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Opinion: “Vale, Stan Grant”

Thank you, Wayne Sanderson, for drawing our attention to this article by Paul Collins and published on John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations.

Stan Grant is always intelligent, insightful and provocative. He demonstrated this in his extraordinary farewell piece last Monday night on the ABC’s Q+A.

I have enormous respect for Stan Grant. Always intelligent, thoughtful and provocative, he has been an important contributor to intellectual life in Australia. His strength has been to move discussions on from the sterile economism and superficial secularism that characterises so much of our national dialogue, to the deeper philosophical and spiritual issues underpinning Australian culture.

That’s exactly what he did last Monday night on Q+A. In a three-and-a-half-minute piece to camera at the end of the show he took us to the heart of First Nations culture. Rather than bleating about racist slurs, he said that he was withdrawing from the media because “endurance is not always strength. Strength is to know when to say ‘stop’” and that, he said, is why he is pulling back from public life.

A Wiradjuri man from south-central NSW, Stan Grant said that his culture taught him to respond to the hatred directed to him and his family by drawing on “Yindyamarra”. He conceded that “it’s a word beyond translation to English because … it’s an idea … a way of living, a way of being.” It means strength in quietness, kindness and respect. “It speaks to the differences between us … [It doesn’t] shy away from the things that divide us, but looks for ways we can meet each other and see each other in each other, despite those divisions.”…………………

Go to:

Vale, Stan Grant – Pearls and Irritations (johnmenadue.com)



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Book Review: Final of looking at Friendship

Dear Explorers

This week we finished our study of John Smith’s book. It has certainly made us more aware of the need to address the many issues of social justice around us.

The future structure of inclusive faith communities

P  221  I am very enthusiastic about the joy of life and want to share my understanding of the presence of the divine with others. Not with the aim of convincing them, but to encourage them to express their own understanding.

P 222-224. John discusses the priestly, prophetic and wisdom traditions. He says ‘Wisdom religion is one that emphasises the seeking of the spirit of sacredness within and between us, and not some external sacred power that we need to invoke to intervene on our behalf.’ He favours the wisdom tradition but, while acknowledging we overemphasise the priestly tradition, we felt there was definitely a place for the prophetic tradition, following Jesus’ example.

P 225  We were amazed at John Wesley’s manifesto (modernised) from the 18th century, so much so that our next Gathering its entitled ‘John Wesley writes today’s headlines!’

1              Reduce the gap between rich people and poor people.

2              Help everyone to have a job.

3              Help the poorest, including introducing a living wage.

4              Offer the best possible education.

5              Help everyone to feel they can make a difference.

6              Promote tolerance.

7              Promote equal treatment of women.

8              Create a society based on values and not on profits and consumerism.

9              End all forms of slavery.

10           Avoid getting into wars.

11           Share the love of God with everyone.

12           Care for the environment.


P 227  The movement that Jesus initiated was never intended to be a formalised religion, but a way of life. Jesus’ legacy was a social and ethical example of how life should be lived.

P 229  John correctly say that progressive Christianity groups are ‘seeking a community that is hospitable and not only tolerant, but accepting of doubts and complex questions which many participants have been wrestling with for years’.

P 230 John says ‘. . . without the death of churchianity, it will be difficult if not impossible to regenerate and reclaim the message of Jesus.’

P 234  John says ‘The new faith communities could be small groups that gather together in homes, coffee shops and in nature. . . we need to build the movement from scratch . . .’ John Gunson in his book God, Ethics and the secular society makes the same point. However, we felt that the idea of home churching had been tried and found to be largely unsuccessful. We were therefore reluctant to abandon the existing church infrastructure.

Concluding comments

P 238. To be humane is to live the abundant life that Jesus envisaged and this requires us to live by the values Jesus espoused.

P 239-242  John Smith’s comments throughout his book are clearly political and we felt that, despite the dangers, the church does need to be involved in politics.

P 246  . . . the world of today is in desperate need of repair and transformation through acts of kindness (Tikkun Olam).

We round out our discussion of John’s book at our Gathering on 28 May. See you then.

Ken Williamson


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Events: Victorian Progressives open to all



You are invited
To explore how the Christianity we choose
influences how we live.
A series of In-person and Zoom events.
A Progressive Christianity team and guest leaders look at respected writers and significant turning points in Progressive Christianity.
For each event some of the team will share their personal experiences of how their lives have been influenced by these perspectives.

Sunday 26 February 3.00pm to 4.30pm
Thank you Marcus Borg!Sunday 26 March 3.00pm to 4.30pm
Thank you John Shelby Spong!
Sunday 23 April 3.00pm to 4.30pm“IT IS ALL ABOUT LIVING”
Thank you John Shelby Spong!


Sunday 28 May 3.00pm to 4.30pm
“Look around. Stop looking back 20 to 30 centuries so much”
Thank you Lloyd Geering
 Rev Dr David Merritt, Rev John Gunson
Sunday 25 June 3.00pm to 4.30pm
David Galston, Westar scholar

We honour the thinking of scholarly writers by exploring insights for how we live in Australia in the third decade of the 21st century:
in person for lively discussion
at Stonnington Uniting Church, 57-59 Burke Rd. Malvern East
or online by Zoom

Meeting ID: 894 9835 9894 Passcode: 276516

The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria, www.pcnvictoria.org.au


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Event: Walking for the Voice

Dear Explorers

Margaret Landbeck, a long time Explorers and Progressive Christianity supporter, is to embark upon a walk along the Sunshine Coast Coastal Pathway to raise awareness of and support for the Yes vote for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

The Walk will take place between Wednesday 5th July and Saturday 8th July and will be from Peregian Beach to Bells Creek Caloundra.

Margaret is promoting it as “82 year-old walks 82 km to support the Yes vote in the upcoming referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament”.

To support and encourage her you can accompany her on part of the walk, meet up at various stopping points, or be present at the beginning or end of the walk.

Further details will be forthcoming and will appear on the Facebook link below:


She can also be contacted on 0402 851422 or landbeckmargaret@gmail.com

Good on you Margaret.


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Book Review: Further exploration of Friendship

From our Caloundra Explorers:

Continue a reading of John Smith’s Jesus and the Empowering Influence of Friendship

Chapters 7 and 8 we found very challenging and relevant.

Social commentaries on the current circumstances

P 151  Julian Burnside argued that Australians ‘ought to be angry—with an unrelenting anger—that our Aborigines have the world’s highest infant mortality rate’.

P 151 We thought that Paul Kelly’s song From little things big things grow should be an encouragement to those involved in the fight for social justice.

P154  We agreed with Mike Carlton (The land of the fair gone, Saturday Paper 31 March 2018) that ‘the financial theory of Trickle Down promulgated by the federal government is simply not working’.

P 155  ‘. . . more than half the juveniles in Australian jails are indigenous and are products of a third-world squalor.’ Let’s hope the Voice can do something about this.

P 158. A snippet from Richard Flanagan’s Our politics is a dreadful black comedy (The Guardian 2018): Our screens are filled with a preening peloton of potential leaders, but nowhere is there to be found leadership.

P 160  We have not honoured the ’65 000 indigenous Australians who tragically lost their lives defending their country in the frontier wars of the 1880s’.

We noted that John Smith’s book has a copy of the Uluru Statement from the heart p 253.

P 161  Regarding Australia’s first people, we agreed with John that ‘we need to tell their story and honour their contribution for the nurture of this land. We need to value their dreamings, sayings, languages, and their methods to renew the cosmos’.

P 165  We discussed Andrew Hamilton’s idea (Whatever happened to ‘kindness to strangers’? Eureka Street Vol 28 No 13) that we need refugee policies that emphasise ‘inclusion within society, rather than assimilation’.

P 166  For a change to happen, we will require morally coherent and ethically aware political and social leaders, who know that a generous and compassionate society is founded on just, compassionate and hospitable personal relationships.

P 169  ‘Hospitality, then, is away of living life and living it more abundantly, by sharing not only what we have but also, who we are.’  We agreed, but several in our group shared experiences where people had taken advantage of their hospitality.

P 174  John quotes Eva Cox: We live in a society not an economy. . . If the Government doesn’t look after the people, people can’t look after the economy.

P 176  As friends of Jesus of Nazareth, we can disagree on many issues but it should be hard to argue against the belief that there is an overriding call in the Bible to demonstrate a particular concern for the poor and prioritise the welfare of the vulnerable.

The role of faith communities

P 178  It is 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.

P 180  John talks about Marcus Borg’s ‘thin places’—where we recognise the activity and presence of God. Not an ‘elsewhere God’ but a God who is present ‘here and now’.

P 182  John raises this important question: ‘If the church as we know it ceased to exist, would God’s work continue? What is it that the church adds to our understanding of the society that makes for a better world?

P 185. This sums up John’s book pretty well: ‘. . . people are attracted to Jesus because he made them feel worthwhile, included and valued. He conveyed a passion about life that was empowering.’

Chapters 9 and 10 of John Smith’s book certainly challenged us.

Spirituality without borders

P 189  To live a ‘good life’ for me means to experience the sacred energy force I call God in the lives of those I meet.

P 192  ‘God’s spirit is present now within, between and around you.’ This reminded us of George Stuart’s God beyond, within and between us.

P 192  ‘I see my role now as a committed subversive saboteur, with the aim of rescuing the message of the human Jesus from the distorted view of both orthodox Christianity and mainstream Western society.’ We though this was similar to Gretta Vosper’s mission of ‘irritating the church into the 21st century’.

P 194  John reminded us that God works through us.

Our role in community as subversives

P 198  John reminded us of Martin Luther King’s principle that ‘the right time to do the right thing is now’.

P 206  . . . while Jesus’ actions were non-violent, they were not passive resistance either, but active non-violent resistance.

P 210  One of our group recalled the days when the ‘Wanted’ posters of Jesus were promoted by the Methodist Church.

P 212  I wish to continue the task I believe I have been given, which is to smuggle the true Jesus back into the Christian Community and into everyday living, against all opposition.

P 214  . . . the sacred energy source we call God is within each person and it comes to visibility primarily in the way we relate personally to each other.

P 216  We discussed the ‘irrational fear that continues to pervade modern society toward those who dare to be different and who are willing to speak the truth as they understand it.

Next week we discuss the vital Chapter 11 ‘The future structure of inclusive faith communities’.

Ken Williamson






Ken Williamson








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Book Review: Further exploration of Friendship

From our Caloundra Explorers:

Continue a reading of John Smith’s Jesus and the Empowering Influence of Friendship

Chapter 4–6 of John Smith’s book are all about social justice.

The values of friendship

P 106  A progressive Christian can be defined as a person introducing or promoting change gradually or in stages.

P 106-107  We liked this quote from Marcus Borg: One of God’s central qualities is compassion, a word that in Hebrew is related to the word for ‘womb’. Not only is compassion a female image suggesting source of life and nourishment but it also has a feeling dimension: God as compassionate Spirit feels for us as a mother feels for the children of her womb. Spirit feels the suffering of the world and participates in it . . .

P 109  . . . if we truly open ourselves to the feelings of another human being, we risk the possibility of needing to make changes in the way we behave as a friend.

P 112  John Smith’s dream: . . . I strongly believe that if the world were governed by the values that good friends share, then there would be world peace and a significant decrease in the social evils we face in our society.

Where do our values originate?

P 123  We briefly discussed cyber bullying.

Ken Williamson


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Opinions: Does God Exist – Holland, Meyer and Murray

Thanks to Adele Nisbet for drawing attention to this interesting discussion from the Hoover Institution at our Merthyr Rd Explorers session today:

Recorded on October 17, 2022, in Fiesole, Italy.

Does God exist? Something—a being, a power—that’s supernatural? That is, an entity that we’re unable to perceive with our five senses but that’s still real? Ever since the Enlightenment, the knowing, urbane, sophisticated answer has been, “Of course not.” Now a historian, a scientist, and a journalist talk it over and reveal new threads in the debate around science and theism.

For further information: https://www.hoover.org/publications/u… Interested in exclusive Uncommon Knowledge content? Check out Uncommon Knowledge on social media! Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UncKnowledge/ Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/UncKnowledge/ Instagram: https://instagram.com/uncommon_knowle…

Tom Holland author of Dominion: the Making of the Western Mind (previously reviewed on the UCFORUM), also known in the USA as Dominion: how the Christian revolution remade the world

Stephen Meyer author of Return of the God Hypothesis: three scientific discoveries that reveal the mind behind the universe

Douglas Murray author of The Strange Death of Europe: immigration, identity, Islam.

Get the coffee going, a quiet space and a comfy chair! Enjoy.



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Book Review: The Godless Gospel

The Godless Gospel: Was Jesus a Great Moral Teacher? by Julian Baggini

Thanks to Tim O’Dwyer for referring this book to me. It is a great read and I would recommend it.

In The Godless Gospel, Julian Baggini challenges our assumptions about Jesus – and the Christian values he promotes – by focusing on his teachings in the Gospels. Stripping away the religious elements, Baggini asks how we should understand Jesus’s attitude to the renunciation of the self, to politics or to sexuality, as expressed in Jesus’s often-elusive words.

An atheist from a Catholic background, Baggini grapples with Jesus’s sometimes contradictory messages, and against his own scepticism, finds that Jesus’s words amount to a purposeful and powerful philosophy, which has much to teach us today.

Julian Baggini is a British philosopher and the author of several books about philosophy written for a general audience. He is the author of The Pig that Wants to be Eaten and 99 other thought experiments (2005) and is co-founder and editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine. He was awarded his Ph.D. in 1996 from University College London for a thesis on the philosophy of personal identity. In addition to his popular philosophy books, Baggini contributes to The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer, and the BBC. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time.

From the very beginning, Baggini identifies some realities:

  • Nearly a third of the global population identifies as Christian
  • In most advanced industrial countries the faith’s buildings are half empty
  • Fewer and fewer people accept the divinity of Jesus
  • Many clergy interpret his resuurection as ‘the son of God’ in metaphorical terms
  • One third of Church of England clergy doubt his physical resurrection
  • Belief in the moral teaching of Jesus seems to be as strong as ever
  • Some non-Christians think society needs the morality of the religion they reject
  • We can extract a secular moral philosophy from the religious teachings of the Gospels.

So Baggini goes on to extract a secular moral philosophy from the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel narratives. With all the obstacles and challenges of such a task his 304 page treatise is  very readible and interesting, practical, relevant and thought provoking from the manger to the crucifixion.

This book lends itself to a study group with its referencing and source links.

Paul Inglis 25th April 2023



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News: Review of the discussion on original sin/blessing

St Lucia Spirituality Group
Newsletter April 2023


Know that there is a power of infinite love within you and celebrate it!
Ilia Delio

Our April meeting on Zoom was our highest attendance yet, the conversation was wide ranging with diverse insights while everyone had an opportunity to contribute. Most of the conversation revolved around the original sin/blessing dichotomy and we did not have time to properly consider what the consequences of an emphasis on original blessing might be, as suggested in the discussion paper. Nevertheless, despite the church’s teaching on original sin, no one believed they were “wretches” as portrayed in the hymn Amazing Grace. Nor did Jesus. “You are the light of the world….seen like a city on a hilltop …. not hidden under a bushel,” he said. (Matt. 5:14-15).

One observation was that the concept of original sin made evangelisation difficult. Who could be attracted to a story about an angry, vengeful God, judging mankind harshly, sending his own Son to death on a cross as an atoning sacrifice? Reflecting a transactional relationship with God. Would you buy tickets to that show? We need a more credible narrative, consistent with Jesus’ core teaching of abundant love, around the Genesis story founded in original blessing, of God’s love and how we can grow and fulfill our human potential for the good of all.

The father of the prodigal son and the vineyard owner portrayed in the parables exemplify a God of unconditional love. Anthony de Mello, in one of his meditations, describes God’s love as being like a rose offering up its scent, a light illuminating the darkness or a tree offering shade – all without considering whether anyone might benefit. Love freely given.

In a recent webinar, Ilia Delio said “God is a name symbolic of divine mystery, incomprehensible. We don’t even know what the human person is; which has divine potential within.” How do we realise this potential? At his 1994 inauguration, Nelson Mandella quoted this poem by Marianne Williamson:

Let Our Own Light Shine

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

A positive view of ourselves, made in the image of God, should give us confidence to realise our fullest human potential, to be the best that we can be. At our May meeting we shall consider some insights into how we could accomplish this.

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting

We shall consider this 30-minute video of a talk given by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox:

Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet

Matthew Fox is an internationally acclaimed spiritual theologian, formerly a Catholic Dominican priest and now an Episcopal priest, and activist. He holds a doctorate in 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. He has written 37 books that have been translated into other languages over 70 times, including Original Blessing (2000) and Creativity (2005).
There is also a short pre-meeting paper to read and reflect upon, available by email and on our Facebook page, please allow yourself sufficient time before the meeting to prepare.

Our Episode 18 meeting will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 16 May 2023. Come early to meet the others there. Use this link to join the meeting. The zoom meeting will open at 5:45pm.

To register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au. If you are concerned about your ability to participate in these zoom meetings, we can accommodate you by simply allowing you to listen. Just let us know.

Doctrine of Discovery

Did you know that in 1455 Pope Nicholas V issued a proclamation “Romanus Pontifex” that provided legal authority to empower the Christian kings of Europe to enslave, plunder and slaughter in the name of discovery? Thus, the colonising authority of the invaders was established at the expense of the rights of the indigenous peoples.

This “doctrine of discovery” was formally repudiated by the Vatican on 30 March 2023. This doctrine has underpinned the suppression of indigenous peoples’ rights to this day and is the primary cause of the discontent we see. This abuse of their rights needs to be acknowledged and set right.

Our Newsletters & Facebook Page

Do you know anyone who might like to receive these newsletters too? You can contact us by email slsg4067@gmail.com.

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

Go well…

John Scoble & Robert van Mourik


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Reflection and Event: Caloundra Q PCN Explorers

Continue a reading of John Smith’s Jesus and the Empowering Influence of Friendship

Last Tuesday we discussed Chap 3 The way of the historical Jesus in John Smith’s thought provoking book. Here are a few key points:

P 55  John says ‘I don’t want to hear so much what they think the parable means, but more importantly how it makes them feel.’ However, we thought that head and heart were just as important here.

P 57  We need to stop looking for the intervention of a Messianic figure and realise that the power to change the world lies within us.

P 59-60  If the kingdom of God is within you, then God comes to visibility in your relationships with others.

P 60  Jesus did not practise ‘passive resistance’ but ‘active non-violent resistance’. I mentioned the Jason Porterfield book Fight like Jesus: How Jesus waged peace throughout Holy Week which develops the theme of active non-violent resistance.

P 61  ‘Jesus states six times that a person’s healing comes from the sacred energy that resides within . . .’ Wendy commented that in her chiropractor’s rooms is this statement ’The power that made the body heals the body.’

P 63  . . . the spirit of the sacred energy we call God will be revealed in the way we care for each other.

P 65  . . . compassion is the most outstanding unifying force among the world’s religions.

P 69  John says ‘We have a wonderful ability to block out those portions of scripture that challenge our prejudices and would prompt us to action outside our comfort zone.’ For example Matthew 5:40 ‘And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.’

Nancy related the story of how her husband Rob came home one day with a strange very dirty shirt on. He had met a down-and-out person in the park who was going for a job interview and didn’t have a clean shirt, so Rob offered to swap shirts. Good on you, Rob!

P 69  John says ‘The Uniting Church in Australia . . . raises social justice issues but the dilemma has always been how we can get this message across to congregations.’ Margaret, the convenor of our Social Justice Group, says she could certainly identify with that comment.

P 79-80  . . . when Jesus says to this woman (who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume Matthew 26:6-13) ‘Your faith has saved you’, he is saying ‘by your contrition and humble act of loving kindness, you have revealed that the spirit of God is with you.’

P 83  We need to explore the God Jesus knew before Christianity clothed him in religious language.

P 85  . . . we find Jesus in everyone we meet. I noted the wonderful Namaste greeting ‘The divine in me sees the divine in you.’

P 90  Wendy shared something she read: ‘Love is like the sun. We cannot look directly at it, but we see our world because of it and experience its many life-sustaining functions.’

P  92  John continues his theme of social justice: Our current response to asylum seekers and refugees should give us great cause for concern as people of faith.

P 101  Jesus . . . never encouraged people to let God take over their lives and their decisions, as do many modern right wing Evangelists.

P 103  Jesus himself denies the ‘Atonement’ in the parable of the ‘prodigal Son’ which illustrates God as a forgiving and loving Father when he welcomes back his erring son. Jesus thus condemns christian orthodoxy (the idea that a loving God should sacrifice his son).

P 103  John finishes the chapter by quoting Bishop Spong: ‘Go into the world and become involved, reach out to other people in love and seek out evidence of the spiritual energy we know as God in every circumstance, in every person.’

Because we missed a week, we will meet next Tuesday 25 April to discuss Chapters 4, 5 and 6. All are welcome.

Ken Williamson 


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Events x 2: Redcliffe (Q) with John Gunson

Rev. John Gunson

on his book

God, Ethics and the secular society:
does the church have a future?

A retired Melbourne-based Congregational Minister, teacher and writer, John will
present on-screen, encouraging group discussion on topics including:

1st Session: Monday 1st May, 7:00-9:00 pm
Why is the historic church (and religion) dying?  Understanding ourselves in our
secular society.
2nd Session: Monday 5th June, 7:00-9:00 pm
What is the church? And who is Jesus? What has the historic church to do with Jesus and
the Jesus movement? Can it live again in a new form? Is it about more
than social justice?

Please request the Zoom link from the convenor at
browniw5@optusnet.com.au, including your name and e-mail address

or gather in person
in the Ocean Room, Redcliffe Uniting Church, 1 Richens St., Redcliffe

For an excellent review of John’s book go to Crosslights

“The church’s theologians unfortunately are no help to clergy and lay people who are confronting difficult questions in today’s world because they see their task as defending orthodoxy rather than the disinterested search for truth. On the other hand this book is courageous, honest, helpful and hopeful. You won’t find anything else quite like it.” Rev Colin Johnston

The sessions will begin at 7 pm sharp. Tea and coffee will be available mid-session.
All are welcome, and all points of view are respected.


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Reflection: Group Response to Geering Sermon and event reminder

Thanks to one of the groups at last month’s gathering of the Merthyr Road Explorers for this summary of their conversation:

Do we need a creator?                                                               

 (Group Reflections on a sermon by Sir Lloyd Geering)

‘Do we need a creator?’ asked Lloyd Geering and that set our small discussion group off on a merry trail. No-one had an immediate opinion. We were all from a traditional Christian background and immured in the idea there was one,  so what was there to say.

Geering in his sermon made the point that evolution has caused us to face the reality of ever- changing growth and development, new world views needing new responses… so what we once thought of as God making/creating, are now thought of as natural, scientific processes–evolving over time.

Then Kevin said: ‘We are part of a new Ecological Civilisation—where connectivity is fundamental. It’s an ecological civilization based on the all-encompassing symbiosis between human society and the natural world. Human activity would be organized, not merely to avoid harm to the living earth, but to actively regenerate and sustain its health.’

Bev: ‘Whoo!  Say that again, please… in English!’

‘World views have changed significantly over the past thousand or so years. Science has helped us realise that humanity and the environment are deeply interconnected. We rely on nature and in turn must nurture the earth.’

Kevin further explained that an ecological civilisation assumes we live within beliefs and practices that hold that everything is interrelated. We must challenge a culture of selfish individualism and confront the consequences of living in ways driven by competitive impulses.

Bev: ‘According to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a Jesuit and paleontologist who wrote about evolution) humanity is evolving and evolution has a goal.’

Rodney wondered:  ‘Are we going to live long enough to evolve?’

Bev:  ‘Good point!  We’ve made quite a mess of the world. Our greed and selfishness has almost finished it off. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if humanity (like the dinosaurs) was wiped out and possibly even by an ecological disaster we ourselves had created.’

Since the middle 1800’s, with the invention of the powered machine and the knowledge from science growing exponentially, humanity has become the key factor in change throughout the world. There are a lot of positive outcomes of this, but on the negative side, bull-dozers have ripped through forests. Rockets have soared into space leaving rubbish behind. Nature has been exploited shamelessly. Moreover, we—humanity, now has the responsibility of repairing the damage and very little time to do it.

Science arose in opposition to religion and has assumed primacy. Traditional religion has been in decline as many of its ideas have been challenged. Key among the challenges is the idea of evolution. But it is no longer reasonable for religion to ignore evolution and many religiously-aligned people have accepted that the world has changed and their views on life and theology must also change.

‘Religion’ and ‘religious’ ideas must be properly aligned to the way we now see the world, and our human experience of it, at our point in time. Religious ideas must be related to the context/culture in which we are living. It is important that new ways of seeing the world are vigorously expressed. Theologians have been doing this for some time now and new views are better understood… but it’s a slow process. Sometimes we only understand in hind-sight where our journey has taken us.

That’s the point of the Lloyd Geering message. We are on a journey of discovery, and we can enjoy being part of the process… everything we do, each action, each commitment makes a difference.

Kevin: ‘What we think is that CHANGE  happens at the edges… we must look for it in the ‘margins’. Slowly, slowly, society changes. We are part of that process. Everything we do… large or small… contributes to it.’

Bev: ‘What fun!   It is at the point where two edges meet that change happens… like the shore and the sea or two people with different insights.’

Joy: It may not be an ecological disaster that wipes us out… but what about world events like the Ukraine War… and Putin… there is a lot of pain and injustice in the world—life is far from enjoyable for so many. Do we just WAIT for something to change, for Putin to have a change of heart or to use nuclear weapons??? I am a person of hope… but I cannot make sense of aggression, suffering and injustices. I can’t even PRAY for them to stop because “God“ does not control that!!

Bev: ‘Pain and hurt are part of the nature of things.’

Evolution… from atom to algae, plants to people… is full of struggle. It’s focussed on ‘growth’ and the strongest (?),  smartest(?) get a ticket to the future. The evolutionary method is based on cause and effect. Mathematics even. It doesn’t seem to have the slightest care that plants or animals or people are hurt or may be destroyed. Its simple, singular motive is ‘progress’.’

And yet:

Bryan: ‘There is a life force in the world, encouraging us to LOVE. It is a goal for humanity to strive for, a motive for hopefulness. For me, love is the glue of our new society. This deepest ‘agape’ love (the highest and purest form of love) will be the bridge that unifies humanity; it will be the essence of our total giving, total forgiving, benevolent sacrifice and the means of total transformation and renewal of our new society, bridging the possible barriers of race, religion and nationality. It will build community that is lasting, forgiving and all encompassing. We already have models of this new world lifestyle through former years in people like Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and St Francis.

Bev: ‘I like listening to Songs of Praise on Sunday mornings. You wouldn’t catch me inside a church these days, but I can’t help thinking that the hopefulness, joy and meaning I see as people in the congregation are singing, is what we need in the world. Perhaps it’s my memory of pleasant days in the past when I believed the words whole-heartedly, even though now a lot of the words/ theology need changing… perhaps it’s the music that touches my heart. Perhaps it’s something else.’

All: ‘We like listening to Songs of Praise too!’

Afterthought by Joy:  Even Songs of Praise is changing– years ago it was a program recorded in Australia in a local church (I remember one at Coorparoo Methodist when I was much younger) … in recent times it now has a few hymns/songs but also interviews with people to show how a focus church reaches out to connect with its community/or take on ecological projects etc…

 Kevin: ‘We are part of a MORPHOGENIC  system… a system that allows for growth, creativity and change… In all fields of energy, values and attitudes change and move… compassion, hope, love may be responses to changing circumstances/new forms of life…’

Bev: ‘Oops… What does ‘Morphogenic’ mean?’

‘Morphogenesis is a biological process that causes a tissue or organ to develop its shape by controlling the spatial distribution of cells during embryonic development.’

Bev: ‘Nope. That doesn’t do anything for me.’

‘In psychology, morphogenesis is the development of the form and structure of an organism.’

Bev: ‘Getting closer. So… “it’s a system that allows for growth, creativity and change… in all fields of energy, values and attitudes change and move… compassion, hope, love.” Aha! That’s what you said. Now I understand. Times are changing, and the world is built (created?) in such a way that we can grow our understanding and change as well.’

In fact, that’s exactly how nature operates. It’s a dialectic… something happens; there’s a response. That’s how plants and insects have developed a multiplicity of defences against predators.

In some ways, humanity has been stuck in habits and traditions and fixed ways of responding. In future, we will be less constrained to follow belief systems that do not suit us or the world we live in. We will respond to experience more readily and live in a more authentic way.


Bryan: ‘Let’s all write a one page version of “How my thinking has changed”… briefly outlining our journeys, life experiences, growth… so we can know one another (connect) better and feed each other (grow and change)’.

Note: This month’s discussion at Merthyr Road (Wednesday 26th April) will pick up on this suggestions.


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Event: Dayboro UC Explorers

Our Explorers group after morning tea on Sunday will be looking at “Change- the Impermanence of all things” and starting with a focus on the well known passage from Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NRSV
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Remember the song with melody written by Pete Seger? Here is a link to refresh your memory. The beautiful singer is Judy Collins
  1. What is your feeling about the sentiment expressed in this passage?
  2. Do you agree with all of it?
  3. What have you observed that is changing in your world?
  4. What seems to stay the same?
  5. Are you happy about this?

We will look at Religion and Social Change 101 and discuss the role of the church in a changing world and in particular in a local community where values are rapidly changing.

Details of the venue:

Dayboro Uniting Church, William Street, Dayboro Q

Church service: 9am, Morning Tea 10am, Explorers 10.45am. Come for all or some!

Paul Inglis psinglis@westnet.com.au


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Event: PCNV Melbourne



You are invited
To explore how the Christianity we choose
influences how we live.

A series of In-person and Zoom events.
A Progressive Christianity team and guest leaders look at respected writers and significant turning points in Progressive Christianity.
For each event some of the team will share their personal experiences of how their lives have been influenced by these perspectives.

___________________________________________________________________Sunday 23 April 3.00pm to 4.30pm
Thank you John Shelby Spong!

Guest leader: Dr Val Webb. Team:  Dr David Merritt, Anne Page

Sunday 28 May 3.00pm to 4.30pm
“Look around. Stop looking back 20 to 30 centuries so much”
Thank you Lloyd Geering

More in June
Exploring Westar scholars for influences on how we live.

For each event a well-known Progressive Christian writer is quoted to present the contributions of Progressive Christianity:
We honour the thinking of scholarly writers by exploring insights for how we live in Australia in the third decade of the 21st century:
in person for lively discussion

at Stonnington Uniting Church, 57-59 Burke Rd. Malvern East
or online by Zoom

This meeting will be live streamed via Zoom for those unable to attend physically.

Meeting ID: 894 9835 9894 Passcode: 276516

The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria, www.pcnvictoria.org.au


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Reflection: A Survey of Scholarly Doubts on the Empty Tomb

Scholarly Doubts on the Empty Tomb

From the Jesus Tweezers blog authored by Scott Bignell Studying Judeo-Christian Origins has been a passionate hobby of his for the better part of a decade. The Jesus Tweezers blog is designed to give Scott an online space to publish his thoughts on anything and everything related to Judeo-Christian Origins.

“We are regularly told by Christian Apologists that the scholarly consensus on the historicity of the empty tomb is strong enough that it can be counted as a “fact”. Is that so? In this thread, I intend to create a list of modern scholars and their comments that would beg to differ. I’ll edit the post as I find more. So stay tuned.”

For the article go to:

Scholarly Doubts on the Empty Tomb – Jesus Tweezers (home.blog)



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Report on Event: Caloundra (Q) Explorers

Dear Explorers

Yesterday was the first week of our study of John W H Smith’s Jesus and the empowering influence of friendship: Why gracious living is more importantthanrightbelief.

P 5-6  We started by reading the wonderful poem We are his mates from A bloke called Jesus by Pro Hart and Norman Habel.

Opening gambit

P 7 . . . 2000 years down the track, people are still claiming to be his friend and are modelling their lives on his example. It is my firm belief that if Christianity does not personally engage with individuals in everyday life and if necessary challenge the wider community in which it is embedded, it will continue its rapid slide into irrelevancy.

P 11 . . . both Luke (17:20-21) and Thomas (Saying 113) state that the kingdom or ‘realm’ of God is within us. If we believe this message of Jesus that the realm of God is in each person, then by sharing with each other we are bringing to visibility the sacred source of energy we call GOD.

P 17-19. We read Michael Morwood’s prayer, which nicely sums up the theme of John’s book.

Our prayer today

iIs a prayer of resolve

a prayer of determination

that we, each one of us,

will do whatever we can

however small

in whatever way

to bring the real dream of Jesus

to fruition

in our lives

and in our world today.

The significance of friendship

P  27  . . .the evils of the world are the responsibility of each and every person and will only be corrected through gracious living and caring relationships, and not through the intervention of a sacred being with human characteristics that resides ‘elsewhere’.

P 31  We appreciated this quote from Jean Vanier: ‘ We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.’

P 38  Progressive Christianity is a non-denominational approach to faith and spirituality that places an emphasis on how people live rather than on correct beliefs; and recognises in the person of Jesus there is a human life living in harmony with the Spirit of God.

P 39  Rev Steven mentioned that if we hold our understanding of Christ too tightly we make a fist with our hand. However, when we hold our faith lightly, our hands remain open. Fists make for weapons, and often times cause pain. Whereas an open hand makes offers welcome and is ready to receive.

P 40  Research by Kitestring indicates clearly that supportive relationships not only improve our health but there are indications that the benefits extend beyond our individual wellbeing to issues of social justice for all people.

