that diversity has to be specifically recognised and included in the development of strategies, programs and policies for young people. It is incumbent on us all – governments, health professionals, community services, businesses, schools, members of the
community – to create welcoming environments that are responsive to the needs of all young people, whatever their background and circumstances. Young people need to be at the centre of policy and service design and development, to bring their unique perspective to bear on issues that affect them and on the development of solutions.

Most important issues:
COVID-19 45.7%
The environment 38.0%
Equity and discrimination 35.4%

Full report of Mission Australia Survey.

Please keep your input to this project coming and thanks for finding time for this.

Paul Inglis

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OPINION: IDENTITY, UKRAINE, THE KINGDOM

IRPIN, UKRAINE – MARCH 03: Destroyed buildings are seen on March 03, 2022 in Irpin, Ukraine. Russia continues assault on Ukraine’s major cities, including the capital Kyiv, a week after launching a large-scale invasion of the country. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

If you missed Stan Grant’s recent Wilkes Oration—25 February in Adelaide, organized by the Effective Living Centre—I recommend you catch up on the video recording (go to https://effectiveliving.ucasa.org.au/). Stan presented a profound diagnosis of the geo-political woes of the world at the present moment—how the divisiveness of identity politics weakens the liberal democratic West, setting us up as easy prey for the tyrannies of the world, principally Russia and China.

Obviously, there are two parts to Stan’s thesis: his view on identity on one hand, and his view on the age-old confrontation between freedom and tyranny on the other. Let’s see if we can make sense of these two very urgent issues by applying to them that greatest of all hermeneutic lenses, namely the wonderful (though enigmatic) notion of the Kingdom. What we’re looking for is some hope, at a time when things seem to be all gloom and doom—Stan’s address on Friday night, for all its heartfelt eloquence, didn’t leave us with the impression that things could get anything but worse—and where better to look for hope than to the Kingdom?

Identity firstly. There’s something essentially misleading in the notion of identity, because initially you think it’s primarily about the individual, when it’s actually always about the group. Identity is really the process of isolated individuals finding the solidarity of a group to identify with. Usually, the driver is fear or oppression of some sort—people band together under the banner of some common trait or experience—family, tribe, race, religion, trauma, economic status, gender, sexuality, etc.—in order to throw off the fear or oppression that besets them. So, identity can be tremendously positive, a powerful force for human liberation. There’s no doubt also that this goes right to heart of the idea of the Kingdom—but let’s circle back to that a bit later, after we’ve done some more digging around.

Identity can also, as Stan so passionately declaims, be very divisive. This is really referring to a later phase of the process—what happens when you stop at any limited human identity and allow it to become fixed, permanent, exclusive. Identity is a great tool for liberation, but once you achieve liberation, you’d better drop it immediately like a hot potato before it becomes a tool for the very opposite – oppression. Yes, identity is a tool of oppressors as well as oppressees—you can wield it yourself on a small scale (it’s called racism, sexism, discrimination, exclusion, trolling, etc.), or you can let some tyrant or demagogue manipulate you into wielding it on a larger scale.

Which brings me to Vladimir Putin. Vlad is the arch-manipulator of other people’s identity. As to his own motivation/identity, the Russian patriot mantra, the travesty of the collapse of the Soviet “empire” narrative, even the devout Russian Orthodox believer act, are all just a front—don’t be deceived by it as a large proportion of the Russian population are. He’s really just an old-school tyrant, not “evil” or “insane” (whatever such words actually mean), just a seriously bad person in the Ivan the Terrible or Josef Stalin mould. Psychopathic? —probably. He’ll stop at nothing—manipulation, lies, murder, laying waste a whole country—to get what he wants – power, control, riches, the adulation of his people, the rest of the world fearing him. He wants to be loved, in other words, just like the rest of us; he just has a seriously distorted idea of how to get it.

So, identity can be anti-Kingdom as well as pro-Kingdom—a tool for oppression as well as liberation – this is really what Stan was getting at. Don’t stop, therefore, at any limited human identity—this is nothing less than an injunction of the Gospel itself – the call to unlimited, universally inclusive human solidarity. It’s also central to the idea of democracy and, dare I say it, to the Kingdom. Don’t be black or white, male or female, gay or straight, Indigenous or European, Ukrainian or Russian, etc.—just be a human. In fact, don’t even be a human, because that excludes the plants and animals—be a living soul (that’s my recommendation of what to identify as, at any rate).

Now to freedom versus tyranny. Is history just a cycling back and forth, freedom winning one minute, tyranny resurgent the next? Or is there something profound going on—at a deep, deep level, so that it’s sometimes not visible—in which gradually, inexorably, freedom is growing, overcoming, advancing, like a mustard seed as the parable says? Freedom aka the Kingdom. That’s the $64,000 question.

It’s certainly hard to see any hope right now, with Russian tanks rolling into Ukraine, and Xi Jin Ping threatening Taiwan. Except that—and here’s some Kingdom hermeneutics—tyranny always sows the seeds of its own destruction. In fact tyranny is, always, a sort of Ponzi scheme (think Bernie Madoff, New York financier c. 2008, died in jail last year), drawing ever more deeply on a diminishing resource—your ability to marshal other people’s hatred in your favour—it’s a one way ticket to downfall (German, “der Untergang”)—sooner or later it comes back to (excuse my Esperanto) bite you on the bum. We might almost feel sorry for poor old Vlad, except for all the carnage and horror he’ll cause in innocent people’s lives before he finally brings the temple down on himself.

I reckon Xi will be absolutely dismayed by Putin’s absurd over-reach, his massive over-playing of his hand—he even threatened to go nuclear on Monday. Xi just wants back what’s never stopped being a part of China, namely Taiwan—and Taiwan itself has never stopped wanting to be part of China—the dispute is over who gets to govern the reunified country. Putin’s crazy actions, which will inevitably fail and bring about his own certain downfall, will only make it harder for Xi to get his hands on Taiwan.

What we’re seeing right now is the unity of the West lining up against the Russian regime, with massive aid, military and otherwise, being sent to Ukraine, and financial and other sanctions strangling the Russian economy. At the same time opposition to Putin is growing rapidly within Russia—any day now law and order might collapse, there could be a military coup, Putin could be removed, or worse. In the end, it will be his own people who will bring him down—God bless them when they do, finally freeing themselves from the tyranny of the Tsars, the Commissars, and the Oligarchs. What the tyrant never counts on is the spiritual development of other people because they are incapable of it themselves!

You know, and back to the description of tyranny as a Ponzi scheme, how could anyone be sure that people’s hatred is always a “diminishing resource” (you might say a “non-renewable resource”)? Well, it’s really a statement of Christian faith, of the Gospel in fact—that love will always overcome hate—that the power of love is always stronger than the power of hate. So, you might say that love, by contrast to hate, is a renewable resource—not diminishing but increasing. And love = freedom, so we circle back once again to the idea of the Kingdom.

Anyway, you wouldn’t want to try to predict the future, but my best guess (my Kingdom-inspired guess) is that Putin is on the way out, and that the world will be a better place for it afterwards; but in the meantime, who knows what suffering we’ll have to endure. We’re in solidarity, therefore, with the people of Ukraine and, for that matter, the people of Russia—in a world which often seems beset with chaos and danger, but in which freedom is most certainly lurking just around every corner. Your Kingdom come. Amen.

Fergus McGinley — March 2022

Fergus is an Adelaide writer, teacher, lay preacher.

oOo

 

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Project: Producing a Curriculum on the Wisdom of Progressive Christianity for Teenagers

By: Members of the National Common Dreams Team and Representatives from Explorers Groups around Australia

Youth Values

Group Of High School Students Giving Piggybacks In Corridor

Young people have the experiences, ideas, and ambitions to make a better world for everyone.

Young people have been resilient in the face of a global pandemic, growing inequality, wars and the threat of climate change. These problems impact everyone but will have the greatest impact on young people’s futures. And yet often young people are being ignored and disregarded while these problems persist.

Young people don’t just want to be heard. They want a seat at the table to create change for everyone. They are putting their hands up and want to be a part of the solution of the world’s problems.

Our Vision

To empower youth, young adults and parents to understand the authentic teachings of Jesus and enjoy their own identity and feel able to apply their learning and contribute to a better society.

You can help

We are in the phase of gathering ideas and opinions. Already we have initiated brainstorming amongst friends which has helped us to draft some thoughts on what values drive young people today, what principles they aim for, what knowledge they seek, what aspirations they have for the world, and where the teachings of Jesus would help them find their own identity and role in creating a better world.

But we need to get closer to the thinking of young people and you can help.

We need your feedback in three forms:

  1. Identification of any publications, research or projects that you know about that focus on youth values, preferably in an Australian context, but not only.
  2. Results of a conversation you have with young people that identifies their response to the following question:

What concerns you about our world and your future life?

This should be a relaxed conversation, not an interrogation. The teenagers could be your own, your grandchildren, young people at church, or young people you know. It could be a single young person.

  1. Any work you are aware of that is being done on such a project already. We are aware of the work of Progressivechristianity.org and the curriculum for younger children called Joyful Path. Several congregations are using this now.

We have been given access to some very useful resources of progressive Australian theologians and educators also.

What to do with your feedback

Please send your feedback to Dr Paul Inglis. Thank you in anticipation of lots of feedback.

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Seminar: Has our increasingly secularised society lost its sense of enchantment?

Redcliffe (Q) Explorers

At our gathering next Monday (7th March) the Redcliffe PCN Explorers will examine this question and the remedy proposed by Greg Sheridan in his full-page article in the December 18-19 edition of the Weekend Australian. Transcript very kindly provided by Caloundra Explorers leader Ken Williamson available on request.

Request article here.

Several of our group will provide their personal observations on different sections of Sheridan’s article, and we will consider the possible effect it might have on a young person or a non-Christian who’s interested in learning more about the faith, beliefs and history of Christianity.

Although there have been some water-related issues at Azure Blue during the past week, I’ve been told that there should be no problem with holding our meeting in the Activities Room as usual. So please join us on Monday (6 p.m. at 91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe), noting that there will be someone to open the gate from about 5:50 p.m.

The Centre management requires us to be fully Covid-vaccinated, and the usual arrangements of mask-wearing, hand-sanitising etc. will apply. If you’re not a regular at our gatherings and would like more details, please feel free to give me a call on 0401 513 723.

Shalom,  Ian

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The Bultmann Legacy – the quest for the essence of Christianity

Westar’s March Madness is in full-swing and today we’re featuring our first two March events, Christianity Interrupted (March 3) [10am Qld time Friday 4th March] and The Overlooked Legacy of Rudolf Bultmann: The Quest for the Essence of Christianity (March 9).

You can access the rest of the March events on the Westar webpage here!

In preparation for the March 9 webinar on Bultmann’s legacy we’ve provided a downloadable infographic below called Five things to know about Bultmann.

***And we’re adding a bonus for everyone who registers for next week’s webinar!***

In addition to the recording of the Bultmann webinar, registrants will receive a PDF of the Westar Forum 2014 paper “The Legacy of Rudolf Bultmann and the Ideal of a Fully Critical Theology.” The paper was written by Schubert Ogden and was presented at a special Westar Seminar on the legacy of Rudolf Bultmann on November 16, 2012. See below to register.

The Westar Forum Academic Journal

Westar’s Forum is a subscription-based academic journal that is available for purchase by individuals and institutions. You can learn more about it here.

Christianity Interrupted: Origins Are Not Infallible

free Westar Think Tank Online Discussion

Today, Thursday, March 3, 7:00-9:00 PM ET (USA and Canada Eastern time).

We’re doing a deep dive into how new developments in theological understandings affect our views of historical origins. What is at stake in views of Christian origins? How does changing our understanding of the Christ communities of the first centuries interrupt present-day Christianity(ies)? How do our contemporary views and commitments shape what we seek in Christian origins? How do new developments in theological understandings affect our views of historical origins? What does “Christianity Interrupted” mean to you?

Register here!

The Overlooked Legacy of Rudolf Bultmann: The Quest for the Essence

of Christianity – With Westar Scholar David W. Congdon

March 9, 2022, 7:30 – 9:00 pm ET, $20

The significance of Rudolf Bultmann for the critical and historical understanding of Christianity and Christian origins is widely acknowledged but remains little understood. Ten years ago, the late Schubert Ogden presented a paper on “The Legacy of Rudolf Bultmann and the Ideal of a Fully Critical Theology” at the Westar Seminar in celebration of the English translation of Konrad Hammann’s biography of Bultmann. David W. Congdon, author of two books about Bultmann, takes a fresh look at Bultmann, focusing on an aspect of his work that has been largely unappreciated in anglophone scholarship: his contribution to the modern quest for the essence of Christianity. Bultmann’s quest places him in dialogue with Schleiermacher, Troeltsch, and Harnack, but his unique approach to this quest offers insight and inspiration for those looking for a credible and critical understanding of religious faith today.

All registrants will receive a recording of the event and a PDF of the Schubert Ogden paper.

Register here!

Five things to know about Rudolf Bultmann

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The politics of identity – recorded presentation

Effective Living Centre Logo

Effective Living Centre

 

Hi everybody,

ELC Wilks Oration – Stan Grant – 25 February 2022

If you missed Stan Grant’s amazing address on Friday night – “The Politics of Identity” – or if you just want to view it again, here’s our video recording of the event. Beautiful music from Vonda Last as well.

We encourage you to get the word out to your friends and acquaintances – this is an important “message for our times”.

The video is available to you free of charge, but we invite you to make a donation to the ongoing work of the ELC in providing great programs to the community.

Kind regards,
Effective Living Centre

Fergus McGinley

“Stan’s address was as fine an oration as you’re ever likely to hear.” Cheers, Fergus

The Effective Living Centre (ELC) is an ongoing community engagement project of Christ Church – Wayville Uniting Church, founded in 1998.

Our primary purpose is to promote living effectively in our present time and creating partnerships with members of the wider community who identify with achieving the aims of the ELC.

We seek to enlighten and empower people to take responsibility for advancing our society towards the common good. We are open to all people regardless of any social, political or religious persuasion.

The ELC is a recognised mission centre of Mission Resourcing, Uniting Church SA.

Donate to the ELC

Watch the video

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A temporary hiccup in the delivery of Rex Hunt’s wonderful resources

Rex Hunt has sent this message to all who use his resources:

Due to changes at my server and then a new server not coming up with support/assistance when similar issue arose, my web site: www.rexaehuntprogressive.com   is down.

For a while I thought I had lost everything.

But with the help of some very talented friends in Canberra a new-look web site will emerge from the ruins. I am still hoping to retain its name.

But all of this will take time.

So my sincere apologies to those of you who have used my site/resources, etc in the past.

It is my hope things will resume shortly. In the meantime if there is some resource you would like I will see if I can search the raw stuff on my computer and supply – or something similar. But I don’t have everything and believe it or not, not all backups are helpful or complete.

Mmm…

So please stay with me. (Even though I reckon my life-span has been reduced some 10 years or so!)

And when my new site (hopefully contents at old www address), I will again let you know.

Cheers,

RAEH

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A Poem: A Different Response To The Biblical GOD

Thank you Peter Marshall for this contribution. An explanation is provided after the poem.

Legend has it that many generations past there was a man named Abraham.

He had a son named Isaac

Now Abraham was understood to be a godly man in those times.

In present times, many, still see him the same.

Was Abraham a good man?

Well it would seem in these times it’s not a question to ask.

So let’s break with tradition and ask that question now.

In light of the story of his God and his son.

As a test of his loyalty, Abraham was tasked by his God

To take a sharp knife

And end Isaac’s life.

 

We know what’s reported in the book some call good

But let’s now consider a different track.

What if it was Abraham…… whose motive was good?

And he clearly, resolutely, just said the word No.

Well in this alternate story the next acts are quite sweet

For Isaac and Abraham, their love bond increased

And the Biblical hero…. The God of might

Well legend has it, just faded from sight.

 

Hey that’s not bad

In fact it’s rather quite bright

But its only two people who were exposed to that light.

 

So let’s put on sneakers and go for a hike

A pretty long hike, and let’s have a look for some

Pesky Canaanites.

 

Now these people… well they had a few problems.

Seems they often didn’t act in the most charitable way

And sometimes their behaviours were harsh and quite cruel.

But it would seem, worst of all, from one point at least,

They had not yet met the God who should rule.

Aah not to worry, for the hero had plans,

Yes that’s the God of the Bible, who by his very nature

Could do nothing but good.

And so he enlisted some special people to drive his point home.

So special they were, God said they were chosen

to do great feats and to teach the whole world

that if people worshipped one God and that God was he,

Why then all things forever would be loving and free.

So to ensure his special people would not doubt him at all

God promised them land, good land,

Where they might prosper and grow

Become wealthy and fat

While teaching all nations they too

Could share in all that.

 

To set this in motion God gave them some orders

And gave also assurances they could not fail in their quest

For he would be with them each step of the way

Guiding and strengthening, until victory was won.

 

All you need do is exactly what I say

So go now and slay them…leave nothing alive

Then possess the land in my name, to my glory

So that all peoples may know there is but one God

Who always without exception is unfailingly right.

 

It fell to Moses, the man in charge,

To either lead the army and do as was ordered

Or to speak with his people and thereby determine

if blindly trusting and obeying was the best course to take.

 

In another version of this story so often told

It was the alternate action that Moses thought right.

So the people all talked and considered their past.

 

The legend of Abraham was brought to the table

And consensus was strong, that of their own essence

They might determine what was right.

 

But there was also a great fear they may all be wiped out

when from times long past another story was told.

That be the one when the God of this people was again displeased

With most things in general.

It was said, this God of power lost control of his temper

And like a small child threw a most enormous tantrum.

So great was his rage that even the weather was changed

and for days and days rain fell in torrents to earth.

Eventually all human life save one small family was lost.

 

And so it was Moses presented to God. He told of their fears

And of great respect for Abraham who taught them that as people they also had power.

Power to think and to know right from wrong and so determine how life may proceed.

Moses also explained, in fact confessed, that often his own people acted out of greed,

Lust, rage or ignorance. Basically all the crimes God levelled at the Canaanites.

So to kill them and steal their home would make us most probably far worse than them.

Our answer is No. We shall not kill, steal or plunder, simply because it is the whim of someone who may if he chooses, destroy us as well.

To you God of power, we say No. Furthermore, if we survive your wrath we will seek to overturn and resist any evils you unleash on the world.

Of course we are open to another way. We put it to you we can be co-creators.

This is our plan:

We will not judge the Canaanites

We will seek to be good neighbours to them

To converse with them and to love them as we love our own.

If romantic love arises we will break your rule and commit what tradition deems

A cardinal sin. We will intermarry.

And by these pledges we will proceed…. To either prosper both peoples

Or end our lives with honour by whatever punishment you submit us to.

 

Now God, who was known to boast about being a jealous God

Was predictably overcome with rage at being rejected.

But he didn’t strike Moses….He simply vanished.

 

Some prophets of those times recorded that the Biblical God simply retreated within himself.

And on this occasion God ruminated on some key principles of life.

 

God remembered how he was the source of Love

And how he created material beings, known now as Humans, in his very likeness.

So humans understood, right from the start, what Love was

They also knew hatred and evil, for as God had foreseen

Only by knowing Evil could one know love.

God reflected on the fact that Love can overcome evil, but that if evil is encouraged

And permitted to prosper then it will appear that evil is, simply put, the best way to go.

This he remembered was not the original plan, was not the plan now, and never would be the plan.

And God’s rage subsided. He became overjoyed that Moses and his people had accessed

The power of choice that was part of their makeup, and had decided to cast aside fear and make a choice for good.

God’s rage toward Moses was completely transformed into respect and gratitude for the choice he had made with his peoples consent.

And the whole Universe celebrated.

Another story told how a man named Jesus, destined to live in the same geographical area as our heroes, smiled a huge smile.

For Jesus now saw a different future.

His time on Earth would not now be so painful, nor appear so tragic.

People would not feel the need to make up stories about Jesus to explain

Their experience of him.

People would not allow greed, the lust for power, control and desire for judgement

To dominate their life.

Instead Jesus saw a future where humans undertook only one battle

That be the battle that is ongoing within every human being

The battle for Good.          

How different may things have been if GOD was shown

The people were ready.

Ready, to make the world Good.

 

Peter Marshall, February 2022

Background

In early 2022 I had watched a number of debates between Dan Barker and various Christian apologists. Dan had been a Christian preacher for 19 years and now identifies as an atheist.

The debates were interesting, conducted in a surprisingly courteous manner and basically concerned the possible existence of GOD, the biblical God. I was most pleased to become aware that such debates were now, if not commonplace, at least not uncommon.

The debates had quite an effect upon me and this poem is the outcome. I will attempt to share this poem with Dan Barker, as he was the key figure in the debates I watched.

A very surprising thing happened within me while writing. I had originally intended to use a little bit of strong, offensive language, because this seemed the best way to convey the enormity of the emotion a consideration of the subject matter produces. At no stage while writing did I make a conscious decision to not use the offensive words. They were somehow transformed into words and ideas that did not totally condemn the Christian portrayal of the Biblical God. It’s difficult to explain and the best I can do is to say that:

I wrote this poem / story

But I do not claim to be the original and sole author.

Peter Marshall

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Online Seminar

The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria

invites you to explore

“AFTERLIVES: Jesus in Global Perspective”

with

Rev Dr Greg Jenks

Sunday 27th February, 2022 @ 4:00pm – 5:30pm (EADT – Melbourne time)
Event Zoom Link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89796404539?pwd=SlUzT0dwWS9MZGJLbXNqMjdpcnJJdz09

Open by Clicking link while holding control key, or cut and paste into your browser
(If needed, the Meeting ID is 897 9640 4539 and Passcode is 781878)
“AFTERLIVES: Jesus in Global Perspective”, edited by Greg Jenks, is an international collection
of essays exploring the impact of Jesus within and beyond Christianity, including his many
‘afterlives’ in literature and the arts, social justice and world religion during the past 2,000 years
and especially in the present global context. This volume is not an exercise in Christian apologetics, nor is it an interfaith project; except in the sense that many of the contributors are from a Christian context of some kind, while many others are from other religious and cultural contexts.
The book is being published in the Westar Studies Series and is currently with the publisher. It is
expected to be released in late 2022. Arthur Dewey, editor for the Westar Study Series, has
described the book in these terms: “This is a remarkable volume! It has so much to offer. Most
importantly, it is filled with voices, of history, of intersection, and of peoples so often unheard.” Greg has just retired from his role as Dean of Grafton (2017-2022) and was previously the Dean of St George’s College in Jerusalem (2015-2017). He is well known to many members of PCNV through his involvement in the Common Dreams project, and has spoken at various PCNV events over the years. He is now Director of the Centre for Coins, Culture and Religious History at St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane (www.cccrh.org ). He has written several books, including Jesus Then and Jesus Now (2014) and The Once and Future Scriptures (2013),
and edited several others, including the new collection.
Advance Notice: Our March meeting (Sunday 27th March) will feature Greg and scholars involved in the book, in a Panel Conversation.

THIS IS A FREE PCNV EVEN

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Understanding others – suspending the urge to be right

Understanding Others

Greg Spearritt considers the history of Christian theology in dealing with other religious traditions, and ponders the lessons that might offer for Anglo-Australians attempting to understand First Nations cultures.

A little less than a century ago the German Protestant theologian Ernst Troeltsch made a radical statement. Christianity, he said, was a “purely historical, individual, relative phenomenon”. 1.

He prefigured by some decades what was to become a problem for Christian thinkers of all stripes: how do we understand ourselves when other religious traditions are appearing “in power among us on our turf”? 2. It’s been argued that accounting theologically for religious pluralism has been as formative for Protestant – and I’d add Catholic – thought as an earlier generation’s struggle with Darwinism was. 3.

Suddenly, as the world began to emerge from the hegemony of colonialism after WW2, the Other was in our faces, and had become more than an easily-dismissed curiosity. It was among us, challenging our long-held belief in the superiority of our own faith. What to do?! There were three main responses.

Christian exclusivism was exemplified by the view of influential Calvinist theologian Karl Barth that Christianity “alone has the commission and the authority… to confront the world of religions as the one true religion”. 4. Needless to say, this approach didn’t result in a great deal of interfaith dialogue. It substantially remains the view, of course, of many conservative thinkers and groups to this day, though I suspect they fall short of the confidence in their views that was possible when the European empires were riding high.

