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The Climate Crisis – An Opportunity for Which the Church was Born

by Dr Richard Smith

Sermon – All Saints Floreat UC, Perth, Sunday, 13th September 2020

Old Testament Reading
Ecclesiastes – Epilogue
(Trans. Lloyd Geering),
New Testament Reading

Matthew 19:16-24 Rich Young Ruler

The Moral Challenges of Climate Change

In 2007 the Prime Minister declared Climate Change to be ‘The Greatest Moral Challenge of our Generation’. At the time, I was working in Indonesia on the application of Satellites from Space to detect the illegal clearing of rainforests for our much-loved Palm Oil. It was part of an Australian plan to buy Carbon Credits under the Kyoto protocol to offset our nations emissions. We were part of a United Nation program called REDD for Reduction in Emissions by Deforestation and Degradation for which we developed the satellite technology. The Indonesians balked at its implementation and the REDD initiative collapsed into a seeming ‘Murder Mystery’. What had collapsed were the religious values of honesty and integrity – the vital social pillar of sustainability.
Five years ago, Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si – ‘On Care for our Common Home’,
called on all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action” to address the
Climate Crisis. In 2017, the national Synod of the United Church of Christ in America (of the Congregational tradition) passed a motion naming the climate crisis as “an opportunity for which the church was born”. Our WA Synod employed environmentalist, Jessica Morthorpe to lead our young people into this brave new era with her five-leaf program of sustainability.

These were encouraging signs.

Our Jewish scriptures tell us of the moral crises faced by the Hebrew people; of escaping slavery in Egypt, building a United Kingdom under King David and rebuilding their nation after the Babylonian conquest and exile. These three historical streams, evolved into the great Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Separate, was the Wisdom stream of writings, recording not history, but human experience and knowledge from which we are still gaining insights into the human predicament. It is in this stream scholars place the authentic parables and sayings of Jesus.
From this Wisdom stream, Science from the Latin scientia to Know, would emerge, leading to the discovery of the Earth as a unique self-creating entity, with life developing by Evolution through processes of chance and human purpose. This new way of seeing Earth, is called Nature (from the Latin – natura for birth). As I celebrate entering my 78th year, I reflect on my own origins, resulting from the romance of my parents and the act of good luck of being conceived in the middle of WW2.

The first lesson we learn from our Scriptures is the importance of Sustainability. In Leviticus 25:23 The Lord reminded the Hebrews ‘… the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. For Aboriginal people: ‘The Land owns us, and not we the Land’, reflecting their sacred duty to care for the land and hand it back in the same condition in which it had been given.

A year ago, we were reminded of this truth of sustainability when some 6 million young
people worldwide protested at the inter-generational inequity of global warming. These
protestors were our grandchildren’s generation who will see the end of the 21st Century and the full fury of climate change, unless we act. Jesus reminds us that ‘the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these’ (Mark 10:13-16).

The second lesson we learn is from Ecclesiastes to ‘Stand in awe of Nature and do what it requires of you. For everything we do Nature will bring to judgement …whether it be good or evil’. Nature’s Laws exist to maintain the integrity of life on Earth and show no mercy – for example if we defy Nature’s law of gravity, we will come off the worse for wear. If Nature’s laws are disobeyed, we are warned we will suffer the consequences for 7×7 generations (Gen 4:13-15, 23). But, Nature as Jesus reassured his disciples also offers us unlimited generosity and mercy through the gift of life, means of sustaining it, and enriching it with unlimited beauty and love (eg. Matt. 6: 25-34). Such Wisdom of seeing God in Nature resulted in Dutchman Baruch Spinoza in the17th Century, being banished from the Jewish Community and declared a Heretic. Albert Einstein who believed in Spinoza’s God, recognised the mutual importance of Science and Religion saying: ‘Science without Religion is Lame and Religion without Science is blind’. He also said ‘God is a Mystery, but a Mystery that can be understood’.

A third lesson we learn from scripture is the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, fundamental to both Judaism and Christianity (Exodus 20:2–17 and Deut. 5:6–17) and the ethical cradle of Western Civilisation. On coming to Jesus, The Rich Young Ruler understood these commandments in their prescriptive form, but Jesus told him the principles they embodied, required him to share his wealth with the poor (Matt. 7:12). Climate Change is a similar dilemma. It is caused by the lifestyle of the Rich like us, without realising that the climate impact of our emissions falls disproportionally on the Poor on the other side of the world. Therefore, most of us probably have no sense of having a moral obligation to reduce our emissions.

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Fingerposts to Greatness

A Gift of Encouragement – a work of individual possibility.

by Max Dodd

A sample of this work. If you would like to read the whole publication, send an email to Max to receive a free copy…..maxdodd23@gmail.com

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT….as we begin
We are all masterpieces of the very highest order. We are all
geniuses and heroes. We are all the possessors of qualities of
brilliance. We are told we can be anything, do anything and
have anything. All this is utterly true and yet we fail daily to
meet any of these standards. Our lives are limited and shallow
and our experience bleak and restricted.
What to do?

Let me ask you a further question. Imagine that tomorrow is
your birthday and that it is a neat 100 years since you first
appeared as a screaming bundle of urine and faeces. No one
can answer the question “Did you lead a totally complete life?”
honestly and say “I did.” The honest answer that should be
given is “I did not do everything but I have had a very rich
varied and diverse life of great challenge and much
accomplishment and I pass beyond satisfied that to the extent
possible I have made the most of my time.” One of the
definitions of “success” is that the individual met God’s inner
compass. If you could say that, you can say probably as much
as you can.

A Gift of Encouragement is an operation here to assist you on
the very personal journey of living that may make possible
your providing the answer set out in the last paragraph. It is
concerned only with you as an individual. It is not interested
in social solutions or business solutions or religious solutions. I
simply want you to be able to say that you made the most of
your time and that the world probably gained something by
your being here.

This is a work of individual possibility. It is interested only in
what individuals can do. It is recognised that human beings
are social animals and that there is an underlying cosmic
architecture of unity that is propounded so effectively by the
Eastern spiritualities. This is not however a work seeking
religious conversion or the adoption of an arcane system on
which to build one’s life. It is interested in the dignity and
worth and freedom of the individual and in that individual’s
enormous, if often almost totally undiscovered, genius and
brilliance. The only disappointment in life is that you did not
try – or try hard enough. This is a work of guidance on action.
There are people who are motivators who can offer individuals
recognition of their power to find for themselves careers and all
that falderal of the world of business and commerce. There are
people who will assist as life coaches whose function will be to
ensure that careers are more fully developed than might
otherwise be the case. There are people who can offer support
when the demands of life and the complexities of the workaday
world become too much. Whole professions exist in aid of our
growth and yet the general simple principle of growth and
possibility is rarely offered as one united and simple approach.
This work is intended to do just that. By doing so, it is offering
the highest view of any individual to be and to do and to have
– and perhaps, most importantly, to become.

A Gift of Encouragement is a thoroughgoing approach to the
total development of the total being, physical, intellectual,
emotional and, of course, and most importantly, spiritual. It is
interested in your total journey to wholeness and full
functioning. It is concerned to ensure that you recognise that
the journey to wholeness is of you alone and that nothing really
can be done for you. I can discuss with you as an impartial
(and if you wish, highly partial) adviser all manner of the
questions of your life but the fundamental will always be that
you must lead your own life and that you must take a total
responsibility for it in all its dimensions. You are you and that is
a fact to be celebrated.

What is set out are many brief commentaries on the journey to
wholeness which are based on a worldwide contact with
people in all manner of places and activities. The questions
that are dealt with are those that have been met in practice and
relate to the concerns that are most commonly thrust at us. The
guidance is therefore very broad and not remotely concerned
with detail. The detail of your life is of you and for you and not
for anyone else. That comes not from our lack of interest or
concern but our determination to ensure that the advice we
give can be given a suitable application to the dilemmas and
challenges of life in such a way as will give maximum benefit
to that most important of all individuals, you.

Read on and be blessed and enjoy the Adventure.

Request a free copy from Max Dodd

oOo

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Hope More Abundantly

Maxwell Dodd has kindly gifted his writings to us and this is a sample – where Christianity meets Buddhism.

I felt as a youth as long ago as the 1950s that what I was hearing on Sunday night in a fashionable Anglican church on the North Shore of Sydney was less than sensible.   I had little doubt that the God of the service was being very inadequately presented though I kept my questions to myself.    In 1989 after a very successful career in Sydney in the law where I was a litigation solicitor and the senior partner of a three office city and suburban practice with surprising gifts as a “rainmaker,” I went to the (Presbyterian) San Francisco Theological Seminary and met my own guide and encourager the Revd. Professor Warren Lee (with whom I exchange even now emails almost daily).   Warren’s advice was not to seek an Anglican ordination – he saw the institution to be far too conservative for one who had been so accustomed to high levels of accomplishment – but to wander as a “bodhisattva” – a term I understood with my Buddhist enquiries – and bring “hope” to a wider world.

Hope More Abundantly is a series of essays written over the last 15
months in Germany and Scotland. It reflects my concern that the
triumphs of Evangelical Christianity have done great harm to the
Church and to its message. I am sure that the widely trumpeted
interest in the apparent certainties of “Bible believing” creedal
positions is finally the road to a perdition of irrelevance.
As Paul observes in the final verse to the 12th chapter of his first
Epistle to the Christians in Corinth, there is a better way – agape –
“love” or “charity” or “compassion” or even “fellow-feeling” – in
short, the equal other. Difficult, yes, and calling for courage, yes,
but it is the Way – and all spiritual traditions agree on it. The Other.
Read on, and give and share and surrender yourself to the other –
and be deeply blessed.
Maxwell Dodd
St. Goar (Rh), Germany
Thursday 12 September 2013

A word to begin with….
We are blessed with endless potential to lead full and constructive
lives. So few of us do. It is the duty of the Christian to lead a life
worthy of his call; again, he or she fails signally to do so. Pursuing
that vision is the source of this work.
A few weeks short of my 70th birthday, I feel constrained to offer
some thoughts to the man or the woman in the pew of any age on
the wisdom that has led them to be sitting there.
I do not see Jesus in the conventional Evangelical Anglican way. I
am a child indeed of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in far off
Australia, a diocese well-known in the Anglican Communion for
the rigorousness of its Evangelical opinions. I have to confess that
even as an early teenager with a vision of what I shall be calling in
this little work “the Eternal,” I was singularly uncomfortable with
what was being offered. Energetic presentations based on man’s
“sin” and his need of “salvation” and the substitutionary death of
Jesus left me quite cold. I was sure that we were of an accessible
Eternal of unimaginable immensity (in all necessary departments)
to which we were (perhaps unexpectedly) personally important but
that we had to seek forgiveness of these mysterious things called
“sins” astonished me. I saw the Eternal at night in the scope of
what lay above my head in those remarkable pin-points of light
that we called “the Universe” and in the utter acceptance that I
knew from an adored smooth-haired fox terrier bitch of impeccable
pedigree who shared so much of my life and who listened so
patiently to all my questions. She still wagged her tail and wanted
to share my bed and have me throw a tennis ball. For that vision of
simplicity in the order of the Creation I am deeply grateful. The
journey of the years since has been one of a long and at times
difficult confirmation of something of astonishing beauty and
clarity.
My awakening began in the southern winter of 1961 when I met the
remarkable Wednesday mid-week ministry of St. Stephen’s
Presbyterian Church in Macquarie Street in Sydney. The Revd.
Gordon Powell (and a string of major international clergy from
both the United Kingdom and the United States – I recall hearing
the famed Norman Vincent Peale) preached to an overflowing
congregation of those working in the local surrounding banking
and professional area of all that was positive and constructive. It
was a Christianity that sent us (nearly 2,000 people we were told)
back to the workplace revived and strengthened by the support of
an involved God in the minutiae of committed daily commercial life.
For nearly four years Wednesday by Wednesday I experienced a
view of Jesus which inspired the searcher to seek growth and
challenge with the utmost vigour. My eyes had been opened.
By 1963, I was 21 and nearly through the professional course of the
law conducted under the Legal Practitioners Act, 1898, (as
amended) of the State of New South Wales in the Commonwealth
of Australia. I was a capable examinee more than a good student
and I was to finish the course and be admitted as a solicitor at 22 –
even then very early, now impossible. I knew little of the law but I
had convinced one or two barristers of my good memory of
essential material and of my capacity for regurgitation. Such was to
be my sole formal tertiary education.
In 1963, too, I was becoming aware from what I was reading in The
Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney’s only broadsheet newspaper itself
owned by a prominent Anglican family) of the work of an Anglican
bishop in England, one John A.T. Robinson, who had written a
highly controversial book called Honest to God. When later in that
year I should have been studying for the then forthcoming Torts
and Crimes examinations of the Board in October, I was retiring to
my bedroom (accompanied by my fellow student) and instead of
reading of negligence or homicide or larceny and the procedures of
enquiry and enforcement, I was wrestling with the utterly new and
unexpected notions of “the Ground of our Being” and “the Beyond
in our Midst,” terms which were remarkable and slightly
frightening to me. I found the work difficult – I had no familiarity
with theological discourse – and the language at times virtually
impenetrable. I did however realise that there was a revolution
taking place abroad in the way highly intelligent people were
daring to look at the questions of God and meaning and especially
how the message of God and Jesus ought to find its way to the
consciousness of the churchman or churchwoman. I found this so
consoling and struggled on in the assurance that the light would
come. It did – my explorations were themselves the wisdom of the
Eternal.

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Theo-poetics and the magic of the ordinary

‘BLESSED BE THE UNDONE:
Theo-poetics and the magic of the ordinary’
with

Rev GLYNN CARDY

Sunday September 27 @ 3:00pm – 4:15pm


JOIN PCNV ZOOM MEETING by clicking on the link below just before 3:00pm

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89881887828?pwd=V2hyWkQ1SjF2QXVOOVBxSWNNUEZhZz09

Meeting ID: 898 8188 7828
Passcode: 021679

Rev Glynn Cardy is a noted poet whose work contains strong threads of spirituality and commentary on the human condition. He is well known for his provocative billboards, making statements on social justice issues, which he displays outside his churches.

Glynn will invite us to reflect on some of his poetry, which will be sent to all PCNV members and friends a week before the event. 

Glynn says, ‘I love the sea, the sand and the surf.  It has sculpted my soul.  I like talking to groups of children because their responses are never predictable or boring.  Their capacity for imagination has not been checked. They are therefore capable of seeing the expanse of god without being able to give it a name.  I want to tell folks that they’re special, exhort them to be kind and generous, and encourage them to enjoy the great variety of people in this world.  If we get those things right everything else tends to follow.’

Glynn is a minister of a progressive Presbyterian congregation (St Luke’s) in Auckland, New Zealand.  For some 30 years he was an Anglican vicar, serving in a variety of Auckland parishes, the last being St Matthews-in-the-City.  So denominationally he’s bi-religious.  Theologically though he’s on the edge of both denominations.

Glynn has a strong commitment to social justice, and the parishes he has served in have been at the forefront of denominational change in regard to indigenous land rights, LGBTI ordination and marriage, and in seeking to address poverty.

Glynn is married to Stephanie (a paediatrician), and they have four adult children and two cats.


 There will be Q & A after the presentation.
Feel free to share this event with interested friends.
This meeting is at no cost.
Further information email: info@pcnvictoria.org.au

oOo

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A Spiritual Science Interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas

Raul Valverde

Concordia University, Canada

Scientific GOD Journal | July 2020 | Volume 10| Issue 4 | pp. 277-285
Valverde, R., A Spiritual Science Interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas


Abstract


Spiritual science tries to merge science and religion. The humankind is always evolving and what was called before religion becomes science in modern times. The Gospel of Thomas, written in the second century teaches that salvation is through the words of Jesus and not through his death and resurrection which are never mentioned. The gospel does not contain cross, suffering, healing, miracle stories or exorcisms. The gospel teaches that salvation comes from the perfection of the individual. The article gives an interpretation to the Gospel of Thomas from the Spiritual Science perspective that empowers the individual as capable of understanding his true nature and relationship with the creation. The gospel reconciliates Christianity with Buddhism as
it teaches that reaching enlightenment is the only way to escape the material world.

To read this article go to: Spiritual Science where a full text PDF can be downloaded.

The purpose and mission of Scientific GOD Journal (“SGJ”, ISSN: 2153-831X) are to conduct scientific inquiries on the nature and origins of life, mind, physical laws and mathematics and their possible connections to a scientifically approachable transcendental ground of existence – we call “Scientific GOD.” By “scientific inquiries”, we mean building concrete and testable models and/or hypotheses connected to hard sciences (e.g., physics, neuroscience, biochemistry and physiology) and doing the experimental testing. We believe that in this golden age of Science the GOD in whom we trust should be spiritual as well as scientific. Indeed, since we are all made out of the same subatomic, atomic and genetic alphabets, the scientific GOD each of us seeks should be one and the same whatever our race, religion and other differences. There is also a Scientific GOD Forum available.

oOo

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THIS IS THE TIME TO BE SLOW (POEM)

Source: Progressive Christianity Aotearoa

John O’Donohue’s poem


This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.

© John O’Donohue


Excerpt from his books, To Bless the Space Between Us (US), Benedictus (Europe)
Ordering Info: https://johnodonohue.com/store
Co. Clare, Ireland

From johnodonohue.com
“John’s legacy directs our search for intimacy to crucial thresholds: tradition and modernity, past and future, life and death, the visible and the invisible world. At the heart of John’s awakened beliefs was the premise that ancient wisdom could offer desperately needed nourishment for the spiritual hunger experienced in our modern world. John is fondly remembered by an international readership as one who could blend critical analytic thought with imaginative evocation, enabling people to release themselves from the false shelter of the familiar and repetitive to become agents of transformation and change.”

oOo

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On Violence by Bernard Brandon Scott

Brandon Scott is the author and editor of many books, including The Real Paul: Recovering His Radical Challenge and The Trouble with Resurrection. A charter member of the Jesus Seminar, he is chair of Westar’s newly established Christianity Seminar. He served as chair of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as a member of several SBL Seminars including the Parable Seminar and Historical Jesus Seminar. He holds an A.B. from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, an M.A. from Miami University, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.

Violence is violence, but we are always trying to parse it some other way. We try to divide it into good violence and bad violence. Into good wars and bad wars. Medieval theologians even developed the notion of a just war versus an unjust war. The parsing has always been difficult because we want to see the violence we use as good and the violence of the other side as bad. The winners inevitably see their violence as good, even justified, and actually very heroic. That’s why statues are set up to honor conquering war heroes. The heroic statue makes the violence used good, legitimate, even necessary.

This parsing of violence is intriguing. Theoretically we all agree that violence is bad. But what about self-defense? Well, of course, one can defend oneself when one is being attacked. But how much? How much violence is a proportionable response? Can you shoot to kill the unarmed burglar who invades your house? Once you start splitting hairs, it will not be long until you end up counting angels on the head of pin. Where to stop, where is the line? This is always a much more difficult problem than it first appears.

One way to solve this problem is to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate violence. The government exercises legitimate violence; violence by non-government entities is a crime. When a government kills, the act is presumed to be legitimate. To challenge that legitimacy, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim of illegitimacy. We have seen in many instances how difficult it is to make that case. When a nation goes to war, even under the slimmest of pretenses, for example, the War in Iraq, the majority goes along with the leader. We have seen over and over how difficult it is for a jury to convict a policeman of charges of unnecessary force during an arrest.

When a civilian kills someone, it’s murder and then we sort out the degree, from self-defense to first degree murder. While the accused is presumed innocent from a legal point of view, juries often have a hard time making this assumption. The old canard that where there’s smoke, there’s fire often wins the day. Interestingly Roman law made a presumption of innocence. In the middle ages, in the West guilt was presumed.

Most people and all governments are comfortable with this division and for the most part do not question it. Except when we see a policeman murder a black man on video. Or when peaceful protesters are attacked or provoked by the policing force. Then the whole parsing of violence gets called into question and becomes very controversial.

For the rest of this article go to: Violence

The Westar Institute is the home of the Jesus Seminar which is dedicated to:

  • communicating cutting-edge scholarship on the history and evolution of the Christian tradition to the public
  • raising the level of public discourse about questions that matter in society and culture.

oOo

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A Question to the NCLS

Recently Rodney Eivers wrote to the National Church Life Survey people questioning the combining of “Mystical” and “Supernatural” as one category in their research:

Dear NCLS Research

Thank you for your Research News  with its update on various matters including the planning for the survey in 2021.

In reading your Research News, I find I am disturbed that you should combine Mystical with Supernatural as one category. I would see them as being quite separate phenomena. Mystical may apply as far as I am aware to a number of mental states and expressions of consciousness.  This can have a powerful effect on the human psyche but still remains something rational and developed during the evolutionary process. Supernatural, however, I presume, means occurrences beyond the laws of nature as we know them. Behaving in accord with supernatural  suppositions would be regarded by thinking people, I imagine, especially in this 21st century, as being irrational. I am aware of many writers who would, while classing themselves as mystics, not consider they were operating irrationally.

I write this with deep concern about the implication from your surveys that religion and Christianity,  in particular,  comprises the supernatural belief as well as the mystical,  to be valid.                                                                                                                                                                    Rodney Eivers –  UC Forum  http://www.ucforum.unitingchurch.org.au/

He received the following courteous response:

Dear Rodney,

Thank you for taking the time to express your views with us.  

We have used this particular form of wording for many years as it has been used in other international surveys.   This has given us benchmarks of changes over time.  We will reflect on whether there are other options that can achieve this goal of being able to compare with other groups. 

You may also be interested in our more detailed academic work on mysticism among church attenders.  UK colleagues used data from church attenders to reflect on the links between mystical experiences and emotional wellbeing.  In short, the study found no relationship between having mystical experiences and negative wellbeing.

Francis, L. Powell, R and Village, A. (2020). Mystical experience and emotional wellbeing: A study among Australian church leaders. Journal of Beliefs and Values.

Mystical experience and emotional well being

Kind regards,

Amelia Vaeafisi, Administrative Assistant, NCLS Research

oOo

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Faith and Science

Ps Karen Sloan from Wembley Downs Uniting Church, Perth has kindly shared her recent presentations on Science and Faith. There are four messages in this series.

  1. How the God Story spoke to a Scientist
  2. How the Science Story can speak to People of Faith
  3. What about Jesus? What about Us?
  4. What the Future Holds

“God is a mystery, Jesus calls us to this mystery, science documents that mystery. A mystery we may never fully understand or explain.  But one we feel deeply is true.”

Karen Sloan

About Wembley Downs UC

This is a place
– where you can meet and worship with people of all ages and backgrounds as well as enjoy a range of activities;

– which helps give adults and children an appreciation of the dimensions of life and the values by which to live;

– which has a contemporary understanding of the Christian faith and a non-literal understanding of scriptures;

– which provides a caring and supportive community which tries to take seriously that we are all loved by God and directed by Jesus to love one another.

Wembley Downs Uniting Church – A place for radical Worship and a place for Radicals to Worship

oOo

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Book Review: A Long Time to Wait!

Ascension – Heaven On A Cloud

By Rev Dr Walter Stratford

I found this explanation of The Way of the historical Jesus as it contrasts with the evolved orthodoxy of the Church to be one of the best conversations I have found on the topic. Stratford brings the notion of Ascension into focus and places the literal and often confused thinking around it under scrutiny. The result is both interesting and remarkably informative.

“I think a Jesus way may be claimed in all actions that open ways to life, or enable healing, or challenge one to reconsider attitudes. It becomes visible amid compassion and justice. It becomes visible when people find safety in their habitat and live without fear. It becomes visible as one imagines a Jesus who continues to touch the lives of all – a feeling of spirit presence.

“The church’s focus on a mythic future has failed to catch up with the Jesus who continues in the world touching with compassion those who are hurt.” p41.

The focus on salvation religiosity has clearly failed humanity. It is not the way of Jesus.

There is a particularly interesting analysis of the evolution of the term/concept ‘Son of God’. The part played by the Roman Empire in the shaping of the Church is important to this development. A religion of the State was essential to the flourishing of the empire. The Emperors has become ‘gods’ because they shaped the prosperity, peace and security for their followers. Becoming deified was a natural outcome of empire building. With the support of the scriptures (OT), in particular the Psalmist and the David dynasty as a model it was not a big step to view God as father of the emperor. The widespread acceptance of God as father of the Jews contributed to the church’s adoption of the notion also and the evolution of ‘son of God’ to ‘Son of God’ eventually took precedence in accepted doctrine.

The gradual development of ‘orthodoxy’ shaping the Church and the establishment of the basis for the beliefs set out in the faith is essential reading for those wondering how we got to the current church informed way of Jesus. This book is full of standout analyses of how the Christ of faith “had become supreme for the church’s life with the Jesus of history receding into the background”. So the religion of the Emperor Constantine with all its governance, structure and appearance was ratified by the Church and still stands today across denominations very much in tune with the thinking of the 4th Century view of the will of God.

Three elements – claims of authority of the bishops, the authority of the OT and the memories of those who recalled the apostolic times now take precedence in shaping the Church.

I agree with the author when he says:

I wonder what might happen in the world if the words of Jesus the Sage were given serious attention, and what it would mean if the church began to live and teach a reality named as the reign of God. The reality might come to life in the present. Life on earth would not be a shadow of better things to come, but a recognition among humankind that the future is present now. p71.

Instead of waiting for Jesus to return on a cloud, responsible engagement with the present can call into action our own gifts directed to implementing the way of Jesus for all of humankind and the planet.

Paul Inglis 24th August 2020.

Currently the cheapest way to get a copy is directly from Wally Stratford. However Kindle copy can be purchased from Amazon.com

The Author: Rev Dr Walter Stratford is a retired Uniting Church Minister who served in such diverse places as the New Hebrides, Traralgon, Townsville and Dandenong. He also spent time as secretary to the Queensland Ecumenical Council, and as a chaplain at the Wesley Hospital, Brisbane. During his ministry Walter found time for study and completed a number of degrees, including a PhD in 2012. He is married with four adult children, a number of grand children and great-grandchildren. Wally has been a discussion leader for the PCNQ in Brisbane and hopefully will do that again when restrictions on gatherings are lifted.

oOo

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Book Review: Eagle and Lamb

The story of the only Australian captured by Japanese forces in Australia. A World War Two tragedy.

by Rev Dr Noel Kentish

Have just finished reading this amazing book written by my ‘colleague and friend’ Noel Kentish about his father Rev Len Kentish,  the senior Methodist Missionary in the Northern Territory and in charge of the local coastwatchers during the Second World War. It is a great read from many angles – the significance of this piece of history, the passion and love demonstrated by the writer for his parents, the incredible research that has found information across cultures and boundaries, the short but incredibly influential life of a man who distinguished himself through a self-sacrificing commitment to taking God’s love into our northern indigenous communities and his execution at the hands of a desperate enemy. Noel is a writer who leaves the reader gasping and as the story unfolds he weaves the events of his own fascinating childhood into the narrative.

Len Kentish

At noon on 22 January 1943, the Patricia Cam was attacked while sailing between Elcho Island and Marchinbar. A Japanese floatplane cut its engine and dove out of the sun releasing one of its bombs no more than 100 feet above Patricia Cam. The plane returned several times, dropping a second bomb and attempting to machine-gun the survivors in the water. It then appeared to fly off, only to return shortly after and land on the water. One of the airmen, brandishing a pistol, climbed down onto one of the aircraft’s floats, and Leonard was hauled from the water and taken to the Japanese base at Dobo Island. In all, four sailors and three Indigenous men died as a result of the sinking of Patricia Cam. The survivors made it to Guluwuru Island, but two men – Stoker Percy Cameron and Milirrma Marika – died of their injuries before the group could be rescued and repatriated. Leonard became a prisoner of war, the only Australian to be captured by Japanese forces in Australia.

This book can be purchased at the best price directly from the author at: Noel Kentish

The author:

Noel Jackson Kentish was born in Darwin to Leonard and Violet Kentish on November 10, 1935. When his father was appointed District Chairman in 1939 Noel moved with the family to Goulburn Island, living at Warruwi with an Aboriginal clan. Noel’s father became a coastwatcher, in regular contact with HMAS Coonawarra, the Royal Australian Navy’s long-range transmitter.

“I will never forget the sense of sad relief my mother experienced on knowing that my father’s remains had been recovered at Dobo. Even his work as a coastwatcher was a combined effort of his Maung Aboriginal lookouts and his dedicated work on the AWA radio transceiver that occupied a corner of his study area at Warruwi”.

Studied English literature at The University of Queensland

Studied Comparative literature at Columbia University in the City of New York

Former Chaplain at Somerville House

Former Lecturer at Edith Cowan University

Former Principal at St Columba College, University of Western Australia.

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Book Review: Welcome to Country

An introduction to our First peoples for young Australians.

Intended for highschool students, I found this book a great response to the need to provide my generation (I am 75) with information they didn’t get or got wrongly at school.

Marcia includes a very useful glossary of terms that apply to Australian Indigenous people, events, laws and practices with more available online. The book is well referenced and offers useful resources, a comprehensive index and an appendix of maps and colour illustrations.

There is an excellent coverage of prehistory, ATSI cultures and colonial history, language, kinship, indigenous knowledge, art and story telling.

Marcia provides a full explanation of ‘Native Title’ and ‘The Stolen Generation’. She appeals for First Australians to be given their rightful place in the nation and greater cultural awareness by everyone else.

She makes some predictions and assessments about the future for Indigenous Australians and leaves in no doubt her ability to make authentic judgments about the responsibility of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples to work together to achieve a better standard of living for our First peoples.

Highly recommended reading and as a family reference book in all homes. Available at good bookstores. My copy was $29.99.

The Author:

Professor Marcia Langton AM is one of Australia’s most import indigenous resource people. Her voice for Indigenous Australia is backed by wonderful credentials. She is a graduate of Anthropology at ANU. She has worked with the Central Land Council, the Cape York Land Council and the 1989 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Dr Langton holds the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne since February 2000.

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The Disorder of Dismantling Racism

Richard Rohr has this week delved into the work of Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (Crown Publishing: 2018), 23, 117–118. to comment on something that is a problem evident all over the world.

The Disorder of Dismantling Racism
Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The universal pattern of transformation I’m writing about these three weeks is not limited to religious or spiritual growth. Nor is it only individuals that are invited to make the journey. Whole churches and even cultures experience times of disorder and disruption. In the United States, many of us are discovering that a large number of things we believed to be true—about our nation and ourselves—are not entirely true. I believe this is a necessary step that we must take for the sake of healing and justice in our nation and our world—no matter how “disordering” and even disorienting it may be. Perhaps I can only say this because I believe so completely in the possibility of Reorder! Author Austin Channing Brown, who teaches on issues of racial justice, was raised in a devoutly Christian home and has worked in and with churches for most of her professional life. I hope you can read her words with the openness they deserve.

I learned about whiteness up close. In its classrooms and hallways, in its offices and sanctuaries. At the same time, I was also learning about Blackness, about myself and about my faith. My story is not about condemning white people but about rejecting the assumption—sometimes spoken, sometimes not—that white is right: closer to God, holy, chosen, the epitome of being. . . .

Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It’s not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation?

It’s haunting. But it’s also holy.

And when we talk about race today, with all the pain packed into that conversation, the Holy Spirit remains in the room. This doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t painful, aren’t personal, aren’t charged with emotion. But it does mean we can survive. We can survive honest discussions about slavery, about convict leasing, about stolen land, deportation, discrimination, and exclusion. We can identify the harmful politics of gerrymandering, voter suppression, criminal justice laws, and policies that disproportionately affect people of color negatively. And we can expose the actions of white institutions—the history of segregation and white flight, the real impact of all-white leadership, the racial disparity in wages, and opportunities for advancement. We can lament and mourn. We can be livid and enraged. We can be honest. We can tell the truth. We can trust that the Holy Spirit is here. We must.

For only by being truthful about how we got here can we begin to imagine another way.

Fr Richard Rohr and the Centre for Action and Contemplation have more than a quarter of a million followers. For more of his progressive thinking go to Richard Rohr.

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Worshipping an all powerful God

What does it mean to worship an all-powerful God?

These times call into question the nature and morality of power.

by Debie Thomas, The Christian Century magazine

Every Sunday, I pray the Lord’s Prayer and try to mean it. Lately, though, I’ve been pausing over the word power. What does it mean to celebrate power as a divine attribute?

The hymns I sang so eagerly as a young adult offered up a superhero God who holds unshakable sway over people, places, and events. Many of the miracle stories in the Bible literalize this muscled version of power: a God who curses snakes, parts the sea, rains down bread, slaughters firstborns.

As a child, I watched the adults in my life engage in all sorts of theological gymnastics to square this brand of omnipotence with God’s other most abiding and essential trait: goodness. “God allows it” is the explanation I heard most often: nothing happens without God’s permission. God is perfectly capable of conquering evil and suffering but exercises restraint to accomplish a higher purpose.

[Debie Thomas

Debie Thomas is director of children’s and family ministries at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, California. She blogs at Journey with Jesus.See All Articles

Jul 29, 2020 issue]

This higher purpose was most often a mystery, though we were free to speculate: maybe God allowed the hurricane in order to demonstrate divine power over nature. Maybe God allowed the neck injury in order to build character. Maybe God allowed the bomb to detonate in order to punish sin.

Sometimes it takes years to recognize faulty theology and even longer to admit that it does concrete harm in the world. Sometimes it takes a global pandemic, or a mass outcry against systemic racial injustice, or a planet on the brink of catastrophe. This is a complicated moment in our cultural history, one that calls the very nature and morality of power into question. We in the church are not exempt from this reckoning. If anything, we should be leading the charge. 

In so many arenas of our common life, we are witnessing egregious abuses of power. They deny dignity to the poor and kill on the basis of skin color. They use sex to control others; they withhold medical care from people who need it. They use religion to excuse or perpetuate evil.

For the full article go to: Worshipping an all powerful God

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Kairos for Creation

Kairos for Creation – Confessing Hope for the Earth
The Wuppertal Call


If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face,
and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their
sin and heal their land
” – 2 Chron. 7:14.
If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is
here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us
the ministry of reconciliation
” – 2 Cor. 5:17-18
Preamble
From 16 to 19 June 2019, 52 participants from 22 countries and from different confessional and faith traditions gathered in Wuppertal, Germany for a conference entitled “Together towards eco-theologies, ethics of sustainability and eco-friendly churches”.

In Wuppertal we were reminded of the courageous confession of faith articulated in the Barmen Declaration (1934) against the totalitarian, inhuman and racist ideology of the time. Barmen continues to encourage us today for “a joyful liberation from the godless ties of this world for free grateful service to his creatures” (Barmen 2).
We shared stories from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and Oceania. We heard the cries of the earth, the cries of people vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially children and the elderly, the cries of youth demanding intergenerational justice and the concerns of experts over current trends.
We recognize the urgency of the years that lie ahead, nevertheless express the courage to hope and are compelled to call the global ecumenical movement towards a comprehensive ecological transformation of society.

Kairos: A decisive turn in the pilgrimage of justice and peace
The ecumenical movement has long committed itself to a pilgrimage towards justice, peace and the integrity of creation. These goals will require urgent steps on the road ahead. The urgency of the crisis calls us to read the signs of the time, to hear God’s call, to follow the way of Christ, to discern the movement of the Spirit and, in response, to recognize the positive initiatives of churches all around the world.
The symptoms of the crisis touch on all the building blocks of life and are there for all to see:
• Fresh water is contaminated; glaciers are melting; oceans are polluted with plastics and are becoming acidic so that corals reefs are bleached (water).
• Land is degraded through unsustainable agriculture and unhealthy eating habits, extractive economies ruled by global financial powers, deforestation, desertification and soil erosion;
animals are groaning and creatures are being genetically modified; fish populations are
depleted; habitat loss leads to the unprecedented loss of biodiversity (earth). Both the land and the health of people are being poisoned by industrial, agricultural, municipal and nuclear forms of waste and by pesticides and chemicals. An increasing number of people is forced to migrate and to become climate refugees.
• Global carbon emissions are still increasing, greenhouse gases are accumulating in the
atmosphere and climates are disrupted (air).
• It is the still increasing use of energy from fossil fuels that is driving such changes (fire). The delicate systems of balances in creation has been disturbed to an unprecedented extent in the Anthropocene. We have transgressed planetary boundaries. The earth seems no longer able to heal itself. Creatures are groaning in travail (Rom. 8:22).

For the full statement go to: Kairos for Creation

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The Need for Aboriginal Ethics

The ongoing destruction of Indigenous Australia demonstrates the need for Aboriginal ethics

Morgan Brigg and Mary Graham Posted on ABC Religion and Ethics on Mon 15 Jun 2020

The destruction of ancient rock shelters by Rio Tinto and the scourge of deaths in custody are expressions of how the dominant political order bludgeons Indigenous Australia — they are also signs of the need to embrace Aboriginal ethics.

It is not coincidental that the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters and the paucity of cultural heritage protections thereby brought into public view have the feel of a colonial frontier. Resource companies, as necessary as they are in our contemporary economy, are key agents of the longstanding extractive and developmentalist expansion that have been at the forefront of dispossessing Aboriginal people across the Australian continent.

The bludgeoning of Indigenous people through the carceral institutions of the dominant society are similarly longstanding and bound with the same developmentalist expansion. The ancestors of those who die in custody today were forcibly removed from their homelands by agents of the state — including police and Aboriginal “protectors” — in processes that made way for pastoralism and other primary industries.

Nonetheless, the violence released in the explosions that destroyed the Juukan Gorge rock shelters and dispensed in police custody does not mean that the relationship between Indigenous people and miners, and the wider relationship between Indigenous people and Settler Australia, is mono-dimensional. Indigenous-Settler relations are complicated, characterised by intimate entanglement that mixes support with destruction, care with brutal violence, and appreciation with shocking disregard.

Our entanglements are confronting when they are brutalising, but they are also the basis for deeper understanding of the problems we face, and a source of possibility. We should thoroughly excoriate mining companies and the police, along with many others, for appalling practices in relation to Indigenous people, but the extensiveness of such practices also highlights the systemic and structural nature of the problem.

To begin to understand what is at stake and to develop the means to recast the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia requires interrogating the philosophical underpinnings of the dominant political order.

As commentator Stan Grant has observed, Australia is deeply attached to liberalism, and thus to commitments to personal liberty, equality before the law and moral neutrality of the state. Grant has spoken of liberalism as if it is a rock of Australian political order. But as the destruction of the Juukan Gorge shelters shows, how we relate to longstanding artefacts of human creation is in our hands.

To read the rest of this article go to: ABC Religion and Ethics

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Recommended Broadcast – Traditionalism

From Dr Ian Brown, Convenor Redcliffe Explorers Group.

Greetings friends,

As with most other groups at the present time, gatherings of the Redcliffe Explorers are in abeyance until we‘re confident that our members, families and friends are shielded from corona virus infection. However, community compliance with physical distancing instructions seems to be having a very positive effect, and it may be possible for us to resume before the end of the year, possibly in September. Let’s hope!

I’m sure we’ve all found plenty to keep us occupied during the ‘lockdown’ period, including listening to some very informative podcasts and television programs. One fascinating (and slightly scary) talk last Saturday may be of interest – it was Geraldine Doogue’s interview with Benjamin Teitelbaum on Traditionalism. Broadcast on ABC Radio Saturday Extra (30/5/20), it can be accessed by clicking on the link below. Teitelbaum is assistant professor of Ethnomusicology and Affiliate Faculty in International Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and author of a recent book War For Eternity: The Return of Traditionalism and the Rise of the Populist Right. He points out that ‘Traditionalism‘ with a capital ‘T’ is not the same as ‘traditionalist’.

(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)
Professor Benjamin Teitelbaum

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/saturdayextra/traditionalism-and-steve-bannon-and-others/12288156

Keep safe,

Shalom

Ian

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Theos – Understanding Faith. Enriching Society.

Theos stimulates the debate about the place of religion in society, challenging and changing ideas through research, commentary and events.

For the latest thoughts from the Theos team and guest contributors on current issues around religion and society go to Theos.

Based in the United Kingdom, Theos researches and investigates the intersection of religion, politics and society in the contemporary world.

Examples:

Bridging the Gap: Economic Inequality and Church Responses in the UK

Simon Perfect

Science and religion: mapping the landscape

Nick Spencer
Nick Spencer

I personally find it reassuring to know that debates about the future of our country in a rapidly changing world are informed by the thoughtful and rigorous work coming out of Theos.

Joy Carter, Professor and Vice–Chancellor of the University of Winchester

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Freedom through Authentic Spirituality

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 14th June 2020

Authentic spirituality is always on some level or in some way about letting go. In a consumer society, however, we have little training in how to let go of anything. Rather, more is usually considered better. Jesus said, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Once we truly see what traps us and keeps us from freedom, we should see the need to let it go. As Meister Eckhart said, “the spiritual life is more about subtraction than it is addition.” [1] But capitalist societies make everything into addition.

The freedom Jesus promises involves letting go of our small self, our cultural biases, and even our fear of loss and death. Freedom is letting go of wanting more and better things; it is letting go of our need to control and manipulate God and others. It is even letting go of our need to know and our need to be right—which we only discover with maturity. We become ever more free as we let go of our three primary motivations: our need for power and control, our need for safety and security, and our need for affection and esteem. [2]

Healthy spirituality leads us to true liberation by naming what’s real, what’s true, and what works—now and in the long run. This Ultimate Reality, the way things really work, is quite simply described as love. The wise ones recognize that without a certain degree of inner freedom, we cannot and will not truly love. Spirituality is about finding that freedom. Jesus even commanded it (John 13:34)—though I’m not sure that we really can order or demand love—to show us how central it is.

For the remainder of this article go to: The Truth Will Set You Free

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Black Lives Matter to Jesus, despite the views of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Posted on June 15, 2020by gregoryjenks

This post was first published as an opinion piece for A Progressive Christian Voice Australia and then on Greg Jenk’s webpage.

Greg Jenks

[Greg Jenks:

Greg Jenks is an Australian religion scholar and Anglican priest serving in the Diocese of Grafton on the north coast of New South Wales. He is an adjunct a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University.

Jenks served as Dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem (2015–2017). He had previously served as Academic Dean at St Francis Theological College, Brisbane between 2008 and 2015.  Jenks is a Fellow of the Westar Institute, and served as its Associate Director 1999-2001.

Jenks was awarded a PhD by the University of Queensland for his research into the origins and early development of the Antichrist myth. He has a long-standing interest in Christian origins, and is a co-director of the Bethsaida Archaeological Excavation in northern Israel.

Jenks had been Visiting Professor and Scholar-in-Residence at St George’s College, Jerusalem on several occasions prior to his appointment as Dean in mid-2015.

His recent publications include The Once and Future Bible (Wipf & Stock, 2011), The Once and Future Scriptures (Polebridge Press, 2013), Jesus Then and Jesus Now (Morning Star Publishing, 2014) and Wisdom and Imagination (Morning Star Publishing, 2014).]


There is an age-old divide among religious people about just what God—however understood—wants of humans.

For the better part of 3,000 years in the Jewish and Christian spiritual traditions, there have been those stressing the need for purity (often expressed through codes about sex and food) and those who focus on justice for the victims of structural evil.

Recently, Martyn Iles, the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby has stoked the kind of controversy that appeals to their base and drives their fund-raising efforts with a claim that the Black Lives Matter movement is “anti-Christ”.

This is theological ‘dog-whistling’, and especially in the deliberate evoking of the biblical term ‘Antichrist’.

In the current context of global protests and persistent systemic discrimination against people of colour, this claim is highly partisan. It is also ‘tone-deaf’ to the cries of the oppressed which ascend to the God who has promised to hear them.

The intention to provoke (opponents) and alarm (supporters) was clear when—rather than apologise or retract those comments—Martyn Iles doubled down on them by producing a special podcast session with a 20-minute tirade again BLW as another example of radical secular Marxism seeking to destroy Christianity.

Despite his self-description as a “lover of law, theology and politics” (Facebook – About), Martyn Iles has no formal theology qualifications. His only listed qualifications are in the law. That lack of formal training in theology is evident in his public statements.

Iles espouses a fundamentalist form of Evangelical Christianity, with a fascination on apocalyptic eschatology. He has recently announced a new YouTube channel dealing with questions about the ‘End Times’.

The problem is not his naïve use of the complex texts which constitute the Bible, nor his total disconnect from critical religion scholarship. Both those things are typical of Australian Evangelicals. Rather, what concerns me most is the way that he ‘verbals’ Jesus by imposing his own concept of Christ onto the biblical texts.

The domesticated Jesus promoted by Martyn Iles does not engage in political action, so I presume he would neither support nor join the ACL.

His Jesus only cares about ‘saving souls’ and did not care about feeding the hungry, healing the sick, or letting the oppressed go free (fact check that claim against Luke 4:18–19).

Such a Jesus would not have bothered himself or his disciples with a campaign against a religious discrimination bill; or indeed opposed legislation for same-sex marriage. He just came to save souls.

This kind of Jesus crosses to the other side of the road when he encounters a victim lying wounded in the ditch. Nothing can be allowed to distract from saving souls.

He would not have protected a woman from death by stoning at the hands of a self-righteous religious mob. He would have invited the lady to accept Jesus into her heart but done nothing to address the immediate danger of killing by the authorities.

It seems that Martyn Iles frets over a secular Marxism that he sees in the DNA of every social movement, but is blissfully unperturbed by the multiple structural injustices which have promoted white prosperity at the expense of black lives, not to mention indigenous Australian lives.

He notes the correlation of black deaths with crime rates in black neighbourhoods, but he does not question why we have black neighbourhoods nor why poverty is allowed to continue in the wealthiest societies we have ever seen on the planet.

That myopia must be convenient.

Secular Marxism is a special worry to Martyn Iles.

He recycles the nonsensical idea that a secret KGB operation created liberation theology (apparently an especially virulent form of secular Marxism) to subvert Catholicism in Latin America, while simultaneously infiltrating the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

Some people do love conspiracy theories.

It seems that Martyn Iles has no idea that liberation theology occurs spontaneously any time that an oppressed person reads Scripture (not just the Gospels) through the lens of their own experience.

They may be peasants in Latin America, blacks in South Africa or the USA, Palestinians languishing under decades of illegal military occupation by Israel or—an LGBTQI Christian in a Sydney Anglican congregation.

Such is the power of Scripture when the Spirit of God moves in the heart of a reader.

However, as already mentioned, the deeper problem with the analysis promoted by the ACL, is its self-serving blindness to systemic evil.

Possibly the ACL members need to spend some time reading the prophets of ancient Israel. They make up quite a large section of the Bible, actually. Anyone who reads these texts could hardly miss the prophetic denunciation of injustice, poverty and exploitation.

Never mind the prophets, even Deuteronomy is crystal clear about what is expected of those who might seek God’s blessing on them:

Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Deut. 16:20)

If it is too much to ask dedicated Christians who support ACL to read the biblical prophets, perhaps they could find the time to reflect on the earliest version of the Lord’s Prayer and notice the raw edges of poverty in that prayer before we spiritualised it:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
 (Luke 11:2–4)

As a sequel, let me recommend Luke’s version of the Beatitudes:

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
 (6:20–21,23–25)

If even these brief epitomes of the central message of Jesus are too much for the ACL supporters to absorb, perhaps it would suffice for them simply to take to heart the words of the prophet Micah:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
 (Micah 6:8)

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New Publication from Kevin Treston

Sayings for the Soul: Now I Have Put My Words in Your Mouth: Jeremiah 1:9: Themes for Personal and Communal Meditation  offers a mini resource for those who wish to deepen their spiritual journeys through prayer using mantras and sacred sayings.

In a time of cultural turmoil and declining religious affiliation, at least in the West, Christians are called back to recover time-honoured approaches to prayer. Karl Rahner, a leading Jesuit theologian in the twentieth century, once wrote: The Christian in the future will be a mystic or nothing at all. Mantras and sacred sayings in prayer lead one into this mystical way.

 The first section of the book is a summary of key ideas towards an appreciation of mantras and sacred sayings in religion generally and Christianity in particular.

The second and third sections of the book offer a compilation of over 160 popular biblical and sacred sayings which may be helpful in choosing mantras and sacred sayings for meditation.

The fourth section presents some examples of music and song as expressions of prayer.

To order: kevintreston@gmail.com

Price $12 plus postage (invoice enclosed)

Enquiries: (07) 38561712

Mobile 0408 192 123

I’ve been surprised at the response with a third print already half sold after just three weeks. The little booklet (A5) is really a personal one for people to deepen their own prayer life. Something is at work here with the response. Dr Kevin Treston

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The Authentic Gospel of Jesus

by Geza Vermes

In this book, acclaimed religious scholar Geza Vermes subjects all the sayings of Jesus to brilliantly informed scrutiny. Profoundly aware of the limits of our knowledge but immersed in what we do have—both the “official” gospels and associated Jewish and early Christian texts—Vermes sieves through every quote ascribed to Jesus to let the reader get as close as possible to the charismatic Jewish healer and moralist who changed the world. The result is a book that creates a revolutionary and unexpected picture of Jesus—scraping aside the accretions of centuries to approach as close as we can hope to his true teaching.

Géza Vermes, FBA was a British academic, Biblical scholar, and Judaist of Hungarian Jewish origin—one who also served as a Catholic priest in his youth—and writer on history of religion, particularly Judaism and early Christianity. He wrote about the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient works in Aramaic such as the Targumim, and on the life and religion of Jesus. He was one of the most important voices in contemporary Jesus research, and he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time. Vermes’ written work on Jesus focuses principally on Jesus the Jew, as seen in the broader context of the narrative scope of Jewish history and theology, while questioning and challenging the basis of the Christian doctrine on Jesus.

Available from Amazon Australia in paperback for $31.99 free delivery, or in Kindle for $14.99

Thank you Tim O’Dwyer for this additional review of Vermes work. Go to Guardian Review

After a very detailed analysis of the book, Shortt concludes:

Two related conclusions spring from this. One is that small differences of gospel interpretation can lead to vastly differing verdicts on Jesus. The second is that no single map of the territory seems adequate. Geza Vermes is a respected guide. But don’t consult him in isolation.

· Rupert Shortt is author of Rowan Williams: An Introduction.

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Centre for Radical Christianity

CRCOnline

CRCOnline provides theological, liturgical and spiritual resources for anyone who wants to live with the questions rather than being told definitive answers; be rooted in the life, work and radical values of Jesus of Nazareth; celebrate the diversity of the Jesus community and engage with issues using the discourses of the contemporary world.

Explore the latest resources below and browse/search all resources using the menus. Find the resources that suit you: from prayers and spiritual reflections to in-depth theological articles, sermons to book reviews, media links to liturgies.

CRC was established in 2003 and based at St Mark’s Church Broomhill, Sheffield, UK. Its purpose was to explore the meaning of the Christian faith in the 21st century and to offer a fresh vision of an open and inclusive church, unafraid to ask the big questions.

St Mark’s CRC was committed to:

  • living with questions rather than finding answers
  • being rooted in Jesus of Nazareth
  • including and celebrating diversity in the community of Christ
  • engaging with issues using the discourses of the contemporary world.

CRCOnline promises to carry on exploring, commending and understanding the Christian faith and living in this spirit, engaging in critical yet creative dialogue between a living tradition reaching back to Jesus and the challenges and opportunities of our contemporary world, with the aim of helping people understand more what being followers of Jesus means today.

Go to: CRCOnline to examine the Resources around – Mysticism and Contemporary Spirituality, Embracing the Other (Jesus inclusivity), Eucharistic Prayers, Easter and Epidemics, Heaven is a Hologram, Prayers in time of Pandemic, etc.

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An invitation for Research Input

John Marsh is a subscriber to the UCFORUM. He is in the early stages of doing doctoral research on Progressive Christianity. He is keen to get widespread responses from people who have an experience and opinion about Progressive Christianity as it is practiced in church communities.