The empowering elements of friendship

P 50  We took time to reconsider Martin niemoeller’s famous quote: When the Nazis came for the communists, I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. When they came for the Jews, I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics but I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time there was no one to stand up for me.

P  51  Make time to love people face-to-face not keyboard-to-keyboard.

Next week we look forward to studying Chap 3 The way of the historical Jesus.

Ken Williamson



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Post Easter Reflection: The Resurrection – a focus on the present rather than the hereafter

The Resurrection calls us to pay attention to this life.

Thanks to Rev Dr John Squires (UCA-Canberra) for this considered reflection on the significance of the weekend we have just experienced.

John has made available to us his recent script from Easter Sunday. It appears in his very interesting and informative blog:

“On Easter Sunday, all attention is rightly on Jesus, risen from the dead. “Christ is risen”, we greet each other, with the expected reply, “He is risen indeed”. Risen, to new life; risen, as a sign of the future life we are promised; risen, soon to ascend, to be “seated at the right hand of the Father” in heaven. Alleluias are rightly sung on this Easter day, and in this Easter season!

“So our attention is, in effect, directed away from here, on earth, towards the heavenly realm. Indeed, the Gospel for Easter Sunday this year appears to point us in that direction, as Jesus speaks to Mary Magdalene in the garden: “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’”(John 20:17).

“The same orientation is found in the story of the walk to Emmaus, where Jesus says to those walking on the road with him, “was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). “Going to glory”, of course, is a popular euphemism for dying—going to heaven; even in biblical usage, entering into glory is to be in the direct presence of God (Exod 40:35; 2 Chron 7:2; Isa 2:10, 19–21; 1 Cor 15:42–43; 2 Cor 3:7–18). And that is where Jesus goes.

“A popular (mis)understanding of Christianity is that it is about using this life as preparation for the life to come in the future. Faith, in this view, is about repentance now and obedience in all we do on this earth, so that when we die, our souls will rise to heaven, we will be commended as a “good and faithful servant”, and invited to “enter the kingdom of God”—or, in the common popular perception, step through the pearly gates into a heaven filled with angels, playing their harps and singing their songs of eternal praise and adoration.”

To read the rest of the reflection go to:

The resurrection calls us to pay attention to this life (Easter Sunday)



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Opinion: The Voice and Meditation on Conflict

In affliction I am presented with a choice: surrender to the hopelessness brought upon us or to reach for hope?()

Stan Grant says:

“This Holy Week I have sat with affliction.

I have pondered the great suffering and abandonment in our world.

I think of those who know war, famine, oppression; children torn from their families; those who die lonely deaths in dark places. Those who live under the yoke of injustice.


For a First Nations person and Christian there is no more chilling prayer than the prayer of the forsaken.

The French philosopher and Christian mystic, Simone Weil, called affliction “the chill of indifference”.

It is, she said, “the metallic chill that freezes all those it touches down to the depths of their soul”.

Affliction is the cold hand of fate. The afflicted know that cold touch. First Nations people, the poor, the sick. The LGBTIQA+ people recently attacked outside a church by others proclaiming the word of God.

Simone Weil said of affliction that it “is anonymous. It deprives the victims of their personality and turns them into things.”

The afflicted cry out: Where is God? How can a God who wills all, allow such horror?”

To read the full article go to:

As we debate the Voice, I can’t think of a more profound meditation than affliction – ABC News



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Event: Merthyr Road (Q) Explorers (PCNQ)


Our next gathering will build on the excellent discussion we had last month focused on the paper “How my thinking has changed” by Sir Lloyd Geering. This paper resonated with the life experiences of many, so we decided to make our April session one that looks at our individual experiences of changing our thinking. Participants are invited to prepare for this session by writing a few words about how their own mind has shifted over the years:

What were your basic religious values when you were very young, a youth and now?

What were the influences that caused you to have these thoughts?

Did you read a special book, speak or listen to someone influential, or just evolved your thinking over time?

When we move into small groups, this will give us some good discussion starters for some robust conversations.

Date: Wednesday 26th April

We meet at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.
10 am for morning tea (a few contributions to this will be welcome)
10:30 we begin our exploring of the topic.
A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated.

Enquiries: Paul Inglis – psinglis@westnet.com.au


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NEWS: ‘I swear by Almighty God’: research reveals juror bias

Thanks Tim for drawing our attention to this research within the legal world.

By 4 April 2023 for the Law Gazette (UK)

Defendants who do not ‘swear by Almighty God’ in court are more likely to be found guilty by jurors with strong religious beliefs, a study published today in The British Journal of Psychology suggests. The research has prompted Humanists UK, a group representing non-religious people, to call for an end to defendants swearing an oath in front of jurors.

The research was conducted by Professor Ryan McKay of Royal Holloway, Dr Will Gervais, of Brunel University, and Professor Colin Davis, of University of Bristol.

It consists of three studies. The first study explored whether court witnesses who choose to swear an oath are more religious than those who choose to affirm. Two in 10 who chose the oath did so because they believed it was the more credible choice.

Jury seats

Humanists UK has called for an end to defendants and jurors swearing an oath in court

The second study explored whether the type of legal declaration made by defendants in a trial can influence perceptions of their probable guilt. A hypothetical defendant who stood trial for the murder of his wife was perceived as slightly more likely to be guilty when described as choosing to affirm than when described as choosing to swear an oath.

The third study explored whether the type of legal declaration made by defendants in a trial can influence the trial outcome. Participants were sworn in as jurors in a mock trial and 28% chose to swear an oath. Mock jurors who swore an oath found those who affirmed guilty at a higher rate than those who swore an oath.

McKay, who led the study, said: ‘If taking the oath is seen as a sign of credibility, this could lead to discrimination against defendants who are not willing to swear by God. An earlier proposal to abolish the oath in England and Wales was defeated when opponents argued that the oath strengthens the value of witnesses’ evidence. This is ironic, as it seems to acknowledge that swearing an oath may give an advantage in court.’

Humanists UK suggests the oath should either be abolished, with only a secular affirmation allowed, or religious people swear an oath in private in front of court officials, away from the jury.

Richy Thompson, director of public affairs and policy at Humanists UK, said there was no reason why jurors should know a defendant’s religion or belief. ‘Given that prejudice based on religion or belief is still too common in the UK today, it would be best to reform the oath and affirmation system to one that doesn’t reveal this information to jurors,’ Thompson said.

Go to Juror Bias to see the discussion on this work.


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Reflection for Good Friday: This is My Body; It Is All I Have.

Thanks to Rev Glenn Loughrey for this thoughtful piece.


Exile – A Self Portrait of an Aboriginal Man – Glenn Loughrey 2017

When you have been completely dispossessed of all that has meaning you have no-thing left but your body. You have no voice, no language, no country, no hope – all has been taken from you by those who possess you and you are left with only what you have on – your body.

You wear your body as both a form of defence and of attack against those who continue to commit genocide through policies designed to embed our hopelessness and voicelessness. We are all people of place and context and once the connection to these has been severed without any hope of reconnection, a deep sense of powerlessness sets in. You are powerless to be who you are when you are taken from the place that defines your language, tradition, lore, and spirituality.

This is not just the experience of first-generation exiles but is handed on in the DNA of those who follow. Cross-generational trauma or powerlessness continues and is experienced both consciously and subconsciously by those who come later. Some know why they are the way they are; others are never sure. They just know the shame of being wrong, not grounded, not belonging, and don’t know where it comes from.

Your body carries the memory of a past home and desires to return. It carries the memory of the hurt and grief involved in losing such a precious possession and strives to be heard as you wish to be heard. Yet you have no voice, it has been stolen and given to another to speak on your behalf, to decide if you are worthy to be heard, and when and on what matters you will be heard.

You are in exile, not heard, not seen and invisible to the rest of society which only sees you as an issue to be resolved and not as a person to be respected, not as a person with a voice. What do you do with the trauma, all the grief and loss, all the anger and anxiety if there is no one who recognises you as a real human, not an object to be used to fund the Aboriginal industry – welfare, medical, prison, police and more? The statistics on prison numbers and children in out-of-home care remind us that our bodies fund an entire industry for non-Aboriginal institutions to profit from.

It is our bodies and our children’s bodies that society values, not because we are human but because they can be used to fund the ‘helpers’ it has been decided we need. It is our bodies that universities and private schools seek to black-clad their profit-making exercises when they can point to a black body now acting like a white body. It is our bodies’ people cheer when our young men and women, run fast, kick goals, score tries or achieve a feat that makes us proud.

These are the same bodies heckled loudly and without fear with racial abuse, or whitesplained to when you think they need white knowledge to put them straight, or question the colour of their skin, or how they got their degree or house, or challenge their lived experience with your considered opinion. And more.

For the complete article go to: This is my body: it is all I have 


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St Lucia Group news, book review, event, links.

St Lucia Spirituality Group
Newsletter March 2023

Our March meeting on Zoom was attended by 13 – even though several of our regular attendees were unable to be present. New faces and ideas are always welcome. We discussed matters raised by Kevin Treston in his discussion paper “Where to now for the Christian Story.” The discussion was thoughtful and wide ranging, including many perceptive insights. If we are to grow in our faith, we must be able to critically question some long held beliefs and determine through our own study and reflection what we believe to be true. That is a sound foundation for an adult faith, isn’t it?

Original Sin or Original Blessing?
The concept of original sin is well known and deeply engrained in our psyche. First proposed by Augustine in the fifth century, it has greatly influenced Church dogma including Atonement Theory, the idea that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Yet this presents a negative view of human development, that even before we were born our character was stained by something we did not do.

In the thirteenth century, an alternative proposition was debated by the Dominicans – who supported the concept of original sin – and the Franciscans who proposed another view based on Genesis 1 – the concept of original blessing. The Dominican view prevailed although the Franciscan view was accepted as a minority view, but rarely taught or publicised. For example, the doctrine contradicts the actual experience of parents who intuitively know that their newly
born children are not born with any inherited moral blight of sin, but inherit a propensity for choosing both good and evil as they mature.

At our April meeting we shall examine the consequences of this focus on sin. Is it any wonder that the pews are emptying? As Richard Rohr writes, “I believe this is the key reason why people do not so much react against the Christian story line, like they used to; instead, they simply refuse to take it seriously.”

We shall also consider the Franciscan arguments for the alternative concept of original blessing and, more importantly, what some consequences on our theology might be if this concept of blessing underpinned our faith.

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting
We shall consider a discussion paper tracing the history of the doctrine of original sin and its impacts along with the alternative concept of original blessing and its potential impacts.
This paper is available on our Facebook page or you can simply email us and we’ll send it to you. There is no obligation to join our meeting.

Our Episode 17 meeting will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 18 April 2023. Come early to meet the others there. Use this link to join the meeting. The zoom meeting will open at 5:45pm.

To register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.
If you are concerned about your ability to participate in these zoom meetings, we can accommodate you by simply allowing you to listen. Just let us know.

Book review: The New Spirituality – An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the 21st Century by Gordon Lynch. (2007)

John writes: “Since my retirement from paid work approximately 10 years ago, I have had time to indulge my interest in religion and spirituality. Through my reading, I have developed views that are critical of some aspects of my Roman Catholic Church and a relatively progressive worldview that is accepting of the value of other religious traditions. It is not surprising therefore that I found Gordon Lynch’s book extremely interesting.

Lynch, a Professor in the Sociology of Religion at Birkbeck, University of London, traces the emergence of a new generation of progressive religious thinkers and organisations since the 1950s. He suggests that the term “progressive” religion tends to denote at least one of two things. Firstly, it normally indicates a commitment to understanding and practicing religion in the light of modern knowledge and cultural norms. A second defining feature Is a sympathy with, and often engagement in, green and left of centre political concerns.

His analysis suggests that progressives are a small percentage of the population (between 1% and 3%) and are generally found in groups of less than 100 members or organisations of up to a few thousand. Despite collaboration between these groups and organisations, Lynch does not expect that a new cohesive religion will develop from their common values.”

Christians who hold that the Church is a divinely ordained entity existing parallel to the human condition will resist these progressive views. However, those who believe their faith calls them to actively experience and live life in abundance (John 10:10), will pursue their quest for truth cognisant of the interrelationship between the knowledge of modern science and their experience of religion.

On our Facebook page John has posted a three-page document, in which he has extracted the most salient paragraphs. This may help you to decide whether you wish to read the book.

Our Newsletters & Facebook Page
Do you know anyone who might like to receive these newsletters too? You can contact us by email slsg4067@gmail.com. We invite you to find our Facebook group by clicking on this link, it will take you to our page where you will be able to apply to join.
Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik


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Event: Redcliffe Q PCN Explorers- Greg Jenks “One Jesus, many afterlives”

Based on the forthcoming 3-volume book Afterlives: Jesus in the Global Perspective.

Rev Dr Greg Jenks.

Brisbane-based international Anglican scholar.

Monday 3rd April, 6-8pm.

The Ocean Room, Redcliffe Uniting Church, 1 Richens Street, Redcliffe. Parking on-site.

Coffee/tea and snacks at 6pm.

Dr Jenks is the Excecutive Director, Centre for Coins, Culture and Religious History, St John’s Cathedra, Brisbane; Coin Curator for the Bethsaida Excavations Project, Israel; and Fello of Westar Institute, Willamette University, Salem, Oregon.

All are welcome, and all points of view are respected.


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Book Review: The Bible for Grown-Ups

Thanks to Warren Rose (Dayboro Explorers) for drawing our attention to this book which backgrounded his seminar on the historical Jesus last Sunday.

Author: (the late) Simon Loveday

His last project was The Bible for Grown-Ups (2016), a study of the history, text and context of the Bible, and he received the wonderful news of its publication shortly after his diagnosis with cancer. He faced his illness with exceptional determination, speaking on Radio 4, at the book launch and at literary festivals up until the week in which he died.

He studied social anthropology at King’s College, Cambridge, French and German at University College London and English at Merton College, Oxford. He discovered the work of the Canadian scholar Northrop Frye, a key intellectual influence, and a book, The Romances of John Fowles (1985), grew out of my father’s studies.

After teaching in Salisbury, Wiltshire, at the University of East Anglia and at Oxford, Simon joined the University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations. He described the move as “a watershed”, providing a vision of how exams could be designed to promote good teaching, not the other way around.

He took this vision into the psychological sphere and joined Mosaic, a management consultancy company in Bristol, trained in Gestalt therapy and became a pioneering promoter of psychological profiling in business. Simon later joined K2 Management Development and trained as a family psychotherapist. Most recently he was involved in developing and delivering courses for the NHS at Keele University.

From the Prologue:

“The book is theologically neutral. It neither requires, nor rejects, belief. What it tries to do is to help intelligent adults to make sense of the Bible – a book that is too large to swallow whole, yet too important in our history and culture to spit out. How do we approach the Bible, not with the naivete of the child, but with the maturity of the adult? How can we read the Bible with our brains in gear? The purpose of this bool is to do just that…..

“There is a childish way of thinking about the Bible – but what is an adult way? What, in short, would be ‘the Bible for grown-ups?

“The intention of this book is not to break new ground, nor to be contentious. There is a huge amount of careful, thoughtful, and fascinating biblical research and scholarship from the past two centuries but all too often it does not get over the academic frontier. This book seeks to make that research more widely known, in terms that the general reader can understand.”

The book is divided into three parts –

The Old Testament – structure, authority, historical context, structure and purpose, as history (is it true?), as morality (is it right?), read scientifically, who wrote it, multiple messages.

The New Testament – the world of Jesus, structure and purpose, as history and morality, the historical context, who wrote it?, who did Jesus think he was?.

A Vision of Freedom – Is there a different way to read the Bible? A literary appreciation. The sum of the parts: reading the Bible as a unity.

This a great resource for average critical thinkers who enjoy the reduction of the complex to a much simpler discourse without losing credibilty. It would be useful in discussions about interpretation, contextualising, knowing the background to the characters especially Jesus.


Paul Inglis 28th March 2023.



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Event: Merthyr Road (Q) Explorers (PCNQ)

Friends of PCN

Everyone is invited to join in at Merthyr Explorers on Wednesday 29th March.

We will focus on the paper “How my thinking has changed” by Sir Lloyd Geering (celebrating his 105th birthday!) as found on the UC Forum site . You may find the posted comments of interest also.
Please print and bring a copy to the meeting. The session will start with a recording of a 15-minute interview with Sir Lloyd Geering.

We meet at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.
10 am for morning tea (a few contributions to this will be welcome)
10:30 we begin our exploring of the topic.
A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated.

Still exploring ….
Desley Garnett


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Resource: The Uluru Statement from the Heart

Thanks to the UCA Queensland Synod for supplying this link:

The Statement – Uluru Statement from the Heart intro video

Professor Megan Davis, member of the Referendum Council, reads out the Uluru Statement from the Heart for the first time in history on the floor of the First Nations Constitutional Convention:

The Statement – Uluru Statement from the Heart content  and scroll down to LISTEN.


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Resource: An Easter Reflection – from Rex Hunt

Thanks for this timely input to our posts Rex. For personal or public use at Easter.

© Rev Rex A E Hunt, MSc(Hons)

9 April 2023



(Background) Today is Easter Day.

Today we celebrate life over death.

This day we celebrate changed possibilities.

And give thanks for the Spirit of Life visible in Jesus,

visible in each one of us,

visible in people in all walks of life…

As we do celebrate, we also acknowledge that all we have

are the stories, shaped and reshaped and told orally,

by people of faith from generation to generation.

No logical, scientific proof of a ‘bodily’ resurrection.

No videotape of an empty tomb.

No seismograph of an Easter earthquake.

Just the stories.

That in the midst of brokenness, healing stirs.

That in the midst of darkness, a light shines.

That in the midst of death, life is breaking forth.

That when all seems gone, hope springs eternal.


Easter Day is traditionally regarded as the most important day

in the liturgical life of the church.

Christmas doesn’t hold a candle to Easter!

But mention the ‘R’ word—’resurrection’—and immediately those

familiar with this term will assume we are referring to Jesus’ resurrection.

This is because we only ever hear about resurrection in relation to Jesus.

Well, maybe I had better modify that claim.

There have been sitings of Elvis out Parkes way, each year,

and for several years now!

Stephen Patterson, a biblical scholar, and from whose writings I have often quoted,

picks up this general notion when he says:

“The resurrection is unequivocally Jesus’ resurrection for us. This is because most of                         us do not really believe in resurrection from the dead, except, of course, in the                                   case of Jesus. He is in a class by himself.” (Patterson 2004:104)

But then Patterson goes on to suggest that this way of thinking places us in a completely different mindset from those ancients.

“For ancients, resurrection is quite possible… The hard part would have been                                    believing that Jesus, a nobody, had been raised from the dead…” (Patterson 2004:106)

Now over the years much ink and blood, sweat, and tears, has been spilt

over ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ considered

to be meant by the term ‘resurrection’.

And that includes all the problematic stuff argued by a bloke we call Paul!

And the thousands of trees chopped down in the name of an empty tomb!

And whether or not the ‘resurrection’ was a ‘bodily’ event in the life of Jesus!

All this, while noting none of the gospel storytellers

provide an unambiguous, totally convincing account!

Now according to the laws of averages,

you have probably heard much, if not all, of this before.

From others.

And now from me.

Which makes crafting sermons on Easter morning difficult to preach,

because I always feel there may not be much that can be said on this day,

that hasn’t already been said before.

So at some personal risk let me offer some of my thoughts.

Maybe they will gel with some of yours.

Maybe they will conflict with yours. Challenge you to the core.

But they are mine, gleaned over time, as a result of serious study.

And in the company of a group of 21st century biblical scholars

whom I trust and respect.

Indeed, some I am proud to call friends!

I invite your careful listening.


Jesus died.

He was killed—murdered—because of what he said and for what he stood for.

Those close to him, we would claim, were both surprised and shattered.

Stricken with fear and grief, they were in no mood to be

looking for that ‘silver lining’

that supposedly comes with every cloud.

But some people did think about his death.

And all we have of that time and that thinking, are the stories,

shaped and reshaped and told orally by people of faith

from generation to generation.

Yet it is in those stories, I would also claim, they were saying something important,

not about his death,

but about his life.

True, his death mattered to them.

But only because his life mattered more…

Especially when they heard him say something,

or do something, that moved them, deeply.

So they began to speak of his death in ways that affirmed his life.

And they came to see he stood for something so important

he was willing to give his life for it. (Patterson)

That something was the vision of life called the realm or empire of God.

And they came to reaffirm their own commitment

to the values and vision stamped into his life

by his words and deeds.

They believed that “in his words were God’s words.” (Patterson 2004:127)

          And that his vision of a new empire,

cultivated by him among them long before he died,

no executioner or cross could kill.

Jesus was dead.

But he was not dead to them.

His spirit was still coursing through their veins. (Patterson)

Likewise, when we believe in this vision of a possible new empire,

we too can reaffirm our commitment

to the values and vision, and a ‘resurrection’ invitation,

to live life deeply and with zeal.

To be embraced by life, not scared of it.

In all its particularity.

Because life can not remain visionary!

It must be concretely practised.

It must be ‘a way of life’.

Because resurrection is not just a collection of stories

about a so-called once-only event in the past.

Resurrection can and does happen every day!





          Not in what happens after death, but what the knowledge of the

words and deeds and the way of the one we call Jesus,

does for our lives… before death.

Easter is all around us. We need Easter.

In the midst of a world and of humanity hanging on by a thread,

we need some Easter hope.

It isn’t hard to see, if we will see.

And in memory of a former colleague—who died way before his time, due to Covid—

let me share some of his Easter comments written nearly fifteen years ago…[1]


I see Easter in those who daily battle the bureaucracies

on behalf of our creeks and old-growth forests.

They sometimes succeed.


I see Easter in those who make music, art and dance

and who draw out the creativity in others.

I see Easter in those who take time to notice the beauty of nature

and who invite others to notice as well.

I see Easter in those who use their minds to unlock the secrets

of our amazing planet and vast universe.

I see Easter in those who struggle with illness

yet engage life in the moment, as it is.

I see Easter in those who grieve deeply the loss of a loved one,

and through grief witness to the gift of love

that is more powerful than the grave.

I see Easter in those who despite the daily grind of it all,

educate our children and open their minds and hearts.

I see Easter when spirits are re-energised, commitments renewed,

and when we can see just enough light to take another step.

I see Easter in children who love bunnies and eggs.

Yes, Easter is also about bunnies and chocolate eggs and Easter lollies—in moderation.





          And whatever it might mean to say today, ‘Jesus is alive in our midst’,

as traditionalists are won’t to aggressively claim,

“it must above all else mean that he somehow still offers us the vision of a new Empire, into which we are still invited in a real way… a real invitation into a way of life we can           see reflected in his own life. When the life of Jesus no longer matters to those who                                    would claim him as Lord and Savio[u]r, then the life that changed the lives of many                                  finally will have come to an end.” (Patterson 2007:80)


Patterson, S. J. “Killing Jesus in (ed) R. J. Miller. The Future of the Christian Tradition. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press, 2007.

Patterson, S. J. Beyond the Passion. Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press, 2004.

Shea, J. The Challenge of Jesus. Chicago. Thomas More Press, 1975.

(In memory if John Shuck… RIP mate.)

[1] John ‘Andy’ Shuck (1961 – 2021)


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Opinion: Just War Theory Part 1

Thanks to Paul Wildman for this link.

from Frontline Study with Fritz Foltz

Christians have two options when it comes to war. They can either be strict pacifists, or they can espouse a just war theory. The latter is not that easy. Certainly, one of the most difficult ethical issues is drawing up moral guidelines for fighting wars. At every step, you must prevent national self-interest from trumping all other considerations.

Still, most people feel there should be some kind of accountability for actions, even in warfare. That includes rules about entering a conflict, agreements on fair conduct during it, and responsibility after it ends…..

To read the whole article and explore other topics with Fritz go to:  Lesson 5: Just War Theory (Part 1) : Frontline Study


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Event: How does the Bible influence your life?


“How does the Bible influence your Life?”
Thank you John Shelby Spong!
Guest speaker: Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson

Stonnington Community Uniting Church
Cnr Burke Rd and Coppin Street Malvern East

Sunday 26th March 2023 commencing at 3.00pm
This meeting will be live streamed via Zoom for those unable to attend physically.

Meeting ID: 894 9835 9894 Passcode: 276516


Everyone Welcome

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Reflection: A Voice and the Sacredness of Nature

As a further response to the recent article from Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson, A (much) Wider View of a Voice to Parliament, we asked Dr Richard Smith to share some of his most recent sermon on Being Born Again.


Pondering a sermon on being Born Again from John 3:1-17. I concluded that this idea must have entered Aboriginal consciousness from nature itself, which is being continuously Born Again as part of the evolutionary process. In this process our trees are forever shedding leaves and bark to grow new ones and to produce flowers, nectar and seeds. This process over millions of years by storing Carbon as fossil fuels and increasing atmospheric O2 to 21% made it possible for us big brain mammals to emerge into this wonderful world. In this process nutrients from deep in the soil are continuously being brought to the surface enabling other shrubs and plants to prosper – transforming the barren coastal sand dunes of SW Australia over the last 7000 years into a cherished place to live.

I learn much by daily cycling through a small piece of Native Bushland between Karrakatta Cemetery and neighbouring housed. The dedicated neighbours and others have erected a notice board advertising their Mission of protecting the sacredness of nature to passers-by. A year ago the bushland during a day of 42?C temperatures was devastated by fire, leading to a former politician suggesting the time had come to cover the area with concrete, bitumen and houses. But the locals instead began a process of active restoration and 12 months later this small piece of Nature is being Born Again. Compared with most of our own Church signs, visitors passing by, might well conclude that we are all but dead unlike the carers of this Bushland who are very much alive in their care for Mother nature and advertising on their notice board, their mission, their next meeting date, a pray by a tree in a Portuguese forest, a Greek proverb and the 10 blessings we receive from trees, plus much other sundry information on endemic plant species birds and animals.

From this daily experience of nature I crafted the following sermon for Wembley Downs Uniting Church on John 3: 1-17.

Nicodemus a learned Pharisee came by night to see Jesus. He was struggling to experience the coming Kingdom of God under the oppression of the Roman Empire and their collaborators. This spiritual dimension of life and the need to be Born Again was eluding him.   The early Christian community, created John’s Gospel about 65 years after Jesus died, and put these words into his mouth as they were facing incredible pressures to abandon Jesus’ Way.

From time to time through history we face such seemingly insurmountable spiritual roadblocks. After the carnage of two world wars Aldous Huxley viewing the stressed state of the world in the mid-20th Century wrote to a friend: “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history, is the most important of all the lessons of history.” Yet each Sunday we read our scriptures seeking guidance for our own faith journey and that of our world. History is not about facts, but the interpretation of those facts. That is why we have inherited the 66 books of our Bible which we continue to struggle to interpret.

Melvyn Bragg in his The Book of Books; The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011, writes of the importance of our scriptures in helping us address the momentous changes over the last 400 years. He claims: “You may be a Christian. You may be anti-Christian or of another religion, or none. You may be an atheist fundamentalist and think the Bible monstrous, a book to be dismissed or derided. But whoever you are in the English-speaking world, I hope to persuade you to consider that the King James Bible has driven the making of that world over the last 400 years, often in the most unanticipated ways”.

I take as an example the lectionary OT reading last week of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which St Augustine interpreted as the Origin of Sin for which Women and other marginalised groups have subsequently been blamed, supressed and persecuted over the last 1,000 years.

These persecuted people particularly women but also others have used scripture to fight back, resulting in the story of the Garden of Eden being interpreted as a story of Original Blessing in which God warns Adam and Eve to not to strip all the fruit from the tree of life, but to leave enough for other forms of life and future generations.

Such reading from the book of Nature was foundational to the religion of Aboriginal people that sustained them in this land for over 50,000 years, while we after only 200 years of settlement are facing an ecological crisis. Therefor giving Aboriginal and Islander people a VOICE in our Constitution would provide a pathway for their belief in the sacredness of Nature to have a way into Government policy.

For us, the Church, and the whole of humanity this switch from a Doctrine of Original Sin to one of Original Blessing requires that we be Born Again into a  Creation Spirituality. A spirituality expounded by Matthew Fox, Thomas Berry, Teilhard de Chardin and Lloyd Geering among others.

Being Born Again poses an immense challenge for the rich and privileged, with our sense of entitlement – as it did in Jesus’ time. It is a challenge more easily accepted by the poor and dispossessed where the Church remains strong as a cohesive and guiding force. We experience this in our work with the Papuans of eastern Indonesia.

Like Nicodemus, for many these facts are hard to stomach and are actively resisted, but within them I believe lies the future of the Church and the world we serve – whose relevance depends on us being collectively Born Again.

Dr Richard Smith, Progressive Christianity Network, Western Australia.



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Reflection: On a life path – chasing fairness

We asked Michael Furtado to tell us about his own experience after his reply to the recent post from Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson. Here is his summary:


In my early career I was invited to apply for a tutorship at a minor college at Oxford. I had no idea why but my background as a clerical student may have appealed to someone on the panel, seeking amusement in an otherwise tedious selection process the result of which was probably pre-ordained.

Since the degree program I would be teaching was PPE (Politics, Philosophy & Economics) and my college Roman Catholic I was asked how I might approach the question of wealth creation and distribution. The Master of the College offered me a whiteboard on which to illustrate my response.

I drew an undulating line: up and down it meandered in the manner favoured by political economists to illustrate the upswings and downturns of the economic cycle and then, invoking Isaiah, I proposed: ‘Every Valley Shall be Exalted and All the Mountains & Hills Laid Low’.

I then naively proceeded to lop the tops off every mountain and fill the valleys with the ‘detritus’ of wealth that I had sliced from each summit. The result, needless to say, was an almost horizontal line.

Before I could finish, I was pounced upon by a don famous for his support for the ‘invisible hand of the market’ and who later became a prominent advisor to Margaret Thatcher. ‘Whose hand was this?’ I was sternly interrogated, followed by ‘The state?’, all of it orchestrated by a derisory snort asserting ‘Hardly invisible, I would think!’

It being a Catholic enclave I’d hoped to enter, I protested: ‘It’s the Hand of God and not necessarily that of the state’, to which his scathing riposte was ‘My kind of God would call that socialism.’

Still wet behind the ears and fresh from an upbringing in an impoverished former colony (India) it finally dawned that ‘caught I was, foully’.

Thus. in desperation I answered: ‘My kind of God encourages his people to rise and overthrow unfairness. There comes a time when things get so bad that people don’t wait for elections to do that. My kind of God is a Prophet who warns those who wait for the invisible hand of the market to work may sometimes be too late to see that happen.’

A hushed silence descended, the Master thanked me for my presentation and a scout (or servant) ushered me from the room. Thus was my career in tertiary education almost dashed by my lippy remark and I ended up becoming a teacher at several lower-grade Catholic schools and both second and third-rate universities.

It was just as well because my heroes were all, in a sense, failures and generally regarded as anti-heroes and sometimes villains by the People of God.

Among these were three particularly egregiously disagreeable characters, Amos, Hosea and Micah, most of whose imprecations and advice was offered to a recalcitrant lot, who invariably sneered at it.

Might it surprise then that we are that mob, that our God too is the God of Prophets and that God’s Son, Jesus, far from courting suffering in silence, is a Prophet?

Thus, the portrait of Jesus painted in Luke’s Gospel appears in stark contrast to other promises that Jesus would bring peace. However, if we read Luke in the context of the prophetic tradition — which Luke draws on throughout his gospel — we realize that Jesus is challenging his listeners just like the prophets of old did before him.

He denounces all manners of injustice and wrongdoing, calling for repentance and conversion. By calling his listeners to consciously and explicitly choose to walk in God’s ways and turn from injustice, he points out the human reality that the peace must be disturbed if others will not repent of their wrongdoing.

I remember my mother, a daily Mass-goer and very agreeable woman, once saying she had problems with Luke’s Gospel. Bored and in an attempt to change the discourse, I asked why. And Mum said: ‘Because I have no enemies.’ More out of devilment than irritation I provoked: ‘How can you love your enemies unless you have some?’ ‘You silly boy’, she chided and changed the topic ever so sweetly.

When prophets issue challenges, they always disturb the peace. The division is not created by the prophets or by Jesus, it is a natural outcome of listeners making different decisions about whether to follow Jesus or not. Accordingly, Jesus declares ‘Whoever is not with me is against me’ (Luke 11:23).

It follows, hence, that the Prophets have a Voice and that such a Voice is hardly intended to mollify but to arrest. Other prophets have throughout history used their prophetic voice to break into the smug dominant hypocrisies of the public narrative.

One of these was the French polemicist, Emile Zola. Zola it was who broke through the airy persiflage of French journalistic respectability to proclaim his famous ‘J’accuse’ in support of the unjustly punished and exiled Jewish military officer, Alfred Dreyfus.

Needless to say, Zola caused a sensation because he chose to challenge the dominant anti-semitic prejudices of the French establishment of the time. That he did so through the publication of a broadsheet is a huge compliment to his stamina, genius, courage and persistence.

Just imagine if you were to pick up a copy of the Courier-Mail or its more ‘perfumed’ broadsheet, the Australian and see a headline like that! It would certainly put you off your fourth stubby and the racing results at Flemington; now, wouldn’t it?

There have, of course, been other voices. Just think of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and other voices – of women and gender minorities – that have been crushed and stifled. And then try to imagine what an Australian Voice would sound like.

I think – unless you subscribe to the kind of voice that pours out of a vinegar cruet or blasts from a foghorn – that you already know the answer.

Dr Michael Furtado is a ‘back-pew’ parishioner at St Ignatius’ Toowong, Q.