Then there were the ‘inclusivists’. Karl Rahner was the poster boy here. A Catholic, Rahner proposed that sincere people of other faiths could conceivably access salvation, describing them as “anonymous Christians”. 5. He was probably surprised that his idea didn’t go down too well with the Buddhists and Muslims. Condescension is, after all, pretty hard to swallow.

It’s no surprise, however, that the theologians most inclined to actually engage with other traditions were the pluralists. Here we find John Hick, the process theologian John B. Cobb Jr, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Ninian Smart and others. For them, though each of course had their own particular take, there was a ‘rough parity’ among the world religions.

Even with the best of intentions, however, it’s never easy coming to terms with Otherness. I have argued elsewhere, for example, that for Hick, Smith and the theologian Winston L. King an inability to appreciate the Other as truly Other mars their well-meaning attempts to understand and portray Buddhism. In spite of their best efforts, they frequently fall back into using western and Christian categories such as ‘salvation’, ‘Ultimate Reality’ and ‘faith’. They often assume too close a correspondence between Buddhist and Christians concepts and terms. And they fail to sufficiently acknowledge the diversity and complexity of Buddhist traditions: the Buddhist Other comes across as essentially the same, wherever she or he is found.

A haste in the work of these theologians to pursue common ground – to claim that Christians and Buddhists are actually on about the same Ultimate Reality – leaves those Buddhists who refuse to give up their particularity portrayed as not really knowing their own traditions. No matter what they say, Buddhism actually accesses Christian realities like grace, or it supports a global view that Reality or salvation is what matters and that all particular truth claims are merely mythological. Buddhist recourse to protest – where that is even possible – is futile, since it may simply be seen as further evidence that those protesting have not yet seen the ‘big picture’. As I have (again) noted elsewhere, Bishop John Shelby Spong is culpable here too: he says Buddhists “clearly believe in God” and describes a well-known Buddhist monk as living “inside a God consciousness”. 6.

This all makes me wonder about the extent to which those of us of European descent can truly understand Indigenous Australian cultures.

My default lens for understanding Others in the world is the Enlightenment one of rationality and science. As much as I’m a fan of this particular lens, however, I have to acknowledge that it is a lens. Science is a socially constructed enterprise, bringing with it, at least to some extent, an inescapably western-Christian perspective. It has certainly been a tool of colonial oppression throughout Australian history. The Cartesian dualism on which (in part) it’s based is not shared by many Indigenous peoples: nature and society, for example, do not constitute separate domains in Indigenous thinking, as noted by Fulvio Mazzocchi (p. 22). Mazzocchi has serious doubts about whether Indigenous knowledge and western science can be successfully integrated.

Just as with Christians and Buddhists, apparent correlations between western and Indigenous concepts must be viewed with some suspicion. Sorcha Tormey, in the third edition of the Treaty Matters newsletter, notes that even talk of sovereignty for First Nations people must be approached with care, since it’s a fundamentally western concept.

I’m hopeful that it is possible to apprehend Other cultures or peoples in a way that is respectful and allows those Others to speak for themselves. The pluralist theologians who do this best in relation to Buddhism – and there’ll be others from more recent times (including women!), and from non-Anglo-American countries – include Ninian Smart, John B. Cobb Jr, David Tracy, Don Cupitt and George Rupp. It is probably no accident that these thinkers, much more than those who focus on commonalities and underlying unity, are open to the ways that Buddhism might influence Christian thought and practice. Tracy, for instance, speaks of the other of the Buddhist who, precisely through the challenge of… radical otherness, can help Christians, especially those sensitive to our contemporary situation of possessive individualism and the terror of transience, to let go, to rethink, to suspect anew, and to retrieve the forgotten mystical resources of our own tradition. 7.

Suspending the urge to be right, and to persuade others to align with our views is no easy matter for westerners, including Christians. We will be all the richer, I suggest, if we do indeed begin to “suspect anew” our own motives and assumptions, and learn the art of truly listening.

  1. Christian Thought (University of London Press, 1923), p.22
  2. Langdon Gilkey’s words: Through the Tempest: Theological Voyages in a Pluralistic Culture (ed. Jeff B. Pool, Fortress Press, 1991), p.24
  3. Leroy Rouner ‘Theology of Religions in Recent Protestant Theology’ in Hans Kung & Jurgen Moltmann (eds) Christianity Among World Religions (T & T Clark, 1986), p.14
  4. Church Dogmatics I/2 (§17 no.3, T&T Clark 1975) p. 357
  5. See Theological Investigations Vol.5 (Daton, Longman & Todd, 1966), Chapter 6
  6. Why Christianity Must Change or Die (HarperSanFrancisco 1998), pp. 57 and 185 respectively
  7. Dialogue With the Other: The Inter-Religious Dialogue (Peeters, 1990), p.83

Greg Spearritt is editor for SOFiA and author.

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Free Online Seminar: Deconstructing Nicaea

Register now to  receive the link:

Please join the Christianity Seminar II for this free event!

Register at:   https://bit.ly/3oH4i1A

Australian times:

Brisbane: 10.30am 25th February

Sydney/Melbourne/Hobart: 11.30am 25th February

Adelaide/Darwin: 11.00am 25th February

Perth: 8.30am 25th February

Register now! The recording will also go out to all registrants if you can’t watch at the set time.
Please join us for a special evening with the steering committee of the Christianity Seminar, Phase II.
There are many preconceived notions about both the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed, but–as is often the case–the history is much more complicated that we realize.
Lillian Larsen, Nina Livesey, and Jason BeDuhn will lead us in a participatory exploration of the Nicene Creed in preparation for the March 25-26 Christianity Seminar, probing not only what these documents actually say but also the contests and debates in which familiar ‘creedal’ language found its form/was crafted.
Sponsored by the Westar Academy
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Commentary: Greg Sheridan Article

A Time of Enchantment

Archaeological research confirms the accuracy of the New Testament as it restores meaning to our lives.

Greg Sheridan

(Sorry that the article does not copy well to this blog)

Reference for those who subscribe to The Weekend Australian December 18-19  2021

Full scanned copy can be sent to those who request it.

Response to Questions on Sheridan Article

Keith Turpin – Caloundra Explorers

Where do you stand on ‘mistaken propositions’?

First, he has quite a mouthful on Christianity as the universal faith unlimited by culture. As a Christian believer I’m not sure I can go with him that far!

God is dead. I clearly recall the controversy Robinson’s book caused at the time of its publication, but I don’t know if I ever read it. But I’m pretty sure that Sheridan has got his idea entirely wrong. I believe he meant that the God portrayed by fundamentalism is dead, and must be replaced by a totally new understanding (like J B Phillip’s your God is too small). That is one of the great things that modern scholarship has given us.

The Bible is full of lies. Some ‘way out’ liberals may have promoted this, but for the mainstream of genuine Christian liberals, this is sheer nonsense. I think of a person like Fosdick to whom such a criticism could never be levelled. With my own high regard for the ‘good book’, the phrase, historical reality, is a bit much to claim for written records from an age when our modern understanding of history was in its infancy.

Is Sheridan’s criticism of New Atheists valid?

Here again we have a great flow of rhetoric which doesn’t do much other than polarise the discussions.

Personally, I can’t claim to have read Dawkins, Hitchins, etc. widely and maybe they are addressing  a  ‘farcical caricature’ rather than Christianity itself. Whether or not they put in a lot of irrelevant science to buttress their argument, again, I don’t know. But at least they have a right to be heard and debated seriously, or else we are all losers. Certainly, I can agree with Sheridan that 14 milliion years is a very little time scale in God’s dimensions. (I think Thelma mentioned we have God is Good for You).

Is it true that the Jesus of History and the Christ of faith are the same?

We also have Sheridan’s book mentioned.

My response to this question would be that I think our Greg should read Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ (a Franciscan from his own tradition). He sees Jesus as One, indeed a very unique One, of the many Christs or means by which God reveals himself to us. [I know that’s a poor expression of Rohr’s ideas] but it’s something I am still struggling to come to terms with. If we fully identify the man Jesus with the Christ, we do a great injustice to the incarnation. We either end up with a God who masquerades as a human, or a human who has been somehow exalted to the heavenly places. That would make nonsense of Jesus’ words, God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

This is a strong criticism of progressive Christianity.

I find his “flickering half-life within Christianity” a sad summation of the legacy of Spong, who has personally been such a blessing and inspiration to me. If Greg departs this life with a mantra for Christian living anything like Spong’s “live fully, love wastefully & be all you can possibly be”, then I will eat my words. Films and books like The Da Vinci Code pale by comparison with the legacy of such men and women who have been leaders in Progressive thought. My prediction is that their work will outlive much of today’s hard -line fundamentalism. If not, then God help us all!

Do you think people today have been ‘indoctrinated from birth etc? ‘

In a word, NO! It’s much more likely that they have felt that the kind of Christianity that the Church generally has preached in modern times is so out of touch and irrelevant, that they have simply walked away from the Church. The number of fierce anti-Christian parents debarring their children from any Christian teaching would be small in comparison with the indifferent ones and those of other faiths.

As regards the work of modern Biblical scholarship which he blames for the demise of faith, I want to say that I recently ‘waded through’ a book by John Dominique Crossan called The Birth of Christianity, in which he seeks to explore the silent years between the first Easter and the writing of the Gospels. Apart from his many insights into the world of Jesus’ time, I gained a profound appreciation of the meticulous way in which Biblical scholars go about their research, which I would put on a par with most sciences.

I really think Greg might be the one needing to exercise a certain becoming modesty before he rubbishes their work so lightly.

Do you agree…..the discovery of ancient Jewish synagogues…?

I think that like most researchers in every other discipline, Biblical scholars would be ready and willing to amend their ideas as they surely have had to do with the discovery of manuscripts and other ancient relics. The Jewishness of Jesus has been recognised by most of the Biblical scholars I have read recently, as well as the understanding that has grown that a large number of Jewish Christians participated in synagogue worship regularly, and that the pattern of the Gospel narratives was aligned to the Jewish year and its festivals.

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A further Reflection after a reading of God and Empire

God and Empire – John Dominic Crossan

Rodney Eivers

8th February 2022

Given my minor role of bookseller, an enquirer had wondered whether I had any copies available of God and Empire. I did not, but the topic sounded interesting so I acquired a copy and set out to read it myself.   While written in 2007, I found the argument this book puts is very relevant to the state of world affairs in 2022.

In delving into God and Empire, one comes soon to discover why John Dominic Crossan has such a pre-eminent place in Bible scholarship. His is a wide and generalised view of history but well backed up by anthropological and literary research to support his claims. An example of such detail would be in relation to the claim that Paul and fellow Christians upset the Roman hierarchy by referring to Jesus as “Lord” or “Son of God” when such titles were owned solely by the emperor of the day. This is a view commonly stated.  Crossan, however, provides numerous examples which can still be seen today where such titles for the emperor are inscribed in stone monuments from that period.

As the title implies, the book takes a broad sweeping view, as other writers also continue to do, of those first few centuries of the common era. * As the subtitle says it was “Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now”.  But this is not a treatise akin to other popular studies over the years seeking to tell the story of the triumph of Christianity over the Roman Empire. It is much more a warning directed at Christians today to be careful and selective about how they read and understand the Bible. The empire, which he explores and draws as paralleling the power of Rome, is that of the current United States of America. In its conclusions and perspectives, it is an observation of the growing polarity of American society.

Given my own ethnic origins and nationality I had been expecting more generalisation so as to include the relationship of Christianity to other historically dominating entities such as the British and Islamic empires, but that is not even hinted at. Such comparisons by other writers elsewhere could make interesting reading.

“God and Empire” introduces a theme which Crossan expands in his later book, “How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian” (previously reviewed here). This is to draw the contrast between retributive justice (ill will and punishment) and distributive justice (goodwill and the sharing of resources and responsibility) attributable to God as told in the Bible. Within the Bible there are as many depictions of a God of violence as there are of a God of peace and love.

The big reminder to us, including me, is to be wary of the claim that we can stick to the New Testament with the Jesus story as a recipe for an environment of peace and harmony. We may be tempted to discard, or at least downplay, by contrast, whatever we may derive from the Old Testament.

Crossan’s message is that the New Testament with its climax depicted in the book of Revelation can hold its own for savagery with the Old Testament stories. And he reminds us that the protagonist in Revelation is revealed clearly as Jesus himself.

I write this at the very time when Russia and The United States are facing off each other with the prospect of war in Ukraine. Crossan notes one ancient writer’s observation in relation to the wars which shaped the middle east at the time of Jesus. We can anticipate the prospect of major conflict.  He quotes the danger given from that period being demonstrated when one power, in his case, Greece was rising in influence when another power (Persia) was waning. This, of course, is the very situation we are facing with the rising influence and belligerence of China and the decline and loss of direction in America.

All this current war talk upsets me. Have we not learned from the slaughter of the previous century? With the United Nations and other international groupings, we have the structures for international cooperation. Despite this, nationalism continues to reign supreme. I was most disappointed by the withdrawal of Britain from the European community – Brexit. Instead of confronting Russia and China with threats of military reprisal why not invite them to join NATO and other consultative bodies?

Even more disappointing is it that our Christian churches gives this issue little priority. The threat of war is right up there with destructive climate change as an issue to be faced by our children and grandchildren. And yet I see only token protest by our mainstream churches at the rhetoric of violence which we have been seeing in our news headlines over the past twelve months and more.

I see very few attempts to highlight the issue. Recently in looking down a list of intercessory topics suggested for the Uniting Church Assembly the issues of bringing God’s attention to the prevention of war between nations was right at the bottom of a very long list.

In a rare exception, at the micro level, however, it was heartening to view the ABC’s TV Compass programme recently depicting the action by a small group of Catholic lay people. They risked jail for bringing to the attention of the Australian public the military purposes of the surveillance establishment at Pine Gap near Alice Springs.

But to get back to Dominic Crossan and the American empire. His great concern is that fundamentalist, Christian America is living the biblical God of war rather than the God of peace. It is noteworthy that this book was written before the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. Trump appears to receive strong backing from many fundamentalist Christians in that country. Apparently, he still does retain their support. It seems that about half the American electorate would be prepared to vote him back into office. Furthermore, regardless of personal inclination, whoever is leader of that nation, still has to deal with that nation’s powerful military-industrial complex. This can weigh heavily on any decisions on international relationships. And for us in Australia as has become our national habit, with general agreement of both major political parties, we can expect to follow the United States into any war.

So, do the Australian churches have a contribution to make here? Surely rallying for peaceful responses to international problems is called for in being Jesus people.  We are reminded by our founder that even bad people love their friends. The challenge for us, as followers of the man from Galilee, by contrast, is to love our enemies.

Moreover, in using the Bible including the New Testament, as a recipe for living, let us be sure to be selective in our claims when we conclude our scripture readings with the assumption “This is the Word of God”.  Reason to be wary of this is well explained by John Dominic Crossan in “God and Empire”.

“God and Empire” is published by HarperOne

*A current title of this nature brought to the attention of Australian readers this year has been “After Jesus Before Christianity” by Vearncombe, Scott and Taussig.

Note: A Review of this book by Paul Inglis is available here.

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Respected Theological Scholars offering Faith and Spirituality for the 21st Century

SEMINARY OF THE THIRD AGE GOES LIVE

Faith and Religion Relating to the Present Age

Now available on live-stream.

Seminary of the 3rd Age is hosted each year by Adelaide’s Effective Living Centre (ELC) and is an initiative of Progressive Christianity Network SA.

The Sem3A program is conducted by respected theological scholars and leaders, offering persons young and old, of any faith or no faith, the opportunity to explore and reflect on questions of faith and spirituality relevant in the 21st century. Commencing in 2018, Sem3A is the only program of its kind in Australia; past presenters have included Norm Habel, Lynn Arnold, Denise Champion, Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, Vicky Balabanski, Mario Trinidad, Brian Phillips, Robert Crotty, Jione Havea, Jonathan Barker and Andrew Dutney.

So far Adelaide has kept Sem3A to itself, but in 2022 the exciting news is that we are going live nationally—for a nominal fee of $5 you can watch our seminars live and exclusively on ELC’s Facebook page from anywhere around the country (or around the globe, for that matter).

The overall theme for Sem 3A 2022 is Faith and Religion Relating to the Present Age, with four topics, each of which runs for four weeks on Thursday evenings (7.00pm ACST) during the months of March, May, August and October.

Adelaide: 7.00pm

Brisbane: 6.30pm

Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney: 7.30pm

Perth: 5.30pm

March’s topic is The relationship between Religion and Culture, starting with renowned social anthropologist Olga Gostin on How Culture Shapes Identity.

For more information on Sem 3A 2022 seminars, including downloading our 2022 brochure, go to the ELC website:

https://effectiveliving.ucasa.org.au/progressive-christianity-network-sa/seminary-of-the-3rd-age/

Book for Sem3A Live-stream through Humanitix—follow the links from the ELC website. Here is the link for the Olga Gostin seminar:

https://events.humanitix.com/how-culture-shapes-identity-olga-gostin

Contact us on office@effectiveliving.org if you have any queries.

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The Trinity as Love

From: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Thursday 22nd January 2022

Professor Heidi Russell describes a way of speaking about the Trinity as Love that might allow modern Christians to connect more intimately to God.

In the twenty-first century a new understanding of Trinity must be found that allows Christians to reconcile their image of God with a contemporary, scientific worldview. Theology needs to move away from concrete images of God in which God is pictured as an old man in the sky. The use of concepts such as being and person in our trinitarian theology have too often led to an understanding of God as a being or a person, or worse as three beings or three persons. Shifting from language of being and person to a concept of God as Love can help counteract this tendency to make God in our own image.

The primary analogy for God as Trinity offered [here] is Source of Love, Word of Love, and Spirit of Love. God the Father is the Unoriginate Source of Love, simply meaning the ultimate source, the source that has no origin itself because it is the origin of all love that exists. That Source of all love has been revealed in the Word of Love. The world was created in and through that Word of Love, and that Word of Love has been spoken into the world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Source of Love is also continually enacted in the Spirit of Love, which is present in the world and active in the heart of all believers forming the Christian community into the body of Christ. As the body of Christ, this community is then called to be the ongoing presence of God as Love in the world. . . .

To affirm God as Trinitarian Love means that our relationships with each other have the potential to mirror such divine, three-fold love. Russell quotes Pope Francis:

The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity. [1]

She continues:

We can choose to exercise the unfolding of love in our lives. I can meditate on a God who is Love, who has enfolded Godself as Love at the core of who I am and empowered me to participate in the unfolding of that Love in the world. Through that meditative prayer, we will come to better enact Love in the world. Our hearts can literally change our brains. Our altered brains will change our actions. That unfolding of love means I am empowered to live out my life in relationships that are loving, that engender mutuality and equality in the world.

 

[1] Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, 240.

Heidi Russell, The Source of All Love: Catholicity and the Trinity (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017), xvii, 171, 174.

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The Common Dreams Story – Part 3

In February 2014 Dick Carter made a proposal to formalize the structure of an incorporated Common Dreams association. The arguments for doing this are laid out in his proposal below. This proposal was happily agreed to and became a reality.

A PROPOSAL FOR A FORMAL STRUCTURE FOR COMMON DREAMS

Introduction

Common Dreams (CD) has been a great success to date – maybe more successful than we could ever have hoped – which is a great tribute to Rex Hunt’s and Jonathon Rea’s vision when in 2005 they conceived the idea of staging a major national conference of religious progressives. It has a track record of three very well attended international conferences and several CD on the Road events that have also been very well staged and supported. It has an established “brand” (even if we might not like to think of it in those terms) which is well recognised and respected by a significant proportion of Australian and, to a lesser degree, NZ religious progressives and also by a growing number of prominent international researchers, writers and academics in the field. We are in the early stages of planning CD4 in Brisbane some time in 2016 which has every prospect of being as successful as the previous three triennial international events. CD now has approximately $120,000 in the bank or invested in an interest earning account so it is financially robust and now able to consider a more ambitious program or spread of activities.

On the other hand, the alliance which is CD has a very informal, even evanescent, structure which has served us well to date but it lacks form, its governance arrangements are not well defined, its operation is rather opaque and not well understood by those who are CD’s leaders, and it does not easily provide for succession among the leadership. It is suggested that we need to address these issues.

The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria (PCNV) formed Common Dreams Melbourne Inc (CDM) as the vehicle to undertake CD2 in 2010 principally to keep CD’s operations clearly separate from the PCNV’s & to ensure that PCNV did not become liable for GST on its own activities (because the addition together of the CD2 & PCNV revenues were expected to exceed the threshold of $150,000 pa where GST becomes payable). It was intended that when CD2 was wrapped up any cash in the bank would be passed on to the group charged with organising CD3 and then CDM would be wound up.

As we know, the latter part of this plan did not come to pass and, when it became apparent that the Canberra team tasked with organising CD3 did not have some of the key resources needed to undertake the complete task of staging CD3, a hybrid approach was developed under which the Canberra Local Arrangements Committee (LAC) was responsible for the conference logistics and other aspects (except programming) were handled by CDM. Rex Hunt led the program development with input from a core National Planning Committee plus consultation with a larger group of other interested parties.

This hybrid arrangement worked well and it is proposed that we should build on this format to create a transparent and flexible organisation structure that will carry CD through the next stages of its development.

Proposal

Basically, the proposal is that CDM should be made the entity that holds the “intellectual property” and the financial assets which together constitute “Common Dreams”. It is legally able to do this as, even though CDM is incorporated under Victorian state law, it is empowered to operate anywhere, including overseas (eg NZ), and its officers & committee members do not have to be resident in Victoria and can live offshore; the only restriction is that the Secretary must be an Australian resident.

A name change would be required so as to signal the wider scope of its operations, preferably to “Common Dreams Inc” or, if this name is not available, to perhaps “Common Dreams (ANZ) Inc” or similar. Its Officers and Committee Members should be made broadly representative of the leadership of the progressive movement in Australia and NZ, and its membership of individuals should also be broadened and made available to any who are interested.

At the moment, reflecting the purpose for which CDM was established, the Officers are: President – Dick Carter, Vice-President – Adrian Pyle, Secretary – David Merritt, Treasurer – John Smith and the Committee Members are Lorraine Parkinson and Chris Page. The company has eight “members” who are the current committee members of the PCNV plus Chris Page – these members are the people who get to vote at General Meetings including on the appointment of the Officers and Committee Members. There will be no problem having some or all of these people stand aside to allow the election of a new and more representative committee. Likewise there would be no barriers to broadening the Committee membership to include people who are active in the various state and NZ progressive bodies.

Under this arrangement the Committee of Common Dreams Inc (CDI) would assume the position of what was previously the National Planning Committee and take over the final responsibility for all aspects of CD’s operations including the approval of themes and programs for the triennial conference and other major events. It could continue to consult with a large number of people about aspects of programs, conference themes, etc. The LAC would become a sub-committee of the main Committee and thus be officially under the umbrella of CDI and legally empowered to do all of the things that it are designated for it to do. Further sub-committees or task groups could also be formed to undertake other CD activities such as CD on the Road, etc.

The Officers (President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer) and six Committee members would be elected annually at the Annual General Meeting.

The functions needed to provide continuity of administration between & during main events would remain as at present with a small group of “officials” or agents (particularly John Smith, Maree Burnett, Adrian Pyle, & Dick Carter) who would be responsible to the CDI Committee; this would cover bookkeeping & financial reporting, banking & funds investment, maintenance of the website, registrations, advertising & promotion, regulatory compliance, etc, etc.

This structure is far more transparent and has much better defined responsibilities than the current informal structure; it can be made broadly representative. It should also allow clearer succession planning for the leadership group and allow individuals to move out of it when they wish and for successors to be brought in as appropriate. All of this should help ensure that Common Dreams has reasonable assurance of a continued existence and that it can grow and evolve as its leadership sees the needs & opportunities.

It should not be too difficult to put these arrangements or something like them in place.

Changes To Rules Of CDM

Recent changes to the Victorian law governing incorporated associations is requiring all such bodies to change their “Rules” (i.e. their constitutions) in prescribed ways as part of a bid to modernise governance in this sector. As a result CDM is going to have to change some things anyway and it would be relatively simple to make the transition to CDI as part of this process.

This process will involve changing the Rules of CDM as required by the amended Victorian act (which are largely procedural and straight forward), changing CDM’s name to CDI, and broadening the statement of CDI’s purposes in the Rules to clearly empower CDI to do all of the things that it may wish to undertake in the foreseeable future.