He writes:

       “Some years ago Hal Taussig, a prominent American writer on Progressive Christianity, extensively surveyed Progressive Christian Communities in the USA , He wrote a book titled A New Spiritual Home in which he discussed his findings. He identified a number of characteristics of the ‘new spiritual vitality’ which he perceived in these communities, It is my intention, and hope, to conduct a survey exploring the extent to which these characteristics are mirrored in the Australian experience… I am hoping, as a self identified member of a ‘Progressive Christian’ community that you may be prepared to complete the Questionnaire attached to assist me in this project”.

He also states:

“I would want to confine my efforts to groups that had a shared sense of community – with a sense of being a worshipping community, therefore excluding groups that only gathered for discussion.”

So, if you have ever belonged to a congregation/group that practices or inclines towards progressive approaches to Christianity, your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Please contact John for a copy of his questionnaire at John Marsh and become a part of this worthwhile study.

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A call for contributing authors

THE ONCE AND FUTURE JESUS Exploring the afterlife of Jesus in world cultures.

Editor: Gregory C. Jenks Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

ABSTRACT
This set of essays explores the impact of Jesus within and beyond Christianity, including his many ‘afterlives’ in literature and the arts, social justice and world religion. It traces both the impact of Jesus on his devotees as well as his legacy among people who claim no religion.

INDICATIVE TABLE OF CONTENTS

Proposals for contributions around other topics which are clearly relevant to the collection are also most welcome.

Foreword Introduction

SECTION ONE: JESUS BEFORE EASTER

  1. Galilee in the first century 2. First-century Nazareth 3. Historical Jesus research 4. Jesus as a historical figure 5. Jesus the sage 6. Jesus the healer 7. Jesus the prophet 8. Jesus the rebel 9. The crucifixion of Jesus

SECTION TWO: THE CHRIST CULT

  1. The Easter tradition 11. Jesus and the Q community 12. Jesus and the Pauline mission 13. Jesus in the Johannine community 14. Jesus and Judaism after Bar Kochba 15. Jesus and the Byzantine Empire 16. Jesus outside the Chalcedonian matrix

SECTION THREE: JESUS AS A GLOBAL CHARACTER

  1. Jesus in Judaism 18. Jesus in the Quran 19. Jesus in medieval coins, 500–1500 CE 20. Jesus in other major religions 21. Jesus in alternative Christianities 22. Jesus in art 23. Jesus in literature 24. Jesus in film 25. Jesus in popular culture 26. Jesus and human rights 27. Jesus in the Antipodes 28. Jesus through Indigenous Australian eyes 29. Jesus in Pacific culture 30. The Judaic humanism of Jesus

PUBLISHER’S GUIDELINES
• Chapters will normally be no longer than 6000 words • Chapters will be checked for suitability, language and grammar by our Desk Editors before being sent to the Guest Editor, and may be returned to the author for amendment and resubmission • Chapter authors will be asked to sign a short publishing contract on provisional acceptance. Chapters should be free of rights restrictions. Authors should have the authority to submit the chapter for publication. • Royalties will not be paid to chapter authors

To see the Call on the Publisher’s website, please visit: http://cambridgescholars.com/edited_collections/once-and-future-jesus-chaptersubmission.docx where you can download and complete a submission form.

For further information about this project, please contact me directly:
Dr Gregory C. Jenks gjenks@csu.edu.au (+61) 426067344

oOo

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Book Review: Damascus

Reviewed by Rodney Eivers, Chairperson – UCFORUM

Note: As with most of my “book reviews” this is not an attempt to give the potential readers a good summary of what they might expect from cover to cover of the book. It is a few of my impressions which may or may not lead others to read what this author has to say.

Some impressions by Rodney Eivers, 7th May 2020

          I really wanted to enjoy this book.

          Following the author’s renown with previous titles, leading to television series, Barracuda and The Slap, neither of which I had actually viewed, I looked to sharing in the laudatory attention given to the writing of Christos Tsiolkas. I had no reason to think that Damascus was other than “inspirational”. I had read reviews of the book from such disparate sources as the ABC Ethics and Religion Report and Eternity magazine.

          So confident was I of its being a good read that my wife had bought a copy of the book to give to my 17-year-old grandson. Among other things, he had done some religious studies at his high school.  He had just graduated last year. Furthermore, it seemed to me that it might be just the sort of book (giving a bit of flesh and blood atmosphere to the early Jesus movement) that would be an entertaining supplement to the more academic titles which I give each month to a theological college. For this purpose, I rushed out in the final days of the Christmas shopping rush to bag the last three copies of Damascus available at my local Kmart.

          This was to be the first book of fiction I had read for about two years (for the previous light reading I had been revisiting a number of the writings of Charles Dickens).

          By sheer coincidence when I mentioned this to a good friend and colleague of mine, he said that he had started reading Damascus and recommended that I continue to look at it myself. When I mentioned, however, that we were planning to give the book to our 17-year-old he cautioned.

“Perhaps you should read the first few chapters yourself first.  It may take a rather special teenager to be mature enough to cope with this text.”

          Now that I have read Damascus from cover to cover, I think he may have been right. Remember, I was anticipating something inspirational. It seems to me that positive inspiration is something our world needs whether we are 17 or 70.

          So, what do we find with Damascus?  Christos Tsiolkas seem to have sought to set the impact of biblical Paul realistically into the setting of society as envisaged in the Mediterranean region governed and influenced by the Roman imperialism. Perhaps reasonably accurately he paints a picture of anger and violence being the norm for just about everybody.

          Was life in that era always like that?  I notice on the back blurb to the book someone notes there are “sudden jags of tenderness”.  That would be right. There is not much tenderness displayed by anybody.

          Roman rule lasted for more than 400 to 500 years so it must have had something going for it. There must have been people reasonably happy with it as long as you stuck to the rules. I am reminded of the situation in China today, where despite the protests of the people of Hong Kong, mainland Chinese seem happy to accept their lot with a very autocratic regime grateful for the stability it provides. I suppose you could argue that because they did not stick to the rules, Paul and his lot including the whole Jewish nation got into trouble with the Romans.

          There was certainly violence in Roman times. Nevertheless, one thing that I have long puzzled over in relation to the Roman justice system, was that a fair-minded legal system existed at all. It seems remarkable to me that someone presumably as insignificant as Paul in relation to whole wide Roman empire, could go before Governor Felix in Cyprus  and be packed off to Rome, with expensive guards and travel expenses to face further court hearings at the far side of the empire.  To claim that this is because he was a Roman citizen does not sound very convincing to me. Why not impale him, crucify him or feed him to the lions on the spot when defying such a powerful entity? Would the Saudis, the Russians or the Chinese provide such latitude for their citizens today?

          Anyway, back to the violence. In this story, sexual intimacy, whether homosexual or heterosexual does not get much tenderness either. Nothing comparable to the joyous sensuality of the Song of Solomon from an earlier ancient period. Homosexuality is treated as something of shame or disgust (I am bit surprised by this as the author is openly gay). Heterosexual relationships even within marriage are characterised by rape. An ideal marital relationship is painted as no sexual relations at all. We are told of men sleeping in each other’s arms, but it is not clear whether this an emotional closeness or is a further euphemism for what in the Old Testament is described as “knowing” one’s bed companion.

          I found the crudity of the language, grating. Nowadays this sort of interchange is called “coarse” language.  This together with the angry tone may well be the popular style of writing today. I came across this when reviewing some essays composed in a writing course at Griffith University- so much anger!

          Was “fucking” (or its Greek or Syrian counterpart) the general adjective of emphasis with people at that time? Or is that an extension of a 21st century norm when other general adjectives of emphasis in literary and film media have gone by the board.  What happened to “damn!”  and “bloody” of earlier centuries? While writing these notes I read a review of another book about Roman times. This claimed that insults were part of everyday life in ancient Rome so perhaps Tsiolkas has got it right!

          A major theme of Damascus is the author’s design to set up a tension between the people at that time who came to be called Christians regarding the nature of Jesus. In order to do this, he introduces apostle Thomas as a twin of Jesus. Thomas is made to represent those who saw Jesus as simply a charismatic human being who brought a basically non-supernatural message of how to nurture a better secular world here and now – The Kingdom of God. At least in the early years under the sponsorship of Jesus’s brother James, this approach was directed at the people of Israel and sought to retain Jewish culture including notably such practices as male circumcision.

          Paul, however, is the one who took the message far beyond Galilee and Jerusalem along the Mediterranean coast and sought to make it universal. His message, though, was heavily into the supernatural especially in the expectation that Jesus was returning to earth someday soon. This aspect gets hammered quite a bit by Tsiolkas. It is interesting of course – Tsiolkas acknowledges this although not very clearly to my mind – that although Paul insists that he has “seen” the resurrected Jesus, his own writings make it clear that it was not a face to face encounter in the flesh but rather something of an intense vision.

          My own theological position is, of course, closer to that of Thomas (except for the link to Hebrew culture) than of Paul. Tsiolkas has consulted a number of what I regard as reputable literary sources, including, I was glad to see, the gospel of Thomas. He has what I see as a curious, and to me somewhat regrettable attitude to institutional Christianity. He acknowledges the powerful cause for good which arose from Paul’s efforts but is not prepared to call himself Christian because he does not “believe” in the resurrection. Is “belief” in the physical resurrection a vital part of Christianity? If one sees merit in the ethos of the pre-Easter Jesus rather than the post-Easter Jesus which Paul promoted and proclaimed there may still be room to make the following of the Jesus Way a worthy calling.

          If Christos Tsiolkas is trying to show there was merit in what eventuated from the persuasiveness of Paul, the book fails to be convincing for me because of his depiction of the personal characteristics of the main protagonists. None of them even our hero, Paul, come across as lovely people. They are temperamental, speak harshly, and are sometimes violent. In other words, somewhat hypocritical.

          So, can I share this book with my teenager and trust that he will be inspired by it?  Or provide it to theological students as they engage in their studies to make the world a better place?  I don’t know. Maybe you, my readers, will have some view on this.

          Perhaps what Christos Tsiolkas seeks to remind us is of the ultimate outcome.  Through the persistence, and demonstration of love by relatively weak and flawed personalities such as Paul, Thomas, Lydia, Timothy and others, the message survived and thrived. The Jesus presence with its  ethic of the equal worthiness of all human beings,  of loving one’s  enemies,  of stewardship rather than ownership of one’s assets, and of turning the other cheek (this gets a fair bit of mention in the book) in due course overcame the controlling influence of the Roman empire and left a legacy which remains with us to this day. That, indeed, is remarkable.

oOo                                            

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“The Trail” – A song for difficult times

The Trail is a song of comfort for difficult times.
It gives new words to a familiar hymn and provides a modern, progressive interpretation of the 23rd psalm.

Words and musical arrangement by Keith Sanford. Performance includes Keith Sanford on drums, percussion, keyboard synthesizers, and vocals.

The tune is Resignation (the tune for, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need), an anonymous melody found in Freeman Lewis’ Beauties of Harmony, 1828.

My feet they tamp the earth and stones that lay upon this trail
And in wide meadows there I find a hope that will not fail
I feel a touch upon my hand that pulls me to proceed
To see the splendor, oh, so vast, there’s nothing more I need

To mountain streams, this trail does lead, with water splashing clear
And there I rest upon the rocks and feel the goodness here
I feel a touch upon my hand that pulls me to engage
To seek the mysteries of the world, long pondered age to age

At times this trail may lead me down to valleys dark and low
Where shades of death may chill the skin and nothing there will grow
But then that touch upon my hand it causes me to rise
And still I hope for goodness here, as stars light up dark skies

For more information and music lead sheet go to The Trail

oOo

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How Do We Pray In This Crisis?

Rev Dawn Hutchings

Clay Nelson, a colleague in New Zealand, tells a story about a journalist who was stationed in Jerusalem. The journalist’s apartment overlooks the Western Wall which is the holiest site in Judaism. Every day when the journalist looks out towards the Wall, she sees an old Jewish man praying vigorously. One day the journalist goes down and introduces herself to the old man. As a journalist, she cannot resist interviewing the old man. “You come every day to the wall. How long have you done this and what are you praying for?”

The old man replies, “I have come here to pray every day for 25 years. In the morning, I pray for world peace and then for the wellbeing of humanity. I go home, and I have a cup of tea, and I come back and I pray for the eradication of illness and disease from all the earth.”

The journalist is intrigued and asks, “How does it make you feel to come here every day for 25 years and pray for these things?” The old man looks at the journalist with great sadness and replies, “It feels like I’m talking to a damn wall!”

For the rest of this talk go to: Is Prayer Transactional or Transformative?

oOo

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Between Faith and Doubt

Ps Karen Sloan, Wembley Downs UCA, Perth

Sermon – Earth Day Thomas Style – Karen Sloan 

Readings –  John 20:19-31                   

Luke 24:13-35 (last weeks)

The Progressive Christian book club, which has been meeting for over 2 years every month, has just finished reading Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas.  A book that takes you on a wild ride through the time of the early Jesus followers, but particularly the time of Paul.  We hear the blood and guts and reality of living in the Roman Empire, and Pauls conversion from a Jewish condemner of those followers to one who himself followed, in vivid detail.  But we also hear the humanity in him, and the other leaders of the time.  Voices from the past include not only Paul, but Timothy, James, Thomas and Onesimus, the freed slave of Phiimon, who is called Able in the book.  We are presented with the variety of understandings of Jesus found even then, near the beginning of our faith tradition.

As Dennis Ryle wrote in his review, we see how leaders and followers negotiate the interactions of Jew and gentile, the Greek cults and Roman tyranny to be fourth generation Christ followers in a challenging world.  Particularly when the expectation of those who thought Jesus would return, bringing in a new heaven and a new earth,went unfulfilled.   

It is not for the faint hearted, and the descriptions of the bloody times, and the barbarity that some would go to, particularly the Romans to keep people in line are shocking.  But also, Pauls struggles with his own desires, and his own need to find faith that speaks to him is also written with energy and gusto.  Ultimately, Paul finds that faith in the Jesus story, but the journey is not easy. 

Many in the book club didn’t enjoy the book, it was difficult to read the full-on pace of the it, and the inevitable descriptions of death and destruction and grief and yes, even doubt, in the first century CE.

Yet others found it insightful, and courageous. I was one of those.

Continue reading
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Inclusive Spiritual Christian Curriculum

Several progressive congregations are now using A Joyful Path which is a truly progressive children’s curriculum. Today, children are seriously undernourished when it comes to spirituality. They are either taught dogma or secularism. Children need to know that they are Divine beings and that following the path of Jesus in today’s world means being a spiritual warrior of radical inclusion and deep reverence. 

The program has been written by Deshna Shine for ProgressiveChristianity.org. You can help spread this curriculum to children all around the world by supporting a GOFUNDME project that Deshna has started.

For information go to: Joyful Path

oOo

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A new transformative narrative of Easter for Christianity

James Burklo

[Jim Burklo is an ordained United Church of Christ pastor who serves as the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. He is the author of BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians (2008) and OPEN CHRISTIANITY: Home By Another Road (2000) – both available from the “store ” at www.tcpc.org. Jim served as pastor of Sausalito (CA) Presbyterian Church, and of College Heights UCC Church in San Mateo, CA, served as ecumenical Protestant campus minister at Stanford University, and was the founder and executive director of the interfaith Urban Ministry of Palo Alto. His Masters of Divinity degree is from San Francisco Theological Seminary.]

“Christianity needs a new narrative based on the elements of the Easter week myths. Here is an option: Rabbi Jesus practiced and taught radical compassion to the people of Israel. This threatened the authority of the Jewish elite and the Roman occupiers, so they killed him on a cross – from which he forgave them. This unconditional love prevailed beyond his death and lived on in his followers, who regrouped and formed a new, compassionate community of faith. In this narrative, Jesus and his followers are not victims. Jesus was an agent of positive action, and so are we who follow him. The transformative power of this narrative inspires us to forgive.

For progressive Christians, forgiveness is not in the supernatural hands of a Guy-In-The-Sky God. Forgiveness is up to us. Just as it was up to Jesus whether or not to forgive the people who crucified him. The mythic narratives of Easter week speak for our souls as we recognize our pain, loss, and disappointment, and move from being victims to becoming active agents of positive personal and social transformation. Fred Luskin summarizes forgiveness as the release of our attachment to enforcing unenforceable rules we’ve constructed. We think that our HTOTB’s (How Things Ought to Be) really are the immutable laws of the universe. But other people in fact do get to make choices, even if they hurt us. And we get to make our own choices in the aftermath, as well.”


For the complete article go to: A New Narrative

oOo

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Why do we need Progressive Christianity?

What Is Progressive Christianity—And Why Do We Need It?
by Steve Kindle

In a nutshell, Progressive Christianity recognizes that the world has moved on in its understanding of how the world works—and that Christianity hasn’t. Most denominations and many Christians still live in the 4th century of the church. That is, they accept the creedal formulations of that age, as well as the prescientific worldview, as relevant to our own, even though they are based on understandings that our age no longer finds credible.

Since the Nicene Creed (325 CE), we have learned our planet is round (spherical), and the sun is the center of our solar system; the earth is billions of years in the making; that humans, as all of life, emerged through a process of biological evolution; that germs cause disease, that the universe is expanding and there is nothing beyond it. All of which is not only unknown in the Bible, but it teaches the very opposite. Unfortunately, many Christians refuse to accept these realities. They deny evolution, teach that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old, and still live in a three-tiered universe with God “up there” and hell below us. (Yes, and some even refuse medical help and prefer “faith healing.”)

Progressive Christianity offers searchers who accept the modern scientific worldview a way of respecting it and how the Bible and Christianity can be relevant in this world. Many of our churches advertise themselves as a place where you don’t have to leave your brain at the door. In fact, Progressive Christians revel in the questions life presents and understand that whatever we think we know is always tentative and in need of further clarification. You may find principles among us but not creeds that define what you must believe. That’s that old way of doing Christianity that only leads to triumphalism,  elitism, and division.

What are some of the principles that unite us? We need to be clear that Progressive Christianity is not monolithic, and represents many different points of view. But there are some things that most would find hospitable. Here are a few:

Just as people of the Bible lived according to their understanding of the world, we must live according to ours. This is not a repudiation of the biblical worldview, but a recognition that there is no other way life can be lived. To try to do otherwise is ultimately self-defeating. The differences between the biblical world and ours illuminate why we need to move on from it, yet offer us ways to make sense of our own. The fact that ancients believed that God created the world in six days may miss the evolutionary point, but it does point to God as the reality behind creation.

The Bible is the record of certain humans’ encounters with the divine, and as such is a rich source of spiritual wisdom that can transcend the ages. It discloses points of view about God and humanity that resonate today. The inspiration of the Bible comes from our relationship with the stories and the people, not from any supernatural input from God that directly resulted in its words. The sense that God dictated the Bible turns it into a legalistic text that functions more like law than grace. Rather than seek the presence of God in our lives, as is the case of the biblical characters, we then become those who must obey the text. Progressive Christians see these as mutually exclusive.

God is seen as transcendent and immanent. God is wholly other than any aspect of creation, yet resides wholly within it. Since the universe is a self-contained whole, God must be not only part of it but within all of it. God does not reside beyond it “looking down upon us.” Being in touch with every aspect of creation means that God relates to all things, and this certainly includes you and me. Prayer is as close as our breath.

Jesus lived as close to God as anyone can and, consequently, is able to model what a life fully devoted to God looks like. This includes his teachings and actions. As disciples of Jesus, we seek to model our lives after his. In particular, this means that we move away from a religion about Jesus and into the religion of Jesus: God-centered, love-driven, and inclusive of all. We measure the value of all actions by the Golden Rule.

Salvation is oriented to this life, not the hereafter. This is not to deny an afterlife, but we believe that God’s purpose is for the earth not only to prosper but thrive. The Kingdom of God is to be found “on earth as it is in heaven,”

God as Trinity is a useful metaphor but is based on ancient Greek ideas of substance that are no longer helpful. That God relates to all creation as Creator, Savior, and Sustainer

We at Faith on the Edge provide pastors and congregations with means to develop these progressive themes. We do so through a series of videos that lead viewers through the process of seeing the Bible in new ways. Ways that enlighten and transform.

The mission of Faith on the Edge is to revitalize the church for the 20th Century.

A religion is as much a progressive unlearning of false ideas concerning God as it is the learning of true ideas concerning God.” ~Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan

For more information go to: Faith on the Edge.

oOo

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Christianity’s Modern Legacy – a Podcast Interview

Dominion: The making of the western mind, 2019, Little, Brown Book group, London.

Tom Holland
Tom Holland is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. He is the author of Rubicon: The Triumph and the Tragedy of the Roman Republic, which won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize; Persian Fire, his history of the Graeco-Persian wars, won the Anglo-Hellenic League’s Runciman Award in 2006;

Christianity is the most enduring and influential legacy of the ancient world, and its emergence the single most transformative development in Western history. Even the increasing number in the West today who have abandoned the faith of their forebears, and dismiss all religion as pointless superstition, remain recognisably its heirs. Seen close-up, the division between a sceptic and a believer may seem unbridgeable. Widen the focus, though, and Christianity’s enduring impact upon the West can be seen in the emergence of much that has traditionally been cast as its nemesis: in science, in secularism, and yes, even in atheism.

That is why Dominion will place the story of how we came to be what we are, and how we think the way that we do, in the broadest historical context.

ABC Radio National Podcast interview between Tom Holland and Geraldine Dougue:

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/saturdayextra/christianitys-modern-legacy/12136230

oOo

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A Progressive Take on Resurrection: “Which Resurrection?”

PCN EXPLORERS: Wednesday 25th March, 10 am (for 10:30 start), 

Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm

A Progressive Take on Resurrection: “Which Resurrection?”

Dr Cliff Hospital will facilitate the morning’s exploration on this subject – relevant to us all as we approach the Easter Season. His 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)?   

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

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

Come at 10 for ‘eat, meet and greet’ and we will get started at 10:30. Finished by 12. Some venture to Moray Cafe for lunch – all welcome to that for more opportunity for friendship and further exploration.

oOo

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Easter Reading

JOHN QUERIPEL PROGRESSIVE AUTHOR

I have written two books to have you thinking over the Easter season. They would make an ideal gift for either a friend or with which to treat yourself.

The first is ‘ON THE THIRD DAY: RE-LOOKING AT THE RESURRECTION’ https://morningstarpublishing.net.au/product/on-the-third-day/ OR https://wipfandstock..com/on-the-third-day.html (the second website offers a preview reading)

‘The Easter story culminating in the resurrection of Jesus stands at the heart of Christian faith and celebration. But in the modern world is the story still believable? And does it still have transformative power for modern living? The scriptures contain a mix of attitudes to life after death, and the resurrection stories themselves contain a mysterious mix of the physical and mystical. John Queripel argues that we can no longer hold to a literal understanding of these accounts, but neither can we see the resurrection as merely delusion and wish-fulfilment.’

The second is ‘BONHOEFFER: PROPHET AND MARTYR’ (Play and essay) https://wipfandstock.com/bonhoeffer.html (Preview reading offered)

The 75th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s death will be 8th April. 

‘In the final days of World War II, early one frosty morning, a young German pastor was taken from his cell by his Nazi captors and led to his place of execution. Coming from one of Berlin’s leading families, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s already brilliant academic and church career was thus brutally terminated. Bonhoeffer found himself in such a strange place for a theologian, being one of the very few in the German Church who stood resolutely opposed to the Nazis to the point where he, as a one-time pacifist, became deeply involved in the conspiratorial plot to kill Hitler and bring down the regime. This course of action saw him enter the murky sphere of secrecy and duplicity as a member of the conspiracy, while two-timing the Nazis as a member of military intelligence. Using that official role, Bonhoeffer was able to travel and communicate with his international ecumenical contacts as part of the conspiracy’s attempt to strike a deal with the Allies to end the war. From a dark period, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, brave and resolute, stands as a bright and shining light.’ Information on my books is available on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JohnHenryQueripel/

oOo

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Dying with Dignity

Voluntary Assisted Dying. Crunch time at Queensland Parliament.

From Everald Compton

Last year, the Queensland Parliament voted to authorise its Health Committee to hold public hearings throughout Queensland to assess public attitudes to Voluntary Assisted Dying and Palliative Care. They did an extraordinary job of holding hearings far and wide across the State and encouraging all opinions to be expressed.

I spoke at one of the hearings and it was evident that there was huge support for Queenslanders to have the right to choose to end their lives peacefully and in comfort when faced with an incurable illness. It was also clear that people felt that palliative care services were not adequate and were not an alternate to Voluntary Assisted Dying as many people will choose both. People who attended other hearings gained the same impression as I did.

At the same time as the public hearings were being held, The Clem Jones Foundation conducted a professional survey of community attitudes on the matter and found that at least three out of every four Queenslanders believed that they should have the right to elect to end their lives via Voluntary Assisted Dying.

So, we now await the report of the Health Committee which is due to present it to Parliament no later than 31 March this year. I have no inside information on the matter but my gut feeling is that the Committee will recommend that Legislation to legalise Voluntary Assisted Dying be placed before the Parliament for a conscience vote as soon as possible.

The key issue is whether or not the Premier will decide to hold the vote before or after the election which is due in October, 2020. If she delays the vote it will become a huge election issue with every candidate being forced to state their position on it.

In my role as Campaign Leader of Dying With Dignity Queensland, I am pushing hard for an immediate vote and I have no doubt that it will passed by the Parliament.

To press the case for a vote before the election, Dying With Dignity is holding a Rally on THURSDAY, 19 MARCH AT 1.00PM AT SPEAKERS CORNER, which is in George Street just over the road from Parliament. We have a police permit and have invited every member of Parliament to attend. Some have already accepted our invitation.

This event is not a protest gathering and will neither march nor block the traffic nor abuse MP’s. We are simply asking the Parliament to vote urgently to authorise Voluntary Assisted Dying in Queensland for those who so choose, similarly to the right that Victorians and Western Australians now have.

I am one of the speakers and my task is to state why, as a Church Elder, I am publicly supporting Voluntary Assisted Dying when the Churches of Queensland have joined together to make a submission to the Inquiry opposing it.

The key factor is that they believe that God decides who lives or dies. I have never ever believed that. God gives you and me the spiritual power to handle whatever life and death throw up at us. With death being an inevitable and unavoidable part of life, why let many people suffer agony to get there.

I will be a definite candidate for Voluntary Assisted Dying if ever I face a terminal illness and I have advised my family in writing that this is my wish.

Indeed, if I become geriatric and am to be committed to a nursing home I will find a way to end my life. I have had a wonderful life and I am not going to end it as a vegetable. And I am not going to waste money on pointlessly and selfishly staying alive when I want my grandkids to have as much of my estate as possible.

Churches, by opposing Voluntary Assisted Dying, are actually encouraging suicide and this is utterly irresponsible. There is clear and irrefutable evidence that people crash their cars in single car accidents because they want out and the laws of the land are denying them the basic democratic right to determine how they will live and die.

So, please come along to Speakers Corner on Thursday, 19 March at 1.00pm and help to convince Parliament that VAD legislation must pass the Parliament before the Election.

There are many Twitter and Facebook friends whom I have not ever met so I hope you will come along and say hello. And if you have any doubts about either the morals or ethics or legality of VAD, lets have a respectful chat about it.

Yours at large.

Everald.

oOo


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About Sea of Faith in Australia

SOFiA is a network of Australians interested in openly exploring issues of life and meaning through reason, philosophy, ethics, religion, science and the arts. We want to explore for ourselves what we can believe and how we can find meaning in our lives.

SOFiA has no philosophical or religious position beyond a desire to ‘openly explore’: it is a forum for discussing ideas, experiences and possibilities.

Any who find themselves in sympathy with our purpose – exploring life and meaning in an open and non-dogmatic manner – are most welcome to join us.

14 Richardson St
Lane Cove NSW 2066
AUSTRALIA

Email: sofnetwork@gmail.com

Website: www.sof-in-australia.org

For enquiries about local events/groups please see the local group details.

Join SoFiA

SoFiA members receive 6 editions of the SoFiA Bulletin annually. Subscription fees are $20 for 10 years’ membership.

The Bulletin is available either as an email attachment or in paper form.

The preferred method for payment is direct bank transfer. Please email sofnetwork@gmail.com to request our bank account details. You’ll need to use your own bank’s online banking facility to make the payment. Please use your surname in describing the payment.

Payment through the post by cheque or money order is also possible.

Please note: for overseas members, the SoFiA Bulletin is available only as an email attachment.

If you’d like to join SoFiA please complete and send the membership application together with either direct debit payment or a cheque/money order to:

The Membership Secretary
14 Richardson St
Lane Cove
NSW 2066

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Ending of Mark’s Gospel – Mk 2

Dr Peter Lewis has produced a second edition of his very interesting book The Ending of Mark’s Gospel.

This is essentially the same content, just expanded a little. A few changes have been made and two chapters added If you have the first edition, no need to rush out and buy the second but new readers should look out for the second edition.

Originally reviewed at: Mark’s Ending

Peter’s hope is that this rational investigation of the abrupt ending to Mark’s Gospel will be a key to understanding how the gospels came to be the way they are. He sees this as integral to revitalising the faith.

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Inclusive Catholics: Resourcing Progressive Ministry and Worship No.13

A welcoming and inclusive community of committed Christians, based in Victoria, true to their faith, who have become disillusioned with the institutional Catholic Church and other churches.

Go to: Inclusive Catholics

“Given the clericalism, abuse, discrimination and lack of proper governance within the Catholic Church, in 2011 Fr Greg Reynolds, a priest of the Melbourne Archdiocese for 31 years, set up a new community, called Inclusive Catholics to embrace those disillusioned with institutional churches. In this community all are welcome without question, especially lapsed Catholics as well as survivors of clerical abuse, divorcees, those who support women’s ordination and LGBTIQA+ people.

This community strives to let all voices be heard and equally considered when planning and celebrating worship and other events. It is now a democratic organisation led by an elected Stewardship Team with Greg Reynolds as pastor. Inclusive Catholics holds fortnightly Eucharistic celebrations at Glen Iris Road Uniting Church Community Centre, monthly lecture-discussions in member’s homes, social dinners, silent retreats and luncheon gatherings where personal stories can be shared.”

Social Justice

“We are all deeply committed to Gospel values and caring for the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our society and the world. We each respond to the call in our own personal way, as we accept and support each other’s approach, gifts and priorities. Above all, our hearts and prayers go out to those who suffer abuse, injustice and oppression. We are a diverse range of personalities, with a wide range of social justice priorities. Early on we decided not to set up our own separate social justice group, but rather to support individual members in the various organisations and activities that they are involved in. For example members are involved in or connected with groups such as IPAN (the Independent & Peaceful Australia Network), Pax Christi, WATAC (Women and The Australian Church), St Mary’s in Exile, Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Acceptance, BASP (Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project), Love Makes a Way, ARRCC (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change), Catholics for Renewal, ACCCR (Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform), Quakers, and various Christian Churches especially Glen Iris Road Uniting Church and St Oswald’s Anglican Church. “

Eucharist

This is an open table and any believer who wishes to receive Holy Communion is welcome. Eucharist is celebrated on the first and third Sundays of each month at Glen Iris Road Uniting Church, 200 Glen Iris Road, Glen Iris at 5.00 pm, preceded by optional quiet meditation at 4.40pm

1ST & 3RD SUNDAYS OF EACH MONTH, 5PM
GLEN IRIS UNITING CHURCH

Contact details – About us

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Church of England is Institutionally Racist

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has admitted the Church of England is still “deeply institutionally racist” as he speaks out about its treatment of black and minority ethnic people. Justin Welby has spoken of his personal shame at the Church of England’s institutional racism and has promised to replace a “hostile environment” with a hospitable welcome. Speaking at a meeting of the Church’s ruling body, the General Synod, the Archbishop said he was “ashamed” of its history of racism. Mr Welby said he was “almost beyond words” after hearing about the racism faced by minority parishioners, priests and officials within the church.

The Archbishop added: “There is no doubt when we look at our own church that we are still deeply institutionally racist.”

Justin Welby

Mr Welby’s comments come as Synod members voted unanimously for a motion to apologise for racism in the Church of England since the Windrush generation arrived in the UK.

The body also voted to “stamp out conscious or unconscious” racism.

The General Synod also voted to request research on how racism had influenced the fall in member numbers and the increase in church closures over the years.

The church will also now appoint an independent person to assess racism within its ranks and seek to increase the number of BAME Anglicans seeking ordination.

Mr Welby, who decided to “ditch” a prepared speech and make off-the-cuff remarks, said church appointment panels – including the crown nominations commission, which recommends new bishops – needed to have better minority ethnic representation, along with longlists and shortlists for senior clergy posts.

He said: “We did not do justice in the past. We do not do justice now.

“And unless we are radical and decisive in this area in the future, we will still be having this conversation in 20 years’ time and still doing injustice, the few of us that remain.”

The leader of the Church of England added the Church’s “hostile environment” must become a “hospitable, welcoming one” and called for “radical and decisive” progress to put an end to institutional racism.

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Rights of Nature Australia 2020 – early notice

RONA2020 – “Rights of Nature Australia 2020” – is a national arts celebration, organised by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA). The National Exhibition will run from 12-17 October 2020 in Brisbane, in conjunction with AELA’s week of exploring and celebrating the Rights of Nature.

In 2020, the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) will be co-hosting a range of arts activities and events under the theme of “Voices of Nature”. This theme will encourage the exploration of the concepts of ‘voice’, ‘standing’, ‘representation’, and ‘agency’ of the natural world within human governance systems. The theme also promotes AELA’s desire to focus on sound art and acoustic ecology as key mediums for communicating and exploring nature’s voice(s).

AELA is excited to be partnering with the Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology (AFAE) to generate dynamic, cross-disciplinary interactions and projects for RONA2020. And we look forward to engaging with the science, technology, art, wonder, and acoustic expertise of the AFAE members.

For more information go to RONA2020

The Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) is a national not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to increase the understanding and practical implementation of Earth centred governance in Australia, with a focus on law, economics, education, ethics and the arts. AELA’s work is inspired by the theory and practice of Earth jurisprudence, which is a governance philosophy and growing social movement. Earth jurisprudence proposes that we rethink our legal, political, economic and governance systems so that they support, rather than undermine, the integrity and health of the Earth.

The need for new governance systems has never been greater: as we face a climate changed world and transition away from our destructive reliance of fossil fuels, human societies need to create new ways of working together and nurturing the wider Earth community.

AELA works to build long term systemic change, so that human societies can shift from human centred to Earth centred governance.  Our vision is to create human societies that live within their ecological limits, respect the rights of nature and enjoy productive, sustainable economies that nurture the health of the wider Earth community.

AELA carries out its work by supporting multi-disciplinary teams of professionals engaged in research, education, publications, community capacity building and creating new models of Earth friendly governance. Our team includes Indigenous community leaders, lawyers, economists, scientists, deep ecologists, artists and community development practitioners.  AELA works on a membership-participation model and is powered by committed volunteers, who work together as individuals and organisations across Australia.  All our work is driven by our members’ interests and commitment – so become a member and get involved!

AELA is a founding member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, which brings together more than 80 organisations around the world, who support Earth Jurisprudence and Rights of Nature.  AELA participates in the UN Harmony for Nature initiative, is an affiliate of the Earth Charter and a partner of the Global Footprint Network.

AELA’s Board of Management is comprised of lawyers, Indigenous leaders and professionals from around Australia.

AELA is run by volunteers who are committed to the philosophy and practical implementation of Earth Jurisprudence.

AELA is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee (ABN: 54 156 139 221)

Membership is open to all individuals and organisations with an interest in Earth Laws and AELA’s work. 

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New from Morning Star Publishers

The Unexpected Light is a book which seeks to inspire through the experience of science, history, and art, rather than theological rhetoric – reaching out to people not necessarily committed to the Christian faith but perhaps interested in it.

The aim is to show how mercy is not just a doctrine, not just a teaching – although these are important things – but rather, a force integral to the future of human life on earth. Peter Fleming examines science, history, art – unified in faith. In a world which is imperfect by its very nature, mercy is a logical response to its people and to human behaviour.

Reflections from a Year of Mercy

By: Peter Fleming

Pages: 160
Publisher:Morning Star Publishing
Dimensions:148mm x 210mm
ISBN: 9780648118664

$20.95 – Purchase details

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A further Reflection from Kevin Smith

WHAT HAPPENED? … studying the Rabbi Yeshuah story … 15 THESES

In concluding a session of my limited observations and drawing on life-long learning, I arrive at some opinions (an opinion, it is said, being midway between fact and belief). There is no weakness in me admitting that I may be wrong:

-(i) I am a citizen of Planet Tellus where all human observations, conclusions and opinions are tentative and challengeable; I make it clear that philosophy invites us to challenge our most cherished assumptions on a regular basis, even when those assumptions are as life-defining as religious assumptions often are. “There are no sacred cows in philosophy; everything is up for scrutiny, fair game to be challenged.”  For Kant & Descartes ‘doubt’ is the key to wisdom.  -(ii) A human who has totally died does not come back to everyday life again and so there was no resurrection;    

-(iii)   Virgin-Mary type pregnancies don’t occur. It’d mean that her infant would have had no male DNA;

-(iv)   All miracles are scientifically suspect; consider Apostle Simon-Peter walking on water.
-(v)    The existence of divinity or divine-nature is theologically suspect; I see a human Rabbi Yeshuah as more impressive than a divine rabbi.
-(vi)  That great literary work, the Bible, is a wholly human construct, written by human hands. It has therefore very questionable verisimilitude on account of its many discrepancies, contradictions and mistakes (fake news and false facts). It also contains lots of sublime wisdom;
-(vii)  You must distrust churchianity, i.e., traditional institutional christianity, because of the christology that it created which was presented to followers as divinely revealed deposit-of-faith dogma ;
-(viii) Faith is often the enemy of evidential fact. Assertions without evidence may merit denial without evidence;
-(ix)   History shows for me no evidence of what I taught as a catechist (scripture-teacher) for 20 years, “Adonai-God the Father is a loving, caring God”. Prayer may be beneficial but no one is listening;
-(x)    It has been difficult for me to arrive at these theses; it has taken me 8 decades of devoted application trying to find out what really happened;
-(xi)   I declare that these observations are for me joyful and liberating.

-(xii)  I perceive Rabbi Yeshuah as the most completely valid and most completely convincing practitioner of goodness and integrity (as the inspiring principles of all human action) that the world has ever known;

-(xiii) As one born saved I spiritually embrace Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth as my mentor. He is Israel’s greatest prophet, an original thinker, inspiring preacher, gifted healer & exorcist, convincing teacher of wisdom and integrity, Jewish mystic, model of kingdom-oriented life-style and promulgator of the ancient Hebrew ethics of open hospitality and neighbourly love with esteem for Adonai-Yahweh-Elohim as our loving Father.

-(xiv) Yeshuah of Nazareth died two millenia ago, having emerged from the Hebrew Israelite Jewish community; he summed up the essential of its wisdom discoveries. He was able to speak divine truth with humanity’s own voice. His brief physical presence on the earth changed the course of history in innumerable ways. We rightly honour him in titling him as ‘anointed son of God’.

-(xv) I walk through life hand-in-hand with this most admirable spiritual preceptor and I silently converse with him, and I greet his mother too. []                         [ Kevin Aryeh Hatikvah Smith in Sydney  01/11/2019 / re-edited 09-02-’20 ] 

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How Can We be Good Ancestors?

Good Afternoon Explorers and Friends

This coming Sunday the 16th February, at 5.30pm , the  Caloundra Explorers start off the 2020 year with the  first Gathering.

The invitation to join us does, however, contain the crucial question of our time How can we be good ancestors?”—are you ready for the challenge of this theme!!

Our Gathering will be lead by Rev. Brian Gilbert.

Brian says “This Sunday is celebrated in some places around the world as Evolution Sunday.   The theme for the Gathering is, however,  not so much ‘evolution’, as ‘living with change in its many forms’.

Our Gathering will reflect on ‘managing change’ that we might be “good ancestors.

Please bring a plate for our shared meal at 7 p.m.

Everyone is welcome. 

Remember, we discuss and debate within a safe and non-judgemental environment

 Come along and join in what will hopefully be a very satisfying evening for you among friends, and new friends.    

CONTACT:  Leaders – Brian Gilbert – Mob 0417 002 274  or  Margaret Landbeck Mob 0402 851 422

WHEN:    Sunday 16th February  at 5.30 pm thru to approx 7.30pm

WHERE:  Caloundra Uniting Church HALL, 56 Queen Street Caloundra.

EMAIL:    jjeverall@bigpond.combmgil@westnet.com.au

Caloundra Explorers Group              

  Faith And the Modern Era

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Religion and Ethics: Rising Tensions in Rome

If you have seen the Oscar-nominated movie The Two Popes, you will know it ends with Francis and his predecessor, Benedict, cheering on their teams, as Argentina and Germany play each other in the soccer world cup.

This fictional account of their relationship is drawing millions of viewers. But in real life there’s widening gulf between the so-called Francis and Benedict factions of the church.

The cause of the latest tension is a new book about compulsory celibacy for priests. Are hard-line traditionalists in the church using the 93-year-old former Pope to undermine Francis and his reforms?

For a video clip from the ABC Religion and Ethics site on this topic, go to The Two Popes.

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Proposed Religious Discrimination Bill too severe

By Naomi Neilson|28 January 2020 , first published in the Lawyers Weekly

Edward Santow has been Human Rights Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission since August 2016.

Ed leads the Commission’s work on technology and human rights; refugees and migration; human rights issues affecting LGBTI people; counter-terrorism and national security; freedom of expression; freedom of religion; and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).

Ed’s areas of expertise include human rights, public law and discrimination law. He is a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Human Rights and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and serves on a number of boards and committees.

In 2009, Ed was presented with an Australian Leadership Award, and in 2017, he was recognised as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

From 2010-2016, Ed was chief executive of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a leading non-profit organisation that promotes human rights through strategic litigation, policy development and education.

Ed was previously a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Law School, a research director at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and a solicitor in private practice.

***

Certain provisions to the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill have been rejected as being too “severe” and unduly restrict the rights of entire communities of people, said the Australian Human Rights commissioner.

Speaking at a Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) forum hosted at Gilbert + Tobin, commissioner Edward Santow said that while welcoming the government intention to fill in gaps in the law that leave people of faith unprotected, several provisions will only serve to “taint the bill as a whole” and set anti-discrimination laws back further.

“The majority of the bill is an appropriate and conventional law to prohibit any religious discrimination. The majority of the bill is similar to existing laws, here and overseas, in dealing with discrimination of religion, race, age and sex,” Mr Santow said at the forum. “But we have serious concerns about other aspects of the bill.

“We need to consider whether the bill’s problems are so severe they taint the bill as a whole. For me, the short answer is yes. In my view, certain elements of the bill are so problematic that the bill should not proceed unless those problems are addressed.”

Mr Santow pointed to several provisions in the bill the Human Rights Commission has taken issue with, which he added were “unique, even radical”. He noted that there was nothing like these provisions in Australian, or international, law.

For one, under the provisions, corporations can claim they were discriminated against based on associations. Mr Santow said that by claiming this, it is inconsistent with laws both national and international, but would also be inconsistent with logic and common sense “to suggest a corporation’s feelings have been hurt”.

“It’s axiomatic that human rights are for humans,” Mr Santow said. “If you need to be persuaded on this, just remember human rights exist to protect quintessentially human qualities, especially human qualities. And yet, the bill would allow some corporations to claim that they suffered from religious discrimination.”

The bill also allows religious bodies – including schools, charities and providers – to be exempt from religious discrimination law. As such, they are permitted [to] be discriminatory if it is in “good faith and in accordance with religious doctrines”. For example, a teacher of faith at a religious childcare centre can discriminate against a single mother.

“It undercuts protections against religious discrimination, particularly in sections such as employment and the provisions of goods and services. In other words, a significant portion of the bill isn’t about prohibiting religious discrimination, it does something that is the exact opposite of that,” Mr Santow said, adding that the bill would give “license” to certain parties to engage in discriminatory conduct based on their beliefs.

Mr Santow added that parts of the bill, if it proceeds, will override all anti-discrimination laws because it would favour one group’s rights over another.

“We believe that the bill would be easy to fix. The problematic provisions with this bill seem to have been tacked onto a much more conventional bill. If you were to remove the problematic elements, you would be left with a typical anti-discrimination law,” he said.

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New words to old tunes, new words to new tunes

Dear Friends in the Progressive Christianity Network and other interested people,

The Progressive Christian Network meeting at Merthyr Rd Uniting Church New Farm, Brisbane is please to advise that notable organist and soprano/choir leader, Dr Steven and Mrs Adele Nisbet from St Andrews, Creek Street Uniting Church, Brisbane will be the guest leaders at our next Seminar in February (see below). All welcome.

The first month of the year has almost passed so I guess any new year celebrations are forgotten and we are ready to start up regular activities and commitments. We have grieved along with all Australians the loss of life, property, wild life, farm animals and livelihoods in the devastating bushfires. Today we have both celebrated our Australian life and mourned the hurt caused to its First People.

Shirley Erena Murray died peacefully in Paraparaumu, NZ. 

Probably most of us did not know Shirley personally, but many have found her words of songs to be helpful on their own progressive journey.   In Shirley’s own words: “Go gently, go lightly, go safe in the spirit”

PCN EXPLORERS: Wednesday 26th Feb, 10 am (for 10:30 start), 

Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm

All are welcome to join us as Steven and Adele Nisbet help us explore some new songs that express our faith. New words to old tunes, new words to new tunes. Come at 10 for ‘eat, meet and greet’ and we will get started at 10:30. Finished by 12. Some venture to Moray Cafe for lunch – all welcome to that for more opportunity for friendship and further exploration.

Kind regards

Desley Garnett
drgarn@bigpond.net.au
0409 498 403

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Book: Love without Limits

Review coming shortly.

The love of God crosses all boundaries. Every. Single. One.

Every day, millions of people lament the loss of civility, respect, and hope, and they wonder if it’s possible to cultivate a love big enough to overthrow hate and heal our hurts. With courage, authenticity, and relevance, Jacqueline A. Bussie proclaims, “Yes! It’s possible!” and urges readers to widen love’s wingspan and to love as God loves–without limits or exceptions.

In Love Without Limits, Bussie imparts practical solutions for people of faith who yearn to love across division and difference in these troubled times. Through poignant personal memoir, engaging theological reflection, inspiring true stories of boundary-busting friendships, creative readings of scripture, and surprising shout-outs to some of love’s unsung heroes, Bussie challenges readers to answer God’s call to practice a love so deep, it subverts the social order; so radical, it scandalizes the powerful; so vast, it excludes no one.

“A must-read for all Christians interested in inclusivity for their communities.” –Publishers Weekly

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A Progressive Sunday School Curriculum

A Joyful Path, Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds

Uniting Church Dayboro uses “A Joyful Path” for the children’s curriculum. It is a curriculum for children in today’s world. We use it to create Christian practice and teaching that builds in the children a greater concern for the way people treat each other than simply what, if, & how a person believes. The curriculum affirms the variety & depth of human experience. The Joyful Path is first and foremost about teaching and practicing Christian spirituality rather than any exclusive dogma. It seeks to create a foundation of fair, open, peaceful & loving treatment for all human beings. Its primary lesson is to help children discover and relate to the Divine in themselves and each other. Many of the lessons focus on ways that we can practice the same compassion with all as Jesus spoke and demonstrated so often. The Joyful path is just that, & not a mere retelling of the old Bible stories. In the words of Bishop John Shelby Spong “(it) does not equate faith with having a pre-modern mind”. The curriculum provides a Sunday space that you can invite the children of your unchurched friends & family without fear or embarrassment.

Now in our 3rd year of using this curriculum, we have been very pleased with the response of kids, parents, congregation and church council.

Some of the Authors and Teachers drawn upon in writing this curriculum:
Eckhart Tolle
Houston Smith
Rumi
Paul Knitter
Thomas Berry
Paul Tillich
Jack Cornfield
Meister Eckhart
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox
Bishop Jack Spong
Marcus Borg
Rabbi Zalman
Val Webb
Sallie Mcfague
AND MORE!

38 lessons each year focus on:

  • suggestions for personal and group reflection (the instructor, the students and the students in community with one another);
  • resources to expand awareness to other cultures, religions and ways of knowing;
  • practices to invite spiritual discovery, awareness and application;
  • embodied activities for direct encounters and experience;
  • brainstorms for further action and engagement with the community;
  • rituals for celebrating the gifts Earth provides in each of the 4 seasons; and
  • ceremonies to explore gratitude, engagement/being in the struggling, peace-making, and forgiveness

For more details and how to purchase: Go to A Joyful Path

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Redcliffe Explorers – God, Ethics and the Secular Society

The Redcliffe Explorers’ first 2020 meeting will take place next Monday evening 3rd February in the ground-floor meeting room at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Ave Redcliffe 4020), starting at 6 p.m.  As usual, the first half-hour will provide an opportunity to enjoy fellowship, with tea/coffee and biccies provided. Entry is free, but a gold-coin donation to defray costs would be appreciated.

We will be starting to review and discuss what we think is a particularly important and timely book, titled God, Ethics and the Secular Society. Written by Melbourne-based Uniting Church member and former ordained Congregational minister John Gunson, the book deals with the vexed question of the future of the Church, and what such a future might look like. According to the author, it is the end-product of a lifelong search for the answer to the questions: How can we help to make a better world?, How ought we to live?, How can we find the motivation to do the truth when we find it? And what do we mean by the word ‘God’? Gunson finds the answers in what he calls ethical ecology, and in the life and teaching of an ancient sage – Jesus of Nazareth – who confronts us with the simple yet profound challenge: “Overcome evil with good”.

In addition, we’ll discuss a very recent sermon titled ‘In This Life’ by Rev Dr Roger Ray, Pastor of the Emerging Church in Springfield, Missouri. Rev Ray gives a refreshingly candid and matter-of-fact account of the ‘soul’, our mortality (or immortality?), and eternity, and how our understanding of these should affect the way we act.

Our Explorer meetings are open to anyone prepared to think outside the square and engage in friendly, civilised discussion about the big questions of life. If you’re not a regular attender of our gatherings you might like to contact Ian Brown (0401 513 723 or browniw5@optusnet.com.au) for details.    

Shalom, Ian.

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Love is impossible without law

From – Lawyers Weekly (Thanks to Tim O’Dwyer for referring us to this item)

[About Lawyers Weekly

Lawyers Weekly is the authoritative source of independent news, analysis and opinion about the practice of law in Australia.

Published daily, and reaching over 110,000 lawyers, www.lawyersweekly.com.au is the essential resource for news, business and market developments for legal businesses and practitioners — both corporate and in-house.

In addition to its digital platform and awards, including the 30 Under 30, Australian Law Awards and Women in Law Awards, the monthly Lawyers Weekly print magazine brings the best of in-depth reporting and feature writing to leaders in the profession.

Lawyers Weekly not only takes pride in its news-breaking reporting, but also in its active role in shaping and progressing the way legal business is conducted in Australia.]

If The Beatles are to be believed, “All You Need Is Love”. This isn’t quite true, says one ANU law lecturer – besides love, he says, there is law.

According to Dr Joshua Neoh, who is an associate professor at the ANU College of Law, a common life would be impossible without the common law. In short, the law unites us in this common life, he posits, and saves us from ourselves.

“Without the authority of law, we would be at the constant risk of collapsing back into the state of war, where no humane relationships could ever survive, let alone relationships of love. Law stabilises social relations and makes the condition of love possible,” Dr Neoh explains.

Dr Neoh is the author of a new book – Law, Love and Freedom – which argues that the law does not just enable love, it may itself be an expression of love.

Submission to the authority of law is an expression of the love of neighbour. The authority of law unites individuals and binds them together in a community. In a complex society with its coordination problems, the only way of expressing the love of neighbour is through obedience to the authoritative plan for the common good, which we call law,” Dr Neoh told Lawyers Weekly.