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Opinion: A (much) Wider View of the Voice to Parliament

UCFORUM subscriber: Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson has written this article for the the UCFORUM. It is a case for looking at the First Peoples with a much wider camera lens than is usually the case.  She hopes it will make a positive contribution to the conversation around the Voice and the forthcoming referendum.


It is fair comment that history is written by the winners.  Until recently the authors of Australian history from Captain James Cook onward may well have been described as such.  Harvard philosopher George Santayana’s adage: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, bears repeating.  As this nation prepares to vote yes or no to the proposal to include the Indigenous Voice in the Constitution, Santayana’s axiom begs the question: are there lessons of history from which modern Australia is still failing to learn?  Where the original inhabitants of this continent are concerned, the problem may lie partially in the absence of historical records that could have been understood as such.  Before the arrival of Captain James Cook and his compatriots, apart from the odd European or Asian encounter with indigenous people, the continent of now-called Australia had not produced what in European minds could be called recorded history.  Ancient indigenous laws, art, song lines, dreaming stories, handed down traditions of daily life, could all be called a kind of history, as they speak of a mind-blowingly ancient civilization.  But who ruled it?  Where were records of the boundaries of tribes and indigenous nations?  What milestone developments had taken place in the lives of the people?   Eurocentric questions, one and all.

Non-indigenous modern Australians may think, so what?  The culture of the First Peoples is now known in sufficient detail to inform us of their lifestyle, including their deep relationship with the land.  Yet what has been regarded as ‘real’ Australian history taught in Australian schools, has until recently always begun with Cook and continued on through white explorers, federation and Australian involvement in overseas wars.  Attempts to include the First People’s story in the school curriculum are usually framed by lessons in culture, perhaps tribal and familial structures, some attention to traditional languages and, mainly for young children, spiritual resources such as ‘dreaming’ stories.  A didgeridoo player and indigenous dancers at public events, plus ‘acknowledgment of country’, are widely thought to be all-sufficient means of ‘paying respect’.  It is true that those developments are helping to bring Australia’s First People into sharper focus in the minds of contemporary Australians.  But surviving indigenous traditions differ from perceived ‘legitimate’ European history, where records of monarchs and their conflicts mark the shifting boundaries of tribes and nations.

The historical records of the colony that became Australia reveal that in the first encounters between First Peoples and white colonists, the prevailing European mindset could do no other than come to a comprehensively misguided perception.  For them, the lack of any sign of property ownership among the indigenous people meant the absence of civilisation as they knew it.  In their minds that left the way wide open to the complete (often deadly violent) appropriation of the whole continent.  As the indigenous people did not have ‘ownership’ of anything, particularly of tracts of land, it was believed to be legitimate to declare the land empty – terra nullius. 

 Or so they thought. There was no attempt to ask questions about the nature of the land itself and how the First People had regarded it in the absence of those Eurocentric property-based signs of civilisation.  The people were dismissed as primitive; apparently not worth the bother of investigating.  Only very recently have shameful massacres of indigenous people been included in Australian History.  Nowhere have the heroic efforts of indigenous warriors to defend their land in Australian wars been properly documented.  For those who survived the savagery of the colonists, the future was enforced deportation from their ancestral country into open-air prisons, otherwise known as reservations and missions.  That there still exist traditional customs, paintings and memories among Australia’s dispossessed people, brutally separated from the land that gave birth to those traditions, is nothing short of miraculous.  Yet those ancient traditions are now in danger of extinction, under the influence of racist-based alcohol-induced hopelessness in the current generations.  The disappearance of indigenous languages spoken under the southern skies for millennia is hardly disturbing the flow of modern Australian history.

Yet some understanding, or at least curiosity about the way of life the explorers and colonists found among the First People, must surely have begun with the first attempts to establish a European-style civilisation in the new land.  That process required absolutely everything apart from rocks, trees and water, to be brought across the sea.  Ship-loads of everything needed to set up farms and villages and towns had to be imported.  Ways of producing food for the settlements were invariably copied from the ‘mother’ country.  In the first instance, everyone knew that a farm has domestic farm animals – the cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens needed to establish and resource permanent dwellings and settlements.  No such creatures had been sighted by the earliest discoverers of the Great South Land.  Neither had they seen evidence of crops grown from grains such as wheat, oats, barley, rice, corn.  Nor were there potatoes, pumpkins, peas, beans, turnips, tomatoes, apples, plums, apricots, peaches, pears and so on.  All needed to be brought here.

Most importantly, how could the land be cleared for the introduced grazing animals and ploughed for crops, without the most important animal of all – the horse, or even a bullock or donkey?  Other continents had those, plus camels, elephants, llamas or alpacas.  There were no draught animals anywhere on the Great South Land.  Climbing aboard a kangaroo was out of the question, as was hitching a wagon to a dingo or a wombat.   Without draught animals, inventing the wheel was unnecessary; unthinkable, to say the least of it.  All of those foundation stones of European civilisation were highly conspicuous by their absence.  So they all arrived on ship after ship, along with dogs, cats, rabbits, foxes, deer, trees such as elm and oak and the flowers of an English garden.

Apart from the work of a few anthropologists, it is unclear that while busily recreating Europe Down Under, any intentional investigation of the ancient way of life on the land was seriously entertained by successive Australian governments.  Few people looked past the colonial perception of the First People as ‘primitive’, to ask how they lived without what the settlers regarded as essentials.  Did anyone wonder how those colonists themselves might have lived without the resources they brought with them?  If anyone did think to ask that, around them were people who could have answered such questions.

Recorded Australian history has a long way to go to reach a sense of completion in the 21st century.  That can happen only when the unique and enduring alternative civilisation that has lived and thrived on the Great Southern Land for tens of thousands of years is held up and celebrated for its own achievements.   Only then can an informed change in attitude truly overcome contemptuous inherited racist attitudes toward the First People.   When their unique relationship with the land, expressed in daily life on it and deep spiritual understanding of it, is recognised and respected, then Australia can begin to wake from its more than two-hundred-years-old sleep.

For at least 60,000 years this continent has never been terra nullius.  Beyond the understanding of the colonists, the first inhabitants of this land did have and still have, a comprehensive relationship with the plains, deserts, forests, mountains, lakes, rivers and coasts that provided them with all they needed to live and thrive as tribes and nations.  Their knowledge of the seasons of flowering and fruiting trees and plants, of the inland and ocean waters, plus the migration patterns of animals and birds, undergirded a lifestyle of moving on to where food was plentiful as the seasons went by.  For the most part a permanent dwelling was simply impracticable – out of the question.

Only lately have government departments begun to take real notice of the handed-down expertise of indigenous people in preventing big bushfires and conserving wildlife.  How much more can be learned about caring for this unique continent from those who have always known it best?  In this age of changing climate and its devastating effect on the land and its native animals and birds, the voice of the people of the land is sorely needed in the decisions of governments.  An indigenous ‘Voice’ to Federal Parliament, enshrined in Australia’s Constitution, would be one positive step in the direction of equality in living and life expectations.

Devoid of the burden of racist attitudes inherited from the Eurocentric impressions of colonists, a movement toward a wider view of history can open the way to respect and reconciliation.  The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an amazingly generous invitation from the First Peoples to all other Australians to join them on that journey to equality.  Australian history will be complete when the whole nation gathers yearly to celebrate the unique civilisation that has lasted for 60,000 years on this Great South Land.




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Event: Lloyd Geering has celebrated his 105 birthday.

The scholars and staff at the Westar Institute sent Lloyd this birthday greeting.

Happy 105th Birthday, Lloyd Geering on Vimeo

To mark the day we are posting one of his commentaries:

How my thinking has changed – by Sir Lloyd Geering

Sir Lloyd Geering

My religious thinking began when I was sent to Sunday School from the age of five. As a child I never went to church, for in those days the Sunday School was separate from the church services and met at 2 pm on the Sabbath. And when I returned to New Zealand from Australia at the age of twelve, I had no further connection with any Christian organization during my adolescence, since my parents had long ceased to attend church.

It was during my second year at university that a series of events occurred in such swift succession that they resulted a major change in my life. At the invitation of a student friend from school days, I began to attend the Presbyterian Church he went to, and I soon followed him even more enthusiastically into the activities of the Student Christian Movement.

In that year of 1937 my whole style of life changed completely. Within a matter of only three or four weeks I found myself going every Sunday to senior Bible class at 10 am, attending the 11 am morning service where I sang in the choir, teaching Sunday School in the afternoon, and later attending the evening service at 6:30 pm. My thinking was developing so rapidly that after attending a Mission to the University conducted by the SCM, I gradually came to feel, and by the end of that year convinced, that I was being called by God to enter the ministry. When I confided this to an older brother he said, “Don’t waste your life that way! – the churches will all be closed in thirty years’ time!” He made this comment despite the fact that most churches were then still full – the Church I joined had over 1000 members. These many decades later I realise his judgment was by no means wholly misleading, yet I have never felt I wasted my life. Indeed, my decision led me to a very rich one.

During my three years of theological training at Knox Theological College, I regarded myself as such a novice in the life of the church that I accepted rather uncritically all that I was taught. Fortunately, my teachers had all embraced the liberal theology and the modern understanding of the Bible that developed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  By using the new tools of historical and literary criticism, they showed us how to study the Bible as a collection of humanly composed historical documents. It was to this liberal approach that fundamentalism arose in reaction from about 1920 onwards.

I became a very enthusiastic student of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament. I also developed a strong interest in Church History, having had the good fortune to be taught by a young refugee from Nazi Germany, Helmut Rehbein. He showed us how Christian thinking has been an ever-evolving process, rather than a set of unchangeable doctrines.

On the other hand I found Systematic Theology quite dull and unexciting. Yet from our elderly Aberdonian professor, John Dickie, I learned one useful thing about the role of theology. He taught us that the task of theology is not to expound the unchangeable dogmas revealed by God, as it had been regarded before the time of Schleiermacher in the early nineteenth century. Dickie followed Schleiermacher, regarding theology as the intellectual exercise by which Christians ‘think through their religious experience and relate it to all other knowledge’. That is what I have tried to do ever since. I was among the last of John Dickie’s students, and thoroughly imbibed his liberal approach. Strangely enough, the theology taught at Knox College for the following twenty years reverted to the more traditional form of dogmatic theology. It was called Neo-orthodoxy and was initiated by the Swiss theologian, Karl Barth. But John Dickie warned us against him.

So that is how I came to be shaped by the liberal theology that was current in the early twentieth century. As a parish minister I never once preached that Christ’s death on the cross had achieved our salvation, for I regarded that sort of orthodoxy as quite outmoded. Rather, my sermons expounded Christianity as a way of life based on the moral teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.

It was not until I became a theological teacher in 1955 that my thinking began to develop further. As I read the books of such German theologians as Paul Tillich and Rudolf Bultmann I was led on from the liberal theology of my student days to the more radical approach found in Bishop John Robinson’s 1963 best-seller, Honest to God.

Bultmann showed me how the story of Jesus in the New Testament is clothed in the mythical thinking that was current in the ancient world, but which is no longer relevant today. To discover the truth of the New Testament Christian message for today’s non-mythical world, Bultmann said it must be ‘demythologised’, lifted out of its mythical setting and re-interpreted in a manner that enables it to speak to today’s secular world.

And that is why in 1966 I wrote an article that tried to explain to modern readers how to understand the resurrection of Jesus, for in today’s world the mythical stories of his resurrection and ascension into heaven can no longer be taken at face value.  And most of you know what an uproar that caused!

When I subsequently moved to the Chair of Religious Studies at Victoria University in 1971, I had to read even more widely, and eventually I became involved in the activities of the Jesus Seminar in California.

It is only natural, then, that in the course of this long and variegated spiritual pilgrimage my thinking changed quite significantly from what it was when I first embraced the Christian faith as a young and immature adult.  My subsequent books illustrate this in much more detail than it is possible for me to sketch here. Moreover, I discovered that the writing of books can change one’s mind just as much as reading the books of others.

Take for example, one of my recent books, From the Big Bang to God. Here I tried to make it clear that, far from an unseen God having made the universe, it was the process of evolution that eventually brought forth the human beings and human language. This in turn resulted in the creation of such concepts as God.

In writing this book I came to realize something that had not occurred to me before, even though it is immediately obvious when one thinks about it. The story of the evolution of the universe is a story we humans constructed, and one that could not be told until we had created a language in which to tell it. We seldom recognize how much our human life depends on language. This is why the ancients unthinkingly assumed that language had existed from the beginning of time. The Bible tells us that God created the world by the use of language: “God said, ‘Let there be light!’ and there was light!” Similarly, the Fourth Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word”. It is not too much to say that it is language has enables us to make sense of the world we find ourselves living in.

My discovery about the priority of language made me realize that we humans do live in two worlds. But they are not the material world and the spiritual worlds in which our forefathers assumed they lived; rather they are the physical world and the world of human thought.

We enter the physical world when we are born, but we do not enter the human thought world until, from about the age of about two, we learn to speak. The human thought-world we enter from two onwards becomes the lens through which we see and understand the physical world. This is why we cannot remember anything from before the age of three. This is why people of different cultures live in different thought-worlds and see the same physical world rather differently. And also this is why the religious quest for meaning and personal fulfillment has taken different forms in different cultures. As a consequence, no cultural tradition, such as Christianity, can claim to be the only true spiritual path and judge all others to be false.

This is a brief account of how my thinking has changed and continues to do so. Let me illustrate it, using three basic examples.

The first has to do with God. Even from the time I embraced the Christian faith, I had no clear idea of what the word God meant. For me, God referred to the mystery of life that could not be grasped by the human mind. But more recently I have come to realize that God does not name a reality in the cosmos at all. Rather it is a humanly created idea. It belongs to the human thought-world. It is a word by which we have tried to make sense of the physical world we live in.

This idea of God has a long history, which the remarkable scholar and former nun Karen Armstrong has written up as “The History of God”.  God is an idea that has played an extremely important role in our evolving culture. It supplied an ultimate point of reference. It was the idea of God as creator and unifier of the universe that led to the rise of modern science, when mediaeval theologians tried to discover what they called ‘the ways of God’ by conducting experiments. It was they who laid the foundations of today’s empirical science.

But we also associated with this idea of God the values of love, compassion, honesty, and truth, because we find these make such moral demands upon us that they clearly transcend us. And though the idea of God had its beginning in our mythological past, it remains a useful word to refer to our highest values. As the New Testament asserts, “God is love”.

The second area of change is how I understand Jesus of Nazareth. For me Jesus is not someone to be worshipped as the divine Son of God, for that sort of language belongs to the world of ancient mythology. What the work of the Jesus Seminar has shown me is that Jesus was not even a prophet after the Old Testament model. Rather he was a wise man, a sage, walking in the footsteps of Ecclesiastes before him. The Jesus seminar scholars have attempted to uncover what they call “the voice-prints and foot-prints” of this Jesus from before the creative imagination of his first-century followers transformed him into the divine Christ-figure. The chief of these was Paul, who had never met Jesus in the flesh. The original Jesus did not talk much about himself, and not even much about God. Rather he talked about the Kingdom of God, describing it in such parables as the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the Leaven. He used this term to describe his vision of how people should live with each other in loving relationships of reciprocal goodwill.

The third area of change in my thinking has been in the acceptance of our mortality. We humans are finite, earthly beings, like all other planetary creatures. We are given one life to live and can expect no future existence beyond the grave in some heavenly spiritual realm. This is why the average funeral service has changed so markedly during the twentieth century. In 1900 it was the ritual by which we celebrated the departure of the deceased from this world to a better life in the next world, but by 2000 the ritual had increasingly become the celebration of a life that has come to end. It has become a gathering of family and friends to recall with gratitude what the deceased person had achieved and meant to them.

Yes, my thinking has changed markedly since I first embraced the Christian faith as an immature youth. But at no time have I ever thought it necessary or even desirable to reject Christianity, as some atheists delight in doing. On the contrary I remain very grateful to the Christian tradition. From the prophets and apostles of old, and particularly from that remarkable but elusive figure of Jesus of Nazareth, I have learned how to live life to the full. I also believe that today’s secular and humanistic world owes its origin to the Christendom out of which it emerged. Further, I believe that if humankind is to flourish in the future, it must acknowledge its spiritual roots and continually learn from them. And that is what we are doing whenever we meet together as the church!

Lloyd Geering21st May 2017



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Event: Caloundra (Q) Explorers

The empowering influence of friendship

Dear Explorers

We will be discussing  Jesus and the empowering influence of friendship: Why gracious living is more important than right belief by John W H Smith in our next series of meetings.

We will be studying the book over 6 weeks on a Tuesday from 2.30–4 pm in the Weyer Room at the Caloundra Uniting Church.

4 April, 11 April, 18 April, 2 May, 9 May, 16 May

(Note that we are skipping Anzac Day 25 April.)

Closer to the time I will send you a study guide for the 6 sessions. Included is a scan of the front and back covers, and the contents. I have read the book and thoroughly recommend it. As in previous years, if you cannot attend the study sessions, you can read along at home. Henriette Guest’s Range Spirituality (Montville area) group will also be studying the book.

At our first Gathering on 28 May we will discuss and meditate upon an issue or theme developed in the book.

Ken Williamson



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News: Uniting for the Voice

Whilst individuals are encouraged to make their own decision after carefully reading and thinking about the forthcoming Referendum the Assembly of the UCA and The United Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress meeting last week took a strong position in favour of the YES vote.

The reasons are put clearly in the latest National Update

Go to: “Now is the time for Australians to unite”.



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Event: Redcliffe (Q) Explorers

Greetings fellow explorers

The Season of Lent has begun, and it’s time to slow down and listen to our hearts (metaphorically, of course!). Next Monday (6th March) the Explorers invite you to share an opportunity to ponder life as it is, and how it might become. The program will include video clips, music (recorded and sung) and readings from personally inspiring, helpful, challenging or insightful poems or texts, both sacred and secular, and from various cultural backgrounds. We’ll begin with music that will help us enter that meditative frame of mind.

If you have a brief contribution (5 or 6 minutes max.) you’d like to share, please let me know by Friday (phone 0401 513 723 or email (browniw5@optusnet.com.au) so that it can be incorporated into the program. A keyboard and pianist will be available to accompany songs, and recordings, video clips and texts can be displayed on-screen.

We will gather at 6 p.m. in our new venue – the Ocean Room, Redcliffe Uniting Church, cnr Richens St and Anzac Ave., Redcliffe. As usual tea, coffee and nibbles will be available on arrival.




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News: From the St Lucia Group (Q)


St Lucia Spirituality Group

Newsletter February 2023


February was a busy month for our group. Our zoom meeting dealt with the topic of “an Adult Faith”. A highlight of our discussion was the suggestion that we should give the greatest weight to eyewitnesses of Jesus’s life (namely the four evangelists) rather than present day scholars and authors. This prompted debate about the background of the evangelists’ stories, the unrecognised gospels of Thomas, Philip and Mary Magdalene, as well as the extent to which the original manuscripts were edited later by well-meaning writers to protect “orthodoxy” against “heresy”. We also touched upon the development of the Canon of the New Testament during the second and third centuries, founded in a worldview, formed by Plato and Aristotle, with its final adoption by the Council of Rome in 382CE.

Also in February, a number of additions were made to our Facebook page, including

  • A brief book review of “The Lost Art of Scripture – Rescuing the Sacred Texts” by Karen Armstrong and reference to the Charter of Compassion.
  • An article by Ilia Delia about “Why Tradition Matters”.
  • A reflection on Mindfulness in a Busy World.
  • Reports on the Catholic Church’s Synod on Synodality including addresses by Francis Sullivan and Patricia Gemmell.
  • An Anglican Church podcast on the tradition of Easter.

What’s on in March?

Where is the Christian story going? Our Christian story as we currently understand it has been developing over 2,000 years. The first phase encompassed flexible faith communities sharing their experiences of God in Jesus and the Spirit. The second phase, beginning in the fourth century saw the gradual development of a structured church, patriarchal and pyramid in authority. It was clerical, male and European centred. Vatican II marked the beginning of a third phase, in which we can contribute.

There are some who think that the bible should be believed on the basis of its literal translation, some who believe that centuries of old habits, practices and beliefs are inviolate, should never be changed. Yet there are others, conscious of new knowledge in quantum physics, psychology and other fields of study, who believe that this new knowledge should be incorporated in our understanding of theology today, that just as God is dynamic, revealing itself through continuing evolution, that our belief system should also expand. A new understanding that originates about 13.7 billion years ago, encompasses all of creation and not simply humankind over the last 2,000 years.

This can potentially lead to a life affirming theology and even a paradigm shift in our worldview, a new and deeper understanding of the emerging Christianity story.

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting

At our March meeting we are fortunate to be able to consider a paper “What now for the Christian Story” prepared for us by Kevin Treston. Kevin has sixty years’ experience in ministry, particularly in adult faith formation. He has a PhD awarded by the University of Notre Dame and has pursued post-doctoral studies in Washington, Chicago and Boston and is the author of several books. He now lives in Brisbane with his wife Kathryn and we are delighted that he will join us to discuss his paper.

Kevin’s paper is available on our Facebook page or you can simply email us and we’ll send it to you. There is no obligation to join our meeting.

Our Episode 16 meeting will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 21 March 2023. Come early to meet the others there. Use this link to join the meeting. The zoom meeting will open at 5:45pm.

To register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.
If you are concerned about your ability to participate in these zoom meetings, we can accommodate you by simply allowing you to listen. Just let us know.

Our Newsletters & Facebook Page

Do you know anyone who might like to receive these newsletters too? You can contact us by email slsg4067@gmail.com.

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

Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik


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Opinion: Getting Youth Justice into perspective

Response to the call for submissions to the

Strengthening Community Safety Bill 2023 (Q)

from Peak Care (in summary)

Given the overlap of children and young people at risk of entry to, or in the youth justice system, with those engaged with the child protection system, PeakCare has a strong interest in youth justice reform including appropriate, proportionate, effective, timely, and holistic responses and interventions for children, young people and their families which also keep communities safe. With a longstanding history in advocating for better understanding and management of the complex intersection between the child protection and youth justice systems, PeakCare’s motivation in lodging this submission reflects the following:
• the need to address both the welfare and justice needs of children and young people who have been or who are in contact with the child protection system and the youth justice system,
particularly those who are subject to dual (interim or finalised) orders
• ensuring local access to prevention and early intervention services, responses and programs
for children, young people and families to ‘nip problems in the bud’ or ‘turn their lives around’
– the right service at the right time from the right provider for the right amount of time
• children and young people’s rights and entitlements (and that of their families) to understand
and participate in administrative and judicial decision-making
• congruence in legislative frameworks and the administration of youth justice, child protection,
and intersecting service systems (e.g., education and training, youth development, family
support, housing and homelessness, legal services and legal aid, health, alcohol and substances
misuse) directly or indirectly delivered across Queensland Government departments and their
• the impacts and opportunities presented by adopting specialist and other reforms to court
processes and policing practices across Queensland
• developing specific strategies to address the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the youth justice system, and
• the importance of underpinning policy directions and reforms with research evidence,
undertaking appropriate evaluation and acting on evaluation findings in a progressive and
transparent manner.

Consistent with these areas of interest, PeakCare wishes to express its disappointment with the Bill which we suggest will detract from the Government’s progressive work undertaken in the past to improve the youth justice system within Queensland. We consider that provisions contained within the Bill prioritise the offender status of children and young people and do not appropriately consider the fact that the children and young people who offend are first and foremost still children – children who are still developing physically, psychologically, socially, and emotionally and already have a relative powerlessness and lack of voice in our society. We consider, in alignment to the findings of the report into the evidence-base for the Child First Justice Initiative in the United Kingdom, the prioritisation of a child or young person’s offender status in youth justice responses can lead to further criminalisation within and by the youth justice system, increased marginalisation by society, and further disengagement by the child or young person.

PeakCare strongly supports appropriate diversionary interventions and addressing the causes of offending by children and young people to take priority over punitive and inappropriate punishments, and ensuring offending is considered only one part of a much more complex identity for these children and young people.

PeakCare appreciates that the Bill has, at least in part, arisen in response to the tragic deaths of a number of Queensland citizens. Their deaths, along with the death of Jennifer Board in Townsville, the innocent victim of alleged vigilantism, prompted immeasurable grief and an outpouring of public concern about youth crime widely reported on by the media. PeakCare also appreciates that the Government has attempted to confine and target the policy objectives of the Bill towards the small cohort of recidivist youth offenders who engage in persistent and serious offending. Little commentary is included within the Explanatory Notes about how these particular policy objectives fit within or are intended to support the Government’s overarching approach to youth crime.

Nevertheless, PeakCare’s concerns are that:
• some children and young people additional to those who constitute the targeted cohort will
inevitably become ‘swept up’ in the heightened responses, thereby reducing benefits of other
elements of the Government’s youth justice strategy in diverting these children and young
people from continuing on a trajectory into the adult criminal justice system, and
• assumptions have been made about the value of a number of the proposed provisions in
deterring children and young people from committing further offences that are not sufficiently
supported by research or an evidence-base.

Lindsay Wegener
Executive Director
PeakCare Queensland Incorporated

The full submission is available from (Rev Dr) Wayne Sanderson.


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Event: Which Christian way do you choose?


Available as an online Zoom session or by attendance.

“Which Christian way do you choose?”

You are invited to explore how the Christianity we choose
influences how we live.
Thank you Marcus Borg!

Guest speaker: Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson


Stonnington Community Uniting Church
Cnr Burke Rd and Coppin Street Malvern East, VIC.


Sunday 26th February 2023 commencing at 3.00pm (AEDST)
This meeting will be live streamed via Zoom for those unable to attend physically.

Meeting ID: 831 2837 1323 Passcode: 568249


Everyone Welcome


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Opinion: Jesus the Cornerstone


Thanks to Tim O’Dwyer for drawing us to this article from Project Plenty in the Queensland Synod of the UCA:

By Rev. Orrell Battersby, Gympie Regional Uniting Church.

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.

They are foundational words, words to build a life on.

If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock.

Rain poured down, the river flooded, and a tornado hit — but nothing moved that house.

It was fixed to the rock.”   (Matthew 7.24-25. MSG)

Has Church Become More Ceremonial Than Functional?

A vivid illustration of the ‘ceremony out-doing function’ occurred during an event that called for Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth to slice a relatively small cake with a rather large ceremonial sword.

As she was handed the sword, typically wielded to award knighthood, it became clear that manoeuvring the enormous blade would be far from a piece of cake’ (sorry).

For the complete article go to: Has Church Become More Ceremonial Than Functional? – JourneyOnline


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Opinion: The moral importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart

Thank you to Rev Dr Wayne Sanderson for drawing our attention to the following:

This is an edited version of Rowan Williams’s (former Archbishop of Canterbury) contribution to the collection Statements from the Soul: The Moral Case for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, edited by Shireen Morris and Damien Freeman, and published by La Trobe University Press.

The issues discussed in Statements from the Soul are not just about political rights. Properly understood, they are about some fundamental principles to do with how human beings think about and feel about their environment. Colonialism takes it for granted that land and all that goes with it — wildlife, natural resources — is a bundle of objects that can be owned. If no one is claiming to own it, or if someone else judges that a current owner is managing it inadequately, it can legitimately be appropriated.

Hence the terra nullius argument was regularly deployed in the early days of imperial expansion and was heard well into the twentieth century: there may be inhabitants around, but they obviously have no interest in the land as an asset and so cannot be said to count as proprietors. And once again, in the early days of modern colonialism, you can find a significant moral philosopher like John Locke arguing for appropriation on the grounds that, even if there are long-established populations in evidence, these existing inhabitants are not competent to be stewards of their own environment.

For the rest of this article go to: Religion and Ethics


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Recorded Event: The Voice with Everald Compton

You asked for it. Here it is. The unedited video of Friday’s Seminar with our respected friend Everald Compton giving a balanced overview of the Referendum on the Voice to Parliament while declaring his own decision to vote YES.

There is a 25 second lead on the clip.

Presented by the Progressive Christian Network Queensland and the Merthyr Road Explorers at the Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm, Brisbane on Friday 17th February 2023.

You may share this link with anyone. Your feedback and personal reflections are welcome. Use the Reply link on this post.

Facilitator: Dr Paul Inglis, Moderator UCFORUM and Chair PCNQ.





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Opinion: Compassion and the Voice

From our respected indigenous friend and subscriber: Glenn Loughrey

Glenn has worked with young people and their families for over 30 years in various fields. He’s currently a Vicar at St Oswald’s Anglican Church, Glen Iris in Melbourne, Australia.

He’s greatly interested in the work of Thomas Merton and his impact on the 20th century. He is an indigenous man with a particular interest in indigenous issues and spirituality.

Also he is an artist — Learn more at glennloughrey.com


Matthew 5:21-37

In our continued reading of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, we are confronted with a Jesus who crosses the line. In last week’s reading, Jesus says that he didn’t come to dismiss the law but to fulfill it. In today’s reading, he shows us what that looks like and it is not easy or comfortable.

D Mark Davis suggests that: “Jesus is quite willing ….- to take the Scriptures and recast them for a new moment. Neither Jesus or Matthew can be accused of being biblical fundamentalists when one reads the text.”

Constantly throughout this reading, Jesus says ‘You have heard that it was said‘ and follows with “But I say to you” before moving the pressure gauge up a notch or four! These are not simple acts of just doing what has been the accepted practice, this is about stepping out of our comfort zone, out of our zone of possessiveness (me and mine) into a place where simply living is costly and sacrificial. It is no longer about a sense of I belong to society because I follow the rules of the club. I am asked to make my way into a space where there are no rules except love, the custodial ethic embracing others as us and ensuring they receive more out of life, even if that means we give up our privilege.

He shifts the ethic of the law to the ethic of compassion. Jesse Middendorf writes: “It is easier to live by lists and laws than it is to live in authentic, dynamic redemptive relationship with people. Laws can be static and arbitrary. Jesus reached into the Law to reveal its objective: the valuing and the protection of others.”

Valuing and the protection of others is not a paternalistic act. We cannot do it to or for others. We can only do so if we live in “an authentic, redemptive relationship with people”, even people who have always been defined by race as the outsider, the indicator of our difference. We are defined by not who we are like but by who we are different to. That is the purpose of the myth of race. To set us apart from those who are not us and cannot be us.

Exile, self portrait of an indigenous man – Glenn Loughrey

Noel Pearson in his recent lecture series made the controversial comment that “Australians do not like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.” People reacted and said I do. I like Aboriginal people, I listen to Gurrumul, buy Aboriginal art, and read Thomas Mayo and Stan Grant……… On a personal and superficial level, this may be so.

But the truth is Australia is Australia because it is not Aboriginal. This dynamic of difference defines this nation, a nation built on racism and exclusion right from its beginnings. The White Australia Policy was a bipartisan policy aimed at the external – those coming from somewhere else. Its lifting changed nothing for Aboriginal people because were not included as immigrants or citizens in Australian society or politics.

Australia is Australia because it was taken from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and there has been no attempt to return it. Land rights have been so decimated by various governments that it has no power or benefits for Aboriginal people. This is an example of what happens when something is left solely to legislation and why the Voice enshrined in the constitution is important.

One could argue that the Statement from the Heart is the Sermon on the Mount set in the desert.

Like Jesus, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not fundamentalists in terms of interpreting tradition and the laws in which they live. This statement shifts the focus from them to those who came later. It reminds those responsible for the dispossession and genocide of what happened and then offers an invitation to participate in a compassionate spiritual solution. This solution offers Australia the opportunity to share sovereignty with those who have been sovereign for 65,000 years, from the dreaming and to do so in such a way it will remain for another 65,000 years or to the end of time – in the constitution.

Here is compassion in action, love that expands to include those who were and are responsible for the loss of our culture, spirituality, lore, language, and traditions and offers them the opportunity for redemption. Stan Grant is right, the word missing in this discussion is compassion. He asks for Australia to be compassionate and vote to include us in the benefits of being Australian. And that is appropriate.

Not wanting to argue with a fellow Wiradjuri man, I would suggest he is looking at this from possibly the wrong perspective. It is allowing white Australia the power to define us with a stroke of the pen. Compassion has already been extended. It is there in the invitation from our people to your people. It is not about you doing a good thing for us but recognizing despite all that has happened to us since 1788 we still have the compassion to reach out our hand and say journey with us.

Yes, part of the journey is to allow us to share sovereignty with you, in fact, to legitimize the sovereignty imposed in the constitution by including the sovereignty that remains and will always remain. This is compassion. We do not want to take from you what you have, we only seek to enhance it by including us and what defines us, our relationship with this country, in the constitution allowing us to provide wisdom and insight on matters pertaining to us based on a millennium of experience.

It is not up to white politicians, media commentators, newspaper editors, or society to make the decision or to have compassion, although that would be nice. We have already decided to share sovereignty with you and to invite you into a compassionate spiritual process that will incarnate a new kin-dom in Australia. There is no hidden detail or catches. It is what it is. All you must do is accept this invitation by saying yes, I’m in.

  • Perhaps one of the reasons people find it difficult is that it is simple, one question, one question only.
  • Perhaps another is the scepticism that is rife in our society when someone offers us something we desperately need but fear it’s not real.
  • Perhaps another is that people find it difficult to understand how people who have been so badly treated can remain so generous and compassionate that they invite us to let them bring redemption to our society.

Alan Brehm suggests: “We find freedom when we commit ourselves to do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. We find freedom when we live our lives in harmony with God’s justice and peace and mercy. We find freedom when we embrace a way of living that is defined by love.”

We find belonging when we accept the absurd compassion of those who have no right to extend it. This is the core principle of the Christian gospel. It is the absurdity f the Statement From The Heart.