The Rule and name changes will need to be approved at a General Meeting and then be submitted to the Victorian Department of Consumer Affairs for a compliance review. The same meeting would elect the new Officers and Committee Members.

Time-Line & Responsibilities

The revision the Rules required by the changes to the Victorian Act will be led by the Secretary of CDM, David Merritt, who has considerable experience doing this for PCNV and some other incorporated associations. David and Dick Carter will also arrange the change of name and draft the revised CDI Purposes clause with input from the present National Planning Committee.

Timing of these and other steps will be approximately:

  • March/April Draft revised Rules, reserve CDI name, redraft and agree Purposes clause
  • May Enrol additional members
  • Early June Issue notice of General Meeting
  • Late June General Meeting, new Rules approved, new Officers & committee elected.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the CD National Planning Committee give its approval to implementing this proposal.

RJ Carter, 7 February 2014

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The Common Dreams Story Part 2

Greg Jenks on the Purpose of Common Dreams

(Written in 2014)

Some of us – myself included – tend to approach CD as progressive Christians (or maybe Christian progressives, I suspect the latter in my case), but others in this movement are very clear that they have no interest in the present and future forms of Christianity. They may be progressive Jews, progressive Muslims, progressive Humanists, or just post-Christian progressives. This is true, as I understand it, for many Sea of Faith members as well as for the members of the Centre for Progressive Religious Thought in Sydney.

However that may be, Common Dreams is not about saving/renewing Christianity or any of its present denominational expressions. Those are perfectly valid goals for people to pursue, but they are not the agenda of the Common Dreams movement.

I welcome the development of both denominational and ecumenical progressive Christian movements, such as the (formerly) UC Lay Forum (now UCFORUM) in the Uniting Church and the PAX groups within the Anglican Church.

I hope we can form an alliance between these emerging progressive Christian organisations/networks, and other progressive religious organisations (such as Sea of Faith) so we can jointly sponsor the CD4 event in Brisbane. Of course, I also hope we can do that in a way that honours and welcomes the contributions of religious progressives who are not in any sense “Christian.”

No doubt there is more that can be done by Christian progressives to collaborate, share resources, and promote theological exploration within the existing church structures. I think the UC Lay Forum (UCFORUM) is a fine example of what may be possible.

Maybe we need a PC structure in Queensland similar to Progressive Christian Network Victoria? That might clarify the difference in our goals when engaged in PC work, and when considering our support for Common Dreams 4? [PCNQ has since formed and is based at Merthyr Road, New Farm, Uniting Church].

As for Common Dreams, my understanding is that it is intended to be an interfaith and ecumenical project to promote, protect and expand the role of reasonable and tolerant religion in the public space. As such, I have an investment in the success of Common Dreams as a Christian progressive and also as a citizen.

The significance of “Common Dreams” as a name for this movement is its potential to invite us beyond differences derived from culture, ethnicity and religion, and into a shared space where we have common dreams for a better future.

The name was adopted when we began planning for the first CD event in Sydney just a couple of weeks after the Cronulla race riots. Those origins need not define or constrain our future directions, but they may help to explain how we got to where we are now.

We can doubtless do better at engaging religious progressives from traditions other than Christianity, and we can certainly do better in engaging with the common dreams of younger Australians. I hope we can keep both these objectives in clear view as we plan for the 2016 CD4 event.

Rev Dr Greg Jenks, 2014. (Written as the planning for the 4th Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane got underway.)

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Redcliffe and New Farm Explorers meeting plans

The Redcliffe Explorers: Who are we, and what are we about?

Greetings everyone

I’m hoping we’ll be able to get together next month, which will be our first gathering for the year. We’ll make it fairly informal and accessible to anyone – maybe a friend or colleague – who might be interested in discovering the sorts of topics we discuss, and why. I hope most of our ‘regulars’ will agree to chat briefly about their ‘faith journeys’ and how their views have (or perhaps haven’t?) been influenced by contemporary biblical scholarship. To allow time for discussion, there will be a strict time-limit on individual presentations! Also, I’m delighted to report that Rev. Dr Lorraine Parkinson (remember Made on Earth?) has agreed to give us a run-down on Melbourne’s Progressive Christianity community.

Assuming no lock-downs in the mean time, we’ll gather on Monday 7th February in the Activities Room at Azure Blue Retirement Centre (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe) from 6 p.m., commencing with a chat and tea or coffee. The Centre management requires us all to provide evidence of full Covid vaccination, and the usual arrangements of mask-wearing, hand-sanitising etc. will apply.

If you’re planning to come along but aren’t a regular at our gatherings, it would be advisable to give me a call on 0401 513 723 about access and parking arrangements at Azure Blue.

Shalom, Ian

New Farm plans:

Hello to all friends in Progressive Christian Network Qld,

In the light of the current situation with the pandemic, we have decided to CANCEL Explorers meeting at Merthyr Rd UC in February. Hopefully we will meet again on 30th March. Here are the dates for this Explorer group for this year, unless we find it advisable not to meet due to the COVID situation at the time.

30 March, 27 April, 25 May, 29 June, 27 July, 31 August, 28 September, 26 October, 30 November.

I trust you are staying well. Warm regards, Desley

Ross and Desley Garnett
drgarn@bigpond.net.au
Ross – 0409 498 402

Desley – 0409 498 403

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The Common Dreams Story – Part 1

As secretary to the Brisbane Common Dreams Conference in September 2016, I emerged as a convinced progressive, greatly inspired by the presentations, the scholarship and an awareness of a rapidly growing movement that addressed the many problems of relevance and authenticity in Christianity in the 21st Century. I have recently been elected to the National Planning Committee and look forward to seeing great things happening.

Paul Inglis

Dick Carter, the chairperson of Common Dreams Inc has provided us with the history and current state of CD together with its rules of operation and some recommendations. This is Part 1 of that story.

The Common Dreams Story

COMMON DREAMS is an alliance of Australian and New Zealand kindred organisations which promote the study, discussion and implementation of Progressive Christian and other progressive religious streams of thought and action. 

About Us

COMMON DREAMS is an alliance of Australian and New Zealand kindred organisations which promote the study, discussion and implementation of Progressive Christian and other progressive religious streams of thought and action. The alliance includes The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria, Progressive Christian Network Queensland, Progressive Christianity Aotearoa (NZ), St Luke’s Community at Remuera (Auckland), Pitt Street Uniting Church (Sydney), The Progressive Christian Network of South Australia, & Progressive Network of Western Australia. “Two founding groups – The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought Canberra and The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought Sydney – have since gone into recess, but individual members still share in local discussions and national events.”

Progressive Christianity is a nondenominational approach to faith and spirituality. It seeks to understand Christian beliefs and doctrines in the light of modern biblical and historical scholarship and current scientific knowledge. It values inquiry and intellectual integrity. It rejects biblical literalism and inerrancy. It is open to diversity of opinion. Expressions of progressive streams in other religious faiths have similar approaches within their traditions.

“The real reason why progressive Christianity exists is not to prune away archaisms and false accretions. It exists to be an authentic gospel voice, to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ life and teaching: a vision of humanity united to the sacred and to one another in love and justice.”—Rev Dr Margaret Mayman

The principal way the alliance pursues its objectives is through staging the major international Common Dreams Conference each three years. These conferences bring together for several days a large audience to hear and interact with a distinguished group of international, Australian and New Zealand scholars, researchers, writers and speakers. The first Conference was held in Sydney in August 2007 and featured Bishop John Shelby Spong as lead keynote speaker; the second was staged in Melbourne in April 2010, starring Gretta Vosper (a leading Canadian progressive); the third in the series was presented in Canberra during September 2013 with Marcus Borg leading a strong line-up of international and Australian and New Zealand experts; the fourth was held in Brisbane in September 2016 featuring Diana Butler Bass. The fifth conference was presented in Sydney 11-14 July 2019 and the distinguished international guest was Matthew Fox.

The proceedings of these conferences are made available as study resources for scholars, students and individuals. Common Dreams also arranges tours to Australia and New Zealand from time to time by leading scholars under the banner of Common Dreams On The Road. Our touring visitors have included Professor John Dominic Crossan (twice), Professor Bernard Brandon Scott (twice), Rev Dr Robin Meyers, Rev Dr David Galston, Professor Hal Taussig, & Professor Joe Bessler.

Our Beginnings

It all started in 2005! Rex Hunt was in Canberra and Jonathan Rea in Sydney. Both were actively involved in progressive religion/progressive Christianity. During one of their meetings around the Hunt dining room table in Canberra, Jonathan flagged, ‘we should stage a national progressive conference’.

To that end, Jonathan talked with Ian Pearson (then Minister at Pitt Street Uniting Church) and a meeting was called for January 2006 at Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney. Present were: Rex Hunt (Canberra), Jonathan Rea, Ian Pearson, Eric Stevenson and Valerie Worswick (Sydney), Greg Jenks (Brisbane), and John Smith (Melbourne). Discussion centred on establishing a national progressive religion network, using the Centre for Progressive Religious Thought Canberra as a model, which would then stage a national Conference. A theme for the first Conference was decided on: Common Dreams: Progressive Religion as a Transforming Agent. Principal speakers suggested included: Bishop John Shelby Spong, Brandon Scott, Joe Bessler-Northcutt. A tentative date was set for August 2007 in Sydney.

That national Conference was staged and was a huge success with people attending from Australia (every state was represented), New Zealand, USA and Canada. Towards Conference end, Rex Hunt approached Richard Carter of the newly formed Progressive Christian Network of Victoria and invited them to hold a second Conference in three years’ time. He accepted, giving birth to the Common Dreams Conferences.

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A conversation with Prof Brandon Scott and Dr Greg Jenks on the new important Westar Institute book, After Jesus Before Christianity.

From the creative minds of the scholarly group behind the groundbreaking Jesus Seminar comes this provocative and eye-opening look at the roots of Christianity that offers a thoughtful reconsideration of the first two centuries of the Jesus movement, transforming our understanding of the religion and its early dissemination.

Synthesizing the Westar Institute’s most recent scholarship—bringing together the many archaeological and textual discoveries over the last twenty years—they have found:

  • There were multiple Jesus movements, not a singular one, before the fourth century
  • There was nothing called Christianity until the third century
  • There was much more flexibility and diversity within Jesus’s movement before it became centralized in Rome, not only regarding the Bible and religious doctrine, but also understandings of gender, sexuality and morality.

Exciting and revolutionary, After Jesus Before Christianity provides fresh insights into the real history behind how the Jesus movement became Christianity.

Bp Jeremy Greaves has arranged an Eventbrite link…. A conversation with Prof Brandon Scott and Dr Greg Jenks on the new important Westar Institute book, You are invited to link in (see below for date and details) to this January event.

it will be on Tuesday 25 January at 11.00am (Brisbane time); 9am Perth, 11.30am Adelaide,Noon Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, 10.30 Darwin.

Here’s the link to the zoom conversation with Brandon and Greg. Jeremy will be the host and facilitator.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/after-jesus-before-christianity-a-conversation-with-brandon-scott-tickets-226723886247

Enquiries can be directed to Jeremy.

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A Reflection: A little late but too good to pass over.

Project Plenty is a five year developmental plan by the Queensland Synod of the UCA to produce more efficient, sustainable, and effective processes and outcomes and closer, healthier, and more positive relationships. They have been offered up as potential next right steps to foster discipleship, transform communities, make the governance and processes more fit for purpose and create for all a real sense of partnership and trust, community and communion, a life together. 

A full progress report can be found on the Project Plenty site.

Paul Wetzig is the Queensland Synod’s Project Officer – Discipleship, coordinating the evolving project. Among the many reflections given by planning participants, Paul offered this:

“As we come into the season of Advent, we don’t often come in preparation for revolution; for the overthrow of tyranny and oppression, the pursuit of justice for the hungry and the have-nots. As we celebrate Christmas, we generally don’t come seeking the overthrow of unjust leaders and rulers and the establishment of a new order in the world!

“We don’t come to surrender ourselves to the revolutionary mandate to fulfill God’s plan and purposes in the world by establishing an upside down, countercultural community.

“But this is context of the first Christmas as told by Luke, through the story of a teenage girl at threat of being stoned to death for being unwed and pregnant.

“In Mary’s story in Luke 1:39-56 we see a young woman surrender herself to the greatness and mercy of God’s plan to transform the world through the most unexpected of ways. Despite what is happening to her and around her, Mary places her trust and submits her life to a God who has consistently created change and brought blessing and hope into the world through the poor, excluded, broken, and deeply flawed. The God of Abraham who blesses those who step into the unknown to be a blessing to the world.

“But Mary not only sees herself in this radical plan, she prophetically sees and outlines what God is about to do in the world—that the God of radical justice will usher in a hope-filled new, upside down Kingdom where the humble will be raised up and the proud scattered, the hungry will be fed while the rich are sent away empty handed and unjust rulers are brought down from their thrones.

“What Mary speaks of here foreshadows Jesus’ proclamation later in Luke 4 of the coming of the Kingdom where good news is preached to the poor, captives are released, the blind have their sight and the oppressed are freed.

“This sits at the heart of Luke’s Christmas story. An understanding that through an unwed pregnant teen the highly political and dangerously revolutionary new presence of God will begin in the world.

“As we move into this time of celebration of the birth of Christ, I believe that we are invited back into this story. To consider our own humility and surrender before God. To reflect on what it means for us to trust God amid our struggles and challenges and to believe that there is hope in the midst of suffering. But it is also an invitation to a commitment to the revolutionary way of Jesus. To be those who strive for justice and to give voice to the humble, the hungry and the have-nots. To be those who continue to trust and follow God into the unknown, that we may be a blessing to the world and make real the dangerously hope-filled revolutionary presence of God in the world.

“I hope that you and your family have a revolutionmerry Christmas.”

Paul Wetzig

Paul Wetzig is the Queensland Synod’s Project Officer – Discipleship.

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Newton’s Theology

Peter Robinson has passed on this fascinating article from The Times about an interesting period in history, bridging Middle Ages and early Enlightenment times. He adds:

“During the Middle Ages, people generally approached answers to questions by an appeal to authority –  to figures like Aristotle, Ptolomy, or church fathers such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Isaac Newton on the other hand was driven by scientific inquiry and promoted experiment based science – setting out the three Laws of Motion in his Principia Mathematica, discovering the law of universal gravitation, inventing mathematical calculus, and writing extensively on the nature of light and optics.

“What is less well known, is that Newton, like many in his time, was also a devout Christian – a monotheist who saw God in the order and beauty of the world, and his scientific contribution as casting light on God’s creation.

“At the same time, Newton was a deep Bible scholar, who also studied writings of early Christian fathers, comparing later writings to original Latin and Greek manuscripts. Newton is reputed to have devoted more time and written more on the subject of theology, than on science. Newton became convinced that the Church had moved away from its early foundations, and many of the doctrines of the Church had no basis in the original Gospel teachings of Jesus. He took  particular issue with the doctrine of the Trinity and Athanasian creed, based on his study of the Bible (rejecting 1 John 5:7 as the concept did not appear in original Latin vulgate and Greek manuscripts, but a later addition), declaring it a false doctrine, a position that saw him refuse ordination in the Anglican church (which came close to costing him his position as a Fellow of Cambridge University). He came later to be regarded as an Arian Christian (Arius c.274-337CE), among those who saw God alone as divine.

“Newton chose not to publish his thoughts on religion during his lifetime, such was the power of Church and State at that time, as he recognized the potential damage it would cause to his standing in scientific matters.

“As a side comment, it is relevant to note that Newton lived through the pandemic known as the Great Plague in 1665-67, a time when he did most of his research from his mother’s home in Woolsthorpe, England.”

NOTEBOOK SHEDS LIGHT ON NEWTON’S ENIGMATIC FAITH

by TOM BALL – London

Sir Isaac Newton’s ‘complex’ views on Christianity can now be better understood after scholars gained access to his confidant’s notebook for the first time in almost 350 years.

The manuscript, written by John Wickins, Newton’s university roommate and assistant, is the earliest evidence of the mathematician’s theology.

It highlights Newton’s engrossment in mainstream questions about God’s foreknowledge and human free will, at a time when England was staunchly Christian, and shows how he developed this into his unique theology.

The notebook, which had been under private ownership for two generations, was bought at auction for 63,000 Pounds last March and has been added to the library at Cambridge University, where Newton studied.

The notebook, which contains 12,000 words in English and another 5,000 in Latin, is the most comprehensive record of Newton’s writings to be found in the past 50 years.

Jill Whitelock, head of special collections at Cambridge University Library, said: “The notebook adds significantly to our understanding of Newton and his writings, as well as casting new light on other manuscripts in the University Library. It is only through the documentary heritage represented by his scientific and mathematical papers that we see a full picture of Newton.”

The notebook contains one of Newton’s two university lectures and three letters to Wickins, whom he called his “very loving chamber-fellow”. Wickins acted as Newton’s amanuensis while functioning as his unpaid assistant and helping him to turn the rooms they shared from 1665 to 1683 into a makeshift laboratory. They worked together on Newton’s third telescope.

One Latin segment of the notebook records a university mandated “disputation” or debate, where Newton covered the contentious topic of the compatibility of God’s perfect foreknowledge with human free will.

Dmitri Levitin, of All Souls College, Oxford, and his co-editor of the Wickins notebook, Scott Mandelbrote, wrote that the topic “was a subject that was as difficult as it was sensitive”. In an article for the Times literary Supplement, they added: “The difficulties were the classic problems of free will and evil: how could an all-powerful, omniscient God create a world in which humans had genuine freedom? At the same time, how could that perfect God not be the author of the sin which his creatures had committed?”

Newton came to privately hold unorthodox Christian beliefs and, by 1690, had dismantled the standard biblical proofs for the doctrine of the Trinity. He kept his idiosyncratic views – the focus of much rumour – to himself, a prudent decision considering his successor as professor of mathematics at Cambridge lost his post in 1710 for supporting similar views. It was not until after his death in 1727 that Newton’s unusual views became public knowledge.

———————————————————-

(This Article was first published in The Times newspaper in London, and re-produced in The Weekend Australian, January 8-9, 2022)

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Opinion: A renewed sense of the possibility

Thank you John Scoble from the St Lucia Spirituality Group for this insight which seems to be apposite for all our Explorers groups:
A Gathering of Loved Ones
In episode 1016 of On Being, Krista Tippett reads an extract from a book by Rachel Held Evans. It struck me as particularly apposite for our St Lucia spirituality group.
“Faith in Jesus has been recast as a position in a debate, not a way of life. But the truth is … I’ve found people to be much more receptive to the Gospel when they know becoming a Christian and being a Christian doesn’t require becoming a know-it-all. That is a form of faithful freedom too. There is liberation in not having to know everything and not having to impress everyone with that boundless knowledge … And many of us have found a renewed sense of possibility when we’ve realized how much of God’s beauty remains to be explored — and that the life of faith is also a life of holy curiosity. Anyway, most of the openhearted wanderers I’ve encountered are looking not for a bulletproof belief system but for a community of friends, not for a spiritual encyclopedia that contains every answer but for a gathering of loved ones in which they can ask the hard questions.”
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Opinion: A reconstructed pantheism replacing the Judeo-Christian paradigm

As we commence our 22nd year of bringing news and commentary to thinking explorers, we want to try to stay with trends in Progressive Christianity. Especially for those who like to be challenged! [Extra points if you read the whole scholarly paper this time and enjoy the “intellectual adventure”!!]

Thanks to Paul Wildman for drawing our attention to this 2008 paper from Zygon journal of religion and science by John W Grula which asserts that:

“Despite the best of intentions during two millennia of Judeo-Christianity, and several hundred years of materialistic progress and human rights projects born of the Enlightenment, the human condition and the condition of our planet are continuing to decline at an alarming rate. Given this situation, we must question our fundamental assumptions and belief systems. We need to discern how and why these crises have developed and how we might come to embrace new worldviews and attitudes that will enable us to solve our enormous problems.”

We have reproduced a copy of the paper below, for scholarly discussion only.

Abstract.

The Judeo-Christian, Enlightenment, and postmodernist paradigms have become intellectually and ethically exhausted. They are obviously failing to provide a conceptual framework conducive to eliminating some of humanity’s worst scourges, including war and
environmental destruction. This raises the issue of a successor, which necessitates a reexamination of first principles, starting with our concept of God. Pantheism, which is differentiated from panentheism, denies the existence of a transcendent, supernatural creator and instead asserts that God and the universe are one and the same. Understood via intuition, modern cosmology, and other natural sciences, it offers an alternative worldview that posits the divine and sacred nature of the universe/creation. By asserting the fallacy of the creator/creation dichotomy and any attempts to anthropomorphize or personalize God, pantheism precludes hubris stemming from erroneous notions of divine favoritism. The links between Judeo-Christianity and the Enlightenment are traced and a case made that the latter has resulted in the equally erroneous and hubristic notion of human ascendancy to a Godlike status, with the concept of progress providing a secular version of the Christian belief in salvation. By reestablishing the natural sciences’ metanarrative, even as it asserts the divinity of
the material universe, pantheism simultaneously demotes postmodernism and reconciles science with religion. Pantheism provides a theological foundation for deep ecology and also stakes out a viable third position in relation to the ongoing dispute between advocates
of intelligent design and the scientific establishment.

The paper.

Recent discourse in this journal has suggested that postmodernism is “exhausting itself.” While not specifying any potential successors, Gregory Peterson has suggested further that “the postpostmodern moment is awaiting us” (2005, 883, 887). Here I argue that postmodernism’s predecessors, Judeo-Christianity and the Enlightenment, are also exhausted and failing
to provide a conceptual framework conducive to ensuring the long-term health of earth and its inhabitants. In that spirit, I also accept Peterson’s invitation to articulate “shifts in perspective” that can lead to a “new, unified religion” (2005, 886–87) with the potential to succeed the faltering Judeo-Christian, Enlightenment, and postmodernist paradigms.

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Thoughts on the death of Desmond Tutu

Peter Robinson is inviting comments and further reflections on the following. Please click on Replies.

The world learned just after Christmas, of the death of Archbishop Tutu, the World and South Africa’s ‘spiritual moral conscience’ on social and political apartheid, who passed away age 90.

My spouse Denise and I recall the absolute privilege some years ago of visiting the settlement town of Soweto, the very dwelling where Tutu was born and raised, in the street where both Tutu and Mandela had lived.

It was a deeply moving experience, our pilgrimage if you will.

Peter Robinson

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Greetings to all our subscribers

Wishing everyone in our continually growing network of Progressive Christians a very happy Christmas and a new year that brings good news, hope and increased love for all humanity.

As we approach our 22nd year we are thankful for the contributions from members and the way in which we see the teachings and example of Jesus being shared. Many of our new members have come to us through your invitations. Keep it up.

Paul Inglis

 

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A Progressive Worship Resource for Season of Creation

George Stuart has kindly made available to us a suggested liturgy, also leadership notes with biblical commentary as well as notes for the leader to follow when preparing, etc. We appreciate his ever generous gifting of his work and can expect more. This time the material is aimed at use on Humanity Sunday and he is working on further Season of Creation resources (September – October) including for Animal Sunday, Cosmos Sunday, and a few others.

Humanity Sunday – For leaders of the church service

These Sundays are Season of Creation Sundays, so, each different aspect of creation is the focus of each Church Service.  This Humanity Sunday gives the church a golden opportunity to celebrate the mysterious wonder and the beauty of humanity.  It is also important to take this opportunity to confront the challenges and responsibilities that fall on all humanity regarding our fragile and threatened environment.

Aims and objectives

 Main Aim.  To engender a sense of awe and amazement of humanity, to celebrate the complex unity as well as the potential of human beings and then to be thankful.

Other important aims are,

  1. To explore what ‘dominion’ and ‘made in God’s image’ mean, in the context of the Genesis readings, and in doing so, compare the 2 creations stories in Genesis.
  2. To prompt reflection on the different ways of living within our fragile environment.
  3. To acknowledge the godly dimension of all that is.
  4. To significantly discern the gospel’s Good News for the day.

Resources offered   (The leader is encouraged to choose from these resources and use them.)

  1. Background reading and commentaries on Bible readings.

 Quotations from Bible commentaries are included because, with more lay people conducting church services, they would probably not have the private theological libraries that many clergy have.

 Thoughts and information about the human being.

Background reading, some of which is used in the suggested liturgy.  Choose what you wish.