“At times, I may disagree with the law, but in matters where a collective decision has to be made, my submission to the collective judgment as embodied in the law, in spite of my disagreement with it, is an expression of my desire to continue living with my fellow citizens in the one community.”

The nexus between law, love and freedom

Law is not just about a set of rules, he continued. It is a “value that is connected to a whole set of other values”, he submitted, which – when put together – makes up what we collectively understand to be a “good life”.

In drawing such a conclusion, Dr Neoh recalled that he explored three key values for his book: law, love and freedom.

For the rest of this item go to: Love is impossible without the law

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Progressive Christianity is building a bigger table

A message from the Director of ProgressiveChristianity.org, Rev. Deshna Charron Shine

We’re Building a Bigger Table

The table is too small. These are crucial times for the planet we call home. The toxic and institutionalized systems of racism, tribalism, colonialism, culture appropriation, sexism, and the general oppression of marginalized people have been thrust to the surface of our society. While this is scary and disturbing, it is also a positive step toward the eradication of white privilege, white fragility, and an empiric worldview. I say this is positive because it is forcing those of us who are privileged to wake up to a systemic culture of greed and fear that has been part of daily life for people of color and marginalized people since the beginning of modern history. These are systems and beliefs Jesus faced and why he was crucified. So why is this necessary for us?

Because we need a bigger table.

We need a bigger table because people of privilege are looking for a way forward to experience repentance, reparation, healing and transformation.

As Progressive Christians, we are called to the work of transformation that we have witnessed in the incredible life of Jesus. We have been teaching these values from our pulpits, from stages, behind cameras and to our readership. We have been gathering around a table and breaking bread and pouring wine, but that table is too small. We have met a moment in history that demands more of us.

I am inviting you to join in this movement. To help us build a bigger table that makes room for the marginalized voices to be heard. Your year-end gift will help us accomplish this!

In 2020, ProgressiveChristianity.org will be hosting in-person conversations and virtual gatherings with leaders in race reparation and climate justice. I’m asking my team and our international community to come together to create three new Christian Reparations Resolutions that we hope will be adopted by progressive Christians and progressive churches all over the world.

We’re building a bigger table. And we need your help.

These Resolutions will focus on 3 main roots of disharmony and injustice plaguing our world and Christianity:

1. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for Indigenous peoples.

2. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for People of Color.

3. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for harm to Creation.

Your year end gift will help us build a bigger table to have these discussions as we pursue the creation and adoption of these resolutions.

When you give it will also enable us to create and distribute digital trainings for faith communities who are ready to affect real change in their local communities.

Healing and positive transformation are our goals here. Closer to radical inclusion and unity. However, to move toward healing we must first acknowledge where our ancestors and where we have missed the mark or have caused harm. We begin by acknowledging, then we ask forgiveness, then we resolve to do better. We can then fully begin to envision a world that is better than the one we have been handed down. We can see into the future, where a rainbow tribe covers the earth, respectful and authentic, as Jesus would have envisioned.

Progressive Christianity as a movement has an opportunity in this moment in history — and we need your help.

For more information go to: The table is too small

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Death of Hymn Writer Shirley Murray

From the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada

“We were saddened to learn of the death today of New Zealand hymn writer Shirley Erena Murray, FHS. She was one of the most prolific and influential hymn text writers in the English speaking world, creating texts finely attuned to the issues facing people of faith today. They have appeared in more than 100 collections worldwide and have been translated into several other languages.

She was brought up Methodist, but spent many years as a Presbyterian, serving with her husband, the Very Reverend John Stewart Murray, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, as he pastored St. Andrew’s on the Terrace, Wellington, where many of her hymns were first sung.

An article in The Hymn (Autumn 2009) announcing that she had been named a Fellow of the Hymn Society included this observation: “Despite her frustrations with the Church, this writer remains committed to working on its behalf, and her positive, ebullient nature dominates her work. Her hymns are ecumenical in their theology and inclusive in their expression. They embody themes of justice, peace, human rights, nurture, and the integrity of creation.”

Shirley Erena Murray MNZM (born 31 March 1931 – died 25 January 2020) is a New Zealand hymn lyrics writer. Her hymns have been translated into numerous languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn collections.

Born a Methodist in Invercargill, she earned a Master of Arts degree with honours in Classics and French from the University of Otago. She later worked as a teacher and researcher.

After marrying Presbyterian minister John Murray in 1954, she eventually moved to Wellington where John was minister for the St Andrew’s on the Terrace from 1975 to 1993. Her hymn writing started in the 1970s and often used the congregation of St Andrew’s as a testing place for the hymns. Many different composers have put music to her hymn texts.

Her hymns have been translated into several European and Asian languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn books around the world. In addition to New Zealand, they are particularly used in North America.

Among her most known hymns are “Hymn for Anzac Day”, “Where Mountains Rise to Open Skies”, “Our life has its Seasons”, “Star Child” and “Upside Down Christmas”.

Professor and hymn writer Colin Gibson, who has set music to some of her songs, described Murray’s hymns in 2009 as “distinguished by their inclusive language and their innovative use of M?ori, their bold appropriation of secular terms and their original poetic imagery drawn from nature and domestic life, but equally by the directness with which they confront contemporary issues.”

In 2001, she became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for “services as a hymn writer”. In 2006, she became a fellow of the Royal School of Church Music. She received an honorary doctor of literature degree from the University of Otago in 2009. The same year, she was named a fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

Murray lived with her husband at Raumati Beach near Wellington. The couple had three children and several grandchildren.

Her hymns and carols address a wide spectrum of themes ranging from the seasons of the Church year to human rights, care of creation, women’s concerns and above all, peace. Methodist by upbringing, and ecumenical by persuasion, she has spent most of her life as a Presbyterian. She was married to a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of NZ, the Very Rev. John Stewart Murray, who passed away just recently (2017). She had three sons and six grandchildren.

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Contemporary Liturgy for the Post-Modern Church

From Rev Fran Pratt – Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas , USA

The Rev Fran Pratt has been on a faith journey which may be familiar to many Christians. She has gone from the charismatic experience of certitude within the Vineyard Fellowship to a place of doubt and uncertainty, where prayer did not come easily to her …

Call and Response: Litanies for Congregational Prayer

Available in paperback and kindle ebook.

A compilation of modern call and response litanies intended for congregational use. Whether your community is liturgical and looking for fresh language, or contemporary and looking to incorporate liturgical elements, this volume contains relevant, reflective prayers that call congregations deeper into the story of Divine Love.

Written with attention to beauty, theological resonance, and justice-mindedness, these prayers probe the depths of what it means to live out faith in today’s context. People of faith from various traditions can find helpful language for integrating spirituality and contemporary life in this rich trove of communal prayers.

An extract:

Litany for Our Planet

January 16, 2020

I feel a great deal of urgency combined with hope. People, especially people who claim to follow the Christ – the Peacemaking, violence-ending, death-resurrecting Christ – need to wake up to the understanding that caring for creation = caring for the poor. This is my prayer that Spirit People will not wait to face this, that they will start now, make and push for change now. So that we can leave a legacy of a healthy planet to our children and grandchildren.

God, we ask for your help. 
Our planet, our mother, is suffering
Due to human neglect, apathy, and greed; 
Due to overconsumption, mass production, and pollution.…

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Reflection: Progressing Spirit

A SEARCH FOR ULTIMATE MEANING — I present here my own edited version of an essay by Rev. Fran Pratt, Pastor of Worship and Liturgy at Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas in “Progessing Spirit”.:  

            In recent millennia our main western religious history started in east mediterranean Asia as a clan, a tribe, a community, sought a way to relate to the divine … in all the ways that complex and fallible humans do … getting some ideas right and misunderstanding others. 

            It created traditions, assumptions and rituals surrounding its understanding of higher power, some of which were timeless and others hopelessly limited. The clan grows into a tribe, then into a nation, gradually spreading its understandings across places and cultures … all the while struggling to connect with and understand the divine, and never quite realising that the divine is within them all along.

            Then a Person [ Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth (c.5 BCE-c. 30 CE) ] emerged from the Asian community who was able to sum up the story and speak divine truth with humanity’s own voice. In this Person the divine became immanent, wholly at hand; the best was humanised, fully embodied. 

          This Person is so compelling that his brief physical presence on the earth changed the course of history in innumerable ways. He embodied divine love and light, and believed that ordinary folks can do the same. He’s the catalyst for a whole new branch of the world’s Wisdom Tradition and inspired many other saints and sages in history to inspire much of today’s compassionate work.

            There’s a grand search for moral truth threading through the whole story, humans asking how best to be in the world and how best for humans to live wisely?       We believe we can see the divine pointing the way and remaining compassionately present when its guidance is rejected or scorned. …

            A TRIBUTE — Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt )1906-1975) called Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth “the only completely valid and completely convincing experience (that the western world had ever had) of goodness as the inspiring principle of all human action”.

Kevin G Smith January 2019

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Books where informed Christians Respond to Climate Change

BOOKS THAT INFORM ON THE ENVIRONMENT, ECOLOGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE 

Mick Pope has written two books : A Climate of Justice ISBN 9780648164203 $20.95 Click to buy here
and his recent book All Things New  ISBN 9780648376583 $24.95 Click to Buy here

Jonathan Cornford is the Author of Coming Back to Earth ISBN 9780994264558 $24.95 Click to buy here
and his recent book Coming Home ISBN $19.95 Click to buy here
       

Jan Morgan and Graeme Garrett are authors of On the Edge ISBN 9780648232452 $31.95
Click to buy here
Jan Morgan is the author Earth’s Cry ISBN 9781925208238 $34.95 Click to buy here

Mary Tinney is the author of When Heaven and Earth Embrace ISBN 9780648453888 $25.95
Click to buy here

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A second review of “Activist Theology” by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

See an earlier review at: Activist Theology

This review is by Paul Wildman, a member of the UCFORUM Executive.

This short book is well written and on topic from the point of view of an intellectual activist. However, the book has little at all to do with act-ual ground up, tr-act-ive, hands on, act-ivism.  The book is not entitled the ‘Theology of Activism’ and actually reverses these words to Activist Theology. However, Activist qualifies Theology in the title and as such the latter is subordinate to the former in content, process and ‘enfleshment’ and this does not happen. 

The book is really a Theology of Activism or more correctly it is a Theology of Feminist intellectual perspectives on theories and issues that are associated with activism. The author is a self-described ‘intellectual activist’ and this is indeed an appropriate term, as she doesn’t move from the intellectual, indeed hyper academic intellectual for the whole book.  This means she spends nearly 20% at the start of the (short) book explaining her ‘perspective’ in the preface and acknowledgement sections ………And then another 20% on poems….at the end of the book, and approximately half of the short book on ‘stuff other than hands on activism’. 

This is, I argue, part of a bigger picture that is the failure of academe in the West to grasp what action and activism actually is.  Indeed, when confronted with this author’s simple reframe of action and critique to fit within the hyper academic mind set of ‘my writing is my activism’ and all is at peace with the world, I recall that  I have had this literally said to me by a famous futurist.  So the critique is brushed aside by reframing. She finishes with a ‘call to action’. Yet, of course, that is not the action that she does and again is a form of hyper intellectualism on steroids, a hyper activism that is totally oblivious to itself and, as such, a sort of intellectual somnambulism.  This is a flaw/issue many of us, including me, struggle with. However, it needs to be surfaced and articulated and owned and addressed. This book does little to address same.

There is not one actual activist action she has done listed in the book, not one – bizarre and tragic in a sense as with many academics. When discussing the futures field they have NO grasp of what activism actually is and if they even smell a whiff of critique they reframe it as above as ‘my writing is my activist’, or go for ‘I am very busy so I outsource my activism to a social justice/religious organisation’, or ‘you don’t grasp what activism is about. Here read these 5 books I have written…..’  (all are literal experiences I have had). This book is shades of the first in my opinion.  Action Learning, conscientisation and craft, Peer to Peer, hacktivism, Wilding, Permaculture are for instance some ways of addressing same.  At least she has the honesty to call herself an ‘intellectual activist’. However, this allows the author and basically most other so call activist academics to call themselves same without ever actually doing it.

There are, some most excellent, indeed brilliant, paragraphs and phrases in the book, that as snippets on how to live one’s life somewhat make up for the above. A few of these include:

L837 Collective liberation does not materialize in a vacuum; liberation materializes as we midwife more shalom into this world.

L815 The struggle to humanize those who have been most affected by systems of oppression is so much of our work in activism. To embody a theological imagination that holds the complexities of our human experiences including our difference and diversity in tandem with a divine source of becoming is part of our struggle today.

L776 Church was also the place that could not hold my complexities.  Yet though I have left, church won’t, and I can’t, let go.

L1120 In this martyrdom of Arnulfo Romero’s, we can see a third dimension of Christian martyrdom. It is a dimension that has received little attention up to now, but today it is becoming more and more important. The first dimension is suffering for faith’s sake: Paul Schneider. The second dimension is suffering through resistance against unjust and lawless power: Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The third dimension is participation in the sufferings of the oppressed people: Arnulfo Romero.

In terms of the authors analysis of Jesus’s role as an activist she readily identifies that it is Jesus’s hands on pragmatics with the poor of the poor that come first in his work at the margins of the margins. Yes, the background theology matters, and yet, it is one’s personal practical hands on commitment and action that qualify the theology not the other way around.  So maybe the kingdom/commonwealth of god is an activist theological one after all??!! I certainly agree with her in this regard.

So, in conclusion 99% of academics and purchasers would be most satisfied with the value for money they have received in what Dr Henderson-Espinoza has written, and indeed I congratulate her for same.

Dr Paul Wildman 7th January 2020.

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Why is church attendance declining – even among committed Christians?

In 2016 Patheos produced this summary of the reasons for this in USA:

  1. Social expectation and pressures have lightened. People used to live their lives according to social convention. Those who strayed from accepted norms were ostracized and shamed. Churches used this power to “guilt” people into a variety of behaviors, including weekly church attendance. Obviously this doesn’t work any more.
  2. Church is no longer the best show in town. For centuries, Sunday morning was an entertainment desert. Shops were closed. Sports commenced at noon. There was no cable TV or video games. Church was literally the only thing happening on Sunday morning – so people went. Sunday now presents lots of attractive options and everyone – including Christians – is taking advantage.
  3. Increased mobility. People travel as never before, so more and more churchgoers find themselves out of town on Sunday. Relatively few see the need to visit a nearby church.
  4. Weekend work. Blue laws used to keep businesses shuttered on Sunday. Now many people work on the Sabbath, which makes attendance difficult or impossible.
  5. People need a day of rest. For stressed-out couples Sunday may be the only pajama morning of the week. Can we blame families for wanting a little downtime with each other? After all, aren’t we supposed to take a sabbath?
  6. The rise of do-it-yourself Christianity. The Internet and various media offerings allow believers to tailor a spiritual life to their own liking. They get Christianity without the challenge of having to interact with other Christians.
  7. The expectation of choice. Modern Americans are used to getting exactly what they want. Amazon.com offers more than 200 million items. Petco sells more than 100 varieties of dog food. Christians shop for pastors they connect with. Megachurch attenders often have favorite teaching pastors – and will skip a Sunday if “the other guy” is preaching.
  8. The most faithful saints are burning out. I know a number of very committed Christians who no longer attend – or do so sporadically – because their churches worked them so hard in the past.
  9. Video streaming. In the past five years many churches have begun live-streaming their weekly worship services. It’s a heck of a lot easer to watch church on your iPad than it is to drag everyone to a building. And here’s the best part: no singing!
  10. Churches increasingly model individuality in weekly worship and teaching. We’ve trained people to pursue Christ on their own – so that’s what they’re doing.

The complete paper can be found at: Declining attendances

Is this the same story in Australia? More to come on this issue and your opinion is valued.

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What is the status, role and authority of the Basis of Union in the Uniting Church today?

Rev Don Whebell. [Don is one of the few people still living that were actively involved in the process of coming into Union that formed the Uniting Church from three previous denominations. As well as a minister, he was a Queensland Synod Moderator and taught the subject ‘Basis of Union’ for many years at Trinity Theological College in the Queensland Synod].

“That question had been in front of me for some time for at least three reasons:

  1. There was a time when, as a Christian Education and Youth Worker, I had responsibility for a program of education for the participating denominations in North Queensland. Having been involved in studies in the first Basis [and disappointed at its rejection by the Presbyterian Church] my task was to try to help people to understand it in ways that would make sense to them in their journeys.

“I was frequently disappointed at what I saw to be the superficial responses a lot of people were making to the whole issue and a general unwillingness to grapple with the theological basis of what it means to be the Church.

“Most seemed to be just wanting some ‘ecclesiastical carpentry’ to glue the three denominations’ organisations together – or wanting a Church under another name that was vey similar to what they already had….

“2. In my roles as a Presbytery Minister and as Moderator, I was frequently confronted by the same sort of thing in the 80s and 90s that I had encountered in the 70s.

“Many people were often just not willing – or motivated – or able – to do the theological work, wanting a simple way of being the Church that made few demands on their thinking, believing and acting….

“Concerned that the Basis of Union was not being given its intended role, status and authority in the Uniting Church, the Council of Synod asked Duncan Harrison and I to write some studies on the Basis for people in Congregations, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Inauguration of the Uniting Church. And to encourage people to re-engage in a search through the Basis and rediscover the sources of their faith. It’s called A Hitchhiker’s Trip through the Basis of Union.

“3.The third area of my concern was aroused – say the least – when, at a Presbytery Ministers’ Conference a many years ago, The General Secretary of the Assembly announced that there was a growing problem with the place of the Basis in the UCA.

“He said something like:

“There is an emerging viewpoint among some that holds that The Basis of Union does not have the relevance for the Uniting Church that it had for the three denominations that were negotiating the Church Union proposals that led to the inauguration of the Uniting Church in 1977.”

“That is to say that The Basis of Union belongs to the pre-union denominations, and is no longer relevant to the Uniting Church. A historical archive, that served its purpose in the forming of the UCA, but of no real continuing significance.

“This is no new issue….”

Don’s work on re-appraising the Basis of Union is at last being made publicly available. He has kindly offered his work to the UCFORUM’s readers to reflect on.

You can follow this work at: The Basis of Union re-examined. This is a work in progress. The first six sessions are available and many more are to follow. So come back to this site when you can.

Don welcomes ideas and opinions and although he is battling some serious health issues you can email him at: Don Whebell.

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Literal reading of the Bible, source of many social problems

Evangelical churches believe men should control women. It can lead to domestic violence – ABC Report 9th December 2019

An ABC investigation last year showed how conservative Christian churches both enable and conceal domestic violence.

Vicki Lowik’s and Annabel Taylor’s ongoing research shows this is exacerbated by what’s taught in evangelical church communities, creating fertile ground for domestic violence, its justification and its concealment.

Traditional understandings about male headship, both in the family and the Church, were promoted as being ordained by God. This meant the authority of men and the subordination of women were considered to be “permanently binding” principles.

Conservative evangelical Christians enthusiastically embraced this as a form of resistance against the feminist movement, and still support these “permanently binding” principles today.

Sadly, there are no statistics on the prevalence of domestic violence in the Australian Christian community, but it’s addressed in international research. More Australian research is needed urgently.

For the full report go to: Conversations

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New Year Reflection: Evolving Church

from Fr Richard Rohr

Brian McLaren
  Summary: An Evolving Faith       A School for Love
Friday, January 3, 2020     Today, friend and CAC faculty member Brian McLaren continues describing the three shifts Christianity needs to make in order to be true to the vision and mission of Jesus the Christ. Yesterday Brian explained the importance of becoming (1) “decentralized and diverse.” Today, he describes the need to be (2) “radically collaborative” and to (3) “love as Jesus taught and embodied.” Rather than a top-heavy institution concerned about in-house salvation, the Christianity of the future will place love of God, neighbor, self, and all creation at the center. Brian writes: The diverse and decentralized movement we need will be radically collaborative, working with, across, and, when necessary, outside of and in spite of existing institutions to seek the common good. It will not be anti-institutional because institutions are necessary for human survival, but neither will it be institutional, in the sense that it is preoccupied with its own survival or bringing benefits only to its members. Rather, it will be trans-institutional, working across institutions, both religious and non-religious, seeking the common good of those inside and outside the movement and the institutions it involves. . . .  The . . . most important aspect of this [new] form of Christianity in the future is simple, obvious, and yet radical: it is about love, as Jesus taught and embodied [emphasis mine—RR]. . . . The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Jesus was about love first and foremost, in word and deed. Jesus began with love for God, but inseparably linked that love with love for neighbor [1], with the understanding that neighbor includes the other, the outsider, the outcast, the last, the least, the lost, the disgraced, the dispossessed, and the enemy. This love for neighbor was, in turn, inextricably related to an appropriate love for self. In fact, to love neighbor as oneself leads to the realization that oneself and one’s neighbor are actually distinct yet inseparable realities. In today’s world, we must add that, for Jesus, God’s love extends to the wildflower, the meadow grass, the sparrow, and the raven. He saw all of God’s creatures as part of one heavenly realm, as did dear St. Francis, and as do more and more of us. When I think of this [new] kind of Christianity of the future, then, I think of a movement of revolutionary love. I see it as distinctively Christian, but not in any exclusive way, because if we truly see love as Jesus’ point and passion, then the depth of our devotion to Christ will always lead us to love our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Indigenous, nonreligious, agnostic, atheist, and other neighbors as ourselves. . . . In this desirable future, every willing Christian congregation makes every competing interest subsidiary to love, which is the fruit of all contemplation and the goal of all action. If we embody this [emergent] form of Christianity, . . .  if we become the seeds of a movement of contemplative activism in the Spirit of Christ, I can imagine hundreds of thousands of congregations, . . . each a locally and globally engaged school of love, teaching future generations to discover, practice, and live in love: love for our neighbor, love for ourselves, love for all creatures and all creation—all comprising love for God, who is all in all in all.  


For more go to: Richard Rohr’s daily Meditation
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Poem: No insurance – Poem for Australia

Rex Hunt

These crazy flames that lick and lap at all that ranges round us,  the trappings of our wealth,
experience and existence.
At birth we can’t anticipate our existential ending,
the length of life not ours to count or measure.
But then we face eternity,
or nothingness,
depending on belief.
Like night’s thief, flames hotter than hell’s painting are not some distant image,
but sharpened fronds dissembling each dwelling.
And if we leave reality says,
‘there is no return’.
Can faith uphold us through this conflagration?
Survival walks naked of all that we have known,
valued or possessed.
That is the option open to us.
Our Hobson has no choice.
So if we die we will know what rests beyond this life.
Remaining so much is loss or lost.
Whichever path we walk pray this,
pray only this,
that now and on beyond this moment
the love a letter writer once described
will hold,
enfold
and keep us still through all that is to come.
And no insurance…just the faith…

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Same faith – different perspectives

The Christian Right and Left in USA are driven by the same bible but argue for totally different interpretations.

“While conservative evangelicalism tends to focus on sin, repentance, and salvation, the Christian Left identify Christ’s radical love and inclusion for marginalized people as the locus of their faith. “

The whole article is available at: They couldn’t be more different

CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 14: Marchers, led by Cardinal Blase Cupich, walk through the Englewood neighborhood calling for an end to the violence that has plagued the city on April 14, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The marchers stopped several times to reflect on the Stations of the Cross and to read out the names of Chicago homicide victims. With 14 homicides so far in 2017, Englewood is one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“Although some belong to historically conservative denominations, liberal Christians are helping to frame conversations around issues such as environmental action, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s reproductive health, immigration, racial equity, affordable housing, and wealth disparity. “

Is this same set of differences now clearly manifest in the Australian church?

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Is the Queen progressive?

After hearing and watching this year’s Christmas message from the Queen, Tim O’Dwyer has asked that question. What do you think?

“Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth of a child: a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in Bethlehem.

“But in time, through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the world how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.

“Many of us already try to follow in his footsteps. The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small steps can make a world of difference.

“As Christmas dawned, church congregations around the world joined in singing It Came Upon The Midnight Clear. Like many timeless carols, it speaks not just of the coming of Jesus Christ into a divided world, many years ago, but also of the relevance, even today, of the angel’s message of peace and goodwill.

“It’s a timely reminder of what positive things can be achieved when people set aside past differences and come together in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation. And, as we all look forward to the start of a new decade, it’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.”

(From the Queen’s Christmas Speech 2019)

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Some timely thoughts from Kevin Smith and a question….

[About Kevin: As a free-thinking progressive-christian messianic god-seeker. Kévin Aryé Hatikvah Smith, aged 98, deaf, in a wheel-chair in Sydney, Supreme Cross of Honour in 2005 (from Benedict XVI) for 50 years of ecumenism (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) in France and Australia. His mother, Esther Myers, was culturally Jewish although non-observant and became Catholic before wedding my Catholic father in 1921. She was a splendid model of Hebrew neighbourly-love and wrote poetry about the blessed virgin Mary and Jesus. He made friends with a messianic rabbi and he invited him to be a reader in his synagogue, which he loved doing. With his wife they were foundation members of the NSW Council of Christians & Jews.

Kevin’s Jewish Cockney ancestor Emmanuel Solomon arrived in Sydney in 1818 and in about 1835  he became a patriarch founder of Adelaide. As a leading Jew he became a close friend of Saint Mary MacKillop and helped her during her excommunication… more than once supplying free accommodation on his properties to the nuns expelled from their convents by a bishop.]1. THE 9 BEATITUDES …

— There are nine beatitudes in Matthew’s Eight Beatitudes! Here is what I understand.

-1. It’s OK to be destitute (ptochoi).

-2. It’s Ok to  mourn. 

-3. It’s OK to be humble and gentle. 

-4. You must hunger for goodness and integrity. 

-5. Be merciful and generous. 

-6. Be unpretentious and sincere. 

-7. Champion peace.  

-8. Suffer fools gladly and thugs too.

9. It’s OK to be reviled or persecuted.  

and The Intercession of Yeshuah

Learning not from church christology but from bible christology I note that a main message concerning Yeshuah is that he is shown as subject, submissive, in a servant role to Yahweh-Elohim/Adonai … “Not my will but thine be done.”
-Thus NT scripture reveals that divinity has levels, at least 2, since the divine Yeshuah’s is not equal to that of Adonai.
— This is rammed home in 1 Cor 15: “After the last judgement, at the final act of salvation history, Yeshuah hands over humanity and the Church to Adonai and then … Wait for it! … he submits.
1 Cor. 24+ “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death for he ‘has put everything under his feet.’
Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ.
When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. …”
— … THE SON WILL BE MADE SUBJECT … so that GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL
— The eternal job of Jesus Christ from then on will be to intercede, a servant role.    

The question:

                             Can anyone tell who or what Yeshuah will be interceding for?

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Does Australia need a religious freedom bill?

In the next few months the government will vote on a religious freedom bill. It’s been hugely controversial, and critics say instead of protecting vulnerable people, it could act as a licence for hate. David Marr and Paul Karp analyse how this bill could change Australia.

You can read David Marr’s opinion pieces on the right to expel gay children and Israel Folau’s sacking.

Paul Karp has written extensively on the Ruddock religious freedom review.

The Guardian provides independent editorials with open access journalism. See more and follow at: The Guardian.

If you only have time for a shorter summary go to: What will Australians be allowed to say and do?

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A reflection on the meaning of Christmas.

IT’S HARD TO KNOW HOW TO OBJECT.
MEMO to Management (of my nursing hostel): A lady nurse is wearing a festive ‘top’ bearing the greeting “Merry Stitchmas”.
I think that it is an unfunny ugly go at demonising the commercial take-over of the annual birthday celebration of a revolutionary Jewish prophet, Rabbi Yeshuah (Jesus-Christ) of Nazareth (05 BCE-30 CE).
The Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt judged him “… the most completely valid and completely convincing experience of goodness (that our world has ever known) as the inspiring principle of all action”.
Kevin Smith room 55

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Religious Discrimination Bill

From our friends at Equality Australia

This week we celebrate two years since marriage equality became law in this country. A moment of triumph for our community that was made possible by decades of work and millions of Australians standing up for fairness.   But the Prime Minister and Attorney General chose this week, on Human Rights Day, to announce the second draft of their Religious Discrimination Bill. And it’s bad. We’ve only had it on our desk for a few days but wanted to share our first thoughts. Over the coming weeks we will be preparing our analysis, briefing campaign partners, and making sure these changes (and the dangers they bring) are accessible to other people like me who don’t have law degrees.    This Bill impacts on everyone, from sporting heroes to everyday Australians who should be able to live, study, work and go to the doctor without facing hurtful religious views. That’s why we’ve teamed up with notable Aussies Ian Thorpe, basketballer Lauren Jackson and author Benjamin Law, to make a video explaining just how bad this Bill really is. You can watch it here .

There’s a little bit of good news– The government has realised that its healthcare clauses went too far. The new Bill has reduced the types of health practitioners that can take advantage of the conscientious objection in health care provisions. They still apply to workers most likely to be the first line of response for people needing care – doctors, nurses, psychologists, midwives, and pharmacists. It no longer allows these healthcare professionals to refuse treat to specific people. But they can still object to certain procedures. 

Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of bad news. The Bill: 

  • Privileges religious expression over discrimination protections. The Bill removes discrimination protections for LGBTIQ+ people, women, people with disability, and others when people make certain statements which are discriminatory based in religion.
  • Entrenches double standards in law. Religious organisations will be allowed to discriminate against others with different beliefs or no belief, even when providing publicly funded services.  People will be provided protections when they engage in religious activity that breaches local by-laws which we all have to follow. Corporations associated with religious people will be given discrimination protections, while religious schools will continue to be able to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy.
  • Privileges religious views over patient health needs. Even with the changes, Australians will find it harder to access non-judgmental healthcare, such as sexual health, family planning, fertility, mental health and transgender health services, where ever they live.  Professional standards, such as those that require objecting health professionals to refer patients to alternative health professionals who will treat them, may come under challenge. oOo
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Real Estate Parables

Real Estate Escapes – SPECIAL PRICE for Christmas 2019

Another inexpensive Christmas gift idea that informs, protects and warns….

$15.00 from For Pity Sake Publishers

For the real estate enthusiast – Real Estate Escapes by nationally recognised ‘real estate watchdog’ and consumer advocate , Tim O’Dwyer , is just the ticket at only $15.00.

[Tim is a member of our New Farm Explorers group.]

When ‘sold’ isn’t sold and ‘Off-the-Plan’ is just ‘off’

Real Estate Escapes is a collection of timeless property parables where not all agents, solicitors and conveyancers are created equal, and where not all escapes are successful. Drawing from over four decades experience, Tim O’Dwyer combines his deep knowledge of the subject with an uncanny ability to explain, in a simple and entertaining way, these true tales of getting out of contracts, leases, prosecutions and legal liability.

Real Estate Escapes is more than an informative consumer guide. It’s also a really good read – riveting stories of the traps, rorts and misunderstandings that abound in the real estate industry. I highly recommend you read it BEFORE venturing into the minefield.”

– Helen Wellings – Channel Seven Consumer Affairs Reporter

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Christmas Gift Ideas

We are very fortunate to have many productive authors in the Progressive Christian movement. Some have made a major focus on Christmas.

Here are three that you might like to consider when looking for gifts for thinking friends or even for yourself:

Available from Barnes and Noble with free delivery.

  • Rex’s Book has been a great reference for many seminars.

Available directly from Rex Hunt.

  • Borg and Crossan are leading scholars of the historical Jesus.

Available from Amazon.

Enjoy the season!

Paul

oOo

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Living the Change

Background 

Living the Change: faithful choices for a flourishing world” is a globally-connected community of religious and spiritual institutions working together with sustainable consumption experts to champion sustainable ways of life. The website is: https://livingthechange.net/

Living the Change was initiated at the UN Climate Conference in 2017 by the US-based multi-faith organization, GreenFaith, an interfaith organization whose mission is to educate, organize and mobilise people of diverse faiths to become environmental leaders. Serving to coordinate Living the Change, GreenFaith now has Implementing Partners who collaborate to shape a vision for a worldwide community of practice which drives lifestyle-related emission reductions.

They are:

Can lifestyle change make a difference?

The campaign emerged, in part, from a study which showed that “if the world’s top 10 percent of carbon dioxide emitters were to cut their emissions to the level of the average European Union citizen, global emissions would decline by 33 percent. If the top 20 percent were to do so, the reduction would be about 40 percent.”[1]  In other words, while structural change is legitimately pursued as being potentially most effective in creating change, individual behaviour change within a targeted demographic can indeed make a meaningful contribution to stabilizing the climate. 

Given that close to six billion people identify with a religion (Pew Research Center, 2017), the opportunity for these groups to create meaningful change through collective action cannot be ignored. In Australia, the 2016 census showed 60% of the population identified with a faith tradition.

There’s also the difference it creates in me, the individual. The more we act in ways congruent with science which tells us that climate disruption is a major threat, the more our determination to make climate action a priority can grow. By acting in line with my values, my integrity grows and, hey, fewer greenhouse gases actually go into the atmosphere! The various faith traditions value individual responsibility, and each person is intrinsically important.

What are people being asked to do?

Living the Change invites individuals to fortify healthy, balanced relationships that help sustain the earth. The three areas where religious leaders and people of faith will be asked to take steps are:

  1. reduced use of transportation based on fossil fuels, ie, air and road transport
  2. shifting towards plant-based diets, away from meat-based protein
  3. energy efficiency and sourcing energy from renewables

Leaders in faith communities are encouraged to make their pledges to lifestyle changes publicly and promote these changes in their communities. We are seeking faith leaders who will help us promote the campaign.

oOo

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Book Review: Climate Church, Climate World

How people of faith must work for change, by Rev Jim Antal, 2018.

The national synod of the United Church of Christ, USA passed a motion in 2017 that: The climate crisis is the opportunity for which the Church was born.

Jim Antal’s book opens with historian Lynn White’s words in 1967.. More science and technology are not going to get us out of the present ecological crisis until we find a new religion or rethink our old one. Antal argues that climate change is the greatest moral challenge humanity has ever faced because it multiplies all forms of global injustice: hunger, refugees, poverty, inequality, deadly viruses and war.

A compelling case is presented that it’s time for the church to meet this moral challenge, just as the church addressed previous moral challenges. He calls for the church to embrace a new vocation so that future generations might live in harmony with God’s creation and each other. After describing how we have created the dangers our planet now faces, Antal urges the church to embrace a new vocation, one focused on collective not individual salvation and an expanded understanding of the Golden Rule. He suggests ways people of faith can reorient what they prize through new approaches to worship, preaching, witnessing, and other spiritual practices that honours creation, cultivates hope and motivates love for others into action.

Richard Smith

6 December 2019

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A Christmas Meditation

Rev Dr Walter Stratford. [see details about his book at: Why are you here Elijah, now available as a kindle publication]

Following the discussion about the meaning of Christmas at the PCNQ gathering at New Farm last Wednesday, Wally has been inspired to write this….

The gospel account of Jesus of Nazareth was written as an assertion that Jesus was the Son of God. The claim comes from the experiences of followers of the way and was expanded into a declaration on which the church was built. The gospel according to Luke provides the story that claims Jesus’ birth as an eternal truth.

The angel said to her, ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be Holy; he will be called Son of God’ (Lk1:35).

At the appropriate time Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem. ‘While they were there the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her first-born son…’ (Lk.2:6-7).

These few verses from Luke’s account continue to be a focal point for the church’s declaration that Jesus is the Son of God, the birth narrative recognized as definitive of his divine relationship. This literal understanding of Jesus’ birth was linked by early theologians to a claim that the scriptures of the Jews contained words of promise that found their outcome in Jesus. His sacrificial death and the claims of his resurrection sealed the promises of redemption and became the rock on which, it may be said, the church stands or falls.

It is generally agreed that Luke was a Gentile God worshipper before converting to Christianity. The consensus is that he was writing to fellow Gentiles, some of whom may have also been God worshippers.

The Gentiles of that middle eastern area contained among their numbers the strong influence of many Greeks and Romans. Within this mix were many religious stories which included visitations of the gods with human women. Children born of such liaisons were referred to as sons of the gods. Some of these went on to become gods. Hercules is one so named. Alexander a warrior of considerable renown was named as a god. Augustus, Roman emperor, on his demise was proclaimed a god.

So, the first point is that the story of Jesus’ birth is located readily in this Gentile environment. It has more to do with myth than with demonstrable truth.

It is also important as a second point to realize that Luke’s viewpoint was ‘written’ around 80 years after Jesus’s birth. It is written from within a group of followers of the way – apparently Gentile in their origins. It seems unlikely that after 80 years the detailed description of the happenings surrounding Jesus’ birth could still be contained in memory.

Thirdly, to present the gospel theme as literally true does not take account of the mythology of the time, nor the many years of argument and discussion prior to the eventual determination of the essentials of the faith to which all were called to accede.

This sweeping background on which the church was grafted, gave rise to many practices that are questionable in this 21st century. In our time where many bemoan a steady demise of the Christmas story as more and more it is overlaid by the world, I think what is needed is a different story.

The story that I like to tell has its beginnings in Genesis. You will know the story. It begins with the wind or spirit of God blowing over the water. A lot happens until we reach the intimate moment of people’s beginnings. The action of this moment requires of each of us, an element of imagination. “Then the Lord God formed mansic from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the mansic became a living being” (Gen 2:7). Imagination will hear God say with the breath: “The life of God for the life of humankind” In my reading of these first two chapters, I am prepared to say that breath and Spirit go together. We may claim therefore that as we breathe, so also the Spirit is present. This presence is life giving.

Our different story does not begin with a baby Jesus – it begins at the beginning of everything. It says that always and constantly the Spirit is present in every life. All of this is part of the different story. This presence does not need the continual presence of a baby. The Spirit is robust, paradoxical, mysterious. It rides the wind that we breathe, and consistently enables life. The baby born again every year may thus become symbolic of new life constantly growing and developing and becoming adult.

I think that this story is essential, even in Christmas celebrations that have become a once a year event – to which all are invited, and large numbers attend. The glitter expands year by year in dazzling arrays of gifts to satisfy every desire. It seems at times that life has been put aside in favour of the satisfaction of immediacy. There is however, much in Christmas that is good, there is much that is important in its celebration. The glamour is seductive, but also deceptive.

Beneath the glamour is a mostly forgotten world of a young man who demonstrated in his life and death the vitality and possibility of life with the Spirit of God. He is seen in our day among those who fight fires, as a companion to the frail, as one who vindicates the less fortunate, as one condemning violence. This young man, Jesus is quoted as saying something akin to: “The reign of God is within you” (Lk 17:21).  

Listening to the people, we discover that Christmas is a time for family and sharing, for gathering and companionship, a time for holidaying and enjoyment. Christmas has the power to distract us from disturbing influences. Perhaps here is some merit however, in remembering that the time of Jesus birth was a disturbing time of considerable violence. Disturbing times are still with us.

Nevertheless, there is a thread of strength in the Christmas message, in which, if we have ears to hear, we will discover its potential as a catalyst for change in ordinary everyday life, a time for imagining possibility. Christmas spilling over into the New Year every year, may become every year a reminder of the connections humankind has with a mysterious, ambiguous and paradoxical Spirit.

oOo

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Feedback from PCNQ and plans for 2020

Hello PCN friends

Last Wednesday, 31 of our group gathered to do some exploring of the meaning of Christmas. Now, 90 minutes of discussion cannot be summarised in a few sentences – you have to be part of the group to pick up on all of the threads. A couple of things stood out for me:

  • when we literalise the Christmas story, we lose much of the intense meaning of how the life of Jesus was a message to society
  • From the community perspective, does the church have only 2 ways of communicating Christianity – Christmas and Easter? Does that mean the essence of the Jesus story of his life and teachings is not understood? How can we do that better?
  • Many of the activities that churches put their effort into – decorated Christmas trees, Walk through Bethlehem, Christmas lights, Carols evenings do little to help people understand the meanings that the Gospel writers had in mind – the meaning behind the crafted stories.
  • How do we help children and young people to think about the meaning behind the story? 

Someone else may like to share their perspectives after the discussion. That is probably best done through the UC Forum website or through the PCN Facebook page. (Sorry I do not have the link for that, but if you search for Progressive Christian Network on Facebook I think you will find it)

We are already planning for 2020, so do mark 10 am on the last Wednesday of each month in your new diary. We will start the year with Steven and Adele Nisbet introducing “Sing a new Song”. I am sure there will be time for singing some of those new songs – many to familiar tunes. 
Enjoy your Christmas!

Desley Garnett
drgarn@bigpond.net.au
0409 498 403

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Book Review: Activist Theology

from our friends at A Progressive Christian Voice Australia

Activist Theology

Sometimes books come along at just the right time. One such book has been Activist Theology by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza which my wife and I have been listening to on audible as we have been driving round Tasmania. I can’t recall anything quite like it.

Twenty-five years ago, the theologian Dorothee Soelle commented,

When I first came to this country (USA) and started to teach at Union Theological Seminary, the faculty and students asked me again and again: What has your theology to do with your being a woman? I did not know how to respond. Of course I knew of some things I intensely disliked in male theological circles – namely, the springing from one quotation to the next in their writing without the courage to use personal discourse; the almost anal obsession with footnotes, called ‘scientific style’; the conscious – but much worse, the unconscious – craving for orthodoxy and shelter it offers to the professional theologian; the neglect of historical reflection in favour of glib talk about ‘historicity’; the failure to evaluate and reflect on praxis.

I also felt a certain lack of candour and honesty, and I sensed no need to be personally exposed to the truth of Scripture and tradition.”[i] (p.xvi)

None of these criticisms can be levelled at Robyn Henderson-Espinoza. Her life transparently informs her work. Robyn describes herself a transqueer activist and Latinx scholar with white-passing privilege because of the colour of her melanin who has had to rely on food stamps to survive.

She works at the interface between the academy (university defined widely), the church and local activist movements. While at one level this is not new, (I think of Jurgen and Elizabeth Moltmann, and Jacques Ellul in Europe, James Cone in the USA, the South American Liberation theologians, and even Charles Birch and Veronica Brady here in Australia), her approach has a freshness, immediacy and a companionable solidarity. Her inclusion of the work of and discussion with activist poet Britt!ni “Ree Belle” Gray is one of the many highlights.

When she writes about the importance of “struggle” you know that this is not a remote theological concept, but something that is integral to her life as an activist theologian. Her work then becomes nourishing emotionally as well as intellectually. Her theology is literally written onto her body, tattooed on her hands in prayer as “divine doubter”.

For activist theology, God is in the change that is becoming. Activist theology is thus hope filled, not covered in despair. This is the message our time needs.

A month ago, this was brought home to me when I gave a workshop for social work academics on what they could do about student poverty. Though well intentioned, many of the academics felt overwhelmed and powerless to act. This may seem strange to the outsider, for after all, academics have resources in terms of knowledge, communication skills, status and in some cases money that are far greater than those most in need. Yet it was true that the neoliberal system was putting obstacles in the way of their acting, (lack of tenure, increased workload, greater administration). More importantly, the neoliberal system sent out the message that social problems were all too hard, there was nothing that one can do.

As it happens, a week later I was called to give evidence in person to the Senate Inquiry into the Adequacy of Newstart and Related Payments. This was unusual. I am not employed by any institution, nor am I particularly well known or influential, nor do I have much power or influence. What I and a colleague did was write a submission on student poverty, (no 76), based on our research but not limited to it, that caught the attention of the Senate Committee. There are probably 1,000s of academics in Australia who are better qualified than I to have made a submission on student poverty, but with a couple of rare exceptions they did not submit. Their attention was elsewhere. They missed a valuable opportunity.

The hour in which I was given the opportunity to discuss student poverty with the Committee was a special time of grace. As always, the chair of the Committee, Senator Rachel Siewert of the Greens, was deeply respectful and concerned about the plight of the poor. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy of the Labor Party came down to welcome me into the space before the proceedings began. This certainly helped me feel at ease and calmed my nerves. Senator McCarthy, through her mother, is descended from the Garrwa and Yanyuwa peoples, whose traditional lands straddle the McArthur River and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Both Senators had clearly read my submission closely, asking insightful questions that showed an understanding of the individual and the wider policy issues. Also present was the Liberal Senator, Hollie Hughes, who unfortunately had been given the remit to promote the Government line, that 1. the best type of welfare is a job and 2. increasing income support payments was unsustainable.

Also giving evidence in the same hour was Cat Nadel from Young Campaigns. Her evidence was outstanding. When challenged by Senator Hollis on the sustainability of increasing payments she gave the best off the cuff explanation of the true meaning of sustainability that I have heard. Below is the Hansard transcript.

I would agree that young people are concerned about the future and want to see the Australian economy remain sustainable. I can really only speak for myself and the young people I work with and interact with, not for all young people. We have seen Australia go through years of what we are told has been economic growth, but we’ve also seen inequality widen deeply in that time. In my mind, a budget that is sustainable into the future needs to look after all of society and especially the poorest and most vulnerable in society. We are currently not seeing that; we are seeing the gap widen. While we are talking about how young people look into the future: we are also looking down the barrel of huge challenges to come, like climate change, and it is not clear how governments are budgeting to prevent those problems, and what implications that is going to have for future budgets. I would say that young people do want to see Australia continue to be a sustainable economy that looks after everyone, and that means we have to think about how we allocate support to the poorest in society. 

This was a spine-tingling moment in the proceedings. Though the Hansard record can’t show it, there was a moment as Cat finished, when Senator Hollis was left speechless, … before she proceeded on with her next scripted question. With young advocates like this, there is still great hope in these dark political times.

Yet this hope does not come without a cost. Despite her young age, Cat must have spent years preparing for this moment. (Not just this moment of course, but any moment when her talents can be used.) Time spent studying, researching, going to meetings, organising, listening and feeling the pain of others and the environment.

It is this cost that so few academics and church attendees are prepared to pay. Those with conservative views of course can maintain the illusion that they live in the best of all possible worlds, that they are safe and comfortable. However, those who profess progressive views present more of a problem. Why don’t more step up? In my own profession of social work, only a handful of social workers ever become involved in meaningful activism despite a commitment to social justice being written into their code of ethics. Academics, even those with tenure, rarely get their hands dirty with pressing social concerns. As for theologians, they may as well not exist in Australia. At best, the mainstream churches limit themselves to general statements that don’t offend too much.

What is the cost? The cost is a preparedness to share the pain. This is one of the meanings of incarnation, and without it, incarnation makes no sense. It means to regard status, career, security as nothing when compared to the call for justice and mercy for all: not just for humans but for the whole of creation. This seems to be the stumbling block. Progressives, like their conservative brothers and sisters can be too comfortable. They prepare their progressive thinking and their theology, use it to define themselves as not conservative, but then don’t use it often enough to address the growing injustice all round them.

The activist theology of Robyn Henderson-Espinoza does not let progressive Christians off the hook. Without activism there is no theology, progressive or otherwise, there is only a logy of empire, or of a nation, or of a cultic group. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza gives no easy answers. She is flailing about in what Dorothy Searle has called “the open horizon of Christ”.[ii] One sees at times those flashes of sparkling brilliance, but you know that to fully understand you must dive in. This is the challenge for these turbulent times. The need to dive in is more urgent than ever. Safe and steady will not do.

Len Baglow, Management Committee APCVA

[i] Dorothee Soelle, 1968, 1995 preface. Creative Disobedience. Wipf & Stock. p. xvi. (I realise the irony of an old white male footnoting a quote about the “almost anal obsession with footnotes” but this book is very good and I hope some of you will read it.)

[ii] Ibid, p.3.

oOo

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NCCA on Climate Change

The National Council of Churches in Australia has called for Climate Change Action now.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Media Release

A Call for unified National Leadership regarding Climate Change

The National Council of Churches in Australia urges the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, to convene a roundtable on climate change, shaping a bipartisan approach and drawing in civil society leaders. “Let us draw the line now under what is past,” says the council’s President, Bishop Philip Huggins. “Let us just get on with working together to prevent global temperatures rising further.” Bishop Huggins said it would be wonderful, if this could be done before the crucial next UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP25), next month, from December 2 to 13. “I came back yesterday from the Annual Pacific Church Leaders meeting in Suva to the discourse here about the awful bushfires. “In Suva, Church leaders from all over Pacific shared their current experiences of climate change: the trauma for communities displaced and forced to relocate inland and away from a swapped coast; the anguish then for traditional cultures of ‘leaving ancestors behind’; the dread of more frequent and more violent cyclones and even the monthly anxiety for places not far above sea-level at the time of a full and new moon’s impact on tides. Said folk from such places: ‘We don’t sleep so well those nights!’ “It is a global issue. Humankind must find a quite unprecedented and sustained level of cooperation.” Bishop Huggins said the human family could do with some places of hope where there was a unified national response. “We urge our PM and our Leader of the Opposition to meet together and shape a way forward, as soon as practicable. Let Australia be an island of hope! It is a matter now of intelligent and cooperative leadership.” Bishop Philip Huggins NCCA President

Anglican Church, Antiochian Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Chinese Methodist Church, Churches of Christ Congregational Federation Coptic Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Indian Orthodox Churc,h Lutheran Church, Mar Thoma Church, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Roman Catholic Church, Romanian Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, The Salvation Army Uniting Church.

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Book Review: The Forgotten Creed

Thanks to Richard Smith from the Progressive Christianity Network Western Australia for this review.

This book reveals how scholars believe that Paul’s remarkable words in Galatians 3:28 of radical equality among all people irrespective of race, gender, slave or free was borrowed from an ancient baptismal creed. The original author long since forgotten.

This ancient creed said nothing about God or Christ or salvation. Its claims were about the whole human race. In a world of bigotry, slavery and sexism the followers of Jesus proclaimed at baptism: “You are all children of God. There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male and female, for you are all one.”  But Christianity would within 300 years become a religion that despised Jews, condoned slavery as the will of God, and championed patriarchy.

Freedom slowly emerged 1500 year later as Christianity gave birth to secularism (this world) enabling the Church to rediscover its true original nature, from the historical teachings of Jesus and from science (Latin scio – to know and scientia – knowledge). Science gives birth to Ecology revealing the fullness of God, the ultimate reality that sustains all life on earth irrespective of race, gender, slave or free, human or non-human. But can Christianity resist the temptation of falling prey to the powers and privileges of wealth that science has bequeathed us. Again abandoning Jesus’ radical teachings and in Greta Thunberg’s words ignoring for the last 30 years, the science of climate change.

Richard Smith

25 November 2019

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Annual Scholarship opportunity

Applications close for the Rodney Eivers Scholarship on Wednesday 18 December

This scholarship is awarded to students of Trinity College Queensland, to assist with their study. The aim of the scholarship is to provide financial support to enrolled students and to encourage the development of a greater awareness of the breadth and diversity in theology and scriptural scholarship [including Progressive Christianity] as it relates to contemporary Australian society.

The successful applicant will be informed of the scholarship award on or before Friday 6th March 2020. The presentation of the scholarship award will be on Tuesday 21st July 2020.

How to apply

In order to apply for the 2019 Rodney Eivers Scholarship, you must email or post a 2019 Rodney Eivers Scholarship application form and essay submission (see below) prior to December 18, 2019.
Applications close – Wednesday 18th December 2019

Email Scholarship@trinity.qld.edu.au

Post Trinity College Queensland Scholarship, GPO Box 674, Brisbane 4001

Submit an essay of approx. 1,500 words on the following:

‘My Personal Theological Reflection’

Drawing on the two books listed below by Marcus Borg and Tom Wright, compare and evaluate the beliefs and claims of Progressive Christianity and Orthodox (historic) Christianity. The essay should draw on evidence and arguments in the books and include some reflection on our Australian context as well as your personal theological reflection. Please use footnotes for citations and references.

Borg, Marcus J – The Heart of Christianity; Rediscovering a Life of Faith (2004). [256 pages]

Wright, N.T. – Simply Christian (2011) [224 pages]

Both books are available in the Trinity College Queensland Library

Scholarship Award

A scholarship allowance of $13,000 within one calendar year is available.

This will be paid into the student’s nominated bank account in two instalments of $6,500 at the end of each successfully completed full-time semester (July 1 and December 1).