The Voice is just the beginning.


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Event: The Referendum

Reminder: Merthyr Road (Q) Explorers this Friday.17th February from 10am. Keynote speaker – Everald Compton. Open Discussion. RSVP to desley.garnett@gmail.com

Our guest focusing speaker is Everald Compton:

Distinguished Australian with many passions developed in a lifetime of community and social engagement . He is an author including a book related to the establishment of our constitution, chair of the Longevity Forum, participant in the roll-out of Australia’s Blueprint for Ageing and the implementation of Voluntary Assisted Dying, and a government lobbyist successfully capturing the interest of most politicians. He has academic association with the University of Queensland as an adjunct  professor and also an honorary senior fellow of the Sunshine Coast University. It takes my breath away!


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Opinion: How the New Testament Came to us – II

The Technology

Technology and the bible

In my previous commentary, we thought about how the books we have in our Bible were selected.  We looked especially at the New Testament selection, the ‘canon’ as it is called by scholars.   This time we will look at the technology that brought us and still brings us the Bible.

We will take a very broad view of technology, starting with writing itself and ending with the ‘digital revolution’.  A few questions to ponder:  How did technology affect the bringing or ‘transmission’ of the Bible down through the ages and across the world?  How does it affect what we think about it?  Does it actually change the Bible itself?  Again, our focus will be mainly the New Testament (NT).[1]


In the last two centuries archaeologists have unearthed much ancient writing. From Mesopotamia come thousands of clay tablets with a cuneiform script (made with a wedge-shaped stylus).  While most remain unpublished, great poems, loosely paralleling Biblical accounts, have emerged, such as the Creation and Flood stories, and the epic of Gilgamesh in his search of immortality[2].  The Egyptians developed hieroglyphs, a form of pictorial writing, with abundant examples painted on the walls of royal tombs and written on papyri.  Clay tablets found in Crete and southern Greece from the second millennium BCE were brilliantly deciphered in 1952 as primitive Greek in syllabic characters (Linear B)[3], predating alphabetic writing by several hundred years.

The Phoenicians developed an alphabet about the beginning of the first millennium BCE[4], that became with many variations the basis of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin alphabets and by derivation most of today’s Middle Eastern and European alphabets, including English.  An outstanding example of an early alphabetic script in Hebrew was found on the wall of the water tunnel King Hezekiah had cut under ancient Jerusalem in anticipation of an Assyrian siege in 701 BCE[5].  It described the amazing engineering experience of the workmen as they met underground tunnelling from opposite ends.

Writing in ancient and medieval times was mostly the preserve of a specialised caste of scribes and priests, who alone could read and write, along with the ruling class and their skilled staff.  Through most of history until printing, the great majority of people were illiterate, a fact we too casually overlook.  But their memories were better trained than ours[6].  They had to be, there was no mobile phone or internet to fall back on!

Writing materials

So what did they write on?  Carving on stone and using baked clay tablets is great for longevity of preservation, but not very practical for personal use.  Papyrus (from the Nile valley reed, 2 John v12) and vellum or parchment (dried and treated animal skin, 2 Timothy 413) were the main media for ancient books in the West[7], until the technology of paper making spread from China in the 13th century CE.  Personal notes were made on wax, wooden or soft-metal tablets or on ostraca (pieces of broken pottery or sherds)[8].  The letters were formed by carving, scratching or impression or with quill and ink.  A little reflection shows how limiting and expensive this technology was for the accurate spread of written materials (scriptures), let alone for personal ownership.

Book production

Written sheets were produced by an individual scribe copying from another manuscript or by a group of scribes writing in response to a reader following a ‘master’ text.  Book factories, or scriptoria, were not commonly used by the early Church[9]. Scribes wrote, not at desks, but sitting with the writing material on their legs – the reason the typical width of a manuscript column is 8 to 10 cm.  The posture would have been uncomfortable, indoor lighting poor, spectacles and hearing aids unknown and the hours long.  Although the general diligence of scribes is acknowledged[10], the opportunities for variations and errors to enter texts transmitted in this way were manifold.

In the 1st century CE, finished sheets were traditionally glued together to form a scroll or book (biblion, Rev 51) about 10 m long.  But Christians had moved early (by 200CE) to adopt the new technology of the codex book with leaves sewn on one side[11].  This no doubt facilitated looking up passages of scripture, an incredibly difficult task using a set of long, rolled scrolls.  But the expense was great; 50 to 60 sheep or goat skins would have been needed for a bound parchment manuscript of the whole Bible, like the famous Codex Sinaiticus, before allowing for the enormous scribal labour of copying, checking and illuminating the text[12].  The small fortune required would have been beyond the reach of an average Christian household, for whom memory of Scripture would have continued to be the default method of reference.

Until the 9th century, Christian manuscripts were written in capital letters, UNCIALS. The words were not separated and punctuation was minimal.  Private as well as public reading was therefore commonly done aloud to aid in the identification of the individual words.  Philip heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading Isaiah (Acts 827-30) and 300 years later Augustine showed his surprise on  finding Bishop Ambrose of Milan reading silently in private, when he visited him (Confessions 4.3).

The text of the Lord’s Prayer (Mt 69-11a) as it appears in the Codex Sinaiticus manuscript (4th century CE) is shown opposite, with the word divisions imposed on the original in red.

In the 9th century CURSIVE manuscripts, written in lower case “running” writing began to appear.  They allowed faster production. But by then so many variations had entered the uncial template manuscripts, that the plethora of these subsequent cursives (5-6,000) contribute little to the task of establishing the original text, the role of textual criticism, which we will consider below.


What were the implications of this technology of the Christian Bible in the first millennium and a half of its existence till the advent of printing?  (In the final part of this series we will consider the issue of translation into other languages, including Latin, using both the same and newer technology.)

  • Bibles became precious, because Christians believed they contained God’s words, because they were individually crafted and because they were expensive beyond ordinary Christians’ means. Consequently, they were mostly known by memory.  And there would have been much variation in the details of wording because of the heavy reliance on memory and the means of transmission.  Any idea of ‘inspiration’ precisely at the verbal level would have been problematic.
  • Christians were early adopters of new technology, notably the codex book, which has been a major contributor to the advancement of Western civilisation generally. Because the codex book allows non-linear access to a text, in contrast to a scroll or a long inscription carved on a wall, scholarship was unshackled.  An early example was the development in the 3rd century of the Eusebian canons or tables, which compared materials in the four canonical gospels.  They are still used in today’s printed Greek texts.
  • There was enormous ‘fluidity’ in the text arising not only from the technology of transmission, but also because of editing by its religious custodians.

This was not the Bible as we have known it in our lifetimes!

Mass production

The advent in the West of Johannes Gutenberg’s moveable-type printing press in 1439 and the publication of the printed Gutenberg Bible (in Latin) in 1455 heralded a momentous technological advance for civilisation.  One uniform publication could now be distributed in vast numbers at relatively low cost.  Copyist errors became a thing of the past, unless they were accidentally (or deliberately) incorporated into the printed text, as with the Wicked Bible of 1631, which omitted the negative from the seventh commandment.

From this time pressure began to grow for Bibles to be authorised by both church and civil authorities, examples being the King James Bible (KJV) of 1611 in English and the Luther Bible in German.  The Latin Vulgate had long been the underlying standard for Roman Catholics.  The tide seems to have turned from increasing ‘fluidity’ towards ‘standardisation’.

The other major consequence was the rapid rise of literacy among the populace.  William Tyndale’s wish to put an English Bible in the hands of every ploughboy, echoes the spirit of the times.  The use of the Bible among lay people was beginning to move towards the 19th and 20th century experience of every household having and reading a Bible.

Establishing the new testament text

Printing also enhanced the application of scholarship to the Biblical texts in the original languages. Translations of the New Testament into English, German and other European languages were made from a printed Greek text which had been primarily established by Desiderius Erasmus, an esteemed Renaissance scholar.  It was published in 1633 as the ‘Received Text´, or Textus Receptus, by the Elzevir publishing house in the Netherlands, with the division into verses, as we now have it, done for the first time by Robert Estienne (Stephanus)[13].  It was effectively the text on which the KJV translation relies.

As impressive as was Erasmus’ scholarship, his text relied on only a handful of ancient manuscripts.  Textual criticism since the Enlightenment has been prodigious, especially in recent years.  The ‘Received Text’ contrasts with the latest, scholarly ‘received edition’ of the Greek New Testament (Nestle 28)[14], in which over 120 papyri and 280 uncial manuscripts are cited in evidence for the resultant text, most of them many hundreds of years earlier than the manuscripts used by Erasmus.

In its 28 editions across 115 years and building on the inputs of many great researchers[15], the reconstructed Nestle text of the original Greek New Testament represents layer upon layer of research and refinement, leading to the most reliable reconstruction of the originals of any collection of ancient literature in existence.  Be clear, however, that we do not possess any of the actual original documents, from the hands of their authors!.  The earliest piece discovered to date is a tiny fragment of papyrus copied from John 18, dated about 125 CE, perhaps 30 years after John was written[16].

What does it mean?

The nature of the New Testament documents as Christians have received them, moved over 1400 years towards increasing fluidity as thousands of variations entered the text, partly because of deficiencies of the manual technology and partly as the currents of interpretation influenced their transmission.  Since printing, that trend has been reversed, towards ever greater certainty in the reconstruction of the original text.

Another trend has been the huge increase in literacy and the ready availability of written material, including the Bible, in both paper and electronic forms across the world.  Now ploughboys/girls in tropical rice paddies can read the New Testament on their mobile phones.

Technology has also seen an explosion of biblical scholarship.  More research is now being done on the Bible than in all of previous scholarly history, be it in archaeology, history, culture, linguistics or interpretation.  Modern software[17] allows instant access to the analysis of grammar, syntax and interpretation for any passage of the New Testament in the original or translated languages.  Contrast this to the handful of literate first Christians who laboriously unrolled a scroll as they read it out aloud to themselves and their illiterate friends, wrestling all the while in their memories to relate it to some other passages of ‘scripture’.

Are these really the same New Testament documents as we receive them?  Yes, there were disputes back then (2 Peter 315-16), but over the same minutiae of interpretation which entangle us?

And ironically, as we shall see in the next part of this series on translation, with multiple versions of any passage instantly available to us through digital media, it is now possible to effectively ‘tailor’ or ‘cherry pick’ the translation of a passage to suit our individual tastes.  The slow cycle we have seen in the New Testament as we receive it, from fluidity to certainty, may now be swinging back again to greater fluidity.  In all of this, where is the Spirit of Truth, who Jesus promised would guide us into all truth (John 1613)?

John Court

[1] An excellent summary of the technology behind the Bible was presented by Prof Pamela Eisenbaum (Iliff School of Theology, Denver, Colorado) in her keynote address to the 4th Common Dreams Conference, Brisbane, September 2016, “The End of the Word as we know it?  The Future of Scripture Past”,


[2] Pritchard JB (ed.) 2011 The Ancient Near East:  an anthology of texts & pictures (Princeton Univ. Press), Ch 2.

[3] Robinson A 2002 The Man Who Deciphered Linear B:  the story of Michael Ventris (Thames & Hudson).

[4] The Gezer Calendar on a limestone tablet is an early example, Prichard p287 & Fig 65.

[5] Pritchard p290 & Fig73.  The date is disputed by some.  The photo above was taken in the tunnel by the author in June 2015 – standing in running water!  It is of a replica of the inscription which is now in the Museum of the Ancient Orient, Istanbul.  References: 2 Kings 2020; 2 Chronicles 323-4,30; Isaiah 2211.

[6] Botha PJJ 2012 Orality and Literacy in Early Christianity (Cascade Books), Introduction and Ch 5.

[7] Aland K and Aland B (trans. Rhodes EF) 1989 The Text of the New Testament; an Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism, 2nd ed. (Eerdmans), pp75-77.

[8] Lightfoot, NR 2003 How We Got the Bible, 3rd ed.(Baker), Ch1.

[9] Aland & Aland, p70.

[10] Lightfoot, pp30-31.

[11] Aland & Aland, pp75 & 102;  this was a human technological advance as important as the wheel!

[12] Lightfoot, p51 and Aland & Aland, p77.

[13] Aland & Aland, pp 3-6;  Lightfoot, pp 106-108.

[14] Aland K & B, Karavidopoulos J, Martini CM and Metzger BM (edd.) 2013 Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece 28th ed. (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft).

[15] K Lachmann, C von Tischendorf, BF Westcott & JA Hort, SP Tregelles, HF von Soden and E Nestle, to name but a few of the prominent forerunners in the discipline.

[16] Aland & Aland, p 85;  Lightfoot, pp 122f.

[17] Logos Bible Software, Bibleworks, etc.


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Reflection: Powerless in the midst of horror

My real name should be Sisyphus. I’m the one who must try to lift this rock to top of the hill, but just when I am almost there the rock slips down to the bottom again, so I must start over, and over, and over. Dear reader, I am devastated inside myself. All that ‘intelligent’ stuff in response to the perennial challenge What’s it all about? – words, words, words. Each word is a rock, and I am doomed to pile one on another, to pile word upon word, to make sense of the terrible thing that has just happened in Turkey and Syria, and is still going on. I just can’t do it. I am Sisyphus.

What do I mean? Maybe I should advise you to stop reading right here, if you haven’t done so already. I have been in 2019 bathed in a pond, a pool, of cosmic love, having till then (81 years) lived a pretty loveless life. Until this very moment I am awash in that new awareness of love. Until this very moment. Right now, none of it makes sense at all. I am devastated.

But I am Sisyphus, and I am compelled to start over, to pile word upon word, in an attempt to make sense, to myself as well as to you, of this dreadful calamity.

I have a vivid imagination, and I can personalise the horror that the cameras in those places have beamed to us. I have experienced earthquakes in north India many times. We grew blasé, casual, about them – they were merely tremors. Now and then a cracked wall, a sliding cupboard, fear, crowds in the street – but that was it. Today’s -? Ah, ye gods, what have you been up to?

You are asleep beside whoever – spouse, children – and suddenly one of you shakes the other, the place is shuddering, alarm, someone among you screams “Get out! Get out!” Sounds of buildings falling outside – you grab whoever you are with – and somehow get yourselves to the door. And then I stop.

Dear reader, I am not writing a novel. I just can’t keep writing at all. I visualise – the doorstep tilts, and you, screaming, topple into the hole where yesterday there was a floor and a passage. The horror is indescribable. There is screaming, grabbing, chunks of concrete falling below you, with you, behind/above you, and you are utterly helpless. And suddenly you thud against a chunk of rubble. If you are still conscious, you hardly notice that your leg is smashed, you are looking for your daughter, your son, your spouse, and then more rocks crash into your space, and you are still conscious, but in total darkness. Now you notice that your leg is smashed, and the pain is terrible, but you are pinned among great chunks of masonry, and your screams are unheard. Well, maybe. That other woman who was beside you five seconds ago, she is screaming too, but where she is right now you have no idea. There is no longer any ”where”. A baby cries out “Mummy!” but it has no locale, it is just a noise. The noise of desperation, of utter meaninglessness. And I, who am stacking these terrible words one on another, am myself nothinged. All that stays with me is, this is true, even as I type, even as you read. It is going on.

Many years ago, in Kolkata I was standing at the foot of a hospital bed beside a man whose only son was dying in that bed. Suddenly he cried out, “People like you are supposed to be able to do something about this!” All I could do was cry.

Today’s situation is even worse. That was a single death. This is death on a vast scale, no one able to do anything. Not just death of course. Pain, bewildering pain, loss of everything related to life, horror, locked between boulders within that mountain of stone, people scrabbling helplessly to find a way out, and others finding corpses, or living mangled bodies, freezing helplessly in darkness.

I can’t go on. I am Sisyphus. Where does God come into this?


PS: I have just parcelled all my unlikely-to-be-needed clothes to be sent to Turkey-Syria tomorrow where, among other horrors, people are dying.

Brother Mac (Brendan MacCarthaigh)


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Reflection: Alternative pathways

Thank you to Warren Rose for drawing our attention to this article.

Three Possible Paths for People Who Lose Traditional

by Martin Thielen on February 2, 2023

Several years ago, I read John Updike’s novel, In the Beauty of the Lilies. The story covers four generations of an American family during the twentieth century. Part 1 tells the story of Clarence Wilmot, a Presbyterian minister from New Jersey. In short, Reverend Wilmot loses his faith and quits the ministry, resulting in painful consequences for himself and his family. In one scene Reverend Wilmot confesses to his wife:

My faith, my dear, seems to have fled. I not only no longer believe with an ideal fervor, I
consciously disbelieve. My very voice rebelled, today, against my attempting to put some
sort of good face on a doctrine that I intellectually detest. Ingersoll, Hume, Darwin, Renan,
Nietzsche—it all rings true, when you’ve read enough to have it sink in; they have not just
reason on their side but simple humanity and decency as well. Jehovah and His pet
Israelites, that bloody tit-for-tat Atonement, the whole business of condemning poor fallible
men and women to eternal Hell for a few mistakes in their little lifetimes, the notion in any
case that our spirits can survive without eyes or brains or nerves. . . . [I]t’s been a fearful
struggle, I’ve twisted my mind in loops to hold on to some sense in which these things are
true enough to preach, but I’ve got to let go or go crazy.’

Stories of clergy losing faith don’t just exist in the realm of fiction. They also exist in real
life. I know, because I talk to such clergy all the time. Many have retired. Some have found
new careers. Others remain in ministry, struggling to navigate strained faith with
Christian vocation.

Of course, clergy don’t have a monopoly on losing faith. Millions of laypersons experience
similar faith struggles. For example, church membership in the United States is at its
lowest level ever recorded, while religious “nones” (those with no religious affiliation) are
the fastest growing “religious” group in America today. It’s no secret that large numbers of
people are rapidly losing faith in traditional Christianity. For those who do, what are their
options? Most of them land in one of the following three theological camps.

Progressive Faith

When people no longer resonate with traditional faith, especially conservative
evangelicalism, many shift to “progressive Christianity.” There’s no set definition of
progressive Christianity. However, the following characteristics are often found among
those who hold this view:

* They believe science and faith are completely compatible.
* They are more interested in right behavior than right beliefs.
* Although they take the Bible seriously, they don’t always take it literally.
* They affirm full inclusion of LGBTQ people into the church.
* They affirm women’s rights including female leaders in the church.
* They care deeply about social justice.
* They are comfortable with theological ambiguity.
* Many of them lean toward panentheism rather than supernatural theism.
* They reject numerous traditional doctrines including blood atonement and a literal
* They respect and value other religions.

If you want to learn more about Progressive Christianity, you can read Christianity for the
Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass, After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity by
David Gushee, and my book, What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?
Although my faith has evolved since the writing of that book, it serves as a simple
introduction to progressive faith.

Progressive Christianity is a “big tent” group, leaving room for most believers in the
centrist to liberal tradition. However, some people in this this camp eventually find it
inadequate and leave. A good number of them shift to what I call “nontraditional” faith.

Nontraditional Faith

Nontraditional believers do not reject faith altogether. However, they no longer identify
with historic Christianity. Instead, they affirm nonorthodox, nontraditional tenets of faith.
Many would fit the category of “spiritual but not religious.”

People in this camp have abandoned faith in a personal, providential, supernatural,
interventionalist theistic God. Instead, they affirm an evolutionary life-force/energy-force
Spirit of the universe. Their understanding of God/Other/Divine/Higher Power includes a
large helping of mystery and intentional ambiguity. I often refer to nontraditional faith as
“Star Wars” religion, as in “May the Force be with you,” with no definitive explanation of
the nature of that “Force.”

Although people in the nontraditional camp do not affirm faith in a divine Christ, many of
them resonate with the human Jesus, especially his example and teachings. They admire
Jesus’s love, service, compassion, inclusion, and call to justice, just as they admire other
great religious leaders.

For further information about nontraditional faith, you can read books by Bishop John
Shelby Spong including Unbelievable: Why neither Ancient Creeds nor the Reformation
Can Produce a Living Faith Today and Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Another
good introduction to nontraditional faith is The God You Didn’t Know You Could Believe
In by Jeffrey Frantz.

No Faith

Although they represent a minority in America, a growing number of people no longer
identify with any faith tradition—traditional, progressive, or nontraditional. Some self-identify as agnostics or atheists. Others call themselves “humanists” or “secular humanists.”

Until recently, I’ve only known a limited number of people who hold no religious faith at
all. However, since launching Doubter’s Parish website two years ago, I’ve met many more
of them. Although conservative believers often disparage this group, I generally find them
to be fine human beings.

For example, most of them affirm the same “Christian” values I do, including love, mercy,
integrity, honesty, character, compassion, responsibility, authenticity, generosity,
tolerance, kindness, service, inclusion, and justice. However, they call them “human”
values rather than religious values. These highly ethical nonbelievers clearly prove that
people can be “good without God,” in spite of claims to the contrary by many religious
leaders. They also experience meaningful and joyful life, countering the myth that only
religious people can be happy and fulfilled.

This group of secularly minded people is rapidly growing in the Western world, including
the United States. According to a recent poll by Pew Research Center, people with no faith
could become the majority of the American public by the year 2070. Whatever you may
think of this cohort of unbelievers, they are gaining ground and cannot be ignored
anymore as a fringe group.

If you would like to learn more about people with no faith, you can read Farewell to God
by Charles Templeton. Although somewhat dated, the book makes a strong yet respectful
case for rejecting faith. Other examples include Divinity of Doubt: God and Atheism on
Trial by Vincent Bugliosi, The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for
Humanism by A. C. Grayling, and De-Converted: A Journey from Religion to Reason by
Seth Andrews.

Although these three faith options (progressive faith, nontraditional faith, and no faith)
exist in a broad-strokes kind of way, most people do not neatly fit into general generic
categories. For example, I know many people who regularly move back and forth between
progressive faith and nontraditional faith. I also know folks who relate to all three of these
theological camps, in spite of their apparent contradictions. Interestingly, you can find
people in each group (including the no faith camp) who attend church—and people in
each camp who don’t. It should also be noted that some people who leave traditional
Christianity connect with another faith tradition like Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism, but
only a few. These kinds of rapidly shifting religious dynamics make spirituality in twenty-first century America a most interesting journey indeed!

Martin Thielen, a retired United Methodist minister, is the creator and author of
Topics: Belief, Church History, Clergy/Ministry, Evolutionary Christianity, Faith,
Interfaith Issues & Dialogue, New Thought/New Age, Progressive Christianity 101, Social
& Environmental Ministry, and Spiritual Exploration & Practice. 8
Points: Point 4: Act As We Believe and Point 5: Non-Dogmatic


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Opinion: Priority of action over belief

The work of Robin Meyers is the central focus at tonight’s seminar at Redcliffe Q.

With the current lectionary readings now focused on the Sermon on the Mount, we are reminded of Jesus call to action rather than to belief.

This quote is from his book: Saving God from Religion: A Minister’s Search for Faith in a Skeptical Age.


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Event: Redcliffe Explorers Jesus and the Church

Dear fellow explorers and seekers

We’d like to remind you that we’ll be gathering for the first time this year on this coming Monday 6th February. Most importantly, it will be at a new venue – the Ocean Room at the Redcliffe Uniting Church, at the corner of Anzac Avenue and Richens St. Redcliffe. We invite you to join us at 6 p.m. for what promises to be a very stimulating discussion about the church’s relationship with Jesus, led (via video) by Rev Dr Robin Meyers, pastor of the Mayflower Congregational Church and Professor of Philosophy at the Oklahoma City University, USA. A flyer is attached for you to share with anyone you think might be interested.

The car park adjacent to the Redcliffe Uniting Church is accessed from Richens St. There are two ways to get to the Ocean Room from the car park:

  1. enter the new Hub building, turn right after the garden, progress 20 m down the breezeway and the room is the last on the right OR
  2. walk around the western side of the Hub building to the rear of the Church, enter the breezeway through the gate, and the Ocean Room is first on the left.

Hoping to see you at the Ocean Room on 6th. As is our usual practice, we’ll have a cuppa, snack and chat between 6 and 6:30, before the programme starts.




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Opinion: Life again – practicing morphic resonance

From our new friend and explorer:

Brendan MacCarthaigh. “Born Dublin 1938. Eleventh of eleven children, loveless childhood, eventually fled into first escape route available – the Christian Brothers, at 14. Fled further to India at 22, lived there for 64 years, legal realities compelled return to Dublin in 2022, where now am. Negative life experience turned miraculously (yes) positive in 2019, and have lived in that glow since then. Loved India. The meaning of life is God, another name for Love. Have loads of qualifications in various fields. bursting with new ideas, mostly denying the beliefs we have nourished for decades, even centuries., enough about me!”

“One grows foolhardy, I guess, when none of the bullets one is braced for actually strikes. By now you know that for me Jesus is a role-model. I don’t tie up Jesus with religion past the point of his name going on to Christianity as a religion. Religions I am pretty cynical about, regarding them as very useful, very bonding of people (both strong reasons for associating with them, I grant) but insofar as they are exclusive of all interpretations of divinity except their particular one, I dismiss them. They bond adherents – great! They exclude others quite pointedly who interpret God differently – a result of anthropological illiteracy. And that last sentence includes of course Christianity, and its various offspring such as Catholicism, Protestantism, Presbyterianism, etc. as well as the non-Christian faith traditions.

“I suppose I must believe in what is commonly indicated by ‘life after death’.  By ‘must’ I mean, I draw such strength as I have from my association with Jesus, who of course is dead. The Roman soldiers on Calvary knew their job. But I believe that the spirit of Jesus lives in millions of people all over the world, as does the spirit of every other human person who ever lived, but with the difference that the one I refer to lived such a life that his spirit remained and remains influential in the choices millions make about their lives ever since. What’s more, I recognise that those who are not thus influenced are quite likely touched by other great names, and live equally if not more admirable lives as a consequence.

“Thus, if I happen to have a function centering on Jesus, I do not exclude someone who draws all her/his inner inspiration from someone I had never heard of, or had heard of, but do not myself know enough about to find inspirational. For me, as I have said earlier, the entire meaning of life arises out of love. That love is, in my case, modelled after the example of Jesus. Others see it modelled elsewhere. Fine. So long as it is all-inclusive love, I say welcome.

“Yesterday I was at a function where one of the participants quite emphatically dismissed prayer as useless, and that the future of our earth depends not on prayer, but on each of us doing our thing to save the globe from destruction. He dwelt on the idea quite strongly, and in fairness I learned that he was himself, though old, vigorously involved in various measures towards rescuing our earth from her destroyers.

“This issue didn’t arise in the life of Jesus, so there didn’t look like there was any connection there. (I do acknowledge that Jainism and Zoroastrianism might demur, and I appreciate their hesitation. They are an important minority.) Still, this old man had a point. The rescuing of Earth from her destroyers is scarcely a religious issue. Ok?

“Not ok!

“Although the scientist Rupert Sheldrake didn’t intend it, his thesis arising out of, and leading to the term morphic resonance has become a common term in religious literature for quite some years now. Morphic resonance is defined as, a paranormal influence by which a pattern of events or behaviour can facilitate subsequent occurrences of similar patterns. Very briefly, birds in one town discover they can with their beaks stab open the tops of milkbottles, soon other birds living far away make the same discovery. Monkeys discover that it’s easier to rinse the sand off their washed-up coconuts than eat them and then wash the sand out of their mouths, soon other monkeys living far away make the same discovery. Scientists, who devise brand-new equations to explain problems, discover that far away other scientists at the same time are making similar discoveries.

“And so when you and I pray for things to improve in the healing of our Earth, our prayer becomes linked with the same idea all over the place, and action is motivated on a wide scale. This old man’s desperation is understandable, but in practical reality his impatience with prayer as an effective instrument is actually misplaced. Prayer prompts ideas, strengthened by this morphic resonance phenomenon, and ideas lead to practical involvement, because it gathers power in the process of performance.

“Thus, our love for Mother Earth is enriched by our prayer life – and indeed, let me add, by the impatience of this old man, though he may not recognise it, because it strengthens the power of the idea now found all over the globe, thereby prompting the rest of us to do our individual and group best. It is of course helped by the power spelled out in Laudato Si’, while that itself is a result of the listening world to its message.

“God bless.”

Brother Mac.

Link: Leaving India after 62 years.


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Addressing Youth Crime: Getting Smarter Not Tougher

An open letter to the Queensland Parliament

Co-facilitated by our subscriber and explorer: Rev Dr Wayne Sanderson

We are organisations and individuals concerned about preventing youth crime, reducing re-offending and achieving community safety. As you deliberate about youth crime, we respectfully urge you to consider the following:

STOP POLITICISING YOUTH CRIME Queensland communities deserve evidence[1]based solutions to youth crime that actually work. They do not deserve political point-scoring about who is the toughest on crime. A bi-partisan approach based on getting smarter, not tougher, will produce better outcomes for everyone in keeping communities safe.

TAKE NOTICE OF THE FACTS Queensland already has some of the toughest laws and the highest number of children imprisoned in Australia. Despite decreasing youth crime rates, the number of children held in Queensland detention centres continues to increase. In 2021-22, with detention centres overflowing, around 470 Queensland children – some as young as 10 – were held in adult watchhouses for periods of up to 14 days. A watchhouse is not a fit place for a child. Locking children up does not free communities from crime. There is overwhelming evidence that youth detention does not work to deter crime, rehabilitate, or make communities safer. In fact, the experience of being incarcerated increases the likelihood of children offending. Almost all children who are imprisoned in youth detention in Queensland reoffend within 12 months of their release. We can never imprison our way to a safer community, but there is plenty of evidence about how we can reduce crime.

PROTECT OUR CHILDREN – MORE THAN ANY OTHER AGE GROUP, THEY ARE THE VICTIMS OF CRIME While we are all concerned about children who break the law, please remain aware that children, more than any other age group, constitute the majority of crime victims. Many of the children who find themselves on the wrong side of the law have been the victims of crimes far more serious than any offences they have committed. Many have grown up learning that adults are not to be trusted. Is it any wonder that they have little respect or trust in authority figures and the justice system? It takes time, persistence and skills to regain the trust of these children.

LET FIRST NATIONS LEADERS LEAD The gross over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in detention – over 70% – continues to draw shame on the world stage. When First Nations leaders and organisations have been able to design and manage responses to youth crime within their communities, the results have been impressive. Governments need to get out of the way and let First Nations leaders lead. This means making a genuine commitment to self-determination by First Nations peoples and resourcing of their communities to deliver local responses that they, more than anyone else, know will work best.

PROPERLY RESOURCE OUR TEACHERS AND SCHOOLS By the time children enter detention, over 50% have not been attending school. It is within the classroom that anti-social behaviours usually begin to emerge. Non-attendance at schools and high rates of suspensions and exclusions are frequent precursors to children’s involvement with the youth justice system. Better resourcing of teachers and schools with the programs and supports they need to keep children engaged in schooling will help stop problems before they start.

TAKE ACCOUNT OF CHILDREN’S DISABILITIES AND MENTAL HEALTH CONERNS Many children in the youth justice system have severe disabilities, including fetal alcohol spectrum syndrome disorder. There are no systematic screening or assessment processes in place to identify disabilities of children involved with Queensland’s youth justice system, meaning we are currently detaining children with undiagnosed disabilities and providing no appropriate supports when children leave detention – a recipe for reoffending. Failure to consider neurodisabilities and mental health concerns of children encountering the youth justice system mean all current solutions are doomed to fail.

TACKLE OUR SOCIAL PROBLEMS Research by the Queensland Family and Child Commission and others has found that most children in detention have experienced violence within their homes, poverty, homelessness or the absence of a safe place to call home, and/or exposure to alcohol and other substance misuse. We must address these issues by tackling child poverty, collectively ending youth homelessness, addressing the impact of family violence on children, and increasing the number and range of specialised youth mental health services, alcohol and drug treatment services, child protection, family support, early education and mentoring programs. Ban social media outlets from posting both children’s illegal exploits and ‘hate messages’ from vigilante groups – both are inciting children to commit offences. Get tougher on the causes of youth crime – it will represent a far better, less costly and more effective investment of taxpayers’ dollars in achieving community safety.

HOLD CHILDREN ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR BEHAVIOURS IN WAYS THAT WORK Threats of harsher punishments do not deter children from offending. The incarceration of children is the single biggest predictor of children entering into a lifetime of crime. Why is it that there has been a significant reduction in the use of restorative justice approaches in recent times? In many instances, restorative justice very effectively brings children and the victims together face-to-face to help children understand and take responsibility for their behaviour and work out the ways they can repair the harm. It is just one example of getting smarter, rather than tougher, in using solutions that work. There are many more.

DIVERT CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 14 FROM THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM The younger children are when they first have contact with the justice system, the more likely they are to go on to re-offend. Effective responses involve children quickly discovering the consequences of bad behaviour, whilst also providing guidance to not repeat their mistakes. Children, especially very young children, do not understand or benefit from fronting courts and waiting months while the wheels of justice slowly turn. There are much more effective ways of holding children to account in ways that are timely and well-matched to a child’s age and stage of development. Any evidence-based policy to keep the community safe should include significant investment in strategies that work to divert children, especially those younger than 14, from the criminal justice system.

Collectively, we remain firmly committed to working with members of the Queensland Parliament on strategies to reduce youth crime. We are especially committed to working on strategies that are smarter, not tougher, in protecting Queensland communities and keeping them safe. The figures referred to within this letter have been drawn from the Children’s Court of Queensland Annual Report 2021-22

(1) Please refer to the ‘Orange Paper #2 – a ten-point evidence-based plan for investment to address youth offending’ first published by the Youth Advocacy Centre in 2020 – it provides a good starting point for getting smarter, not tougher.