  1. Suggestions for congregational participation.

Dialogues, individual contributions, and a children’s game are all included in the suggested liturgy.

  1. Lyrics to traditional hymn tunes.

4 of my sets of original lyrics are used in the suggested liturgy.   Norman Habel has also written many lyrics that could be used. Some of these can be accessed in the Seasons of Creation services, on the internet. http://seasonsofcreation.org/

  1. Prayers and Prayer suggestions.

A Creation Prayer, and suggestions for other prayers are included in the suggested liturgy.

  1. A suggested liturgy.  

The suggested liturgy below takes about 45 minutes, which includes time for congregational participation, the children’s game and Prayers of the People, etc.  It is suggested that, without interrupting the flow of the service, short commentaries could be given, to explain some of the Bible readings.  The dramatized reading in the liturgy below has been taken from the Uniting Church’s Seasons of Creation services, on the internet.  My suggested liturgy follows the lead of the services on the internet, by giving opportunity for members of the congregation to participate, and by having dialogues and the dramatized reading.  Doing something a little different!

 Resources detailed

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TRENDS IN RELIGION

[Thanks to Peter Robinson for gathering the data  and thoughts on this topic]

TRENDS IN RELIGION

Two sources have provided the following information:

The first is an article titled ‘Fewer Americans than ever are Christian as more say they have no religion’ by Mike Stunson,15 December 2021, which appeared in Flipboard 10 today, it is based on a poll by the Pew Research Centre.

Key conclusions of the Poll are that:

– 30% of the American population see themselves as atheist, agnostic or nothing, nearly double from 16% in 2007.

– 63% identify as Christian, compared to 78% in 2007.

– 41% see religion as ‘very important’ to them, down from 56% in 2007

– 45% say they pray daily, down from 58% in 2007

– The decline is most noted in Protestantism. 40% of adults down from 52% in 2007. Catholics 21% adults down from 24 % in 2007.

– Other US Polls demonstrate results similar to the Pew Research Centre Poll

– For the first time, fewer than 50% of adult Americans belong to a house of worship.

Ryan Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University and a Baptist minister, is quoted as saying “Church attendance is the first thing that goes, then belonging, and finally belief – in that order, Belief goes last”. (I’ll come back to this).

(On the American situation, I think the noted trends tie in with other evidence that there is growing interest in progressive theologies, among younger generations in particular.)

The second comes from Australia, the most recent National Church Life Survey (NCLS) results from their November 2021 Australian Community Survey (ACS). Australia has always been seen as a less ‘religious’ society than America, and Australians generally consider themselves to be more spiritual than religious – around half say they are both, but of these just half again are practicing.

Some key conclusions from the Australian ACS survey are:

–  Just 40% of Australians have contact with churchgoers, 60% have no contact

– 30% of Australians might attend a Christian church service if invited, if the invitee is a close friend

– The cruncher coming into Christmas is that around 51% of adult Australians do not see Jesus as a living historical figure (23% see Jesus as a mythical or fictional creation, and 29 % simply do not know). The survey suggests younger people are more likely to hold this view.

– 16% of Australians are willing to use on-line platforms to discuss matters of religion and faith.

(Around 20% of Australians might attend fairly regularly).

Reflecting on these findings

One has to ask why 51% of Australians do not see Jesus as having been a living person? It’s not because they have been reading the theories of authors like Volney, Dupois, or Bauer or more recently Doherty or Price. Neither because of a conscious choice to reject evidence in wide sources of non-canonical texts, apologists Clement, Ignatius and Justyn Martyr, or factual accounts of prolific historian Josephus, Seutonius or Pliny the Younger, independent sources who freely acknowledged Jesus as a living historical figure. Yet the survey results are not surprising, as the church has cloaked Jesus with an aura of classical mythology and supernatural elements, culminating in divine titles, that makes it difficult for many to understand Jesus as someone truly human who gave to the world a unifying social gospel message. In its preoccupation with symbol, the church at large faces a crisis of language and representation. Images and symbols that engaged early century minds have little place in the imagination of a majority of people today, whose worldview is shaped by contemporary rational knowledge and understanding. The church must ask itself, has the humanity of Jesus been lost? The evidence is in the data of polls conducted by NCLS and others.

So, attendance is first to go, then belonging, then belief, and finally ground of reality!

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Book Review: How the World Thinks

by Julian Baggini

Apparently a better understanding of ourselves comes from having knowledge of how others think. For Baggini’s tour de force of the world’s philosophies and cultures, as they have evolved, there is much value in a willingness to listen and learn. He critiques philosophies and philosophers and for those of us in the West there are many lessons we have not learnt because of our pre-occupation with our own tradition to the exclusion of all others.

Reading this book I was reminded of the time when I surveyed 50 people on the question – Who or what is God? I received 50 different answers ranging from a physical person somewhere in the universe to a notion of love. All the answers could have been defended with biblical evidence. Our understandings, insights and points of view are hugely influenced by the context and the ‘influencers’ from which we gain knowledge. For the Western world, philosophy has distanced itself from the insights that the Indian philosophical gurus utilize. Baggini is quite critical of this failing in Western philosophy. He claims insight without analysis and critique is “just intuition taken on faith”. Analysis without insight is “empty intellectual game-playing”. His key argument is that we would profit by “sympathetically but critically engaging with both”.

One of the key debates has been whether religions (theologies) are philosophies. His thoughts on this make great reading for progressives.

Similarly the author presents a case for the overemphasis on logic in Western philosophy. He assumes that reason and logic are synonymous. We should therefore focus more on reason and rationality in our philosophizing.

This is a grand journey from Greece and earlier through Eastern to Western philosophies, secular reason, and enlightenment, truth seeking, metaphysical and rational thought  and on to modern philosophy now impacted by global influences. It is a journey I would recommend to any thinking person.

I purchased my copy from Dymocks for $27.99.

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Project Launch: So That We Remember

We are pleased to join with our friends who are launching a great new project that focuses on the theme of dispossession entailed in the colonisation of this continent and its islands, and the cost to Indigenous lives that was so dearly paid for in that violent change of possession.

A story that began 233 years ago.

We offer So That We Remember as a verbal and visual guide to a particularly focused journey into the history of this country.

So That We Remember

This Website is offered as a verbal and visual path on a journey that began 233 years ago. It aims to expand awareness of the cost to Indigenous lives of the process of colonial dispossession.

This awareness is enhanced by Indigenous artist Glenn Loughrey’s artwork (glennloughrey.com). The visual has the capacity, beyond the verbal, to take the viewer into the primal feel of a landscape, an event, an encounter.

This collection of extracts from primary historical sources, and from historians seeking to gather as accurately as possible the memories of Australian history since 1788, is prompted by the felt need to expand the reach of memory into the wider Australian public.

What comes into view is a miscellany of testimonies, eye-witness accounts, secondary stories, justifications and obfuscations in regard to the nation-wide violence entailed in the imperial colonisation of this continent and its islands.

This collection takes the viewer into a day-to-day remembering.

Whether we are an individual, a family, a clan or a nation, we remember selectively. Both what we remember (and what we allow to be forgotten) shape the memories that shape us.

So That We Remember is being launched in the hope that in Australia it will bring to public awareness the cost in losing lives and in losing country, that has affected Australia’s Indigenous people to this present day. That awareness can find expression in remembrance.

Ray Barraclough

It all begins with a vision, a goal, a purpose.

An explanation for the contents and their presentation on So That We Remember.

Every day of the year people watch new telecasts, listen to news bulletins. These news programs share a common feature. There will be items side by side that have no inter-relationship. An item on economics, followed by a report of a car crash, then a politician is quoted, followed by sports results and the weather forecast.

In one sense this daily journal of historical remembrance, entitled So That We Remember is a collection of historical news bulletins. However it has a particular focus, a particular theme, a particular purpose. The contents will vary as regards the timelines of Australian history, and the locations of historical events.

“A Portrait of Australia With Important Bits Missing” by Glenn Loughrey

But the purpose is to focus on the theme of dispossession entailed in the colonisation of this continent and its islands, and the cost to Indigenous lives that was so dearly paid for that violent change of possession.

Professor Henry Reynolds has asked the question of Australia: “How, then, do we deal with the Aboriginal dead?[1] While Professor Mark McKenna observes that, “there is no state-sanctioned memorial to the frontier wars in Australia. This absence is one of the most telling silences that continues to reign over our official historical imagination.”[2]

In compiling So That We Remember, we offer it as a daily memorial to the cost to Indigenous lives in the emergence of contemporary Australia. Those lives deserve to be remembered. The consequences of that colonisation process are still with us. There are no exits from the realities of this history.

In a good number of the daily texts particular dates are highlighted. This is done to encourage reflection along the lines of: ‘On this very day in our past, this happened.’

“This absence is one of the most telling silences that continues to reign over our official historical imagination.”

— Professor Mark McKenna

Many of the pages contain a selection of quotations. Whether the excerpt is of page length or more succinct in expression, the intention is to provide varied food for thought, for remembrance, for contemplation. Each day’s entries are an invitation to ponder more deeply the history of Australia’s Indigenous people. And to reflect more deeply on the tide of consequences that colonialism brought in its wake – a wake that still permeates this county’s life.

We have decided to use the terms Indigenous and Aboriginal as general designations. Some of the historical sources cited contain abusive and derogatory terms that no longer have public currency. Where they are retained in the excerpts, they are reminders of the dehumanising attitudes that fuelled the violence against Indigenous people (men, women and children) in Australia’s internal history.

Where quotes are drawn from primary sources, whether paragraphs, phrases or single words, they are italicised in the daily entries.

This production is both a literal and a visual aid to remembrance.

  1. Henry Reynolds, The Other Side of the Frontier, p.165.

  2. Mark McKenna, Moment of Truth – History and Australia’s Future, p.68.

  3. See more: Acknowledgments.

Are you an educator?

If you’re a teacher or educator and are considering incorporating any of our content into your lesson planning, we invite you to explore our Education Resources page first to learn more about how to do so and our terms of use.

Go to: So That We Remember and regularly visit the site for a visual and verbal journey that will help you to understand and be sensitive to our history.

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Book Review: Journey to Somewhere

Finding a Way

Walter Stratford

Kindle Direct Publishing 2021, 114 pages

Author of A World of Difference; Why Are You Here Elijah? and A Long Time to Wait! Ascension – Heaven on a Cloud, Wally Stratford takes us, this time, deeply into a serious reflection on our life journeys. He brings his nearly 90 years of observing human behaviour and our encounter with Earth and Spirit into sharp focus that many, including myself, may not have thought about. It is a narrative that invites us to review our existence beyond the material and engage more closely with a ‘presence’ in our own way and which offers possibilities limited only by our imagination.

This is a reflective work that inevitably draws the reader into thoughts about their own life journey. Walter Stratford brings a lifetime experience of working pastorally with people and his observations are sensitive and enlightening. He reminds us that ‘life is a gift’ endowed with a great variety of senses and brilliant features.

This is an honest admission that we don’t and can’t know where life’s journey is taking us, but the journey is important physically and emotionally. The author openly declares to not knowing where his journey is taking him but that this is a crucial part of the narrative. He offers a helicopter view of life in all its good and bad features including an overview of the history of humankind’s journeying as opening up the world.

Crucial to his thesis is how he demonstrates that our journeys are linked to ‘the spirit of presence and mystery’. Just as we all breath the air we can share the same presence. Seeking meaning is a way of life that is similar to seeking direction from this presence. This is done by engaging with the mystery of life and doing that we have much in common with each other despite the vast differences in experiences, whether they be pandemic, wars, genocide, refugee struggles or a comfortable existence.

The journey of the Church has been dulled for many by the lack of possibilities, locked out by tradition and affirmed doctrine:

When security looms large in the mind of authority, additional laws make for greater restriction. Imagination moves to the rear and literality and fundamentalism come forward (p29).

Possibility thinking, imagination and open mindedness are tools that make the journey worthwhile and rewarding:

The traveller who has grasped possibility has no need of a penultimate place (p56). Instead, it is a journey seeking the heart of God along the way. So, it is ultimately a challenge to choose a life of compassion, a life mixed with excitement and trepidation with a healthy life that recognises the value of Jesus’ way and then practicing that way and affirming the value in every human life and the value in all having sufficient and being satisfied (p40). This carries with it a commitment to justice and reconciliation.

The book ends with a reality check acknowledging the dark shadows that crowd in on many lives for part or all of the journey, but imagination allows the journey to somewhere always to be open to possibilities. The final summing up and thoughts on our ‘somewhere’ are for the reader to discover and give support to my feeling that this has been a very worthwhile read.

Paul Inglis 13/12/21

How to purchase: from Amazon Australia, Paperback – $14.90 + postage; Kindle $4.90

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Book Review: Our Benevolent Cosmos

Embracing the Mystery of Life

By John Humphreys

Our Benevolent Cosmos is a thought provoking and comprehensive commentary that successfully demonstrates how the cosmos is directly linked to the human condition. John Humphreys brings a combination of experience, talent and critical thinking to a book that informs and challenges the reader. It will appeal to anyone who is asking questions about existence and not satisfied with traditional answers. He provides an effective analysis of how the Church has created its own problems by developing doctrines around sin and separation that conflict with the basic teachings of Jesus about unlimited love.

Many of these problems have arisen outside critical biblical reading and highlight major inconsistencies amongst branches of the Christian Church. He emphasizes the importance of reading the Bible from the perspective of the weak and suffering rather than from the viewpoint of the powerful and secure. Each offers a different understanding.

The author grounds his arguments in an analysis of the evolution of church doctrine and practice and offers a way forward beyond the old and incredible shibboleths of belief. In doing this he draws on a large range of scholarly works, ranging through a wide field of perspectives and modern day educated common sense. Consequently, the book lends itself to individual and group study with several reflective moments for conversations or deeper personal thinking.

Inevitably, the God concept, heaven, and hell, are comprehensively dealt with drawing on science, philosophy, theology and reasoning always challenging the reader to adopt a mindful, reflective and creative stance when unpacking ideas.

At the heart of this carefully crafted set of arguments is a vision of a ‘new reformation’ which others have commented on as emerging in this era. Many of the proponents of new inclusive and spiritual change are drawn on to show the widespread growth of a consciousness that better reflects the Jesus way for our times than much of what has evolved in conservative church thinking.

It is a narrative that calls on serious thinking but well within the scope of the average reader. At all times it provokes and tantalizes practitioners of faith to seek an authentic part in the reformation process and to learn from the many lessons that are evident in our environment.

Occasional poetic and artistic input help the reader engage with many challenges.

My reading of John Humphreys’ Our Benevolent Cosmos was one of the most enjoyable and informative reading experiences I have had, and I would urge others to give it a go.

Paul Inglis 7/12/2021

About the Author

John Humphreys’ life experiences have inexorably led him to the writing of this book, which blends together his career in science, technology and innovation, his personal spiritual journey, his interest in research and his love of literature.  It also reconciles his earlier, more conservative, religious teachings with more contemporary understandings of traditional teachings.

His interest in radio-astronomy and the cosmos was stimulated by his Chairing, over 8 years, of the Australasian Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Industry Consortium, which supported the Australian Government in the international development of the next generation of radio-astronomy systems.  This was a high-level group comprising over 20 multinationals, Federal and State Governments, as well as the national research community. Several international activities were encompassed in this role. The initiative now involves 16 countries in a global enterprise to break new ground in understanding the cosmos.

His career has taken him through fields of innovative science often related to industry, many private and public sector organisations, and collaborative ventures, to complement his earlier experiences in the Presbyterian, Uniting and Anglican Churches, and his more recent forays into understanding/reflecting on Progressive Christianity.

His emphasis on ‘we are all one’ regardless of nationality or ideology, which is one of the book’s themes, is drawn from his life experiences, as is the need to continue to question traditional ‘immutable’ truths.

Purchasing information:

Go to Our Benevolent Cosmos BookPOD Bookstore for information about purchasing this book.

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REVIVING LITURGY WITH THE SENSUOUS TEXTURES OF LANDSCAPE…

A (Zoom) Presentation to a Group in Melbourne

from Rev Rex Hunt

Also available at https://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/articles_collection/reviving-liturgy-beyond.html

BONEY AND SPINDLY! REVIVING LITURGY WITH THE SENSUOUS TEXTURES OF LANDSCAPE…

I have learnt much about liturgy from my three young grand children.

And wisdom from poets, among them being

Mary Oliver (1935–2019), Dennis McCarty, Catherine de Vinck,

and the Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue (1956–2008).

 

Take any three year old for a walk, say… along a beach or bush track.

Don’t plan to be in a hurry.

 

Every twig or seashell.

Every muddy pool of water.

Every minnow, dragon fly, or small lizard to cross your path

will be an occasion for closer ‘looking’ and ‘excitement’ and ‘wonder’.

Children intuitively apprehend the truth that we are all part of nature.

 

So following the ‘advice for living’ from Mary Oliver…

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

Such attention and experience comes from being immersed in what is,

and seeing the overlooked.

Such attention is scientifically informed.

Such attention is what helps shape good liturgy.

 

As natural beings among diverse other natural beings, we humans are at home in nature.

Not long home from post graduate studies in Germany—the year was 1931—

and still shaping his ‘mystical naturalism’, theologian Bernard Meland (1899–1993) wrote:

“Have you ever communed in the first person with this total wealth of living life about                             you? Have you ever stood with awe and wonder before the unbounded totality of all reality—this ongoing process we call the universe, feeling your own intimacy with all                               its life, thrilling with the realisation of the magnitude of that relationship, relating you to all the world’s life, past, present and future? If you have, you have experienced first- hand religion.” (Meland 1931:665; Meland 1934:234)

Meland suggests the natural world has the capacity to inspire a response,

an expression of our awe of nature, of our attraction to the mystery of existence,

to something intangible, called ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ from humans.

He was also highly critical of religion that fostered

a sense of strangeness toward the natural world.

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St Lucia Explorers look at the Integral stage of human development (Wilber)

[Integral theory is Ken Wilber’s attempt to place a wide diversity of theories and thinkers into one single framework. It is portrayed as a “theory of everything”, trying “to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.”

The American thinker Ken Wilber is well known in some circles, such as transpersonal psychology, yet despite being the author of 25 books he is barely mentioned in academia. His unconventional approach, which tries to integrate opposites such as science and spirituality has made him difficult to classify and has brought him into conflict with mainstream thinking.
In his work A Theory of Everything (2000) he proposes an “Integral Theory”, a theory which he developed by analysing and synthesising many different models of reality in a wide range of fields, from medicine and psychology to politics and theology. It is a way of looking at things from a variety of angles, while remaining open to adding new dimensions or changing one’s theory in order to improve it.]

Last month, John introduced us to Ken Wilber’s model of spiritual and personal development. John and I were first introduced to this model at the CAC’s Conspire conference in 2018. It is founded in knowledge gained over the last century in psychology and other social sciences, along with Wilber’s extensive study of all religions.

All models seek only to help us understand something and Wilber’s model helps us understand how we grow emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. It does not seek to “measure our performance” and we should be careful to not fall into this trap. The model’s four streams are Waking Up, Cleaning Up, Growing Up and Showing Up.

Waking up is a process that can occur instantaneously or slowly over a long time; it refers to a realisation that the way in which we have viewed our world has been an illusion, that reality is something different and we want to understand what that is. While this may be a profound experience, it is still only a starting point to a process that requires reflection and personal growth. The insights we gain must be integrated and consolidated in our new, emerging worldview. As our worldview changes, we undergo a process of continuing integration and transcendence towards new levels of understanding.

Cleaning up is necessary when we realise that our previous unconscious behaviour is not in accord with our new vision for ourselves. It is likely that this process is unpleasant as we realise what we have done in the past is now discomforting, but it requires self-acceptance and recognition that this is part of our journey. The psychologist, Carl Jung, identified this process as addressing our “shadow self”. A meditation practice is helpful. Sometimes this requires spiritual direction or, possibly, professional assistance.

Growing up is the process of development of personal maturity as described by a number of different behavioural models. As we develop our view of the world, the manner of our relationships with other people changes. In simple terms, we progress through egocentric, ethnocentric, world-centric and cosmic-centric outlooks and we can stop at any of these levels. These concepts of developmental stages and behavioural outlook can also be applied to organisations.

Finally, showing up represents the fourth pathway that requires bringing our heart and mind into how we live our lives, to how we address the actual suffering and problems of the world. It means engagement, social presence, and a sincere concern for justice and peace for others beyond ourselves (Rohr 1 June 2021).

These are not four processes we engage in sequentially; we cannot seek to measure our “performance”. However, as we participate in waking up, cleaning up, growing up and showing up we evolve, repeatedly participating in each of the streams. This journey is different for each of us. It requires reflection, asking questions and living with those questions until we discover our own answers.

The material and references for John’s introduction of Wilber’s model are included on our Facebook page. Further episodes of the Butterfly Series will explore each of these concepts in more depth.

 

The next meeting on Zoom will examine Waking Up.
 It will be held on Monday 13 December
at 7 pm – 8 pm AEST. You can join the meeting here.
To register & receive the essential pre-reading material,
email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.

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Happy Christmas

The Redcliffe PCN Explorers will meet on Monday 6th December for our traditional end-of-year celebration. We’ll gather for a convivial meal in our usual meeting-place, the Azure Blue function room, starting at 6 p.m. Our coordinating team decided that it should be a ‘bring your own everything’ arrangement. This means not only food and drinks (which you may wish to share), but utensils, plates, mugs, and glasses for yourself. Tea, coffee and the usual additives will be provided. If you’re planning to attend, and if you’ll be bringing anyone else along, would you please let me know by Friday 3rd December (phone 3284 3688 or 0401 513 723, or email browniw5@optusnet.com.au) to help with setting-up.

 At our November gathering, Lorraine and Kay spoke to us about the significance of Abdu’l-Bahá to the Bahá?í faith and its teaching, and encouraged a lively discussion during the Q&A session. They emphasised the two core ideas of the Bahá?í faith – the incontrovertible truth that humanity is one, and that humanity’s great faiths have come from one common Source and are expressions of one unfolding religion.

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Bold Directions for Dangerous Times

[Reprinted from PCNV Newsletter – November 2021]
by Carl Krieg on September 9, 2021

In a recent article in progressivechristianity.org Jim Burklo wrote about the possibility, if not likelihood, that there will be a flood of disaffected folks leaving the evangelical churches and that progressive congregations should be ready “to attract them by making changes in our styles of worship and congregational life that are necessary to seize this remarkable moment.”
I couldn’t agree more, but there are two other groups that we need to attract, although I’m not sure that “attract” is the right word or attitude. I would rather speak of “making sense to” and “working alongside”, but we surely do need to make changes. Millions of people have left the churches for a long time, and multiple millions more were never interested in the first place. There may be a lot of ex-fundamentalists looking for a new home, but we have been surrounded by “church alumni”, the result of decreasing membership, on the one hand, and an increasingly secular population, on the other. But no matter what group we belong to, we are all human beings who share a search for a meaningful life, and most of us are
what we might call good people. The challenge for the church is to find both a common language and a course of action that includes both disciples of Jesus and secular humanists, not to mention reaching out to other religious traditions as well.

I described one such possibility in an essay, “Ways to Gather”, also found in progressivechristianity.org, and in another piece in progressingspirit.com entitled “Big Change”.

From the former:

“Given the trend of society toward secularism, and given the fact that we all share a common and searching humanity, is there anything new that the church can do that would better the planet? I think there is, and the answer lies in creating two parallel gatherings. In this scenario, on the one hand, the local congregation continues to gather in the traditional fashion, with its order of worship, Bible reading, prayer, music, reflection, etc, albeit hopefully with a new theology. In this context, the members study, learn, act in society, and care for one another.”
On the other hand is a gathering that has no reference to God whatsoever. In the online
journal Progressing Spirit I recently published an article in which I try to envision what such a gathering might look like.

“In the first place, the weekly gathering, perhaps still on Sunday, would be a gathering of folks concerned about the deep issues of life. It would not be limited to adherents of any one religion, or religion at all, but would be open to any and all who choose to sound the depths of their own humanity with others who do the same. At different gatherings, the speaker of the day might be a Christian, a Jew, an atheist, a Muslim, or whatever, who would offer a perspective on the meaning of life, including reference to God, or not. If that person were a Christian, the narrative could be about the life and teaching of Jesus and could include the concept of an incarnate God, or not. Because of the variety of persons present, there will be
no prayer either petitioning or thanking God. Everyone is free, of course, to speak their mind about self and God, but without imposition on any other. There will be silence. There will be music. There will be food and drink. There will be joy, fun and happiness. There will be whatever that gathering, with its particular mixture of persons, decides to do. (edited)”.