Citizenship requirements

Australian citizens and/or permanent residents

Eligibility to apply

Be enrolled as a full-time (3 units or more) accredited student of Trinity College Queensland.
Have completed one year of full-time study (a minimum of 6 degree-level units) at a Theological College with a recognised Higher Education Provider in the last 10 years.
Have not been a previous recipient of the ‘Rodney Eivers Scholarship’

Selection criteria

Demonstrate an understanding of the perspectives presented in each book
Interaction with both books
Theological reflection on the implications of differing viewpoints

Please note that the essay requires neither personal belief nor the defence of a particular viewpoint; rather, it is marked on the above criteria

Selection Process

The Queensland Synod Advisory Council will make a recommendation based on the advertised selection criteria.

The Scholarships Committee of the Queensland Synod Finance Investment and Property Board will review and determine the successful recipient and will also approve all disbursements from the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod Scholarship Fund.

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What is Christmas all about?

Our friends at Progressive Christianity Network Qld will be discussing this at their final gathering for the year on 27th November at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm.

What is Christmas all About? And what are we celebrating?

It’s a wonderful time, but I wonder …….

So started a song I learnt many years back! Back then I did not think any deeper than a manger, shepherds, angels, wise men ….

Now, I do wonder more about the meaning of Christmas and its celebrations each year. Do you? Do you have a new understanding? 

Let’s explore Christmas together at our next PCN Explorers meeting on 27th November, facilitated by Paul Inglis. There are many books that look at Christmas, drawing on new research and thinking. We have attached 2 one page documents that will introduce our thinking. I hope you have time to browse them in the next 10 days before we meet.  Request these from Paul . Maybe you will have other resources in your own library. You might also like to look at Jo Holden’s blog on “I don’t believe in the virgin birth”.

Now for some starter questions for you to play around with and meld with your own:

In what you have read about Christmas from a ‘progressive’ Christian viewpoint:

  • What was an aha moment for you?
  • What makes you say – “that is something I have not considered before”?
  • when did you say – “that does not sit easily with me”?

What do you think of the statement that Christmas is a celebration “under construction”?

Tim O’Dwyer wrote: I once had a letter published in The Courier-Mail recalling how, many decades ago, there was a move to “put Christ back into Xmas” and suggesting the churches should vacate 25th December, leave it to the secular world and celebrate the birth of Christ sometime back in September. How do you react to that suggestion?

PCN Explorers will meet for the last time this year on Wednesday 27th November, 10 am, Merthyr Road Uniting Church.

Come at 10 for eat, meet and greet and we will start our conversation. Some people like to continue the fellowship at Moray Cafe after the discussions so maybe you would like to plan for that also.  

Desley


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The Impact of the Death of Christianity on Australian Society

Predicting social trends is usually an inexact science, but England’s influential Spectator magazine has boldly put a precise date on the disappearance of Christianity from Britain: 2067.

“What does all this mean? …. First, that reports of Christianity’s demise in the West are greatly exaggerated; and second, that to the extent it does disappear, it will be greatly missed…

The churches will have fewer nominal attendees, so that members are more committed. As they continue their good works, but without much of the moralising of the recent past, the faith will become more attractive. It will be like the fourth century – before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and began its fateful courtship of power and authority….

Much of Australia’s social capital over the past two centuries was built by Christians, explicitly motivated by their faith to work not just for themselves but for the community at large. They believed they were called to love their neighbour – all their neighbours – and brought their (now-maligned) “Protestant work ethic” to bear on the problems and challenges of their time. The economy, and in particular the siren call of profit, is the only language that seems to move government or business now. Or at least, it is the most heard….”

To see the full article by Barney Zwartz from the Centre for Public Christianity go to:

Christianity is dying out? Don’t count on it.

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Rethinking what we believe – a discussion on ‘Catholica’

Michael Morwood puts some rubber down on the bitumen exploring how the religious beliefs of many people in countries like ours are changing today. In his new book, “Prayers for Progressive Christians: a New Template”, which we introduce to you today he explores some of the ways in which our prayers and liturgies might have to change.

Go to: Catholica to view the great discussion that is ensuing amongst progressive Catholics.

This debate was a response to Catholica’s lead comments on The Way Ahead for Catholics

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No need for a Religious Freedom Bill

Statement from the Rev Peter Catt, President of A Progressive Christian Voice Australia.

“There is no need for a Religious Freedom Bill. There are many people throughout the world who are persecuted for their faith. To align oneself with them in the current Australian climate is self-indulgent.

Freedom of religion has to do with the freedom to hold to a particular belief system, freedom to assemble for worship unhindered, and freedom to undertake religious observance and practice. It does not and should not include insulating church institutions or members from being challenged or criticised for poor behaviour.

There is a real danger that a Religious Freedom Bill will become a Freedom to be Sectarian Bill. Religion when it functions properly is about love and inclusion. No Religious Freedom Bill should ever sanction hate speech. Neither should such a Bill allow people who provide goods and services to withhold them from say, LGBTIQ+ people. To allow this would be a retrograde step, taking us back half-a-century to the days when goods and services were withheld from people based on perceived race.

I get attacked more often for my views and practices by fellow religious travellers than I do by people from outside the faith community. Will the Bill stop that from happening? Not that I think that it should. But the Bill is predicated on the idea that it is them (secular forces) and us (religious people). The reality is more complex. How will the Bill deal with religious people attacking one another?

Finally, the Government should reflect on its behaviour during the last Parliament when the greatest threat to religious freedom was the Government’s attempt to curtail religious charities from speaking out on policy matters that affected the poor and vulnerable.”

The Rev Peter Catt is available for further comment  via advocate@progressivechristians.org.au

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Book Review: The Bible in Australia: a cultural history

[See my review below this background information]

By Meredith Lake, ABC RN Soul Search presenter and academic.

Meredith Lake collected the Australian History prize for her book The Bible in Australia in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards last month. Lake said when public debate about the national history curriculum was in full swing she decided to write the book as an antidote to the so-called culture wars. She said the phrase “Bible basher” had been coined in Australia and her research revealed Australians still held passionate and varied opinions about the Bible.

“[There exists] the idea of Australia as a somehow Christian nation adrift from its Judeo-Christian moorings, a nation whose freedoms may be somehow under threat. On the other hand, the idea of a Godless or secular nation in which religious belief has been at best weird and is best now put behind us [also prevails],” she said.

Woman with short brown hair stands at podium indoors speaking.

The ceremony at Parliament House was hosted by ABC presenter Annabel Crabb. The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were launched in 2008 by then prime minister Kevin Rudd as the nation’s richest literary prize for fiction and non-fiction.

They no longer claim the “richest” title after the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award was raised to $150,000 but they do offer the largest prize pool, with $600,000 distributed in six categories. Winners receive $80,000 and finalists receive $5,000 each, all tax free.

Full list of awards

Australian History:
Meredith Lake for The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History (NewSouth Books)

Fiction:
Gail Jones for The Death of Noah Glass (Text Publishing)

Young Adult Fiction:
Michael Gerard Bauer for The Things That Will Not Stand (Scholastic Australia)

Children’s Literature:
Emily Rodda for His Name Was Walter (HarperCollins Australia)

Poetry:
Judith Beveridge for Sun Music: New and Selected Poems (Giramondo Publishing)

Non-Fiction:
Tanya Dalziell and Paul Genoni for Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964 (Monash University Publishing)

Review

This is a big sweep of the history of Australia and the influence of the Bible on that history and the developing and changing culture experienced by European settlers, indigenous residents, missionaries and in more recent times the new citizens from all parts of the world. The Bible was a staple text of colonial Australian life.

But the influence of the Bible on Australian culture goes back hundreds of years before European settlement and this is a fascinating piece of research that includes St Augustine and Portuguese and Dutch traders. By the time of Cook the Bible had been available in English for 250 years and was ubiquitous. It circulated widely as a whole volume or separate books and was in the hands of settlers and convicts and slowly also the indigenous inhabitants. But it was not a smooth pathway of acceptance. It was a contested document right from the start of European settlement, with settlers, convicts and aborigines. Yet it was clearly locked into popular culture and the basis for many decisions, laws and practices. In a European imperial guise it was wrapped in colonial thought and culture. For indigenous it was a new mind set, one that challenged much of their world view. The ‘civilizing’ view of missionaries played out in many different and conflicting ways. They made reading, hearing and learning from the scriptures a part of the rhythm of mission life.

At the same time it became a focus for challenging the encroachment of colonial thought on the original inhabitants. Many efforts to include a rewriting of the Bible in local languages were the subject of enormous battles within the churches and amongst aboriginal communities. But for colonial governments the role of missionaries was to ‘civilize’ and make the aborigines compliant to the new overlords. One great challenge in translations was to agree on a name for God and in several cases ‘boss’ was the substitute.

The legal notion of terra nullius was a crucial cultural product of the bibles European history. people who knew the Bible, believed it, were among those who harmed aboriginal people or profited from frontier violence. There were humanitarians making some noise about the treatment of aborigines but they stopped short of saying colonialism should end.

Lake does a great job of covering the whole territory that includes how the ‘word’ was spread, the growth of publishing houses, the massive influence of the Bible Society, frontier work in a huge country, the way a devotional attachment to the Bible was seen as a means to a good society, the Bibles influence upon the development of banks, schools, hospitals and much more. But it never produced an agreed model for a good society.

Inevitably the text was re-examined as new scholarship in the form of scientific knowledge made its impact on the developing nation, as it did elsewhere. By the late 19th century many works began to appear critiquing the Bible and by 1869 Jesus was being credibly portrayed as a man rather than a God by none less the evangelical Chief Justice of South Australia. New ideas flourished and spread, but only for a couple of decades. By the 1920s 96% of the population was identifying as Christian and dissent was minimal. Once again new views evolved with the development of critical thinking groups, feminist critics and gradually the Bible became one of many books that informed ethical and good practice. At the same time temperance and moral reform movements were influential until mid-20th century.

From the moment the first Australian parliament met, scripture and prayer were locked into politics. The constitution ‘humbly relied on the mercy of God’. The White Australia was indirectly influenced by interpretations of scripture. religion pervaded political parties and influenced policies. Two world wars had a great influence on future perspectives where faiths were shaken. Nevertheless the commemoration ceremonies captured the scriptures as integral to ceremonies for generations. The country continues to erect ‘religious’ memorials with biblical quotes. ANZAC day has become the new religion for Australians.

So much more could be told here, but that would spoil it for the reader.

At 439 pages this is a big read, but an easy one, full of interesting characters and anecdotes from our history. This is a book that all seekers after the truth about our Australian biblical heritage will find fascinating and enjoyable.

Paul Inglis, November 2019

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Australia Talks – ABC Survey

On ReligionInformation release from ABC’s Australia Talks with Annabel Crabb

“Australians firmly believe that religious people are subjected to discrimination in this country.

But all the same, we’d rather the godly kept their views to themselves.

Seventy-one per cent of Australians told the ABC’s Australia Talks National Survey that religious
discrimination happens “occasionally” or “often” in this country.

Ironically, this is a point on which the devout and the heathen are in agreement.

Even among Australians with no religion, 68 per cent agreed that there is discrimination, as did 74 per cent of Catholics, 72 per cent of Protestants and 74 per cent of “other religions”.

Still, we’d rather the devout kept quiet  

But a broad majority of Australians — 60 per cent — would prefer that people keep their religious views to
themselves.

This was a view held most strongly, as you might imagine, by non-religious respondents, of whom 73
percent wished not to hear the religious views of others.

But even a slim majority of Catholics — 53 per cent — agreed that it was better to keep religion a private
affair.

Protestants were more inclined to support full disclosure; only 39 percent of them felt religious views should be private.

And people from other faiths were divided on the question: just shy of a majority — 47 percent — agreed
religion should be a hush-hush affair.

If you’re wondering why all religious respondents besides Catholics and Protestants are grouped together, it’s because only those two faith groups provided a large enough sample to isolate in a statistically reliable
fashion.

According to the 2016 Census, 2.6 percent of Australians follow Islam, 2.4 percent are Buddhist, 1.9 percent
are Hindu and 0.4 percent are Jewish.

Catholicism is the leading single religious group, claiming 23 percent of the population, while 13 percent
identify as Anglican and 16 percent as “other Christian”.

We are not our faith

Australia is not a country in which religious belief is the dominant determinant of identity, social status or
indeed even social activity.

When given a list of eight attributes and asked which was most central to the respondent’s sense of self and
identity, Australians placed religion stone-cold, motherless last.

Respondents were more likely to identify themselves through their political beliefs (this was the top-rating
response, scoring 6.4 on a scale of one to ten), gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation than they were through
their religious views, which rated 4.7 out of ten.

What not to bring up at a dinner party  

Intermingling between religious groups is commonplace in Australia; 84 percent of respondents said they mixed socially with people of different beliefs to themselves.

But there are some subjects probably best avoided at such ecclesiastically-mixed gatherings.

Climate change, for one; while 80 per cent of atheists think climate is a problem for them personally, only 63
percent of Protestants agree.

Gender roles, for another; 35 percent of Protestants believe that Australia would be better off if more women stayed home to look after children, while only 14 percent of the godless were also of this view.

Would more religion help or hurt?  

Overall, Australians are not looking for more religion. Only 15 percent of respondents thought the country
would be better off if more people were religious.

And one of the survey’s most striking findings is the poor esteem in which religious leaders are held.

When asked who they trusted, Australians opted for doctors and nurses (trusted by 97 percent) and scientists (93 percent) well ahead of their preachers.

Religious leaders were distrusted by a full 70 percent of the population, with 35 percent saying they did not
trust them “at all”.

Even within their own flocks, religious leaders were viewed with some suspicion.

Protestants were the most obedient among the faithful; 58 percent of them trusted their religious leadership. But only 47 percent of Catholics had the same level of faith, while other religions came in at 49 per cent.

It seems trust in religious leaders may be a thing of the past; nearly half (47 percent) of those aged over 75 felt it, but only 23 per cent of those aged 25 to 29.

Where do you fit?  

If you’ve not had a chance, use the Australia Talks online tool to see how you compare (and share it with
your family and friends). It is available in English, Vietnamese, simplified Chinese and Arabic. 

Then, tune in at 8.30pm on November 18 for our unmissable live Australia Talks TV event, which I will
present with my excellent co-host Waleed Aly. 
Annabell Crabb

   
Forward this email to a friend so they can sign up to this newsletter here.  

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Opinion: What really happened?

From possibly our oldest subscriber.

About Kevin: As a free-thinking progressive-christian messianic god-seeker. Kévin Aryé Hatikvah Smith, aged 98, deaf in a wheel-chair in Sydney / Supreme Cross of Honour in 2005 (from Benedict XVI) for 50 years of ecumenism (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) in France and Australia. My mother, Esther Myers, was culturally Jewish although non-observant and became Catholic before wedding my Catholic father in 1921. She was a splendid model of Hebrew neighbourly-love and wrote poetry about the blessed virgin Mary and Jesus. I made friends with a messianic rabbi and he invited me to be a reader in his synagogue, which I loved doing. With my wife we were foundation members of the NSW Council of Christians & Jews. Happy Hanukkah to you and yours  from  Kevin  in Sydney NSW.  My Jewish Cockney ancestor Emmanuel Solomon arrived in Sydney in 1818 and in about 1835  he became a patriarch founder of Adelaide. As a leading Jew he became a close friend of Saint Mary MacKillop and helped her during her excommunication… more than once supplying free accommodation on his properties to the nuns expelled from thier convents by a bishop.  


WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? … studying the Rabbi Yeshuah story … Terentius (195-159 BCE): “As a human person, I consider that nothing human is unworthy of my concern”. (Homo sum. A me nihil humanum alienum puto.) -As a human person, I, Kevin/Gauvain, have cast my limited observation powers on the material world that has nurtured me and also beyond at the physical universe that gave me birth.

-I have had it pointed out to me that the universe is part of a greater realm, the cosmos, where there is Creator-God, heaven, angels, purgatory , hell, demons, etc.

— Concluding a session of my limited observations and drawing on life-long learning I conclude in this essay, or I arrive at the opinion …

(i) that I am a citizen of a planet where all human observations, conclusions and opinions are tentative and challengeable;

(ii) that nobody has totally died and then come back to everyday life again, no resurrection;

(iii) that virgin-mary type pregnancies do not occur [Yeshuah had no male DNA.];

(iv) that all miracles are scientifically suspect;

(v) that the existence of divinity / divine-nature is theologically suspect;

(vi) that a great literary work, the Bible, is a wholly human construct and therefore has very questionable verisimilitude on account of its many discrepancies, contradictions and mistakes;

(vii) that you must not trust Christianity because of the christology that it created which was presented to followers as unchangeable ‘deposit of faith’ dogma;

(viii) that faith is often the enemy of evidential fact;

(ix) that history shows for me no evidence of what I taught as a catechist for 20 years, “God the Father is a loving, caring God”.

(x) that it has been most difficult for me to advance this thesis since it has taken me 7 or 8 decades of devoted application trying to find out WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?

(xi) that these observations are for me joyful and liberating.

— As one born saved, I spiritually embrace Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth as my mentor; he is Israel’s greatest prophet,, an original thinker, an inspiring preacher, gifted healer & exorcist, convincing teacher of wisdom and integrity, Jewish mystic, model of kingdom-oriented life-style and promulgator of the ancient Hebrew ethics of neighbourly love with esteem for Adonai-Elohim as our loving Father. I walk daily hand-in-hand with this most admirable spiritual companion and silently converse with him and I greet his mother too. [] Kevin Aryeh Hatikvah Smith in Sydney []

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Heaven on Earth – Taming the Ego

Brian O’Hanlon, retired psychologist

Today’s gathering of the PCNQ Explorers at New Farm was another excellent interactive discussion, this time including practical exercises.

Discussion leader, Brian O’Hanlon, is a member of the group, a frequent homily presenter at St Mary’s in Exile, South Brisbane and author of:

A Path to Peace based on his work with veterans experiencing PTS, and

Experiencing the Spirit

Brief notes from the session

  • Scripture, especially the NT is often seeking enlightenment from a position of love
  • Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is within and around you
  • The Buddhist concept of Nirvana similarly calls for a quietening of the mind (taming of the ego)
  • An enlightened person lives without judgment, with acceptance, awareness of the eternal dimension, the sacred
  • Matthew Fox, from the recent Common Dreams Conference – What the world needs now is a sense of the sacred
  • Eckhart Tolle’s concept of the mind is open to God/love when it is empty
  • Damascus Road experiences are brain activities of experiencing enlightenment or liberation from/of the ego. But there are also many examples where the outcome of an experience of enlightenment where the ego is not completely managed leads to a dogmatic view of life – the ego has not completed the awareness experience. Many examples in history of people who have not managed their egos and taken others on pathways to destruction
  • Dogmatic thinking comes from the left side of the brain – shifting this allows/prevents the spiritual ego stopping an advancement of awareness.
  • Ego is your past insisting it is you now.
  • Example from Philippians 2:7 – but emptied himself,
        taking the form of a slave
        being born in human likeness.
    And being found in human form
  • Ego is a verb, a process and like power can be good or bad
  • A balanced mature ego is found through silence/meditation/emptying the mind.

Brian took us through exercises to demonstrate to ourselves how this can be done. It was good to have a psychologist’s perspective entering our very diverse discussions.

Watch for a notice about our November gathering.

Paul Inglis 30/10/19

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Redcliffe (Q) Explorers next gathering

Dear Explorers

Our next gathering will be on Monday 4th November – to hear Lozang Tsultrim talk about Tools for Happiness: a Buddhist approach to finding happiness. Lozang is Carla Pearse’s adopted name since being ordained a nun in the Buddhist tradition ten years ago. She has gained degrees in Counselling (UNE, Armidale), Social Science (UQ, Brisbane) and International Studies: Peace and Conflict Resolution (UQ), and has decades of experience in pastoral care, suicide prevention counselling, and running mindfulness workshops and retreats in Queensland, New South Wales, Nepal and India. I’m sure Carla will be happy to answer your questions about Buddhism to the best of her ability!

As usual, we meet at 6 p.m. in the Azure Blue coffee shop (91 Anzac Ave, Redcliffe) for tea/coffee and bikkies, after which Lozang’s talk will start at about 6:30. All are welcome. For more information please give me a call on 3284 3688 or 0401 513 723.

Shalom

Ian

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PCNQ – Explorers meets on Wednesday

You are invited.

This is a reminder that our next PCN Explorers meeting will be on Wednesday next week – 30th October, at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.

Brian O’Hanlon will be our leader. Brian is a regular at our gatherings – he is a retired Psychologist, Meditation Teacher and Feldenkrais Practitioner.

A Spiritual approach to Christianity: Understanding the Spiritual Ego:

  • A summary of the ideas of Pierre de Chardin with particular emphasis on ‘we are spiritual beings!’
  • A summary of ‘Heaven on Earth’
  • We are spiritual beings, so why are we not in the Kingdom, ‘Heaven on Earth’? (The Spiritual ego – what is it?)
  • Turning down the Spiritual Ego
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
was a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. He conceived the idea of the Omega Point and developed Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of noosphere. During his lifetime, many of Teilhard’s writings were censored by the Catholic Church because of his views on original sin. Recently Teilhard has been praised by Pope Benedict XVI and other eminent Catholic figures.

Come at 10am for eat, meet and greet and we will start our session about 10:30 am

Desley Garnett – drgarn@bigpond.net.au

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Reforming the Catholic Church?

Geoff Taylor has drawn our attention to the ‘Amazon’ Synod and the debate that is going on in the Roman Catholic Church.

But not all the Cardinals are happy! Cardinal Muller, a German Cardinal without a portfolio is being very vocal on his concerns about the reforms posited by his German Cardinal colleagues who are not prepared to be limited by Rome. Even the reformist Pope Francis is concerned about the pace of the thinking about changes including an end of priestly celibacy, the ordination of women, the reform of sexual morality, and the democratization of powers in the Church. The Synod that is promoting all of this thinking will for the first time give equal voting rights to laity and clergy and almost certainly shake the church to its foundations.

For more about this go to: They have driven Jesus out of the Amazon Synod

From L’Espresso

And Cardinal Müller also sees worldliness in the way in which part of the Church has sided with environmentalist ideology:

“The Church belongs to Jesus Christ and must preach the Gospel and give hope for eternal life. It cannot make itself a protagonist of any ideology, whether that of ‘gender’ or environmentalist neopaganism. It is dangerous if this happens. I come back to the ‘Instrumentum Laboris’ prepared for the synod on the Amazon. In one of its paragraphs it speaks of ‘Mother Earth’: but this is a pagan expression. The earth comes from God and our mother in faith is the Church. We are justified through faith, hope, and love, not through environmental activism. Of course, taking care of creation is important, after all we live in a garden willed by God. But this is not the decisive point. What is is the fact that for us God is more important. Jesus gave his life for the salvation of men, not of the planet.”

To “L’Osservatore Romano,” which has published an obituary for the Icelandic glacier Okjökull, which died “through our fault,” Müller objects: “Jesus became man, not an icicle.” And he continues:

“Of course, the Church can make its own contribution, with good ethics, with social doctrine, with the magisterium, recalling anthropological principles. But the Church’s first mission is to preach Christ the son of God. Jesus did not tell Peter to concern himself with the government of the Roman empire, he does not enter into dialogue with Caesar. He kept himself at a good distance. Peter was not a friend of Herod or of Pilate, but he suffered martyrdom. Cooperation with a legitimate government is just, but without forgetting that the mission of Peter and of his successors consists in uniting all believers in faith in Christ, who did not recommend involvement with the waters of the Jordan or the vegetation of Galilee.”

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Please Leave?? – No please stay!!

by John Squires

Rev. Dr John Squires was formerly Principal of Perth Theological Hall. He is currently undertaking an Intentional Interim Ministry with Queanbeyan Uniting Church and is Canberra Region Presbytery Minister (Wellbeing).

John’s blog An Informed Faith is linked to this site in Links – Categories – Leading Practitioners

There has been a lot of media interest in the recent declaration by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, concerning the way that some dioceses, a number of ministers, and many, many people of faith are grappling with our changed understandings of gender and sexuality, and how that relates to Christian faith.

It is a complex matter, with many nuances, that deserve careful consideration, and compassionate reflection.

The words of the Sydney Diocese leader, however, cast the situation in a clear black-and-white manner, with the stinger of a sharp command to those with whom he (and many in his Diocese) disagree: “please leave”.

The full set of words from this part of his speech is instructive: “My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our Church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views – but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture. Please leave us.”

So sayeth the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, the Rev. Dr Glenn Davies.

(A full account of his speech to the Anglican Synod is reported on the Sydney Diocese webpage at https://sydneyanglicans.net/news/guarding-the-faith-in-a-changing-world and in Eternity News at https://www.eternitynews.com.au/australia/please-leave-us-sydneys-anglican-archbishop-tells-progressive-christians/)

But there are a number of problems with what Dr Davies said.

The Archbishop distanced himself from “people who] wish to change the doctrine of our Church”. The first problem is, that doctrine is always changingIt was changing in the early decades of the church. It changed significantly in the various Reformations of the 16th century, under the leadership of Jan Huss, Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, John Knox, and then the response of the Council of Trent in the Roman Catholic Church.

It changed in 1540, when Henry VIII of England sanctioned the complete destruction of shrines to saints, and further in 1542, when Henry dissolved monasteries across the country—actions which changed doctrines and led to the formation of the very church in which Glenn Davies was ordained and then consecrated!

It changed when, during the Enlightenment, theologians and scholars applied principles of rational thinking to scriptural texts and faith concerns. It continues to change in the postmodern world, as new discoveries and insights lead Christian leaders to bring new questions to faith issues, and to formulate beliefs in ways that connect with and make sense within the changing world.

In my own denomination, the Uniting Church in Australia, we recognise this when we recall the paragraph in our Basis of Union that affirms “the continuing witness and service”, not only of evangelists, prophets, and martyrs, but also of scholars; and which notes that as we engage with “literary, historical and scientific enquiry … [of] recent centuries”, we are able to develop “an informed faith” of relevance to the current times.

Doctrine is dynamic; it is always in a state of flux. Theology is transient; it is always developing. Church teaching is constantly evolving; it is never static.

(On my take on interpreting the classic creeds of the church, see https://johntsquires.com/2018/11/02/interpreting-the-creeds-in-a-later-age/; on how the Uniting Church envisages the factors involved in this process, see https://johntsquires.com/2018/07/30/seeking-an-informed-faith/)

Second, the Archbishop referred to “the plain teaching of Scripture”. The second problem, then is that scripture does not actually have a plain teaching. There are words, written in the Bible, which need to be interpreted, if they are to be understood and applied to contemporary life. There is no plain and simple teaching in these words; they are words which always need interpretation.

This interpretation starts with the choice of text. We do not have an “original version”; we have copies of copies, some complete, many fragmented. There are always options to consider–and we all rely on experts in this matter. Then comes the matter of language. Biblical texts were written in languages other than English. We English-speakers are reliant on the careful work of translators and scholars, seeking to render the phrases of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, into contemporary English. There are already multiple interpretive decisions that have been made for us, in our English Bibles.

Then, interpretation needs to take into account the differences in culture that exist, between the patriarchal, honour-shame cultures of antiquity, and the current state of play within (in our case) contemporary Australian society. We can’t just assume that something from an ancient culture “makes sense” in our contemporary culture, let alone that it can be “directly applied” into our context. There are interpretive decisions to be made.

(I have written about this dimension at https://johntsquires.com/2018/12/07/to-articulate-faith-contextually/)

The process of interpretation also needs to bear in mind how the usage of particular words and ideas has changed over time. Awful, for instance, once had a very positive sense, “full full of awe or admiration”, whilst nice had an earlier sense of “silly, foolish”. Guy (from the historical British figure Guy Fawkes) had an earlier sense of a frightening figure, not the generalised reference to men that it has today, whilst meat in earlier centuries was a catch-all term referring to food in general. (And, most pertinent to the particular issue at hand, “gay” once had a very different point of reference in English!)

These kinds of shifts in usage are also found in terms that appear in the Bible, especially in translations from some centuries ago. We need to factor that in to our interpretation.

And then, reading and interpretation of the Bible involves application, discerning how and in what ways a biblical passage is relevant for us today. That means knowing what our situation is as well as what we hear in the biblical text, and connecting the two. It is not simple or straightforward.

In an earlier interview about his view of matters of sexuality (and other issues), Dr Davies referred disparagingly to “a virus in the national church, caused by not teaching properly the word of God” (see https://www.thepastorsheart.net/podcast/2019/9/17/archbishop-davies-on-public-christian-leadership).

That’s an unfair and unhelpfully polemical characterisation of what is a complex and nuanced matter—reading biblical passages about sexuality in contemporary society. The biblical texts about sexual relationships involving people of the same gender are not simple and self-evident prohibitions on such behaviour, and should not be read as such.

Elizabeth and I have contributed a discussion of this matter which, I believe, offers more constructive lines of understanding; see https://johntsquires.com/2018/07/30/marrying-same-gender-people-a-biblical-rationale/ as well as https://johntsquires.com/2019/06/26/human-sexuality-and-the-bible/ and https://www.unitingnetworkaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/02-Human-Sexuality-in-Biblical-Perspectives.pdf.

(More generally, see https://johntsquires.com/2018/07/30/the-word-of-god-scripture-and-jesus-christ/)

Third, the Archbishop—quite strikingly—has urged certain people to leave the Anglican Church. I believe that advocating that people leave one church to start another church is not a helpful activity. Anglicans, like other mainstream denominations, have a commitment to unity in the church. So, the third problem is a lack of commitment to the unity of the church.

That’s quite an amazing position for a leader in a denomination which affirms that it is, indeed, an integral part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church—and which is universally recognised by other denominations as an integral part of that Church.

Each Sunday, in Anglican churches around Australia (and beyond), faithful people affirm, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” That’s a line in the Nicene Creed. And those Anglicans are joined by many Roman Catholics, members of the many Orthodox churches, and quite a number of folk in the various Protestant churches, to say these words together on regular (even weekly) occasions. Across the denominations, there is a commitment to unity.

Not in the Sydney Anglican Diocese, however. The Archbishop’s invitation to those who see things differently from him to leave the church and form their own branch is fracturing the unity of the church even more by this narrow, sectarian dogmatism.

Even his own colleagues, it seems, have recognised that Dr Davies has crossed a line with his rhetoric in recent days (see https://www.theage.com.au/national/even-conservative-rectors-shuddered-why-sydney-archbishop-s-words-hurt-20191018-p531ye.html). Such rhetoric serves only to exacerbate differences and intensify hurt. Is that really being faithful to the office into which he has been called?

The worldwide leader of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, has affirmed that “reconciliation is the hallmark of Anglicanism, the heart of the gospel and a life to which we are all called” (see https://www.anglicancommunion.org/mission/reconciliation.aspx).

Archbishop Welby is promoting through the Anglican Communion a resource entitled Living Reconciliation, which “offers a vision of Church marked by honesty, truthfulness and love … [and] applies the teaching of the Gospel at precisely the point where we need it most today” (see http://living-reconciliation.org/thebook/).

Is the Archbishop of Sydney aware of just how contrary his words are, to the principles of reconciliation and the commitment to an honest, loving church that is being championed by the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Finally, the Archbishop of Sydney is quoted as imploring those with whom he disagrees: do not ruin the Anglican Church. The fourth problem I see is that exploring and developing ideas is not a process of ruination.

Rather, the exploration of ideas and the development of thought is a constructive process that offers a gift to the church at large: the gift of an ever-evolving, ever-refining articulation of beliefs in ways that resonate with life in the contemporary age. Questions, provocations, redefinitions, and developments in thinking and believing are wonderful gifts!

I wouldn’t characterise the process as one of causing ruin. Rather, I would celebrate it and affirm the importance of this process. The problem, it seems to me, is that if you really believe that you have The Truth, then you are impelled to convince others of that Truth. But if you believe you are called to Love others, then you will listen and learn.

Sadly, the Archbishop has demonstrated this stark difference: when we prioritise Truth, we inform, lecture, admonish, even berate; whereas when we prioritise Love, we enter into relationships, affirm, explore, nourish, question, rethink, and develop in community with each other. Quite a different ethos. Quite a different result.

Please Leave? No—Please Stay! To the people addressed by Dr Davies, I say: Please stay in the Christian church and help us to be faithful to the Gospel. Please stay in the Christian church and help us to change in ways that are positive and life-giving. Please stay and gift your distinctive contribution to the life of the church in your locality and beyond.

And to the Archbishop, if he really is committed to the process of leaving, I say: you please leavePlease leave behind homophobic fear and discriminatory rhetoric. Please leave behind your insistence on conformity to your particular dogmatic assertions. Please leave behind your criticisms of those who happen to be born different from you. That’s what I would like you to leave.

oOo

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Opinion: Australia and Globalism

A  Response To the Prime Minister’s Lowy Lecture

by (Rev.) Dr Noel Preston AM, nwpresto@gmail.com  (9th October 2019)

On October 3, 2019, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, delivered a lecture to the Lowy Institute outlining his vision for Australia’s role in relation to what he called “globalism”.

On the surface, the tone of his speech was plausible and reasonable. But, on closer examination, his declarations, couched as they were in general terms,  are disturbing for many Australians of goodwill who seek a better direction for our nation as an international citizen – including progressive Christians (to whom this response is primarily directed).

PM Morrison rejected what he described as “unaccountable international bureaucracy”, clearly a side swipe at the United Nations. There was no acknowledgement of the role prominent Australian leaders of the past  played in establishing international forums which have defended peace along with human and environmental rights.

While rejecting “isolationism”, Mr Morrison opted instead for what he called “positive and practical globalism”. Moreover, ignoring his power and responsibility to lead the nation and inspire Australians to less self-centred policies, he  insisted that he was “responsible to the will of the Australian people” (whatever that is) invoking that slippery term, “the national interest”, as his justification.

Throughout  this bench-marking oration he did not once mention the issue of Global Warming and Australia’s responsibility to take a strong lead internationally, as life on the planet faces climate change.  Interestingly, he did not repeat his recent assertion to a United Nations assembly: “We are meeting our commitments and reject any say to the contrary…” That dubious assertion was strongly disputed by experts as demonstrated on the ABC TV program “The Drum” on the 8th of October 2019.

Sadly, his silence about this number one global issue in the Sir Frank Lowy lecture speaks volumes about his unwillingness to  prioritise a national strategy on the matter. Instead, the priority Mr Morrison espoused was  “security through economic strength”, seemingly code for “business as usual”.

Furthermore, there was no mention of his government’s record (and that of recent governments of all persuasions) on matters such as our diminishing humanitarian overseas aid budget or border protection with its unnecessarily cruel policies. Clearly, he was asserting, the Australian government will not listen to “unaccountable” international bodies who justifiably accuse Australia of violating  human rights.

That said, the lecture also, presumptuously, invoked Australia’s “higher values”, presumably the tradition we share with other middle powers like Canada and New Zealand.  Arguably, these nations  with whom we share much history apply values  that promote a somewhat different stance toward “globalism”.

The content of the Prime Minister’s speech is all the more disturbing when set in its context.

Clearly, it was fashioned and delivered against the background of his recent international tour which included his absence at the UN Climate Conference in New York, but an elaborate State visit to Trump’s USA (and it is President Trump who has given currency to this term, “globalism”). Of course, the context is wider: China’s rise to power, Vladimir Putin’s nationalistic style and the UK’s Brexit push.

These geo-political shifts provide a reason for the Prime Minister to clarify Australia’s approach to international affairs but they also emphasise the need for caution, lest Australia fall into line with  the mood for regressive nationalism.

Finally, in my view, people of Christian faith and all those who share a hope for the common good, cannot avoid the conclusion that, as he has become a custodian of great political power, the Prime Minister’s loudly proclaimed Christian faith has evaporated in the years since he delivered a testimony to that faith in his maiden speech.

Understood prophetically and progressively, Christianity, along with other like worldviews, believes the interests of the global community of life are paramount. It will be up to civil society in Australia, including  strong advocacy by religious leaders, guided by a different understanding of globalism, to push back and sound a different note. Otherwise, we will continue to slide further  from  authentic international responsibility toward a narrow and self-focussed national interest.

oOo

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Progressive Church of Christ? Resourcing Ministry and Worship No.12

TLC Church Bayswater North, Melbourne.

265, Canterbury Road.

Truth and Liberation Concern (TLC Church) is an organic
community, responding to God’s grace and the call to love.
Just as the TLC community is a ‘work in progress’, so its vision
and mission statement is a work in progress. It is a snapshot of our
community and aims to give clarity to what is evident among us.
And it helps us dream and plan for what may be possible for the
journey ahead.

The TLC elders and pastors recognise and name the things that
give life and breath to the TLC community. We acknowledge the
founding faith statements and mission statements that have
underpinned our community for over 40 years.

Our Mission Statement

Spirituality and worship We affirm worship as an all-of-life endeavor, expressed in diverse ways as we respond to God and to one another. We seek to nurture the Christian faith within our community and to provide opportunities for spiritual growth.

A place to belong We offer people a home and a place to belong. We provide a space where people can find love, grace and dignity through their relationships with Christ and with one another.

Mission and community engagement We encourage one another to encounter God as we reach out beyond our boundaries, exploring and sharing the love and justice of Jesus.

An Empowering Community We empower people to take ownership within our community. We encourage one another to embrace both the freedom of the Gospel and the responsibility that the Gospel brings. Our challenge is to express our faith through the way we live.

Restoration & Healing We offer rest, healing and rejuvenation. We invite people to experience the love of God within our community, and we provide space for people to journey towards wholeness.

Go to – Our facilities

Go to – Global focus

Go to – Sermons

Go to – Fairs fair

Sunday Service – 10am.

oOo

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Book Review: Opening Doors

A seeker’s reflection on the rooms of Christian living

by Kevin Treston

I have been looking forward to more from Kevin Treston since his The Wind Blows Where it Chooses made practical sense of the crisis facing western Christianity. Opening Doors is a great follow on from that book and once again he has produced a text that is useful for personal as well as group studies. This time the exercise is to reconcile a contemporary faith with modern science, cosmology and spirituality.

Dr Kevin Treston has taught and lectured for many years in 14 different countries. He is the author of 30 books, and a highly respected presenter among Christian educators. He was a visiting Scholar at Boston College and is a member of the association of Practical Theology Oceania. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his services to education.

He calls himself a seeker because he has taken on board Jesus’ invitation to open the door to him, get to know him better and at the same time bring Jesus wisdom into contemporary society. He invites us to be seekers and gives us the tools for shifting from the old anthropocentric (human centred) faith to an ecocentric faith better suited to our times.  This is a very personal exercise and the book acts as a resource that guides the reader/s through a range of elements that enhance Christian living today.

For Kevin it is obvious that the Christ Story is told within the Great Story of the Universe which is a much longer narrative than the 2000 years of Christianity. The profound mystery of God within and beyond creation needs to be reframed within the wondrous story of the universe. He has developed this theme in previous books so that the three great movements from Jewish beginnings to the traditional story we are familiar with are linked to the emerging cosmic story including teachings, theology, liturgy, ethical living that form a new consciousness that includes modern science.

Kevin builds the discussion on a foundation of human evolutionary destiny for homo sapiens as an exclusive species of hominoids exhibiting unique attributes of self-reflection, language, art and consciousness over 150,000 years through towards today’s global people to emerging trans human forms. This is accompanied by a history of the development of religions and especially in the Christian religion the rise of the clerical class which has had a depowering effect on individuals ‘reducing them to a spiritually dependent lay state’. He makes the point that the propensity to be religious deeply embedded in the human psyche is not confined to those who endorse creeds and doctrines. But it does give each of us an inclination to consider the question What Does it mean to live life given the fact that one day I will die? He gives fresh insights into the meaning of ‘incarnation’ as core thinking in the human narrative.

The reader is given opportunities to consider the issues and questions raised by the author’s commentary on life, religion, spirituality, advances in science, love and relationships, the divine, sin, God as Trinity, the worship of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and the Cosmic or Universal Christ, the exercise of ministry, the role and status of women and the problems of patriarchy and domestic violence, morality and shifts in teaching about morality. All of this leads to Kevin’s model for the spirituality journey which is really a framework for each of us to develop our own intentional model.

I found this book personally liberating and I was motivated to follow up on Kevin’s invitation to describe the room of life that I would like to be in after opening the door. Highly recommended for individuals, conversations and self-directed groups who will find some great ideas for getting underway. It is a resource suitable inside and outside the church with particular benefit to communities looking at the renewal and relevance of their mission focus.

Paul Inglis 14th October 2019

To order online go to: www.coventrypress.com.au

Phone: 0477 809 037 Email: enquiries@coventrypress.com.au

Post to: Coventry Press, 33 Scoresby Road, Bayswater Vic. 3153

Cost: $24.95 + *Postage: $9.95 for 1-3 books; $11 for 4 and more; free freight for orders over $100

oOo

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Early thinking on sexuality in divine-human relations

[Posted to demonstrate the diversity of thinking amongst our growing cohort of progressives and the fact that this sort of thinking was in scholarly circles in the 18th century...]

From Brother Mac Campbell, Society of St Francis

I became interested in an eighteenth century German philosopher/theologian who was responsible for the birth of Romanticism.

Perhaps the following might interest readers:

Johann Georg Hamann on sexuality; Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy:
“One must also remember that Hamann confessed that he could not conceive of a Creative Spirit without genitalia; indeed, he was quite happy to assert that the genitals are the unique bond between creature and Creator. So sexuality in divine-human relations has two aspects. First, as paradigm of creativity, it is the way in which our God-likeness can most strikingly be seen. Secondly, as the point of the most profound unity, it is the locus for our union both with another human being and with the divine. Provocatively, Hamann sees original sin and its rebellion as embodied not in sexuality, but in reason. Overweening reason is our attempt to be like God; meanwhile, prudery is the rejection of God’s image, while trying to be like God in the wrong sense (bodilessness). (See Essay of a Sibyl on Marriage and Konxompax.) One should therefore distinguish ‘likeness to God’ from ‘being equal to God’. In the Sibyl’s essay, the male version of grasping at equality with God (cf. Phil. 2:6) is the attempt to be self-sufficient, to be the God of monotheism: the sole ruler, who possesses self-existence. Instead, the encounter with the opposite sex should engender in the man an attitude of profound respect towards the woman’s body, as the source of his own existence, from his mother. As the source of his own joy, lovemaking also is an acknowledgement of his own dependence, his lack of self-sufficiency and autonomy. But this dependence on another paradoxically is the Godlikeness of the Creator, the father, the one who humbles himself in self-giving (a favourite Hamannian theme in his discussion of God). Meanwhile, the woman’s temptation is to an artificial innocence; a secret envy of God’s incorporeality and impassibility. The defence of one’s virginity is another cryptic attempt at self-sufficiency. Instead, the woman must brave the ‘tongues of fire’ in a ‘sacrifical offering of innocence’, in order to realize her Godlikeness; which is not to be found in bodilessness and the absence of passion, but in passionate creativity; in the willingness to be incarnate. Thus, if human beings are in the image of God, it is a trinitarian image of God, a mutual relation of love of ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Spirit’; found in creating, in saving, and in tongues of fire.”

Brother Mac Campbell (the Society of St Francis)   October 2019

The German philosopher Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) was known as the “Wizard of the North.” He held that truth is a matter of subjective belief, and he sought to reveal the divine in things and people.      

oOo           

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Book Review: Why are you here Elijah?

The Mystery of Meaning

by Walter Stratford

While reading this wonderful book, I felt a real sense of hope for the future despite the obvious challenges facing humanity and the growing challenges to our planet and humankind. It is a work that is dense with serious philosophical reflections on ‘the meaning of life’. Elijah is a great vehicle for demonstrating the conundrum that inevitably every thinking person is faced with – Why am I here?

Drawing on a range of great scholars in the field of existential theory, Stratford takes the reader on a journey through our links to land and Spirit, of our being in the world, our search for personal meaning that makes this being significant, the mystery of ‘God’ in the shaping of the meaning and the part played by shadows that hide the pathway ahead.

Ultimately, he grounds all of this in a series of case stories provided by a range of people who reflect on their own being experiences.

As the author says, there are two realities that undergird all in this book. Land and Spirit are fundamental for our being, and attachment to the land anchors our life…Imagination and story bind us to the earth and open pathways for the recognition of the Spirit.

We are reminded that a good religion has been ruined by its advocates, who got so caught up in literalism that its essence was lost. Consequently, much that passes for a Christian message makes little sense for so many. Stratford addresses this by describing God as a verb rather than an elsewhere person. In the web of possibility for hope and affection emerging from this view of God appears mythology and poetry which give life to a personal spirituality that has been lost, in the main, in the evolution of the Church.

Why are you here Elijah? Why in this place? Why not somewhere else and doing the job I called you to? This question encourages us to evaluate the situation in which we find ourselves and to live through that situation. It also encourages us to continue in a way of being, consciously, in a way that can be modified but which needs to be valued, to get on with living.

There is an intentionality about being that honours the earth as a gift for humankind, a place that needs to be nurtured if we are to maintain a healthy viability of being for all people. It also requires that we maintain kindness and truth as fundamental building blocks so that all people are accepted. There is a measure of personal responsibility implied. There is also a suggestion that we can all be greater than who we are now, and this will be validated, despite moments of uncertainty, as we become more aware of all that makes the framework of our life.

This book will cause the reader to think! You will also want to capture the hundreds of great philosophical reflections that Stratford produces, to stop and to make links to your own experiences of life. For me it was not for a single sitting because I needed to put it down for a while and let the ideas settle before coming back to it. Clearly this work comes from someone who has thought long and hard about the meaning of life. You won’t get a single answer to that question but you will be better able to answer it from your own perspective once you have engaged with this book.

The author: Rev Dr Walter Stratford is a retired Uniting Church Minister who served in such diverse places as the New Hebrides, Traralgon, Townsville and Dandenong. He also spent time as secretary to the Queensland Ecumenical Council, and as a chaplain at the Wesley Hospital, Brisbane. During his ministry Walter found time for study and completed a number of degrees, including a PhD in 2012. He is married with four adult children, a number of grand children and great-grandchildren.

Currently available as paperback from Amazon.com for $18 plus shipping cost.

Reviewer: Dr Paul Inglis

oOo

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CD5 Paper – Post-colonial theology and sovereignty

From the recent Common Dreams Conference in Sydney

Rev Dr Chris Budden

[Published with his permission]

Cert. Bio-Ethics, Cert IV A&WT, BA(Hons), GradDipRelEd, DMin
Sessional Lecturer
Phone: (02) 8838 8981
Email: rdcgb49@bigpond.com

Chris is a Minister in the Uniting Church, a resource worker with UAICC, an adjunct member of faculty at UTC, and an associate Researcher in the Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre at CSU. He has a long interest in relationships with Indigenous people, and a commitment to more just ways on being the church in this country. His particular research interests are theological method, theology in Australia, justice for Indigenous people, the relationship between discipleship and citizenship, issues in social ethics, and the social and theological location of the church.

He has a particular interest in the way theology and church practices are shaped by relationships with power. He spent the last five years of full-time ministry as National Coordinator for the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. He remains committed to supporting efforts to develop Indigenous theologies in Australia. His writings include Following Jesus in Invaded Space: Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land (Pickwick, 2009), and Why Indigenous Sovereignty Should Matter to Christians (Mediacom Education, 2018). He contributed to Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization (edited Steve Heinrichs; Orbis, 2019).

Thank you for the invitation to make this presentation.

I pay my respects to the custodians[1] of this place and particularly to their Elders – past, present and emerging. I thank them for sustaining the land and the stories of sacred life.

Introduction

Today we are talking about postcolonial theology and sovereignty for First Peoples. A more academic understanding of Postcolonial theology would highlight its reliance on critical theory, and the critique of structures of power, dominant systems, and embedded ideologies for social transformation.

More simply we can say that postcolonial theology seeks a more liberating response to the exercise of power – political, social, economic and religious – over access to what is needed to live, our bodies, and relationships, including with the earth. It is ‘postcolonial’ in the sense that it is focused on the struggles of those who have been invaded and settled by colonial powers, the justifying stories of those colonial powers, and the role of theology in the colonial context.

Postcolonial theology is a form of liberation theology. The difference is its emphasis on empire and empire studies of Scripture, and a very conscious focus on power.

Culture and power

Thanks in no small part to Reinhold Niebuhr’s work Christ and Culture, Western Christians are aware of the relationship between faith and culture. Joerg Rieger reminds us that we can no longer think about culture apart from power. He says:

The primary context in which we think about Christ – whether we realize it or not – is shaped by large and ever-changing conglomerates of power that are aimed at controlling all aspects of our lives, from micropolitics to our innermost desires…[2]

Power is about (i) the ability to determine/ influence the shape of economy and who accesses ‘wealth,’ (ii) the ability to make political decisions that shape the structure of society – including who belongs and who doesn’t, and (iii) the ability to influence the stories and practices that explain and justify the world.

Narrative

Power has to do with both the material and relational realities and the narratives – expressed in history-telling, law-making, rituals and celebrations, education and news, and memorials – that explain, justify and defend the world.

In his book, Dominion and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, James C. Scott talks about the public transcripts that those with power tell to ensure that people see the world their way. These are the transcripts that explain why some deserve to flourish and others do not. People who invade tell stories to justify to themselves why they – as good people, and we all want to be good people – can do this.

Scott also talks of hidden transcripts – the stories that oppressed people tell in private to sustain their lives. They are stories that mock those with power and affirm their own worth. They are dangerous stories, and when they surface in public spaces they are often ambiguous stories – i.e. stories that seem harmless to those with power, but are understood as quite subversive by those with ears to hear.

Let me explore the example of Jesus and taxes (Mark 12: 13-17). The story starts with people coming to Jesus to trap him, so keep that in mind. They ask Jesus is it ok to pay taxes to the Romans? Romans didn’t pay taxes; only those who were defeated militarily. Taxes were a constant reminder of occupation.

Jesus asks the religious leaders for a coin, which they produce fairly quickly. The coin had the emperor on one side and his mother – claimed to be a deity – on the other. First class example of idolatry, and yet they used the coin. Sort of takes away their high moral ground.

Jesus looks at the coin and says: give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Good answer – affirms the Romans and God – and Jesus is safe. A divided world – which we love.

But while this interpretation suits us, it is – I think – fundamentally wrong.  Jesus believes that everything belongs to God. In Jesus’ world there is nothing left for Caesar and his idolatrous claims. And those who knew Jesus heard this as a word of hope.

That is why the debate about monuments and Australia Day is important – it is about which stories shape our identity, access to power and economy, and sense of belonging. There is a questioning of the public transcript of discovery and peaceful settlement.

That is why the issue of whether people sing the national anthem at a football game matters. National Anthems are part of the public transcript, the way the nation’s story is told, how people’s history is dealt with, and what place people have in the nation. Not singing challenges the transcript – it is about voice and truth.

Because of its relationship with power and empire, the church and its theology is usually a public transcript. It is theology that has been shaped by its place alongside, and its role justifying, power.

Postcolonial theology explicitly recognises the way narratives/ celebrations support or question power and seeks to take the side of those who are oppressed and marginalised. It is a form of theology that is closer to a hidden transcript.

Postcolonial theology also stands against the way our society has, for three hundred years, divided the world into religious, political and economic spheres. It claims that religion is not a separate part of life but is deeply woven into every part of daily life.

Religion is not about personal and individual beliefs and behaviour. It is the narrative that holds together, underpins and makes sense of the world. It is a community agreed-upon set of social practices and rituals.

The problem when we let the world be divided into spheres is (i) religion is told to leave politics and economics alone and (ii) these other two areas of life have their own narrative and soteriology/ story of salvation – ‘security’ for the state and ‘the market’ for economy.

Distorted colonial theology

To understand the need for a postcolonial theology, we need to understand the distorted nature of colonial theology; the centre of which is the decision of the church to align with power and empire rather than with those who have been invaded.