[Endorsed by 52 major organisations working in the filed as well as many academic and professional practitioners and individuals.]


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Opinion: The urgency of church reform remains the greatest challenge

Shaping the Basis of Union of the UCA: the influence of progressive thinkers

We are privileged to have received a positive response to our request to Rev John Gunson, author of God, Ethics and the Secular Society: does the church have a future? to produce a brief paper on the influence of the Congregational representatives at the negotiated construction of the Basis of Union first published in 1971 prior to union in 1977 of the Methodist, Presbyterian (in part) and Congregational denominations. The original BOU can be found here.

The historic text of the Basis of Union was prepared at a time when the desire for gender-inclusive language was only just emerging. By the early 1990s there was a need to re-examine the language and the Assembly Standing Committee approved the publication of the 1992 edition, which incorporates relatively conservative changes to the language of the Basis, while seeking to retain its meaning. The 1992 version can be found here.

John’s words below remind us of the importance of keeping the challenge of Paragraph 11 at the forefront of our progressive work.


“Openness to new understandings of the Faith”

As one who was heavily involved in the life of the Congregational churches at the time of the negotiations for union with the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, I believe I can accurately comment on the process by which union was consummated.  While I was not on the Joint Commission itself, which undertook the negotiations and drew up the Basis of Union, I was involved in inter-church discussions and in other ways preparatory to union.

There are those in key positions in the UC today who believe that the Basis of Union was intended as the forever definitive theological basis of the Uniting Church.  Some of those on the Joint Commission may well have believed that, or at least hoped that would be true.

What in fact determined the theological position expressed in the Basis of Union was the pragmatic need to find a basis upon which three very different denominations with widely diverging theological positions could come together in union.  In other words it had to avoid looking like a normative/typical statement of any one of the three negotiating churches.  e.g. “That’s Presbyterian.  We can’t agree to that.  That is a takeover.”  So let’s base it on one of the historic creeds that we give lip service to as part of the church’s history – a kind of neutral ground.  The Nicene Creed is more or less recognized across the major expressions of the church as the first official definition of faith and the first that came out of an ecumenical council.  Among other things it was an attempt to unify the many different theological positions of the time.  Congregationalists recognized the creeds as historic formulations of the church’s faith, and also Reformation confessions such as the Savoy Declaration and the Westminster Confession.  But for Congregationalists none of these were forever definitive, nor were they to be used as tests of faith.

Our union some 50 years ago happened at a time when neo-orthodoxy /Barthian theology was resurgent (that doesn’t mean it was right).  As a young man I had a decade previously returned from post-graduate theological study in the USA , my head filled with the excitement of Karl Barth’s massive and scholarly restatement of theology, in the light of which I moved away from the rather “superficial” expression of 19th century liberal theology that was characteristic of Australian Congregationalism at the time.  It was this neo-orthodox theology that was being embraced by  the young “turks” and the academics of the three negotiating churches at the time of union.

It should surely be clear to us now that the form our Basis of Union took was inevitably an expression of the times.  Had we come together in the 19th century we would have had an entirely different Basis of Union,. but simply the best and most pragmatic way to get agreement/union between the churches at the time, and thus subject to review and change.

The majority of Congregationalists would probably not have entered into the Uniting Church if they had not believed that the Basis of UNION was a starting point on which we could come together, not a permanent “once and for all” expression of the faith of the Uniting church.  Such a confession would have been called “The theological basis of the UC’, not the basis of UNION.

The second factor at work 50 years ago was the ecumenical spirit of that time.

Dominant in the life of our three churches, it brought home to us powerfully the scandal of denominationalism and disunity.  I, along with many others, was heavily involved in ecumenical activities and the work and scholarship of the World Council of Churches and the Australian Council of Churches.

Congregationalists historically did not look on themselves as a denomination but as a reforming movement in the life of the church, and we urgently desired and worked for both the continuing reformation of the churches and the unity of the church.  That was a much higher priority than a particular choice of a confession of faith we could all agree about at the time.

We believed that the Basis was a necessary pragmatic concession, in order to achieve union – which we could each interpret in our own way, in spite of its Greek philosophical thought forms, themselves incomprehensible to most.

To make absolutely sure this was the case Congregational representatives on the Joint Commission insisted on the inclusion of Paragraph 11.

Our representatives believed that modern scholarship was giving us new knowledge and understanding of our sources and our faith, and that we expected the Uniting Church to take that seriously.

For Congregationalists the church was always a church under reformation, and not to be imprisoned by a nearly 2000 year old statement of faith, expressed in the limited knowledge and ancient Greek thought forms forced on the church by a Roman Emperor; nor a 2000 year old interpretation of it, nor a modern re-expression of it.   Scholarship and knowledge has moved on, both in our understanding of the world and especially in the new insights into the sources of our faith through the work of the Westar Institute.

Our representatives on the Joint Commission would have approached each meeting of that body with the words of Pastor John Robinson ringing in their ears as he farewelled the Pilgrim Fathers (Independents/Congregationalists) on the Mayflower, fleeing persecution from “orthodoxy” in England for a new life in America in 1620.

Robinson urged them :    “I charge you before God … to follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ.  If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive truth from my ministry, for I am persuaded that the Lord has yet more truth and light to break forth from his holy word. …..  The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw  … and the Calvinists  … stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things.  This is a misery much to be lamented.”

The Congregational representatives were of course outnumbered and exercised very little influence on the Joint Commission, but insisted on the inclusion of Paragraph 11, their version of which I am sure was carefully re-worded by the drafters of the Basis so as to not seem in conflict with the rest of the Basis.

Paragraph 11 reads as follows:

 Scholarly Interpreters.

The Uniting Church acknowledges that God has never left his Church without faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have reflected deeply upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to his living Word.  In particular she enters into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientific enquiry which has characterised recent centuries, and thanks God for the knowledge of His ways with men which are open to an informed faith.  She lives within a world-wide fellowship of Churches in which she will learn to sharpen her understanding of the will and purpose of God by contact with contemporary thought.  Within that fellowship she also stands in relation to contemporary societies in ways which will help her understand her nature and mission.  She thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr.  She prays that she may be ready when occasion demands to confess her Lord in fresh words and deeds.

(Note: Highlight & bold are my emphases).

The first problem with the expression of this paragraph (which I suspect was deliberate) is the heading.  It should have been headed “Openness to new understandings of the Faith”.  But that was not what the majority framers wanted to hear or express.

A third and powerful factor also determining the Basis of Union was the vision expressed in the deliberate wording of our name – the Uniting Church in Australia, not the “United” church.  In coming together we all believed that this was only the first step in a larger on-going process of union, beginning with the Anglicans with whom preliminary discussions were already underway, and ultimately, some dared to hope, even with Baptists and Roman Catholics. (See paras 1&2 of the Basis.)

To even start conversations with Anglicans and Roman Catholics we knew we had to have a theological/creedal basis with which they would readily agree.  Nicaea made obvious sense.  Further, in support of this goal, great consideration was given on the Joint Commission as to the possibility of including Bishops in the polity of the new church.

Again, “The Basis” was about achieving a starting point, and assumed an ongoing reformation and reformulation of the faith, not a capitulation to the other churches with whom we hoped for union, but from which we had deliberately distinguished ourselves since the Reformation.

Ecumenism, unity, and the scandal of denominationalism was the driving motivation, formulation of the faith was secondary and pragmatic (but not to the framers of the Basis.)

Ecumenism and ongoing church union is no longer a central priority of the Uniting Church.   Anglicans and Roman Catholics are only interested in absorbing us, not uniting with us.  The priorities of 50 years ago need no longer delay our urgent attention to a ”fresh confession of the faith” and the ongoing reformation of the church.

John Gunson.    30/1/23


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Event: Living the Questions at West End (Q) Explorers

The West End Explorers invites you to journey with us into an exploration of faith and practice. We will be using the “Living the Questions 2.0” (LtQ2) video series as a guide and catalyst to open-minded discussions. We aim to create a safe environment where you can feel free to voice your questions and doubts about traditional beliefs, without being dismissed as a heretic.
This is an alternative to studies that attempt to give you all the answers; it is for people who are in the midst of a life-long conversation about the mysteries of faith and life. Featuring thirty acclaimed scholars, theologians and other experts, LtQ2 consists of 21 sessions which are divided into three sets of seven units. Each session will be for about one hour, after/over shared light refreshments. There will be opportunities for personal sharing, following the video segments, which include conversations with leading voices of faith, stories illustrating aspects of an evolving faith, and concrete spiritual practices and disciplines.
Sunday 12th February 4pm – 5.15pm and the following six Sundays.
•This series freely questions:
– belief that the Bible is inerrant and infallible
– belief that the doctrines set forth by the early church are sacrosanct and not to be questioned – belief that one’s eternal salvation depends on their unswerving
commitment to the above
•This series does not aim to provide simple answers, instead aims to provide a resource for the      discussion
Three elements to program:
1) Pre-reading (handouts)
2) Video & discussion session
3) “Living it Out” devotional for “homework” (introductions to
various spiritual practices and disciplines)
For more about LtQ2, including a video sample, follow the links at: www.livingthequestions.com
If you are interested in joining us, please (try to) RSVP by the 5th February
RSVP to Kris Maslen
Invitation to Journey (Feb – Mar)
1. An Invitation to Journey
2. Taking the Bible Seriously
3. Thinking Theologically
4. Stories of Creation
5. Lives of Jesus
6. A Passion for Christ: Paul
7. Out into the World: Challenges Facing Progressive Christians Honouring Creation (Apr – Jun)
8. Restoring Relationships
9. The Prophetic Jesus
10. Evil, Suffering & A God of Love
11. The Myth of Redemptive Violence
12. Practicing Resurrection
13. Debunking the Rapture
14. Honouring Creation Call to Covenant (Jul – Aug)
15. A Kingdom without Walls
16. Social Justice: Realizing God’s Vision
17. Incarnation: Divinely Human
18. Prayer: Intimacy with God
19. Compassion: The Heart of Jesus’ Ministry
20. Creative Transformation
21. Embracing Mystery
West End Explorers (WEE) is a continuation of progressive Christian groups that have been meeting at West End Uniting Church for the last few decades. WEE aims to be a safe space for those wanting a supportive group to share in their journey of reconsidering/deconstructing & reconstructing faith beliefs and practice.
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Opinion: Democracy or Doctrine

From Bev Floyd

What else hasn’t ‘organised religion’ understood?

It doesn’t realise people no longer want to be TOLD what to believe. They’ve gone off ‘authority’. It’s let them down so much in the past. A fair proportion of both secular and religious leaders have been arrogant or corrupt or just ‘not up to it’.


The culture of ‘organised religion’ is very patriarchal. In an era where concerned folk are striving to obtain equality for women, most religious leadership positions are reserved for men… particularly so (and medievally so) in the Catholic church but also in other religions and denominations.

Structures and procedures are also based on what I call a ‘male’ hierarchical model.    It is the ‘who can get to the top model?’ and the ‘who can we kick off the bottom?’ model.

This is a power-based model. Not inclusive. Decisions flow from the top to the bottom. It does have its uses. Emergencies are best handled this way,  as are certain key decisions that need to be made quickly and expertly, such as construction and war (both of which men seem to like and to do so well).

The alternative is a flat structure where decisions are made collectively at the lowest suitable level. It is an inclusive model. No-one is left out. Everyone can participate.      It does take longer and can be challenging to ‘efficiency nuts’ or people who are impatient, but the outcome is better. People feel involved… part of something. Decisions are more likely to fit the needs of the group. I’m inclined to call this the ‘female’ model. It’s emerging more as more women are coming into their own in the secular world. It seems to be a better way of for people to share decision-making and problem solving.

How far behind can ‘organised religion’ get?

The problem seems to be ‘doctrine’… that’s a set of ‘beliefs’ which have been formalised and handed down over many years. They appear to be set in concrete… never-changing.

I suppose for many the idea of something unchangeable in an ever-changing world would make life seem more comfortable, more certain, more manageable.

But people who are searching for ‘Godliness’ should not be using doctrine and churchiness as a mattress to slumber upon… true religion can be a springboard to life abundant… to joy and love and hope.




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Opinion: Are we concerned enough about artificial intelligence and freedom of religion?

Why The Church of England Is Talking About Artificial Intelligence

People are often surprised and encouraged when I tell them about the work the Church of England policy team and its bishops are doing in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics. Purple-shirted, dog collar-wearing members of the House of Lords are frequently spotted at committee meetings and sessions on these topics. Indeed, bishops report sensing surprise from some delegates who may be wondering whether the senior Church of England leaders belong in this environment.

Until 2016 the Church of England was not formally involved in this area. Then, thanks to some synergistic happenings, AI and Robotics arrived firmly on the Church of England’s radar.

One of these happenings was a 2016 ECLAS conference at the University of Durham. There, bishops and other senior church leaders were immersed for two days in the world of AI and Robotics. The delegates met research scientists in their labs and saw the painstaking work that goes into training machines to recognise chickens, cats, and dogs (all part of that fascinating area termed ‘machine learning’). They saw the ‘raw’ ‘training’ of machines to accurately perceive distances and objects while in motion, for use in technology to support driverless cars. Our church leaders were delighted to meet and interact with robots. Later, together with scientists, ethicists and theologians, they reflected on big questions emerging from the event. By the end of the conference, if they hadn’t been already, delegates were convinced that it was vital for the Church to engage with AI….

For the complete article go to the link below:

Why the Church of England is talking about Artificial Intelligence – ECLAS (eclasproject.org)



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Opinion: How the New Testament came to us

by JOHN COURT –  JANUARY 2023 [ previously in 2018 for Eastwood Uniting’s quarterly magazine, Contact]  

John Court ‘put bread on the family table’ through a 50-year career as a professional engineer in the chemical and environmental industries (BSc & MAppSc).

Raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment, he also undertook tertiary studies in classics (BA major in Greek) and ancient history (MA on Greco-Roman social life) with the aim of deepening understanding of things Christian, in parallel to rather than in concert with the conventional seminary scene.

Not surprisingly, this led John to re-think many aspects of his faith.  For the past 40 years he has found a friendly home and worshipped in the Uniting Church in Sydney.   He has also savoured the worlds of antiquity and early Christianity through some travel in the Middle East, Greece and Italy. But for his wife and himself, both now octogenarians, such adventures are realistically over. With retirement have come opportunities to indulge in eclectic reading and discussion.


John has kindly given us access to some of his writing on this topic. This is Part 1 of 3 parts.

How the New Testament came to us – 1 Inclusions and exclusions

Our Bible

We tend to take our Bible for granted:  39 books in the Old Testament (OT); 27 in the New Testament (NT); usually bound together; and often in black leather with gilt edges – at least when a book was something we read on paper rather than on our mobile phones.  Many of us have known this format from our youngest years in Sunday school and church youth groups.  But does this give a misleading picture of its origins and its immutability?  We will explore this question in several short pieces.

The old testament

The Old Testament preceded the New, to which it is inextricably linked.  It was composed in the ancient Hebrew language and transmitted orally and in writing by Jewish priests and scholars over a period of more than a thousand years.  When Christians adopted these ‘scriptures’, as they called them, they mostly used a Greek translation made by Jews about two centuries earlier.  Why Hebrew and Greek?  Well Hebrew was the language of ancient Israel.  The Old Testament is often called “the Hebrew Scriptures”.  And Greek because it was the lingua franca of the world of the early Church – a little like English tends to be today in many parts of the world.  That’s why Christian scriptures, of which our New Testament is the prime collection, are also written in Greek, a language which could reach many people.

Were these the only writings held to be ‘holy’ in their time?  Not at all!  In the Jewish world the writings we call the Apocrypha roughly fill the four-hundred-year gap between our Old and New Testaments.  They are not included in today’s Protestant Bibles but are found in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles.  And there were other writings besides these, as shown abundantly by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls last century.  And we now have many other ‘gospels’, ‘acts’ and ‘revelations’ written in the early years of the Christian church, including the large collection in the Coptic language from Nag Hammadi in Egypt.

Choosing what’s in and what’s out

When a community ascribes special status to a set of writings, as when it considers them to be the ‘Word of God’, it becomes important for it to define what it accepts into this collection of sacred writings, the so-called ‘canon’.  Jewish councils basically decided what constituted the Hebrew scriptures, or the Old Testament, by about 100 CE (AD), although they did not precisely codify this for another eight hundred years.  Church councils had basically decided what constituted the Christian scriptures, the New Testament, by about 400 CE.

Over the last two hundred years scholars of language, ancient literature, history and theology have delved intensively into the way these selections were made and the nature, form, source and circumstances of the writings selected.   They have done this in the context of a plethora of additional ancient writings and archaeological information coming to light from the same environment as the chosen writings. The net result at present is some real divergence in the world of Biblical scholarship as to just what constitutes ‘our Bible’.  This fascinating and growing field of study has raised many questions, including the nature and working of ‘Divine inspiration’ in the original writing and selection of the canon, the transmission of the text and the authenticity of claims of authorship.

My understanding of what the Bible is has changed enormously in my Christian lifetime.  What about yours?  Perhaps you just accept it as a given in our Church without further concern.  Most Christians probably do.  Perhaps you find it all too difficult to sort out and just give up on it.  A lot do.  Perhaps you are inclined to reject it in whole or part, based on what does and does not appeal to you.  Not a few do this.  Does it matter?  I don’t know, but I’m one of those who are intrigued, rather than put off by such questions.  So, with your indulgence, I’ll explore them a little further in three brief pieces.

Two views on the New Testament

In 2017 I attended two fascinating presentations by visiting Biblical experts on aspects of the canon of the New Testament.  They held almost diametrically opposed views.  Professor Darrell Bock of Dallas, speaking at Macquarie University, Sydney, argued that the New Testament as we have it is the authentic Bible for Christians and that the additional early material now available did not come from an alternative, foundational Christianity.  Shortly afterwards Professor Hal Taussig of New York, speaking at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm, Brisbane, argued not only that early Christianity was more diverse than we had previously believed, but that some of the recently discovered early Christian writings should be included in our New Testament.  In fact, he has published, with support from other scholarly experts, A New New Testament, which includes eleven additional ancient Christian books not in our canonical Bible.

The case for the canonical new testament

Prof. Bock in his book The Missing Gospels[1] has made a close study of these additional Christian writings, many of them classified as ‘gnostic’.  He searches the Nag Hammadi collection for differences from our canonical NT on the subjects of God as Creator, of Jesus as a human and divine figure, of the nature of redemption and on Jesus’ death and salvation. He concludes that Christian orthodoxy is dominantly represented in the earliest strands of the canonical NT.  In summary, he claims that the alternative ideas on these subjects, as found in the alternative writings, are differences which entered Christian circles at a later time and were not part of earliest belief.  One belief in particular, which derives from the Gospel of Thomas, that Jesus was “the ultimate wisdom teacher, a kind of mysterious Jewish Zen master who scandalized his listeners”[2] by his radical teaching, is rejected as not a key part of earliest Christian belief.

I found that Prof. Bock’s book gave a relatively comprehensive and systematic overview of the Christian Gnostic writings, especially those from Nag Hammadi.  But he has an agenda which is apparent throughout.  He sees a trend in some modern scholarship dealing with these new writing to “cull out what fits nicely with our culture”, establishing “a case…for a historical makeover of early Christianity”, which he calls “the Buzz”[3].  He acknowledges that history is written by winners, so that the views which prevailed in the early councils of the Church are the views of those who prevailed.  But he asserts that sometimes the winners deserve to win.

The case for alternative writings in the New Testament

Prof. Taussig, a founding member of the Jesus Seminar, has also extensively studied the non-canonical writings of early Christianity.  He is of the view they genuinely reflect the diversity of belief in the early Church, to the extent that he has edited, under the guidance of an eminent scholarly council, A New New Testament: a Bible for the 21st century combining traditional and newly discovered texts[4].

The books included, intermixed with canonical books are: The Prayer of Thanksgiving; the Gospel of Thomas; The Odes of Solomon (in four books); The Thunder:  Perfect Mind; The Prayer of the Apostle Paul; The Acts of Paul and Thecla; The letter of Peter to Philip and The Secret Revelation of John. A 100-page Companion is appended discussing the history, environment and some exposition of these new books and their relationship to the canonical material.  It is noteworthy that much material not selected from these new sources is strongly contrary to canonical texts, for example, portraying the god of creation as an inferior and ill-disposed deity.

Prof. Taussig senses a freshness and beauty in the additional material.  But, like Prof. Bock, he also has an agenda beyond the purely academic.  “There are beautiful prayers, stories and proposals to nourish today’s thirst for spirituality that are both grounded in tradition and new to almost everyone’s experience.” “Most powerful…is the possibility of claiming for the twenty-first century new meanings inherent in the first- and second-century Christ movements.”[5]

A question for reflection

The Basis of Union states[6]: “The Uniting Church acknowledges that God has never left the Church without faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have reflected deeply upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to, God’s living Word.”

Where do we stand then, when sincere and well-credentialed scholarship is clearly divided as to what is in and out of the Scriptures?  The Uniting Church in the same Basis lays on all of us the duty of reading these very Scriptures[7].  But which ones?

John Court

[1] Bock, Darrell L 2006 The Missing Gospels:  unearthing the truth behind alternative Christianities (Thomas Nelson).

[2] p xxii

[3] p xxiii

[4] Ed. with commentary by Hal Taussig with a foreword by John Dominic Crossan, 2013 (Mariner Books).

[5] p 519.

[6] Section 11

[7] Section 5



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Opinion: Finding the big picture

Richard Rohr on ‘The supreme unifying force’

Big Picture Thinkers

In a 2006 CAC conference, Richard Rohr identified the prophet as one who places issues in the context of the “big picture”:

What is a prophet? Let me try this as a definition: one who names the situation truthfully and in its largest context. When we can name the situation truthfully and in its largest context, it cannot get pulled into interest groups and political expediency. I was preaching in Atlanta, and I went for the first time to the Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit. It’s so obvious that he was a biblical prophet. I stood there and heard the addresses right in his very church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, where they play his preaching constantly. I realized how he was always putting racism and segregation in the big context of the kingdom of God. And then he kept going and came out against the Vietnam War. He is said to have lost at least one-third of his own followers because he placed the issue in too big a frame.

We don’t want the big frame. No one wants the big picture. I’m convinced that Jesus’ metaphor and image for what we would simply call the big picture is the reign of God, or the kingdom of God. That’s Jesus’ way of describing a phrase we used to say in Latin [sub specie aeternitatis] which means, “In light of eternity.” To consider things in light of eternity is a great clarifier. Maybe it comes to us on our death bed, when we think to ourselves, “Is this going to mean anything? Does this really matter? Is this little thing we’re upset about now and taking offense at going to mean anything in light of eternity?” The prophet or prophetess speaks truthfully and in the largest context. [1]

In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, he spoke from the “big frame” to call for a revolution of values based on love:

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all [humankind].… When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is of God. And everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.… If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and [God’s] love is perfected in us” [1 John 4:7–8, 12]. Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. [2]

Monday, January 16, 2023 —  Martin Luther King Jr. Day


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Opinion: Reflecting on the Epiphany

A New Year and the Epiphany

The new calendar year is upon us, and we have now had the clearing of the Christmas decorations.   And we now have the celebration of the Epiphany – the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.   All very well presented in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.

We read of the arrival of “wise men” from the East in Jerusalem as they sought to meet the newborn king of the Jews whose star they had seen in the East – presumably in the western sky at sunset.   The tale continues that these three men whom we know as “The Magi,” although we do attach the names to them of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, were able without any difficulty to have access to the head of the state, the king, one Herod, and to report the purpose of their visit.   Herod for some reason for all his learning needed to seek the advice of the religious leaders as to the supposed birthplace of the “King of the Jews” and was informed that the town of Bethlehem in Judaea was the location forecast.    That these visitors seemed to know more of the birth of the king of the Jews than the ecclesiastical establishment is itself interesting.   Herod, the sublime operator, then suggested to his visitors that they should go to Bethlehem (no major distance from Jerusalem) to find the newborn and to report back, so that he could honour him.

They took themselves then to Bethlehem with the guidance of the star and found the house where the baby Jesus was to be living with his mother.    Matthew reports, as we all know, the provision of great gifts to the newborn of gold and frankincense and myrrh.    For all that, they then had a dream which suggested not returning to Herod but going back to their own country by a different route.

I find all of this open to some measure of doubt in terms of historical accuracy.   We know that Herod died in the year 4 B.C. and that though Luke speaks of Quirinius being the governor of Syria at the time of the census which took Joseph to Bethlehem, the Roman records tell us that this was so in what to us is the year 9 A.D.    We are also aware that to the world of the scientists and astronomers, the year 7 B.C. (and its later months in our chronology) saw what they would call “the great conjunction of planets” when five of them were visible in the night sky almost as one.   Such an event did not occur again and then on a reduced scale until 1982.  If the Magi were astronomers (and astrologers) – they were almost certainly men to see in the night sky guidance for their own lives – it is quite possible that the conjunction of planets which would have been especially visible in the eastern Mediterranean was the cause of a journey westwards from lands to the East.    We do not know.

The stories from Matthew then tell us of the plan to take the baby to Egypt as Joseph had been warned in a dream to go to Egypt to escape what the angel who forecast the problem would be Herod’s reaction.    We are told Herod on realising that the Magi had not passed the necessary information on the birth of the child back to him, decided to kill all boys under the age of two years in Bethlehem in order to ensure that his throne was secure from challenge.   It has to be said that there is no historical record of such an event.    We are told however that after the death of Herod, and, with significant convenience, another angel appeared to Joseph in Egypt and reported the death of Herod and the succession of his son, Archelaus.   At this point, Joseph took Mary and their son back to Galilee (significantly further north in those days of no transport) back to Nazareth where Jesus grew up.   This met the vision that the Messiah would be called “a Nazarene” – perhaps again conveniently.

What are we to make of all of this?    My answer is to say that I do not know.   It is all so it seems very colourful and wish-fulfilling.   It suggests that Jesus was from his very birth the special man that he was to become in the eyes of those who knew him.   Is this however the embellishment of storytelling to make a good story even better?   And if we then go to the stories of his birth and the shepherds in the fields and the birth in a cattle shed, it all becomes yet more open I fear to doubt.    Have we been led astray?

Strangely enough for all my doubts of the historicity of the tales of his birth and earliest life from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, I find this rather charming.   I am sure that those who wrote the Gospels, and there seems unanimity amongst the scholars that the three synoptic Gospels drew upon common material including material that may have been lost and that the Gospel of John is a very different and a significantly more poetic version of the life of the man, were at pains to emphasise the extraordinary quality of the man Jesus and his wisdom.   Not to provide a decorated story of his birth and early life they may have felt would have reduced the quality of the sublime and extraordinary of the man who had touched their lives with such intensity that their lives were to be totally given to the promotion of its guidance.    The Jesus they knew would have had a birth as out of the ordinary as his later life and message.    I do not know.

What does come to me however from all of this and it is the Epiphany – the manifestation – that supports it is the extraordinary (I used that word again and without apology) quality of the man and his message.   The writers and teachers were determined that the wider Jewish and Gentile worlds of the first century would accept without demur that in the life of the son of the carpenter from Nazareth, wisdom had come to mankind of such measure as to be utterly foundational.   His birth must have been surrounded by events that reflected the measure of the gift that had been made to humankind.

It is in that context that I see the Epiphany.    Eternal wisdom had been given to men and women of such a scope and scale that its arrival must have been itself surrounded by events of truly cosmic proportions.   And it is the measure of that wisdom that we are now being offered again two thousand years later its glorious elegance and simplicity.

For all that, I am sure that whether we want to question the stories and their presentation really means very little.    What has come to the world through the wisdom of Jesus as the last of the great Jewish prophets is a vision of life to the full of such proportions that we must ourselves be the men and women whose lives in all their detail reflect that wisdom and its provenance.   We are the sons and the daughters of the Source of Creation, dignified and responsible with beings so fully equipped to live well that our failures to do so will always sadden.     We are born as individuals so brilliantly equipped and yet equally so brilliantly different from each other that the world can happily see the whole tapestry of earthly possibility in all its completeness.   We are the expressions of an Eternal and Greater from Whom we come and to Whom we go, and we are built to reflect our origins in all that we are and in all that we do.

But the message of the Epiphany is that we must reflect those origins in our daily lives of great energy and of significant constructiveness.   We are born to build our lives to the maximum and so few of us do.    If there be a message of the Epiphany as the season of the Manifestation and the new calendar year now with us, it is that we must resolve fully to grow and equally fully to expand and offer that growth and expansion to our fellow travellers in life.    This is the contribution of agape to the world.   Jesus observed so we are told in the Gospel of St. John in the tenth verse of the tenth chapter that he had come “so that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”   That is the sole test of the worth of our lives and our activities and in this new year we must be forthcoming and constructive in all we are at all times.

A Happy New Year of growth and fulfilment – your duty of the Eternal is no less.

 Maxwell Dodd, Friday 6 January 2023


As with gladness, men of old

Did the guiding star behold,

As with joy they hailed its light,

Leading onward, beaming bright,

So, most gracious Lord, may we

Evermore be led to thee.




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News: Update on the St Lucia Q Group

To be all we can be.

Thank you, John and Robert, for keeping us in the loop on developments at your wonderful group. Your objectives are something we can all take on board. All the best with your plans for 2023.

St Lucia Spirituality Group
Newsletter January 2023

Our December newsletter reflected on the growth of our group and our activities over the last fifteen months. Now, as we look forward, it is worthwhile considering why we engage in these activities.

On our Facebook page we rely on Anthony de Mello’s definition of spirituality to mean waking up. “An awakened person no longer marches to the drums of society, a person who dances to the tune of the music that springs up from within. Awareness means to watch, to observe, to understand, to wake up.” To be free.

A recent Christmas reflection by John Shelby Spong on Jesus illustrates these characteristics:

  • “He possessed the courage to be who he was. He is described in terms that portray him as an incredibly free man.”
  • “Jesus seems to have had no internal needs that drove him to prove himself – no anxieties that centered his attention on himself. He rather appears to have had an uncanny capacity to give his life away.”
  • “Freedom is always scary. People seek security in rules that curb freedom. So, his enemies conspired to remove him and his threat to them ……. he found in himself the freedom to give his life away and to do so quite deliberately.”
  • “Christmas stories year after year for one purpose only: to worship the Lord of life who still sets us free and who calls us to live, to love and to be all that we can be.”
These brief quotes illustrate our objectives, particularly the last: “to be all that we can be” within the context of our faith tradition.  We encourage our readers and supporters to wake up; to be spiritual seekers; to ask questions about their faith; to seek answers through research, discussion and prayer; and thereby to continually grow in their faith. The full text of Spong’s reflection can be found here.

If you are interested in pursuing some of these ideas further, an updated and revised version of de Mello’s book, Awareness, is now available as Stop Fixing Yourself: Wake Up, All is Well, available at book depository.com and as a Kindle version at amazon.com.

For a comprehensive examination of Jesus as a man, the Spanish biblical scholar José Pagola’s book Jesus: An Historical Approximation is a worthy investment. He addresses basic questions about who Jesus was; how he understood his life; what was the originality of his message; how the vision of the Kingdom of God centred his life; and why he was executed and who intervened in the process. Available at bookdepository.com and at amazon.com.

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting

Our next meeting will contribute to our overall objectives by exploring some of the characteristics of an adult faith journey. This journey involves the shedding of childish beliefs and actions and replacing them with an adult faith. Through our pre-reading for this episode of the Butterfly series, we will put the spotlight on the difference between a childish faith and an adult faith. We will examine issues such as dependency, the ego, evolution through experience, expansion of one’s worldview and the importance of community.

We hope you can join us. If you would like a copy of our discussion paper, simply email us. It is also available on our Facebook page. There is no obligation to join our meeting.

Our Episode 15 meeting will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Monday 13 February   2023.  To register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.

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

Our Newsletters & Facebook Page

Do you know anyone who might like to receive these newsletters too? You can contact us by email slsg4067@gmail.com.

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

Go well…
John Scoble and Robert van Mourik

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A timely publication when many people have been asking us which Bible gives us the best translation. Issues of editorial bias, cultural conflict, contextual understandings, accuracy, contradiction, falsehoods, gender bias, poor scholarship, credible scholars, etc.

What’s the Difference Between the NIV, NRSV, and Other Bible Translations? | Sojourners



Emerson Powery is professor of biblical studies and the assistant dean for the School of Arts, Culture and Society at Messiah University. He is the author or editor of several books, including The Good Samaritan: Luke 10 for the Life of the Church (Baker Academic, 2022) and served as an associate editor for Apocrypha and NT for the Common English Bible translation (2011).


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Seminar at New Farm, Q: The Indigenous Voice

Our next Explorers seminar at New Farm on Friday 17th February (please note the change of date) will be led by Everald Compton. He will be addressing the forthcoming Australian referendum on the ‘Voice”. Gathering at 10am and seminar at 10.30am.

He will outline the constitutional history of failure to recognise indigenous people as well as key issues regarding the case for YES and NO while not hiding the fact that he will personally vote YES. He will be happy to handle lots of questions. Paul Inglis will be the facilitator.

Some background material:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

In 2023, Australians will have their say in a referendum on whether to update the Constitution to include an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

The Voice will be an independent, representative advisory body for First Nations people. It will provide a permanent means to advise the Australian Parliament and Government on the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on matters that affect them.

A set of principles that describe how the Voice will work were agreed to by the First Nations Referendum Working Group.