Of course, such a gathering need not arise within the context of the local congregation, but why not? I proposed this idea to some Vermont church leaders earlier this year. Here is one response. “We have a group that started here last year (was intended to be a 5 week Lenten series but it moved online during COVID and just kept meeting). About 12 of us meet weekly and we are all quite different. Some have no connection to the church, or very little. There are atheists, agnostics, those with a more conservative theology, and liberal UCC’ers like me. Most were born in this country, but not all. Most have a mainline Protestant background, but not all.

We eat, drink beer, sip wine and talk life and faith in an informal way. We’ve come to know and love one another. A gift from COVID.”

This is a perfect example of what can be: the church helping to create a new type of gathering parallel to and independent of the existing congregation. The one would be deliberately based on the life and teaching of Jesus, the other based on the shared dimensions of our common humanity. It could very well be that a member of the first would also be a member of the second. And it could very well include disaffected evangelicals.

The issue goes way beyond thinking about the future of the church. Our nation is in an extremely dangerous place. We need a renewed model of what it means as a country to be a secular, caring community, and the church has resources to offer such a vision. Who knows what might emerge? Following up on Jim’s article, it is time for the church to be bold and to experiment, and I have no doubt that progressivechristianity.org will continue to be a leader in this movement.

Dr Carl Krieg received his BA from Dartmouth College, MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in NYC and PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of “What to Believe? the Questions of Christian Faith” and “The Void and the Vision.” As professor and pastor, Dr Krieg has taught innumerable classes and led many discussion groups. This article came from progressivechristianity.org.

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Original Sin – Is it time to discard the doctrine? Review it? Reformulate it?

by Kevin Treston

INTRODUCTION

The reality of sin in the world is a mystery within the context of beliefs about the presence of a loving God in creation and the nature of the human person. According to Genesis, a person is made in God’s image and likeness: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

The theological concept of Original Sin is trying to name the moral flaw that is inherent in the human condition. We may call it the ‘shadow’ to use Jungian typology or if we venture into science the ‘chaos theory’ or ‘principle of indeterminacy’ might capture the essence of understanding the mysterious element in human nature that moves people towards self-destructive behaviour. The reality of ‘Original Sin’ is a common theme in the narratives in literature and movies.  The concept of what Christians call ‘Original Sin’ is similar to the experience of moral degeneration as taught in Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism.

Sin should not be viewed as a breakdown from a state of primordial innocence through the disobedience of Adam and Eve but rather a perversion of what it means to be a fully human person. Sin is both personal and communal. Sin is alienation from God’s gracious love. Sin is disequilibrium and alienation from the core of our being, God. The pervading presence of sin in the world reflects the fragmentation of human’s relationship with a loving God. Communal sin pits groups against other groups and reinforces the dichotomy between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’. Communal sin also diminishes the wellbeing of the integrity of creation.

The doctrine of original sin as developed and defined by the church was an attempt to explain the mystery of the origins of sin, how sin is manifest in the world and how sin is transmitted from generation to generation. Early Christians sought answers to such questions as, ‘If God is good, where does sin come from?’ ‘Why is there suffering in the world?’ ‘Why do we need Christ’s redemptive mission to save us?’ The doctrine of original sin seemed to offer answers to this dilemma of reconciling the mystery of sin within beliefs about the goodness of God in creation and the redemptive mission of Christ.

A relevant Christology must also include a contemporary understanding of sin. The redemptive mission of Jesus assumes the reality of sin. The central theme in the teachings of Jesus was the reign of God, a vision of what could be integral to the ‘wholeness’ of God’s presence in creation. The dominance of the atonement theme in Christology is now under close scrutiny in theological circles. The doctrine of original sin was trying to express the mysterious reality of human moral flaws which reside within us, we who are created in God’s image and likeness.

The official teaching of the church since the 5th century on original sin no longer has credibility in contemporary evolutionary consciousness and the science of religion.

 It is time for the church to face up to the hard questions about how the doctrine has been historically defined and also be open to critique the historical rationale for such teachings and the story of its formulation. After acknowledging the story of the historical development of how the doctrine of original sin was formulated, the church must then courageously move to modify or even discard such teachings, at least in its current form. To fail to engage in this enterprise strains the credibility of believers.

The other option for the teaching church when doctrines lose their relevance in contemporary consciousness is for the historical formulation to be relegated to its rich theological heritage. History has many instances of this happening with theological positions. For example, teachings about ‘outside the church there is no salvation’ now belong to a past era of such teachings.

PROBLEM OF LITERALISM AND MYTH IN FORMULATION OF A DOCTRINE

A problem with the actual formulation of the doctrine was confusing a symbolic or mythical expression about the origins of sin (mythos) in Genesis 3 with a pragmatic word definition (logos) of sin. The process of defining the doctrine of original sin was fraught with difficulties once the symbolic nature and mystery of sin were articulated in a logos or pragmatic mode. Once the sacred myth about sin as mythos became a doctrinal formulation (logos) the teaching church became entangled in a doctrinal web of issues such as, how sin is inherited and transmitted, baptism as necessary for salvation, the nature of human beings, Immaculate Conception, limbo and so on.

There is a deep religious truth about the reality of individual and communal sin embedded in the doctrine as currently stated but its truth is obscured by the actual wording of the official teaching of original sin. Surely no one would deny the prevalence of evil and disorder in the human condition – just watch the nightly news on TV!

In religious teachings, when mythos becomes logos or literalism, religious truth is lost. The bane of literalism has been and still is now a major impediment in communicating the gospel and teachings of the church. When the sacred myth about the mystery of evil in humanity was subverted into a literalist mode as the doctrine of original sin, the doctrine tenable became untenable in its literal expression as is evident in the exposition below.

The doctrine of original sin, defined by the Council of Orange (529), was repeated in many Christian creeds and confessions of faith eg Lutheran: Augsburg, 1530; Roman Catholic, Council of Trent 1563-64; Reformed: Second Helvetic Confession 1566; Westminster Confession 1646; Anglican: Thirty Nine Articles, 1563; Methodism: Articles of Religion 1784.

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Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy Theories, explored by the Redcliffe Explorers

 At our Redcliffe Explorers meeting in October, psychologists and counsellors Meryem and Greg Brown[1] revealed some of the neuroscience and psychology behind belief in fake news, alternative facts, conspiracy theories, Q-Anon, anti-vaxx views, and climate denial that have become familiar to us in recent years. This led to a very illuminating discussion on the best ways to talk to a family member, friend, or colleague who’s been seduced into a totally irrational belief system. Our speakers very kindly provided the following summary of their presentation.

But first, Meryem began by posing the question: ‘What do you call the shortest distance between two points?’ Naturally most of us said (or at least thought) ‘A straight line’. She replied: ’Yes, but a few years ago I heard renowned Houston University professor and social researcher Brené Brown claim that “a conspiracy theory” also answers this question.’

Meryem and Greg then investigated ways in which this might be true, looking at neuroscience and personality characteristics to help explain why conspiracy theories meet ‘shortest distance’ needs in some people.

When a person feels under threat, our brains are wired in such a way that the first part to be activated is the limbic system, particularly the amygdala. The amygdala has one main job: to ensure our survival, usually by triggering the freeze, fight or flight response in the face of perceived threat. It is not very nuanced or sophisticated, unable to distinguish between a feeling and a fact, so it requires another part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex (our smart brain), to assess the actual risk and take appropriate action. Unfortunately, because this is when we may most need it, the smart brain tends to go ‘off-line’ when we are flooded with stress hormones or are sleep-deprived, thus leaving the amygdala in charge.

Covid has been described as a time of both chronic and acute stress, where the two main causes of stress – a lack of predictability and a lack of control – have become the norm. Many people have come to feel insecure and powerless. These are perfect conditions for the limbic system to be over-activated as it seeks the shortest distance to guarantee our survival. The brain is wired to see patterns and seek order in chaos when it feels under threat. Conspiracy theories meet this need, providing simple answers to complex questions, comfort and solace in patterns rather than randomness, and thereby a sense of certainty and control. This appears to be particularly the case in people who have a fear of the unknown and low trust in authority figures.

Research into early trauma and attachment style helps explain this further. Trauma – whether ‘capital T or small t’ trauma – changes the brain. The amygdala becomes over-activated, switching the brain from learning mode to permanent survival mode. Studies suggest that people who experienced early trauma – for example, betrayal, neglect or abuse by primary caregivers – develop an insecure, anxious or avoidant attachment style in order to survive. This usually results in low trust in authority figures (and perhaps even a transference of parent pain onto these figures). Politicians and scientists may then be seen through the lens of suspicion and scepticism, for the building block of trust in people who claim to be working in our best interest is missing or broken.

Some people who have an inherent mistrust of authority figures do so because they believe that truth should be a short, straight line which is set in stone. So when they hear scientists and politicians revise their advice and policies day to day – first declaring just one jab, now two needed, now a booster shot needed; masks not needed because virus not originally seen as airborne, now mandatory mask-wearing, etc. – this is interpreted as more proof of ‘the so-called experts lying to and manipulating us to rob our freedom and control us’. Rather than understanding that best practice in science demands constant re-adjustments as new data come to hand, with advice being shaped daily by the latest modelling, conspiracy theorists look at the alterations as proof of untruthing.

How do these factors of mistrust and fear of the unknown play out? We then looked at personality and conspiracy theories.

For some people, this alienation and disenfranchisement manifests as individualism: ‘I can trust no one but myself’. Research into conspiracy theorists suggests that some score high on grandiosity measures, whilst others score with very low self-esteem. The former tend to be lone-rangers or else become leaders of their cohorts; whist the latter tend to gravitate to conspiracy theory cohorts, seeking a sense of belonging and special identity (we special few Vs the sheep majority) in these tight communities.

Research also suggests that people disposed to conspiracy theories score low for agreeableness (a factor measuring trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and pro-social behaviours which make people cooperative) and score low for conscientiousness (the factor measuring levels of thoughtfulness, good impulse control, and goal-directed behaviours).

Studies also point to a conspiracy mindset: some people are predisposed to hold multiple conspiracy theories because of how they see themselves, the world, and their place in it. Typically, they are drawn to conspiracy theories because they tend to be more suspicious, untrusting, eccentric, may need to feel special, and see the word as an inherently dangerous place.

When we see that conspiracy theories may actually serve to meet some people’s most basic needs – safety in an unsafe world; order in chaos; survival; freedom; belonging – we need to be careful of falling into ‘shortest distance’ strategies ourselves. Bombarding people with more evidence is a shortest distance approach. For many, there is a profound mistrust in the source so it is not received as ‘evidence’. For many, appealing to rational argument ignores the fact that the amygdala may be the major player. For many, there is a deep foundation of insecurity, fear and powerlessness to be considered. For some, there is a history of trauma. In the light of this, ‘shortest distance’ responses would rarely be effective or respectful.

Greg then invited us to split into small groups and explore the Do’s and Don’ts of engagement with those in our family or community who hold conspiracy theories. We concluded there was no quick fix. Rather, we reminded each other of the following rules of engagement:

  • Don’t mock or ridicule, adopting a stance of moral or intellectual superiority
  • Don’t assume that providing more hard data will change minds as they might be immune to ‘evidence’
  • Do demonstrate curiosity and respect for their point of view
  • Do share stories rather than data
  • Do make it about different perceptions rather than identity
  • Do encourage critical thinking
  • Do seek to maintain relationship

Finally, we were reminded that in our own frustration, confusion or fear we could succumb to ‘shortest distance reactions’ ourselves, and were encouraged to bring our learning, rather than our surviving, brain to the ongoing discourse.

[Submitted by Explorers Convenor IWB – 18th November 2021]

[1] Greg Brown:  B.Bus (HR), M.A. (App Ethics), Grad Dip Couns, Dip Past Sup.

Meryem Brown: B.A., Dip Ed, M.Ed St., Grad Dip App Sc, Dip Past Sup.

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A Religious Discrimination Bill Must Protect All

The Uniting Church in Australia is concerned that the revised Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 introduced to Parliament this week does not achieve the balance needed to protect the rights of all people.

The third and final draft of the bill was introduced to Parliament by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday morning.

The national Assembly of the Uniting Church notes and welcomes improvements made to the proposed laws but, like many other civil society groups, remains concerned by significant elements.

“The Uniting Church is committed to the right of every person to a robust freedom of religion,” said Rev Sharon Hollis, President of the Uniting Church in Australia. “However, we maintain any permission given to individuals or religious organisations that allows them to discriminate on the basis of religious belief must be carefully balanced against the rights of people to be free from discrimination and live with dignity.”

“It is our view that the Religious Discrimination Bill does not achieve that balance.”

“The Uniting Church is concerned for vulnerable people and groups who are most likely to be adversely impacted by the legislation should it be passed into law in its current form.”

“We particularly fear that members of the LGBTIQ+ community, those of minority faiths, women, and people living with disability may be subject to additional discrimination under this legislation.”

Such discrimination could take many forms including in public statements and employment.

“We encourage the government to continue to consult and listen to the concerns of groups expressing their genuine fears about the proposed legislation.”

“In the Uniting Church we believe that all people are created in the image of God and are loved and valued by God. The ministry of Jesus emphasised welcoming all, especially people who were vulnerable and marginalised.

“Our approach to religious freedom is that such freedoms are never to be self-serving, but rather ought to be directed toward the Church’s continuing commitment to seeking human flourishing and wholeness within a healthy, diverse society,” said Rev Hollis. “Any legislative provisions for religious freedom should be driven by an overriding focus on enabling and maintaining a society which encourages mutual respect and is free from discrimination that demeans and diminishes people’s dignity.”

UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said, “As a provider of community services across Australia, including hospitals and aged care services, the Uniting Church is concerned certain provisions within this Bill could undermine our ability to ensure safe and inclusive workplaces and may act as a barrier to vulnerable people accessing essential services or seeking employment.”

“Uniting Church community service providers do not discriminate in the employment of staff or access to services. We do not seek additional powers in this regard and will not use them even if the Parliament passes the Bill,” Ms Little said.

The consistent position of the Uniting Church has been, and continues to be, that legislative provisions for religious freedom would best be made through the mechanism of a comprehensive Human Rights Act, within which the competing claims and values inherent in this discussion may be grounded in a holistic approach to human rights.

After the Bill is voted on in the House of Representatives, the bill will go to a Senate inquiry over summer. It will not be decided in Parliament until early next year, depending on election timing and when the Parliament resumes.

The Assembly will make a full response to any inquiry and share this with our members. We encourage members to familiarise themselves with the new Bill and express any concerns they have to us on email and to their local MPs.

Media contact: Rebecca Beisler, 0450790218

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Book Review: Jesus against Rome

God and Empire: Jesus against Rome, then and now

by John Dominic Crossan, professor emeritus of De Paul University (Catholic Research University in Chicago). He is widely regarded as the foremost historical Jesus scholar of our time and has also authored several best selling books, including The Historical Jesus, Jesus, a Revolutionary Biography, The Birth of Christianity, Who Killed Jesus?, and In Search of Paul.

Crossan asks and offers answers for the difficult and provocative questions about humanity and its foundational stories and the Christian Biblical traditions as they were influenced by Rome. His core question is “Are we to worship a God of both violence and non-violence or are we to choose between them and recognize, as he does, that the Bible proposes the radicality of a non-violent God struggling with the social normalcy of a violent civilization? Is that what gives dignity, integrity and authority to Christianity and its values for anyone seeking to follow Jesus?

Before Christianity had arrived the titles of Caesar included Divine, Son of God, God, God from God, Redeemer, Liberator, Lord, and Saviour of the World. When used for Jesus they had to be lampooning or high treason.

The peace on earth that Augustus brought by victory and force was counter posed to Jesus’s peace through justice. The ongoing challenge that Jesus posed to Rome was one of a vision of God’s Kingdom brought the God appointed Emperor or that of John’s manifestation of a God appointed Jesus….two different eschatologies. John’s critique of the plans of Herod Antipas for the achievement of his Kingdom God stood in contrast with John’s present reality of a Kingdom heralded by Jesus.

For Crossan the evidence found in history, archaeology and writers of the period together with reliable aspects of the scriptures is not of our waiting for God but that God is waiting for us. The Great Divine Cleanup is when God sits in Caesar’s throne – not after the evacuation of the world for Heaven.

This is a contrasting story illustrated in Caesar’s coins – he was divine and Son of God – a total integration of politics and religion. But as with the Lord’s Prayer (Your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven), the Kingdom of God comes from Heaven to Earth not the other way around.

Crossan deals thoroughly with the notion of substitutionary atonement through Jesus Crucifixion. He does a good job dismantling this idea at the core of Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. He brings into focus notions of sacrifice, suffering and substitution, showing how they have been wrongly interpreted in the light of historical and contemporary practice.

Substitutionary atonement is bad as theoretical Christian theology just suicidal terrorism is bad as practical Islamic theology.

Jesus died from our sins not for our sins.

Crossan brings a very steady hand to biblical interpretation making obvious the many errors and in particular, the wrongful attribution to Paul for much he really didn’t say or write. His handling of the conflicting views of Paul and Luke makes for great reading and becomes a great incentive to go back to the text and read it all again with a different focus or perspective.

Ultimately we are left with the main question – Is our God violent or non-violent? On our answer rests our understanding of Jesus and our view of the purpose of Christianity as well as the destiny for humanity.

I agree with Marcus Borg that Crossan is incisive, original and fascinating.

Read and enjoy!

Paul Inglis  21/11/21

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PCNQ Merthyr Road Explorers final gathering for 2021

Hello Explorers

We meet for the last time in 2021 very soon:

 

Wednesday 24th November at Merthyr Road Uniting Church

10 am for morning tea

10:30 to start our exploring

around 12 noon at Merthyr Cafe for those who want to stay on for lunch

Jocelyn Henry will lead our exploring on the topic “Is God good for us?: The future of Church and Society”. Jocelyn’s thinking that lead her to propose this topic for our discussion is available if you have not yet received her notes, so I hope you will have a chance to read this and think about the questions at the end of the paper. Just email Desley for the paper.

 

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What does progressive Christianity look like for me?

Our friends at the Progressive Christian Network of Victoria are offering this zoom seminar on Sunday 28th November @ 4pm. Anyone can register and zoom in to the session.

Speakers:
Mr Dick Carter
Rev Dr David Merritt

CLICK HERE FOR ZOOM LINK TO 4:00PM MEETING  (Melbourne Time)

The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria
invites you to explore open Christianity that:

  • Finds through Jesus a way of life encouraging spirituality, compassion, and justice;
  • Does not view humans as inherently sinful but with potential for good in cooperative communities;
  • Recognises the Bible as a collection of valuable and diverse human writings many of which can inspire and guide us;
  • Understands that traditional beliefs and creeds were developed in a prescientific era and were products of their time;
  • Affirms equality of women and men and diversity of sexuality and gender;
  • Recognises the connectedness of life and all creation;

Welcomes the contribution of other religions to the enrichment of life.

Dick Carter has been President of the Progressive Christian Network of Victoria since its foundation & he is President of Common Dreams Inc. Before retiring from commercial activities he was a director of a number of stock exchange listed companies in the mining and mining services sectors. His executive career spanned thirty seven years with the BHP Group. In non-corporate life Dick has been active in lay leadership roles in the Uniting Church in Australia. He was Western Australia’s Citizen of the Year in 1996, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for services to technological industries, & was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2014. He was designated the Westar Institute’s Advocate for Public Religious Literacy for 2019.

Rev Dr David Merritt is a retired Uniting Church minister. For most of his professional life he was an educator with the Uniting Church. He was co-founder of Camp Cooinda that has provided canoeing, sailing and camping experiences to over 7000 teenagers to encourage the development of self-esteem and cooperative relationships. In 2006 he was a foundation member of the Committee of the Progressive Christian Network of Victoria.

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Welcoming another group of explorers

St Lucia Spirituality Group

We are a small group in St Lucia, Brisbane that seeks to support spiritual seekers, particularly those who are nearby. Below is our recent newsletter for your information. We have a mailing list of nearly 70 and a private Facebook page with 23 members to aid sharing of information.

Greetings
As a consequence of the final Conspire conference organised by the Center for Contemplation & Action in New Mexico, we held two successful zoom meetings in October.

Our first meeting discussed the question “How do you live in the real world and take your faith
tradition seriously?” We recognised that the fastest growing denomination in Christianity today is the ‘Alumni Association’, yet the challenge before us is to live our lives with integrity if we are to remain within our tradition.

We considered Jesus’s instruction in his Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom of God”.
However, before we can seek the “kingdom” we must first understand what Jesus meant when he used that expression – and recognise that Christian attitudes over time have not always been faithful to fulfilling that ambition for everyone. The Spanish biblical scholar, Jose Pagola, writes that the kingdom of God represents an abundant life filled with mercy and justice for everyone, now, and not just attainable after one dies.

Our second meeting looked at suffering and loss as a pathway to spiritual growth, again with
discussion in small groups. A fuller report on each of these meetings is available on our Facebook Page.

Butterfly Series – Streams of Spiritual Development

At our next meeting we shall be introduced to four different aspects of spiritual development, in
particular:
• Waking up
• Growing up
• Cleaning up and
• Showing up
John introduces these concepts in this brief video. You can also gain some insight into this model by reading Richard Rohr’s introduction here.

We shall hold our introductory meeting on Zoom at 7-8pm on Tuesday 16 November. To register, email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au so that he can send you the zoom link for the meeting, and remember to ensure your zoom software is up-to-date.

Our Facebook Page

The primary purpose of our newsletter is to keep you
informed about our activities, particularly through our
new and private Facebook group. The purpose of this FB
group is to provide a forum for members to share
information and promote discussion online.
We invite you to find our group by clicking on this link, it
will take you to our page where you will be able to apply
to join our private group. We shall be interested in your
comments.
If you are not a Facebook user, we can help you set up
your account with maximum privacy, you can be
anonymous and even use a nick name or an alias if you
wish, you can create a fake identity! Consult Robert or
John if you want help.

You can also contact us by email slsg4067@gmail.com.
Go well…
Robert van Mourik

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Finding progressive friends

One of the great challenges for the UCFORUM has been how to respond effectively to the many people who request information about progressive congregations and individuals in their area. Some would like to join a church where diversity, inclusivity and exploration are practiced. Others are looking for intellectual challenge in the teaching and activities of a congregation. Many are just looking for other individuals like themselves who think outside the box, or cannot abide literal, non-critical interpretations of scripture. Often people in the latter group don’t want to associate with a church because of their experiences. They just want to join a small group of people that can encourage each other in their life journey. There is obviously a significant number of people looking for progressive friends. They get a lot out of the UCFORUM but personal contact with like-minded people would be wonderful.

We find it difficult to give a satisfactory response to all the inquiries from all over Australia because we just don’t have sufficient information about our many subscribers and our need to abide by privacy protocols. We are constantly on the look out for congregations where progressives would feel comfortable and make that information available.

We have links to the major progressive groups in each State and Explorers groups that we know about so sometimes we can pass the inquiry onto to them.

The most recent request came from someone in Toowoomba. If you come from that area and are willing to be a ‘friend’ to another progressive there please send me an email – psinglis@westnet.com.au.

If you have any suggestions about how we could improve our response to inquirers please also email me with your suggestions.

Thanks,

Paul

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More on ‘What is a Progressive Christian?’

Another member of the UCFORUM has put the most recent post on this topic through a filter of simplification with a few extra thoughts. Thanks Bev Floyd for this contribution to the conversation:

By calling ourselves Progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who…

 1.  Follow the teaching and example of Jesus. Show compassion and selfless love, feed the hungry, heal the sick, visit widows and those in prison.

 2. Take the Bible seriously but not literally and learn also from indigenous people.

 3. Acknowledge a role for continuing scholarship in the field of progressive Christianity.

4. Search for ‘truth’, question, listen carefully to others and try to understand their point of view.

 5. Stand up for justice and honesty; care for the environment; spend time in prayer, meditation or contemplation.

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Jim Wallis – A Foundation for the Common Good

 

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for 1st November 2021


Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners ministry and a longtime friend of Fr. Richard’s, connects the idea of the common good with Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

I believe the moral prerequisite for solving the deepest problems this country and the world now face is a commitment to an ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good. . . .