There is no such thing as a neutral theology. All theology takes sides. The issue is: which side does theology take in our time and continuing colonial context, and what theology shapes that choice of location?

Continue reading
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Request from Rex Hunt

G’day folks,

Does any one on the UCFORUM list subscribe to Westar Institute publication, FORUM?

If you do I would love a copy of the paper “The Ritual of the Hellenistic Meal: Early Christian Everyday Practice as an Exegetical Challenge,”  by Soham Al-Suadi, published in the current (probably still winging its way down under) issue.

Thanks, RAEH 

Reply by email to: Rex Hunt rexae@optusnet.com.au

Hellenistic art, 3rd century b.C. Marble relief with scene of family meal. From Cyzicus, Turkey.

Hopefully there might be someone in our large following that can help Rex find this publication. He has raised my interest and for the interest of our readers –

Soham Al-Suadi develops Hal Taussig’s work on the Eucharist meal as a typical Hellenistic meal, which was a site of “social, political, and religious experimentation.” Like McGowan, Al Suadi sees the origins of the Eucharist meal in the everyday practices of the ancient world. But it is important to understand that even an ordinary communal meal could be the place of transformation. So Al-Suadi examines the earliest account of the Christian banquet from Rom 14:1–12 and looks at what it reveals about Christian identity formation. In essence, Paul was faced with a tension between Jews and gentiles at the table and sought a remedy to the tension between them to “minimize the disruptive state of experimentation.” The decisions about identity made at the meal—on how the menu settles differences between Jews and gentiles—then continue after the meal, influencing daily life. Al-Suadi moves from comparisons to Hellenistic meals to the creation of a new hermeneutical method that combines socio-historical criticism with ritual theory and applies it to portions of Paul’s letters related to the Eucharistic meal. She focuses on several aspects: the terms of identification used for the participants, how the order within the meal ritual influences the interconnectedness of those involved, and what the order of reclining during the meal reveals about group and individual identity. As a result, the exegete becomes acutely aware of how participation in the Eucharist at once provides an opportunity to break or transcend social divisions, reflects the tensions that exist in the larger community, and seeks to resolve their differences in pursuit of forming a new group identity. Most interesting about Al-Suadi’s discussion is her argument that the birth of Christianity was not a singular, remarkable event; rather, it arose from the everyday experience of communal meals, occurring wherever Christianity had taken root.

Paul

oOo

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Common Dreams Conference in Retrospect

COMMON DREAMS 2019 a reflection by two members of the PCNQ

Steven and I attended this gathering during July, at Newington College and Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney. To be honest, we were also attending the Royal School of Church Music Winter School and as these two events overlapped, we missed some sessions of both.

However, COMMON DREAMS was the fifth gathering of its kind, drawing people from across Australia, New Zealand and even further afield. The fourth was held at Somerville House in Brisbane in 2017.

The vision for COMMON DREAMS is described by Rev Greg Jenks, an Anglican minister, former Principal of St Francis Theological College in Brisbane, but now Dean of Bathurst Anglican Cathedral:

Common Dreams 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. 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 into a shared space where we have common dreams for a better future.

The theme of this year’s conference was Sacred Earth: Original Blessing, Common Home. It was a focus for advocates of spirituality and social change, providing inspiration for progressive seekers and sustenance for practical dreamers. International guest, Matthew Fox, leading exponent of creative Spirituality, addressed the conference with topics such as Spiritual but not Religious: the future of religion and of spirituality and of the Earth; On being Deeply Human in a Time of Earth-Crisis; But there were so many inspirational speakers – Norman Habel and Anne Pattel-Gray lead us in Time to Publicly Acknowledge the Creation Spirituality of our Aboriginal Custodians; Jonathan Keren-Black (Jewish scholar) spoke on In Judaism it is actions that count above all in healing the world; Rod Bower, from Gosford’s Anglican Church challenged us with his understanding of Common Home and A Just Society; Ro Allen, Victorian Commissioner for Gender Equality, showed us through honest dialogue and courage how to Honour the Rich Diversity of Sex, Sexuality and Gender within the Cosmos; and Rev Margaret Mayman of Pitt St UC gave the final keynote – Holding Hope and Acting Out: Engaging Tradition and Doing Ethics in Times of Conflict and Crisis.

We have come home, inspired and emboldened to look for ways we can put into practice our common dreams.

Here are some sound-bites which I can share with you. I hope you might find something that engages your thoughts, your feelings ……

We have twelve years left – before it is too late – to change direction in response to the climate crisis.

We are the first species who can choose not to become extinct. We haven’t made that choice yet!

Rabbi Hershel, who walked with Martin Luther King on the Selmer bridge, said of his own actions “I felt my feet were praying”.

Beware the sole path of rational thinking – look to intuition, deep feelings, mysticism. Rationality should serve intuition because this is where values come from.

There is nothing wrong with the world today other than we have lost the sense of the Sacred.

Thinking and defining needs to be led by experience and tasting. How do we do this – through silence, through the Arts, which will then open us to the Holiness in all things.

The Mystic is the Divine Child in us – the Arts will nurture this.

Albert Einstein believed God is the oneness of creation. The Cosmic Christ points to the Divine in the big spaces as well as in the little spaces.

The story of Abraham’s journey into Caanan has important parallels and lessons for us about our place in this land we call Australia, which is, was and always be Aboriginal land.

Abraham, the peacemaker, respected the peoples of the land.

We ask the same.

Abraham recognized the God of the Land.

We ask the same.

Abraham and the peoples of the land shared mutual blessings.

We ask the same.

The western concept of buying and selling land is not in the aboriginal ideology.

The wind existed before everything else in the stories of many indigenous peoples.

Life without wonder is not worth living.

The transcendent spirit becomes the inner presence of God in our hearts.

In our communities, “fitting in” isn’t “belonging”. A just society is about “belonging”.

PHILOXENIA means loving the stranger. This points to the act of hospitality.

“Jesus – the Man for Others” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Feeding of the Five Thousand – a metaphor for “if we share what we have, there will be enough to go around –  and maybe even more”.

Trying to be religious in the public domain often results in what we say getting lost in translation. We need to find better ways of acting as well as talking!

We are called to Act Up, that is, to disrupt the establishment.

But we are also called to Act Out, which means exploring God’s expectation of love, justice and a shared joy of life.

Being disturbed by what we see around us can give us courage to Act Out into society.

We go to a theological reframing to help us understand the sacred in the world: we have been evolving this understanding for ever – there was Abraham, then there was Jesus, what next??

“If you want to follow Jesus, you’d better believe you look good on wood” – Daniel Berrigan (Jesuit)

Everything we say about God is metaphor…

God is our experience of God!

Jesus was the incarnation of love and freedom: he showed the divine power of LOVE and that we have the FREEDOM to act. Faith is believing this!!

The opposite of bad is good. The opposite of EVIL is the SACRED. There’s more good than bad in the world, but not by much…..

We can find inspiration in the words of Italian priest and philosopher Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and German theologian Meister Eckhardt (1260-1328). For example – Aquinas said “The proper objects of the heart are truth and justice”.

Taking a stand can be costly. Stand up for truth and justice: be surprised by joy (C S Lewis).

Trust is the basis of courage. How do you learn courage? Go to courageous people.

COURAGE – this word means “a large heart” – a heart so full that it sustains us for whatever ….

Trust is the basis of all courage.

Adele Nisbet September 2019

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News and an Invitation from the PCN Explorers

Last Wednesday around 20 of us met to hear from some folk who had attended the Common Dreams Conference in Sydney in July. We heard about the highlights for each person – some notable quotes from Adele and Steven Nisbet are in a following post. Our discussions always take on a perspective of their own and led to some considerations around our relationships with our first nation people and I think that will lead us into another topic for one of our Explorers mornings in the future. 

David Hale, Anglican chaplain at UQ told us about his work encouraging students to explore theology in an open thinking environment and about their multi-faith activities. David has issued an invitation to an event  on 8th November, 7 pm to 9 pm at Old Bishopbourne, St Francis College, Milton, Brisbane.

How Can Christianity become a better wall against injustice?

How Can Christianity become a better wall against injustice? The Holocaust occurred in a mostly
Christian country, as did slavery in the US, and so how do we ensure Christianity can stop injustice.
To register, go to: www.eventbrite.com.au

Our next PCN Explorers is on Wednesday 30th October, 10:30 am at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm, led by Brian OHanlon, Retired Psychologist; Meditation Teacher; Feldenkrais Practitioner

A Spiritual approach to Christianity: Understanding the Spiritual Ego:

  • A summary of the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with particular emphasis on ‘we are Spiritual beings!’
  • A summary ‘Heaven on Earth’.
  • We are Spiritual beings so, why are we not in the Kingdom, ‘Heaven on Earth’? (The Spiritual Ego what is it?) 
  • Turning down the Spiritual Ego.

Sound interesting? make sure it is in your diary – we are always the last Wednesday of the month. Come along and join in the interesting conversations and fellowship.

journeying and exploring together,

Desley

Desley Garnett
drgarn@bigpond.net.au
0409 498 403

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An Invitation from the Redcliffe (Q) Explorers

Dear fellow Explorer

Our next meeting will be on Monday 7th October which (yes!) is the Queen’s Birthday holiday. I’ll be making some personal observations on a number of inter-related topics including:  

Faith, Belief, Truth, Science, and do I believe in miracles? Be prepared for an occasional slightly irreverent interlude, along with some fairly serious stuff which will no doubt generate a bit of vigorous discussion! As usual we meet for our pre-session coffee and chat at 6 p.m. in the ground-floor meeting room at Azure Blue, 91 Anzac Ave. Redcliffe. All are very welcome. For further information please give me a call on 0401 513 723.

Shalom, Ian

Note: If you are coming please be sure to call Ian and let him know so you can be given access to the community at Azure Blue.

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An Invitation from the Caloundra Explorers

From John Everall, Mob 0408 624 570 Email: jjverall@bigpond.com

The Caloundra Explorers Group’s Evening Service is coming up and we invite you to add this activity to your diary:

GATHERING     Sunday Evening   20th October 2019   5.30pm.

THEME: SCIENCE AND THEOLOGY

LEADER: Rev. Brian GILBERT

The theme is a fascinating one – I’m sure you will have discussed this at many levels at some stage.  On Sunday evening, we have it presented by an Elton John fan – Rev. Brian Gilbert.

Inspired by his song “Rocket Man”, and adding in a number of people stressing the link between love and justice eg, JP2nd, Crossan, King, Dowdell, Brian develops love without justice is sentimentality, or banal; justice without love is legalism or brutality.” 

He says “ Explorers would be familiar with that. I want to draw a relationship between science and theology – “either without the other can be dangerous, or meaningless.”  “ Just because science can do things (even very well), is it right? – should we do it?.”

Our evening will include music and song and our meditations will draw on thoughts by Michael Morwood and Matthew Fox, the keynote speaker at Common Dreams 2019.

 Enjoy your byo light meal/finger food – relax in discussion around your table – “Science and Theology”.

Everyone is welcome.  We discuss and debate within a safe and non-judgemental environment

Explorers are very mindful in discussion that each of us may have a different personal understanding of G.O.D that underpins our thinking at this stage of our life journey.      So, come along and join in what will hopefully be a very satisfying evening for you among friends, and new friends.    

CONTACT:  Leaders – Brian Gilbert – Mob 0417 002 274  or  John Everall Mob 0408 624 570

WHEN:    Sunday 20th October 2019 at 5.30 pm thru to approx 7.30pm

WHERE:  Caloundra Uniting Church HALL, 56 Queen Street Caloundra.

EMAIL:    jjeverall@bigpond.combmgil@westnet.com.au

Caloundra Explorers Group                                        Faith And the Modern Era

Mars ain’t the  kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don’t understand
It’s just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

oOo

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Continuing discourse: Why I do/don’t go to church

From Tim O’Dwyer

Hi guys,

Thanks for this.

Here is a snapshot of my introductory remarks at our last “exploration”:

On the wall behind the pulpit at the Thompson Estate Methodist Church where I grew up was a large painted scroll with these words: “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness”. Have been reflecting on that text for more than six decades…

Gained some insight as an adult when I discovered Micah 6:8 :

8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

My Aussie paraphrase:

The good oil from God:

Fair go, cobber; be a mate, mate; and let’s all be humble little Vegemites.

Meanwhile, I found much the same message in the Gospel’s setting for Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable where Jesus essentially tells the trickster lawyer to never mind asking who your neighbour is – just be a freaking neighbour!

At the same time, I’ve always been gobsmacked by this New Testament insight: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (From 

1 John 4:16)

So to the term “God” which Lloyd Geering in “Christianity without God” has not only had a long and complex history but also has become a very confusing word. After suggesting that we can functionally take “God” to refer to the highest values which motivate us, Geering favourably quotes Theologian Gordon Kaufman’s observation that  even in a secular world the term “God” can still have for us a useful function as “an ultimate point of reference”. Hence “To believe in God is to commit oneself to a particular way of ordering one’s life ans action. It is to devote oneself to working towards a fully humane world…while standing in piety ans awe before the profound mysteries of existence.”

Finally why I “go to church” is summed up in part by this provocative passage from Don Cupitt’s “Radicals and the Future of the Church””

“…we should stay in the church and attempt by deception, by reinterpretation, by political stratagems and by perverting the minds of the young to do something for the transformation of Christianity and the future of religion…Self-imposed exile right outside the church may be the right thing for a few very creative people, but…many of us will find it more stimulating to be internal e iles, plotting, scheming and suspected, inside the church…(thinking) of the carefully thought-out deceptions by which we plan to use the old vocabulary as a disguise for smuggling new ways of thinking into the church.”

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Continuing discourse: Why I go to church

On going to church
Rodney Eivers
23rd August 2019
These notes were prompted by a presentation to be made to the Progressive Christian Network at Merthyr Road Uniting Church New Farm by Tim O’Dwyer on 31st August 2019.

Tim put the questions: Do you still go to church? If so, why? If not, why not? He invited me to throw in a few remarks from my own experience, so here goes. I have attended church probably from the time I was a baby in my mother’s arms and presumably before then when in my mother’s womb. My earliest memory of any sort, as related in my coming memoirs, was of returning from some function – perhaps a birthday party – alone. This, remarkably at the age of about three or four years. I looked down on my family home from the adjacent traffic bridge and pondered life and the future.

It would be easy to say that from that period on till my now 9th decade I have more or less regularly attended church because I accepted the invitation to be a Christian, or more accurately, as I would put it this way today, a follower of the ethical principles proclaimed by the wandering sage, Jesus of Nazareth some two thousand years ago. But the questions being put by Tim are part of a wider issue and we need to narrow it down quite a bit. I shall assume that going to church and being Christian in ethos and practice is not necessarily the same thing. I shall be referring to belonging to a specific congregation and attending weekly services on “the Lord’s day” more or less regularly. I have been doing that for nigh on 80 years. Why have I been doing this? It is largely habit. It is one of my life’s rituals. Presumably this routine has some benefit to it.

That need not have been the case for everybody. Only the other day when I suggested that the church is an institution which undertakes to make the world a better place, my table companion responded that this has not been the experience for her. An immediate response to the original question may be that the church is my “community”. It is a community which caters for our social, personal and some might say “spiritual” needs. It does that in contrast to just about all other communal institutions, from the cradle to the grave.

We engage in that community at our baptism, we engage in that community at our marriage, we engage in that community in the moral guidance of our children and grandchildren, we engage in that community often in sickness and at our ending with our funeral. I am reminded of the large part a congregation played for so many of my family and acquaintances in our entertainment and social interaction.

Most of my social dancing was with church groups, any girlfriends I might have had would have come from church congregations – not necessarily my own – I met my wife outside the doors of a church in Port Moresby. I have written recently on the impact of Christian Endeavour in nurturing confidence as a public speaker and office-holder in secular as well as religious groups.

One concern I have with the loss of attendance at church by children and young people is that disappearance of an important source of “moral guidance” for those growing up and establishing a place in an adult world. That a congregation provides moral guidance is not taken for granted these day and I would be the first to challenge the negativity which comes from the supernaturalism and rules which come from the preaching in most of our churches. Some of the old stories of vengeance and slaughter in the Hebrew scriptures are truly horrifying. When reading or preaching from the Bible one does need to be selective and in practice this is what preachers and especially Sunday School teachers do.

One can take stories from a recent Sunday as an example. The lectionary reading was from Luke Chapter 13 where Jesus was chided for healing on the Sabbath. The moral guidance from this surely is that acting in a caring spirit is more important than complying with restrictive rules and regulations which can entangle us in exercising the practice of love. Or take the Bible story that my grandson absorbed this morning at his Sunday school class – that of Paul and Silas freed from prison because of an earthquake. After returning home the youngster – six years old – was able to repeat the whole story. It clearly provided for him the lesson of caring for others through its punch line. That is that Paul and Silas the two prisoners chose not to run to freedom because they recognised that this would mean big trouble for their prison guard,

Another aspect of a congregation which draws me is that it is a great social leveller. I am talking largely of the non-conformist Protestant tradition here. Any persons of whatever social class can be officers in the congregation. She or he can rub shoulders, for instance, as an elder, with peers from any level of society.

I recall in my teen years belonging to a congregation whereby the local mill manager shared a pew with people who would have been his employees. For me, personally, it also provides the opportunity to develop administrative and leadership skills. It is rare for me to be associated with an organisation and, in due course, not end up holding some office or other. Such offices are usually within that congregation or with other associated entities. It provides me with a vehicle through which to further my life-long aim of seeking to leave the world a better place than when I came into it.

Some might respond, “But how can you put up with all that supernaturalism and gobbledy-gook language which goes along with the enjoyment of companionship and familiar music, songs and liturgies?”

Well, one may well be swamped by starchy, unintellectual tradition but there is also the opportunity to introduce congregation members to new songs, new ceremonies and even new ways of looking at the scriptures. You have to be in it to win it and it may be that some of the examples we set as individuals may rub off to become new ways of being appropriate for a 21st century community.


My recent sermon on the Trinity (https://ucforum.unitingchurch.org.au/?p=2990&cpage=1#comment-273795 ) led some to say, “I had never thought about it that way before!” One privilege that we have in the Uniting Church is that anyone may address a congregation from the pulpit and additionally there is always the opportunity to express points of view in the variety of study groups.

So yes I continue to “go to church” and what’s more, I enjoy “church crawling” when I am travelling to other places and other countries. Although not to the same extent as with Roman Catholic followers, for whom going to church is regarded as a moral obligation, I enjoy seeing how other Christians express their faith through their church services. The familiarity of the liturgies and the communal environment helps me to sense the connection which Christians have with one another all over the world.

So I anticipate that I shall continue to go to church until they put me in a box. Hopefully this will be after I have cautioned my family and the presiding minister to express none of this supernatural “in my father’s mansions” hope at the final “celebration of my life”.

oOo

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What do Unbelievers believe?

What Do Unbelievers Believe?

We get atheism wrong if we see it simply as a detached, philosophical (dis)belief in God, argues Nick Spencer. 06/06/2019

My colleagues Elizabeth Oldfield and Lizzie Stanley had to go to Rome last week. It’s tough working for Theos sometimes. 

I tease. It was work, and rather interesting work at that. They were recording a Sacred podcast from a major conference, hosted at the Pontifical Gregorian University and part of the Understanding Unbelief programme, in which interim findings about “unbelief” in Brazil, China, Denmark, Japan, the UK, and US were presented.

Here is a stereotype about unbelievers. They don’t believe in stuff. It’s a stereotype that is popular among some believers and unbelievers alike. The former, in a move of what is essentially self–protection, like to think that being an unbeliever entails abandoning belief in moral absolutes, or in human purpose or dignity. The latter, in a move that is no less self–serving, like to think that unbelievers are rational, materialist, naturalistic, and completely immune to the childish absurdities of “belief”. 

The reality is very far from these poles, as the Understanding Unbelief research shows. Two issues stood out for me. 

The first relates to what atheists believe. As one would expect, atheists are rather less likely to believe in the supernatural than agnostics or believers. But less likely does not mean unlikely. When presented with a list of such phenomena – life after death, reincarnation, astrology, objects or people with mystical powers, supernatural beings, underlying forces of good or evil, a universal spirit of life form, or karma – somewhere between 10% and 40% of the people in each country said they either “strongly” or “somewhat agreed” in their existence. Indeed, only a minority of atheists were “naturalists” in the sense of rejecting all such supernatural phenomena. The answer to the question of what atheists believe turns out to be quite a lot after all. 

The second issue relates to how they believe. Here the answer is, not as strongly as you might think. As the project’s interim report puts it “being an atheist does not necessarily entail a high level of confidence or certainty in one’s views.” In all six of the countries studied, “atheists express overall levels of confidence in their beliefs about God’s existence [that is] either notably lower than…or broadly comparable to the general population’s.” In other words, atheists are not usually much more confident in their (non)beliefs than the rest of us are in ours. 

I think these findings are interesting, encouraging and, in two particular ways, familiar. 

Several years ago, Theos conducted a much smaller and more local survey into what UK unbelievers believed, which we published as Post–religious Britain?: The faith of the faithless. This reported that:  

  • Around a third of people who belong to no–religion, over a quarter of “Nevers” (i.e. those who answered “never” in response to the question “How often do you participate in a religious service as a worshipper?”) and 15% of atheists said that they believe in life after death; 
  • One in five “Nevers” (21%) said they believe in angels as did 7% of atheists;  
  • More than two in five “Nevers” (44%) believe in a human soul, as do almost a quarter (23%) of atheists;  
  • A quarter (24%) of the non–religious believe in heaven and 15% in hell; and 
  • A fifth (20%) of non–religious people believe in the supernatural powers of deceased ancestors, compared to 23% of the total sample. 

More generally, the proportion of people who are consistently “naturalistic” – meaning that they don’t believe in God, never attend a place of worship, call themselves non–religious, and don’t believe life after death, the soul, angels, etc. – was very low, at 9%. 

There are lots of ways one might read this. No matter what some atheist polemicists say, thoroughgoing atheistic naturalism is extremely rare, and not even the default position among atheists themselves. Even among those who reject God, there linger persistent beliefs about the supernatural or numinous; the sense there is more in heaven and earth than we dream of in our naturalist philosophies nags away. Atheism is much more variegated and interesting, and atheists are a lot less dogmatic, self–assured or certain, than some public advocates might lead us to believe.  

All of this is true, but there is one other reading which interests me and leads back to my second reason for a sense of familiarity. 

The matching of atheistic certainty (or lack thereof) about God with the general population’s un/certainty says something more than “atheists aren’t as dogmatic as you imagine”. Take this sentence about unbelief in the US from the Understanding Unbelief report:  

“the comparatively high level of confidence exhibited by America’s atheists matches more–or–less exactly the high ‘religious confidence’ of Americans–in–general.”  

Or, with slightly more interpretative boldness, the atheists (and atheism) of a nation take their cue (and possibly also their hue) from the believers in it. 

This is perilously close to the argument that ran central to my history of atheism, namely that we get atheism wrong if we see it simply as a detached, philosophical (dis)belief in God. Today, as in history, atheism is embedded in the lives (and politics) of the wider culture. A generous, thoughtful, self–reflective culture of belief will generate a similar culture of atheism; an aggressive, self–righteous and exclusionary one will do the opposite.  

The parallel is not perfect – Chinese and Brazilian atheists are somewhat less sure about their beliefs than the general population in those countries – and other factors naturally come in to play. Nevertheless, the arguments in the Understanding Unbelief study, our Post–religious Britain? report, and my Atheists: The Origin of the Species, seem to cohere on this issue of the socially– and politically– mediated nature of unbelief, as they do on the wider point that whatever else it might be, the discussion between what believers and unbelievers believe is emphatically not an issue, simply, of us vs. them. 


Understanding Unbelief, which was exhibited at the Vatican, interviewed people who were atheist and agnostic (Photographer: Aubrey Wade)

Nick Spencer

Nick Spencer

Nick is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, most recently The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Evolution of the West (SPCK, 2016) and Atheists: The Origin of the Species (Bloomsbury, 2014). Outside of Theos, Nick is Visiting Research Fellow at the Faiths and Civil Society Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London and a Fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion

Theos

Theos conducts research, publishes reports, and holds debates, seminars and lectures on the relationship between religion, politics and society in the contemporary world. We are a Christian think tank based in the UK. We are part of The British and Foreign Bible Society, charity number 232759.

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Reflection: The Planet and its People

We joined a very large crowd at Gosford, NSW, for the Climate Action demonstration on 20th September. Gosford is the home of Rev Rod Bower, Anglican priest and advocate for many social justice issues. He has had significant influence here and across Australia.

What we noticed was the high level of participation by Seniors who outnumbered the school children. They carried placards declaring their concern about the future for their grandchildren and our Pacific Island neighbours.

It is clear that there is a rapidly growing consciousness about the state of the planet and the urgency of the need to accelerate the response to climate change.

A standout for us was the strong presence in the ‘Strike’ of UCA, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Quaker church people under their banners. All of these have active social justice and green departments that generated a lot of encouragemental to their members prior to the event.

The climate strikers have a purpose beyond establishing a public image and demonstrating. We have three goals:

  1. No new coal, oil or gas projects, including Adani’s mine.
  2. 100% renewable energy generation and exports by 2030.
  3. A just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel workers and communities.

The critics fall into many camps. There are those who deny climate change and their numbers are shrinking. There are those who deny human influence on climate change but to makes their case they will have to counter the growing scientific evidence. There are those who claim that God is in control and we should do nothing. I have never found it fruitful to conduct any discourse with this group whose God is both loving and cruel at the same time. There are those who have given up, live in fear and feel powerless. There are those who think that demonstrating is a waste of time and will not produce a change and there are those who are just complacent or cynical. I am sure there are many other groups.

I am optimistic but frustrated by governments that are obfuscating. But perhaps this is a wasted concern. With growing globalization of opinion and action this may be a change that occurs despite governments. Already there is strong evidence that industry and commerce are moving towards renewable energy sources.

Jesus-inspired people wanting integrity in the change process are getting stronger voices in the movement to turn around climate distopia towards real collaborative action. Instead of claiming to know better than others they are working with science, with conservationists and with those who have found ways to get the message out. Their tradition has always had available arguments but these have been buried in pointless doctrinal and organizational mediocrity.

“God so loved the world….” is a restatement of powerful messages in Psalms, Micah, Genesis, 1 Timothy, Numbers, and hundreds of other encouragements to look after the planet and it’s people. The World Council of Churches has since 1970 been helping to build sustainable communities. In this Season of Creation many church groups are working hard on sustainability projects.

Jesus eschewed political power and sided with the vulnerable. .. We should do the same.

Rev James Bhaguar, the general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, addressing the UCA demonstrators in Sydney, appealed to Mr Morrison (PM) for Australia to do more to reduce its carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy:

Weve watched as our homes are eaten away by rising tides, and as Australia allows it’s emissions to rise. For Christians acting to prevent climate catastrophe is not just about survival. It is about loving your neighbour and protecting God’s creation. Right now, Australia is doing more than most to desecrate the precious gift that humanity has been given.

He too is learning how pointless it is to rely on governments.

All of this points back to myself and I have to recommit to doing all I can as an individual to further the goals of our Climate Change Strikers.

Paul inglis 22 November 2019.

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Some great feedback – more please

In case you have not looked at the ‘Replies’ we are getting to our post seminar question on why or why I don’t attend church , here is a sample:

Lauren Toogood

1.MY JOURNEY INTO ‘PROGRESSIVE’ FAITH

I had a traditional Catholic upbringing, including Catholic schools but not especially devout parents. My mother was Italian Catholic and my father Church of England but religion didn’t play a big part in our family. A sense of God and the sacred seemed to be a central part of my life though and I was open to issues of faith.

At university I chose the Protestant route but it was an evangelical, fundamentalist denomination although I managed to find the more relational, personal stream of that denomination fortunately. Doctrine was central to having a strong relationship and independent thinking was discouraged over ‘faithful’ obedience and belief in a set of rules.

Once childrearing was slowing down, and I started mixing more in the wider world through work. I started pushing the boundaries of the traditional beliefs (my husband was an evangelistic minister) and my thirst for deeper spiritual values was ignited. I could no longer agree with the most fundamental theology of my denomination which led to my choosing to be removed from membership.

My journey didn’t end there, as now I started questioning the fundamental beliefs of Christianity itself – did Jesus really say all those things?; did he have to die for my sins?; what kind of God allows so much suffering?; is the bible really an accurate account of history and God’s interaction with mankind?; who is God?….

With the internet I could explore and I was esp drawn to the writings of Marcus Borg, Rob Bell, Henri Nouwen and then I came across the writings of David Richo a former catholic priest who wove together ideas of Christianity, Buddhism and Jungian psychology. That is where my heart resonated. I have deep respect for the compassionate values of all faiths and no faith and I now believe Christianity is a little arrogant when it says it is the only way to God (or the sacred).

God has become much bigger and more mysterious than any one faith teaches for me and I believe we do well when we learn from one another and help one another to grow closer to the greatest values of loving kindness and do no harm.

I did try to find a faith community but I ended up in a small coastal town where there are only a few individuals here and there who might have similar journeys. I would say I align the most with progressive uniting church ways and Universalism. I am not used to liturgy though after leaving the Catholic church so I really don’t miss that.

I like to think I belong to a tribe somewhere but I have grown more content with surrounding myself with individuals with similar values whether they have a faith or not. I find there are many places where these people can be found – bushwalkers, environmentalists, meditators, those interested in health, community volunteers, artistic people, and social justice advocates. I don’t feel the need specifically to be in a church. Part of me believes that if I belonged to a denomination again it would be a step backwards in my journey.

Having said that there is one sacred gathering that I did feel met a need in my heart but it was only in Canberra. It was a monthly gathering called “the Gathering” and it was a reflective hour where a theme was chosen based on world issues and art, music, and reflections from wisdom teachers (including Jesus) were shared by 2 leaders and a time of contemplation and fellowship over a meal was included. That would be the most I would look for now. Otherwise I feel I belong to the world and do not want to be labeled or boxed in by a denominational label. That is my journey which as others have expressed is always ongoing. It is encouraging to know there are like minded people out there also journeying in somewhat similar ways even though the specifics are all unique to each one of us.

Thank you for the opportunity of sharing.

***

2. MY EXPERIENCE OF CHURCH

Peter Marshall

Paul and readers, my experience of church as a child through the 60s, early 70s will be familiar to many. My way of understanding this experience is to acknowledge to myself that my childhood saw the death of an innate desire to explore a wonderful supportive presence that I could sense but not explain. I’m not sure if back then I viewed this presence as resulting from imagination or not, but it sure felt real. Unfortunately the strong message that got through to me was that Jesus died as payment for my sins and that I was a worthless sinner, fit only as kindling for the great fires of hell where most of us were destined to spend eternity. Eternity being a concept a little beyond my understanding as a 12 year old. So by age 16 I decided not to set foot in church again, except for marriages, deaths and christenings. Now the most wonderful thing is that I can see with hindsight that supportive presence of my childhood never left me. Don’t now focus too much on the word GOD, but it seemed I had rediscovered the supportive arms of GOD whilst understanding this was the case all along. All completely at odds with that main message I received from the church. Very important to note I genuinely harbor no ill will to those that delivered the message. No space to explain here but the all pervasive spirit and the Jesus story are central to my genuinely not retaining any malice at the theological teachings received as a child which ran parallel with Billy Graham crusades in Brisbane at the time. At 50 years of age I wanted to strengthen bonds with the supportive arms of GOD which I now understood as real because I deeply needed that connection. I saw the only option to get help with this quest was to reconnect with church. I went to a Uniting church, initially found some help there but after a couple of years saw that the old theology was still dominant, just not as overtly marketed. That may have been the end of church for me but along the way I discovered Greta Vosper and the wider progressive movement. This gave me the space to continue the quest which is very ably facilitated by the West End Contemplative service and West End Explorers group (I do not live close to West End but it is the best I am aware of to continue a quest around the GOD question, though I also do not sense that Progressive theology is dominant in this congregation. But at least we so called progressives are tolerated there and quite possibly are genuinely welcome) Would love so say more about how Sunday evenings at West End are helpful to my quest, but obviously can’t do so in this post. Maybe later if any are interested.
Peace – Peter Marshall

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Different responses to miracles in the tradition of enquiry

Thanks to Geoff Taylor for drawing our attention to this thesis.

How miraculous can we consider Jesus to have been? Different responses to miracle in the tradition of inquiry

Head, Ivan Francis (1984) How miraculous can we consider Jesus to have been? Different responses to miracle in the tradition of inquiry. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.Full text available as:

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Abstract

Accounts of miracles are found in the four Gospels, elsewhere in the New and Old Testaments, and at other times down to the present. Responses to the figure of Jesus among his Gospel miracles differ with the different judgements that are made about the possibility of there being miracles at all. As a matter of fact, our tradition of inquiry contains diverging, even opposing conclusions on this point, and this has a definite impact on the study of the Gospels and their central character.

This thesis constitutes a comprehensive response to the issue of miracle as it affects the interpretation of the Gospels, and hence, what we are able to believe about Jesus and the extent of his miraculous activity. Having outlined the divided response to miracle (Chapter One), the thesis is built up by studies of six principal respondents to the issue of miracle.

On the one hand, we have chosen St. Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Newman and C. S. Lewis to represent the ’maximal’ depiction of belief in miracle. These three studies exhibit the interpretations of the Gospels that accompany, and in part depend on, the non-problematical acceptance of miracle. On the other hand, we have chosen David Hume, D. F. Strauss and Rudolf Bultmann to represent the ’minimalistic’ position on miracle. While Hume does not formally discuss the Gospel miracles, his conclusions are plainly relevant, and in the two latter studies, close attention is paid to the actual interpretation of Gospel miracle stories.

In all the studies, wherever possible, I have tried to concentrate on what in particular they believed about Jesus in his miracles. In effect, this has meant pursuing a miracle-structure from conception through to Ascension. In discovering what has been believed about Jesus in his miracles, we have often placed the emphasis on the interpreters’ response to a Gospel or Gospel passage. In the concluding chapter, I direct my own attention to St. Mark’s Gospel and, in the light of earlier chapters, put my own questions to it.

While interesting results emerge from the studies of the six interpreters, my principal conclusion is that there are good reasons not to identify the Jesus of the Gospel miracles with Jesus in his pragmatic existence. While it remains coherent to develop an apology or world-view in which literal miracles on the greatest scale have a place in nature and history, it is their very magnitude that raises the decisive objections to locating them as events in Jesus’ mundane existence, prior to the Resurrection.

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We want to hear from you

On Wednesday last week, around 40 people met together to share their experiences about church attendance since moving into a “progressive” understanding of Christianity. I put the word progressive in inverted commas for a couple of reasons – that there is no one understanding that we would all ascribe to, and that no one has yet come up with another word to use for those of us who still want to engage with the Jesus story, but within the framework of the 21st century.  

We were a varied group who wanted to share something about why or why not church attendance is part of our practice.

We discovered that we are on a continuum of belief and practice. I did not take notes, but will share a few of my observations that I can recall from people’s stories.

attend church every Sunday … attend occasionally … haven’t been in 30 years… find church services meaningful … finding traditional theology frustrating … finding more meaning in a more ordered liturgy music  is inspirational … not able to sing words of old hymns…have been loved and nurtured by the church (people) … my questions have been rejected … have felt emotionally abused…service is most important … Micah 6:8 was an important verse for a lot of people

Now …. as a follow up … It has been suggested that we could collate people’s thoughts on this topic. If you could write a reflection on this topic thinking about the following questions and send them to me, we will learn more about each other and the variety of pathways we have followed to come to our present understanding of participating in organised religion. Half an A4 page would be manageable for us to collate and share. If you were not at the Explorers meeting, you are still welcome to share your thoughts.

 These are just a few of the questions that were given by Smith and Hunt to the those who were asked to contribute their stories to the book“New Life; Rediscovering Faith – Stories from Progressive Christians.” .

Has this journey affected my church attendance?Has it changed how I express my faith?Is anything different and does this difference influence why I attend or do not attend church?Why did I / didn’t I walk away?

Our nextPCN Explorerswill be on Wednesday 25th September,10 am, Merthyr Road Uniting Church 

Come at 10 for eat, meet and greet and we will get started about10:30.

Several members of the network will share their experience of attending Common Dreams Conference in Sydney last July. We will hear the highlights of the speakers for each person.

Our meeting on Wednesday 30th October will be facilitated by Brian O’Hanlon, retired psychologist, on the topic: A Spiritual approach to Christianity … Understanding the Spiritual Ego:

A summary of the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with particular emphasis on ‘we are Spiritual beings!’We are Spiritual beings so, why are we not in the Kingdom, ‘Heaven on Earth’? (The Spiritual Ego what is it?) Turning down the Spiritual Ego.

West End Explorers are trying to get hold of a copy of the video series …The Challenge Of Jesus by John Dominic Crossan. If you can help with this, please contact Kris 0404 645 007 or kris.maslen@gmail.com 

journeying together,

Desley

Desley Garnett
drgarn@bigpond.net.au
0409 498 403

Paul Inglis psinglis@westnet.com.au

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A Theological Reflection on the Ending of Mark’s Gospel

By Dr Peter Lewis
All the synoptic gospels have the high priest asking Jesus if he is the Messiah (Mark 14:61, Matthew 26:63, Luke 22:67). In Mark Jesus says, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” In Matthew the “I am” is replaced by “Yes, it is as you say.” In Luke, Jesus says that if he told them they would not believe him, and he goes on to say, “But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” Despite these differences, in all three gospels Jesus asserts that he will sit at the right hand of God, but only in the longer ending of Mark’s gospel does this actually occur. In Mark 16:19 Jesus is taken up to heaven and sits at the right hand of God. This is what the reader would expect: it is the logical conclusion to the story and it confirms that the longer ending is what Mark originally wrote. But why is it not in the endings of the gospels of Matthew and Luke?


It seems that Matthew did not know Mark’s original ending because there is nothing in his gospel that relates to Mark’s text after 16:8. Luke knows the original ending because the disciples do not believe the women (Luke 24:11), Jesus appears to two of his followers when they are walking in the country (Luke 24: 13-35) and the disciples stay in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49), but Luke does not have the Ascension (he was taken up into heaven – Mark 16:19) at the end of his gospel because he wants it to be in the beginning of Acts, which is the second volume of the orderly account that he wrote for Theophilus (Luke 1:3). In modern versions of Luke’s gospel the Ascension also occurs in the final verses; “He was taken up into heaven and they worshipped him” (Luke 24:51,52) but this is a later insertion. It does not occur in Papyrus 75 from the third century, Codex Vaticanus and other ancient manuscripts, and should not be in modern versions. But how does Luke deal with the Ascension in Acts?
In Acts 1:9, after Jesus spoke to the disciples “he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Then two angels appear and the reader naturally expects them to say that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, which is what he told the high priest (Luke 22:68), but instead they ask a stupid question, “Why are you standing looking into the sky?” What else would they be doing? Then the angels say that Jesus will come back in the same way as he went up. Why has Luke made such a significant change to Mark’s account (Mark 16:19)?
To answer this question we need to examine what Jesus said to the high priest in Mark 14:62. His first words were, “I am.” This is what God said to Moses when he asked what was the name of God (Exodus 3:14). God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that ‘I AM’ has sent him to them. This is God’s name and although essentially a mystery it has the connotation of being alive, of being conscious and aware. It is an amazing statement for Jesus to make. It means that he thought he was God or in some way divine.
Then, in his answer to the high priest Jesus uses a mixed metaphor: he cannot be sitting and standing at the same time. Sitting at the right hand of God has the sense of permanence and stability, and this metaphor derives from Psalm 110:1, which Jesus quoted in Mark 12:36. Coming on clouds has the sense of movement and this metaphor derives from Daniel 7:13 – one like a son of man comes with the clouds of heaven. Obviously he would be standing not sitting.
Actually, what Jesus tells the high priest is a paradox. Divinity is a mystery: God cannot be known as He really is. Ultimate reality is beyond the human mind. Just as the ultimate basis of our material existence is a paradox, i.e. the particle/wave phenomenon of quantum physics, so must the ultimate reality of God be to us. This does not mean that God does not exist: it means we have to use metaphors in talking about Him. Of course He does not sit on a throne in heaven as Zeus was imagined on Mount Olympus. Whether thought of as Being, Mind or some other category God is beyond human comprehension.
In Luke’s account of the Ascension Jesus goes up with a cloud and the angels say he will return with clouds (Acts 1:11). Jesus will be standing, as the disciples were at the time, not sitting on a throne. This is confirmed later in Luke’s account because when Stephen is about to be killed he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55). The significance of standing is that he is about to return.
Why has Luke changed Mark’s description of Jesus sitting with God, to Jesus being about to return? To answer this question we have to understand the time and circumstances of Mark and Luke. Mark was writing in Rome before the Jewish War (66 -70 CE). Although there had been violence such as the killing of James in about 41 CE it paled in significance compared with the terrible events of the war which climaxed in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and Mark’s circumstances were fairly stable. This is reflected in the ending he wrote: Jesus is seated with God and the Kingdom of God has come. If Luke wrote during or after the Jewish War he would have been greatly affected by it, as was everyone involved in it. It was a horrible time and Luke with all the Christians would have turned to Jesus. The expectation that Jesus would return was greatly heightened, and in his First Letter to the Thessalonians Paul describes the event: the Lord will come down from heaven and the Christians who are still alive will be caught up in the clouds to meet with the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4:16,17). Luke was one of Paul’s companions and he too would have expected Jesus’s imminent return, but to make his account more appealing he concludes it in 62 CE with Paul in Rome preaching the Kingdom of God, as Jesus commanded the disciples in Mark 16:15, and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31).
The ending that Mark originally wrote is very significant for a theological understanding of his gospel. Jesus enthroned in heaven at God’s right hand is what it is all about. And it is amazing to think that Jesus did it all himself. He arranged the whole thing, i.e. the birth of Christianity was his doing. On three occasions (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34) he said he would be killed and rise again: he knew it would happen because he was going to make it happen. With his staged entry into Jerusalem and his disrupting the business in the temple he provoked the authorities to kill him, and most importantly with his giving of himself at the Last Supper he carried it off. What an achievement!
It was not a group effort: his disciples did not understand him and fled when he was arrested. Even their following him was not their doing: Jesus commanded them to follow him (Mark 1:17). It was all part of his plan, and finally he sat down at the right hand of God. How bold! How confident! Whether God liked it or not Jesus installed himself, and we acknowledge him as Lord. But God did like it because, you see, God was Jesus.
God became a human being in order to become involved in the life of the world that he created and to guide it into the future. In this way human beings become co-creators with God in creating the Kingdom of God. Paul summed it up when he wrote that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19a). God expressed his love by giving to human beings the model of Christ: caring, forgiving, healing, and by giving his Spirit. As Paul wrote in his Letter to the Ephesians, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. . .” (Eph 5:1)

                **********
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The latest from Kevin Treston now available

Opening Doors: A Seeker’s reflections on the rooms of Christian living
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. (Revelation 3:20) Opening Doors: A Seeker’s Reflections on the Rooms of Christian Living takes seriously the invitation of the Lord for us to open the door to him, and with confidence consider how our faith may be enhanced and energised through the wisdoms of contemporary theology and spirituality.
The book is written for those whom Charles Taylor describes as ‘seekers’ – Christians who are searching to reconcile their faith with emerging insights from modern science, cosmology and consciousness.
We are invited to open eleven doors and enter eleven rooms of Christian living. Each room offers a flavour of each of the topics in the Christian Story followed by focused questions for individual reflection and shared conversations in self-directed groups. The topics of the rooms include everyday spirituality, the universe story, humans and religion, the mystery of God, meeting Jesus, the church, ministry, women and faith communities, a Christian ethical way of life, Christian spiritualities and faith communities in a global world.
Kevin Treston graduated BA (Hons), MA (Hons), MEd., PhD (University of Notre Dame USA) and pursued post-doctoral studies in Washington, Boston and Chicago. He was visiting Scholar at Boston College and is a member of the Association of Practical Theology Oceania. He has worked in ministry across Australia and many countries.
To order online go to: www.coventrypress.com.au
Phone: 0477 809 037
Email: enquiries@coventrypress.com.au
Post to: Coventry Press, 33 Scoresby Road, Bayswater Vic
Opening Doors @ $24.95
*Postage: $9.95 for 1-3 books; $11 for 4 and more; free freight for orders over $100
OPENING DOORS
A Seeker’s reflections on the rooms of Christian living
Kevin Treston
Coventry Press
9780648566106 — $24.95

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PCNQ Explorers next gathering, all welcome

Hello all

Our nextPCN Explorerswill be on Wednesday 28th August, 10 am, Merthyr Road Uniting Church

Come at 10 for eat, meet and greet and we will get started about 10:30.

Tim O’Dwyer will tell us a bit about his journey within Christianity and would like to ask the question of all of us who are exploring the Jesus story in a new way:

“Do you still go to church? If so, why? If not, why not?”

We would like to encourage you to think about the how and why of your Christian experience and thinking prior to the meeting and feel free to write it down to share with everyone at the meeting. In 2013, John Smith and Rex Hunt published a book called “New Life; Rediscovering Faith – Stories from Progressive Christians.”  that focuses on people’s stories. If you have access to this book it offers some good background thinking. This is not essential to this seminar.

Here are a few questions you might like to ponder before the day. They are just a few of the questions that were given by Smith and Hunt to the those who were asked to contribute their stories to the book.

Has this journey affected my church attendance?Has it changed how I express my faith?Is anything different and does this difference influence why I attend or do not attend church?Why did I / didn’t I walk away?

journeying together,

Desley

Desley Garnett
drgarn@bigpond.net.au
0409 498 403

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Book Review: Into the Deep, seeking justice for the people of West Papua

By Peter Arndt (Catholic Social Justice Series Book 82)

I was moved to tears while reading this document about the challenges facing the people of West Papua, in particular their claim to freedom and independence.

In 2016, with ten fellow Christians from Australia, Peter Arndt, Executive Officer of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Commission, visited West Papua to hear first hand the stories of the local people. They were especially wanting to hear from survivors of the Indonesia massacre of 6th July 1998. This occurred at a peaceful prayer focussed demonstration for independence. These people had been under the governance of the Dutch, the Japanese and now the Indonesia military. The leader of the demonstrators, Filep Karma, at the time a prominent civil servant had insisted that his followers should only use bibles and hymns as their weapons. The vast majority of Papuans are Christians. They were attacked mercilessly by Indonesia soldiers.

Peter graphically describes this incident, it’s brutality, the many deaths and the torturing. This makes for hard reading as the incidents are dealt with so thoroughly. Peter was approached by Laurens who had been a teenager at the time of the massacre.

He gives evidence for Indonesia’s direct implication in some of the worst forms of human brutality and the incredible journey of Laurens and his Biak people.

Peter and his colleagues then experienced first hand the heavy hand of the Indonesia overlords and it seems they are not the first visitors to be interrogated and followed everywhere.

Peter Arndt’s clear and concise first hand account of the horrific suppression of justice and the state of fear in which the Papuans live is a moving tale.

Arndt sees the experience of Laurens paralleling those of Jesus and draws on the Scriptures to graphically make this clear. Laurens treatment and continuing struggle has moved Peter as it has moved me, to consider the way all Christians and people of good will must identify with the struggle of the Biak people.

Once read, the story cannot be dismissed or forgotten. The reader becomes part of the struggle for justice and freedom of the oppressed and abused people everywhere…

Peter and friends travelled to villages to hear more stories of brutality and killings and later Peter returned to West Papua several times gathering more evidence. The gathering of evidence was challenged at every step by police and corrupt officials and he was placed in fearful situations.

The author reflects on the way Papuans have been treated historically by colonial authorities and missionaries. It is a mixed history of blessings and mistakes. Their subsequent treatment is now part of the problem for a people ill prepared to fight for their rights. He also comments on the way in which Christians can express sympathy but cannot take the next step and offer real support.

The historical context for the current crisis helps to explain but not excuse the stark and shocking events that are now happening. The way in which the Indonesians are gradually reducing the influence of the Papuans culture, commerce, and faith practices is forcing them into minority status in their own land.

Within the Pacific Islands nations there is growing support for and solidarity with the people of West Papua. Drawing on the Scriptures Peter calls on the justice loving people of the world to recognize the plight of these people and for Christians who have been taught about restoration through love, the human values of freedom, dignity and hope to now come to the aid of a people begging for help. He also describes how a personal involvement in such a cause can bring to individuals a deep personally liberating outcome of living in the peace and love of God.

But there is more to this story….As First Peoples of West Papua they form a part of all those peoples who face injustice and deprivation. Advocating for them is advocation for all First Peoples.

I strongly recommend this paper to your reading and personal refection on how to be a part of the solution. If you are not greatly moved I will be surprised.

Paul Inglis 20th August 2019

Avaliable from Amazon Kindle Australia.

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Events: Coming soon, you are welcome

Redcliffe (Qld) Explorers

This is a reminder that our Explorers’ Group will meet on Monday evening (5th August).As usual, we’ll gather in the ground floor community room at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Avenue, Redcliffe) at 6 p.m. for tea/coffee, biccies and a chat.

At about 6:30 Graeme Adsett will introduce Rev Dr Noel Davis’ book Effective Beliefs – Towards Individual and Group Harmony – A Challenge to people of Goodwill. Graeme will challenge us to reflect on Noel’s Attitude 3 ‘A Sense of Community’, and Attitude 4 ‘A Minimising of Tribalism’ through individual activity sheets and a general discussion on the concept of ‘Christian Humanism’.

Hoping to see you there, Ian Brown

Caloundra (Qld) EXPLORERS GATHERING     

Sunday  18th August  at 5pm

“CONVINCING WORDS AND CONVERSATION”

Our Sunday Gathering, 5pm -7pm, on 18th August, will be led by Caloundra Explorers

in Conversations championing ‘the power of the written word’ in its ability to ignite a life changing ‘conviction’ within our Christian spiritual journey.

You are invited to join in this special and intimate opportunity to be part of a ‘Conversation’ with other Explorers and our Regional Friends.

We have put a proposition to five of our Explorers and Friends:

“  Have you ever read just a few paragraphs in a book or blog and realised that you had been struck by an absolute awesome ‘insight’ or  ‘truth’, in fact, a “conviction’” that had you saying almost out aloud “that is right!” YES!”

“ Will you share these excerpts with us?”.

The intimacy and security of our Explorers fellowship allows us to fully explore these five situations. Each of our five Explorers will present their excerpt to us, with a personal comment supporting that ‘insight’… ie “the convincing words” that are so important to them.

 We can then discuss, within our Gathering, whether that ‘conviction shared’ has resonance with others as we look through that ‘writing’ and analyse, discuss, and contemplate why it elicited such an enthusiastic YES! from that Explorer.

When our guests’ list of authors includes Dominic Crossan and Richard Rohr, you can see that we are in for a really fascinating evening together.

WHEN:   Sunday Evening  18th August  at 5pm thru to approx 7-15pm.

WHERE:  Caloundra Uniting Church HALL   at  56 Queen Street Caloundra

OTHER INFO:  The Gathering includes a byo light finger food meal as well as a full opportunity to discuss the issues around your table with friends-old and new!

CONTACT:  Anne Hoogendoorn Ph.0419 976 372 or Margaret Landbeck Ph.0402851422 .