The Voice is a body that will:

  • provide independent advice to Parliament and Government
  • be chosen by First Nations people based on the wishes of local communities
  • be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • be empowering, community led, inclusive, respectful, culturally informed and gender balanced, and includes youth
  • be accountable and transparent
  • work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures.

The Voice will not have a program delivery function, or a veto power.

The structure and role of the Voice would be decided by Parliament through legislation, with members to be chosen by First Nations people.

The referendum is part of the Government’s commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.

Other information links:

Prime Minister proposes draft referendum question and constitutional amendments | Indigenous Voice (niaa.gov.au)

About | Indigenous Voice (niaa.gov.au)

What is a Voice to Parliament? – From The Heart

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum will fail without more detail – ABC News

Final Report | Indigenous Voice (niaa.gov.au)


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Opinion: Looking forward

As we commence our 23rd year of sharing worldwide progressive Christian thinking, we look forward with hope, based on the growth of interest and support, for the continued transition away from the worst of the past and the adoption of the best of the present and past practice. We acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and our thinking so often needs critiquing. We have learnt so much from each other, the scholarly work of others and the life experiences of some.

Much of the Church is changing slowly as it faces the big challenges of the era and collaborates with the major global movements for social justice, economic development, industrial ecology, environmental policy, developmental consciousness, and the sharing of and sustaining of resources.

Although a significant number of our subscribers have walked away from the Church, we have many friends active inside the Church making a great impact on where the Church is going. It is generally understood that change is often resisted and there is comfortableness in complacency. Two thousand years of an institution established and locked into governance and doctrinal models by the Romans and living with the tensions of the teachings of Jesus means that much of the change and reform will be resisted. But there are new imperatives that make this resistance futile.

These imperatives include the threat of a diminishing role for individual humans with technological superhuman powers, the escalation of political crises, the search for effective leadership, the acceleration of greed and how to address Jesus’ goal of heaven on earth.

Collective intelligence is the greatest resource available to us. The combining of spirituality and science is transformative and helps us to find meaning. It also helps us to address the imperatives and make sound judgements. It gives us better ways of discovering truth and thinking through the complex issues of our time. It makes the Christian (Jesus) notion of humanity even more significant than ever before.

Many young people are expressing and demonstrating strong moral values about the future of humanity. I am optimistic about the future of the universe in their hands. There is much to discuss and even more to do. I hope our many Explorers groups will continue the discourse and experimenting with applying new understandings.

Happy New Year!

Paul Inglis


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Opinion: A Vision for a Contemporary Church

In response to a request from the Assembly of the UCA, newly retired Uniting Church minister and scholar Rev Dr John Squires offers his thoughts about the highlights and joys of his 42 years of ministry and also his thoughts on the UCA identity, and that all-important question: what’s the future of the Uniting Church?

What does the future of the Uniting Church look like to you?

It is so hard to know. A few years ago there was widespread discussion of ‘four scenarios’ for the future Church—word and deed, secular welfare, return to the early church, and recessional. They were helpful as catalysts for discussion, but rather artificial in the black-and-white options they proposed. I don’t see any one of them being the single way the Church will go in the future; rather, there will be a mixture.

So, what will change, and what will stay the same? People and structures are remarkably resilient in our Church. That’s a good thing, because it means we don’t easily give up, but it’s also problematic, because it means that we resist change until well past the time when transformation is feasible.

It’s not hard to know that the traditional pattern – Sunday morning worship service run by a minister living in the house next door to the church with his wife and young family, with a big Sunday School in the hall next to the church, midweek women’s and men’s fellowships, a Friday night youth group and a ‘youth service’ on Sunday evening – will not exist. It has already disappeared in so many places, even though some still continue to believe it’s ideal and that we just need to ‘get back to the good old days’. It’s not happening.

New patterns of gathering, praying, serving, and witnessing will emerge, indeed, there are already many such examples. The Church will become more local, contextualised and differentiated, across all the places where Uniting Church folk are to be found. We don’t have a master plan for congregational life, so each place will find its own pattern.

Such flexibility and diversity is to be valued and encouraged as it contributes to the health of the future Church. What we do need to ensure is that we continue to provide opportunities for people to grow in discipleship and offer channels whereby disciples can engage in constructive, hope-giving mission in society.

What are the things that are critical we get right?

We have a clear set of core commitments as the Uniting Church. First, we are committed to developing a destiny together with First Peoples, working for this locally and advocating for this nationally. Next, we are committed to learn from the practices of First Peoples and live in ways that honour the land, value all creatures, and reduce the impact of our lifestyles on the planet. Third, we have identified ourselves as a multicultural church and are committed to expressions of church fitting for the many language groups and ethnicities present in our Congregations. These three commitments are critical for us to maintain.

We are inclusive, accepting and value every person, no matter how society might want to categorise them. We are justice-oriented, serving and advocating for those people who are marginalised, abused, or rejected by forces at work in society. Those who are vulnerably housed, those experiencing domestic abuse, those unable to pay all their regular bills, those seeking the safety of refuge in our land, all merit our support and advocacy. We are participatory in our governance, our worship practices, our valuing of giftedness, especially in terms of gender and ethnicity. These things are core to our identity and essential to our future. It is essential that we get and keep them right.

We are also evangelical in the best and true sense of the term, even though that is a word that has been corrupted by terrible misuse in recent decades. And we are, still, ecumenical. Perhaps we might recapture this core commitment as: we welcome with open arms lay people and ministers who have served in other denominations, but have been bruised, burnt, or frozen out because of debates and decisions in those places. Can we recapture evangelical ecumenism and offer that in creative ways to society at large?

And then, we also must get the range of compliance matters right. Good ethical standards and transparently ethical practices are critical. Nobody should offer for leadership in the UCA these days with the naive thought that ‘it’s just a couple of meetings’; all leaders need to model and lead in ethically upright ways, and that means devoting time and energy to provide good leadership.

I think that now, the time is ripe for a thoroughgoing revision of what it is that we expect our ordained leadership to be doing. The mid-20th century paradigm of ‘preach, preside, and pastor’ is still reflected in our Regulations—but more recent modifications to the section on “Responsibilities of a Minister” (Reg. 2.2.1) move us towards a revised pattern, in which the key elements (in my mind) are “pioneering, collaborating, and resourcing”. I have reflected on this in two recent blogposts here and here.

In today’s context, what does it mean for us to be a church committed to scholarly inquiry?

Personally, I can’t imagine being content with any expression of faith that fails to engage mind as well as heart. Our Basis of Union commits us to “the knowledge of God’s ways with humanity that are open to an informed faith”—a faith that is contextualised, critically developed, alert to contemporary understandings, and engaged with contemporary society.

That invites us to know what discoveries are being made by scientists, psychologists, and sociologists, through exploration of the whole cosmos as well as investigation of ecologies and systems close at hand, and to bring those discoveries into conversation with our faith and the developments that have occurred in our theological understandings through the faithful work of exegetes, theologians, missiologists, educators, activists, writers, and preachers. We are also invited to attend to the creative offerings of poets, novelists, composers and artists, helping to shape our understanding of God and of one another.

So in our exegesis of biblical texts and articulation of theological insights, in our decision-making about church polity and our implementation of missional projects, we are always to be informed by these matters. Our expressions of faith always come to birth in the context in which we find ourselves, and always engage our whole being.

As that wonderful paragraph 11 of the Basis of Union affirms, I join in giving thanks “that God has never left the Church without faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have reflected deeply upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to, God’s living Word”.

What have been the joys of your ministry? What are the things you have learned and will treasure?

I have learned much and enjoyed much; so I have many things to treasure! I will limit myself to six.

Funerals. From early in my ministry, this was top of the list. I felt that, amongst both the “game playing” and the drudgery that can be experienced in ministry, visiting bereaved people and leading services of thanksgiving and remembrance were always moments when “I was doing something real”—connecting with people’s lives at raw and fragile moments, representing the grace and compassion that are at the heart of the Gospel.

Musicians. As a minister, musicians can be the bane of my life. And as a musician, ministers can be the bane of my life! But as a minister, working with liturgically-aware musicians is wonderful; and as a musician, playing with good musicians is bliss, and playing in worship led by theologically astute ministers is most enjoyable. Music makes such an important contribution to communal worship and personal spirituality, so musical ability is a gifting that is to be valued and nurtured.

Lifelong learning. Just as our church values scholarship, so we prioritise learning experiences for all people—lay and ordained, those in leadership and those participating as active disciples. Great moments for me have come in seminars and workshops, both as teaching facilitator and as learning student. I have learned at overseas universities and in local congregational settings, in training courses and in practical sessions, and even, more recently, in online groups!

Collaborations. All of my ministries have been in teams, with both ordained colleagues and lay leaders. Learning to work together in the best way, valuing each others’ gifts and working creatively to produce a truly collaborative partnership, always results in a joyful outcome. I have had fine collaborations with fellow ministers, teachers, committee and board members. My best and most enduring collaboration has been with my wife Elizabeth—fellow minister, educator, musician, creator. We have done some fine things together—many Lay Preacher courses, a good number of dialogue sermons, some Christmas in July fun nights, a shared placement for five years, a number of online Bible study series, and regular musical offerings in worship.

Variety. No one placement has been like another. And within my longest placement (20 years as a Faculty member at UTC), there were seasons with different focal points: initially, developing subjects to teach, then overseeing ministry formation, strengthening teaching amongst the Faculty and developing research supervision as Academic Dean, helping with the transition into Charles Sturt University, serving as Vice Principal and encouraging emerging scholars. Such variety is something that I have always valued. It has, I hope, kept me fresh in doing what I do.

Faithful, committed, dedicated people. Whilst I appreciate the privileges and responsibilities of ordination, I have always deeply valued the committed faith and dedicated discipleship of those many lay people amongst whom I have ministered. I have always seen them as part of the same team and have sought both to encourage, and to learn from, lay people in equal measure. Our Basis of Union is strongly affirming in this regard.

And maybe that’s a seventh thing that I can squeak in, which I treasure: the Basis of Union, and its lesser-known sibling, the 1977 Statement to the Nation. These, along with the 1988 Statement, are immensely valuable documents; they have served us well for decades and will continue to do so on into the future. They express so much of what I value within the Uniting Church.

John Squires

For more reflections from John on ministry, theology, the Uniting Church and the Bible, follow his blog.



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Spong: What I believe about Jesus

Katherine from Richmond, Virginia writes:


What is it about this Jesus that you find so compelling? When I hear the Christmas story from the Bible, I believe that I am listening to fairy tales. Stars do not announce the birth of a human being. Angels do not sing to hillside shepherds. Virgins do not conceive and give birth. Is there something behind the old mythology that I am missing? Can you still, with any integrity, refer to Jesus as “the son of God?”


Dear Katharine,

Thank you for your questions. Not only are they important ones but they give me the opportunity to articulate my deepest convictions about this Jesus in the column that will go out to my subscribers on Christmas Eve. So I shall frame my answer to you in the form of a Christmas meditation, for this Jesus has always both fascinated and attracted me.

My deepest self-definition is that I am a Christian, by which I mean that in Jesus of Nazareth I believe I see the meaning of God most clearly. This experience of an in-breaking divine presence is what I believe created the Christmas traditions that you refer to in your question. Certainly during this season they are omnipresent.

It was more than two thousand years ago that the historic figure we call Jesus lived. It was a life of relatively short duration, only thirty-three years. At most only three of those years were devoted to a public career. Yet, that life appears to have been a source of wonder and power to those who knew him. Tales of miraculous power surrounded him. Words of insight and wisdom were believed to have flowed from his lips. Love and freedom seemed to be qualities that marked his existence. Men and women found themselves called into being by him. Those laden with guilt discovered, somehow, the joy of forgiveness in him. The alone, the insecure, the warped and twisted found him to be a source of peace. He possessed the courage to be who he was. He is described in terms that portray him as an incredibly free man.

Jesus seems to have had no internal needs that drove him to prove himself – no anxieties that centered his attention on himself. He rather appears to have had an uncanny capacity to give his life away. He gave love, he gave selfhood, he gave freedom, and he gave them abundantly – wastefully, extravagantly.

Lives touched by his life were never the same. Somehow life’s secret, its very purpose, seemed to be revealed in him. When people looked at him they were somehow able to see beyond him, and even through him. They saw in his life the Source of all life that expanded them. They saw in his love the Source of love and the hope of their own fulfillment. This kind of transforming power was something they had not known before.

Freedom is always scary. People seek security in rules that curb freedom. So his enemies conspired to remove him and his threat to them. From one perspective it might be said that they killed him. When one looks more closely at the story, however, it might be more accurate to say that he found in himself the freedom to give his life away and to do so quite deliberately. He died caring for those who took his life from him. In that moment he revealed a love that could embrace all the hostilities of human life without allowing those hostilities to compromise his ability to love. He demonstrated rather dramatically that there is nothing a person can do and nothing a person can be that will finally render any of us either unlovable or unforgivable. Even when a person destroys the giver of life and love, that person does not cease to be loved by the Source of love or called into life by the Source of life. That was his message or at least that is what people believed they had met in this Jesus. Such a life could not help but transcend human limits. For this kind of love can never be overwhelmed by hatred; this life can never finally be destroyed by death.

Is it any wonder that people had to break the barriers of language when they sought to make rational sense out of this Jesus experience? They called him the Son of God. They said that somehow God was in him. So deeply did people believe these things that the way they perceived history was changed by him. To this day we still date the birth of our civilization from the birth of this Jesus.

They believed that he was able to give love and forgiveness, acceptance and courage. They believed that he had the power to fill life full. Since people tended to define God as the Source of life and love, they began to say that in this human Jesus they had engaged the holy God.

When they began to write about this transforming experience they confronted a problem. How could the human mind, which can only think using human vocabulary, stretch far enough to embrace the God presence they had experienced in this life? How could mere words be big enough to capture this divine meaning? Inevitably, as they wrote they lapsed into poetry and imagery. When this life entered human history, they said, even the heavens rejoiced. A star appeared in the sky. A heavenly host of angels sang hosanna. Judean shepherds came to view him. Eastern Magi journeyed from the ends of the earth to worship him. Since they were certain that they had met the presence of God in him, they reasoned that God must have been his father in some unique way. It was certainly a human reference but that is all we human beings have to use.

Life as we know it, they said, could never have produced what we have found in him. That is why they created birth traditions capable of accounting for the adult power that they found in him.

Our modern and much less mysterious world reads these birth narratives and, assuming a literalness of human language that the biblical writers never intended, say “How ridiculous! How unbelievable! Things like that just do not happen. Stars don’t suddenly appear in the night to announce a human birth. Angels do not entertain hillside shepherds with heavenly songs. Virgins do not conceive. These things cannot be true.”

On one level those criticisms are accurate. Things like that do not happen in any literal sense. But does that mean that the experience this ecstatic language was created to communicate was not real. I do not think so.

The time has come for Christians, when we try to talk about God, to face without being defensive, the inadequacy of human language. These stories were never meant to be read literally. They were written by those who had been touched by this Jesus. That is why they challenge our imaginations and sound so fanciful and unreal. Our minds are so earthbound that our imaginations have become impoverished. Literal truth has given way to interpretive images. When life meets God and finds fulfillment one sees sights never before seen, one knows joy never before experienced, and one expects the heavens to sing and dance in celebration.

The story of Christmas, as told by the gospel writers, has a meaning beyond the rational and a truth beyond the scientific. It points to a reality that no life touched by this Jesus could ever deny. The beauty of our Christmas story is bigger than our rational minds can embrace. For when this Jesus is known, when love, acceptance, and forgiveness are experienced, when we become whole, free and affirmed people, the heavens do sing “Glory to God in the Highest,” and on earth there is “Peace and Good Will among Us All.” Hence, we Christians rejoice in the transcendent beauty and wonder of this Christmas story. To those who have never stepped inside this experience we issue an invitation to come stand where we stand and look through our eyes at this babe of Bethlehem. Then perhaps they too will join those of us who read these

Christmas stories year after year for one purpose only: to worship the Lord of life who still sets us free and who calls us to live, to love and to be all that we can be. That is why the Christmas invitation is so simple: Come, come, let us adore him.

How do we adore him? In my mind the answer to that query is clear. I adore him not by becoming religious or by becoming a missionary who seeks to convert the world to my understanding of Jesus. I do it rather by dedicating my energies to the task of building a world where everyone in this world might have an opportunity to live more fully, love more wastefully and have the courage to be all that they were created to be. This is the only way I know how to acknowledge the Source of Life, the Source of Love and the Ground of Being that I believe that I have experienced in this Jesus. How can one adore the Source of Life except by living? How can one adore the Source of Love except by loving? How can one adore the Ground of all Being except by having the courage to be all that one can be. It is not possible to seek these gifts for oneself and then deny them to every other life. So our task as disciples of Jesus is to live fully, to love wastefully and to be all that we can be while we seek to enable every other person, in the infinite variety of our humanity, to live fully, to love wastefully and to be all that each person can be. That also means that we can brook no prejudice that would hurt or reject another based on any external characteristic, be it race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. It all seems so simple to me. God was in Christ. That is the essence of what I believe about this Jesus.

Have a blessed and holy Christmas.

~ John Shelby Spong


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Book Review: Is Nothing Sacred?

Is Nothing Sacred? The Non-Realist Philosophy of Religion by Don Cupuitt

Fordham University Press, NY, 2002

reviewed by Nicholas Rundle

An edited review by Nicholas Rundle, an Anglican Priest and Quaker fellow-traveller who lives in the Adelaide hills. From the Sea of Faith in Australia “Bulletin” Feb 2003.
Don Cupitt is one of the world’s most controversial theologian-philosophers.
In his popular and, some would say, subversive BBC TV series of the 1980s, ‘The Sea of Faith’, Cupitt asserted that religion, in order to survive, must free itself from supernatural beliefs and be seen instead as a form of human cultural expression.
Cupitt has been described by some as a Christian atheist and he has not been afraid to attack the church and theologians. In his 1980 book Taking Leave of God Cupitt accused the church of exercising ‘psychological terrorism’, [see note 1] and defined his own role as that of a rescuer. Jesus is to be rescued from dogmatic captivity and God from metaphysical captivity. Jesus, the ‘ugly little man’, has in his more recent books, such as Reforming Christianity returned to centre stage where Kingdom religion — the religion of immediacy preached by Jesus — must emerge from the ‘rusty and oppressive’ machinery of the mediated religion of the Church [see nore 2]. Cupitt exhorts his readers to a beliefless religion where worship and belief in a supernatural realm are replaced by a definition of religion as a way people relate themselves to life and celebrate life.
Cupitt’s latest book, Is Nothing Sacred needs to be read against the background of the radical Sea of Faith movement as well as the controversy and vituperation that has followed him as he has sought to promote his non-realist Christianity from within the Church.
In the introduction to Is Nothing Sacred? (p XI ) Cupitt defines non-realism in this way:

Suppose we become acutely aware of our own human limits: we realise that we are always inside human language, and only ever see the world through our human eyes. All that is ever accessible to us is the relative god, my god. As I see this, metaphysics dies and I am left knowing only my god, my guiding religious ideal. And this is the non-realist philosophy of religion in a nutshell.

The value of the Introduction lies not only in the succinct way in which Cupitt summarises his thought but the chronological account of the way his ideas have developed; a kind of chronological apologia. Until now only Scott Cowdell’s 1988 book, Atheist Priest (SCM) provided any kind of guide to the themes which have emerged from Cupitt’s earlier books as he journeyed from Christian orthodoxy to a radical empty humanism and a love of transience. Cupitt quotes with a touch of humour the English establishment figure, Baroness Warnock who bracketed together the philosophers, Derrida, Rorty, and Cupitt as enemies of objective truth and public morals (ix). However the reader also gets a sense of how difficult Cupitt’s journey has been for him and how hurtful he has found the accusations that his philosophy is, “simply a euphemism for sheer and shameless unbelief.” (xv). Perhaps Cupitt has received more opprobrium than other equally radical thinkers because he has drawn attention to the stultifying insularity of the British academic and ecclesiastical establishments. It is perhaps appropriate that his latest book of essays has appeared in a series on continental theologians because Cupitt has been a pioneer in the exploration of continental European thought and its implications for the way in which life is lived.
Is Nothing Sacred is comprised of a series of essays from the period 1980 –2000. They explore themes from Kant and Nietzsche, and sketch Cupitt’s vision for radical religion. I appreciated the essay in which he explores the history of religious art. Cupitt is particularly knowledgeable about art. He traces the dissolution of any kind of division between sacred and secular art in the modern and post modern eras. He notes the move towards the abstract and to postmodern art which seeks to disturb and confront, rather than to console or uplift the observer who can no longer remain only a contemplating observer but is drawn into the emerging flux of being.
Cupitt, much I suspect to the annoyance of the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury, remains a priest. As an Anglican priest myself I note in this book and in others, Cupitt’s real pastoral concern for his readers and hearers to find their own way to liberation. The old style religion of mediated salvation is replaced by religion as therapy which serves to divest people of an addiction to be what Bishop Richard Holloway has called in public, ‘meaning junkies’. In chapter six Cupitt explores therapy as a way of freeing people to accept life as it is, rather than turning life into a weapon to make ourselves unhappy. He focuses on the Buddha as the best exponent of the therapeutic approach. Cupitt has at times been content to call himself a Christian Buddhist. In this chapter he encourages his readers to see religion as reconciling us to what is and might be in this world, rather than providing us with information about illusory worlds or Platonic ideals. It is no wonder that Cupitt’s style of theologising has profoundly influenced novelists like Philip Pullman and Iris Murdoch.
The turn to life, a theme that emerges in Cupitt’s more recent books, is summarised in an article entitled, ‘The Value of Life’ in which he explores the requirement to develop an appropriate environmental ethic. He draws attention to the nostalgic utopian tendency in conservation movements and traces this to western assumptions about an unchanging morality ‘out there’ needing only to be grasped and applied rather than an “ever-renewed creative activity though which we give our life worth and keep the human enterprise going.” (p 124) In the final two chapters of the book Cupitt reprints two essays in which he responds to criticisms by two British Anglican theologians, the establishment liberal David Edwards and Rowan Williams, soon to become the leader of the Anglican Communion. In his disputation with Edwards Cupitt attacks theological liberalism at its weakest point. Cupitt sees the liberal project as one of cleaning up the language and presentation of the faith in the hope that the result will more than satisfy a post Christian world, hungry for spirituality as well as restore passion and commitment to the mainstream Church. Cupitt rejects these liberal aspirations and calls for root and branch reform by appealing to the feminist critique of Christianity and to Jesus’ radical this-world ethic. Here the reader gets a sense of Cupitt’s determination to staying within a Church in which many regard him as an ecclesiastical cuckoo. The last words of this book have him reiterating a promise to change the Church from within and claiming his own place within the Church. His vision of the future Church, reiterated in many of his books is of democratic undogmatic Quaker style non-realist communities fired by a solar ethic. Individuals and communities live like the sun pouring themselves out for others without hope for spiritual reward. Can we see the shadow of Kant’s ethics in Cupitt’s solar ethic?
In his reply to Rowan Williams, Cupitt employs the metaphor of the dance to describe the ambiguity of religious claims to truth, which must at the same time be negated. He quotes Derrida in defence of a playful use of language that is ultimately incapable of definition. Cupitt finds much in common with Williams, both writers seeking to employ language as play, an arena for meaning making in this world although Cupitt believes that nothing can lie beyond language. Cupitt defends himself by a discussion of the void, or Nihil, a common theme in his writings. Cupitt is taking the path of many mystics by saying that faith is not information gathering or belief but a radical death into unknowing, a kenotic embrace of the void rather than a retreat into a closed circle of certainty. Cupitt accuses Williams of taking the side of a nostalgic easygoing Christendom-type religion rather than seeking to make connections and learn the language of the world which only comes by entering the place of dark unknowing. He urges Williams to come out of the religious closet and declare himself a non-realist.
I hope that Williams and Cupitt will continue the dance of debate and that voice of radicals like Cupitt and the Sea of Faith will be as much valued and respected as the voices of powerful lobby groups. In every area of contemporary life, the Church included, conservatives and liberals continually squabble about the moral high ground. They usually make common cause only to suppress the unpopular radical who points out the real state of the Emperor’s robe-less condition.
Perhaps it’s worth recalling that in the Gospel the sworn enemies Pontius Pilate and Herod made friends in order to crucify Jesus. One hopes that the prophetic Cupitt will keep the radical nature of faith alive in the Church of the Kingdom which may yet emerge from the wreckage of institutional Churchianity.
I found Is Nothing Sacred? a valuable and important addition to my knowledge and appreciation of Cupitt. I have found Cupitt’s writings enormously influential in the development and maturation of my own faith. Unlike Cupitt I am prepared to be open (most days) to a faith in a transcendent God beyond the god of human imagination and creativity to which humans can relate as I/Thou. I certainly believe that Cupitt deserves to be more widely read in an Australia. More and more people are struggling to find a way through a post modern world where the old nostalgia often peddled by political and religious leaders seems less and less convincing and where the void of loss leads many to nihilist despair. Cupitt also speaks powerfully to the condition of many post Christians and post theists who still want to value the transformative potential of religion without God. He challenges those who want to escape into Harry Potter fantasies where the truth is out there somewhere waiting to be decoded, delivered by Santa or downloaded from the Internet.
This book is a good introduction to most of the major themes that Cupitt has wrestled with since his turn to non-realism in 1980. If you have not before read Cupitt and engage with
Is Nothing Sacred?
you may well discover why the Adelaide-based scientist and author Paul Davies calls Cupitt as one of the most exciting theologians of our era.[see note 3] You may not agree with Cupitt but I think you might discover in the questions he is asking a powerful antidote to the religious pulp fiction that so often passes for theology, spirituality, personal group and other meaning-making genres in our era.


1. As described by T. Beeson Rebels and Reformers (SCM 1999) p.171.
2. Cupitt, D Reforming Christianity Santa Rosa California 2001 Polebridge Press p 7
3. Davies, P ‘The Ingeniously Ordered Universe’ p 38 in Wallace, Fisher et al (eds) Time and Tide (John Hunt, 2001)
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News: Newsletter from St Lucia (Brisbane) Spirituality Group

St Lucia Spirituality Group
Newsletter December 2022

It is worthwhile reflecting on what has happened in our group since our first newsletter in August 2021. Our mailing list now numbers approximately 80 and our private Facebook group has grown to 46, a diverse and multi-denominational group. We have held 14 meetings on zoom with up to 10-12 participants, and there is a small group that meets for a monthly breakfast. Several have commented favourably on their experiences participating in our group and how it has benefited them.

Over the course of our meetings, we have considered a range of topics:

  • A model of the two halves of life, the second embracing a search for a spiritual life
  • The future of Christianity
  • Suffering and loss
  • An introduction to Ken Wilber’s model of human development embracing waking up, cleaning up, growing up and showing up
  • An introduction to meditation and its benefits
  • Praying with scripture
  • Historical influences on beliefs
  • Schisms in the church and
  • Understanding the meaning of kingdom of God

More broadly, we have considered the need for a coherent world view and a religious framework that makes sense to us, so we seek to reframe discussion responsive to the need for an adult faith cognisant of current knowledge. Sr Ilia Delio, renowned Franciscan, theological scholar and authority on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, writes:

“At the Center for Christogenesis, we are keenly aware of our fragile world, but we see things from a new perspective.  We see the power of divine love at work, pushing through the limits of the world to shape us into something more beautiful and whole. We see a new role for religion to catalyze our energies, to nurture a zest for life.  We see a role for science revealing the secrets of nature, showing us the incredible and infinite potential of nature to do new things.  We see Science and Religion as partners in the overall flow of life. This is not a dream but our deepest reality. The Center for Christogenesis is committed to a new vision for a new world.  We do not seek to repeat what we have inherited; we seek to build on what we have inherited by looking at it with new eyes and seeing what has not yet been realized. For without a vision, the people perish.” (December 2022, our italics added for emphasis).

Quite appropriate, we think, even exciting for this points to a religious framework that is life giving and fulfilling without seeking perfection or focusing on sin management.

Yet we are also aware of the dangers of holding our beliefs too tightly. Firstly, just as we think the beliefs of two millennia might be founded partially on erroneous knowledge, in time to come, we may well be thought of as ignoramuses!  And secondly, Judy Cannato’s observation in her last book, Field of Compassion, as she was dying with cancer, that holding on to beliefs too tightly leads to judgements that get in the way of love.

That is why we ended our last meeting considering James Finlay’s (Faculty, Center for Action and Contemplation) quote about our loving response to the will of God:

“What is God’s will? All things considered, what is the most loving thing I can do right now? For my body, for my mind, for this person, for this relationship, this family, this plant, this animal. This world, all things considered, how am I going to live my love? “

Thank you

We would like to send out a big thank you to our supporters and correspondents whose reflections, constructive comments and insights have assisted us on our faith journey and have led to improvements in our leadership of the St Lucia Spirituality GRobert <slsg4067@gmail.com>roup.

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting 

Our Butterfly Series is now in recess until next year, our first meeting will likely be late in January or early February, we shall provide more information in our January newsletter. It will continue our theme of exploring adult faith education.



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Opinion: Sacred


I reckon it is when something is the best we can do. When someone has achieved something they had to work very hard to achieve. When there is exuberant joy and positive goodness… beauty and truth. And maybe there are other things that should be on this list.

I recall the pastor of a church once bringing a young man to the lectern and introducing him. The lad was recovering from a drug addiction and he wanted to share with the congregation his commitment to keep going until he was once again well and free of his addiction.

He played a guitar and sang… and it was possibly the worst guitar playing I’d ever heard. Same with singing… his body was wasted and he could hardly hold a note. Yet somehow, he did what he was there wanting to do and took a step into a better future.

For me, that was a sacred moment. Whether it was the loving care of the pastor, the halting step forward by the young man or the reverence of people in the room, I’m not sure… but somehow we were all moved. Something important happened.

That took place in a church, but every day, in all the nooks and crannies of life, sacred moments  are happening.

A rescuer is winched down into a rough sea to save someone in danger of drowning.

A young woman in Iran who  understands the consequences yet still  demonstrates against laws forcing women to wear traditional clothes and not to be able to choose what to wear.

A child sits with a placard in front of her school and her commitment is so strong the whole world will soon be following her example. The ordinary lives of parents are filled with many sacred moments… the joy, the love, the trust of a child as they grow in goodness are very special events.

There’s sacredness in the life of plants and animals… in the world of nature and the universe of galaxies and planets stretching out beyond the reach of humanity.

Some might not call these things ‘sacred’ but I do. The wonder and awe of the natural world is very comforting. The courage and commitment of people to be the best they can and to reach out to help others, even to risk their lives for others, is my definition of sacred.

I reckon there is a path, a journey, we and the world are travelling. We may not yet see the goal clearly, but each act of kindness, each acknowledgement of the beauty and power of nature, each act of love and sacrifice, moves us a little further in the right direction.

Bev Floyd




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Opinion: VOICE

From Everald Compton

Sometime during the second half of 2023, we will be given the opportunity to vote YES or NO in what will be known as the VOICE REFERENDUM that arises from the ULURU STATEMENT FROM THE HEART.

As announced by the Prime Minister earlier this year, a YES vote in the Referendum will create an amendment to the Australian Constitution that will enable Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders to participate in a democratic election to establish a VOICE which will meet regularly to recommend policies to the Australian Parliament which will have the total authority to accept or reject them.

After the Referendum, Parliament will debate and enact a Bill that creates the rules that will apply to the way in which the VOICE is elected and operates.

In reality it is quite simply a positive step forward in integrating 65000 years of heritage into our Constitution and our life as a nation.

I will vote YES and actively campaign for a Yes vote.

In doing this, I am well aware that a significant number of my friends intend to vote NO and have carefully considered reasons for doing so. I respect their right to vote according to their conscience.

Here are some of their reasons for voting NO.

*Australia is a nation that already has a voice – our Federal Parliament – to which we have elected a significant number of indigenous parliamentarians.

*The Voice will create apartheid.

*Australia provides billions of dollars to Indigenous people every year and this has been wasted. No matter what is done for them, they are ungrateful and will always want more.

*The establishment of a Voice will not solve the problems that are ingrained in indigenous society such as crime, unemployment, alcohol, drugs, health, housing, domestic violence, poor education and lack of skills.

*It is only city aborigines who want a Voice. Country aborigines have no interest in it.

*A Treaty, based on the Waitangi Treaty of New Zealand, would achieve more.

In response to these concerns and beliefs, I tell my friends the reasons why I will vote YES.

*Indigenous people were excluded from the Australian Constitution in 1901. This was an insult and a mistake which must be rectified now.

*When Britain, in 1788, invaded the continent we now call Australia, they stole land which had been occupied by indigenous people for 65000 years. The welfare that is now given to them is a tiny fraction of the value of their land that they have never ceded.

*100 tribes of Indigenous people have never been able to speak to the Australian Parliament with one democratically elected Voice. Previous institutions have been comprised of political appointees who did the will of the governments that appointed them.

*White people have always decided what is best for aborigines, never the reverse.

*Defeating the referendum will achieve nothing. This issue will never go away. We will just irresponsibly kick the can down the road so our children and grandchildren will eventually have to do what we failed to do.

*It is quite simply the right and decent thing to do.

I am certain there are other important reasons why people will vote YES or NO and these will emerge during the referendum campaign. However, the ones I have outlined give an indication of the general scope of the forthcoming debate.

The Albanese Government will not provide funding for either the YES or NO campaigns. Both sides are required to set up there own organising teams and raise their own funds. This is a good thing as it would be wrong for the government to be seen to be promoting YES even though it is a clear policy of the Labor Party. So, it must promote neither.