Our life together can be better. Ours is a shallow and selfish age, and we are in need of conversion—from looking out just for ourselves to also looking out for one another. It’s time to hear and heed a call to a different way of life, to reclaim a very old idea called the common good. Jesus issued that call and announced the kingdom of God—a new order of living in sharp contrast to all the political and religious kingdoms of the world. That better way of life was meant to benefit not only his followers but everybody else too.

Christianity is not a religion that gives some people a ticket to heaven and makes them judgmental of all others. Rather, it’s a call to a relationship that changes all our other relationships. Jesus told us a new relationship with God also brings us into a new relationship with our neighbor, especially with the most vulnerable of this world, and even with our enemies. But we don’t always hear that from the churches. This call to love our neighbor is the foundation for reestablishing and reclaiming the common good, which has fallen into cultural and political—and even religious—neglect.

Judaism, of course, agrees that our relationship with God is supposed to change all our other relationships, and Jesus’s recitation of the law’s great commandments to love God and your neighbor flows right out of the books of Deuteronomy [see 6:5] and Leviticus [see 19:18]. . . . In fact, virtually all the world’s major religions say that you cannot separate your love for God from your love for your neighbor, your brothers and sisters. Even the nonreligious will affirm the idea of “the Golden Rule”: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). . . .

While some form of the Golden Rule has been around for thousands of years, we seem to have lost a sense of its importance and its transformative power. Wallis urges:

It is time to reclaim the neglected common good and to learn how faith might help, instead of hurt, in that important task. Our public life could be made better, even transformed or healed, if our religious traditions practiced what they preached in our personal lives; in our families’ decisions; in our work and vocations; in the ministry of our churches, synagogues, and mosques; and in our collective witness. In all these ways we can put the faith community’s influence at the service of this radical neighbor-love ethic that is both faithful to God and the common good.

Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided (Brazos Press: 2014), xi, 3?4, 5.

 

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Iona Big Sing for Cop26

The Iona community

The Iona community is hosting a large number of events in Glasgow prior to Cop26. All but the one below are in that city.  We can be with them in spirit only as they support climate justice. However with the ‘Big Sing’ we can join in.

Big Sing, Saturday 6th November, 14:00,GMT Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Join the Iona Community  online, singing songs of climate justice and solidarity at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 6th November at 14:00 GMT wherever you are in the world. We will sing to raise awareness of the situation and call for change. We will sing to stand together with each other in hope. “Hope is an active word!”

The zoom room will be open from 13:45. GMT The texts of the songs will be shared on zoom for everybody to join in around the world and in Scotland.

Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81820591214                   Meeting ID: 818 2059 1214
[Thanks Wayne Sanderson for forwarding this information].

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Reflecting in Song on COP26

“Blue Planet, Rising, Soaring through the Cosmos” (Tune: ‘Londonderry Air’, 11.10.11.10.11.10.11.12)

by Andrew Pratt See Hymns for our Planet

Blue planet, rising, soaring through the cosmos,

was lent in trust for us to tend and care

while children, young in wisdom, call in anguish,

for all they see now fills them with despair.

The wonder of the sky has drawn us upwards,

our eyes diverted by the moon and stars,

and as we dream we lose our moral compass,

and in our greed we grasp creation, call it ours.

 

Time runs away, our life on earth is finite,

young prophets calling, needing us to act

are crying out, lamenting for our planet,

while ‘adults’ sleep, denying fear and fact.

Still others stand, immune, ignore the future,

absolved from fault for all that comes to pass.

When will we grasp the need for urgent action,

see clearly, not net curtained, or through frosted glass?

 

While sands of time run down, are gone and finished,

in fear of change we hanker for the past,

but life on earth is threatened by inaction,

as lethargy and greed resist and last.

Good God forgive us for each fault and faction,

unwillingness to change to save this earth.

God give us ears to hear the words of wisdom

that we might save this planet, cradle of our birth.

(Andrew Pratt 29/10/2021 – Responding to Greta Thunberg ahead of and following COP 26)

Words © 2021 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.

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Too good not to share

The ongoing project of the PCNQ looking at what it means to be a progressive Christian has had some wonderful input since our seminar on this topic. This came in from one of the members:

Progressive Christianity

By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who ….

  1. Follow the way of the radical teachings of Jesus that leads to healing and wholeness that brings each person to Sacredness, Oneness and Unity of Life. These new sources of wisdom including the Earth enhance our spiritual journey.
  2. Seek to create community that is inclusive of all people including but not limited to:
  • Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics
  • Believers and agnostics
  • People of all races, cultures and nationalities
  • Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities
  • People of all classes and abilities

3. Live our lives as Jesus did showing radical compassion, inclusion and a willingness to challenge radical injustices.

4. Commit to life long learning and contemplation as we search for discernment with an open mind and an open heart.

Warren Rose  29SEP2021

Your thoughts are always welcome. Just hit Reply.

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Progressive Gathering Redcliffe Q

Redcliffe, Qld

The Redcliffe PCN Explorers will meet on Monday 1st November when Lorraine and Bonny will tell us about Abdu’l-Bahá, a significant figure in the Bahá’í faith and in many ways unique in religious history. His life, travels and impact on society will be commemorated by the world-wide Bahá’í community on 27 November, the centenary of his death.

Lorraine and Bonny are leaders of the local Baha’i community and will be delighted to answer questions about the history of the Bahá’í faith and its teaching, the two core ideas of which are (a) the incontrovertible truth that humanity is one, and (b) that humanity’s great faiths have come from one common Source and are expressions of one unfolding religion.

We meet from 6 to 8 p.m. in the ground-floor activities room at the Azure Blue Retirement Complex, 91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe. As usual, everyone’s invited to participate in our lively and informative discussions. If there are any changes to the Government’s health advice it would be wise to give Ian a call (3284 3688 or 0401 513 723) to check whether the meeting is to go ahead as planned. Covid-safe conditions will be observed, and of course you’re urged to stay at home if feeling unwell, and get tested if you have any Covid symptoms.

Shalom,

Ian

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Caloundra Explorers gathering

Our last Gathering for the year is on Sunday 14 November from 4.30pm to 6pm in the Caloundra Uniting Church hall. It will be a panel discussion on the topic:

When faith meets reason: Talking about our journeys in ‘progressive Christianity’

I’m delighted to announce our four panellists:

Sylvia Douglas

Helen Hamson

Ray Barraclough

Ruth Wishart

Each panellist will speak for up to 10 minutes and respond to questions. There will be a short liturgy conducted by Margaret Landbeck, followed by a shared meal where we can continue our discussions about our faith journeys. Bring a mask just in case.

Sallie McFague (an American feminist Christian theologian), in her book Models of God, describes her journey like this:

Theological constructions are ‘houses’ to live in for awhile, with windows partly open and doors ajar; they become prisons when they no longer allow us to come and go, to add a room or take one away—or if necessary, to move out and build a new house.

Looking forward to seeing you on 14 November.

Ken Williamson

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PCNQ – Next gathering

ORIGINAL SIN AND IMMORTAL SOUL

Dr Ken Davidson will lead our exploration.

Wednesday 27th October

Merthyr Road Uniting Church

52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm

[A paper by Ken is available and can be emailed on request]

10 am for a time of fellowship over morning tea

10:30 we begin exploring

Lunch at Moray Cafe if you are able to stay.

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Freedom and Control – a personal reflection

Our UCFORUM chairperson, Rodney Eivers has been greatly challenged by a hearing deficit and has had to compensate for this in conversations and seminars. He has started on the long process of cochlear implant and the experience at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane has invoked serious reflection on the way in which ‘control’ and ‘freedom’ played out through the process. Much of what he says carries over into life generally for those of us who are aging but not only for the aged! The reflection takes us beyond the hospital experience to our interaction with government and society and poses a challenge to all of us.

A Day in Hospital – Freedom and Control

This week I experienced a rare overnight stay in a large public hospital.

With age comes deteriorating performance of many of the body’s organs. While taking advantages of health advances, backed by empirical research including attention to diet and exercise, I have generally lived a philosophy of letting nature take its course.

In the matter of my hearing, however, this has become a less and less viable philosophy. With a step-by-step resort to hearing aids and pleading for family and friends project their voices more clearly it became increasingly clear that I was losing the struggle.

So much so that in going out with a group I would place myself at the end of the table to avoid having to talk with companions and risk giving or receiving errors in conversation.

It only takes one word or even one consonant or vowel to lead to misunderstandings.

I once was told. so, I thought, to “put the cats out”.  I had interpreted the request as “put the car out”.  On another occasion, in a telephone conversation recording a bank account number I wrote down “two” instead of “three”.  You can see that such mistakes in communication can lead potentially to drastic outcomes.

I came to the conclusion that it was time to go for the ultimate in aural technology – a cochlear implant. This a process by which a microphone transmitter is planted into the cochlear of the ear sending electronic message directly to the brain.

And so began the process. It took longer than it might have, began. Partly this may have been because I slipped into the public rather than the private hospital system. My family charged me with being stingy and potentially displacing someone financially poorer and with a greater need. They had a point but the truth was that I got started with the public hospital financing because their service was the most appropriate one I found on the internet. When we got going, I found they were doing such a good job that I continued on with them. But, what with this being “elective “surgery and the added disruptions of Covid-19, it has taken nearly two years since we got to this week’s point.

A week before the scheduled visit to the hospital my family had asked, “Are you worried about the coming surgery? “They knew I had experienced some anxiety earlier in the year about the potential for fatal anaphylactic shock from the contrast dyes used in some scans. I responded that I had felt some nervousness at the beginning of the week but now, without going as far as saying I was looking forward to it, I replied that I had become curious about the coming experience.

The opportunity to satisfy that curiosity came when I entered the front door of the designated hospital. I learned straight away that hospitals are institutions of control. Covid-19 has not helped in this respect. After the required QR Code check in, adjustment of mask and the washing of hands, I was then instructed to separate from my accompanying “responsible” person and make my way to the fifth floor for further instructions. From thence forward I was shuffled along from one staff member to another and from one sheet of questions to another and from one room to another.  There are so many staff employed in a major public hospital that one comes to understand how government health services lead to so many battles on health funding between the federal and state authorities.  It is a very live issue between Anastacia Palaszczuk and Scott Morrison and Co as I write. Care of our health truly is labour intensive and I do not decry that amount of person power that it requires. I merely make the observation.

The next control, “Take off your clothes”. (I had assumed that as it was my head that was to be doctored my scalp would be the only part of my body required to be accessible.

After clocking in and confirming that I was indeed to be a guest of the hospital for that night I was led by a female nurse round to a small cubicle. She dropped a bundle of folded clothing on to the low bench inside the cubicle.  “Now take off your clothes and put these on”, she said.

I said, “What everything?”

She responded. “Yes everything.  I’ll be standing just outside when you’re ready.” She drew the curtain and departed.

Well, such was my confusion and not wanting to keep her waiting that I struggled to make head or tail of how make the dressing change-over including the intricacy of fastening the belt of a dressing under-gown which opened at the back rather than the front.

In due course I cautiously opened the curtain to emerge and called the nurse who had actually moved away little. I can imagine she had to stifle a great laugh when she pointed out that I had placed the rather flimsy see-through hospital underpants on top of my head as a shower cap. Back to the cubicle to get that sorted out and later another different nurse withdrew, from a hidden crevice in the very comfortable hospital dressing over-gown, a shower cap for my use.

Another feature of hospitals, as probably most of you, my readers, well know, is that there can be a lot of waiting around. Another stop was the day surgery lounge. This was comfortably fully occupied by other patients, mostly in armchairs, As with the clothing, we had also been divested of all reading material so in this waiting room the only entertainment was a very large television screen attached high up on the wall and dominating the room.

Another “control” was that I had no authority to change the channel nor could I know what my fellow occupants of the room would consider good entertainment. The result I was that I found my sitting through an hour or so watching one of the commercial channels. This displayed the activities of a bunch of hedonistic Australians enjoying the facilities of some resort in Thailand at the cost of nearly $1,000 per night per person. The crudity of their behaviour left me cringing as a fellow Australian and feeling for the gentle Thai staff who were “forced” to pander to such antics in order perhaps to support their families bordering on poverty. I am happy to say of my countrymen  and women that there are other Australians who do live and work in these South East Asian countries under more austere environments to bring better living conditions to the inhabitants.

Although I may give the impression that these “controls” in the hospital were repressive this is not really the case. I actually found it in some ways a blessing. I did not have to make all the decisions myself. Moreover, once I entered that hospital door and willingly committed myself to being a patient there, I could not change it.  I might was well just relax and enjoy this period of helplessness. I have a personality foible. That is, that I have to be always “doing something”. This becomes more urgent with advancing years into the 80s when there is not that much time left to “do something” It is also a fact that in my day-to-day life with family and business commitments I find it hard to find excuses to allow me to not “do something”.

There is another element of this acceptable control. In today’s state-of-the art hospitals  you get carted everywhere. Once the process starts you don’t have to walk. You get wheeled from room to room. You are not allowed to get up and walk away from the bed. The bed goes with you.

And there are some sensual pleasures in this environment. Although, happily it was not an issue for me, one can imagine the surge of relief which comes to people in serious pain having access to powerful analgesics. The overwhelming majority of staff are women. In this era of “#metoo” perhaps one may be forgiven the mild erotic tingle which comes from ministrations of female staff sliding pressure stockings up one’s legs or dabbing the sensors of monitoring devices on to strategic patches of bare skin. There is also a pleasant sensuousness from the pulsating of the pressure stockings, on the calves, when they are electrically activated.

But in addition to the inherent kindness and compassion of the female staff there is a place for the male staff as well. There comes some assurance that they are available for the heavy lifting, and security if agitated patients seek to break away from the overriding “control” – not that such an event was my experience this time. One tiny Vietnamese nurse struggled to get my heavy cabin bag onto my lap in the bed so I could pick out a few items. After an attempt at lifting, it she laid it on the floor, I leaned over the guard rail, and with her bending from the waist down we managed cooperatively to successfully extract the goods.

I liken this hospital situation to something I wrote some years ago about “being on the right train”.  One can suppose that one misses the right connection      for a railway journey and discovers that the train is going in the wrong direction from that intended. You can’t change trains until you get to the next station. The result is that in the meantime you can have optional attitudes. You can stew and fret with anxiety that you will miss an appointment or be late home.  Or you can sit back relax, enjoy the passing view or perhaps have a short nap. For those few extra minutes, you can then indeed consider yourself to be “on the right train”.

So it was with my stay the hospital. Nevertheless, I appeared at one stage to have lost a couple of hours of my lifetime. At one point after another period of waiting and a brief conversation with the surgeon I was wheeled into an adjoining room. The surgeon disappeared – presumably to attend to another patient – and one of the staff was fiddling with the canula on my wrist.

“It’s about time we got started”, I mused.

I reached up to scratch an itchy point on my eyebrow. In some puzzlement my hand landed, not on a patch of hairy skin, but a bulky bunch of towelling about the size of a Sikh-like turban wound round my head.

I looked up at the clock on the wall.  Yes, it was all over! I had completely lost awareness of two hours of my life.

Not that this was necessarily a bad thing under the circumstances. With a cataract- removal operation under local anaesthetic some years earlier there was no pain. I had, though, the unsettling experience of sensing somebody scratching around on my eyeball with a scalpel. Then there are tales told of patients being inadvertently operated on while still fully awake.

There followed a night, restful although largely sleepless, as I mentally drafted these notes in relation to freedom and control.

“Freedom!” the anti-vaxxers shout. But such freedom, if granted can nullify the blessings derived from the control imposed by up-to-date health research and hospital care. This, of course, includes vaccination.

It is also observable that some people prefer control to freedom. A renowned classic book title by psychologist Erich Fromm was “Escape from Freedom”. It relates to the Nazi era in Germany. We continue to see acceptance of such control today in Communist countries such as China and Russia. It was noted the other day that the recidivism for some of our criminals approaches fifty per cent. Some behavioural scientists claim that part of this is because some people actually find life in gaol satisfying. They are well fed and looked after and don’t have to make decisions for themselves. I have long advocated a case for provision of institutions where people who are incapable of looking after themselves, with or without criminal inclination, may be permanently accommodated.

So let those of us, who do value the freedom to make our own decisions, use wisely the opportunities we have to do that. Let us also be sensitive to the desirability of yielding control where appropriate to our governing authorities and institutions such as our hospitals and government health advisors where it better meets the good of ourselves and our neighbours.

Rodney Eivers , 7th October 2021

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Update PCNet South Australia – Seminary of the Third Age

We have received the following information from the PCNetSA:

Seminary of the Third Age sessions are always videoed, and people can view these videos on the Effective Living Centre website:

https://effectiveliving.ucasa.org.au/podcasts/

Great to have this link included on UCFORUM as well – people can watch from interstate at their leisure.

The Effective Living Centre is the “parent” organization of PCNetSA, and the other links you have included – EAG, Social Issues, Sacred Creative, Poets Corner – are other “Task Groups” within the ELC.

Cheers,

Fergus McGinley , Chair ELC Management Committee and member of PCNeTSA Task Group

and further from PCNetSA

Please visit our website at www.pcnetsa.org for up to date information with regard to PCNetSA events, including Seminary of the 3rd Age. You can email us at contactpcnetsa@gmail.com.

Shalom

Maureen Howland, for PCNetSA committee

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The South Australian Progressive Christianity Network

The Progressive Christianity Network of South Australia (PCNet SA) aims to bring together those who seek to explore and express a Christian faith relevant to the 21st century. We actively foster the search for meaning and the development of a contemporary spirituality. A number of events are held each year to assist in this exploration. PCNet SA is located in the Effective Living Centre at Christ Church UC, Wayville, SA.  Christ Church is an inclusive, theologically progressive community that seeks to express a compassionate spirituality. Their creative and encouraging services cater to both children and adults, celebrating the best of the old with the possibility of the new. Their worship music seeks a balance of styles and instrumentation.

GOALS OF PCNet SA


  • To unravel the mysteries of the Bible
  • To reconstruct a credible faith
  • To explore a spirituality for our times
  • To be inspired by the compassion of Jesus
  • To promote social justice and reconciliation
  • To appreciate the spiritual depths of the First Peoples
  • To affirm the contributions of all faiths
  • To redress our failure to care for Mother Earth

SEMINARY OF THE 3rd AGE

The Seminary of the 3rd Age is a program conducted by respected theological scholars and leaders, it offers persons young and old, of any faith or no faith, the opportunity to explore and reflect on questions of faith and spirituality relevant in the 21st century.

Each seminar topic in Sem3A runs for four weeks taking place on Thursday evenings during the months of March, May, August and October each year.

2021 Brochure

Environmental Action Group

Social Issues Justice and Equity Group

Sacred and Creative Group

Poets Corner

 

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Revisiting the “8 Points of Progressive Christianity”

When Progressivechristianity.org revised its “8 Points” in 2020, they invited further recommendations. Their intention has always been to keep the ‘list’ open to modification as we move forward on an evolving discovery of our relationship with and knowledge of Jesus. At a recent gathering of the Progressive Christianity Network (Qld), Dr Steven Nisbett, OAM, conducted a facilitated brainstorming exercise with 25 of our members. We see this as still continuing to evolve as we gather the thoughts of others in our networks and call for our many members to add more thoughts before we send it off to our friends in the USA.

The 2012 version can be found here.

The current 2020 version can be found here.

We came up with the following suggestions and invite further critical comment:

By calling ourselves progressive christians, we mean we are christians who…

  1. Commit to a life of contemplation, learning, compassion and selfless love, following the teachings and example of Jesus as we journey with an increasing awareness and experience of the sacred and the interconnectedness of all life. In doing this we seek a spiritual way through which the one who touched the untouchable, healed the unhealable, fed the unfeedable, and taught the unteachable, may be reflected.
  2. Are gracious in our search for new understandings and recognize the importance of questioning and sharing understandings with an open heart and an open mind. We take the Bible seriously but not literally and seek to also learn from our indigenous peoples. We acknowledge there is a continuing role for the church to play in the provision of a safe environment for exploring new understandings and scholarship in the field of progressive christianity.
  3. Strive for peace and justice for all people and all life.
  4. Strive to protect, care for and restore the integrity of the environment and life in all its diversity.

Comments (not included in the Points and just to show how our discussion went):

  1. We thought that a better word than ‘points’ might be ‘essentials’ or ‘affirmations’.
  2. There needs to be a reduction in words and repetition.
  3. There also needs to be  some reference to the church and its value to society and individuals.
  4. Some people were for including ‘God’ in brackets after Sacred.
  5. The updated version of Point 3 (2020) differed from the earlier version only in some additions that suggested a nod towards racial inclusiveness and a recognition of the importance of ecological awareness. In the ‘header’ to this section ‘and create’ was added after ‘Seek … community..’ We felt it was going a bit far to suggest that ‘we are Christians who … seek and create communities….’ as subsequently described. A more humble and modest approach might be that we ‘encourage [or ‘work towards’] the development [or formation of] ….’ such community.The addition of ‘Those of all races, cultures and nationalities’ is OK but (as was pointed out during the discussion) rather superfluous, given that the header has already highlighted ALL people. If we take ‘ALL people’ as being totally inclusive, there’s probably no need for any of the sub-classes of person listed, but I think we were comfortable to leave them in.However we were not comfortable with the addition of ‘all creatures and plant life’, as it is  doubtful whether anyone could imagine that the phrase ‘all people’ could cover animals, plants, bacteria, viruses etc. This particular category should be deleted and incorporated into Point 4 (2020), which has more of an ecological flavour with its reference to Earth. And why not just say ‘nature’ rather than ‘creatures’ which implies the existence of a creator and by extension an acknowledgement of the literality of the genesis myth, from which we are trying to distance ourselves.
  6. Points 1 & 2 (2020): These are saying much the same thing, and should be collapsed into one statement. The words ‘a mystical connection to “God” are of doubtful value and probably would raise concern from the uninitiated reader to the quote marks. Aren’t we as self-styled progressives trying to unravel the mystery of how and why humankind has felt it necessary to have something we refer to as ‘god’?
  7. Point 8 (2020): The addition of ‘on this journey towards a personally authentic and meaningful faith’ presents a few issues. One is that I’m sure there are many fundamentalist Christians and Muslims, as well as Buddhists, Baha’is, and other ‘people of faith’ (to use that awful term) who would also claim that they are on a journey towards a personally authentic and meaningful faith. In this context ‘faith’ is a rubbery and not very meaningful term, and we think this point would best be left as it was in 2012.

What are your thoughts?

Paul Inglis October 2021

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The Church chosen for Jack Spong’s funeral

St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia, USA

“We welcome all, regardless of age, culture, physical health and ability, ethnic origin, gender, gender identity, marital status, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.

“There can be nothing outside that love and nothing the love cannot overcome. Our witness therefore is radically inclusive, as God is inclusive; radically merciful, as God is merciful; and radically generous, as God is generous. It is the good news.

“Our clarity that it is important to leave stereotypes at the door, our openness to God and to God’s love, our acceptance of those with lifestyles, values, or personalities different from our own, are all gifts of the Spirit and come from God. We share resources of faith, hope, and discernment and recognize enormous potential in our location, our facilities and the blessing of people from every generation and lifestyle.”

Current Rector

The Rev. Dr. Charles “Charlie” Dupree joined St Paul’s in 2019, coming all the way from Speed, North Carolina by way of Bloomington, Indiana. He and his husband, Matthew, reside in Richmond along with their cat, Francis. Charlie is an artist, graphic designer, composer, writer, and musician. He is an ardent believer in extending

 the warmth and radical welcome of Jesus in all that we do as a church, and that we should never stop wondering and asking questions about our faith.

An exceptionally gifted priest, an experienced and effective leader, and a compelling and thoughtful preacher, he has been the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Bloomington, Indiana, for the past 11 years.

The Funeral

The funeral service will be live-streamed on the St. Paul’s website HERE and on their Facebook page HERE. You can also find a direct link to the live stream feed on YouTube HERE. The service commences at 2pm Virginia time (30th September) ie. 4am Brisbane time (1st October).