 EMAIL:  annehoog@me.com   or jjeverall@bigpond.com

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Reflection: Death, Trinity, Hope and Religious Language


Rodney Eivers
Preached 23rd June 2019
Death has not been far away from me this week.
Indeed it may not be far from the thoughts of many of us in this congregation as we struggle with serious illness.
Even without serious illness most of us are in the later years of our lives and will wonder from time to time what lies ahead of us.
Some will be comforted by some confidence that this earthly life is not the end and that some heavenly destination awaits us. Do not let me persuade you otherwise.
One day we asked my father in law David, “Do you expect to go to heaven when you die?”
He did not give what might be called a simple answer but replied. “I have heard it said that we make our own heaven and our own hell here on Earth”
This leads me in to the thought of the way we use religious language. What do we mean when we talk about God, or heaven, or hell?
But first of all a little diversion over some of the assumptions we make about our Christian faith. A little bit of history.
Today is Trinity Sunday. We talk a lot about Trinity in our hymns and in our sermons don’t we? We assume “It’s in the Bible”. Actually Trinity is not in the Bible although there are a number of passages which lead people to think that this was what Jesus was talking about.
After Jesus died with his talk of love, of God as caring father and the Kingdom of God his followers thought so highly of him that they wanted to say he was equal to God. But then some of them wanted to take it further and say that Jesus was God.
In the next 300 years there were lots and lots of arguments about this and some people got very angry, even to the extent of killing one another. In the end Roman Emperor, Constantine got sick of it. He called all the Christian bishops together for a conference and said, “Enough quarrelling. Get this sorted out”
So they got this parliament together and there was lots of to…ing and fro…ing with debate. One fellow called Arius, said that if we were going to say that Jesus was the Son of God (there were actually lots of sons of God in those days, including the Roman Emperor) he could not be God equally with God as father. This is because children must obey their parents. That means they can’t be equal. Also if Jesus was the son of God and conceived as a baby he could not have existed at the same time as God as the book of John claims.
To complicate the matter some people threw in the idea of a Holy Spirit as also another form of God, thus making it three – That’s where we get Trinity from.
Hazel talked about the spirit of God in her sermon last week and I like the way she described it as an influence for good within our own minds and bodies.
Anyway, Arius and his mob lost. But the bishops kept arguing it for hundreds of years and indeed today it is still a source of argy bargy. Most of the ordinary followers of Jesus did not really know what was going on or what it was all about.
Perhaps they still don’t but we still make a big thing of the Trinity. You look at our hymns. Our Uniting Church school for ministers is called Trinity College Queensland.
Which brings me to the point that all we have for describing God, is our human language.
We find we have to think in terms of human beings. We know from our scientists these days (anybody watched Brian Cox on television?) that there are billions of stars bigger than our sun and millions of galaxies full of those stars. Where does a human being fit into all this?
A quotation used by many people since but including a Greek man called Xenophanes 2500 years ago noted “If horses could paint their gods, they would look like horses”.
So we are limited by our human language. We need to keep this in mind when it comes to interpreting what has been written in the Bible,
And we have a big problem here when it comes to bringing the Jesus story today to people, especially young people who have not read the Bible and if they do, find much of the Bible confusing and not making much sense.
We can talk about God and think we know what we mean but for people on the outside of the church our images don’t count for much. Most people in our culture (perhaps even some of us in this congregation) have decided that the God who controls and manipulates everything is unbelievable.
The characters in the Old Testament and Paul in the New were trying to sort our problems which existed for them at that time. They did not see them as applying to everybody for for the rest of history . It is not about sticking to the law. It is more about being “like Jesus” as best we can.
I trust that you, like me, even as we struggle to describe our relationship with God in human language and to cope with getting older and getting sicker will continue to “be like Jesus” as best we can. AMEN

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Feedback: Aboriginal Spirituality

Our recent post about the spirituality of the original inhabitants of Australia brought many personal responses to me. This was a standout reaction from Betty Vawser.

“I am fascinated by this information you have presented about the Aboriginal people at Mowanjum. We lived with the families of the tribes you mentioned for years in the 1960s during which Donny Wollagodja’s father took Professor I A Crawford with him and a group of Aboriginal men into the Outback to repaint and revive the painting of the Wandjina in the caves and crevices. Each major Wandjina had a personal name.

The book he wrote resulting from his annual visits is called ‘The Art of the Wandjina’ and was published by Oxford University Press. He gave us a copy of this excellent book as he stayed with us before and after his trips to see the Wandjina, hear their stories, and observe the men when they entered Wandjina caves or places.

We also had a book written by Donna and his friend Bundell called ‘Keeping the Wandjina Fresh’ which he gave to us while staying with us. We know and love these people. I have more presents than you can imagine, their stories,a massive Wandjina painting,….I could go on but will sign off there…”

Betty.

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Theology in changing times

This book “Doing Theology in the Age of Trump: A critical report on Christian Nationalism” is a work of theological reflections, about the state of Christianity and the moral character of the evangelical Right, which the nationalist/populist movement of Trumpism has co-opted. The contributors are academics in theology and religion of the Westar Seminar on God and the Human Future. While the Gospel is good news for the poor and woe to the rich, the authors expose how Christian Nationalism has led to various forms of economic oppression contributing to a vast, dynamic global network of systemic injustice and marginalization.
The books weakness from my science perspective was an adequate theology of the twin “Eco’s” of Ecology and Economy that describe two aspects of our common home. Ecology is governed by nature’s laws, within which humans construct their Economy governed by laws of human self-interest. While humans radically modify ecological systems for the economy they cannot change the fundamental laws under which these ecosystems have evolved to enable higher orders of life. These economies easily become corrupt, highly instable or self-destructive when the social contract on which they depend fails. The Christian Right long based on claims on the inerrancy of the bible have failed to accept science based on the immutability of the laws of nature leading to an escalating crisis of ecological destruction and global warming.

Richard Smith Progressive Christian Network, Western Australia

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An Informed Faith

That is the title of a blog moderated by Rev Dr John T Squires. John is a Presbytery Minister for the Canberra Region, minister at Queanbeyan Uniting Church, former Drector of Education and Formation and Principal of Perth Theological Hall.

John has been reflecting on a “small and extreme reactionary group that is generating much noise about matters of sexuality”.

He says
“There is clearly a place for an artculate, thoughtful, informed theology which is both conservative and evangelical. I dont dispute that. I have always valued such voices in the scholars have read,the students I have taught, and the colleagues with whom I work and interact. Good conservative theology makes a valuable contribution to the life of the church”.

We commend his blog to all crtically thinking members of the Church as well as those who have all but given up on it. In this blog John explores the reactionary edge of the conservative thread running through the four decades of the UCA. In the last three entries he focuses on the failed strategy of conservatives in the UCA as they ramp up the rhetoric, try to generate guilt and provoke panic in congregations and individuals.

Copy this link into your search engine and scroll through the most recent entries.

An Informed Faith – https://johntsquires.com
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Our Scholarship Awarded

First Trinity College Queensland Rodney Eivers Scholarship

TTC UCA Queensland Synod


On Tuesday 30th July 2019, a Trinity College Queensland, Auchenflower, the presentation of the first Trinity College Queensland Rodney Eivers scholarship for the 2019 year was made to Dylan Katthagen, a student currently at the College.
The scholarship of value $13,000 was awarded on the basis of the applicant’s undertaking some reading to write an essay on the topic: “My response to “progressive” Christianity “. In receiving the award Dylan commented that although he had some reservations about where the progressive approach to theology might be taking us, he was grateful that the studies entailed had led him to open up his thinking and become aware that there are options for Christian faith beyond orthodoxy.
The scholarships will continue to be offered in the coming years but discussions are yet to be held with Paul Hedley Jones, the new Principal of Trinity College Queensland to ascertain what the scope of the awards will be. Those interested in applying may contact the College to find current details.
In presenting the award Rodney made the following remarks, (with some editing) which seem to have been well received by the students at the gathering.
30th July 2019
On granting of Rodney Eivers scholarship to Dylan Katthagen
My first words must to be to congratulate Dylan Katthagen on being the first recipient of the Rodney Eivers scholarship. I have not had the chance yet to get to know Dylan well but from the brief interaction we have had I feel some confidence that he will be a worthy recipient of this award. Furthermore I am hopeful that his exposure to “progressive” Christianity through his studying for the scholarship will lead him to have an open approach to fitting the Christian gospel to the knowledge and experiences of people of the 21st century.
The College and I are still feeling our way with the field of applicants for the provision of the scholarships. I look with keen anticipation in getting together with our new Principal Paul to tease out some of the issues which arise. I would like, for instance, to widen the availability of the scholarships to all students and all potential students.
In doing this, however, I have struck a problem. It is connected with the nature of a theological college. A theological college course is different from an academic university course in, say, comparative religion. The nature of the university is to seek knowledge objectively. That is, all fields of enquiry are open.
Students come to a theological institution, however, from what might be called a faith position. That is, they already hold certain views and assumptions which are not to be challenged. Enquiry may seek to explain those assumptions but it may not probe into doctrinal concepts. Where do we draw that fuzzy line between “spiritual formation” and academic objectivity?
Now I look at the Australian religious scene where Christianity is declining steadily, where the census listed the biggest religious category as “no religion”. This applies for some one third of our population and growing fast. There may be many reasons for this but it is not helpful if we cannot explain Christian traditional doctrine in 21st century terms. I am sure our lecturers here at Trinity College Queensland seek to do that.
I must emphasise that I am very sensitive to the charge that I may be trying to buy influence in the content of Trinity College Queensland courses. Nevertheless, I do I see it as appropriate, to push the boundaries. To try to describe traditional orthodoxy not only in today’s language but also to explore its concepts. That would include the traditional doctrines such as the resurrection, the Trinity and substitutional atonement.
I trust you will join with me in nurturing the Kingdom of God by building up our student enrolments through such means as these scholarships. I count it as a privilege to have the opportunity to do that and look forward to engaging with your new Principal, Paul, In seeking ways that we might achieve our common purpose of being Jesus people in a turbulent world.

Rodney Eivers, Chair, UC FORUM.

oOo

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Mark: a new appraisal

Dr Peter Lewis has kindly offered a further reflection on Mark’s gospel following a very interesting seminar he recently conducted for the PCNQ in Brisbane.

              MARK’S GOSPEL
             A New Appraisal
                     by Peter E. Lewis

Having read Mark’s gospel in a critical way I have come to the conclusion that it is essentially true. It could well have been largely what Mark remembered of Peter’s preaching in Rome. It is the story of an extraordinary man, and it was told honestly by the original author within the limits of his time and pre-scientific world-view. Although the original text was interfered with in many ways, it can be reconstructed fairly easily. The most drastic interference was the removal of the beginning and the ending as explained in my book The Ending of Mark’s Gospel: The Key to Understanding the Gospels and Christianity. But there were other significant interferences which I would like to point out.
In Mark 8:35 Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” A number of ancient manuscripts (including Papyrus 45 from the 3rd century and Codex Bezae) do not have ‘for me and’ in the text, and in the Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies it is stated that there is considerable doubt whether ‘for me and’ should be in the text. If the words are removed, Jesus says what is consistent with what he says all along in this gospel, that his mission is about the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is not primarily about himself although he does, of course, play the main role.
As Christianity spread and grew among the Gentiles in the Roman Empire the focus moved onto Jesus himself as a sort of semi-divine figure like Hercules and the other heroes of Greco-Roman religion who were conceived by a god impregnating a mortal woman, and when Matthew and Luke copied the information from Mark’s gospel they changed Jesus’ statement in Mark 8:35 so that ‘for the gospel’ was omitted. In their gospels the Christian loses his life for Jesus. It is the reverse of the situation in Mark’s gospel.
Mark 1:1, ‘The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God’, was obviously inserted by whoever removed the beginning of Mark’s gospel because it contradicts what Jesus says in Mark 1:15, that the gospel (the good news) is about the Kingdom of God being near. But what is the Kingdom of God? The answer is in Mark 12:29-34. When Jesus says to love God and neighbour, and a scribe agrees with him, Jesus goes on to say that the scribe is not far from the Kingdom of God: he is almost there. So the Kingdom of God is an ethical matter. It is about how we conduct our lives.
When Jesus speaks about love (Greek: agape) he means a self-giving concern for others, and this is what Jesus represents. He gives himself by healing and forgiving people and accepting everyone. But more than this: he gives himself to bring in the Kingdom of God. When he makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem and disrupts the business in the Temple, he is provoking the authorities to kill him, but before they do he has a final meal with his followers. Jesus is the Love that is at the heart of it all.
Another significant interference in Mark’s gospel is in Mark 14:27-31 where Jesus tells the disciples that they will all fall away and be scattered like sheep, but Peter says he will not fall away. To anyone reading this passage, verse 28 (But after I am raised up I will go ahead of you into Galilee) seems out of place. It supports the disciples and looks like an insertion by a pro-Peter group. That this is the case is confirmed by the absence of the verse in the Fayyum Fragment, which is from the 3rd century and is the only papyrus manuscript with the text of Mark’s gospel after Chapter 12.
Mark 14:28 is significant because with 16:7 there are only two places where it is stated that Jesus will go ahead of the disciples into Galilee after he has been raised. Mark 16:7 has therefore been seen as confirming the prediction made in 14:28, but if Mark 14:28 is a later insertion, 16:7 must be critically considered in isolation.
Mark 16:7 is what the man in the tomb said to the women. He told them to tell Jesus’ followers to return to Galilee. If the Jewish authorities had removed Jesus’ body to prevent the site becoming a rallying point for his followers this is what the man would have said. The frightened women misunderstood him and the rest is history.
Actually the most important interference with Mark’s gospel was the removal of the ending that Mark originally wrote. It corresponds (with some modifications) to 16:9-20 in most modern versions. In 16:15 Jesus tells the disciples to preach the good news, and this must surely be that the Kingdom of God has come. In Mark 16:19 Jesus is lifted up to sit at the right hand of God, which is what he said to the high priest in 14:62. So the ending of Mark’s gospel is about exaltation. The model that Jesus provided (loving, forgiving, healing) is to be followed by those entering the Kingdom of God. It is the way they should conduct themselves. Then God will rule in their lives.
Jesus’ exaltation in Mark 16:19 following the crucifixion refers back to the Transfiguration in 9:1-10. There Jesus is glorified on a mountain between Elijah and Moses, but at the end of Mark’s gospel he is lifted up and glorified on the cross between two robbers (Mark 15:27). After both of these events his followers say nothing to anyone until after he has risen. (Mark 9:10 and 16:8).
The Transfiguration in turn refers back to Exodus 19 when Moses brings the people to meet with God. They stand at the foot of the mountain and God descends on it in fire. Then God speaks the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 19:16 God descends on the morning of the third day, and in Mark 16:9 it is early on the third day after the crucifixion that Jesus appears. Jesus has come down from the cross and the people meet with God in a spiritual way in Christ.
A careful reading of Mark’s gospel shows that it is very profound. To understand it you should go as far as you can using the God-given gift of reason. Then you will find that your faith is strengthened. Go beyond the exorcisms and miracles and read it in a realistic way with faith, and, like the scribe in Mark 12:34, you will be almost there.
***

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Personal reflection: ‘Two ways’

Marking NAIDOC Week

While on an extended journey through the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of NW Australia, I have been exploring indigenous spirituality through their amazing art. In particular, I have been ‘captured’by the artists of the Mowanjum people and the work of the noted white artist Mark Norval. Mark and Mary Norval are artists and teachers based in Derby whose lives for four decades have become entwined with those of the Mowanjum community made up of the Worora Wanumbul and Ngarinya tribes. The latter three groups are Wandjima tribes. Theirs is a part of the oldest religion in the world still practiced.

Their supreme spirit being is the Wandjima (see illustration).

Larinywar Spirit Wandjima 1998 Donny Woolagoodja

Only these three tribes see the Wandjima as the true creators of the land. Most of the other aboriginal tribes of Australia believe that the ‘Dream time snake’ or ‘Rainbow Serpent’ was the main creative force.

Mark Dorval, who has dedicated many years to encouraging indigenous artists has explained that some of the people of the Mowanjima believe that these Wandimas control everything that happens on the land, in the sky and in the sea. They created the people, the animals and the baby spirits that reside in the rock pools or sacred places throughout the Kimberleys. I was pleased to procure the following painting by emerging great young artist Tanisha Wungundin-Allies as she put the finishing strokes on her work.

Tanisha has sold over 250 paintings. Quite an achievement for any artist. My painting held by Derby Norval Gallery attendant.

Like most complex cultures, including Christian, opinions differ about creation. In one theme, the people had no laws or kinship until the Wandjima came down from the Milky Way. Until then they were wandering around lost. Familiar? These originals are portrayed in what (white) people call the Bradshaw figures. The ‘big boss’ Wandjima brought many other Wandjima to drive out the evil spirits which were taking ther babies. (The Wandjima had the power of the Rainbow Serpent which slid around everywhere and made all the rivers valleys and mountains. The snake represents Mother Earth.)

So the story continues of how the Wandjima originally painted their own faces and bodies in the caves. Their power is so strong they don’t have to speak. Their eyes are powerful – big and black like a cyclone and the lines around their heads can mean clouds, rain, or lightning.

Today’s artists who are loyal to the cultural tradition (or faith) are obligated to keep the Wandjima happy by continuing to paint them – a tradition that emerged long before the Pyramids of Egypt were contemplated and passed down through hundreds of centuries. The belief in the Wandjima is as strong today as it was for their ancestors.

Many Mowarjim people today follow the ‘two ways’ as a result of the Christian teachings brought to them 90 years ago by Presbyterian missionaries. Most have been able to integrate both cultures to form a unique Mowanjim ‘religion’ in which they believe that God was responsible for creating the Wandjima. Some have discarded the Wandjima altogether and others hold uniquely to the Wandjima spiritual power and shrug off Christianity.

This culture is still evolving as is Christianity. For me this experience has helped to give me greater understanding of the causes for culture clash and an appreciation of people like Mark Norval who give so much of themselves to helping indigenous people grow their wonderful identity and story.

Paul Inglis 14th July 2019.

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PCNQ QLD Coming events

Hello friends

Or next PCN Explorers will be on Wednesday 31st July, 10 am, Merthyr Road Uniting Church

Come at 10 for eat, meet and greet and we will get started about 10:30.

Our leader / facilitator will be Bev Floyd on the topic of Secular Christianity, the subject of her latest book not yet published.

Here is a note from Bev about this topic:

Secular Christianity:

This is the simple story of how the ideas of Christianity began in Judea 2000 years ago and then spread across the world. 

It is also an account of how the message has been changed so much even its founder might not recognize it.

It’s a pity it has been treated so badly, because the original message has quite a lot going for it.

Why write such a book?:

   ‘Western Society is floundering. There’s a lack of conviction, of belief, and I think a simpler form of Christianity 

   might be found in the actual words and example of Jesus’.

 Bev Floyd Bio: B.Ed.St., Dip. R.E. Taught in Queensland; Methodist Training College. Spent 12 years in PNG, several years on a mission. 

        Foundation member of Australian Democrats. Lectured at Southbank Tafe. Retired 2003. Writer.

Bev has authored several books, several of which are free e-books on her website. I suggest you check it out.          https://www.bevfloyd.com.au 

Let me flag with you the next 2 meetings: 

28th August: Tim O’Dwyer will lead our thinking and exploring. Tim is interested to discuss how the journey into “Progressive Christianity” has changed your opinion of and relationship with the church. A few questions to ponder before the day will be

Has this journey affected my church attendance?Has it changed how I express my faith?Is anything different and does this difference influence why I attend or do not attend church?Why did I / didn’t I walk away?

More to come about this next month

25th September: Brian O’Hanlon will be our leader – more info about the topic to come.l

journeying together,

Desley Garnett
drgarn@bigpond.net.au
0409 498 403

Desley

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Book review: on the global impact of Jesus teaching.

Book Review
All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians.
Roman A. Montero, 2017
By their economic practises the Early Christians discovered in Jesus’ life and teachings the corrective to the gross inequalities of the Roman Empire. Global Warming, a product of current economic policies poses a much greater moral challenge of gross inequality.

Is the answer to be found in “All Things in Common” with its striking parallels to the “communism of the apostles” passages in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37, which tells of how early Christians built “social relationships” to solve their problems of discrimination, poverty and dispossession in the violent multi-ethnic world of the first century Roman Empire?

Citing sources ranging from the Qumran scrolls to the North African apologist Tertullian to the Roman satirist Lucian, “All Things in Common” reconstructs the economic practices of the early Christians to reveal that Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 describes a long-term, widespread set of practices that were taken seriously. Practises that significantly differentiated the early Christians from the pagan world of the Roman Empire. Even taking into account Judean and Hellenistic parallels, the origins of the practises for promoting the common good are traced back to the very life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and their brilliant exposition by Paul, revealed in his six authentic and seven pseudo letters.

This book will be of value to anyone interested in Christian history, and the insights it offers to the human construct of capitalism based on self-interest, which now threatens the very basis of the civilisation it has built. Is the climax to the apocalyptic eschatology of the Gospels to be found in “All things in Common”?

Richard Smith

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Spong, Borg and Wright

The previous post has provoked comment to me which highlights the breadth of thinking and some caution when defining ‘progressive’ thinking. Readers may like to look at this text when it becomes available again through Amazon or chase a second hand copy. Paul Inglis

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Book review: Simply Jesus

A new vision of who he was, what he did, and why he matters

By N T Wright (Harper Collins, 2011)

NT WRIGHT is the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and one of the world’s leading Bible scholars. He serves as the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St Andrews. He has featured on ABC NEWS, Dateline, The Colbert Report,, and Fresh Air. He is the award winning author of ‘The Day the Revolution Began’, ‘Surprised by Hope’, ‘Simply Christian’, and more.

Jesus is under-utilized in the Christian discourse. Anglican bishop NT Wright espouses a compelling thesis of tapping into the potential of Jesus more effectively in contemporary life. There has for too long been a pre-occupation with a biblical faith where Jesus is absent and the full significance of his teaching supplanted by negative pre-Jesus thinking. A focus on ‘the second coming’ also has meant that the work he gave to his followers to complete has been neglected. Postponing the development of the ‘kingdom’ ignores the Pauline precept (1 Cor) of the reign of Jesus in the present age. The God-givenness of authority needs to be constantly acknowledged as Jesus did with Pilate (John 19:11).

He points out how relevant this is when it comes to ‘winning an election’. We have come to think of political legitimacy in terms of the method of gaining it – eg winning an election . The ancient Jews and early Christians were more interested than today’s Christians in holding rulers to account in the name of appropriate values.

He says there are millions of things that the Church should be getting into that the ruling elites don’t bother about or don’t have the resources to support. No one would have thought of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission if Desmond Tutu hadn’t pushed to make it happen.

(In Australia, we could add no one would have listened hard to isolated rural communities as John Flynn did – a situation I have been looking at on a trip through the Outback.)

He rebuts the argument that most of the reforms are small with a reflection on Jesus explaining his own actions in terms of the smallest seeds that eventually grow into the largest shrubs. He describes this as ‘cascading grace’. His idea of the ‘good news’ is that all people can participate in the many small things that make for the kingdom that Jesus foreshadowed.

I am not sure if Wright realized it, but he was also demonstrating how ‘good things and good thinking’ are even now changing the Church.

The central part of the present day meaning of Jesus’s universal kingship is the many varied ways in which each generation or each local church can ‘figure out wise and appropriate ways of speaking the truth to power’ in ways that can’t be ignored by the powerful.

Recommended.

Dr Paul Inglis July 2019

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Anticipation is building for the Common Dreams Conference in July

Dr Val Webb – theologian and author

I have been reading Matthew Fox’s “Order of the Sacred Earth” in preparation for Common Dreams in July in Sydney. He says:
“The forms of organised religion and education have become frozen and dinosaur like, unable to adapt, too large and waited down with canons and prescriptions of far too many bureaucracies. The result is that the joy of worship and the joy of living out one’s conscience get lost in the maze of rules called religion. Similarly, the joy of learning and the ecstasy that accompanies truth can get equally muffled by the institutionalisation we call education. Both dimensions of life require a simplification, simplification, simplification. Where has all the joy gone?”

The joy of life
oOo
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Book review: English translations of the OT have been inadequate …..

Until now

The Art of Bible Translation, Princeton University Press (2019) by Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Religion at University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1967. He published a new translation of the Hebrew Bible in 2018.

Alter has been awarded: National Jewish Book Award for Modern Jewish Thought and Experience; Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities (US and Canada.) He is currently President of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. He was born in 1935.

“The practice of translation, as I have learned from experience, entails an endless series of compromises, some of them happy, some painful and not quite right because the translator has been unable to find an adequate English equivalent of what is happening – often brilliantly – in the original language. “(Alter)

Alter is impelled in his years of work on translating the OT by ‘a deep conviction that the literary style of the Bible in both prose narratives and the poetry is not some sort of a aesthetic embellishment of the message of Scripture but the vital medium through which the biblical vision of God, human nature, history, politics, society and moral values is conveyed.’

He shows how word play, diction, rhythm, syntax and strategic choice of words are crucial to the shape of the literary authority and moral and religious outlook of the Hebrew Bible. No one else has done this! In the context of his overview in this book, he provides copious examples that give entirely different meaning to the text.

Reflecting on the history of English translations of the Bible, Alter claims all have been woefully inadequate.

The inspired literalism of the King James version has employed the original Hebrew parataxis (ordering of phrases and clauses), much of which has been discarded in modern English versions. He uses an example of the way ‘the flood’ in Genesis has been dealt with and the loss of authenticity and meaning. He demonstrates how ‘the rage to explain the biblical text’ has had unintended consequences in translation.

But the KJV shows how a limited knowledge of Hebrew by 17th Century translators has led to confused syntax, missed nuances and meanings. There is also a stylistic issue with the KJV. It’s treatment of Hebrew poetry is less successful than its treatment of prose. The Jacobean rhetoric has failed to capture the compactness of the Hebrew and introduced great amounts of extra information to the passages

Later translations have done worse.

“…The Hebrew writers reveled in the proliferation of meanings, the cultivation of ambiguities, the playing of one sense against another and the richness is erased in the deceptive antiseptic clarity of the modern versions.”

Many of the contemporary translations compromise the literary integrity of the biblical texts and Alter contends this is the fault of the university training of contemporary translators and he identifies their training institutions. Also, the absence of an understanding of the Sociology of Knowledge is a major culprit.

You cannot determine the meanings of biblical words without taking account of their narrative and poetic contexts. This has for centuries been a problem with literal translations. There are livelier and more surprising details in the biblical stories than we first realize but those are often erased by translators who have an inadequate grasp of how the narratives work.

Whether the reader of this work is a philological or OT translation scholar, or simply, like myself a seeker after truth in biblical literature and scripture, Alter’s work is seductive, interesting and rewarding.

My copy was purchased though Kindle Amazon Australia. Recommended.

oOo

Start reading it for free: http://amzn.asia/h9NeXdv

.

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Sofia Conference: At Sea on How to Live


Details of the one-day (free) SOFIA conference

At Sea On How To LiveWhere should we look now for moral guidance?

15 June 2019 Queensland Art Gallery

Announced in previous sofia bulletins; the conference is described in more detail below. The conference is FREE to attend, but please register on-line so the organisers can estimate numbers.

Registration

Saturday 15 June, 10.30am – 3.30pm Queensland Art Gallery Lecture Theatre South Bank, Brisbane – we seem to be all at sea. on how to live, many in our society struggle with social media and other addictions/abuses, our once most-trusted institutions (churches, councils, parliaments, banks, sporting bodies) let us down, advancing secularisation; cause, or ray of hope? popular culture looms large in contemporary moral guidance, from Harry Potter (eg the Harry Potter Alliance) to superhero films.

Can traditional religions, or civil society, claw back their moral authority? What other options are there?

Program 10.00 Registration/Welcome

10.30 Speakers

12.15 Lunch (available for purchase at nearby cafes/restaurants

1.30 Panel session with Q&A

2.30 SOFIA AGM

Speakers

(1) Rodney Eivers: Can a completely neutral stance towards ethics replace the unifying function of religion?

Perhaps from the influence of his mother and an early association with Christianity, Rodney started life with an aim to make the world a better place. In his teenage years he concluded that the prime need of human beings was food, which led him to became an agricultural adviser in Papua New Guinea. However, he soon came to realise that a more urgent factor than food for human beings, especially in Australian society, was personal relationships. For 30 years he instructed in Parent Effectiveness Training, a democratic approach to child-raising, which reignited Rodney’s interest in Christianity as a social binding force. With the collapse of a common institutional Christianity in Western society – to which, ironically, Rodney contributes with his espousal of ‘progressive’ Christianity – he has become uneasy about where people today imbibe those values which contribute to building a harmonious community. Rodney is currently President of Sea of Faith in Australia.

(2) Gail Parataz: Religion as Culture – how Judaism has different strands of observance within an overall religious culture

Gail was born in Sri Lanka (Ceylon at the time) and emigrated with her family to Melbourne when she was a very young child. She lived there for 30 years before moving to Brisbane. Gail is married to David and has 2 sons – Benjamin 26 years and Jonathon 24 years. She has been a high school Art teacher and her last teaching post was at Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School. Nowadays Gail is the Interfaith Chair on the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies (QJBD) and is also the Chair of the Queensland Faith Communities Council (QFCC).

(3) Professor Sarva Daam Singh: Pursuit of peace and happiness in a world riven by intolerance

Sarva Daman Singh stresses the indivisibility of humanity and its cultural diversity as a natural expression of its bountiful creativity. Professor Sarva Daman Singh, BA(Hons), M.A., PhD (University of London), PhD (University of Queensland, Australia), F.R.A.S., was born at Angai, in District Mathura of Uttar Pradesh, India and migrated to Australia in 1974.He won many awards and five gold medals during the course of a distinguished educational career at the universities of Lucknow and London. He has taught at the University of Lucknow; National Academy of Administration, Government of India, Mussoorie; Vikram University, Ujjain; and the University of Queensland, Australia; and held chairs of Indian History, Culture and Archaeology. He is at present Director of the Institute of Asian Studies, Brisbane. He was the Honorary Consul of India in Queensland from 2003 to 2011.

Panel moderator

Neil Davidson is a community activator, catalyst and keynote listener who listens deeply, empathizes, synthesizes, and reflects back to diverse groups: interfaith gatherings, organizations, not-for-profits, NGOs and rural communities in ways that reveal patterns, weave threads and lift those present by unlocking hidden/ignored potentials. Neil takes photographs, writes poetry, and sometimes finds himself seeing/channeling the multiple wisdoms present in ways that surprises him and transforms those present. His academic background was Marine Biology and Geology.

oOo


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Grounded in Truth – Walk Together with Courage

Your guide for #NRW2019 and beyond!

Go to: NRW Grounded in Truth

At its heart, reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians.

“… A reconciled Australia is one where our rights as First Australians are not just respected but championed in all the places that matter …”
Kirstie Parker – Board Member, Reconciliation Australia

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Australia’s colonial history is characterised by devastating land dispossession, violence, and racism. Over the last half-century, however, many significant steps towards reconciliation have been taken.

Reconciliation is an ongoing journey that reminds us that while generations of Australians have fought hard for meaningful change, future gains are likely to take just as much, if not more, effort.

In a just, equitable and reconciled Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will have the same life chances and choices as non-Indigenous children, and the length and quality of a person’s life will not be determined by their racial background.

Our vision of reconciliation is based and measured on five dimensions: historical acceptance; race relations; equality and equity; institutional integrity and unity.

These five dimensions do not exist in isolation, but are interrelated. Reconciliation cannot be seen as a single issue or agenda; the contemporary definition of reconciliation must weave all of these threads together. For example, greater historical acceptance of the wrongs done to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can lead to improved race relations, which in turn leads to greater equality and equity.

“Reconciliation must transcend Australian political theatre and promote a sense of national unity …” Patrick Dodson – The State of Reconciliation in Australia, 2016

“Reconciliation isn’t a single moment or place in time. It’s lots of small, consistent steps, some big strides, and sometimes unfortunate backwards steps …” – Karen Mundine – Chief Executive Officer, Reconciliation Australia

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Common Dreams Sydney

Singing is a form of communication that predates language. It is a way that animals and humans alike identify as a group and it is a very important part of our church life.

Yet so many of the songs that we sing within our churches contain outdated language, that make it hard for us to sing out and identify with the messages within the music.

Join Heather Price at Common Dreams on July 12 to warm up your voice and learn new songs that express a progressive theology and embody diversity, while rediscovering the joy of community through voice and song.

Can we find our voice again?

Read more: http://tiny.cc/wz656y
Book now: http://tiny.cc/7f9s6y

oOo

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Accessing Progressive Texts at Trinity Library Brisbane

Trinity Theological Library serves the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, by supporting theological, ministerial, adult faith and chaplaincy education through Trinity College Queensland, Adelaide College of Divinity and Flinders University.

It resources the learning community that consists of students and staff of Trinity College Queensland and Adelaide College of Divinity and Flinders University, Queensland Synod staff, Uniting Church members throughout the Queensland Synod and guests.

The Library offers free membership to Uniting Church members throughout the Queensland Synod, as well as Raymont Residential College students and St Francis Theological College members. Members of the public are welcome to join on an annual membership basis (fees apply).

Through the generosity of Rodney Eivers (chair of UCFORUM), many progressive texts have been added to the library. Rodney continues to add more books on a regular basis. The current list of progressive texts is:

Webb, Val Testing Tradition and liberating theology
Hunt and Smith Why Weren’t we Told
Windross, Tony Thoughtful Guide to Faith
Flanigan, Martin Peter Kennedy
Jensen, Rod Two Small Books on Laypeople & Church
Lorraine Parkinson Made on Earth
Don Cupitt Ethics in the Last Days of Humanity
David Boulton The Trouble with God
Gretta Vosper With or Without God
Funk and Hooper The Five Gospels
Michael Morwood In Memory of Jesus
Webb Val In Defence of Doubt
John Spong Christianity Must Change or Die
Nigel Leaves Odyssey on the Sea of Faith
George Stuart Singing A New Song
Morwood Tomorrow’s Catholic
Heath, Emily Glorify
Crossan, John, Dominic How to Read the Bible and Still be a Christian
Taussig A New New Testament
Morwood God is Near
Mascord Faith Without Fear
Butler-Bass Diana Christianity After Religion
Morwood Faith, Hope and a Bird Called George
Robinson Honest to God
Bodycomb No Fixed Address
Smith & Hunt New Life – Rediscovering Faith
Robert Funk Honest to Jesus
Rex Hunt Against the Stream
MCNab Francis Discover a New Faith
Lloyd Geering Jesus Rediscovered
Preston, Noel Ethics, With or Without God
Dinah Livingstone This Life on Earth
Spong, John Jesus for the Non-Religious
Bodycomb Two Elephants in the Room
Macnab, Francis This Hungry Time

oOo

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Coming very soon – PCN Explorers at New Farm

  • PCN EXPLORERS MEETS WEDNESDAY 29TH MAY, 10 am at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm Brisbane Q.

I have asked Terry Fitzpatrick from St Mary’s in Exile Community (SMX) to lead our thinking into this topic:

How do we continue to maintain resilience and relationships as we strive to sustain a viable future for our planet?

What are the conversations you have been engaged in (or overheard!) since the election last Saturday? In the bus? at the supermarket checkout? at the hairdressers? Are the conversations different in the city and the country? Is there a difference between the ‘Christian’ and the ’non-Christian’? How does our understanding of the Christian story inform our thinking?

Come at 10 am for eating, meeting and greeting. About 10:30 we will move into a time when Terry introduces our theme and its challenges and we can all join in further discussion to look at the ‘how’ question.

Please send a quick reply to this email to say “I am coming” so we have an indication of numbers . Send email to Desley Garnett please. 

Journeying together …

Desley

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Towards a Partnership Society in Australia

Not Just a Dream by one of our subscribers, Bev Floyd, poet and author

Not Just a Dream is my attempt to explore how far Australia has travelled along the path to a partnership society. I have not tried to write a learned or academic book. My aim has been to give a panoramic overview of social change from circa 7000 BCE to the present and to illustrate (with examples) the gradual ‘return’ to a partnership society.
My definition of a partnership society is one in which ‘men’ and ‘women’ participate equally and can reach their potential to contribute to society. It is a society where poverty is minimised; race and religion are not hindrances to contribution and the environment is protected. I have tried to describe what a Partnership Society, ¹ might be like in various areas such as business, gender, the environment etc.
I have been influenced by a book called The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler… a work of enormous scope and impeccable research….

It is my hope that Not Just a Dream will clarify issues around contemporary trends and events that threaten our world—that it can be a blue-print for everyone seeking to hasten the return of an inclusive society free of war and want, a society filled with peace, happiness and love….

PARTNERSHIP AND GLADIATORIAL MODELS COMPARED
The partnership model The partnership model is a mediator model rather than a gladiatorial model. People who support this model are active peacemakers. They believe in participation, compassion, inclusiveness. They are kind-hearted and thoughtful. Their role is to take care of children and the family. From early childhood, they develop nurturing skills. They have a full emotional range and use it in their role as peacemakers. Around them develops a flat management system where everyone is valued for themselves without a need to prove their worth. Their role is a virtuous and beautiful one. More females than males are in this category but there are also many males.
Equality for females is extremely important to social change as women are more closely aligned to the partnership model of life and when their voice is truly heard and respected then society is more likely to change for the better.

The gladiatorial model The role of gladiators is to fight. They are reared knowing they will be gladiators and are trained for their role. They are competitive, heroic and tough. They must be courageous and have an intense will to win. In times of war they are in the forefront of the battle and keep the rest of their community safe. The most successful gladiators develop leadership skills, are decisive and good in crises. They learn to guard their emotions and to switch them off when hard decisions are required. Around them develops a hierarchical system where they test their strength and courage against the next gladiator on the ladder. The hierarchical system is valued also for its ability to instil obedience to commands as well as ensuring quick and effective responses to dangerous situations. Gladiators are generally male although not always.

Amongst many of Bev’s publications, she has made this one free, online. Go to: Not just a Dream

Contents
Introduction 1. Not just a dream 2. Social change we have inherited 3. Australia, the lucky country 4. Signs of the times 5. Governance within a partnership society 6. Husbands and wives 7. Religion within a partnership society 8. Gender in a partnership society 9. Growing older in a partnership society 10. Doing business in a partnership society 11. Minding the environment 12. Role of the media in a partnership society 13. Creativity in a partnership society 14. Ethics, responsibility and regulation 15. Australia’s future role in the world

To find other publications from Bev Floyd go to: Bev Floyd

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Progressive Baptist? Resourcing Ministry and Worship No.11

Is Hamilton Baptist Church in Newcastle, NSW our first known progressive Baptist Community?

COMMITTED TO LOVE

“We seek to be a community in which people matter more than dogma or institution. We aim to value each other, celebrate each other’s joys, care for one another in difficult times, and spur one another on to be the people we were created to be..”

DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE

“We seek to be a community that embraces diversity in age, gender, sexuality, culture, and social status. Our congregation includes young and old, straight and gay, abled and disabled, and people of Anglo, Asian, and other backgrounds, each contributing uniquely to our community life.”

Are you a “Bible believing” church?

“Bible believing” is often shorthand for churches that have a very conservative outlook on social issues, fundamentalist approach to truth, claim that all their views are the clear teaching of the Bible, and see conformity to all those beliefs as the basis of their community life.

That is not the type of church you will find at Hamilton Baptist. We’re bound together by a common conviction that we want to be followers of Jesus and to love and support each other on that journey. We very much value and honour the Bible and look to the story it tells to enable us to understand who God is, who we are, and how we should live in this world. We recognise that interpreting the Bible is not always simple and that there is room for significant difference of opinion. We have also found that the values of the Biblical story, and particularly of Jesus, need to be applied afresh in every generation. Sometimes this means continuing past traditions and sometimes creating new traditions.

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A timely Vision for a Just Australia – from the UCA

“Our vision, grounded in the life and mission of Jesus, is for a nation which: • is characterised by love for one another, of peace with justice, of healing and reconciliation, of welcome and inclusion. • recognises the equality and dignity of each person. • recognises sovereignty of First Peoples, has enshrined a First Peoples voice and is committed to truth telling about our history. • takes seriously our responsibility to care for the whole of creation. • is outward looking, a generous and compassionate contributor to a just world.”

Our Vision for a Just Australia: Foundations – The Uniting Church’s vision and hope for a just Australia is expressed in seven Foundational Areas, the first four of which are set out below:
An Economy for Life • Our government makes economic decisions that put people first: decisions that are good for creation, that lift people out of poverty and fairly share our country’s wealth. • The economy serves the well-being and flourishing of all people.
An Inclusive and Equal Society • We live together in a society where all are equal and free to exercise our rights equally, regardless of faith, cultural background, race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. • We defend those rights for all.
Flourishing Communities – Regional, Remote & Urban • We live in communities where we are connected and we care for one another. • In communities all over Australia, from our big cities to remote regions, we seek the well-being of each Australian and uplift those who are on the margins.
Contributing to a Just and Peaceful World • Australia acts with courage and conviction to build a just and peaceful world. • We are a nation that works in partnership with other nations to dismantle the structural and historical causes of violence, injustice and inequality. Our government upholds human rights everywhere, acting in the best interests of all people and the planet.

The full document is available at: UCA Vision for A Just Australia

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Latest from Caloundra Explorers

Open invitation to:

“Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s contribution to understanding the future of Christianity and the church in a secular world is fascinating – and even more challenging today!”

We especially invite you to join us in our June 16th Gathering with this intriguing theme  appropriate to the co-incidence of dates-“Heretics’ Sunday” and our Gathering!

Confined to Tegel prison in Berlin from April 1943, until his death 9th April 1945 in Flossenburg concentration camp, Bonhoeffer reflected on the future of ‘The Church’ and of Christian communities in a secular world. He questioned the Orthodox understanding of the Gospel as well as Roman Catholic and Protestant church practices. That is, he challenged the church ‘norms’ that many in his lifetime took for granted. Orthodoxy, according to Bonhoeffer, has held sway for 1900 years, condemning those who thought differently and silencing them where possible… even putting to death some unrepentant heretics.

 “Letters and Papers from Prison” became Bonhoeffer’s final words on the subject.

Our Leader, Rev Pieter Hoogendoorn, says “In spite of many developments since, congregations today act as if nothing has occurred”.

Our theme is developed on Pieter’s proposition that only two options are open to today’s Christians and congregations. On the one hand ignore his writings- as many do; or struggle with his insights and take up the implied challenges. Pieter says “ For Explorers, and modern ‘faith seekers’, the latter is the only option. It is better to struggle with the challenges of Bonhoeffer’s thoughts than to throw up our hands in despair because he has not provided a full answer for us to endorse.”

Intrigued?….Why not make this a special occasion and  come to this Gathering:

WHEN:   Sunday Evening  16th June  at 5pm -7pm

WHERE:  Caloundra Uniting Church HALL   at  56 Queen Street Caloundra

OTHER INFO:  The Gathering includes a byo light finger food meal as well as a full opportunity to discuss the issues around your table with friends-old and new!

CONTACT:  Pieter Hoogendoorn Ph.0419 976 372 or Margaret Landbeck Ph.5438 2789 .

 EMAIL:  hoogpar@bigpond.com  or jjeverall@bigpond.com

Caloundra Explorers Group

 Faith And the Modern Era Series

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Resourcing Progressive Ministry and Worship No.10

South Woden Uniting Church: A Church with No Walls

Vision:

We seek to explore the boundaries of faith for the 21st century: by focussing on how we live out the gospel and our faith in our daily lives and being aware of current religious issues and trends in theological thinking. We encourage a spirituality of compassion and freedom: by encouraging members to be actively involved in the preparation and conduct of worship, supporting social justice initiatives and building a Christian community which actively helps and cares for each other.

We celebrate life in all its aspects and phases: by sharing in a deep and realistic way the joys and sorrows of life from birth, baptism, relationships, family and working lives, children and grandchildren, life challenges, sickness, and death.

We look to be an enlightened presence in the wider community; by actively supporting social justice activities for asylum seekers and refugees, the homeless and other people in need. We also support and encourage members as they are involved in community and volunteer activities in the wider community.

We respond to the needs of people near and far with the resources we have: by intentionally setting aside a significant amount of money we have raised for selected wider work projects in the local community, Australia and overseas.

We advocate for justice and peace in our nation and in the world: by supporting social justice programs, making representations to decision makers, and where appropriate participating in protest activities.

We continually challenge people to respond to the grace of God in Jesus Christ: by involving the congregation in decision making, affirming people in the contributions they make to the wider community, and to encouraging a faith community which is meaningful, spiritual and life giving.

Sunday Worship: 9.30am

Pearce Community Centre, Collett Place, Pearce, ACT.

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Making an important correction

Following my request to the President of the UCA for a clarification of the recent ABC TV, Radio and Online news other media reports that the Uniting Church had joined a small number of other denominations in presenting a petition to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader related to so called “freedom of religion” in the Israel Folau case, I have received the following:

“Hi Paul.

At our urging, the ABC has acknowledged, corrected the online story and apologised to us for its error. The SMH also corrected its story at our urging to distinguish between Dr Fihaki’s comments and any official position of the Church.

We are reminding news editors that the Uniting Church is not a signatory to any letter to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader seeking reassurances about freedom of religion.

The Uniting Church’s actual position on freedom of religion, as expressed to the Expert Panel of Religious Freedom in January 2018, 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.” The full submission is available here.

Individual Uniting Church ministers and other members of the Church from time to time express a range of public views.


However, we expect ministers, lay leaders and others and the journalists who cover them not to misrepresent these views as official positions of the Church.

The only authorised spokespeople on the Church’s national positions are the President Dr Deidre Palmer or in matters of regional significance, the Moderators of Synods.

Thanks for your query.

Cheers

Matt/Assembly Comms “

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Anne Pattel-Gray a Keynote Speaker at Common Dreams 2019

Dr. Anne Pattel-Gray is an Aboriginal woman who is a descendant of the Bidjara/ Kari Kari people in Queensland and she is a recognised Aboriginal leader within Australia – nationally and internationally. She has dedicated her life to the struggle of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and she is a strong campaigner and lobbyist and deeply committed to seeking justice, equity and equal representation for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people. She is very proud of her Aboriginal culture and heritage and is a strong advocate for Aboriginal women, children, families and community regarding our Cultural and basic Human Rights. She has developed a leadership quality that promotes and builds a deeper sense of community and participation that brings a greater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and cultural identity and cohesion with the broader community that leads to beneficial partnerships, engagement and reconciliation.

Dr. Anne Pattel-Gray has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Sydney awarded in 1995 in the Studies of Religion with the major focus on Aboriginal Religion and Spirituality (she was the first Aboriginal person to graduate with a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney). And a Doctor of Divinity from India awarded in 1997 (the first Aboriginal person to be awarded the D.D.). Dr. Pattel-Gray has achieved many firsts in her prestigious life and she is known as a trail blazer and she has opened many doors for her people. She is a recognised scholar, theologian, activist and prolific writer with several publications – chapters, articles, edited works and authored books. Dr. Anne Pattel-Gray is deeply committed to the advancement of Aboriginal people and to reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. She has over thirty years in senior management as a CEO and she possesses a wealth of experience and she has developed enormous expertise.  

Anne will deliver a Major Public Address on Saturday evening 13 July.

  • FAQS
  • Student (full-time or unwaged part-time; ID check at event)
  • Early Bird (discount on Regular & Concession rates on & before 31 May,2019)
  • Concession (pensioners & those on unemployment or health benefits)
  • Short Program (Friday night to Sunday)
  • Cancellations received before 11 June, 2019 will be refunded in full. Thereafter a refund of 50% applies.
  • Accommodation not included
  • Packed lunch provided on Friday & Saturday only
  • Dinner voucher provided Saturday evening only
  • Morning & afternoon refreshments will be provided
  • Registrations on-line close on 9 July, 2019.
  • Prices include all relevant fees & taxes applicable to Common Dreams at the time of registration.
  • Prices are in Australian dollars

For tickets go to ticketing details.

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A PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN WORKSHOP

St. Thomas’ Anglican Church Toowong, Q is delighted to announce a workshop examining the Progressive Christian Movement.

Date And Time: Sat., 1 June 2019, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm AEST

About this Event

The guest speaker will be former Roman Catholic Bishop of Toowoomba Bishop William Morris. He will be discussing Creation Spirituality as a Social Justice issue. This will be followed by an introduction to A Progressive Christian Voice Australia (APCVA) by the Rev’d Ray Barraclough. After some afternoon tea, a panel discussion will be held looking at various aspects of the progressive movement. One of the panelists will be Rev’d Tiffany Sparks, most recently seen on the SBS special ‘Christians Like Us’.

Location: St Thomas Anglican Church, 67 High Street, Toowong, QLD 4066

To register attendance: go to Eventbrite.

Enquiries: Adi Gibb

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“Spiritual but not Religious”

The Future of Religion and of Spirituality and of the Earth

That is the topic for one of four sessions with Matthew Fox at Common Dreams 2019 International conference, 11th-14th JULY, 2019 at Newington College in Stanmore, Sydney, Australia and Pitt St Uniting Church, Sydney, Australia.

A conference dedicated to the Sacred Earth: Original Blessing; Our Common Home surely is in pursuit of recovering a sense of the Sacred. This looms as a primary prerequisite for our survival as a species and for our planet’s survival at this amazing but perilous time in human and planetary history. How do we recover the sense of the sacred when it has been lost?

In this context it is of considerable significance that more and more people (80% of people under 30 in the US) are identifying as “spiritual but not religious” today. Is this a judgment against religion? Is it a shout-out for bringing about a re-sacralizing of our relationships? Does it represent a quest for the deeper elements of religion, the “inwardness” of religion that the mystics like Howard Thurman and Dorothee Soelle and Meister Eckhart talk about?

We will reflect on these and other deep matters in this presentation including how we can put such questions into practice, what movements we can create to hasten the journey since the United Nations and scientists tell us we have twelve years left to turn things around.

Those who attended the 4th CD Conference in Brisbane can attest to the mind blowing experience of a Common Dreams Conference.

Early bird tickets are on sale until 31st may 2019.

For full program and ticketing details and bookings go to Common Dreams 2019.

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Message: LOVE, JUSTICE and SPIRITUALITY

Rev Dr Noel Preston has forwarded his homily for Sunday 19th May. It is a timely presentation as the Federal Election and political discourse has refocussed many minds on the teaching of Micah … acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly (Micah 6 v. 8. and vs. 6-16.)

It is a message for politicians and for all of us who are deciding who to vote for, as well as a message for the whole population in our individual journeys.

Comments can be left here at “Reply” or directly to Noel.

We have heard the reading from the Old Testament Book of Micah – one of the “minor prophets”, together with Hosea and Amos and part of the book of Isaiah. These prophets were around  8 centuries before the Christian era.  As prophets they were not foretelling the future so much as declaring Yahweh’s judgement on the way the nation was going. In other words they were  speaking truth to power in their own times, a prophetic word of the Lord. Jesus and the Gospels were strongly influenced by these 8th century BC prophets.

Micah was speaking for the poor and spoke as one of them. He is horrified at the luxurious , degenerate and corrupt life of the city, and realises that he and his fellow peasants are paying for it. In another age he might have led a Peasants’ Revolt though his message is more than political. It is about right relating with each other and with Yahweh, their God – interesting challenges the day after a national election!

These days it is rare to hear a preacher announce a single Text to preach on but that is what I am doing today. This text is bracketed within Micah’s declarations  about false worship and a denunciation of corrupt dealings. Let’s look at this text, not in the translation of the Good News Bible we used in today’s reading but in 3 other paraphrases or translations from different versions.

You may know “The Message” – this is how our text reads there:

…..what God is looking for in men and women is quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously…..

And maybe some of us who are old enough have heard of the J B Phillips version of the Bible:

…..For what does the Lord require from you, But to be just, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God…

And now the version I am most familiar with, known as the The Jerusalem Bible:

….This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God….

 It is this latter version which guides my preaching this morning – the words for today (and everyday) are 

Living the Gospel = loving justly, tenderly and humbly

I am going to reverse the order of these injunctions – so walk humbly with your God

Walking – we are all on a journey aren’t we? We don’t know where or how it will end  but we know that, in the company of God who is Love, God’s  Spirit will guide our journey. This suggests a prayerful approach to daily life…..

Walking humbly – that also suggests to me “living by Grace”, knowing that nothing can separate us from the Great Love. Furthermore, we are called to live graciously, sharing that Love unconditionally.