I have joined, as a volunteer, a significant group called FROM THE HEART and my role is to help organise a strong YES vote from the Senior Australians. My plan is to enlist as many older Aussies as possible to visit everyone in the streets around their own home to chat about the absolute common sense of having a VOICE. We won’t waste money on advertising. Face to face talking is the powerful way to sell this historic strengthening of our national life.

My gut feeling is that there is a significant task ahead.

Right now, my private polling of public opinion tells me that Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania are likely to vote NO and this will create a national defeat of VOICE as our Constitution says that a referendum cannot pass unless a majority of States vote YES.

I also suspect that Senior Australians will vote NO by a margin of 60/40 because of ingrained negativity about all indigenous issues generated over many decades, but I think that a positive campaign could make it 50/50. Young voters will then take it over the victory line.

Overall, I reckon that with sincere and courteous campaigning the cause for YES can achieve a positive victory and I intend do my best to make it happen. My experience is that most older Australians are responsible people who will try to do the right thing for the good of Australia once they understand the issues at stake.

Creating a VOICE is clearly a nation building exercise that will benefit us all.

Nevertheless, I have an open mind to debate any better alternatives that sincere advocates put forward as this issue will never go away. Defeating it will achieve nil.

Grace and Peace in the spirit of ULURU. It is a symbol of unity.



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Events: for the friends of Redcliffe (Q) Explorers

Greetings fellow Explorers

 A reminder that this evening’s gathering (Monday 5th December) – an informal communal meal – will start half an hour earlier than our normal time (i.e. 5:30 instead of 6:00 p.m.). You’re invited to bring a plate to share (mains, dessert or fruit) and drinks, and your own crockery, cutlery and glassware. Tea, coffee, milk etc will be provided. A fridge is available for short-term cold storage, and a microwave to heat things up.

We’ll meet as usual in the Function Room at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe). For more information about the group or access to the venue, please call Ian on 0401 513 723.

We look forward to seeing you there!


Ian and the Team



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Opinion: A healthy church needs a healthy planet

From Richard Rohr – Centre for Action and Contemplation

1st December 2022

A Healthy Church Needs a Healthy Planet

  Historian and writer Diana Butler Bass reflects on a church on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay, and the implications of its future in this time of climate crisis:

As I have ruminated on Tangier Island, I realize that far too many religious leaders are asking the wrong question. The future of Christianity matters little if there are no human beings, whether we extinct ourselves through war or environmental disaster. We can fix our denominations, bring new members to church, write the best theologies ever—and none of it will matter one whit if we are all dead. The question—“What is the future of Christianity?”—must be held in relation to other questions. Right now, the most significant of those questions is: “What is the future of humankind?”

That is the existential question of our time. All other questions pale by comparison and distract us from hearing the voices of God, the earth, and other creatures with the kind of rigor and compassion necessary for the living of these particular days. To me, the question about the future of Christianity has become: “What must Christians do to serve all creation when the island itself is in danger of sinking?” [1]

Theologian Sallie McFague (1933–2019) was inspired by Isaiah’s prophetic vision of new heavens and earth—and what it requires of us:

The world we want, that we ache for, is a world where children get to grow up and live to old age, where people have food and houses and enjoyable work, where animals and plants and human beings live together on the earth in harmony, where none “shall hurt or destroy” [Isaiah 65:25]. This is our dream, our deepest desire, the image we cannot let go of. This vision of the good life makes us unwilling to settle for the unjust, unsustainable, and indeed cruel and horrendous world we have. . . .

Isaiah’s hymn to a new creation and Jesus’ parables of the reign of God touch this deepest desire in each of us for a different, better world. It would be a world in which human dignity and the integrity of creation are central, a world in which the intrinsic value of all human beings and of the creation itself is recognized and appreciated. . . . Do we have any hope for a different, better world? Given the situation we face at the beginning of the twenty-first century of war, violence, AIDS, capitalist greed, and now the specter of global warming, it seems absurd to even bother with such a question. And yet we read in the Isaiah passage [65:17–25] that in the midst of painting this wonderful picture of life beyond our wildest dreams, God says, “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.” “While they are yet speaking”—we have only to ask for God to answer! But we must ask with our whole being; a better world must become our deepest desire. And this means, of course, we must work at it; we must give our whole selves to it. [2]

Richard Rohr on Climate Change


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Caloundra Explorers Completion of a Study

Dear Explorers

For those who have been following:

We have had the final session of our book study of John Humphreys’ Our benevolent cosmos. We had a lively discussion around these key moments:

Subjugation of women in the Church

P 108  We watched the short video How Jesus’ female disciples were erased from history:


P 111 ‘Nature, like Scripture, remained a male preserve—the domain of Mathematical Man alone.’ (Wertheim in Pythagoras’ Trousers)

P 111  ‘In this 21st century, we need to progress towards a higher degree of authenticity which moves beyond adherence to traditional religious dogma and yet maintains the jewels from the best elements of Christianity.’ This is much the same as what George Stuart said in his book Starting all over again? Yes or No?

Answering the sceptics

P 113  To illustrate the fact that scientists don’t know how life originated on Earth we watched this New Scientist video:


P 115  ‘The followers of some religious organisations, imbued with collective biases and outdated dogmatic principles, do not always equate to the lives of soulful, conscious and deeply moral humans with a deep connection to Source (or God).’

Towards the intersection of science, spirituality, religion and history

P 117  ‘Today’s scientists have more in common with the mystics than do many religious people.’ (Rohr)

Reflections for Christian adherents

P 121  ‘The revised concept of God, the inspirational life of Jesus, and the inner essence in all humankind (divine spirit, soul or consciousness) can still be argued to represent a Trinity. . . If prayer is your ultimate comfort, pray to God as the Supreme Cosmic Intelligence, to Jesus Christ as the great Prophet of Love, and pray for the intuitive wisdom to discover your inner, pure essence.’

We wondered how these statement would be received in a traditional church service.

What is God?

P 123  John uses the term energy in at least four different ways—energy in a light bulb, dark energy, negative energy in a room and the negative energy in the theory of a zero-mass universe, explained in this YouTube video:


Final reflections

P 125  ‘This inner consciousness can be termed the God Essence, the Divine Spirit, the God Within, the Deep I, or more simply the Soul.’

P 126  ‘The concept of God being the underlying supreme intelligence, the benevolent and pervasive energy behind all things, earth and space, is arguably a more cogent view than the outdated image of God as a paternal, judgmental figure residing in a place called heaven.’

P 130-131  John explained the background of his prose/poem The cycle of life where water is used as a metaphor for birth, career, retirement and death.

We certainly got a lot out of John’s book and we hope you did too. See you on Sunday.

Ken Williamson



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Reflection: On Advent – A New Year and a New Vision

 A New Year and a New Vision

 I am writing on this Advent Sunday, 2022, the first day of the new church year.  It is the beginning of the season which leads up to the celebrations of Christmas in a month’s time.   That makes it a perfect time for reflection on the Christian experience as it touches the lives of people.

I am reminded in this month of November 2022 that it is now exactly 60 years since what has become by far the largest selling theological book of all time was published in London.  Honest to God, the ponderings of an English Anglican bishop, one John A.T. Robinson, on what were then seen as the outpourings of the “modern theologians” became a best seller and the subject of almost endless vilification in the worlds both of the church and of the press.  Such was the criticism of the work that in an age when church-going was a much more normal part of the daily life of the citizen, as was retiring with a book, that it was read widely.   I recall with some interest that in September 1963 I came to buy a copy of the work (a paperback) and that I was finding my nights when I should have been pursuing my studies for the then forthcoming examinations in torts and crimes (I still passed) were being spent in the joys of theological discussion.  That much of it went over my head I do not deny (I found much of the language impenetrable) but I was aware that in this work I was meeting the boldness of mind that I had already found lacking in church circles.

As a mere boy of 16 in the Australian winter of 1958 I had started to find in what was being presented to me in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney on a Sunday night at Evensong in the local church much that was open to a range of questions.   Good sense required that I remain silent about such matters though I was blessed by an apparently willing companion for discussion of the issues in the fox terrier bitch who was sharing my bed.   Her silence did nothing to diminish the comfort of being free to articulate what had concerned me.   As the lad who went on to legal studies in January 1960 and kept finding questions of the Christianity that was being offered to him, I found matters being discussed by Bishop Robinson when they were not over my head a blast of fresh air.

As I have written elsewhere those questions have been with me for a lifetime and, as one now of 80, I look back on the journey of an expanding awareness and a deepening of understanding with a mixture of amusement and satisfaction.    That journey has taken me around the world to many institutions and places and has found me in the halls of what I gather is called “universalism.”   I have had no trouble finding in the seeking of broader wisdom from other traditions and experiences ever-widening personal enrichment and a greater capacity for pursuing a fulfilled life.   That pursuit has taken me on a journey to the Eastern spiritualities and to a sense of the active participation of “The Greater” that has a strong mystical flavour much as I am aware of the alarms that will follow the reading of that word.    I have learnt the virtues and they are substantial of daily times of meditation and contemplation which I have pursued rigorously since October 1984 to what I see as my richer comfort and blessing.   That I have found a sense of presence and guidance to which it is hard to put words means only that I have found answers to questions in so many ways the same as those found by others.  I am happy to report an experience of something larger at work in my fulfilled daily rounds though I am, for all the adequacy of my linguistic development, unable to put words comfortably to it and for that I do not apologise.

That sense of presence and guidance however has been something that has kept me faithful to the Christian experience which so long ago touched me with its gentleness and sweetness for all my doubts about the formal structure being put to me.   And it is to that tradition I find myself returning this Advent season to offer to its adherents the benefits of more comprehensive enquiries.   And I must make clear that I do so not in a spirit of criticism but in the hope that those in the pews may find as I have a deeper sense of their beliefs and the experiences however indefinable to which those beliefs and experiences may lead.

I should wish to offer those in the pews for all their diminishing numbers a vision of a participating “Greater” which will add colour and vigour to their lives and to their willingness by the quality of their lives to be the living proof (a word I use with some caution) of the validity of the words that spring so easily from their mouths on Sunday morning.  Christianity makes much of the obligation upon its adherents to be the best evidence of their faith and to be those who can most easily bring to those outside their group an occasion for seeking its benefits.

In the journey of life, I have come more and more fully (and legal practice amongst those far from the top of the social order greatly aided my grasp) to understand that the whole offering of Christianity of the substitutionary death of Jesus on that first Good Friday has been significantly overdeveloped.   I find that I share the perception that what is called “atonement theology” is an error and likely to convert the message of Jesus, and I do not deny its universal wisdom, from something of personal enrichment to an exercise in the application of authority with all the horrors associated with it.   I am always saddened when I meet the unwillingness to accept that my experience of the Greater is the natural consequence of spiritual exercise over a very extended time and to be something worthy of instant rejection.   Men and women are not “sinners.”    They are individuals constantly enlarging and expanding to their last breath.   The word “evolving” comes easily to mind.    That the journeys of life will take us to error and behaviour unworthy of the wellspring of God goes without saying and that human conduct can be appalling is equally apparent.   But the travelling to those experiences of discovery will always mean that we are going to be in error and regularly so.  For all that, acknowledging the fact is no basis of seeking the involvement in our experience of the Ultimate and Greater.   What matters is not that we have failed but that we have sought improvement and growth and have continued to pursue them with all energy.

In short, what I am discussing is a vision of the Greater deeply committed to our lives and for us as the beneficiaries of that vision to be constantly expanding at whatever age we may be and in whatever situation.    And as the one guided by the wisdom of the East, I shall constantly be seeking to present to all who are willing to try the enrichment of a gently deepening experience of that presence of which I have already spoken in their own daily journey in all its manifestations.  But the starting point is not the declaration of one’s inadequacy but that one has dared to pursue spiritual development within one’s consciousness in the wonders of quietness.   I am sure that in the rigorously pursued (yes, the need of commitment is paramount) daily (and, if possible, and especially in the early stages, more than once a day) deeper consciousness lies an experience of such extraordinary enrichment that the seeker will never want to depart from it.   That is not merely my experience.   I find that it is the considered commentary of all those who have dared (and daring may be a good word for the measure of the courage required to start and keep going) so to continue with the interior journey that it is the sine qua non of their day.   And yet it is so simple and straightforward that it seems almost to defy logic.    This is the very point where I find the desire of the religious to find some form of forensically correct practice of mind so unhelpful to the travelling.    Finally it is the time of contemplation and meditation and the quietening of being to accompany that wonderful practice that will heal all wounds and confer the riches of deeper serenity.   And with that tranquillity will come an empowerment and invigoration of surprising qualities.    But it is of the individual and not of groups.   It is the man or the woman whose day involves the serious pursuit of an inner discovery of their nature as part of the Greater to whom will come the blessings of life in all their scope and variety.

The corollary to the journey within is the willing acceptance of the other.   To the writers of the New Testament all of whom wrote in Greek the word which defined that other side of the coin, so to speak, was the word agape, a word that has no easy translation into English.   The words we would use of “love,” “charity” or “ goodness” are inadequate just as the words used in the traditions of Buddhism and Confucianism of “compassion” and “benevolence” respectively do not do justice to the quality of “otherness.”   The German theologian whose name I met in Honest to God, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, spoke of “the nearest Du at hand.”   In German the use of the second person singular (in English the word thou now long lost to us) connoted the measure of its directness.    It was the simple recognition of that other, whoever he or she may be or whenever or wherever or however met.   We find our fulfilment in that other and in our recognition of the equality and significance of that other.

That of which I am speaking whose simplicity I would wish to bring to the man or woman in the pews is just this – spiritual exercise of meditation and contemplation daily and a commitment to the principle of the other as an equal.    We can experience in the fulfilment of the action to which that course of logic will take us something so rich so powerful and yet so difficult formally to express that is clearly the very “God” Whose name I have been so careful not to use.    All the rest is commentary and surplus to requirements.

On this first day of a new church year, let us rejoice in the simplicities of the Greater and the dazzling blessings that come to us as we meet that Greater and the other openly, trustingly and, in terms of our neighbour, without any form of expectation.

Happy new year. 

Maxwell Dodd,

Woollahra, New South Wales, 2025, Australia

Sunday 27 November 2022


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Navigating the Scholarship of Religion Together

Westar Institute | Home of the Jesus Seminar





Upcoming Event:

The Christmas Stories with John Dominic Crossan: A Westar collaboration with Homebrewed Christianity

Nov 28, 2022
2:00 p.m. EST

Asynchronous 4 week Open Online Class from Homebrewed Christianity

The Christmas Stories – Celebrating, Questioning, & Explaining the Biblical Narratives

More information.



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Opinion: Is Science the Answer?


The industrial revolution, which began in Britain the 17th century, saw the wholescale application of scientific theories to practical uses.

Science had been developing before that for several thousand years, but its industrial uses were minimal. THEN… mankind became the possessor of knowledge and power and energy beyond imagination.

Science steadily overtook organised religion as the new defining principle of life…. or at least, that was (and is) widely considered true.

Organised religion began its decline even more categorically in 1858 with the publication of the theory of Evolution which clashed mightily with the Jewish/Christian belief about creation.

Mankind now has (as Teilhard de Chardin proposed) the capacity to influence the future of the cosmos.

Science has gone from strength to strength. Organised religion is mostly in decline.

What will this mean in the future?

Traditional religious practices may be lagging behind,  but a new wave of thinking is underway. Spirituality. Meditation. Enhanced consciousness. Even drug-taking. These may be signs of what is to come… signs that people are looking for answers.

Science isn’t the answer. Nor is organised religion. Both are simply tools or methods that humanity has used to bring us to this point in our journey. Despite the huge benefits they have bestowed on civilization, both science and organised religion are flawed… in neither case are they sufficient to support or sustain the questing human spirit.

What is next?


I’ve come across quite a few scientists who have become single dimensional… simply acolytes of measurement and willing to believe nothing unless it can be measured. Some are like Richard Dawkins, who is prepared to say categorically that he KNOWS religion is bunkum. I think his attitude quite unscientific. Where is his proof?

Some scientists appear to have CLOSED MINDS, inasmuch as they are only prepared to ‘accept’ an idea or phenomena if it can be PROVEN.

My view of science is one of ongoing exploration…   of being open to ANY idea as a proposition worthy of enquiry.

SO… perhaps we should reorganise our thinking into categories:
1. That which is most likely to be true and to remain so.
2. That which is most likely true unless we learn more.
3. That which may be true but we haven’t yet tested it carefully.
4. A whole heap of stuff that we have no idea if it’s true or not,                                           but which may be either.
5. Some things we are fairly sure aren’t true but…
6. Things which have been carefully tested and are almost certainly untrue.

Of course, not all scientists have closed minds, but there are enough for it to be a stumbling block to the view of science providing all the answers required for us to     live life to its full potential.

I suppose, because scientists are human, there will be some for whom the certainty   of science seems fitting, natural. At the other end of the spectrum will be adventurers who welcome the challenge of testing fixed ideas… although there are perhaps fewer of these intrepid folk than the world needs.

Has science gained dominion over us? Are we not to believe something unless it can be measured and/or proven? Oh dear!! Humanity is now in an era where science has overtaken religion as the prevailing paradigm. YET… despite many advances, we still require a more complete, more integrated way of looking at life.

We need awe. We need meaning. We need love. We need to belong. We need hope. We need answers to the troubling circumstances that distract us. Can science provide adequate answers for these  questions… or solace… or peace? Certainly not yet. Perhaps never.

What can we do? 

Bev Floyd


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Opinion: Love in a World of Woe


Bev Floyd

Why call it a ‘World of woe’?

Well, for as far back as history goes, we see wars and destruction, cruelty, poverty and inequality. Closer to our times we’ve seen pogroms against Jewish people as well as the Holocaust. The Rwandan genocide. Crimes against humanity in Kosovo. The Myanmar conflict with the Rohingya… and that’s just a quick pick.

What is it about humanity that creates such atrocities?  We could surmise that increased consciousness and increased knowledge would have brought peacefulness… but it hasn’t.

What are we missing?  Is it Love?

There’s always been love. The love of a parent for a child… a friend for a friend… love between marriage partners. That love hasn’t always been extended to other tribes, other countries, or to people or groups who are different.

The human psyche is still a work in progress. Evolution brought Homo Sapiens to the point of consciousness and now the journey is no longer mainly anatomical, it has become cultural…  a matter of education and the freeing of our psyche from ancient ways of thinking.

Human beings are slowly sorting through conscious and unconscious elements to reorganize thinking in a better and more consistent way.


It’s getting more attention. It is no longer just for parent and child or people close to us. It is now  understood to be a better way to deal with all kinds of things… recalcitrant children, those who are different or are irritable because they have been hurt. Enemies.

An important moment in human history marks the time when the idea of LOVE was put high on the agenda. It was the message of an obscure young Jewish carpenter. He paid for what he said with his life… but what an impact it has had on the world. It’s not as if love hadn’t existed before, because it did, but its fortunes began to flourish since a man in Judea saw how important it was.

We know the rest. It’s a slow, slow process, but it seems to me that learning to love is the next way-stop on our human journey.

A Franciscan friar, Richard Rohr has put it well. Talking about non-violence he says:

‘Non-violence is the quality that comes out of all the world religions. The notion that the creative force of the universe is love… that ‘God’ is love and that love is all encompassing.

Gandhi insisted— and I think this is Gandhi’s great contribution— that the creative force of the universe is the force that we humans must learn to exercise because that force is the only force that can cause the human race to do ‘God’s’ will.’

It seems likely that more of us will learn how to love.


 Sexual attraction
Family love
Sacred love

We use the word ‘love’ so readily, so carelessly, but what does it mean?

Sexual attraction is the most natural of the three. It’s a significant instinct for human beings to find a sexual partner and reproduce. And in same -sex relationships, there is also a desire for children… to create a family.

Sexual attraction is a very individual matter. We are sexually attracted to another person for many different reasons. It may be because of their appearance, their voice, their personality or even their smell… but it is quite subjective and depends on a person’s interest, perception and sexual orientation.

Family love begins when an infant is born. There’s a wonderful chemical cocktail of maternal love that a mother has when she gives birth. It’s nature’s way of ensuring babies are nurtured, loved, cared for when they can do nothing for themselves.

And that initial chemical boost can start a cycle of love, not only for the mother and the baby and the father… it can spread to the wider family and even the community.

The glow of family love is catching. We learn how to love. To nurture one another.   To help when our family or friends need help… to help even when we are annoyed or irritated, simply because these are OUR people. We are bound to them by the ties of family.

Sacred love is love that translates across and out of just the bonds of friends and family, tribes and nationalities. Sacred love is love for the world in all its variety…
the environment, the creatures, the people. Love for the unlovely, love even for those who may wish to harm us. LOVE that perseveres when human love might fail.

LOVE that is characterised by empathy, compassion, and support for others.

Love like this isn’t the result of physical attraction or body chemistry or family. It only develops over time as individuals learn to put their ego aside in order to care for others.

It is human beings in tune with the creative force of the universe… and we can call that ‘love’ or ‘goodness’ or ‘Godliness’… whichever we prefer.

The next time we are about to say, ‘I love you.’ perhaps we should pause a moment to make sure we mean the right kind of love for the situation we are in and the person we’re with.

Baby bird fell out of the nest. Mother bird caught it. Father bird held it up.






















Baby bird fell out of the nest. Mother bird caught it. Father bird held it

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Event: Exploring Hope through Art

“Encountering Hope!”

An exploration through art, hospitality, and conversation

St Oswald’s Anglican Church 100 High Street, Glen Iris, Melbourne

Sunday 27th November 2022, beginning at 3pm

Our meeting will take the shape of an exhibition of art, with food and drinks provided, and then conversation led by Rev Greg Crowe with Canon Glenn Loughrey and other artists on the theme, exploring it through their art.

Artist: Mark Lumley Wiradjuri, Yorta Yorta.

This piece is inspired by the Uluru Statement. It has the coming together of two sides, but not quite reaching to touch. Here is a gap full of hope. There are tracks of Emu and Kangaroo moving toward each other at the middle ground. The spirits of past elders are also moving down from the sky to support the hopeful action. The ropes attached to the 15kgs of log are there to lift this hopeful ideal. The weight is too great for only one person to lift. It will require at least two or more people to lift this dream, this responsibility, to close the gap and transform the Hope to reality.


Artists : Shane Charles Dylan Charles, Maddison Thorpe Russell Shiells, Mark Lumley, Glenn Loughrey.

This is a free PCNV event

Everyone Welcome!


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Resources: Poem – “Love is the Answer”

Love is the answer                                                                                                                                  by Bev Floyd

‘Love is your last chance.

There is no other reason for living.’

said my 92-year-old friend.

Yes. Love is the only answer

to this weary world’s woes.


Love that does not blink

when faced with all the

silly nonsense people think

but carries on regardless…

giving a helping hand…

saying a kind and thoughtful word

as if it hadn’t heard.


Yes. Love is the best answer

for an angry child…

a spiteful woman or a raging man…

deep strong, unwearying love…

that helps them to be calm

and settle down. Just love.


Just love… when all the forces

of hatred and injustice

swarm about like killer bees

intent on retribution.

Only love can heal the anger and dismay…

take the pain, the guilt away.


Only love is strong enough

to do what must be done…

to persevere

and hope the best

will soon appear.


Love, which does what must be done

without a thought of self…

love, so tough it won’t be bent

but does what it is meant

to do… for others.


Yes. Love.  Just love…

which brings the sinner

and the saint together.

For even sinners can learn to love

and saints are sometimes weary.


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Book Review: Wherever You are, You are on a Journey

Wherever You are, You are on a Journey: Conversations in a Coffee Shop.

Book 1 of a trilogy by Susan Jones. Philip Garside Publishing Ltd.

It is easy to lose sight of our inner convictions as we stumble, fall, pick ourselves up and deal with critical fellow-travellers. It is not easy to seek directions through mists of disillusionment and disenchantment.(Susan Jones)

This is a novel with a powerful use of simple understatement and a generous discourse that touches on what it means to be fully human. It is about Hope (her friend’s) journey and her own journey of discovery and evolving relationship with other seekers. Susan Jones has imaginatively located the events in a coffee shop where she meets regularly with Hope to unpack ideas and help Hope, as her minister, through the struggle we all have with finding meaning in life and faith.

She examines Hope’s journey as a typical pathway through faith which, for her, ultimately led to wrestling with questions openly. This includes the shock of unpacking the shibboleths of fundamentalism and literalism, clearly the responses of many people to this awakening of values – from trying to stay within the old ‘acceptable’ outlook to comfortably challenging it.

The story demonstrates what happens when one is allowed to think critically and share doubts.

Using the vehicles of the novel and the coffee shop conversations, Susan interrogates the issues many of us are living through – truth, facts, faith, church history, historical criticism, post enlightenment thinking and even Schleimacker’s work on the ‘scientific discipline of religion’.

Drawing on many contemporary progressive theologians, Susan takes the reader on a journey of continuous unfolding of understandings and practices that have so often been thought of literally rather than as metaphor, making more sense when seen as the latter.

Reflections on the decline of Christianity and the rise of openness to discussing the alternatives raises the question as to what ideology fills the vacuum in an age of omnipotent (acting) world leaders?

But the impossible quest for answers bedded in old beliefs is a block to our journey if we don’t take a new direction. This is an invitation to ask ourselves if the old assumptions, beliefs and habits are the limit of our understanding. The author asserts that it is not, and our journey is about finding oneself – becoming fully human in a world where the church has failed to deliver this for us.

This subtle unpacking of myth makes good reading for anyone re-thinking their life and what has shaped their thinking. It is an imaginary set of conversations and not a heavy theological treatise, that draws on psychology and philosophy to aid the process of thinking about the big topics of sin, evil, baptism, communion and scripture.

Recommended reading for personal reflection on one’s own journey.

Paul Inglis 18.11.2022

The author: Susan Jones

Poet, writer, musician, minister and spiritual guide, Rev Dr Susan Jones is passionate that faith be sung and spoken authentically in her context of today’s Aotearoa New Zealand.

During her 25 years of ordained ministry, Susan developed skills in curating worship which blend theology, metaphor, and context with inclusive spirituality.

Her writing has been informed by her roles as a teacher, spiritual director, supervisor and minister. She’s completed a doctorate in theology too.

Susan engages respectfully with diverse beliefs and opinions; distilling complex ideas, making change accessible. She brings a gentle, quirky sense of humour to her writing.

Susan’s coffee shop conversations trilogy integrates years of church, study, scholarly observation, struggle and no small measure of pain, undergirded by authenticity, deep faith, and a sense of the numinous.

Meeting the spiritual and pastoral needs of people in LGBTQI community has been a particular focus. Through her contemporary lyrics and liturgy, Susan has encouraged her parish churches to progress in their inclusive journey.

Now retired to Dunedin, Susan is devoting her time to writing and has 4 books recently released and forthcoming in 2022.

Book purchase:  from Amazon Australia in Paperback and Kindle format.



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Resources: A Progressive Holy Communion Liturgy

Gifted to the UCFORUM by © Rev Rex A E Hunt, MSc(Hons).

Please acknowledge the author when using.


“Wisdom has set her table.
          Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
          Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight” (Proverbs 9:2,5-6)
          Introduction (Optional)
                   Members of the Jesus movements regularly ate a meal together
                   when they met as a community.

It was a characteristic that they had in common

with virtually every other social group in their world.

It was considered primary to the early developments

in the movements’ meal liturgy.

                   These meal traditions were not about personal salvation or payment for sin.
                   Instead, they were about actions and offering hospitality, social identity,
                   and being in solidarity with those around us.

The liturgical movements centred on celebration, presence, and joy.

I invite you into the spirit of those meals…

Welcome to the Table

          v1      At this table we give thanks for
                   justice, love, peace and freedom.

Mn    At this table we give thanks for friends and strangers

                   together in community in this safe place.

          Wm   At this table we welcome old and young.

v2      A place at the table.  And all are invited.


          v1      We give thanks for the unfolding of matter,
                            and life
                   that has brought us to this moment in time.

All     We celebrate our common origin with everything that exists.

v1      We celebrate the mystery we experience and address as ‘G-o-d’.

ground and sustainer of everything that exists,

in whom we live and move and have our being.

          v2      And we acknowledge this mystery embodied
                   in every human person,
                            aware that each one of us gives G-o-d
                            unique and personal expression.

All     G-o-d is everywhere present.

In grace-filled moments of sharing.

                   In carefully created communities of loving solidarity.

v2      We are one with everything, living and nonliving, on this planet.




The Story

          v1      We remember the stories from our tradition…
                   How on many occasions the sage we call Jesus would share
                            a meal with friends and strangers.
                   Bread and wine shared in community.

v2      For everyone born, a place at the table…

          v1      How the bread would be taken,
                   a blessing offered, and then shared between them.
                            And all of them ate.
                   How, after conversation, some wine would be poured out,
                   a blessing offered, and then passed between them.
                            And all of them drank.

v2      The bread and the wine symbolised human lives

interconnected with other human lives,

and the power of giving and receiving.

          v1      May the passion for life as seen in Jesus,
                   and in the lives and struggles of many other
                            committed and faithful people then and now,
                            enable us to dare and to dream and to risk…

All     Together may we re-imagine the world.

                   Together may we work to make all things new.

All     Together may we celebrate the possibilities and hope

we each have and are called to share.

v2      For everyone born, a place at the table…

          Bread and White Wine

Bread is broken several times

          v1      And so now, in our time and in this place…
                   We break the bread for our broken earth,
                   ravaged and plundered for greed.

All     May there be healing of our beautiful blue and green planet.

v1      We break this bread for our broken humanity,

for the powerful and the powerless

trapped by exploitation and oppression.

All     May there be the healing of humanity.

v1      We break this bread for those who follow other paths:

for those who follow the noble path of the Buddha,

the yogic path of the Hindus;

the way of the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs;

and the descendants of Abraham, children of Hagar and Sarah.

All     May there be healing where there is pain and woundedness.

v1      We break this bread

for the unhealed hurts and wounds

that lie within us all.

All     May we be healed.

                   White wine is poured into a cup/s

v2      Wine, fruit of the vine,

nurtured, tended, harvested,

and pressed out for us to drink.

All     Wine, liquid sunlight, prepared for our delight.

v2      Wine, gift of nature,

offering earth-bound humans

hints of other worlds,

other realities,

other possibilities.

All     Pouring out this wine

                   we remember people of all ages

                   who searched down new paths, advancing




v2      Pouring out this wine

we are reminded of the call

All     to live fully,

                   to love wastefully, and

                   to be all that we can be.


v1      To eat and drink together reminds us

of the deeper aspects of human fellowship,

for from time immemorial

the sharing of bread and wine

has been the most universal of all symbols of community.

          The Bread and White wine will be served in four groups around the Gathering space


  • Shaped from published resources created by and adapted from: Michael Morwood, Carter Heyward, L Bruce Miller, Shirley Erena Murray, David Bumbaugh, David Galston, John S Spong, the Iona Community… and others. With grateful thanks.




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Opinion: Jesus started a Movement not an Institution

Jesus Started a Movement

  I really don’t think we can ever renew the church until we stop thinking of it as an institution and start thinking of it as a movement. —Clarence Jordan, letter, 1967

Michael Curry is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and is passionate about the church rediscovering itself as a movement of Jesus:

Jesus did not establish an institution, though institutions can serve his cause. He did not organize a political party, though his teachings have a profound impact on politics. Jesus did not even found a religion. No, Jesus began a movement, fueled by his Spirit, a movement whose purpose was and is to change the face of the earth from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends. . . .

That’s why his invitations to folk who joined him are filled with so many active verbs. In John 1:39 Jesus calls disciples with the words, “Come and see.” In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he asks others to “Follow me.” And at the end of the Gospels, he sent his first disciples out with the word, “Go . . .” [. . .] As in, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). . . .

If you look at the Bible, listen to it, and watch how the Spirit of God unfolds in the sacred story, I think you’ll notice a pattern. You cannot help but notice that there really is a movement of God in the world.

Curry identifies several characteristics of the Jesus movement [1]:

First, the movement was Christ-centered—completely focused on Jesus and his way. . . . Long before Christianity was ever called the Church, or even Christianity, it was called “the Way” [see Acts 9:2]. The way of Jesus was the way. The Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God, that sweet, sweet Spirit, infused their spirits and took over. . . .

The second mark of the movement is this: following the way of Jesus, they abolished poverty and hunger in their community. Some might say they made poverty history. The Acts of the Apostles calls this abolition of poverty one of the “signs and wonders” which became an invitation to others to follow Jesus too, and change the world. . . . It didn’t take a miracle. The Bible says they simply shared everything they had [Acts 4:32–35]. The movement moved them in that particular way.

Third, they learned how to become more than a collection of individual self-interests. They found themselves becoming a countercultural community, one where Jews and Gentiles, circumcised and uncircumcised, had equal standing [see Acts 15:1–12].

Curry continues, taking inspiration from the early church for our own moment:

Ministry in this moment . . . has to serve more than an institution. It has to serve the movement.

from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation Monday 14th November 2022



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Opinion: Democracy instead of Doctrine

What else hasn’t ‘organised religion’ understood?

It doesn’t realise that people no longer want to be TOLD what to believe.
They’ve gone off ‘authority’. It’s let them down so much in the past. A fair proportion of both secular and religious leaders have been arrogant or corrupt or just ‘not up to it’.


The culture of ‘organised religion’ is very patriarchal. In an era where concerned folk are striving to obtain equality for women, most religious leadership positions are reserved for men… particularly so (and mediaevally so) in the Catholic church but also in other religions and denominations.

Structures and procedures are also based on what I call a ‘male’ hierarchical model. It is the ‘who can get to the top model’ and the ‘who can we kick off the bottom’ model.