The Obituary

One of America’s best-known spokespersons for an open, scholarly and inclusive Christianity, the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, died Sunday, September 12, 2021, at his home in Richmond, VA. He was 90 years old.
Bishop Spong was ordained to the priesthood in 1955 and served for 20 years as a priest in Episcopal churches in North Carolina (St. Joseph’s, Durham, and Calvary Parish, Tarboro) and in Virginia (St. John’s, Lynchburg and St. Paul’s, Richmond). In 1976 he was elected VIII Bishop of Newark where he served for 24 years.
A deeply committed Christian, he insisted that he must also speak as an informed citizen of the 21st century. He studied at major centers of Christian scholarship including Union Theological Seminary in New York, Yale Divinity School, Harvard Divinity School and the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh. He was named the Quatercentenary Scholar at Cambridge University (Emmanuel College) in 1992 and the William Belden Noble Lecturer at Harvard University in 2000. He taught at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA; Drew University, Madison, NJ; Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, MA; The Pacific School of Religion Berkeley, CA; the University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA; and at Trinity College at the University of Toronto.
Bishop Spong was one of Desmond Tutu’s co-consecrators in 1976. He ordained to the priesthood the first English woman, the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Canham, long before the Church of England was willing to ordain women. On December 16, 1989, he ordained to the priesthood the first openly gay man, living in a publicly acknowledged committed relationship. That ordination led to the church’s willingness to bless committed gay unions.
While serving at St. Paul’s Church in Richmond, VA, Spong, together with Rabbi Jack Daniel Spiro and the University of Richmond’s Department of Religion Chair, Dr. Frank Eakin, led a citywide Jewish-Christian dialogue.
Well-known in radio and television circles, Bishop Spong appeared on such diverse programs as Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, The O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly, Late Night with Tom Snyder, Good Morning America with Charles Gibson, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Phil Donahue Show and NPR radio with both Diane Rehm and Terry Gross. He was featured on CBS’s Sixty Minutes with Leslie Stahl. He is the author of 26 books, which have sold over 2,000,000 copies. They have been translated into multiple languages. His articles have been published in The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Times of London and others.
He is survived by his wife Christine Mary Spong, who also served as his editor; their five children, Ellen Elizabeth Spong (Augustus Charles Epps, Jr.), Mary Katharine Spong (John Baldwin Catlett, Jr.), Jaquelin Ketner Spong, Brian Yancy Barney (Julieann), and Rachel Elizabeth Carter. M.D. (Scott); and their six grandchildren, Katharine Shelby Catlett, M.D., John Baldwin Catlett, III, John Lanier Hylton, Lydia Ann Hylton, Colin David Barney, and Katherine Barney.
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What about conspiracy theorists? Redcliffe (Q) Explorers

Yes indeed! What about conspiracy theorists?

Over the last few years we’ve heard a lot about fake news, alternative facts, conspiracy theories, Q-Anon, anti-vaxxers, climate deniers, and even the ‘Flat Earthers’. In the face of what most folks would consider incontrovertible evidence, what is it that leads some to mistrust people of authority? And how do we talk to a family member, friend, or colleague who’s been seduced into a totally irrational belief system? Is it possible, in fact, to have a rational debate with these folks?

Our own practising psychologists and counsellors Meryem and Greg Brown will reveal some of the neuroscience and common psychological predispositions behind these potentially destructive ‘phenomena of the mind’ at the next Redcliffe Explorers gathering, on Monday 4th October. Greg suggests that beforehand you might find it useful to read or listen to a talk on this topic by British social psychologist Professor Karen Douglas, accessible via this link: https://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/conspiracy-theories.

We’ll meet from 6 to 8 p.m. in the ground-floor activities room at the Azure Blue Retirement Complex, 91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe. As usual, everyone’s invited to participate in our lively discussions. If there are any changes to the Government’s health advice it would be wise to give Ian a call (3284 3688 or 0401 513 723) to check whether the meeting is to go ahead as planned. The current Covid-safe conditions will be observed, and you’re urged to stay at home if feeling unwell, and of course get tested if you have any Covid symptoms.

Ian

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God and Kingdom – further from Len Baglow

A response to God and Kingdom by Wally Stratford which was a response to Theology and Advocacy by Len Baglow.

Dear Rev Stratford,
Thank you for taking the time to make a detailed response to my article “Theology and Advocacy”. I enjoyed thinking about your approach.

We do I think differ on several important points. However, hopefully this discussion will help us both deepen our understandings.

Firstly, I would question your claim that “The Old Testament has little to say of the kingdom of God.” I agree with John Bright (1953, 7), the Old Testament scholar who wrote nearly 70 years ago, “For the concept of the Kingdom of God involves, in a real sense, the total message of the Bible. Not only does it loom large in the teaching of Jesus; it is to be found, in one form or another, through the length and breadth of the Bible.” A few pages later he comments cogently, “But ideas are ever larger than the words that carry them” (Bright, 1953,11) I think this is particularly true of the words, “The Kingdom of God’.

Secondly, I am not sure that the most relevant text for understanding the Kingdom of God is Lk 17:20/21: “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look here it is’ or ‘there it is! For in fact the kingdom of God is among you”. While Lk 17:20/21 is an important text, there are around 120 other texts dealing with the Kingdom of God. My position is that we must grapple with all of them. Impossible? Yes, but no less important to do. As one grapples with all the texts, one comes to realise more and more, how Jesus’ teaching subverts, challenges, undermines any Kingdoms/Reigns/Estates/Empires that are based on injustice.

Related to this second point is that overemphasizing Luke 17:20/21 can lead to an over spiritualising of the Kingdom of God, as something within our hearts alone or on another plane (spiritual experience) and not something that has existence in the things we do. I think this is highlighted in your comments on Exodus where the actions of Moses are sidelined.

Thirdly I found it difficult to understand what you meant by “I think that, with the advent of Christianity, presence became absence with God relocated to a heavenly place.” Perhaps it makes some sense to me if you mean by Christianity, the form of Christendom that followed from Constantine and which was forming earlier. However, if you mean that with the coming of Jesus and his message “presence became absence with God” that would make no sense. An important assumption of my article is that Jesus’s proclamation of the Kingdom/Reign/Estate/Empire of God makes possible an even closer relationship with what we might call God in the midst of our present world.

Finally, I would answer your question, “Was the real beginning of the Kingdom of God, the start of Christendom in the fifth century?” with a resounding No. The growth of Christendom was for the most part a retreat from Jesus’ radical teachings on and exhortations about the Kingdom of God.

Len Baglow 19/09/21

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PCN Explorers September gathering

Our PCN Explorers will meet again on the last Wednesday of the month – this time it is a 5th Wednesday – 29th September.

Wednesday 29th September 

Merthyr Road Uniting Church

52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm, Q.

10 am for meet, greet and morning tea

10:30 to begin exploring the topic together

Dr Steven Nisbet will lead our exploration of what we mean when we speak of being involved in the progressive Christianity movement.

“Is this statement from 2012 still applicable in 2021? Could it be rewritten, revised or refined? If so, how?” (click on link below).

The 8 Points of Progressive Christianity

Desley Garnett

 

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Dayboro Explorers -26th September gathering

The theme for our next Dayboro (Q) Explorers gathering on 26th September is

OUR BLESSINGS                                                      

Glynn Cardy’s A Book of Blessings takes the Jesus tradition in new directions. He well understands that the blessings of God are found in the ordinary, the familiar, the day-to-day. He affirms that blessings may be experienced and celebrated in unexpected situations and people.

This is a collection that inspires, delights and encourages. A Book of Blessings is in itself a blessing to the community called the church – and well beyond the church – for all who share a love and appreciation of everyday people and the richness and the ordinary of their lives.

In the Jewish and Christian traditions, blessings are generally looked for in extraordinary people and situations. And in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the declarations of blessedness reflect Jesus’ approach of turning expectations upside down so that it is the poor, the sick, the bereaved who are declared blessed by God. Strange and unexpected beatitudes!

Here is a sample of Rev Cardy’s poems. Others will be shared at the meeting. What blessings do you have in your life?

Blessed is the world where the weak

Blessed is a world where the weak
are protected, none go hungry,
and the benefits of life are shared
Blessed is a world where everyone
is treated with dignity and respect,
and all know a safe place called home
Blessed is a world where animals
and plants, the land and oceans,
are respected and cherished.
Blessed is a world where peace is grounded
in justice, justice is guided by love,
and love is gifted unconditionally.
Blessed is a world where with courage,
kindness, and grace we stand together,
and create this vision of hope.

Venue: Dayboro Uniting Church, Williams Street, Dayboro, QLD.

Morning Tea: 10am

Discussion: 11am

Lunch at Rendezvous Noon (RSVP for lunch essential by 23rd September) psinglis@westnet.com.au

Visitors welcome.

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Opinion: Suggested Amendments to the QLD VAD Legislation

A PERSONAL RESPONSE TO THE PROPOSED VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING (VAD) LEGISLATION SOON TO BE DEBATED IN THE QUEENSLAND PARLIAMENT

The great majority of people in Queensland support some basic form of VAD being endorsed in legislation. I believe it would be politically futile to oppose such a public endorsement.

However I believe we must gather strong support for critical amendments which are listed below:

1.

All VAD legislation must be complemented by an accountable commitment for high quality palliative care, especially to regional Queensland where provision for significant palliative care is virtually non-existent.

2.

Non-government hospitals must be given an ABSOLUTE right to deny any provisions for VAD services in their hospitals. This basic right is fundamental to respect the religious, philosophical and values of all peoples in the Australian constitution.

3,

In the light of serious breaches of initial legislation in some European countries where VAD has been implemented in previous years, no legislation should be enacted until the investigated experiences in other countries be analysed to prevent such happenings in Queensland legislation. Legislation must cover those provisions of the Act where these breaches did occur in those countries.

4.

Public media campaigns for discerned amendments to proposed VAD legislation insist that such a position is founded on basic religious and human rights and is extremely compassionate to alleviate suffering and terminal illness. To imply that those seeking critical amendments lack compassion to the proposed legislation is highly offensive to such committed individuals and groups.

Dr Kevin Treston  September 2021

Kevin has taught and lectured for many years in 14 different countries. He is the author of many books, and a highly respected presenter among Catholic educators. He is also a subscriber to the UCFORUM and a regular participant in our seminars and conversations. Details about his publications can be found by following the link to Book Reviews on this site.

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God and Kingdom – Wally Stratford

I read Len Baglow’s comments [Theology and Advocacy] with interest. Two words stood up for me – namely God and Kingdom. Gods in a variety of shapes have dominated the life of humankind as far back as is possible to trace.

Concepts of God now take me back to two Old Testament stories, one about the beginnings of life, and the other the beginnings of a revamped covenant and a relationship re-established.

The beginnings of life for humankind occurred when God stooped down and breathed into the man’s nostrils. All stories require imagination and reading this story I am led to claim that with the breath we find the spirit. Of each other, they are together the one continual activity that begets and maintains constancy in the business of living. (Gen. 2:7)

The Moses story reintroduces the spirit, but in this story, presence is revealed and then affirmed in the words I AM. An element of the verb to be, it reveals an active attendance of the invisible spirit. This is further sealed in the events that lead the Israelites to freedom and stands by them as they enter their desert journey. (Exodus 3)

I think that, with the advent of Christianity, presence became absence with God relocated to a   heavenly place. Creeds, and words of worship and prayer seem to reinforce this notion.

The Old Testament has little to say of the kingdom of God. Oblique references only can be gleaned. Certainly, God is supreme, sacred, the name of God can never be spoken. It appears to me that the essence of the Old Testament is in God’s sacred presence, ample evidence for this is to be found in the Psalms and among the prophets.

In the New Testament, Kingdom of God appears many times but perhaps Jesus’ comment as reported in Luke’s gospel (Lk 17:20/21): “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look here it is’ or ‘there it is! For in fact the kingdom of God is among you” is most relevant for understanding. It suggests that the thing being searched for is already present within. The claim of ‘kingdom’ always contains a claim of a monarch reigning, so perhaps it all makes more sense if we connect with the alternative reading which presents Jesus words as “The reign of God is within you”. These words recall the sense of presence powerfully present at the beginning of life, and reiterated in the conversation with Moses as I AM.

The kingdom of God may therefore more sensibly, and with greater meaning, be rendered something like – the presence of God as YHWH-spirit is always with you, riding the wind and contained in the breath that keeps one alive.

It may not be as straightforward, but makes more sense, than “Our Father in heaven – thy will be done on earth as in heaven …”

The first four hundred years of the church were tumultuous, with a host of claims and counterclaims about the shape of the faith. Among these, tradition became most important as a safeguard against heresy. Irenaeus claims that “the original revelation is guaranteed by the unbroken succession of bishops in the great sees going back literally to the apostles. Secondly, an additional safeguard is supplied by the Holy Spirit, for the message was committed to the Church, and the Church is the home of the Spirit.” (Kelly p.37).

Allied to tradition as a demonstration of the truths of the church, an “absolute authority was accorded to scripture as a doctrinal norm … as interpreted by the church, it was the source of Christian teaching.” (Kelly p.42). The scriptures were those of the Jews – our Old Testament.

In those years the church suffered persecution, Christians endured martyrdom with an entrenched belief that their soul was safe. Gnosticism became a force to be reckoned with, eventually becoming muted by the many forcefully argued refutations.

The church, after argument and discussion, conferences of bishops, and theological musings, committed to an after-life, and to a Son of God destined to be a king. It was all cemented into place with the conversion of the emperor Constantine, and his declaration of the truth of the Nicene Creed.

Hailed as a Christian Emperor, Constantine’s “death was received with universal manifestations of grief, and his reign was regarded as continuing after his death: his funeral, conducted after the arrival of his second surviving son Constantius, was a magnificent spectacle,” (Stevenson 396).

“By the middle of the fifth century the Roman church had established, de jure as well as de facto, a position of primacy in the West, and the papal claims to supremacy over all bishops of Christendom had been formulated in precise terms.” (Kelly 417).

Is this, I wonder, the real beginning of the Kingdom of God.

Kelly. J.N.D. (ed) Early Christian Doctrines. London: Adam & Charles Black 1960.

Stevenson, J. A (ed) A New Eusebius. London: S.P.C.K. 1960

Rev Walter Stratford, 2021

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The Importance of Ritual in our Lives

A reminder that the Redcliffe (Q) Explorers will gather this coming Monday (6 September) to consider The Importance of Ritual in Our Lives. As you know, this meeting has been postponed twice due to community health issues, but we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to get together again on Monday! Vicki Alsop will facilitate some small-group discussion about familiar rituals (including the sacraments) and some less familiar ones from other cultures, inviting us to consider whether the line between habit and ritual can sometimes be rather blurred.

We’ll meet as usual between 6 and 8 p.m. in the ground-floor activities room at the Azure Blue Retirement Complex, 91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe. Everyone’s very welcome to participate in our lively discussions. If there are any changes to the Government’s health advice between now and then, it would be wise to give Ian a call (3284 3688 or 0401 513 723) to check whether the meeting is to go ahead as planned. The current Covid-safe conditions (including mask-wearing) will be observed, and of course you’re urged to stay at home if feeling unwell and get tested if you have any Covid symptoms.

Shalom, Ian

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Book Review: Secular Christianity

by Bev Floyd

In this easy read book Floyd reduces Christianity to a simple journey of love following the teachings and examples of Jesus. She uses the vernacular of the average Australian in a conversational style that requires no serious theological capability by the reader. This fills a much-needed gap in the progressive literature.

The author deconstructs the major biblical narratives and themes and casts a sceptical eye on those that have been read literally. She argues that the events of scripture are profound teachings that speak to our times if seen as metaphors, similes, and parables. She spurns the dogmatic teaching that has evolved as church doctrine but holds strongly to the notion of the importance of individuals using their own interpretations. The reader is left to make up their own mind while being encouraged to speculate and claim the right to make meaning on their own terms.

While emphasizing the many errors and contradictions in the bible resulting from the tradition of handing down the stories orally over several generations, she calls for proportionate thinking when considering the influences of culture, history, scientific knowledge, and power politics over what we now know about Jesus and the events of his life. She sees the Church as generally not the best instrument for transferring understandings as it has a prime concern to maintain its own authority and influence, sometimes at the expense of authenticity. It does not have a good record on tolerating critical thinking and has often discouraged people from exploring outside the boundaries of doctrine and dogma.

Floyd has achieved her goal to transmit the simple but profound message of Jesus and enriched the conversation about the meaning of life. She has opened a pathway to contemporary faith that applies Jesus’ teaching on love to modern situations.

Floyd’s thinking is influenced a little by Hugh Mackay, and John Spong and has relied on her own thoughts for most of the commentary. This is an enjoyable read that challenges our thinking with its simplicity.

Bev Floyd is a regular participant in Progressive Christianity Network Queensland seminars.

Paul Inglis 3rd September 2021

Can be purchased from Boolarong Press.

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Closure of The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought, Canberra

We have received advice (25/08/2021) that CPRT Canberra has been wound up after a number of years of inactivity and after the achievement of its goals of advancing new thinking in spirituality.

The CPRT was established in 2002 with a small grant of seed funding from the Uniting Church in Australia.  It was an initiative of St James Uniting Church Curtin, led by Rev Rex Hunt.  Over the next twelve years or so, the Centre offered a rich and diverse program of speaker and other events and members participated in the Common Dreams Conferences – the direct outcome of CPRT initiative – and related ‘On the Road’ seminars.

There were many presentations by Australian and overseas theologians, biblical scholars and progressive theologians and many people will have fond memories of being challenged and fascinated by new thinking in spirituality.  Of special mention is the support given by both St James and other churches /individuals to a small team of local organizers when they managed the Common Dreams Conference 3 in Canberra in 2013.  On that occasion they welcomed Professor Marcus Borg to Australia!

The Centre enabled and empowered its members to explore spirituality beyond their locale.  There are now so many progressive resources available in print and online either via membership of broader groups, podcasts, and blogs etc. that people are no longer limited in their spiritual journeys.  Many of course, remain as members of local churches or faith organizations.

CPRT Canberra has done its job.  Locally.  Nationally.  Internationally.

CPRT Canberra had a large number of books and other resources held jointly in the St James Uniting Church Library. These resources will remain with the Library to be managed as the congregation (now part of Woden Valley Uniting Church) wishes.

Secondly, funds held in account totaling approximately $7,358.58 will be transferred to Common Dreams Inc, to be used to facilitate progressive spirituality events as the management board of that organization determines. More information on Common Dreams Inc can be found at: https://commondreams.org.au/ including links to like-minded progressive websites.

This information was provided by the CPRT Canberra Team-

David Slater, Linda Pure
Rev Rex Hunt

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‘Perhaps’ by Garth Read

 It was the first day of the rest of eternity.

God had just received another guest from planet Earth.

‘God, how and why did the world begin?

 God replied:

‘Perhaps, it has always been here.’

‘Perhaps, I made it in seven days.’

‘Perhaps, it evolved over many eons.’

God thought about what was said and smiled at the mystery of it all.

 

On planet Earth there was sunset and sunrise.

 

 It was the first day of the rest of eternity.

God had just received another guest from planet Earth.

‘God, are humans most treasured?’

 God replied:

Perhaps, all creatures are treasured.’

‘Perhaps, humans are my only children.

‘Perhaps, I need to disown some.’

God thought about what was said and smiled at the mystery of it all.

 

On planet Earth there was sunset and sunrise.

 

 It was the first day of the rest of eternity.

God had just received another guest from planet Earth.

‘God, why is there so much suffering on Earth?’

 God replied:

“Perhaps, I ordained it that way.”

“Perhaps, a devil is at work.”

“Perhaps, it builds strong character.”

God thought about what was said and smiled at the mystery of it all.

 

 On planet Earth there was sunset and sunrise.

 

 It was the first day of the rest of eternity.

God had just received another guest from planet Earth.

‘God why are humans both good and evil?

 God replied:

‘Perhaps, they have too much freedom.”

“Perhaps, humans are my big mistake.”

“Perhaps, I have a divine competitor?’

God thought about what was said and smiled at the mystery of it all.

 

On planet Earth there was sunset and sunrise.

 

 It was the first day of the rest of eternity.

God had just received another guest from planet Earth.

‘God, why are the religions so different?

God replied:

‘Perhaps, many people created them.’

‘Perhaps, each one has some truth.’

‘Perhaps, only one is correct.’

God thought about what was said and smiled at the mystery of it all.

 

On planet Earth there was sunset and sunrise.

 

It was the first day of the rest of eternity.

God had just received another guest from planet Earth

 ‘God, is it time for us to know all the answers?’

 God replied:

  ‘Perhaps!’

 ‘Perhaps!’

  ‘Perhaps!’

 

 On planet Earth there was sunset and sunrise.

Rev Garth Read, coordinator, North Brisbane Interfaith Group and member Aspley Uniting Church

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Theology and Advocacy, by Len Baglow

Advocacy, Evangelism and Service to the Community are related concepts in theology. All are about announcing and making present the Kingdom of God. Advocacy is about the prophetic role of proclaiming that even though the Kingdom of God has been announced in Christ, the poor, the exploited and even the earth itself still cry out for the fulfillment of that promise and reality. In Evangelism we put in words our experience of the Kingdom so that others might understand and join in the liberating work of the gospel. In Service we act as exemplars of what is happening as the Kingdom of God becomes real.

The theology of advocacy cannot be understood in isolation from Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God. However, the theology of the Kingdom of God is itself no simple matter. In the synoptic gospels the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is mentioned in over 120 verses. The references are wide ranging, often challenging or perplexing and yet central to Jesus’ message. It is not coincidental that Jesus’ prayer to the Father begins,

Father, May your name be held holy, Your Kingdom come (Luke 11:2).

The word “Kingdom” sounds strange to modern ears. Scholars at times use other words to translate the Greek. These include Reign,1 Estate,2 and in the case of the scholars of the Jesus Seminar, “Empire”,3

Each of these alternate translations alerts us to the depth and breadth of the reality that
Jesus is proclaiming. It is clear that for Jesus the Kingdom of God is not just an idea but a happening, an event:

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15).

Central to this event is a change that is occurring simultaneously at several levels; the individual, the relational, the societal, the cultural and even at the Kingdom or Empire level, which includes all the others. This is perhaps clearest in the first Beatitude which reads,

To the ancient ears this is both a scandalous upturning of political and cultural reality, and also a liberating word for those who are poor who suddenly find themselves first in this announced
Kingdom. And yet of course the Kingdom announced is not yet fully formed. Its existence in space and time depends on those who respond to Christ’s call. For the initial small gathering of Jews and associated gentiles this took incredible faith, especially when faced with the massive power and then hostility of the Roman Empire. They responded by building small communities in which they tried to enact the reality of this new Kingdom, and they spread the good news of this new way of living and responding to God.

Today our era is both different from and similar to biblical times. The differences include increases in technology that have led to our computer or information age, significant advances in health care and medicine, and a standard of living for many that is far more luxurious than any Roman emperor could imagine.

[1 Glen Stassen & David Gushee, 2003. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context.
2 John Cobb, 2015. Jesus’ Abba: The God Who Has Not Failed.
3 Robert Funk, Arthur Dewey & the Jesus Seminar, 2015. The Gospel of Jesus: According to the Jesus Seminar (2nd edition) ]

Yet many people still live in poverty while others profit from their labour and live in extraordinary luxury; there are wars and rumours of wars, corruption and exploitation.
Empires have come and gone, but empires remain. In ancient times there were the Egyptian,
Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian and Roman empires all juggling at some time for power. Until recently we had the British Empire, and now today we have the American, Chinese and perhaps re-emerging Russian empires. Such human empires have not stopped being exploitative.
Australia as a nation-state (a small kingdom if you will) has had a history of identifying first with the British Empire and more lately with the American. The most obvious example of this is our
participation in wars over the last 130 years. However, it is not just wars but a way of thinking about power, race, and exploitation that we have taken for granted, that is at odds with the Kingdom of God proclaimed in Christ.

This has led to a cultural framework in which people aspire to a material security and comfort for themselves and those like them at the expense of the other. This results in a fear of the other. Our current treatment of refugees and the previous white Australia policy are examples of this framework in practice. The more one is caught up in the empire framework, the harder it is to hear the liberating call of the Kingdom of God. Churches which accept these human empire values uncritically (often unconsciously) lose their ability to identify with or announce God’s Kingdom.

Paradoxically, the modern democratic movement has grown out of human empires. Democracy
provides churches and church members new opportunities for working with others to create a
better and fairer society and hence herald the Kingdom. The churches and church members in
Canberra are uniquely positioned to play an advocacy role in the unfolding of the Kingdom of God.