Let me add another thought – walking humbly is a rejection of self-righteousness. We are to be careful of how we speak and think about “knowing or doing the will of God”.

Walking humbly empowers us for the life of love and justice to which the rest of the text points.

So now, love tenderly……

To me, “tenderness” is virtually a synonym for “compassion” . “Mercy” is another like term which some translations of this text use. Practising “mercy” is also about sharing “grace”, again “unconditional love”, which never deserts us even when we fail to live that way.

Tenderness is often a characteristic of those who themselves have been hurt or damaged. Such tenderness is the style of the wounded healer or suffering servant. It will be tinged with a forgiving, empathetic and merciful spirit.

It is in caring for the “little ones” that we learn to love tenderly -(the anawim of the Hebrew scriptures or Jesus’ reference to “the least” of our brothers and sisters, as in  Matthew 25) – the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, the naked. In our time we must understand “the least” or “the little ones” in a total ecological sense. In caring for the Earth,  threatened species and their environments, we will learn to love tenderly. So, I am talking about eco-justice which is nurtured by a comprehensive tender love.

Some years ago I wrote of “tender loving” in my journal, particularly in the context of recovering from serious illness. I was inspired by the words of an American medico who wrote a book with the wonderful title, “Love, Medicine and Miracles”. I wrote in my diary as I contemplated  my wounded body: such “loving is the life-stream which combines wholeness, healing and holiness.”

Then, we are called to Act Justly……….

This is the hardest word to hear….this is the message for followers of the Jesus way, especially it is what we needed to hear as Australians in the last few weeks facing an election and what is needed as we move on as a nation. Justice is not about personal needs primarily, but about the common good, and why the Gospel is a call to SOCIAL justice.. We all belong to the human family, indeed the family of all living beings. When we are grasped  by this insight, the burdens of others are not so heavy to bear – for they are the burdens of our brothers and sisters.

Of course “justice and love” are closely related. Indeed, it has been said that social justice is love distributed. This is why the biblical message is full of references to living justly. One of the strongest is in the Book of Jeremiah – “To know God is to do Justice”. Essentially, the biblical idea of justice is about “right relating” to each other, to our God, to all who share this planet. We are a Covenant people called to be faithful to all – this is what Jesus said in the Synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4) where he named his mission. So the Biblical notion of Justice goes beyond the way some of our leaders use the word, “fair”. Biblical Justice has a bias to correcting injustice. It suggests that we must be constantly, and courageously,  ready to change not only our minds but our actions. Social justice is more than simple charity. It gives a priority to the marginalised, the vulnerable and the powerless. We  see that clearly in the Jesus Story.

It’s worth wondering how we develop  our sense of justice and fairness. Let me share an autobiographical reflection.

I was a five year old in my first grade, walking home from school. The entertainment for the afternoon was for a group of us boys to tease a little migrant Scottish girl. I’m talking 1947 when Scottish migrants were the outsiders, the Asian migrants or asylum seekers of our time. We called her names  and threw stones at her. My father found out about this incident. He was very angry with me, righteously wrathful in fact. He did not hit me but gave me a piece of his mind (and heart) and insisted on taking me around to the girl’s house to apologise. This I did very tearfully. My father had opted to take the side of the aggrieved and ostracised migrant girl to correct the hurt and injustice we boys had perpetrated. The whole encounter made a profound impression on me, searing into my self (my emotions, my will my mind, my spirit) a  sense of injustice, righteous anger and empathy on behalf of the vulnerable and victimised. For me, that encounter was a lesson in right relating and I’m sure my father’s response did something to empower that migrant family. On reflection, for me it was a lesson on how just or right  relating may correct the imbalances  of power in our society and world.

In a nutshell, empowering justice requires us to reflect ethically about economic issues from the standpoint of the poor, not the rich; or race relations from the standpoint of the oppressed race; or environmental questions from the standpoint of the most vulnerable species and so on. There is no better way to learn what social justice is than to identify with the victims of injustice, as far as that is possible. In my adult years my own understanding of justice was fashioned by a decade of close involvement with aboriginal peoples in the seventies.

One of the great contributions of the Uniting Church has been a readiness to take a stand for Social Justice. And to tackle issues directly, not just speak vaguely about social justice matters.

When the UCA was formed I was the Assembly Convenor for Social Responsibility. With others it was our task to design “A Statement to the Nation” – written in 1977 it still has currency and meaning. I want to share 3 paragraphs…..

We pledge ourselves to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur. We will work for the eradication of poverty within our society and beyond. We affirm the right of all people to equal educational opportunities, adequate health care, freedom of speech, employment or dignity in unemployment if work is not available. We will oppose all forms of discrimination which infringe basic rights and freedoms.

We will challenge values which emphasise acquisitiveness and greed in disregard of the needs of others and which encourage a higher standard of living for the privileged in face of the daily widening gap between the rich and poor.

We are concerned with the basic human rights of future generations and will urge the wise use of energy, the protection of the environment and the replenishment of the Earth’s resources for their use and enjoyment.

(Can give you a full copy of the Assembly Statement)

Now back to our Text. “Act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God……”

That is a great guide for living. That is a great motto for a congregation to adopt or for our Uniting Churches in the Redlands to make their chief guideline in the current planning for a shared future.

Let us make these matters of prayer for others, especially the marginalised. Let us join action with our prayer. AMEN

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Taking a standing against hate speech

From our friends in the Progressive Explorers’ Group (PEG) in Melbourne who have signed this statement.

Action on hate speech: a letter to the churches

   We, the undersigned, are members of a group of mostly clergy, both women and men, still actively involved in the life of the Church. We meet on a regular basis to explore and discuss issues of faith, church and society from a contemporary perspective. We express our profound concern at the horrific events in Christchurch New Zealand in March 2019, and believe that our church should respond strongly, and with conviction.

   While we understand the complexity of the situation, which makes the sheeting home of blame problematic, we accept responsibility to examine our own thought and practices and those of our various churches. We do this in the hope that we can identify our contribution, intentional or otherwise, to the construction of a social, religious and political environment conducive to race-based hate speech.

   We, as followers of Jesus, acknowledge that our churches have in times past promoted notions that racial and cultural superiority are justified. We acknowledge that such notions have contributed to the worst behaviour imaginable.  The fifty deaths in Christchurch are but the most recent symptoms of faulty theology, poor education, careless talk and the mistaken identification of faith as a marker of superiority. Often when our society, or individuals within it, behave in a violent and offensive manner we have said little or have maintained our silence.

   In recognition of our churches’ complicity we, the undersigned, ask of the churches that, in word and deed, we together:

  • embrace inclusiveness, and publicly denounce division;
  • engage in open-minded study of other faiths
  • actively build bridges between faiths and cultures, and decry the forces that keep them apart;
  • resist the urge to convert or demean people of other faiths;
  • proclaim love and peace as the very essence of God’s will;
  • stand up in our communities for justice;
  • speak out against hate speech;
  • call out racism.

Signed: Members of the Progressive Explorers Group as at Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Name Status Institution
Robert Renton Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
John W. H. Smith Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Lorraine Parkinson Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Margaret Black Retired Deacon Uniting Church in Australia
Karel Reus Previously minister Uniting Church in Australia
Gillian Crozier Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
John Cranmer Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Peter Sanders Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Ric Holland Minister (Hampton Park) Uniting Church in Australia
Alex Poore Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
John Gunson Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Jeff Shrowder Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Rex Hunt Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Neil Tolliday Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Kath Baldini Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Coralie Ling Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Denham Grierson Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Howard Ainsworth Retired priest Anglican Church of Australia
Neil Wilkinson Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia
Jim Cunnington Retired minister Uniting Church in Australia

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Youth Justice Reform

One of our very active members has been working with the team at Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation group. Wayne Sanderson has this to say about the ANTaR Q presentation:

This will be an exceptional night with over 300 people present. A great opportunity to meet ANTaR Q supporters and First Peoples Elders – particularly those integral to Youth Justice reform in Queensland. In particular, we are honoured to have Mr Mick Gooda as special guest. Mick is a Gangulu man from Central Queensland.  He has worked as Social Justice Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission; and more recently as Co-Commissioner in the Royal Commission into Youth Crime in the Northern Territory. In particular, Mick will address the  movement towards constitutional recognition of First Peoples and the Makarrata (treaty) momentum.

We are happy to recommend this event to our subscribers. Enquiries to Wayne (click on his name above).

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Redcliffe Explorers – next conversation

The Redcliffe Explorers will meet on Monday 6th May in the Azure Blue function room, Anzac Avenue Redcliffe, with tea/coffee and chat from 6:00 p.m. The  night’s discussion, starting at 6:30, will be facilitated by Greg and Meryem Brown, who recently participated in two conferences in the US – The Universal Christ: another name for everything (conducted by the Center for Contemplation and Action) in New Mexico, and Conversations with Jesus (hosted by the Gospel Coalition) in Indiana. The focus of the evening’s conversation will be comparing and contrasting the presentations and theological underpinning of the two groups.

The CCA is led by Fr Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, who now has more than 300,000 on line subscribers.

The Gospel Coalition “helps people know God’s Word with their mind, love God fully with their heart, and engage the world with grace and truth.” It has a very strong Calvinist bent, with an emphasis on cultural transformation.

All are welcome; if you’re new to our Explorers meetings please call Ian on 3284 3688 or 0401 513 723 for details of how to access this venue or email Ian.

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Religion is no cloak for hate speech

by Rev Dr Gregory Jenks

The media has recently been awash with stories about the hateful comments made online by Australian Rugby Union star, Israel Folau, about various classes of people being destined for hell unless they repent and conform to a set of beliefs (and related lifestyle choices) promoted by extremely conservative Christians.

His original Instamgram post then reinforces his threats of damnation in the fires of hell with a series of citations from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

To be fair, similar claims can be heard at almost any Anglican Church in the Sydney area, as well as in many other congregations around the country where ultra-traditional religious views survive to this day.

Such views are abhorrent, no matter who makes them. They also reflect a profound ignorance of the Bible and of biblical hermeneutics.

Now we find Des Houghton—a Courier-Mail columnist and opinion writer—arguing that criticism of Folau for his hateful views is really an attack on Christianity, and perhaps on all forms of religious faith.

This is going too far.

Religion is neither an excuse for hate speech nor a protection for those who engage in it.

Condemning people to the fires of hell because of their beliefs or their lifestyle—like claiming divine approval for slavery, ethnic cleansing and patriarchy—is an element of Christian faith that progressive believers have long since laid aside as inappropriate; along with burning peoople at the stake and interrogating them under torture.

These are indeed among the darker elements of Judaism and Christianity, but are no longer practices that we can endorse or defend.

Just as polygamy and female gential mutilation are not permitted under Australian law despite their status as traditional religious practices, hate speech that threatens people with hell fire cannot be excused as ‘protected religious activity’.

Sadly our religious leaders—bishops and moderators alike—have been strangely silent in reponse to the hateful social media posts by Israel Folau. For sure some will secretly agree with him although they mostly do not speak so openly about their views these days. Most have simply been silent, and perhaps thereby were mistakenly assumed to agree with his views.

The Bible does not justify hate speech even when the Scriptures themselves descend to the gutter in the heat of some particular conflict.

Our society has moved on and the views promoted by people such as Israel Folau serve best when they remind us of how far we have come. Theocracies are one of the most dangerous forms of human society, as we see daily in both Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The best response to such extremist nonsense is perhaps ridicule rather than prosecution. Laugh them off the stage and move your discretional spending to other recreational pursuits.

In two weeks time I will be in Sydney to speak at the Festival of Wild Ideas, an event sponsored by the Mosman/Neutral Bay Inter-Church Council. My topic for that address is: Reading the Bible to promote human flourishing.

The proposal at the core of my presentation is that the immense cultural and spiritual significance of the Scriptures lies precisely in their capacity to inspire us to move beyond earlier expressions of humanity and to reach new levels of awareness, courage and compassion; in short to be more fully human than ever before.

Needless to say I will use the Bible very differently from Mr Folau and I shall come to very different conclusions about God’s desire to bless us profoundly across all of our diversity as humans.

About the writer:

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George’s College, Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in my publications, including my blog posts, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Diocese of Grafton nor Christ Church Cathedral in Grafton.

Recent publications:

The Once and Future Bible (Wipf & Stock, 2011), The Once and Future Scriptures (Polebridge Press, 2013), Jesus Then and Jesus Now (Morning Star Publishing, 2014) and Wisdom and Imagination (Morning Star Publishing, 2014).

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High interest in Seminar this Wednesday (1st May)

By the number of registrations for our talk/conversation Can a Christian be a Politician? this seems to be in the minds of many people…..for many different reasons, I expect! It is a question that raises many more questions and challenges us to think about the very concept Christian.

It is not too late to come but please RSVP to Desley or Paul

10am Morning Tea for 10.30am start. Merthyr Rd Uniting Church, New Farm, Brisbane.

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Was Paul Wrong?

Rodney Eivers – 23rd April 2019

1 Corinthians! 5: 13-14 “If there is no resurrection of the dead then Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain”

          In responding to his UC Forum posting on 23rd April 2019 I would state my admiration of Rod Bower from what I know of him and congratulate him on his initiatives in bringing a relevant Christian gospel to people of the 21st century.

          Nevertheless, I am left confused by his references to the place of the resurrection of Jesus in our contemporary faith.

          Rod notes: “Whether the bodily resurrection of Jesus was an historical fact means little to me, while I respect that it is central to the faith of many. That the bodily resurrection is a theological fact is an essential element of my faith because it affirms the incarnation and the material creation as the vehicle through which the Divine Eternal life is expressed.”

          So what are we talking about?  What does this mean? Just about all liberal/orthodox ministers and theologians over the past century or more seem to want to have it both ways.

          Apostle Paul never claims to have met Jesus in the flesh and yet he assures us that he has “seen” him. (As a reminder, Paul’s letters were apparently written before any of the gospels).  Clearly then when he talks about resurrection Paul is not talking (in his case anyway) about a visible body which jumps out of the grave and starts walking around the streets of Jerusalem or the villages of Galilee.

          So, on the one hand, we 21st century commentators take on board Paul’s vision of a spiritual form of Jesus. But then we turn round and make it a big issue that Jesus’s fleshly body came back to life.

          Why do we still do this?  It is now two thousand years on, with all the scholarly study and scientific research which has gone on, particularly in the past two hundred years or so.

          But I would go even further than this and pose the question.  Was Paul wrong? Is our faith in vain if we ignore the resurrection?

          In a previous posting, Richard Smith demonstrated that the pre-Easter Jesus made enough of a statement and lived enough of a life to inspire and challenge us to nurture, the Kingdom of God – making this world, here and now, a better place.

          Further, I would ask.  What is it to us if Jesus’s body did come back to fleshly life for a few months?  I presume this is because we can then accept that supernatural life resuscitation is a reality (there could be some Nobel Prize winning research for those who work out how this happens).  This means, as the Nicene Creed implies, that all people who die and accept the creed will come back to life. This means that our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and further back may come back to live with us.

          Is this what our ministers and theologians believe, in their inner selves?   I suspect not. I was told of one instance  where a minister had been queried as to whether he really believed that dead bodies come back to life again,  The minister’s reply was, “No, but you can’t say  that.

          May I plead that we take the magnificent and powerful Jesus story and express it in terms which can transform our whole secular world. Let us not only be prepared to think it but also to say it.

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Rod Bower on Resurrection

Fr Rod Bower, Anglican Parish of Gosford, NSW

Thanks for this reflection Rod

Whether the bodily resurrection of Jesus was an historical fact means little to me, while I respect that it is central to the faith of many. That the bodily resurrection is a theological fact is an essential element of my faith because it affirms the incarnation and the material creation as the vehicle through which the Divine Eternal life is expressed. .
To Proclaim Christ is Risen is to proclaim that the living one is here and now, not a future hope, but a present reality. That the Creator is in creation calling us to be respectful, reminding us that this planet and this life are unique and that we must value every atom of it.
So let us proclaim with every fiber of our being, with heart soul mind and strength and let all creation resound with us.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Link to Rod’s sermon on FaceBook

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Easter Reflection: Dad, why did you go to church?

Richard Smith – Wembley Downs UCA, WA.

My Son asked: Why did you go to Church this Easter?

Good Friday from God’s Friday was a reminder about the Domination Systems of political power that amass wealth at the expense of the poor causing social distress, extreme environmental damage and climate chaos. Jesus is remembered because he pushed back against the Domination System of the Roman Empire which responded by having him publically tortured and killed, a warning to others, do not mess with the system.  Modern Domination systems continue with modern weapons and cyber techniques as the normalcy of civilisation where violence in its many evolving forms is the human choice of resolving difference.

Jesus advocated for the Kingdom of God where everything to be shared, is shared equitably. Gospel or Good News for the poor, but warning to the rich to share their wealth and knowledge. This kingdom was named after God’s image because at Creation it was shared equally among all of humankind (Genesis 1:26), to be experienced as “God is Love” (1 John 4:8).

On Easter Sunday, the Resurrection is the metaphor that despite his untimely death Jesus’ advocacy of the Kingdom of God would live on and be vindicated.  St Paul (AD 53-54)  used the evolutionary concept of a seed being planted and dyeing before new life could emerge to offer the opportunity of an evolutionary step forward or alternatively extinction by a process of self-destruction (1 Cor. 15). The choice is ours to make or ignore, to live or to die, to plant and to harvest or create a dry desert.

Jesus’ advocacy has weaved its evolutionary way through history reducing violence and bringing the peace many enjoy today. The sharing of political power through representative democracy has brought peace and universal systems of welfare, education, health, child care and human rights. But the normalcy of civilisation continues with all the modern forms of rhetoric and force, to reassert its desire for Domination leaving many is distress.

The cycle of such violence in Jesus’ prayer is broken by practising justice, mutual forgiveness and resisting the use of violence (Matt 6 11-13). Violence creates more violence in an escalatory process which is the bible’s the earliest definition of Sin (Genesis 4.6-7). Thus Jesus dies not for our sins, but by dying for his advocacy he exposed the sin of humankind and revealed an alternative way of living for peace through non-violence.

Why then Church? Religion derives from the Latin word religo “Conscious concern for that which matters” for which the people have regularly gathered as the Synagogue, Ecclesia or Church.   One concern of contemporary human consciousness is the social, environmental and economic sustainability of our world and our diminishing ability to hand it on to the next generation in a better condition than we found it.

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Climate Action Petition

Silence is no option – Speak Up For Earth

Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea started this petition to Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and 5 others

A list of candidates can be accessed here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candidates_of_the_2019_Australian_federal_election
You are invited to sign our petition and send an important message on climate action to the next Australian Government.

The growing climate emergency means that we must ensure that climate concerns be given top priority during this Australian election.
Australia needs to elect a government whose members recognise the reality of a changing climate and who can develop credible policies, plans and actions to address this emergency.
The Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea encourages you to email and write to politicians, candidates, and newspapers, and to meet your local representatives.

The petition can be found at – http://chng.it/HXL9TZHhfB

Please note, we ask you not to donate to this petition. Sign the petition and share on social platforms instead. Thank you.

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ITS EARTH DAY: PAY ATTENTION!!

A message presented to the Spirit of Life Unitarian Fellowship at Kirribilli last Sunday by Rev Rex A E Hunt MSc(Hon)

What the kangaroo and the koala are to Earth, we are to the universe… The secrets of the universe are not different from us” (Paul Fleischman)

In a couple of weeks time two celebrations will occur. One is the Christian festival called Easter. A time when the life and death of a Jewish peasant sage called Yeshu’a, is remembered. Jesus’ death mattered to the early storytellers, but only because his life mattered more. And about the cross we can say: for many of the earliest Christians, the cross was about the integrity of Jesus, not about a sacrifice or a divine plan. As a result of the recent religion-led protests surrounding the artwork entitled ‘McJesus’ which displayed a crucified Ronald McDonald, it has become necessary to unpack some of the traditional baggage that has encased the cross in church history. So let me be clear: the positioning of the cross of Jesus as the sacred centre of Christianity was not central to the earliest Christian communities. It has only occurred since the Middle Ages, when it became the object of worship. As a result the symbolism of ‘McJesus’ – as making a point about capitalism and asking us to think about how we have, or whether we have, placed consumerism above the value of life (David Galston 2019) – has all but been lost, due to anti-intellectual piety propped up by fear and religious fundamentalist superstition. There are good and bad ways to think about Jesus. And part of the job of the progressive biblical scholar is to identify how concepts of Jesus have been used destructively.

The second celebration is a more recent one – Earth Day. Indeed, the 49th anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environment movement, in 1970. This year’s theme or campaign is “Protect Our Species”. And the goals of the campaign are to: • Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon. • Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats. • Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values. • Encourage individual actions such as adopting plant based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use.

As the campaign organisers are at pains to highlight: (i) We are amidst the largest period of species extinction in the last 60 million years. (ii) Habitat destruction—in the past 200 years we have seen 75% of our Australian native habitats destroyed or degraded by human activity—exploitation, and climate change are driving the loss of half of the world’s wild animal population. (iii) Forty percent of the world’s bird species are in decline, and 1 in 8 is threatened with global extinction. (iv) Worldwide bee populations are in decline, including the honey bee and many wild native bees. On all this, and others, the available data is multilayered and complicated. While existing studies may not be perfect, for a host of environmental factors, we would still be wise to heed the warnings contained in those studies. oo0oo Science is the grand narrative we construct to make meaning out of the mystery of existence. In the world of science, the most widely accepted modern estimate of the Earth’s age is approximately 4.5 billion years.

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Hope that demands action

A message presented to the congregation at St Andrews UC, Creek Street, Brisbane yesterday by

Dr Mike Pope,

Professor of Environmental Mission, Missional University, Ethos Environment Coordinator, Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity and Society

A sermon on Romans 8:19-23 preached by Dr Mick Pope at St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane, April 7 2019.

Introduction

I’d like to begin by thanking you for the invitation to speak to you this morning. But I also have to have to brag at your expense. For those who follow Rugby Union, the Melbourne Rebels were up here a couple of weeks ago and beat the Queensland Reds. There is something else Victoria beats you at, although I am less proud to speak about it.

We had our hottest summer on record, along with four other states. However, as a consolation prize it was your hottest January on record, with rainforest damaged by fire, and record breaking rains in Townsville. All of this consistent with long term warning trends, and the warmest Australian summer on record. Now I know that some in the churches are unwilling to accept that climate change is real, but I want you to suspend your disbelief if that is you and come along on a journey with me.

Recently, roughly 150,000 Australian school kids participated in the school climate strike, and I attended during my lunch break in support. I was very proud of them. The strike is an expression of their anger at politicians on both side of the spectrum, whom they believe are not delivering enough on climate change. This generation is growing up in a different climate to the one you and I have, and they have fear and anxiety about the future.

When I went home, a friend of mine who writes for Eternity News, a Christian website, asked me to jump onto their Facebook page and answer some of the comments on a piece they had published. The article spoke about two Christian schoolgirls who had attended the strike. After 45 minutes of responding, I was despondent and had a stress headache. There was so much outrage, with comments of ‘fake news,’ poorly understood science, and poor theology.

What would you say to the youth of today? Particularly those within the church? Do you respond with denial, or simply say that God is in charge and not to worry about it? How does the church become more pro-active and less ­re-active on climate change?

Our text for this morning reads

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Straight off the bat, Paul is making two big theological statements that say ‘God is in charge’:

  1. God has subjected creation to futility
  2. God will set it free

So doesn’t that wrap it all up? Can’t you say ‘Mick, there’s no more to say, just sit down?’ We I think that this passage begs three questions.

  1. What is the nature of this futility?
  2. How will creation be set free?
  3. Is there anything we can do?

So let’s look at each of these questions in turn.

1. What is the nature of this futility?

It is best to start at the beginning. If ever like me you have tried to read the bible from cover to cover, you would have started with Genesis. We learn about the beauty of creation and its great blessing, and human responsibility in Genesis 1-2. In Genesis 1 we learn that to be made in the image of God means to be fruitful and multiply, and subdue the earth, which means to engage in agriculture and feed ourselves. In Genesis 2 and verse 15, we learn of our vocation to care, tend, and keep the earth. We have an intimate relationship with the soil, the pun from the Hebrew being humans from the hummus. And then in Genesis 3, it all goes pear shaped, or better still apple shaped. Our relationship with the soil becomes cursed. We see the same thing at end of the book of Deuteronomy where Moses warns the people of Israel to remain faithful. Human disobedience leads to broken relationships with the soil.

So the subjection to frustration in Romans is due to the fact that God has let us run it – and what a fine job we’ve done of polluting the air and water, cutting down trees, warming the climate, and killing all the animals (60% of all living things in less than 50 years).

In Rome, Paul could also see the devastation that human misrule brought. He could see the regular silting up of the Tiber River because all of the trees had been cleared, and it needed to be dredged regularly. Although Paul and the ancients did not understand this, this swampy ground was the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. In 452 AD, those brave Huns were afraid to enter Rome because of the bad air, or malaria. There is evidence to show that malaria was one of the factors that was involved in the collapse of Rome. The air quality was also poor. Philosopher and Senator Seneca (4BC – 65 AD) wrote that

“No sooner had I left behind the oppressive atmosphere of the city and the reek of smoking cookers, which pour out, along with clouds of ashes, all the poisonous fumes they’ve accumulated … I noticed the change in my condition at once.”

Paul was making an observation then not in the abstract, but in the particulars of how Roman misrule produced damage to the world around him. In Romans chapter 1, he identifies the root of these problems, that we make idols out of things like wealth and power. Reformer John Calvin identified the heart as an idol factory, and Paul would agree, and link that idolatry to damage to creation.

In our day, Pope Francis notes in the encyclical Laudato Si’ that “the present ecolog­ical crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity.” In other words, the worship of progress, technology, consumerism and individualism, which may have once been done in ignorance, is now done in full knowledge of the consequences for our world, God’s good creation. This is recognised both within and outside of the church. Environmentalist Gus Speth says “The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy … to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation … we scientists don’t know how to do that.” But we in the church do! We know about repentance. What is needed by the church is to join the dots between sin and repentance with issues of the environment.

2. How will creation be set free?

The answer to my second question, how will the creation be set free, is found in verses 22-23.

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Creation is suffering now in birth pains, but that suffering will one day give way to joy. Any woman here who has carried a child will know what this is like. I can remember watching my own wife with her distended belly, it getting hard to get comfortable at night. But the suffering is all worth it when a child is born. What Paul is saying is that creation is longing for the resurrection of the dead like a pregnant woman groans for the baby to come out. Renewed humanity at the resurrection means a renewed relationship with the Earth, and not the abandonment of it. Christianity is not just about going to heaven when you die like some Christians believe. Anglican theologian Tom Wright has said that heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world. The future of us and the future of the creation are entangled together.

What this means is that we have a message of hope to offer the world. But what does that mean for the here and now?

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Can a Christian be a Politician?

PCN Explorers at New Farm, Brisbane (Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm.)

In the Brunswick Room.

Wednesday 1st May

10am for Morning Tea – 10.30am start.

Speaker: Everald Compton

Some information about Everald who I am sure you have heard on radio on many different topics:

Everald is an elder in the Aspley Uniting Church and a Research Fellow at Per Capita, a progressive think tank.  He is a veteran of ageing and infrastructure policy, and has advised every Australian Prime Minister since Robert Menzies. (among many other roles) https://everaldcompton.com/about/  

 This talk and discussion will be during the lead up to the Federal Election. It will not be a time to tell anyone how to vote, but I am sure it will raise some issues to inform our decision making on who to vote for.

The first in the series of “Christians like us” has just been broadcast on SBS. Maybe part of our thinking is informed by what we understand as “Christian”. Did you watch it?

Your RSVP will be helpful for planning morning tea and for knowing how many chairs we need to have out. We will be meeting in the Church building, not the hall where we usually meet.  We would also be appreciative of your donation of a few dollars to cover the cost of morning tea and a contribution to the church for the use of the premises. As an opportunity to continue the fellowship and have further discussion on this or any other topic, some of us plan to have lunch at Moray Cafe just down the street. Everyone is welcome. “>RSVP to Desley

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Easter Reflection: Resurrection repeated every day in our lives

Don Whebell

Reading: John 20: 1-18

She had gone there to anoint a dead body – who has stolen it? She finds it easier to believe in the night-time antics of grave-robbers than in the night-time antics of a God who refuses to let death have the last word.

The Easter story begins with someone who many had written off as a lost cause: Mary Magdalene. When she reaches Jesus’ tomb she finds that the stone had been rolled away…

When Peter and the Beloved Disciple hear her story they immediately head for the tomb – and we have a great marvellous action-picture of the Easter jog! The Beloved Disciple [his name was John] seems to be a better sprinter than Peter. He reaches the tomb first, looks in to see the cloths lying about …and waits for Peter, who catches up and goes straight in as you would expect of him!

The climax of the Story is the Beloved Disciple following Peter in. He sees the same evidence as Peter does – and more: he sees more than discarded cloths: he sees with the eyes of faith what this means.

            His is a love that sees through the dark.

One of he features of The Gospel According to John is a specially-mentioned love between Jesus and one of the Twelve. The Beloved Disciple is presented as the ideal follower of Jesus, the one who sits closest to him at The Supper, the one who stands at the foot of the Cross. Now in running to the tomb on Easter morning, the urgency of his love gets him there first, and he is the first to believe.

And some days later, when Jesus stands unrecognised on the lakeside, it is the Beloved Disciple who informs Peter: “It is the Lord!”His is a love that gets him there first.

In celebrating Easter we rejoice in the light that darkness cannot dim; we celebrate the God who raises Jesus from death and calls us from death to life.

We bless God for the faith that challenges us to see more in others as we respond to them with the grace and love that has touched and changed us.

It means that we take a part in the sufferings of the Risen Crucified One And take part in God’s protesting against the violence and suffering in the world… the violence and suffering that too often is accepted as an inevitable part of life in the world. Death is not just a fate that we meet at the end of our lives. We see death around us in the midst of life.

In that Easter Faith we catch a glimpse of the Messiah who makes us friends with each other because he has made us friends with God. The challenge of Easter is to understand the history of human suffering… and to understand the histories of our own sufferings… in the light of Jesus’ resurrection.

In an Easter sermon, theologian Jurgen Moltmann says:

            “Death is an evil power now – in life’s very midst.It is the economic death of the person we allow to starve…It is the political death of people who are oppressed… It is the noisy death that strikes through bombs and torture…It is the soundless death of the apathetic soul.”

To accept this litany of death as inevitable is to deny the power of the Resurrection for today. Resurrection faith faces the cross and protests against the finality of that violence on Calvary Hill. It calls us to see as God sees: to act as so many people have chosen to do when, with enormous courage, they refuse to worship the powers of darkness that use suffering and death to gain and keep power.

The Resurrection is a proclamation that this hanging, suffering outcast is the living Son of God, who cannot be held in the grip of death.

The truth that God raised Jesus from death gives hope, healing and health    to all who need that miracle to be repeated in the midst of a world that is cruel, harsh and empty of love.

We are convinced that God’s work continues: for we have been grasped by the words of the One who again and again says to us: “I am Resurrection    and I am life.  Those who trust me,  though they die,  yet shall live…”

We can catch something of the reality of the Resurrection when the light of new life bursts in upon us in the midst of the darkness of despair and hopelessness. We see it in hospital wards where nurses hug people back from death to life. We see it in the women and men who risk their own lives protesting against the dark, mindless violence inflicted by their fellow human beings. We see it in the disciples of Jesus who see in the dark what no one else sees.

For all this, we will rejoice. It is Easter in our midst. It is the refusal to accept that anyone should be left for dead. Listen – again – to the Basis of Union:

Paragraph 4:

Christ who is present when he is preached among people is the Word of God who acquits the guilty, who gives life to the dead and who brings into being what otherwise could not exist. Through human witness in word and action, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ reaches out to command attention and awaken faith; he calls people into the fellowship of his sufferings, to be the disciples of a crucified Lord; in his own strange way Christ constitutes,     rules and renews us as his Church.

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Eugene Peterson – a tribute

Don Whebell

Eugene Peterson wrote over 30 books. My library includes Peterson’s Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and The Praying Imaginationa Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society The Message Bible: The Bible in Contemporary Language, and The Daily Message.

Books especially for Ministers:  Working the Angles, Five Smooth Stones, Under the Unpredictable Plant, The Unnecessary Pastor, Run with The Horses. 

I often turn to these books for timely inspiration. Peterson’s lectures and courses are still available for download from Regent College Book Store.

Eugene Peterson’s most remembered Christian contribution will be The Message Bible. The Message Bible is not a direct translation or paraphrase, it was written in the words of Peterson: “for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat.’”

For me, Eugene Peterson’s contribution to Christianity is on par with C.S. Lewis and JB Phillips’ paraphrase of the Bible. Peterson’s interpretation of Galatians 3:1-5 puts his style, legacy, and passion for Christ in clear unvarnished prose. Here it is:

“You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you?

Have you taken leave of your senses?

Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives.

His sacrifice on the Cross was certainly set before you clearly enough. Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin?

people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing?

It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?”

Eugene Peterson died on 22nd October 2018.   Among his final words were, ‘Let’s go.’ And his joy: my, oh my; the man remained joyful right up to his blessed end, smiling frequently. In such moments it’s best for all mortal flesh to keep silence. But if you have to say something say this: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’

Rev Don Whebell is a former Moderator, Queensland Synod, UCA.

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Reflection: Why are we here?

Back before Copernicus and Galileo, we used to believe we were at the centre of the universe, and everything revolved around us. Then we worked out that we lived on one of nine planets that circled the sun, and later that we were in an arm of the Milky Way that circled its centre. We now know we are part of a supercluster of clusters of galaxies, called Laniakea.  

To the centre of our supercluster, called the Great Attractor, is about 250 light years. The distance to the edge of the observable universe is 46 bn light years away. For us the reality is that we sit at the centre of all we can observe in space. 

We have measured and mapped three “great walls” of galaxies, parts of a series of filaments of galaxies. We think all up to the observable edge, there are 1-2 trillion galaxies, of which we are capable of detecting about 100 billion.

So that is an awful lot of rock, and gas, some liquids, and nuclear fusion reactors to light up our night sky, just for nine billion human beings on one relatively very tiny planet, with only the sun and moon really of any interest to organisms other than us.

So that’s ten detectable galaxies each. As the author of the song about a sunburnt country might have put it, wilful and lavish. 

A recent paper even suggests that before the Big Bang, the point from which it came was the result of a previous universe shrinking to that point.

There is also evidence that the radiation flowing to us from the earliest days of the formation of the universe, the cosmic microwave background, is aligned with the plane of our solar system. Some cosmologists find it disconcerting that of all the solar systems in the universe, ours is at least one of those with this seemingly special alignment.

We are here, conscious, and self-aware, with the scientific skills to observe those things which are outside the radiation detection range of our eyes or detectable using instruments, and with the knowledge we have developed of maths. There is no one else that we know of who would know that the universe exists. Of the organisms on earth, only we know we exist. Our chances of ever holding a conversation with anyone else beyond our solar system are very low. Physics says that it would take nine years to receive a response from a planet near the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. (7.8 years for someone around in 11900 AD, when Barnard’s Star gets closer). 

We have somehow found ourselves with passions and emotions, some connected to sex, procreation and child-rearing.  Some positive, some negative. We are not the only species to experience some of these. 

Why all that, with just us here as far as we know or are likely to know, on this, relatively speaking, ultra tiny blue speck?

A variety of responses to our situation has arisen among us, some brute, some philosophical based on a shared view of what is reason. Some are grounded in experiences and beliefs which are considered to reflect an ultimate reality beyond anything we can observe logically. They give us a sense of where we “fit in”.

Geoff Taylor

Some readers may like to watch this, showing galaxy flow:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTws86Z_YI8

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Redcliffe Explorers next gathering

A quick reminder that we’ll be meeting next on Monday 1st April (yes, April Fools’ Day!) in the functions room on the ground floor at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Ave, Redcliffe, Qld).

Please remember the new starting time – 6 p.m. for coffee and chat!

At 6:30 the two Graemes (Adsett and Foon) will be leading a discussion on the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week event which was held on 3 February at the Brisbane Baha’i Centre of Learning in Milton. The discussion will also, I’m sure, benefit greatly from the input of two visitors – Lorraine Powers and her friend Bonnie – who will be happy to inform us and answer our questions about the Baha’i faith.  

Hope to see you there.

Shalom

Ian (Dr Ian Brown) Enquiriesbrowniw5@optusnet.com.au

[Ask Ian about access to the venue before coming.]

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Euthanasia legislation submissions

The Queensland Government is currently conducting an
inquiry into aged care, end-of-life and palliative care and voluntary assisted dying. Following an excellent seminar and discussion by members of the PCNQ this morning it was obvious that this is a topic that touches the lives of many people. Dr Ian Brown from the Redcliffe Explorers group led the discussion and backgrounded this with a broad explanation of the various subtopics, legislation in Australia and overseas, and a series of case studies of people who have travelled the path of voluntary assisted dying (VAD).

This stimulated many in the gathering to describe their own experiences. Clearly there are many challenges facing individuals, medical professionals, para-professional staff and governments. Legal, economic and personal issues add complexity to the thinking.

The Uniting Church Queensland Synod is currently compiling a submission to the Queensland Parliament after inviting its members to submit their thoughts. This submission will offer a ‘theology’ of euthanasia to the deliberations prior to a Bill being drawn up. Other submissions that have been received by the Parliament so far demonstrate the diversity of perspectives on this topic.

The inquiry overview, related publications and copies of the submissions received so far can be found at Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry.

Submissions to this inquiry can be made up to 15th April 2019.

The UCA Queensland Synod Consultation paper on VAD is available at VAD Paper. The consultation process is now complete and submissions are being examined to assist the production of the Church’s submission to the Queensland Parliament.

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Gatherings of Progressives

  1. Firelight – an Easter gathering at Dorrigo

Glennis Johnson has sent the following message to anyone planning to come:

“Some of you are planning to be here over Easter and some of you are still wondering if you can make it. So here’s an update. There is a lovely group of people planning to attend for the whole weekend. But others of you, especially Dorrigo locals, are busy but may be able to make it to one or two sessions.

My suggestion is that there will be two sessions ideal to drop in for – public occasions as it were. The first is Good Friday morning at 11am. Following the welcome to country from one of our local Gumbaynggirr elders, there will be a Good Friday reflection from a progressive point of view.

Anyone coming is welcome to stay on for lunch if they wish.

The second is a Sunrise Service at 6am on Easter Sunday morning. If it is clear, it will be a magnificent spot up the hill, overlooking the rolling hills, to celebrate all that gives hope and nurtures life.

Anyone wishing to, is welcome to stay on for breakfast.

And just a reminder  for those coming from warmer climes – you will probably need a coat at night, and knowing Dorrigo, maybe even during the day. Mind you, if the days are warm, you may want your swimmers as there is a lovely swimming hole at Dangar Falls –  just minutes away.

We are planning to provide meals from the Thursday night onwards. Anyone coming earlier for an extra holiday is welcome, but will need to provide for their own meals prior to the Thursday night. We can also provide bath towels and toiletries for anyone wanting them (in case space is limited in you vehicle).

If you are coming, please let me know of any dietary needs as soon as possible. Thanks.” Email – +++

2. John Everall has sent the following details for a gathering at Caloundra on Palm Sunday:

Caloundra Uniting Church  –  A Gathering of Explorers and Friends of the Explorers – Sunday   14th April 2019   5.00pm in Hall

                               Exploring on Palm Sunday

Each year, our church community gathers, along with all churches in the west to explore the great themes of death and resurrection.

‘We don’t, however, focus on a death and resurrection that took place two millennia ago. Rather, we explore these themes as they are relevant right now in our world, our relationships, and our lives.     However, it is important for many to honour the tradition, while doing so in language, metaphor, and symbol that can be interpreted by anyone to be meaningful regardless what worldview through which they are experiencing it.

That’s one of the things that we and many other worldwide ‘progressives’  do, and struggle to do ,with more integrity each year.’Gretta Vosper-Easter 2018.

Join with us in this April 14th Gathering, as we touch just the edge of the complexities and challenges that resonate with an ancient story but face us at this moment in time, and seek within them the beauty of possibility and hope. 

We especially celebrate New Zealand’s progressive Song Writers, Poets and Theologians, in honouring and support of our grieving brothers and sisters “across the ditch”.   You will be stretched by these Contemporary Songs and real time thinking; experience a short period of directed meditation and quietness; size up the challenge;   enjoy a Contemporary Meditation anduse this and a further extremely challenging poem to interact with your table friends in a ‘Response and Discussion’ period.

We also Celebrate Community in the Tradition of the Meal, taking part in a ‘progressive’ Communion leading us onto our byo Light Finger Food Meal.

So, make a point of freeing up Sunday Evening 14th April, arrive at 5.00pm ( our ‘winter’ starting time)and enjoy friendship, sharing, and stimulating discussion.

Your Leaders for this Gathering are John Everall (Ph 0408 624 570); Hazel Bachler (Ph. 5492 3420), supported by Rev. Kevin Bachler and Musician Wendy Lowry.

Looking forward to seeing you there.”

3. Merthyr (New Farm) Uniting Church Explorers and PCNQ

27th March, 10 am at Merthyr Road Uniting Church

Ian Brown, coordinator of the Redcliffe Explorers, will lead a discussion about some of the contentious issues associated with assisted dying and euthanasia. We’ll be looking at the similarities and differences between a number of cases, including the (fictitious) Last Cab to Darwin story, the final communication from our dear Redcliffe friend and Explorers supporter David Judd, and Prof. David Goodall’s life-ending trip to Switzerland at age 104.

The Queensland Uniting Church Synod has recently consulted on the issue, and its comprehensive Consultation Paper ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying’ is available at https://ucaqld.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/VAD-Consultation-Paper_Print-Final-003.pdf. It should be noted that responses to the two Synod options are now closed, but it may be interesting reading prior to our discussions. Responses to this close on 15th April.

See earlier posting at: Euthenasia

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APCV recommended voting guide for the 2019 Federal election.

A Progressive Christian Voice Agenda for the 2019 Federal Election.
Introduction
A Progressive Christian Voice Australia (APCVA) promotes public awareness of the politically progressive dimensions of Christian opinion. The APCVA agenda for the 2019 Federal Election is based on consultation with members and on the issues that have directly concerned those members over the last 3 years. Underlying the agenda is our understanding that God identifies in a special way with those who are excluded or oppressed in our society.
APCVA supports

  1. An inclusive society in which everyone is valued and treated with respect and in which no one is excluded because of race, colour, creed, age, sexuality or differing ability. a. The commencement of a well funded and supported Royal Commission into the abuse of people with a disability b. The banning of gay conversion therapy c. The ending of gender inequality with regard to salary for equal work, positions on boards and as elected representatives
  2. A just and fair society in which no one lives in poverty. a. An increase in the Newstart Allowance, Austudy, Youth Allowance for students and Abstudy to 100% of the Aged Pension b. Doubling of the rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance c. Addressing the issues of inequity and a lack of transparency in the Australian superannuation system that currently favours the well off with overly generous tax concessions. d. Reducing substantially negative gearing on established properties e. Reforming the tax system to be fairer and simpler as per the recommendations of Richard Denniss of the The Australia Institute Go to: Video f. Increasing substantially funding for education across all sectors
  3. A profound respect for the earth. a. The halting of the Adani coal mine b. A renewed commitment to reducing carbon emissions c. A realistic timeline for the phasing out of our reliance on coal and the encouragement of sustainable energy sources d. A substantial reduction in the amount of waste produced by Australia e. A renewed commitment to an ecologically sustainable Murray Darling agreement
  4. A welcoming approach to refugees and asylum seekers. a. An increase in the intake of refugees under the humanitarian criteria b. Discussions with Indonesia and other countries in our region as to how we can help them with asylum seekers and refugees in their countries and discourage people smugglers c. Granting asylum seekers the same opportunities as refugees while they are awaiting their refugee status to be determined, for example, consistent access to income support, medical services, education and the right to work d. An increase in funding for agencies that are assisting refugees and asylum seekers e. The closing of the Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island detention centres with the result that all asylum seekers, no matter how they arrived, will be assessed on the mainland of Australia f. The cessation of mandatory detention of asylum seekers
  5. A peaceful society that serves the world as a peacemaker. a. Ceasing all government support for the arms export industry, especially sending arms to the middle east b. Demilitarising our approach to international migration and the world refugee crisis. c. Increasing our foreign aid to 1% of GDP
  6. A society that learns from, respects and includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. a. Committing to the Uluru Statement from the Heart which includes “that a referendum be held to provide in the Australian Constitution for a body that gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament” b. A nation-wide reform of the law enforcement system that currently produces such a disproportionate number of Indigenous incarcerations c. A national recognition of “the fallen” as regards Indigenous people who died defending their homelands – i.e. this continent and its islands
    For comment on APCVA’s election agenda please contact the Rev Peter Catt at advocate@progressivechristians.org.au

Authorised Ray Barraclough, 25 Buderim Street, Currimundi, Qld, 4551.

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12 Psychological Traits likely to affect dispositions of ‘progressives’ and ‘evangelicals’.

Psychology / our disposition to certain ways of responding to the world is very powerful. How much does psychology influence the preference of a person to take up an “Evangelical” or socially conservative view of the faith? The same question could be asked of socially progressive and theologically “liberal” Christians.

This post is not so much interested in the reason people are “Evangelical” or otherwise. Rather the concern is how do we navigate our relationships and build consensus when psychology is such an influence on our views of the world.

Go to: Making Church Decisions

Building Consensus Across Psychological Barriers

To say that there may be a psychological disposition to preferring an “Evangelical” or “liberal” expression of faith does not go to the question of who is right or wrong. However, it is important for us to understand this personal background so that we can have a better understanding of one another.

Terence Corkin is an ordained Minister of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and the former General Secretary for the Uniting Church in Australia. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a nationally accredited mediator.


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New Publication from Tom Drake-Brockman

Now available from Wipf and Stock Publishers (US) or Amazon Australia as hard, paper back or digital copy.

Jesus was murdered by the Jewish religious leaders whose power base was the temple of Jerusalem. Saul of Tarsus–later the Paul of Christianity–was one of these, and his brand of faith theology mirrored their theology of covenantal entitlement. Thus, Christianity’s basic theological principles derive from those who killed Jesus.This is just one of many challenging propositions backed with strong evidence that appear in this book. Jesus, like most Jews, was attuned to faithfulness rather than pure faith, to ethical behavior based on human empathy rather than metaphysical beliefs and rituals.The central focus of Jesus was hesed, the heart of the Jewish covenant with God which linked God’s mercy to human compassion and forgiveness, making both mutually interactive. This hesed forgiveness was anathema to the temple’s faux forgiveness and threatened its very existence.Therefore, Jesus came not to save us, but to show us how to save ourselves. Reinterpreting a key parable of Jesus in this light, the Parable of the Tares, Jesus can be most plausibly understood as an incarnation of Adam, the original prototype human who God, in Genesis, appointed to oversee his creation and guide our spiritual evolution. His mission was not about any sacrificial death, but about establishing the spiritual humanism of Judaic hesed as the central purpose of human existence.

The Author: Tom Drake-Brockman has several degrees, including a Master of Theology from Charles Sturt University. In completing this course, he twice received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence. He has also taught secondary school history and has had articles published in university journals, as well as an opinion piece on the subject of his book in The Australian newspaper.

Other Book by this author: Christian Humanism reviewed by Rex Hunt for Insights magazine (NSW UCA Synod).

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News from the PCNQ

Seminars

(1) 27th March, 10 am at Merthyr Road Uniting Church

Ian Brown, coordinator of the Redcliffe Explorers, will lead a discussion about some of the contentious issues associated with assisted dying and euthanasia. We’ll be looking at the similarities and differences between a number of cases, including the (fictitious) Last Cab to Darwin story, the final communication from our dear Redcliffe friend and Explorers supporter David Judd, and Prof. David Goodall’s life-ending trip to Switzerland at age 104.

The Queensland Uniting Church Synod has recently consulted on the issue, and its comprehensive Consultation Paper ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying’ is available at https://ucaqld.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/VAD-Consultation-Paper_Print-Final-003.pdf. It should be noted that responses to the two Synod options are now closed, but it may be interesting reading prior to our discussions. I have attached the Qld Government inquiry paper for your interest. Responses to this close on 15th April.

  • If you are able, it would be useful to view the Last Cab to Darwin film before the PCN meeting, but be warned – it does contain a lot of strong language!

+++

(2) 16th March at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm

Loving the Earth – Cancelled

Unfortunately, with just 6 days to go to the planned seminar, numbers are not as good as needed to make this an engaging conversation, so we have decided to cancel this seminar. We may look for another opportunity to share in Dr Mary Tinney’s work.

We apologise to those who had already registered, and suggest you might like to watch an interview with Mary at  https://institute.mercy.org.au/news-centre/videos/

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Book Review: A New Spiritual Tapestry

Woven from the frayed threads of traditional Christianity

by Glennis Johnston

A great read by a very capable and experienced practitioner of progressive ministry. It deserves to be included in the pantheon of great progressive texts.

God is experienced within our mortal, messy lives, which is the heart of spiritual living. The new spiritual tapestry that we are weaving affirms this truth, while calling into question the basic doctrines of traditional Christianity….

Christianity is losing credibility because observers notice that it is built on a foundation of guilt and fear, both promoted by religious doctrines. It is time we recognised that these doctrines can be traced all the way back to a misleading interpretation of myths, such as the Garden of Eden. We need to develop a spirituality on a different view of humanity and on gratitude that, within our imperfect lives, the divine impulse is always, faithfully present.

In dismantling many of the myths and shibboleths of church taught traditional doctrine and biblical interpretation, the author manages to demonstrate the inconsistency of the teaching and the way in which ‘God’ is portrayed. Is God wrathful and encouraging violence (apparent in both Testaments) at the same time as offering unconditional love? How does this inconsistent teaching work for contemporary society and a humanity challenged to address violence, racial hatred and inequalities?

Students of the biblical text searching for the real Jesus can be forgiven for any confusion. As Glennis Johnston points out they need to separate out the material that can be attributed to writers who paint a picture of Jesus as the son of a vengeful God and those who portray him as unconditionally loving. It is not possible to accept these two opposing images as co-existing.

So which stream of thought in the New Testament should inform our spirituality? The “one focussed on sacrifice, judgement, religious identity and supportive of organisation and hierarchy; the other committed to non-violence, social justice and supportive of non-hierarchical community”? Both exist in tension in current Christian thought and practice.

The ‘new spiritual tapestry’ that Glennis Johnston seeks to weave is an intelligently crafted non-coercive, morally persuasive ethic that is always looking for opportunities to improve ‘global social justice’. All of this draws together ‘threads of wisdom’ from the best of the Christian tradition and a God of ‘goodness, hope and beauty’.

All the time that the author takes us through a discussion about the inevitability of our need for a new spiritual narrative, she is holding fast to key principles of honesty, equity and mercy. There is no need for any one to miss out with fair distributive justice as a guiding principle. Life values and parameters can still be sourced from a careful reading of Hebrew teaching as well as the teachings of Jesus which, unfortunately, have often become distorted, obsessively negative elements rather than followed with a spirit of a loving and forgiving God.

It is made clear that if the Church is to have a role in the evolving new spiritual paradigm, it will have to heed the groundswell of theologians, biblical scholars, economists, historians, scientists, educators, philosophers and cultural critics who are in consensus that an alternative story about our collective social responsibilities is imperative.

This is a book that has multiple uses. It informs as well as teaches. Groups committed to church reform will find it invaluable for ideas, values and mission focus when shaping a progressive profile. For students of theology and ministry education it provides an essential instrument for helping them to recognise the reality of many of the mistakes that have been made in the past and opens up possibilities for making Jesus relevant and without boundaries or barriers. For those who no longer can tolerate the Church, it offers ways to bridge from the secular to the sacred without artificial barriers that have for so long made this appear impossible.