This is not only because of proximity to the Parliament, but because so many church members have experience either working in the public service or as members of political parties or national organizations such as The Australia Institute or Australia 21. The challenge for the Uniting Church in the Canberra region is to seize this opportunity. As inequalities grow in Australia and meanness of spirit stalks our political culture, it is certain that God continues to hear the cry of the poor and witnesses their oppression (Exodus 2: 9). Even though we feel inadequate and ill prepared, we have the ability to advocate on a wide range of issues. Will we
respond to the call to advocacy? “So come, I send you to Pharaoh … to bring my people out of Egypt. … I shall be with you.” (Exodus 2: 10-12)

Len Baglow
Len is a member of the Canberra Region Presbytery Social Justice Group and of Woden Valley Uniting Church and subscriber to the UCFORUM.

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Beginnings and Continuings – A Reflection by Wally Stratford

See the source imageOnce upon a time – in the time before time began, a large ball of energy – a seething mass of grumblings and groanings, of flashes and fire, of bumblings and bouncings, floated here and there. Then one day – in that time before time began – it exploded with a tremendous bang and bits and pieces of energy flew far and wide – continuing to this day. The Universe was born!

Many, many, many years later than that time before time began, a group of scholars – probably all men – probably all elderly men, gathered to reflect on the world they knew – their aim, to write about its beginnings. This a really impossible task so they decided to tell it as a story.

It began – “In the beginning …” and went on to tell of the way God went to work to create the world. It was a story of great acts by God out of which the world was assembled. They write “God said let there be this, and let that occur…” and they added, “and it was so” as each action was completed. The picture that may be imagined is of a powerful – remote – God sitting some distance away and creating by decree. It all happened, wrote the scholars, and the earth became a finished article. (Genesis 1&2).

But then the story changes and the God of decrees becomes a worker of dust. (Genesis 2:7) “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground.” I wonder if you have ever tried to form anything from dust – it is an impossible task- the dust remains a pile of dust.

The story persists – and God persists, and the human form takes shape – but without life. And then God draws even closer and “breathes into the man’s nostrils.” Perhaps you have never breathed in anyone’s nostrils, but if you ever decided to do that – how close would you need to be? Very close!

One might imagine hearing God say as breath was breathed, “The life of God for the life of humankind.” And the man lived!

The man received a gift of life – a gift handed to him in the action of the God whose spirit had a major part in creation. The breath, we may claim, contained something of the breather, and imagination can show us that something, as the presence of God – not from a distance but in intimate contact.

We know and understand that our breathing is an absolute necessity for the preservation of life. If we stop breathing, we stop living. The breath contains the elements necessary to energize the activities of our body.

The imaginings in right brain thinking, remind us that with breath comes the presence, or spirit of God, in whom life is enriched. As we cannot survive without breathing, so also, we cannot not receive the Spirit. They are fundamentally linked as foundational for life, the gift that knows no boundaries. There is more!

If we now take something of a giant step forward in time, we will discover Moses talking to a bush. (Exodus Chap.3 But this was no ordinary bush. Moses was soon to discover that this bush and its surround were emblematic of sacred presence. Even the ground on which he stood was sacred.

From the bush a voice called Moses to return to Egypt, there to challenge Pharoah to let the Israelites go free. This was a daunting task and Moses was loath to take it on. The challenge continued, so Moses asked for some identification. It would be useful to know who or what it was that was speaking to him. “Give me your name…”

What he received was not a name but an enigmatic statement of being. I AM! Then for further affirmation a reminder of an ongoing presence from the God of their ancestors. Transliterated in English as YHWH the term is unpronounceable but most expressive as a doorway to understanding presence. Finding security in this presence Moses took on the task and confronted Pharoah. Pharoah had to learn to his considerable cost, that this presence was not going away, and finally set the people free.

My name for this presence is YHWH-Spirit. It makes sense for me when linked to the story of beginnings and humankind’s gift of life. YHWH-Spirit fed and led the Israelites away from slavery into a desert, there to wander for some time. Visible as smoke in the day and fire in the night YHWH-Spirit guarded and guided the Israelites as they continued their journey home – to the place originally promised to Abraham. As they travelled, they had to learn again the true nature of the covenant to which their ancestors had committed their lives in the gift of the life given.

The life that each has is what it is. The profile of life is the same for all and is not affected by shape or colour or creed or behaviour. So, how do we account for the range of difference among the many lives being lived?

If I decide to present you with a gift (for whatever reason), and carefully wrap it securely in attractive paper, you may be very pleased and even find the wrapping expressive of my feelings in giving it to you. But you will know nothing of its contents until you remove the covering.

If life is to take on meaning and find expression in your daily peregrinations, it must like any gift, be unwrapped. Unwrapping life does not, and indeed cannot occur in a moment. Life is always continuing and expanding. This changing condition of life requires a progressive unwrapping – always more is revealed.

There is, however, abundant evidence to suggest that the unwrapping is not proceeding well and, in many cases, not at all. I wonder if many are fearful of what they might find.

Failure to unwrap, it might be suggested, leaves the gift languishing on the table; we pass by daily.

Rev Walter Stratford  28th August 2021

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New Book: Eyes in the Sky

ISBN 978-1-922527-64-6 PAPERBACK

Eyes In The Sky 

This book is a must read for anyone concerned with climate change and lack of Government action addressing this rapidly unfolding crisis.

The authors, tell their story of introducing the new technology of observing Earth from Space into the WA Government, following the first images of Earth being sent back by man from space some 50 years ago.

Earth Observing Satellites (EOS) soon followed giving a new and unique view of the Earth revealing the massive human impacts driving climate change, species extinction and human conflicts. For the first time in history key WA Government agencies had unparalleled access to the means of measuring and sustainably managing WA’s natural assets across the whole continent and surrounding oceans. Many new and innovative applications of EOS were developed.

However these applications encountered the fundamental conflict between Ecology and Economics, which caused a drastic cutback when WA’s Land Information Authority found that in pursuit of its commercial goals, sustainability was unsustainable. A fatal paradox that the authors argue, urgently needs to be addressed if climate catastrophe for future generations is to be avoided.

About the Authors

Richard Smith BSc (Agric) Hons (Lond), Dip Agric Econ (Oxon) PhD (UWA), migrated in 1965 to Western Australia aged 23, as a farm management consultant to 35 farmers, managing over a million acres. Then an Australian Wool Board Scholar, CSIRO Post-doctoral fellow, University Lecturer, CSIRO Research Scientist and NASA Research Associate. He has worked in the USA, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.  He was recruited by his co-author, Henry Houghton in 1990 to lead the WA State Government’s Satellite Remote Sensing Centre. He has 66 peer reviewed scientific publications and given 52 conference presentations. He helped found a not-for-profit charity for indigenous peoples in the NW Kimberley and W Papua, Indonesia and wrote business plans for over $7 million of community development. He is a volunteer guide on Rottnest Island and a Lay Preacher in the Uniting Church, with an interest in Eco-theology.

Henry Houghton BSc (Surveying), Licensed Surveyor (1968), migrated from England to Western Australia in 1957. As a licensed surveyor of the Department of Lands and Surveys, he undertook land, soil, engineering, farm subdivision and mapping surveys across the State. In the mid 1970s he was coordinator of the State’s satellite remote sensing, establishing the WA remote sensing centre in 1982 leading in 1991 to the purpose-built Leeuwin Centre for Earth Sensing Technologies. Then as Director of Survey and Mapping and Surveyor General in the then Department of Land Administration he guided the development of the land information data sets essential for land management. Following retirement in 2001, he worked as land consultant in Victoria and Tasmania before working on land projects in the Philippines. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Surveyors Australia and was awarded an Australian Centenary Medal in 2001 for services to the community.

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Peter Fensham – may he rest in peace and love

We have received the sad news that Emeritus Professor Peter Fensham has died in Melbourne from pulmonary fibrosis.

Peter was the first Professor of Science Education in Australia at his appointment at Monash University. He was also the founder of the Australasian Science Education Research Association in 1971 and first national President of ASTA and of AAEE. He served as an Adviser of the TIMSS project in the 1990s and of the OECD’s PISA (Science) project in the 2000s. He has published nine books and many research articles. His international contacts have included Visiting professorships in England, Sweden, Canada, Japan and Brazil.

Peter was a great explorer within the progressive Christian movement and a friend to many of us. He stayed connected to the UCFORUM over its two decades and kept in touch with us with some wonderful reflections on issues we were discussing.

His research and publication peer assessed publications were prolific producing 113 papers. He last work in 2016 was:

The Future Curriculum for School Science: What Can Be Learnt from the Past?

Fensham, P. J.1 Apr 2016In: Research in Science Education. 462p. 165-185 21 p.

He was published as 9 books, 80 articles, 17 book chapters, 6 conference papers, and several commissioned reports. As well as all this he found time to join our seminars, offer advice and encouragement and care for his wife Christine who survives him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recommended new book: A Book of Blessings

Rev Glynn Cardy is the Minister at the Community of St Luke’s Presbyterian congregation in Auckland, who is closely involved in Common Dreams. He has very recently released a small book of his “blessings” which he composes for use in his weekly liturgies. Glynn is a fine poet and these blessings are a lovely expression of this talent. The blessings can be read as an affirmation that joy and encouragement can be found in the ordinariness of our everyday living but they also may be interpreted as having deeper layers of meaning. I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is published locally by Coventry Press.

Dick Carter,  Common Dreams

Blessed are those who know the joy of a friend, parent, or child,
    who accept us without rhyme or reason or reward, who love us with a power
    that can withstand the assault of our doubt.

In the Jewish and Christian traditions, blessings are generally looked for in extraordinary people and situations. And in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the declarations of blessedness reflect Jesus’ approach of turning expectations upside down so that it is the poor, the sick, the bereaved who are declared blessed by God. Strange and unexpected beatitudes!

Glynn Cardy’s A Book of Blessings takes the Jesus tradition in new directions. He well understands that the blessings of God are found in the ordinary, the familiar, the day-to-day. He affirms that blessings may be experienced and celebrated in unexpected situations and people.

This is a collection that inspires, delights and encourages. A Book of Blessings is in itself a blessing to the community called the church – and well beyond the church – for all who share a love and appreciation of everyday people and the richness and the ordinary of their lives.

AUSTRALIA
To order online go to: www.coventrypress.com.au   AU$19.95
Phone: 0477 809 037
Email: enquiries@coventrypress.com.au
Post to: Coventry Press, 33 Scoresby Road, Bayswater Vic. 3153
NEW ZEALAND
Order from:
Pleroma Christian Supplies
https://www.christiansupplies.co.nz/  NZ$24.95

Postage $9.95

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The Afterlife – A SoFiA (Melbourne) Online Lecture

SoFiA – Sea of Faith in Australia

Saturday 28 August 2021, 2.30pm to 4.30pm.

“The Afterlife?”

Graeme Lindenmayer (eBook: Agnosticism: The Third Perspective’)

will present the topic and lead the discussion.

ZOOM Link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84428790669?pwd=SlRBcXVQelR1L3djS3ZjNUc4TU5YQT09

Meeting ID: 844 2879 0669 – – Passcode: 317145

~ Promoting the open exploration of religion, spirituality and the search for meaning ~

All viewpoints welcome.  Enquiries: sofmelb@yahoo.com.au –  SOFiA Website.

Facebook: ‘Sofiatalk‘  Your opinions would be appreciated in the ongoing conversations.

 

2021 – Future Topics:

25 Sept.  – “A Progressive Spirituality for the 21st Century” – John Noack.

23 Oct.    – “Cosmic Consciousness: From Plato to Jung” – Dr. Nicholas Coleman.

27 Nov.   – “History of Australian Religiosity and Spirituality” – Dr. Neville Buch

SOFiA is a network of Australians interested in openly exploring issues of life and meaning through reason, philosophy, ethics, religion, science and the arts.

SOFiA’s aim is to promote non-dogmatic discussion of cultural, social, philosophical and religious issues.

Members of the SOFiA Network feel free to draw on the rich philosophical and spiritual heritage of the past but do not feel bound by it.

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WHAT ARE THEY SAYING ABOUT US?

Thanks to Rex Hunt for this recent issue from Jim Burklo from the University of Southern California.

By Jim Burklo. 10 July 2021. Musings.

“Enter Joe Biden, one of the most religious presidents of the last century, along with Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. Biden attends Mass regularly and inhabits faith as Donald Trump merely brandished it (as if speaking to two Corinthians). Likewise, Vice President Kamala Harris is a
Baptist who says she has regularly attended church. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Catholic who says her faith inspires her to address health care and climate change. Elizabeth Warren taught Sunday school. Raphael Warnock, a new senator, is an ordained Baptist pastor. Other Democrats,
including Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg, speak the language of faith fluently as well, so a critical mass has formed of progressive Christians inspired by religion not to cut taxes for the rich but rather to slash poverty for children.” So wrote Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times recently.

Twenty-five years ago, hardly anyone used the term “progressive Christianity”. It used to be expressed as “liberal” or “mainline” Protestantism, terminology so fuzzy as to be nearly meaningless. Along came The Center for Progressive Christianity, now ProgressiveChristianity.org, and an organized movement was born. Churches around the globe
began to publicly identify themselves as progressive. A turning point came in 2004 when Jim
Wallis, a politically liberal evangelical, was described by Terry Gross as a “progressive Christian”
on her NPR show. Then Obama, a member of the United Church of Christ, was elected in 2008,
raising the profile of the term further. But evangelical and fundamentalist Christian leaders paid the movement scant attention. In 2003, Albert Mohler, the virtual Pope of the Southern Baptist Convention, poo-poohed it: “Christians should see The Center for Progressive Christianity, not as posing a threat to Christianity itself, but as exposing the basic hatred of biblical truth that drives those on the theological left. Evangelical Christians should be aware of this organization, not because we should fear it’s influence–it isn’t likely to have much.”

But times have changed, and so has the pitch of Mohler’s tune. Here’s what Mohler said in 2019, sounding the alarm about Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy for the presidency: “This is the great danger inherent in the candidacy of Pete Buttigieg… Buttigieg may quickly drop in the polls as fast as he ascended. That is the nature of American Presidential politics. What will not depart from the political scene, however, is the idea enshrined in Buttigieg’s campaign. The left in America desperately wants a leftist faith as its handmaiden. They want (and even demand) a new and “progressive” Christianity.”

Since then, the evangelical “apologetics” machine has gone into overdrive. And the rhetoric is
disturbing. Cissie Graham Lynch is Billy Graham’s granddaughter and Franklin Graham’s
daughter. Here’s what she had to say in May of 2021 about the dire threat of progressive
Christianity: “When the voice of Satan comes, that you are able to have that discernment—whether it’s the voice of God or the enemy talking.”

“But what is progressive Christianity? Where did it come from? Why is it growing in popularity?”
asks Alisa Childers, a prolific anti-progressive evangelical apologist. “There is a growing
movement in the church that seeks to re-interpret the Bible, re-assess historic doctrines, and re-define core tenets of the faith… Jesus not only predicted that Christians would be tempted by these false doctrines but pointed out that these teachings would be peddled by people who claim to be Christians. They would look like sheep, walk like sheep, and talk like sheep. But they would not be sheep—they would be predators looking to feast on the sheep.” Let’s pray that Alisa Childers is not issuing licenses to hunt what she considers to be “predators”.
Some evangelical detractors of progressive Christianity are doing a fine job of inadvertently
promoting our movement. In her diatribe against Kristof’s op-ed, the fundamentalist blogger
Natasha Crain writes: “Progressive Christianity is hard to define (and people would define it in a
lot of different ways), but in general, it’s the belief that our understanding of God is evolving as
society progresses, and the Bible simply reflects man’s understanding of God in the time it was
written. In other words, the Bible is a helpful tool—maybe even a beautiful one—but it’s not God’s final say for all time.” Nicely put! As is the description given by the president of the Reformed Theological Seminary, Michael Kruger: “In the modern day, there’s something very similar still happening, and we may not call it liberal Christianity today, although there’s a sense in which that’s true, but really the term now is progressive Christianity. It’s a version of Christianity that sells itself as a valid option for Christians that on the surface looks a lot like the Christian worldview and may seem in the eyes of many people to be more acceptable, more likable, a really more palatable version of the faith.”

Fundamentalist leaders used to describe progressive Christians as a shrinking heretical sect, if they noticed us at all. Now they condemn us as an existential threat to the survival of evangelicalism. Their rhetoric should inspire in us a healthy vigilance, as America drifts into deeper polarization and ominous threats of violence. Meanwhile, the louder they rail against us, the more folks – especially their own – are made aware of the existence of our progressive alternative to the still-dominant Christian paradigm. Are our progressive churches ready to welcome the flood of exiles pouring out of evangelical churches? We need to attract them by making changes in our styles of worship and congregational life that are necessary to seize this remarkable moment.

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Book Review: A Beautiful Sunset by Everald Compton

A novel about the final curtain call of life. Echo Books, 2021.

Everald Compton’s passionate advocacy for Voluntary Assisted Dying (voluntary euthanasia) shines in this respectfully compelling narrative based on the lives of four people who have the same doctor. In a carefully crafted and authentic set of vignettes the author manages to touch on and carefully handle many of the moral dilemmas confronting people who have learnt of their imminent death. He has chosen the vehicle of a novel to present the case for VAD. This works very well as the experiences of VAD are unique. By placing them in the context of a close portrayal of each person’s intimate thoughts and relationships, he manages to capture some of their incredible psychological journeys through highs and lows. It is a story of the triumph of life over death.

For those reading this book who might have been given notice of their pending death, it might help them to look death in the face and turn from fear and despair to calm anticipation. For the rest of us it will help us to re-appraise death in positive and real terms and that cannot be a bad thing.

Despite the inherent sadness of a termination of life, the stories are written in a way that raises our anticipation for the ‘event’ and how it will be handled. It is this culminating event that brings out the best and worst in the characters in the stories. Relationships evolve and change. Lessons are learnt and many surprises eventuate.

Along the way many tensions arise within families, partnerships, colleagues, and faith perspectives. There are also the dual conflicts of self-pity and goal setting as each person considers their situation. The significance of a trusted, thoughtful and compassionate doctor, families, good listeners and a willingness to share opinions and counter the negative aspects, all contribute to the empowerment of someone who has learnt that they are losing control of their destiny.

Compton has clearly drawn on situations he has witnessed as the stories are models of human existence themselves. He also brings into focus the different views that people hold about God or no God. He manages to address many of the issues raised by believers in eternity, atheists and agnostics. For the author, bad religion can make dying miserable and he uses the ultimate example of Jesus making a deliberate choice to go to his death to illustrate the integrity of VAD.

Within the narrative are clear concise and transparent descriptions of situations and people. The stories give balance to the many arguments for and against VAD and how in many ways we have failed the older generation in the provision of quality of life and concern for their dignity at the end. The emphasis is on the ‘voluntary’ nature of VAD and the importance of those who are mentally and rationally able to have the final say about their life.

It is very likely that we will at some time know of someone who is dying, and this very sensitive and critical subject may emerge for us. We may even consider VAD at some stage. I recommend a reading of this book as the stories in it are ultimately our own.

Dr Paul Inglis, Group Moderator UCFORUM, www.ucforum.unitingchurch.org.au

Chairperson, Progressive Christian Network Qld. https://www.facebook.com/pcnqld

Available from Amazon Australia – Kindle $14.49 Paperback 27.45

About Everald Compton

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Next PCNQ Seminar – Jesus did not die on the cross for our sins

From Beliefnet.com:

When you ask a Christian why Jesus died on the cross, they will almost automatically all answer “to pay for our sins.” This has become a deep rooted Christian belief that is widely taught in churches across the world. It has been accepted by many as Christian doctrine and been passed down from generation to generation. It’s a statement that has been accepted as fact, and one that is the foundation for many Christians.

Therefore it may come as a surprise then to say that the Bible doesn’t actually say this.

No matter how hard you search, you will not find a single passage in the entire Bible that says anything about Jesus paying the penalty for our sins. That’s because this is a “Christian belief” that the Bible doesn’t teach. Rather it was a theology created by humans.

The technical, theological name for this belief is “penal substitutionary atonement.” This theology was not part of Christian doctrine for the first 1,600 years after Jesus was crucified. The ideas was originated and developed by human beings who were having trouble understanding what the Bible teaches about how Jesus Christ saved humanity. They worked with what they could to better understand Jesus’ teachings, but missed the mark. This lead to a creation of a belief that wasn’t really based on the Bible.

There are some limited verses that speak about Jesus’ death in relation to our sins, but they only point to Jesus’ death somehow being related to our sins, but not that His death was a substitute or penalty because of our sins. His death did not scrub us clean of the sins we would commit in the future, or give us a “free for all” pass to do whatever we wanted. His death is not an excuse for our sins, which the “penal substitutionary atonement” alludes to.

To read some more go to: Beliefnet

Assuming there is no ‘lockdown’ the Progressive Christian Network (QLD) will gather at Merthyr Uniting Church, New Farm, Brisbane next Wednesday, 25th August 2021. 10am Hospitality and Fellowship. 10.30am Seminar starts. If you intend to come and would like to receive some background reading notes for this discussion please contact Paul. 

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That contentious Census question

What is the person’s religion?   

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the purpose of the Religion question in the Census? I have yet to hear a good justification but am as always open to being educated. It confuses denomination with religion; it uses outdated nomenclature, it doesn’t define ‘religion’ adequately, and it relies on categories that are no-longer the significant players. What purpose does it serve? Who needs to know and why would anyone base decisions on ‘nominals’ over ‘practitioners’? Time to review the need for the question and if not needed, drop it! Since it is optional it will never give a true indication anyway.

Paul Inglis

Sydney Morning Herald  by  Caitlin Fitzsimmons

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Recommended reading

Starting All Over Again? Yes or No? by George Stuart

Ken Williamson, convenor of the Caloundra Explorers makes this observation:

“At my visit to the Merthyr Road PCN group in May, Rodney Eivers recommended George Stuart’s book Starting all over again? Yes or no? So I ordered a copy and read it. And wow, it is one of the most honest accounts I have read of the ‘progressive Christianity’ journey. He looks very carefully at the many beliefs the church has taught him throughout his life and undergoes a process of ‘faithful questioning’. From his position as a panentheist there are some things he has to reject and some things he feels he can hang on to. George is the author of Singing a new song, and there are many of his hymns throughout the book. For me the most dramatic thing in the book was his rewriting of the ending of the parable of the Prodigal Son (p 83-85).

The book is available electronically on George Stuart’s website and you are welcome to copy any of the book for discussion in study groups. Rodney Eivers has a few copies of the book for sale. I thoroughly recommend it—fantastic for discussion.”

Ken Williamson

See also our review of George Stuart’s paper Truth Telling About the Bible .

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Mining John’s Gospel: Wisdom for our times?

invites you to explore

Mining John’s Gospel: wisdom for our times?

with

Professor Mary Coloe

Sunday August 22

4.00pm – 5.00pm (via zoom)

Mary is an Australian religious sister of the Presentation Order.  She is a  New Testament biblical scholar who specialises in the Gospel of John and is  currently a Professor at Yarra Theological Union – University of Divinity.

Mary has published a number of books and her presentation will be based on her recently published book, WISDOM COMMENTARY : John 1- 10.

 

Online access to PCNV meeting is via Zoom link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88686663414?pwd=OHBkYjNNWHdaT1dyTHJZWFN1dEk5dz09
There is no charge for this meeting.

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Progressive Christian Poetry and Performance

At last Wednesday’s stimulating seminar led by Tim O’Dwyer, Tim made reference to David Keighley. Rev Keighley is a retired Anglican priest in the United Kingdom who has turned to Progressive Christianity for inspiration in his writings.

His interest in progressive Christianity started with correspondence with Don Cupitt at Cambridge and studying under the American progressive Bishop John Shelby Spong, who published David’s poem “Leaving Home” in his global newsletter in 2007. David’s anthology of progressive Christian poems for rebellious Christians, Poems,Piety and Psyche”was published in October 2020 by Wipf & Stock (USA).

Poems, Piety & Psyche” is also the name of his one-man show, based on his life as poet, rebellious priest and psychotherapist. The evening is a mix of progressive Christian poems exploring the state of the church and contemporary theology, anecdotes about 40 years of being a rural parson and insights into the human condition from the viewpoint of a counselling psychotherapist.

The show “Poems, Piety & Psyche” presents a fusion of the changes in church life and church people he has expe