 A strong thread running through the stories that are used to explain the vision of a transforming spirituality is the emphasis on how the new spirituality will be a liberating experience. The sense of entitlement and power of some over others disappears. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus as reported in the gospels our everyday lives in community will come ever closer to the kingdom of God.

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The author: Glennis Johnston BSocWk BTh BA(Hons) is an ordained Uniting Church minister with a research degree in New Testament Studies. She has worked in counselling and parish ministry for 22 years as well as voluntary work in Australia, India and Europe for 5 years. Glennis now operates Fernbrook Lodge, a Retreat Centre and B&B in Dorrigo, NSW where she facilitates individual and group retreats.

To order a copy ($30) email to Firelight Publishers

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Now published – The Ending of Mark’s Gospel: the Key

By Peter Lewis

The Key to Understanding the Gospels and Christianity

Zeus have just published Peter’s new book and it is available from Amazon Australia

In an earlier posting, we gave details of this work when it was in draft format.

Scholarship and determined exploration of ancient sources for the canonical gospel of Mark has brought great rewards for the writer and readers of The Ending of Mark’s Gospel. Peter Lewis’s work has indeed provided new ‘understanding of the gospels’. The reasons for and impact of variations in the form of the ending of Mark has been speculated on for a long time. Dr Lewis puts a credible case for a reconstructed original ending while providing multiple peripheral insights. His work challenges some long held assumptions and makes worthy corrections to previous scholarship. This is a theological adventure in forensic classical philology and reads like an unfolding mystery novel with the evidence building for his ‘case’. An enjoyable read that takes theology and contemporary Jesus studies into a new era of thinking.

Dr Paul Inglis, CEO UCFORUM www.ucforum.unitingchurch.org.au

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Resourcing Progressive Ministry and Worship No.9

West End Uniting Church, Brisbane

This church is a safe place for all people to worship, regardless of age, ability, gender, race, cultural background or lifestyle. The church and hall are wheelchair accessible.

They affirm and celebrate the place of LGBTIQ people in the church, and welcome the decision of the Uniting Church Assembly to allow same-sex marriages to be celebrated in Uniting Churches.

To find out more about WEUC click here.

Sunday Service Times

9:30am – Family Worship including children’s activities. Refreshments are served after worship in the hall at the rear of the church.

5:30pm – Contemplation Service (check Facebook/newsletter)

6:30pm – West End Explorers – (2nd & 4th Sundays); check Facebook and newsletters re times/events; or contact: weuc.explorers@gmail.com


Located on the corner of Vulture and Sussex Streets, West End, Brisbane (adjacent to the well-known Boundary Street cafe and coffee strip and a ten minute stroll from South Bank).

Inspired by Jesus’ vision for a world made new, a world where justice and compassion, especially for the marginalised and disadvantaged, are the key values and priorities.

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5th Common Dreams Conference

Sacred Earth Original Blessing; Our Common Home

A conference dedicated to progressive religious thought and action.

11th-14th JULY, 2019

Newington College in Stanmore, Sydney, Australia.

Early Bird tickets now on sale.

Matthew Fox
Anne Patel-Gray
Rod Bower

For all ticketing, program, venue, speakers, workshops, etc go the conference website at Common Dreams 2019

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PCN QLD News

The Progressive Christian Network (Q) Explorers group have an interesting topic for their morning tea conversation next Wednesday

PCN EXPLORERS – WEDNESDAY 27TH FEBRUARY – 10 AM – MERTHYR ROAD UNITING CHURCH, NEW FARM, BRISBANE

Join us for our regular monthly friendly conversation about something provocative or tantalising….. Do you follow an ‘ism’? What are some of these ‘isms’? How much do they contribute to the betterment of humankind?  

Actually, the suffix –ism is from latin -ismos or a doctrine or principle or a faith system. So almost all religions can be called with the –ism suffix. Here are a few ….. 

Theism, monotheism, Atheism, A-theism, Agnosticism, Pantheism, Panentheism, fundamentalism, humanism, Hinduism, Sufism, Buddhism, Absolutism ….. and the list goes on

but Christianity and Islam are not ‘ism’ words (Is that significant?)….

Some ‘isms’ we won’t focus on!……

Let’s talk over morning tea…..Could be fun! Just turn – no cost.

Please note our conversation about Euthanasia is now in March. More details coming.

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The Message “OF” Jesus: According to the Gospel of Mark

Six sermons by Smith, Rev John W H, author of “Honest To GOod”, Morning Star Publishing 2016.

Written in December 2018

“Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor never the tormented.”

                                Eli Wiesel, Jewish writer, Professor and political activist.

Suggestions – scroll down to the Conclusion to get an overview of John’s theme and background to this set of articles. Taste one….then come back for more!

Introduction

I have been requested by a number of parishioners from Stonnington Community Uniting Church to provide written copies of sermons that I presented while providing short term supply when their minister Rev Greg Crowe was on study leave.  I have taken the opportunity to add a further sermon from Mark’s Gospel set aside for Pentecost 19B, because it supports the theme set out by Mark in the other sermons.

The following is a written documentation of these sermons with an additional introductory explanatory essay and a short conclusive statement of the background to these sermons. I have also included, by request, two articles written for “Inspire” –  the Stonnington Community Uniting Church Newsletter.

I record here my sincere appreciation for the support I have received from my colleague and close friend Greg Crowe to respond to the requests of his parishioners. In particular I wish to thank my friend Faye Pattinson for her friendship and support to produce this booklet and especially for her keen proof-reading talent.

Foreword

“The Empowering Nature of Relationality.”

For a number of years now I have been writing and talking about my concern that Christian orthodoxy continues to emphasise a message about a divine Jesus rather than to proclaim the message of the human Jesus.

Firstly to understand the importance of this concern we need to read the sayings of Jesus in the context of their time.  The object of drawing these essays together is an attempt to understand in 21st century language the message of the human Jesus.  In the discourses Jesus shares with his disciples he does not imply that his person is the answer to the problems of the world.

Jesus does have a vision of what the world should accept as vital if people are to live positive and fulfilled lives.  Jesus refers to this vision as God’s domain or realm, which he affirms is present within and between the lives of his disciples and all people.  This is a realm that Jesus did not create or control, it was present before he was born. We find that in the ‘healing narratives’ Jesus states six times that a person’s healing comes from the sacred energy that resides within and is not because of his person or influence.  Nor does healing have to wait until Jesus is crucified.

This is the vision that Jesus is asking his disciples to affirm and this includes all who value their friendship with Jesus today.  His original disciples like us today, unfortunately continued to stare at his finger and not at where that finger was pointing.  Jesus vision was of a world where peace, justice and compassion expressed in our relationships with others would bring about ‘God’s Realm’ as defined by the gospel writers.  Perhaps the translation of the Greek ‘Basileia tou Theou’ does not truly reflect what Jesus means by the ‘Kingdom of God’.  Most scholars agree that Jesus’ native tongue was Aramaic not Greek and the most likely word used by Jesus would have been the Aramaic ‘Malkuta’. This is important because unlike the Greek and English notion of Kingdom with all its imperial connotation of top down authority and obedience, the word ‘Malkuta’ denotes a concept of mutual empowerment, where power is equally shared and dispensed for the benefit of the receiver rather than the giver.

This definition of the ‘Kingdom’ fits well with Dominic Crossan’s concept that the ‘Kingdom’ is in reality a ‘Companionship of Empowerment’. So the call to “Seek first the Kingdom of God” is Jesus calling us to share in the ‘companionship of empowerment’ because in this companionship we will find that the ‘relational’ activity is what liberates, nurtures and leads us to a life of wholeness.  This is the Jesus vision.

Perhaps we might even suggest that Jesus is saying, “Don’t concentrate on looking at me, but reflect and contemplate on the relational nature that is unfolding within and around me.  If you contemplate this phenomenon you will discover what defines and constitutes the kind of person I am, because I am at all times the sum total of my personal relationships.”  (Diarmuid O’Murchu p115 2017)

This concept has been most engagingly affirmed by John Shelby Spong (2016 p140.)  “When we pray, Thy Kingdom come, it means that our eyes must be trained to see the sacred source of energy in each other.  It means that the ‘Kingdom’ is visible when we are empowered to live fully, love wastefully and be all that we are capable of being.  Clearly the work of the ‘Kingdom’ is the work of enhancing human wholeness.”

The attached essays were delivered as sermons to the Stonnington Community Uniting Church during the period of Pentecost in 2018.  These essays were based on the texts in the Gospel According to Mark.

These texts record the words of Jesus that provide us with some insight into the type of human being he was, but more importantly, they emphasise the importance of bringing to visibility through our relationships that we are companions in the empowerment of each other.

Continue reading
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Resourcing Progressive Ministry and Worship No.8

St Andrews Alphington Fairfield Uniting Church

85 Gillies Street, Fairfield, Melbourne, 3078

Fairfield Uniting Church is a diverse community gathered around the Jesus Story, coming together to break bread, nurture the vulnerable and challenge the status quo.

An ultra progressive congregation….

We are passionate about the spiritual nourishment of children and feel called into the ongoing development of a JUST CHURCH, which seeks justice, mercy and walks humbly with our god.

Minister: Rev Alex Sangster

Services: Every Sunday they gather around the Jesus Story at 10am (85 Gillies St, Fairfield). They are a welcoming and diverse group.

Podcasts:  Messages

Mission: Approach

Faith exploration: Exploring progressive theology

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Resourcing Progressive Ministry and Worship No. 7

Thanks to subscribers for referring churches to us.

Stonnington Community Uniting Church

59 Burke Road
East Malvern VIC 3145

“As a community of faith we are more interested in:

  • exploring life than having the answers to life.
  • being fully human and celebrating the beauty, wonder and mystery of life.
  • valuing life, and every creature as a unique expression of the Divine Energy of life.
  • being companions on the way, listening, learning and helping each other in the journey of life.

Stonnington Community is:

  • A listening Church
  • A helping Church
  • A learning Church

We are a Christian Community committed to following the way of Jesus rather than following religious dogma.”

Worship

“Currently our community meets regularly on Sunday morning at 10.15 am.  Our gathering is traditional in style but contemporary in content. Our public services are a celebration of our experiences of God’s love and goodness to us.

We all come from different backgrounds and experiences of God. Each of us will interpret the foundations of our faith through different lenses. Some interpretations will be helpful while other interpretations may be a stumbling block to us living in the experience of the Divine loving presence. Each generation and community needs to interpret the heart and truths of the Christian life in its contemporary context. To this end we commit ourselves to an evolving liturgy and worship celebration that reflects our contemporary insights and discoveries.”

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Reflection: Oh my God! Meeting ‘God’ in the ‘thin places’

John W H Smith

 We all embark on tasks then wish that we hadn’t, because it becomes all too hard.    You try to walk away from the whole thing, but you find that it continues to nag at you until you go back and take up the cudgels again.  When I first began to explore the historical Jesus and tried to define what I believed God was it all seemed so exciting and straightforward, however I quickly discovered that this wasn’t the case.  Whilst I was able to question the traditional interpretation given of Jesus birth, the miracles and some of the sayings that were attributed to him; the logical consequence of what I did believe when these concerns were removed told much more about what I didn’t believe.   Would it have been better if I had continued to hold the faith of my teenage years and not be too critical about matters of reason and intellect?

The questioning began simply, I argued that if the God I believed in was not someone whose wrath brought Tsunamis as a punishment for a wicked world, and this phenomenon could be explained by the science of massive earth movements under the sea, then could I call upon God to make other changes in our world.  Could I ask God to heal my friend who has a massive brain tumour or heal a child involved in a car accident?  It was so much easier as a teenager to talk about God as a personal being, a loving parent, rather than as ‘essence’ or a ‘sea of love’ or as Tillich says the ‘ground of our being.’  It was easier to talk about “prayers of intercession” and handing over the responsibility of doing something to God; than to meditate on how I could respond to the plight of my friends, the poor or disadvantaged and actually do something about it.

Could I continue to be blissfully ignorant and disregard these nagging doubts and their accompanying quests for openness and truth, or having once been challenged would this change my way of functioning forever?  To face the reality that I do not know what God looks like and that the person of Jesus is a much more complex and confronting figure than we were taught at Sunday school was a daunting prospect.

I remember being in a study group with a group of people who had just studied Albert Nolan’s Book “Christ before Christianity” and I posed the question, “Could we change Jesus’ mind on a particular issue?”  “Could he accept advice from us?”  All of the group participants were considerably younger and all stated that Jesus’ thinking was far above ours and that he would not have accepted our advice because he had the ability to foresee the outcomes we were postulating.   If this is the case then is it possible that Jesus was just game playing with his disciples when he asked them questions and he already knew the answers?  It would mean, that when he invited us into discussions and debate, he wasn’t interested in what we had to say, because he already knew the outcome, he already knew what we would say.

Can you now see something of the dilemma, if Jesus is really human then when he asks us for advice he is really seeking help.  Jesus is seeking help from us because he is searching for an answer, which is beyond his human ability.  Is it possible that he could be seeking from us the wisdom of the word of God within us as a response to his questions?

If we hold to this image of Jesus then understanding his words and actions as portrayed in the gospels requires a lot more explanation than a literal interpretation.   How wonderful to begin to understand that Jesus was able to convey a wisdom and spiritual understanding of God and people, whilst being authentically human.  It really means that it is possible for us who are wonderfully human to reach a similar understanding.

Having taken a step along this path it is impossible now for me to turn back and accept the teaching of the past, even though the journey is not smooth, it is exciting.  There have been times when I have experienced the God activity in my life and where there is no other explanation than to recognise the Spiritual influence of a loving God. These are the times that Marcus Borg calls the ‘Thin places”; these are the places where we recognise the activity and presence of God.   Not an ‘elsewhere God’, but a God who is present ‘here and now’.  Borg tells us that if we want to recognise the thin places we must keep our ‘hearts open’.  A closed heart is insensitive to wonder, it affects the mind and the reasoning process.  As Borg says ‘blindness and limited vision go with a ‘closed heart’, but most of all a closed heart forgets God; it does not allow for the ‘magic’ around us to become reality.”  Borg quotes Thomas Merton the Trappist Monk in expressing his understanding of God:

“We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time.  This is not just a fable or a nice story.  It is          true.  If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently. God shows himself       everywhere in everything – in people and in things and in nature and         events.  It becomes very obvious that God is everywhere and in everything and we cannot be without him “

Every now and then we experience this God Spirit shining through.  According to Borg these are the ‘Thin places’ where the veil momentarily lifts and we experience God. A thin place is anywhere where our hearts are open.  It is the boundary between our world and the world of the Spirit.  A thin place is a mediator of the sacred and this can appear to us in the shape of a stranger or friend, so keep your hearts and minds open, for even though the path may be bumpy the experience of meeting God is mind blowing.

John W H Smith

oOo

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Resourcing Progressive Ministry and Worship No. 6

Pitt Street Congregation, Sydney
Uniting Church in Australia
264 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000

A progressive faith community of justice-seeking friends in the heart of Sydney.

Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney
The Sunday gathering is vibrant, inclusive, participatory and progressive. Everyone is welcome.

Start your tour of Pitt Street Church and what it has to offer here.

oOo

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Easter gathering of progressives – an invitation

FIRELIGHT

Fernbrook Lodge near Dorrigo NSW

Enquiries: Glennis Johnston

FIRELIGHT
Forging Identity Relationships and Empowerment through        
Listening Interconnection Gratitude Hope and Transformation

EASTER GATHERING     2019
                                                                                               
Friday 19th April – Monday 22nd April  
                     
Easter – a time for lamenting loss and nurturing life, *storytelling*,
exploring the spiritual challenges of a divided world.                               
         
TIMING     The formal gathering begins 11am Friday and concludes 10am Monday.    Participants are welcome to arrive earlier or stay a day or two afterwards in order to explore the beautiful Dorrigo plateau with its
waterfalls and rainforest before returning home. Please phone Glennis to arrange longer stays.
PARTICIPATION  An invitation is extended to all those interested in a ‘progressive’ perspective on all things spiritual – social cohesion,
diversity, compassionate communities, sustainability, connecting the
personal with the global, forming and strengthening friendships of
support. Children are welcome to participate. Glennis Johnston will
facilitate the gathering and guest speakers will open discussion on these
important topics.
LOCATION   Dorrigo is a small country town on the highland plateau just one hour from the airport in Coffs Harbour. Fernbrook Lodge is a B&B
and retreat centre a short drive outside of Dorrigo on 5 acres at 4705
Waterfall Way. The retreat centre boasts glorious views across the
plateau.
ACCOMMODATION  & COST        The B&B has a limited number of queen rooms as well as spots to park a campervan or tent  near an amenities
block. Dorrigo also offers a variety of accommodation from motel and
B&B to caravan park.    $50 per participant or $100 per family will
contribute to the cost of hosting this event plus a suggested donation of $10 per meal. All meals from Friday morning  until Monday lunch will be available. There is no charge for camping or breakfasts.
ENQUIRIES & REGISTRATION           
NSW – Glennis Johnston 0427 338008 glennis.johnston@gmail.com      
QLD – Lesley Bryant 0408 777197 lesley-b@bigpond.net.au    
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Caloundra Explorers 2019

Gatherings planned for 2019:

Theme for the year: The Teachings of Jesus and Society

at Caloundra Uniting Church
56c Queen St Caloundra, Sunshine Coast, Qld.

First for year is on Sunday 24th February 5.30pm.  Theme “Called Home: Heaven, Hell and Eternal Life – An Afterlife?”. Leader is John Everall with a support team. Please note the change in regular date to allow for the first church service for our new minister the previous week.  Summer starting time applies 5.30pm to 7.30pm approx.

Second Gathering is also slightly date adjusted.  To avoid a clash with Easter, the Explorers Gathering is Sunday 14th April.  5pm. Theme is offered as “A Liturgy for the Celebration of Life”.  This model Liturgy has been prepared in full detail by Rev. Rex Hunt for use by progressive groups and churches.  A Leader and Team to develop this specifically for our Explorers’ use is open for offers. Contact John Everall  mob.0408624570.

And then we have our third Gathering : Sunday June 16th at 5pm.   This is “Heretics Sunday” which opens up some fascinating thought patterns and discussion.  Who should we dwell upon?  Geering, Vosper, Spong, Joan of Arc, many more!

Pieter Hoogendoorn has gone for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a so-called ‘heretic’ whose writings  have enthused Pieter for many years.  Pieter will lead this Gathering  themed as “Heretic?- Bonhoeffer and Christianity “  ( Dietrich Bonhoeffer was only thirty-nine years old when he was executed in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945, yet his courage, vision, and brilliance have greatly influenced the twentieth-century Church and theology.)

A theme for the second half of the year is ‘ Lives in Conflict”, a highly contemporary topic within our society. Leader Anne Hoogendoorn.

Should be some good discussions during this year if the above is anything to go by!

Shalom,

John Everall

Caloundra Explorers Group

 Faith And the Modern Era

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EXPLORING ECO-THEOLOGY, ECO-SPIRITUALITY and ECO-JUSTICE

The world is slowly coming to grips with the reality of climate change, human influence on the biosphere and impending dramatic changes which will force social and political activity that is unprecedented.

What has this to do with human spirituality and the teachings of Jesus?

Together with the Progressive Christianity Network (Qld) we are planning a seminar in March around the theme of Eco-Spirituality. This paper presented to the Common Dreams Conference in 2007 by Rev Dr Noel Preston makes excellent background reading and should be of interest. If you are busy, try, at least, to read the paragraphs in bold type.

Noel’s book Ethics with or without God (2014) is also recommended reading. It is available from Morning Star Publishing.

***

Dr Noel Preston – workshop address at the Common Dreams Conference, Sydney, August 2007 

I. Introductory Background

Let us turn to an ancient scriptural text to begin (Psalm 139 – You know me, I thank you for the wonder of myself, for the wonder of your works.

Perhaps the lyricist of Louis Armstrong’s song “What a wonderful world!” says the same thing:

I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom for me and for you, And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white, The brightness of day and darkness of night, And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

On my study wall there hangs a beautiful photograph taken by the crew of Apollo 17 during their space journey to the moon. It shows Earth our home, the blue planet set against the inky blackness of space. Earth appears as a ball-like, single organism. We are a privileged generation to have this image and, associated with it, an understanding of the cosmos in its magnificence. But we are also the generation that is responsible for unprecedented damage to Earth’s life systems – a system that has been almost five billion years in the making. In our time, the collision between our human story and the Universe story demands some accounting and reconciliation, as well as a revision of the narratives by which we live.

I expect that for many of you, as for me, progressively, across a lifetime, you have been awakened from a false consciousness which dulled your sensitivity to the whole planetary community of life. The Christianity I grew up with didn’t have much to say about the themes we are looking at in this workshop, though there was a date in the Church calendar we called “Harvest Festival”. In fact my early Methodist formation was not only human centred but rarely discouraged our misuse of natural resources or questioned what we called progress. A 1950s understanding of God had little to do with the natural world, indeed it was something of a heresy to imagine you were nearer to god in nature than you were in church on a Sunday, while, of course, many of my colleagues regarded the Biblical account of creation as literal fact. Things have changed. Pope John Paul II called for “an ecological conversion” and certain American evangelical Christians have become converts. Check out the website:

http://www.WhatwouldJesusDrive.org.

Here in Australia there are initiatives described as “eco-ministry”. Great stories can be told about individual churches trying to make a difference. Theologically, liturgically and practically, religion in the new millennium is greener. The question is how much new wine can old wineskins hold? My assumption is that, by and large, even the greener churches have not substantially embraced the worldview, the new paradigm and the new theology behind this presentation.


Personally, I now speak from the vantage of a multi-layered identity, no longer content with being identified simply as a Christian or an Australian or even as a human being, though I am all that. I take seriously what science teaches about the nature of life. As I see it, I am primarily a member of the community of Earth’s beings and my moral universe of responsibility extends to non-human beings and future generations. Therefore what I call eco-spirituality and eco-justice are lenses through which I must now see politics, economics, theology and indeed all relationships. That said, I don’t stand here as an expert on the topic of this workshop. Nor do I profess to practise all I preach. What I want to offer is a work in progress which hopefully will intersect with your own quest to find a framework of belief and commitment as a responsible member of the community of life.

I don’t intend to say much about the crisis that confronts earth’s community of life. My assumption is that you have a broad awareness of the gravity of the situation. The Genesis mandate that we, homo sapiens, are to have dominion over the Earth now haunts us in the guise of global warming, the threat to eco-systems and loss of biodiversity, depleting energy sources, a deepening water crisis, international security flashpoints, crimes against humanity, gross inequalities between and within nations, and absolute poverty and destitution facing 1.2 billion of a human population rushing toward 9 billion (i). The situation is unsustainable. Collectively our global consumption of resources is 1.23 of our ecological footprint, that is we humans are already using one and a quarter planet Earths, 23% more than the ecosystems can sustain. And for those interested in the global social justice gap the situation is even more dire. The affluent 20percent of the world’s population, of which most Australians are a part, controls and uses approximately 80 percent of the Earth’s resources. So we have this double-edged urgent challenge: to achieve environmental sustainability on the one hand and a fairer and more equitable distribution of resources and life opportunities in the human community, on the other. This double-edged challenge is what I mean by eco-justice.

(i) There are many performance indicators that mark this crisis but let us just note two at this stage: Fact 1. more than half of the world's original forest area has been lost and a third of what is left will be gone in 20 years at current rates of deforestation, to say nothing of the loss of species and biodiversity this represents; Fact 2. in the next hour more than 1000 children under the age of 5 will die from illnesses linked to poverty, half of them in Africa.(Porritt)

I now want to introduce you to The Earth Charter (if you do not already know of it) – its 61 principles are a comprehensive global ethics vision, comprehensive because it is more than a green document. It covers the double edged challenge which is why I call it a manifesto for eco-justice. The opening words of the Charter set the scene:

We stand at a critical moment in earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society, founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace. (www.earthcharter.org)

Continue reading
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Resourcing Progressive Ministry and Worship No.5

St James Uniting Church, Curtin, Canberra. ACT


About St James

St James is across Carruthers Street from the Curtin shops but the entrance and parking is at 40 Gillies Street Curtin.

Seeking to discern and follow the ‘way’ of Jesus as a part of the Uniting Church which since inception has seen itself as a ‘pilgrim people’ looking for continuing renewal, open to change and seeking a wider unity.

Thanks to subscribers for drawing attention to this great congregation. This will be a help to the many people who visit Canberra.

When in Canberra you can visit St James for its worship, library and pleasant environs.

The Library collection is one of the best for progressive literature. You can check the catalogue here: St James Library

and some book synopses here: Recent books

Worship is also a great experience: Worship events

Resources:

Forget about the sermons you remember as a child. St James is a safe place to explore history, social context and questions in faith. This is the place where we share the musings, wonderings and questions presented in services by visiting worship leaders and members of the congregation’s preaching roster.

Aaron HarperWrestling With GodHow Should We Pray – Exploring Prayer Within A Progressive Christian Framework, Come as we are liturgy & word, What Is Our Prophetic Progressive Christian Voice, Come as we are liturgy & word, Liturgy – Celebrating Progressive Christianity – Internet Version, Reading – Recognition and Respect – Justice for Aboriginal Peoples, Celebrating Father’s Day

Piers BoothA new beginning at St James, ; elephant & mouse; A call to action 14.4.13

Ruth Doobovthe new reformation,

Jenny JarvisThe Prodigal Son, Liturgy and sermon 28 July 13

Guest speakersPalm Sunday Luke 19 28-40, 2013 05 12 John 5 1-9 sermon, Free for all – Jan Huggett. I am notes for sermon

Jean ShannonRock soup, Soul Breathing ,a round tuit, When we have the keys (reader’s v), It ain’t over yet liturgy, Baptism Liturgy 7 July 2013 final, The shape of our belieiving

Red Wings is their local magazine where they review new media and information as well as explore contemporary issues. Poetry, graphics – you never know what’s going to fly out of Red Wings:Red Wings Issue 1 Jan 13 final, Red Wings Issue 5 Nov 2012l,  Red Wings Issue 4 Aug 2012 final , Red-Wings-Issue-2-Mar-13-final.pdf, Red Wings Issue 3 May 13 final pub,, Red Wings Issue 4 July final, Red Wings Issue 5 Sep final (2)LiturgiesMD’s Liturgy for 22 June 13, 1 Sept 13 liturgy, Liturgy 8 Sept 13t

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Faith, a piece of cake?

Rodney Eivers

31st January 2019

            For some 20 years I have been providing morning tea at our Acacia Ridge Uniting Church between 10 and 11 a.m. every Thursday. In all this time it has been disappointing.  I had hoped that, during these get-togethers, members of our congregation would take the opportunity to discuss “theological” questions in a warm, friendly and safe non-judgemental atmosphere.

            That has not happened. The morning teas have been convivial enough but there has been no discussion beyond the mundane day to day events and perhaps an occasional diversion into the current congregational politics.

            I recognised why this might be when one officer of the congregation put it this way.

“Rodney likes to ask questions but I prefer not to do that.  If I asked questions relevant to my Christian faith, I might start to think I was wrong about some things and then my whole faith would collapse”

            I love my colleagues and do not wish to make them uncomfortable over their orthodoxy, so do not press such issues.

            Perhaps the best I can do is just be a “witness”.  We had a visit from a Presbytery officer last Sunday,  I assumed he did not know me very well, So what I usually do when I get into conversation, with others known to  me to be Christian, is usually state, to be clear on where I stand, “You need to know that I am a “progressive”  Christian.”

            I was a bit taken aback when he responded. “Oh yes, we in the Presbytery know all about you and your “progressive” Christianity.”   In the end I was very pleased about this. It means there is no need for me to be preachy and, so far as I am aware, I remain on friendly terms with all those with whom I interact (including my congregation)

            But to get back to morning tea. It so happens that lately we have been joined regularly by a man who “dropped in” one day.  He is a Baptist and very secure in his orthodoxy. What has attracted him to the morning teas, however, is that we can have these “theological” differences, talk about them and still remain on friendly terms.

            Then this morning we were joined by a member of my own congregation, she is one who is prepared to explore a little but only goes so far.

            The subject of faith came up.

            Karen explained it thus.  It is like someone offering you a cake to eat. It tastes good. You’ve eaten many cakes before and no harm has befallen you. Thus you take it on faith that accepting that cake will be a good thing to do. You don’t question it.

            I responded, and Karen saw the point. “Yes, but I may have been offered cakes like this before and they have turned out to be not at all what I was expecting.” Therefore I want to question

 What’s in the cake? Who made it? How old is it?  Can we freshen it up a bit?

            So that is the difference between blind faith and questioning faith. It does not mean that in the end eating the cake or having the faith is not worthwhile. But, in being confident in “what works” for us rather than in supernatural expectations which we struggle to demonstrate we can have a secure foundation in how we see and operate as Christians in this wonderful, complex world of ours.

oOo
           

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Engaging Spirituality in an Emerging Universe

[This Thesis is brought to you for free and open access by the Document Types at ACU Research Bank. It has been accepted for inclusion in Theses by an authorized administrator of ACU Research Bank. For more information, please contact LibResearch@acu.edu.au. Follow this and additional works at: https://researchbank.acu.edu.au/theses
Part of the Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion Commons  ]

When Heaven and Earth Embrace:
How Do We Engage Spiritually in an Emerging Universe?

Mary M. Tinney, PhD
Australian Catholic University

Sr Mary Tinney, RSM has been the founder and coordinator of Earth Link a community which envisions a world where there is respect, reverence and care for the whole Earth community. They believe that the heart of this lies in deepening our bond with Earth. Earth Link is endorsed by the Sisters of Mercy, and open to all who share their concern for the whole Earth community.

Abstract: In this thesis I am proposing that we can engage spiritually in an emerging Universe if we have a vision of the embrace of Heaven and Earth that is informed by contemporary science, if we underpin that with an ecotheology that recognises Heaven and Earth as interconnected while respecting their differences, and if we have an ecospiritual praxis that is open, attentive to and aware of divine presence in all that is. I am convinced that a vision of the embrace of Heaven and Earth has the potential to drive action for justice for Earth at a time when there is ecological devastation in our evolving cosmos. This vision is at the heart of Christian ecospirituality in an emerging universe. Using the craft of practical theology, the thesis is a study of how one community group, Earth Link, engages spiritually in an emerging universe in a way that moves it to transformative practice towards its vision of a world where there is “respect, reverence and care for the whole Earth community.” The dialogue partners in the process are Thomas Berry and Elizabeth Johnson in the fields of ecospirituality and
ecotheology respectively, with some reference to Laudato Si, the 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis. The thesis concludes by proposing enhanced principles for Earth Link in the light of this dialogue. The author is the instigator and currently the facilitator of Earth Link, so approaches the work as both participant and observer.

Submitted by Mary M Tinney, B A (UQ), M Ed (Boston College), M Pastoral Studies (Loyola, Chicago), School of Theology, Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, McAuley Campus, Brisbane,
in fulfilment of the requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy. ACU Graduate Research Office, Level 16, 8-20 Napier St, North Sydney NSW 2060.  Date of submission: 16/10/2017

Mary has been awarded a Doctor of Philosophy as a result of this research.

For the complete thesis, go to: https://researchbank.acu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1713&context=theses

Thursday, 14 February, 11am Brisbane time. Mary Tinney will be providing insights into her thesis, When Heaven and Earth Embrace: How Do We Engage Spiritually in an Emerging Universe? Register here. A recording will be available afterwards.

oOo

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Resourcing Progressive Ministry and Worship No.4

Thank you to UCFORUM subscribers who recommended Wembley Downs UC

130 Calais Road, (cnr of Minibah Street)
Wembley Downs, Western Australia.
Phone 08 9245 2882
Ten kilometres northwest of Perth city centre,
set amongst the suburbs of City Beach, Churchlands,
Scarborough, Wembley Downs and Woodlands

Wembley Downs Uniting Church 

WORSHIP SERVICES are held in our multi-purpose building, the normal time for all services is 9.30 am, Second Sunday services are followed by sharing time and a sausage sizzle, on 5th Sundays, we share a combined service with Wembley Downs Church of Christ at 9.30am, the venue being each of the two church buildings alternately.

“A place for radical Worship and a place for Radicals to Worship”

that seeks to be a community of Christian people who:-

  • follow the way of Jesus, allowing his gospel to inform how they lead their lives in a changing world
  • welcome all, regardless of race, age, or gender
  • join together regularly in worship and activities which enable them to live out God`s love in the world
  • recognise that every person is unique and encourage all to share their wisdom and gifts
  • affirm, support, nurture and accompany each other on their spiritual journeys
  • are committed to living out their faith by serving wherever called.

Worship at Wembley Downs is multi-faceted. The first Sunday in the month is dedicated to diversity. On the second Sunday, we seek simplicity. On the third Sunday we have our Liturgical Service. On the fourth Sunday we push the envelope and go beyond the boundaries.

The word “Radical” is derived from the Latin word for “root”. On this fourth Sunday, we return to the root of our faith and seek to re-narrate it for our day and generation. We run the risk of irrelevancy if we look back and speak of a world that has gone.”

oOo

 

 

 

 

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5th Common Dreams Conference

The Fifth Common Dreams Conference will be held on 11-14 July 2019 at Newington College in Stanmore, Sydney.

The conference theme is Sacred Earth, Original Blessing, Common Home.

Matthew Fox will be our distinguished international keynote speaker.

The conference will involve other inspiring speakers, musicians, performers, and artists who will engage with the 12 Principles of Creation Spirituality (Subject of a future post).

Matthew Fox (b. 1940) is an internationally acclaimed spiritual theologian, Episcopal priest, and activist who was a member of the Dominican Order for 34 years. He holds a doctorate, summa cum laude, in the History and Theology of Spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris and has devoted 45 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality, which is rooted in ancient Judeo-Christian teaching, inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions; welcoming of the arts and artists; wisdom centred, prophetic, and committed to eco-justice, social justice and gender justice.

He has reinvented forms of education and worship and awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West, revivifying awareness of Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas Merton, among other premodern and post-modern spiritual pioneers. He has authored more than 35 books on spirituality and contemporary culture, among them: Original Blessing, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, The Reinvention of Work, A Spirituality Named Compassion and Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times. His books, celebrated around the world, have been translated into 60 languages.

Matthew Fox might well be the most creative, the most comprehensive, surely the most challenging religious-spiritual teacher in America . He has the scholarship, the imagination, the courage, the writing skill to fulfill this role at a time when the more official Christian theological traditions are having difficulty in establishing any vital contact with either the spiritual possibilities of the present or with their own most creative spiritual traditions of the past….He has, it seems, created a new mythic context for leading us out of our contemporary religious and spiritual confusion into a new clarity of mind and peace of soul, by affirming rather than abandoning any of our traditional beliefs.” (Thomas Berry, author of The Great Work, The Dream of the Earth and The Universe Story.)

COMMON DREAMS is an alliance of Australian and New Zealand kindred organisations which promote engagement with progressive Christian thought and practice, and with progressive developments in other religious and spiritual traditions. It does this through the major “Common Dreams” conferences (Sydney 2007, Melbourne 2010, Canberra 2013, Brisbane 2016), and sponsorship of annual “Common Dreams on the Road” tours by international scholars to cities and communities across Australia and New Zealand.

Stay tuned for conference and registration details!

oOo

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Resourcing Progressive Worship and Ministry No.3

Thank you to UCFORUM subscribers who recommended:

St Mary’s in Exile, South Brisbane.

St Mary’s in Exile is an inclusive community, grounded in the teachings of Jesus and the transformative spirit of Christ. The community emphasis is on working towards peace and justice for all and supporting community members in their ongoing spiritual growth.
The community is inspired by the quote from Micah ‘to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God’. St Mary’s in Exile community welcomes people from all faiths and denominations  who wish to participate in our collective faith journey. St Mary’s in Exile is a vibrant, diverse community comprising people of many faiths and traditions. Between 300 and 500 community members participate in weekend liturgies, including people from a wide range of suburbs, coastal, regional and rural locations. The community regularly welcomes interstate and overseas visitors and over 1200 people maintain connection via our community’s eNews. Spiritual and social events are also held throughout the year.
Spiritual Practice

In addition to liturgies, community members can participate in meditation and mindfulness practice, spiritual retreats, community building activities, action for social justice, and ‘Cluster’ groups.

Social Activities and Pastoral Care
St Mary’s in Exile aims to build community through connecting the spiritual, social, pastoral care and social justice focus of the SMX community. Community members coordinate regular social activities including morning teas, dinners, spiritual and cultural events, support for social justice actions, and pastoral care for people experiencing illness, grief or difficult times.
Cluster Groups
These are small groups across Brisbane that meet at various times during the year. Cluster Groups gather to discuss matters of common interest, or of interest to the broader St Mary’s in Exile community including books, social justice issues and general topics of interest. Individual group’s activities vary from social ‘get-togethers’ to theological discussions and spiritual reflection. Cluster Groups are held in Northern, Southern, Fairfield, Windsor, Paddington, Tarragindi and Redlands Bayside regions, in addition to the ‘Perfect Brilliant Stillness’ group. For information about joining an existing cluster or hosting a new cluster group, send us a message via the Contact Us page on this website.
Social Justice
A key aspect of St Mary’s in Exile is the community’s emphasis on social justice focusing on partnership with, and commitment to Micah Projects and the relief of homelessness, support for organisations and individuals assisting refugees and asylum seekers, advocating on environmental and other social justice issues, and supporting various programs that assist vulnerable people at home and in other countries.

For more information contact:
Mark Chalmers  For more information contact:  0401 684 782

Liturgy Times
Saturday: 6:30pm / Sunday: 9am & 5pm TLC Building, Lvl 2, 16 Peel St, Sth Brisbane Q 4101

To read recent homilies go to:  Homilies

Resources:

To enquire about book lending go to: https://stmaryssouthbrisbane.com/book-collection

For other resources go to: https://stmaryssouthbrisbane.com/resources

We welcome further recommended sources of ministry and worship resourcing in Australia and New Zealand.

oOo

 

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Book Review: Seasons and Self – Rex Hunt

Seasons and Self: Discourses on Being ‘at home’ in Nature

                                                                                        Bayswater. Coventry Press, 2018. P/back. $34.95 + post and packaging – 264 Pages
Author: Rex A E Hunt

Available from the author at a discount price of $30 + $8.95 p and p. Email Rex

Reviewed by Rev John Churcher, Former Chair, Progressive Christianity Network Britain,
Author, Retired Methodist Church Minister.

For those of us who have thrived in our preaching and worship leading on the back of Rex Hunt’s on line sermons and liturgies, this is another splendid resource looking closely at ecological theology and religious naturalism. The problem of the on-line material has been, at least for me, a resource overload that often has taken many hours of seeking among the huge range of material to find just the right phrase or the liturgical insight that will take the congregation into a deeper understanding and experience of that which Hunt refers to as ‘G-o-d’. And for those seeking to explore the links between progressive Christianity or progressive spirituality and such as science, ecology, cosmology and environmental justice here is the resource at our finger tips. No longer needing to explore the on line resources, it is here in a book of sermons, insights, poetry and good clear references to some 200 publication in his combined bibliography – an amazing resource in itself.

This book will doubtless be criticised by those of the old killing paradigm of conventional institutional theology for yet again going beyond the creeds and established doctrines of the Church. Others will probably be equally as critical on the grounds that Hunt is not jettisoning the primitive spiritual quest and going whole heartedly into rational scientific developments. However, in line with many other passionate progressive writers [e.g. Matthew Fox, Lloyd Geering, Bruce Sanguin, Gretta Vosper, et al] Hunt is clear that progressives need to explore and to extend the work beyond conventional theology into an exploration of natural theology that is relevant for our time.

The sub-title of the Prologue signposts the way in which his argument is going to develop: “To Walk on Green Earth! Religious Naturalism and Ritual in Progressive Spirituality.” The book has 23 addresses / sermons all usefully arranged in Themes: Seasons; Earth / Early Spring; Humour; Environment Day / Climate Change; Learning to Be More Genuinely Human; Autumn: the Season of Leaves and Harvest; G-o-d / Jesus; Blessing of Animals; Evolution / Darwin; Desert / Wilderness; Advent / Ordinary; Apocalyptic / End Times; Ocean; After Christmas / Year’s End; Cosmos; Family; Land / Power; Creation / Universe; Children / Education; Meaning; Celebration / Life; Evolution; Food / Eating.

A number of the themes are accompanied by John Cranmer’s thought provoking poetry.

Throughout the book there are gems of quotes and insights. Among those that stood out for me are the following:
• “The miracle of each moment awaits our sensual wonder. Hosannah! Not in the highest, but right here. Right now. This Horizontal transcendence. Nature embedded in humanity. Humanity embedded in nature. Of, in and as nature.” [page 32];
• “Each of us is a collection of unfinished stories. We are fully linked with our surroundings in time, space, matter/energy, and causality. We do not live in straight lines.” [page 55];
• “…religious naturalism says religion is human. It is about us. … As a religious naturalist I, along with others, claim that the sacred is fully present., hidden in the ordinary details of a life, any life. Expressed in ‘creativity’, and ‘mystery’, ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’.” [page 79];
• “… people who have the courage to be different, and more especially those who carry a hint of danger, are always the source of excitement and interest.” [page 119];
• “If we are only against something, we are doomed to negativity. So too if our actions are only attempts at domesticating dissident voices, making religion and politics safe for one another.” [page 153];
• Writing about the opening verses of the Gospel attributed to John, “… the Hebrew for ‘word’ is ‘dabhar’ which means divine creative energy. The word that gave birth. Event. Those of you who are right brain thinkers will probably have already resonated with this and made a connection. For the Hebrew ‘dabhar’ is about the creative, the imaginative, the heart, the feeling. And this divine energy is more than just a concept.” [page 167];
• “Nature and naturalism are for us today ‘the main game’ for any progressive spirituality. … Whether or not we believe that there is something more, nature is so significant that all our beliefs must be reformulated so as to take nature into account.” [page 207];
• “We are made of the rarest material in the universe: stardust.” [page 247]

The book concludes with a comment on the bread and wine of communion, “… may our celebration be a ritual reminder that, as we share the bread and share the wine, civilisation depends on sharing resources in a just and humane fashion.”

The only additional note is that the seasons are those of the southern hemisphere so those in the northern hemisphere will need to make some adjustments to the preaching cycle.

“Seasons and Self” is a wonderful resource, and not just for the preachers and worship leaders. It is a challenging, thought provoking book for all spiritually progressive thinkers. It could be excellent group study material. Above all it is an exciting, warmly reassuring exploration of a spirituality that is not new but one that is becoming better known among the open, progressive thinkers within and beyond the Church. It is highly recommended.

John Churcher January 2019

oOo

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Resourcing Progressive Worship and Ministry No.2

Our UCFORUM subscribers have recommended:

St Andrew’s on The Terrace, a lively and active faith community in central Wellington New Zealand. They value being progressive, inclusive, intellectually engaging and spiritually aware. This a Presbyterian Church with links to the Uniting Church in Australia.

The aim of the congregation is to create a lively, open Christian faith community, to identify a spirituality which ‘works’ in the 21st century, to act for a just and peaceful world, to be active agents and facilitators of progressive spirituality and social justice.

This a community which encourages theological reflection that is intellectually engaging and spiritually nourishing.

They place high value on
Openness: we are inclusive.
Exploration: we encourage journeys of discovery, spiritual and otherwise.
Justice and peace: we strive for social justice.
Integrity of creation: we respect the whole of creation.
Stewardship: we nurture and care for our human, spiritual and physical resources.

Visit the 10am Sunday morning celebration or explore their website for lots of great ideas for progressive practitioners.

Thanks for letting us know about recommended progressive communities.

oOo

 

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Book Review: Honest to GOoD

Honest to GOoD: Discerning the Sacred in the Secular

Author: John W H Smith                First Published 2016,  Morning Star Publishing  $26.95

We have not given sufficient attention to the action of a spiritual energy present in the world being exhibited by many people, some of whom would not confess a religious faith in much the same way that Jesus didn’t… There is a need to change the way we interpret the events of life in the light of the wisdom of Jesus of Nazareth. (John Smith)

John Smith has been on a life-long search for what he calls a sense of ‘wholeness’ or ‘completeness’…an attempt to make sense of his world and his life. Many people will find common ground with this search and relate to his experiences. This book is the result of this search and how Jesus has influenced and stimulated his journey.

Each chapter examines a major influence and together point the way to various understandings of the sacred spirit he calls God.

  • the influence of family and in particular his relationship with an encouraging mother who saw good in the world
  • how reading and later formal education shaped his life and helped him to understand practical Christianity. A study of the classics was the major force in his refining of knowledge about the sacred
  • the part played by the church, in particular the youth club where he learnt to manage adolescent anger and see the narratives of Jesus as lessons for life
  • through a painful period, the guidance of several Methodist ministers
  • Wesleyan theology and John Wesley’s Quadrilateral motivate him to search for personal authenticity and accept an inner suburban ministry
  • developing philosophically and practically through secular social work
  • discovery of a need to re-interpret the orthodox Christian explanation of the gospels as they impact on people with disabilities
  • making sense of the New Testament by close examination of Jesus and his words where he grew as a progressive or evolving Christian greatly affected by scholars in the Westar Institute and Jesus seminar school
  • his thinking about the atonement, concluding that there is no biblical evidence to suggest that Jesus’ death is in any way ‘substitutionary’ sacrifice for human misdemeanours
  • what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God
  • learning how the historical Jesus and the way in which the organisation church falls short of appropriate modelling of this Jesus
  • doubt about an ‘interventionist’ God
  • the growing movement of groups leaving the church to form spiritual groups that are relevant to their 21st century needs
  • realisation that Progressive Christianity offers the world a faith that makes sense and encourages each of us to seek evidence of the spirit of love we call God, at work in the lives of ordinary human beings.
  • and ultimately the impact of new scholarship (something the Basis of Union of the UCA encourages) on himself and many others.

Although he claims this is not an academic text, it is well referenced and a great way to get an overview of the field of progressive thinking.

This book is written in the fervent hope that it will encourage others to continue to explore their own unique spiritual journey. (John Smith)

Paul Inglis, January 2019

oOo

 

 

 

 

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Resourcing Progressive Worship and Ministry

With the growth of Progressive Christianity throughout the world, the call for resourcing progressive ministry is also increasing. An enormous amount of the materials has been developed in the USA and UK and now for some years from Australia. We regularly post about new Books but we have decided to also inform about sources for resources with an emphasis on Australian produced or sourced Ideas and Materials. We welcome information from our large following that can be shared with others who are regularly asking us to point them in the direction of congregations and resources for small groups who can’t find a suitable place to fellowship.

Today we recommend visiting Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide either physically or online.

They offer several types of worship:

https://www.pilgrim.org.au/worship/index.php

You can explore their worship resources at – http://pilgrimwr.unitingchurch.org.au/

Explore their groups at – https://www.pilgrim.org.au/groups/index.php

including progressive discussion and reading groups.

Listen to messages at – https://www.pilgrim.org.au/listen/index.php

oOo

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“Philomena” – A film with many powerful messages.

A review of the 2013 film. Also now a book.

[Review by Rev John Smith]

Introduction:
Recently Robyn and I had the emotionally evocative experience of watching this film superbly acted by Judy Dench and ably supported by Steve Coogan. The film is enhanced greatly by a magnificent classical music score. Overall it is a film with a number of very powerful messages about the practice of the Catholic Church regarding young unmarried mothers and the adoption of their offspring. The self righteous attitude of the church authorities in their disregard for the rights of young unmarried mothers and their chiIdren is placed under the microscope as is the reactionary and equally self righteous attitudes of their critics. As a beautiful counter balance we have the reaction of Philomena who has experienced the indignity of being treated as a “sinner” who gave into ‘her carnal desires’ coupled with the forced removal of her three year old child by being coerced into signing away her parental rights. The intriguing response from Philomena is not the seeking of revenge. She does not want the perpetuators punished; she is simply seeking to find out what happened to Anthony her son fifty years after his birth. Regardless of the indignity inflicted on Philomena by the Catholic authorities she still continues to practice her faith in a devout and committed manner.

Philomena reveals her circumstances to her daughter from a subsequent marriage and declares her secret desire to find her son. Her daughter in turn through a chance meeting recruits an ex BBC journalist and Labour government advisor Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan. He is in need of work and an editor urges him to assist Philomena and to write a ‘human interest’ story rather than some dry Russian history research that he is planning to do.
Martin is not fully convinced that he wants to have any part of this until while drinking in a pub in the locality of the convent in which Philomena gave birth he is provided with information by a young bartender. It appears that the reason the convent has no records of the adoption activity is that the nuns deliberately destroyed all the records by burning them. The bartender further suggests that the convent received a thousand pounds for each child sold to American couples. If that was not enough Martin was also aware that the young unmarried mothers had been put to work in a laundry for virtually no pay while being treated like slaves.

Martin through his work at the BBC has many contacts in the United States and through these contacts he searches the passport records to discover that Anthony had been adopted by Dr and Marge Hess who renamed him Michael. Michael had studied law and had become a senior official in the Reagan administration and served the Republican Party with distinction. Martin also realises that he actually met Michael when he was a journalist with the BBC while covering the news in the US. Martin also discovers that Michael was a closet homosexual and his long-term partner is Peter Olson. Michael had unfortunately died of AIDS nine years previously.
Armed with this information Martin informs Philomena of his findings and her initial reaction to this news is one of sadness that Michael was not able to be open about his lifestyle, because of his position in a political party, which at that time condemned homosexuality. Philomena although upset at not being able to meet her son as an adult wishes to meet the people who did know him.

The first person they meet is a woman known as Mary who had been adopted with Anthony/Michael from the same convent in Roscrea Ireland. Mary is able to tell Philomena the whereabouts of Michael’s long-term partner, but cannot tell Philomena what she most wants to know which is, ‘did he ever seek to find his birth mother’?

The initial approach to Michael’s partner Peter by Martin Sixsmith, is met with resistance, but he finally he agrees to meet Philomena after she makes a personal plea for his help. Peter is able to tell her that Michael has always wondered about his birth mother and that he had actually visited the convent in Ireland in an attempt to make contact with her. Unfortunately the nuns had lied to him saying that they had no record of Philomena’s whereabouts and had no contact with her. Michael’s life is dreadfully cut short by his AIDS condition but his dying wish is to be buried at the convent with a headstone stating who he is in the hope that Philomena will find it.
Martin and Philomena return to the convent where the nuns continue to deny Philomena the information she seeks regarding Michael’s grave and his last days. In a final scene Michael confronts a senior nun, Sister Hildegarde and in a dramatic and poignant scene demands she explain why she had denied Philomena access to her son and further lied to her son regarding knowledge of his birthmother’s whereabouts. In this scene the aggrieved person is not Philomena as one would expect, but Martin the journalist who rounds on this elderly nun and demands she make an explanation of her behaviour. The nun testily answers that Martin is not her judge only Jesus will judge her and Philomena had relinquished her right to justice through her sin of fornication. The nun is clearly unrepentant and it is this that triggers an outburst from Martin when he tells the nun that if Jesus had been present he would have tipped her “out of her F—-g chair”. The dialogue and acting in this scene is transfixing, but it is Philomena who comes to the nun’s rescue when she tells Martin that his anger is really a waste of energy and she tells him to examine himself, because the anger is all consuming. Philomena doesn’t want to end up hating anyone and at this point she turns to Hildegarde and exclaims, “I forgive you”. The nun shows no recognition that she needs to be forgiven but it is important for Philomena to utter these words.

An analysis of the message
Throughout the film Martin and Philomena present two quite contrasting views on the value of religious adherence. Even though Philomena has suffered rejection and condemnation from the Order of Catholic Nuns it does not deter her from her belief in the sacred presence of God found in the ordnances of the Catholic faith. Whereas Martin is angry at the self-righteous deceit that he has discovered in the brutal and guilt-laden treatment of young unmarried mothers, one who had died in childbirth aged fourteen years. Early in the film Martin declares that he is a la