This is a power-based model. Not inclusive. Decisions flow from the top to the bottom. It does have its uses. Emergencies are best handled this way, as are certain key decisions that need to be made quickly and expertly (such as construction and war (both of which men seem to like and to do so well).

The alternative is a flat structure where decisions are made collectively at the lowest suitable level. It is an inclusive model. No-one is left out. Everyone can participate. It does take longer and can be challenging to ‘efficiency nuts’ or people who are impatient, but the outcome is better. People feel involved… part of something. Decisions are more likely to fit the needs of the group. I’m inclined to call this the ‘female’ model. It’s emerging more as more women are coming into their own in the secular world. It seems to be a better way of for people to share decision-making and problem solving.

How far behind can ‘organised religion’ get?

The problem seems to be ‘doctrine’… that’s a set of ‘beliefs’ which have been formalised and handed down over many years.

They appear to be set in concrete… never-changing.

I suppose for many the idea of something unchangeable in an
ever-changing world would make life seem more comfortable, more certain, more manageable.

But people who are searching for ‘Godliness’ should not be using doctrine and churchiness as a mattress to slumber upon… true religion can be a springboard to life abundant… to joy and love and hope.

Bev Floyd

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Events Update: St Lucia Spirituality Group

St Lucia Spirituality Group
Newsletter November 2022

Next Session : The Kingdom of God


In October we held the second of two meetings examining historical influences on our religious beliefs, on schisms in the church, how they occurred and the lessons we can draw from them today. It was a lively and engaging discussion. Through this Butterfly Series, we are encouraging participants to ask questions about their faith, live into the answers and thus develop a truly authentic adult faith and a coherent worldview.

At our November meeting we shall consider the Kingdom of God – What does it mean, what could it mean? Perhaps, much of our understanding is coloured by the monarchical and patriarchal language and associated worldviews that underpin the scriptures. Or perhaps, it might allude to something else as Jesus suggests in Mark’s gospel account:

“What can we say the kingdom of God is like?… It is like a mustard seed, which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds in the earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.” (Mark 4:26-32)

As Fr Patrick Richards writes in his book, The Rosewood Table, the kingdom is wherever goodness is and that goodness keeps growing in little pockets all over the place (page 136). Isn’t that more suggestive of the influence of the Holy Spirit?

We think the question is important for all Christians to ponder, because if you don’t know what the kingdom of God is, how can you contribute to bringing it into full existence?

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting – Kingdom of God

Our next meeting will explore Diarmuid’s O’Murchu’s video presentation on the Christian archetype of the Kingdom of God. It is available here.

Introducing this video, O’Murchu writes: “Over the centuries Christianity has focused primarily on Jesus as an archetypal patriarchal hero, largely based on the patriarchal values of both ancient Roman and Greek cultures. Instead, we need to reclaim the central relational and communal context out of which Jesus lived and ministered. In the Gospels it is named as the Kingdom of God, for which I am suggesting a renaming of [sic] the Companionship of Empowerment.”

We hope you can join us. If you would like a copy of our discussion paper, simply email us. It is also available on our Facebook page. There is no obligation to join our meeting.

Our Episode 14 meeting will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 22 November.  
To register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.

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Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik


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Opinion: Peacemaking


by UCFORUM Subscriber Len Baglow

I would like every Christian to join the peace movement.

However, I first have a confession to make. I have only recently become a peace activist, and I am not a very good one. There are many people who have been peacemaking for years and I have simply smiled benignly and wished them well.

My concerns were elsewhere: the environment, refugees and asylum seekers, those struggling on social security payments. War and Peace, liked Tolstoy’s novel, seemed too big.

This changed in 2020 when I started having coffee with Michelle Fahy, an investigator into the arms industry. I became concerned about a world that I had previously known little about, and by the misinformation fed to ourselves and politicians.

One of the first things that I did was look up whether the Uniting Church had said anything about the arms industry. I found an excellent short document from 1988 which highlighted the dangers of increasing the Export of Arms and Other Defence Equipment. Yet since that time both LNP and Labor governments have supported building a substantial export arms industry in Australia. The Uniting Church has largely fallen silent on the issue.

All this might not have galvanized me to action by itself, but then came AUKUS, the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Suddenly, there was not just the problem of Australia producing lethal weapons of war and selling them for profit, but of Australia tying itself inextricably with the military/industrial complexes of two superpowers.

The centrepiece of this partnership is the supply of nuclear submarines to Australia. I have written elsewhere on the many serious problems of the AUKUS partnership. In this current paper I want to reflect more theologically.

The AUKUS partnership challenges Christians in Australia to ask the question, “In whom do we have faith?” This of course is an old question in the face of violence and the threat of violence.

Isaiah gives one type of answer when he said to the people of Israel,

Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses,

Who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong,

But do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!

The Egyptians are human, and not God; their horses are flesh, and not spirit.

When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and the one helped will fall,

And they will all perish together. (Isaiah 31: 1 and 3)

Currently there is much support in Australia for throwing our lot in with the Americans, and there is little opposition or criticism in the mainstream media. The general common-sense approach is that we are a small country and that we need big powerful allies. At the same time, our fears about a potential threat from China have been stoked. In many ways, this is similar to the fear in Isaiah’s time when Israel is caught between two competing superpowers, Egypt and Assyria.

Yet, Isaiah doesn’t adopt a common-sense approach. He gives a religious answer. You can see, the King’s military advisors shaking their head in scorn. Perhaps, they asked, “And how many chariots does your God have?”

Yet Isaiah knows that to rely on the force of Empire, is to tie oneself to the oppression of that empire. It is to become a slave of empire once again. Empires give nothing away for free; they demand a fee. That fee is often blood. Empires much prefer to have soldiers of vassal states die in battle, rather than their own. They prefer battles to be fought on foreign fields rather than their own.

But America is not like the ancient empires of Egypt or Assyria. If you believe this, you have not been paying attention, or perhaps only reading the Murdoch press and watching Fox news. What is even more dangerous in our situation is that America is an empire which is in decline. Its democracy is a mess; corruption and violence are rampant.

So, what does it mean in Australia today to look to the Holy One of Israel and consult the Lord?

The verse in the New Testament that stands out for me is:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matt 5:9)

To be a peacemaker in the violent Roman occupied Israel at the time of Jesus was quite an extraordinary thing to be. It required a vision that saw realistically the current reality, as well as beyond it, to its divine possibilities. Then it required courage to act on that vision. No wonder that the next verse states:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:10)

So, what does it mean in our time to be a peacemaker? It is not a simple role.

In the first instance, it means to be creative. Peace is not just delivered to us like a takeaway meal; it must be made. Hence the “maker” part of the name. This is a paradox. Initially the making of peace is not a calming experience. First, we have to be disturbed. We have to notice the threat that is drawing us onto war or violence, as well as the injustice and exploitation that underlies the process. This upsets our equilibrium, our blithe assumption, that because we are comfortable, all is pretty right with the world.

Then when we start to act, we find that the problem of violence is not only without, but also within. Often our first reaction is to use violence to stop violence. We find the same violent impulses within ourselves, that we can see so destructively acted out in others. If we go down this violent path, we do not make peace, but only create the conditions for further violence.

Early in the process, we can also be overwhelmed. How can little me effectively oppose and transform the whole industrial/military complex. (Defeat the chariots, as I stand here unarmed, even without a slingshot.) The danger is that we fall into despair.

The answer is prayer. A special kind of prayer. What Isaiah calls “consulting the Lord”. It is not the prayer of “Please smite my enemies”, but the humble prayer of “What do you ask of me to help your loving possibilities unfold.” It is the prayer of contemplation. It is no accident that so many great peacemakers of our recent history have been people of prayer and contemplation: Martin Luther King, Abraham Heschel, Thich Nhat Hanh, Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan, Jim Wallis, Dorothee Soelle. And of course, there are the Quakers who are profoundly committed to both openness in prayer and peacemaking.

In the last year, I have spent much more time with peace activists. Generally, they would not describe themselves as Christians or church goers, though many once were. Yet, strangely, they seem to have heard the holy one of Israel calling for peace more clearly than we in the churches have. Most are not just against war, but are actively seeking out peaceful alternatives. They are daring to believe in more loving and just alternatives. Also, they are not afraid to contemplate the widespread corruption and injustice that is leading us onto war. Further, they often feel in their very bodies the anguish of those in far off countries already subjected to the horror of war. It has been a humbling experience, that I as a Christian all my life have come to some of these realisations so late.

In this short article, I would encourage others to join in this adventure that scripture calls peacemaking. I would particularly urge leaders in the Church community to see peacemaking not as a peripheral activity, but something which is urgent for our times. However, every person can be a peacemaker. It is not necessary to stand in front of tanks. Only a few are called to such heroic actions. However, we are all called not to be complacent. We need to work at being informed, beyond the lazy propaganda of the mainstream media. And being better informed, our prayer is better informed, and we are more able to see the loving alternatives that God continually offers.

So how do we get involved? Of course, at one level this is always an individual question, depending on our individual discernment and personal and social circumstances. It might simply mean to be more open to what is happening around you and becoming better informed.

However, there is an event happening later in the month, that might be a good place to start. It is the IPAN Conference, Rally and Report Launch to be held in Canberra 22nd to 24th November. IPAN stands for the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network and is a network of organisations and individuals working for peace in Australia. Much of the event is online, so even if you are not in Canberra, you can still participate. The details can be found on IPAN’s website.

If you are a leader in your local church, I would also challenge you to think about what role your church could or should be playing in peace making. It will be too late when we find that Australia has drifted into war, due to the fearful, unfaithful and unwise decisions that we have made now.

Len Baglow, Facilitator, Against the Wind

Len Baglow: Former environmental activist and social policy advocate.

Email againstthewind.wvuc@gmail.com


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Opinion: The Bible is not the Word of God

The Basis at 50 – The Document and Ministry Practices: Reflections and Responses

Late in 2021 almost 70 people from across the national UCA gathered online for a day conference hosted by Pilgrim Theological College in the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania to reflect and engage with the Uniting Church in Australia’s Basis of Union. The event coincided with the 50th anniversary of the final form of the Basis of Union being published and put forward for consideration and decision by Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches.

Several of the conference papers are being compiled into an edited volume, but the day also included exciting panel discussions in which members of the Uniting Church offered thoughts on connections and provocations found between the Basis and their ministry practice. Some members of those panels have agreed to share their edited reflections as a gift for the church.

The intention in sharing these reflections is not only to preserve their longevity and increase their audience. To that end, after the initial posting of the conference reflections, several responses will be rolled out. These responses are looking for threads, themes, questions, and possibilities weaving between, hiding amidst, and hoping across several of the initial reflections.

Yet, they too are offered without the intention of providing a full stop. Rather they look to provide further openings for future responses and creative engagements with the initial reflections (if you feel so inclined as to develop a response to what begins to develop on this site, please do reach out!).

The first reflection to be published comes from Rev Dr Sally Douglas. In the weeks to come, four more shorter reflections from the conference will be published together, with the responses to follow after that.

This first reflection can be read here:

Basis@50 Rev Dr Sally Douglas – Uniting Church Australia

Future publications of reflections can be found here when they become available.

The Basis at 50 Reflections and Responses – Uniting Church Australia


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Event: Merthyr Road (Brisbane) Explorers

Naming the Unnameable: Searching for the God tree

Invitation to Friends of PCN
Merthyr Explorers on 30th November
Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.
10 am for morning tea
(a few contributions to this will be welcome)
10:30 am we begin our exploring of the topic.

A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated.

Naming the Unnameable:
Searching in the woods for the God tree.

In their search for God, Christians have restricted their gaze to one tree in the theological woods – the three-branched Trinity Tree.   As J. B. Phillips wrote way back in the mid-20thcentury – “your God is too small”!  Contemporary theology, philosophy and very importantly, science, have expanded the view of the woods to take in so many more of the trees.    Those are not just the trees of other faiths, but the scientific trees all around us and the trees of mystics both ancient and very modern.

Join Lorraine Parkinson as she explores the many advances in science that are making exciting connections with the sacred.  She will also offer a strong possibility for naming the unnameable.

(Rev Dr) Lorraine Parkinson is a biblical scholar and theologian, and ‘somewhat of a mystic’.  She has explored the faith from a point of view outside traditional boundaries. That has allowed and encouraged her to see the ‘biggest picture of all’. Come along to find out what that picture includes.

This will be the last meeting of Merthyr Explorers for 2022. We look forward to more interesting topics to explore in the last Wednesday of each month, February to November
Several folk enjoy further fellowship at Moray Cafe after the gathering. You are welcome to join us.

Kind regards
Desley Garnett



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Caloundra Explorers continuing to study Our Benevolent Cosmos

Dear Explorers

We struggled a bit with the first half of Chap 2 in John Humphreys’ Our benevolent universe, but we found the second half a very moving experience.


P 61  We had to think about Deepak Chopra’s idea of the soul as a ‘bundle of consciousness’ but it made more sense as we continued.

P 63  We enjoyed the Stephen Hawking quote: At some point during our 13.8 billion years of cosmic history, something beautiful happened. This information processing got so intelligent that life forms became conscious. Our universe has now awoken, becoming aware of itself.

P 64  ‘Something transcendental is involved with the mind, consciousness, and the path of awakening—call it God, Spirit, Buddha-nature, the Ground, or by no name at all.’ (Hanson & Mendius)

P 65   We struggled a bit with Tolle’s ‘the brain does not create consciousness but consciousness created the brain, the most complex physical form on earth’.

P 6   We applied Tolle’s ‘collective pain body’ to the intergenerational trauma experienced by our indigenous people.

P 67. Ilia Delio says ‘Evolution brings with it a rise of consciousness, and as consciousness arises, so too does awareness of God.’ We also watched this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzZka_a_xac

Unveiling our divine light

P 68-69 ‘We reach our pure, divine essence through deep meditation which provides the portal for the inner stillness, the inner presence.’  John read the poem Meditation and eternity that he wrote after just such an experience.

Dissolving in a sacred sphere of stillness

Connecting with a creative consciousness

Merging with the mystical union of all living beings

With nature, and all things seen and unseen

Regenerating through an emanating Life Force

Deepening our relationship with the Infinite Source

Comprehending with curiosity that you are one

With the earth, the sky, and galaxies beyond

Soften your heart and seek your inner light

Illuminate your being in a transcendent love

That enfolds humanity in a peaceful embrace

We are children of the cosmos, travelling in stardust

Transforming our bodies and nurturing our souls

Merging with eddies of energy and luminous light

In brilliant colours radiating out from your core

Then returning anew to this material world

Refreshed and enlightened in our physical form

The interconnection of all

P 71  ‘A man is like forest, individual yet connected and dependent on others for growth.’ (Mogi)

P 71 Central to what John says in his book are the ideas of quantum physics, so I showed the video What can Schrodinger’s cat teach us about quantum mechanics?  www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1GCnycbMeA

P 72  Compassion is ‘the glue that holds the world together.’ (Tibetan master)

What happens before and after death?

P 74  Speaking of a near-death experience Moorjani says: ‘I was overwhelmed by the realisation that God is not a being, but a state of being, and I was now that state of being . . . I realised that the entire universe is alive and infused with consciousness, encompassing all life and nature.’

P 75 To help explain quantum consciousness I showed the Stuart Hameroff video Secrets of theSoul – The Investigators – Quantum Activity (1.48 min)

P 76  Dyer says ‘Once you get past the fear of death as an end, you merge with the infinite and feel the comfort and relief this realisation brings.’ He says you can do this ‘by seeing yourself as an infinite spiritual being having a human experience, rather than the reverse . . .’

Acceptance of suffering and surrender to death

P 77 ‘ . . . rather than simply dying to save us from our sins, Jesus was also showing the world the path to surrendering (in his case to physical death on the cross) and total acceptance of what is, into which he was forced by his intense suffering.’—something to think about!

Next Tuesday we study the first half of Chap 3 The birth of the next reformation p 79–106.


Our final Gathering for the year will be held on Sunday 20 November from 5.30–7 pm in the Caloundra Uniting Church hall. Our guest speaker will be John Humphreys whose book Our Benevolent Cosmos: Embracing the Mystery of Life we are presently studying.


John’s life experiences have inexorably led him to the writing of this book, which blends together his career in science, technology and innovation, his personal spiritual journey, his interest in research and his love of art and literature. In the book he also reconciles his earlier religious upbringing with more contemporary understandings of What is God?

We have been very privileged that John has attended our book studies to share some of his life experiences and help us understand the concepts he has developed in his book. As a culmination of our study of Our Benevolent Cosmos and our year-long exploration of What is God, John has agreed to be our guest speaker for our final Gathering. So I hope many of you will be able to take advantage of this opportunity to embrace the mystery of life with John. As usual there will be a shared meal, so bring a plate.

Ken Williamson  




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Spirituality for an Eco-human Future

Thanks to Rex Hunt for drawing our attention to this paper from Ian Harris and SOFiA New Zealand.

From SOFiA, Sea of Faith in Aotearoa (New Zealand) Newsletter, November 2022.

The Inaugural Sir Lloyd Geering Lecture (slightly shortened)

[Ian Harris’s career straddles the worlds of journalism and the church. Born in Christchurch, he grew up in a Methodist parsonage and gained an honours degree in English at Auckland University. Since then he has headed the English Department at Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga, Indonesia, edited the New Zealand Methodist, been assistant editor of the Auckland Star, served as Director of Communication for the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand, and been editorial writer on Wellington’s the Dominion.

In 1990 Harris was instrumental in founding the Ephesus Group in Wellington, which explores new ways of understanding and expressing Christian faith in this millennium. In 1993 he became the first chairman of the New Zealand Sea of Faith Network’s steering committee. Harris’s prime interest is in reimagining the Christian way in a secular society, as reflected in his newspaper columns, his books Creating God, Re-creating Christ and New World New God, and in The Ephesus Liturgies series written with his late wife, Jill. He lives in Days Bay, Wellington.]


…And now here I am with the Sir Lloyd Geering Lecture, conscious of standing proudly on his shoulders, and hoping to do justice to him and his legacy.


My topic is Spirituality for an Eco-human Future. “Spirituality” can carry a range of meanings. When the word was first used in the 1400s it had none of the connotations it has today. It referred to the upper echelon of the church – the cardinals, bishops and abbots, a power collective sitting alongside the king and the nobles who together lorded it over the common people. There was royalty, there was the nobility, and there was the spirituality.

Today, spirituality refers to a person’s interior experience. It’s totally subjective. It’s an aspect of our awareness that we can’t readily explain or pin down, but has to do with our feelings, our yearning for “something more” beyond our work-a-day routine. It’s an experience that gives meaning and direction to our lives. It’s life-enhancing. At best it carries a sense of oneness with the totality of the life around us. There’s a touch of sacredness about it. Bring all these together – the inward, the life-enhancing, the reaching beyond, the connectedness, the sacred – and you’re getting close to a spirituality for our time.

To make my position clear, I shall be tackling the subject from the standpoint of a secular Christian – that is, one who accepts that our understanding of the world is vastly different from that in which Christianity evolved, and therefore requires a fundamental rethinking of old assumptions and doctrines about God, the world, and our place in the magnificent – and sometimes scary – adventure of life.

And don’t be put off by that word “secular”. I don’t mean “secularist”, which implies a wholesale rejection of spirituality and religion. I use the word in the true sense of the Latin saecularis, meaning “belonging to a generation or age, of this time and place, relating to the here and now, not a world beyond”. A religious way of life should always be grounded in the secular here and now.


The only setting we have for an eco-human future is the planet we inhabit, often referred to as “creation”. A word of caution here: “creation” is a religious word that implies a creator, a grand designer with a grander purpose. In the modern world, however, there’s another explanation of our origins that’s much more promising for thinking theologically about the world as we know it today.

So let’s begin by seeing if we can arrive at a perspective on “creation” which grows out of the Judaeo-Christian heritage that’s shaped life in the western world, yet which also does justice to the huge explosion of knowledge that has occurred over the past 400 years. Because, let’s be clear, those years have radically changed just about everything under the sun – from home life, health care, education, work, to technology, agriculture, travel, religion, you name it. Wherever we turn, we experience the world very differently from the way our grandparents did. Few of us would want to turn the clock back on this knowledge explosion and what it offers.

Yet cumulatively, it’s those very changes, along with a rapidly expanding population, that have brought our world to the brink. Humanity, long thought of as the pinnacle of creation, does seem to be slowly, blindly, defiantly, destroying the earth’s ability to sustain us. Industry as we’ve come to know it carries massive risk for the future of the human species.

A growing number of prophets have warned of the pressures that human activity is putting on the planet’s systems and resources. Among them are Rachel Carson, Arnold Toynbee, Martin Rees, Thomas Berry,Brian Swimme, locally Lloyd Geering and Dave Lowe, climate scientists, United Nations panels, ngo’s – there’s a host of them, all calling passionately for humanity to turn away from destructive technologies, life-styles and values. Turn away: the biblical word for that is “repent”.

Sketching the scene all too briefly, homo sapiens has taken the biblical advice to be fruitful and multiply so much to heart that the world’s population has mushroomed from around 1.6 billion in 1900 to 8 billion today. We’ve added 2 billion since 1998 and are set to add another 2 billion by 2050. Each 2 billion is equivalent to another one-and-a-half Indias. India’s population is growing much faster than China’s, Africa’s faster still.

More and more people need more and more of Earth’s resources not only of food and water, but oil, iron, coal, copper, rare earths, and when the market’s booming they’re extracted as if there were no limits. Well, there are limits. No one’s making any more of them. The question is how long we’ve got before they start running out.

Meanwhile advances in farming and industry have produced not only the standard of living we enjoy in the West, but also technologies that pollute air, water and soil on a grand scale, deplete the ozone layer, warm the oceans and make them more acidic, and generate climate change. In the name of progress and economic growth, developers raze rainforests, destroy long-established communities, and wipe out whole species of life.

A multitude of organisations campaign to reverse the process, but governments seem readier to listen to economists arguing for growth at all costs ahead of ecologists pleading for sustainability. Remember the Rio+20 sustainability summit in 2012? One observer commented: “Rarely has such a large elephant laboured so long to give birth to such a small mouse.” The Paris summit in 2019 did only a little better, the 2021 Glasgow summit likewise, and still emissions are rising steadily, outpacing all the efficiency gains we’ve notched so far.

Governments promise much but continue to dither. A Guardian investigation revealed in May this year that the world’s biggest fossil fuel corporations have 195 projects on their books, most of them already under way. Each would detonate carbon bombs of at least a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. “Unchecked greed,” says the Guardian, “is driving us ever closer to the abyss.” And it is undermining life on Earth.

Thomas Berry, an American monk and eco-theologian, dismally sums up: “Our ultimate failure as human beings is to become not a crowning glory of the earth, but the instrument of its degradation” [The Dream of the Earth, p50] A new word has come into the language to describe what’s happening here: “ecocide”.

Continue reading

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Opinion: “For your sakes he became poor …”: How the churches can reckon with their colonial legacy

From: ABC Religion and Ethics by

Posted updated 

[This is the edited version of an address given at “Walking Together: How Can the Church Embrace First Peoples’ Theology in a Post-Colonial Australia”, a conference organised by the Uniting Church Synod of New South Wales and the ACT, 22 October 2022, and convened at the Wesley Conference Centre, on Gadigal country.]

I want to remind the churches that you have a colonial legacy, and in five senses:

  • You participated in, and still benefit from, the stealing of our lands.
  • You have blood on your hands because those who participated in the massacres, the frontier conflicts, the genocidal policies concerning our people, were overwhelmingly Christian.
  • You took the lead in the attempted destruction of our spirituality, our way of life, especially during the missions period.
  • You participated in, and continue to be largely silent in the face of, the ecocide which accompanied the genocide: as you acquired country, you damaged it through your ignorance about how to manage it.
  • Many of you continue to deploy an imaginative terra nullius regarding our people by effectively pretending that we don’t exist. Our voices are not there in the policy-making bodies of your councils, your agencies, and your educational institutions. You are uncurious about the country you walk on and the knowledge we have of its ways and its spirit. There continues to be a lack of curiosity about our theology, which is different from your theology in fairly fundamental ways.

This account gives rise to a fundamental question: how are the churches to reckon with this colonial heritage. Well, to answer this (at least in part), I will appeal to the Pauline tradition as we have it in the New Testament.

Consider the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which says:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death —
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father.

Notice a number of features about this passage. It is addressed to a group of Christians who are divided, one against another, who are selfish — who look out for their own survival and wellbeing at the expense of others. Does that sound familiar?

The Apostle then contrasts this behaviour to that of Jesus — who, though enjoying a certain ascendency in the cosmic order of things, empties himself (kenosis) of all such power and privilege in order to come among human beings as a slave who has no power at all (doulos).

The passage then creates a model, a pathway, which Christian communities are encouraged to imitate and follow in order to be truly alive and vital. It is the path of “kenosis”: a dying in order to rise to a rather more elevated — more other-centred — mode of being; a dying to all that is power-over, power-acquisitive, power-for self-alone; and a rising to power-with, power-giving, power for the wellbeing of others.

The questions then arise: How are you settler Christians, you immigrant Christian communities — you who have empowered and enriched yourselves at the expense of Indigenous people — going to let that power go? How are you going to redress the balance? How will you take the power you acquired by genocide and ecocide and return it to those you wronged, and continue to wrong? If you are Christians, then it can never be a question of whether you return such power; it can only be a question of how. For if you do not imitate Christ in this manner, can you really be called Christians at all?

Let us interrogate further the question of “how”, beginning with a couple paragraphs from the eighth chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:

For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something — now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has — not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

“The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.”

The context here is that there are two church communities: one that is very poor and another that is quite rich. We’re referring to actual, economic, resources here, not so-called “spiritual” resources — intangible things like wisdom or humility. We’re talking about money and property. The Apostle appeals to the rich church to share its abundant resources with the poor church by invoking, again, a kenotic Christology. His argument, in summary, goes something like this:

  • Remember the story of Jesus: he was rich, but he became poor for your sakes, so that you might acquire some of his riches.
  • So, like Jesus, I’d like you to hand over your wealth, your money, to the poor church. I’d like you to act with the same love, the same generosity of spirit, as that which you found in Christ.
  • Not, mind you, to the point where you become destitute and in need of help yourselves. Think, rather, that the excess you enjoy can provide what is lacking in the poorer community.
  • The goal here is something like a balance, an equality, so that you both have what you need.

Now, obviously, there is no hint in this text that the rich church gained its riches by stealing its wealth from the poor church. But, this being so, how much more ought the colonial church consider the ways in which it might return its stolen resources to the people from whom they were stolen?

It is at this point that the question usually arises: “Fine, but what would that actually look like for our own local church community, our own denominational organisation?” The answer to that might become the substance of treaty proposals, the ways in which the deeply uneven balance of power between colonial and Indigenous communities might be rendered more equal. So, I invite you, the members of the colonial church, to consider the following.

At the denominational level:

  • Make arrangements to hand the properties you were given by the crown, without fee or compensation, back their original Aboriginal owners, without fee or compensation.
  • Where properties were purchased from the Crown, or else from other colonial owners, make arrangements to vest the title of those properties in the name of the original owners under a lease-back scheme. This makes both the use, or the disposal, of those properties a matter of negotiation and careful agreement (or treaty) between Indigenous people and settlers.
  • Where purchased properties remain in the hands of the denomination because local mob do not want to become owners, contribute half of the income on such properties to mob: 25 per cent to local owners and 25 per cent to Indigenous ministries run by and for our people. The same would apply when properties are sold: split the proceeds of the sale.

At the local congregational level:

  • Contribute 10 per cent of your annual budget to ministries run by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, in perpetuity.
  • Whether there is a denominational agreement for lease-back of properties in place or not, approach your local mob with the question: Could we form a relationship with you that includes your use of this space for community gatherings and programmes without fee or compensation?

A more just sharing of the land you have stolen from us, including its commercial value, would obviously make a huge difference to the kinds of programmes Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisations could run to assist our people to escape from poverty and reclaim our rightful heritage as the sovereign peoples of this country. It would also make a huge difference to our capacity to reclaim and pass on our practical wisdom and spirituality to the next generation, whether Indigenous or settler.

In the church, the sharing of these resources would provide a sure and reliable economic base for the work of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ministries, and for our theological research and teaching. The fruit of these ministries would make for stronger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and higher profile for our spiritualities and theologies in the knowledge repositories of our nation. Knowledges that are desperately needed if we are to heal, and form a more mutually supportive relationship with Country.

Reverend Dr Garry Deverell

DipEd, BA, BTheol (Hons), PhD

Garry Deverell is Lecturer and Research Fellow in the new School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Divinity.

A trawloolway man from northern lutruwita (Tasmania), Dr Deverell is the author of Gondwana Theology (Morning Star Press, 2018) and The Bonds of Freedom (Paternoster, 2008). He is a graduate of the University of Tasmania, the Melbourne College of Divinity, and Monash University (where he completed doctoral studies in 2004). He has held the Sanderson Fellowship and a lectureship in liturgy and preaching at the Uniting Church Theological College as well as the Turner Fellowship at Trinity College Theological School, both within the University of Divinity.

Garry is an international expert in sacramental studies, especially insofar as sacraments intersect with theories concerning the formation of human selves in community. His more recent research has turned towards theologising the experience of Indigenous peoples within and beyond the colonial church.

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More from our Seminar on Refugees and Asylum Seekers

You can listen to an interview with Rebecca Lim as she reflects on her time as a volunteer on Manus Island and later in Port Moresby and Kangaroo Point, Brisbane from 2016 to 2019. There are currently 7 more episodes that can be heard on You Tube.

EPISODE 1 – Background – YouTube

Rebecca can be contacted at rebeccalim.au@gmail.com

Principal Migration Advisor
M Soc Sc, BA, JP (Qualified), CAHRI
G Cert Aus Migration Law & Prac
Registered Migration Agent 0746576

Rebecca is the co-founder of Brisbane on-Arrival Refugee and Asylum Seeker Hub – response and support Unit at Indooroopilly Uniting Church.

Learn more about the Indooroopilly Uniting Church Asylum Seeker and Refugee Support Hub, what they offer, how to volunteer, and how to contact them. Download the PDF through the link:



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Report 3: Caloundra Explorers and the Benevolent Cosmos

Dear Explorers

I know some of you are following our book study using electronic copies, so the page numbers will be different from those below. To assist these people I will give section titles, and of course I have copies of the book if you want one.

Chap 2 Unveiling your pure essence—or ‘God within us’

P 36  ‘Love creates new forms, changes matter, and holds the cosmos together beyond time and space. It is in every one of us. It’s what God is.’(Dyer)

Philosophy and the meaning of life

P 40  We used this image to discuss the difference between theism, pantheism, panentheism (and atheism). George Stuart declared himself a panentheist, and we think John Humphreys is the same.

Art,creativity and creation

P 41  John reflected ‘In that moment of creativity, we become disembodied spiritual beings, releasing the pure essence within us all’, however we were’t at all sure how we could do this.


P 44  We were fascinated by the fact that neurons (brain cells) ‘are essentially the same from the most primitive animal to the most advanced’.


P 46  ‘The new physics is another way to express the fundamental truth underlying creation.’ (Cannato)


P 46  We liked the idea of God being the ‘lead flute player’. (Keller)

Spirit and soul

P 50  We discussed the difference between ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’—The soul is the animate life, or the seat of the senses, desires, affections, and appetites. The spirit is that part of us that connects, or refuses to connect, to God.’ However we thought you could argue that it was the other way round, with soul in the inner circle.

The divine light within

P 53  I read this translation of Acts 17:28 from The Voice: ‘We live in God; we move in God; we exist in God.’

P 53–54  ‘. . . a mental concept of, and belief in God is a poor substitute for the living reality of God manifesting every moment of your life.’ (Tolle)

P 54  ‘The Divine Presence shines equally upon everyone, yet it is our own personal choice whether or not we reflect that divine light into the world.’ (Khan)

P 56  ‘The world should feel hopeful because you are here. You are the hope because God is in you.’ (Williamson)

P 56  We viewed the Richard Rohr YouTube video Go deep in one place (3.27 min). www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYOmXbNNbpU

P 58  ‘We are not just made by God, we are made of God.’ (Julian of Norwich)

P 60  John’s summary: ‘The idea that God is present as the inner divine light in all humans on this earth is strongly supported by an immense number of spiritual and philosophical insights. . . We are all one. (This idea) also refutes the notion that God is an external being.’

P 60  We finished with the Namaste Prayer:

I honour the place in you

In which the entire universe dwells

I honour the place in you

Which is of love, of truth

Of light and of peace

When you are in that place in you

And I am in that place in me

We are one.

A couple of overall comments on the book so far:

1  There are so many quotes we have a bit of trouble distinguishing them from what John Humphreys himself is saying.

2  While we are discussing the ‘benevolent cosmos’ we have to acknowledge the presence of evil in the world.


Next week we finish Chapter 2 p 61–77.

Ken Williamson 


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Next gathering at Redcliffe with Lorraine Parkinson

I’m very pleased to announce that our dear friend Rev. Dr Lorraine Parkinson has kindly agreed to present to our Redcliffe gathering on Monday 7th November the talk she gave earlier this month to our fellow Explorers in Caloundra. In this presentation Lorraine explores the issue of Naming the Un-nameable: Searching in the woods for the God tree.

In their search for God, Christians have restricted their gaze to one tree in the theological woods – the three-branched Trinity Tree.   As J. B. Phillips wrote way back in the mid-20th century – “your God is too small”!  Contemporary theology, philosophy and very importantly, science, have expanded the view of the woods to take in so many more of the trees. Those are not just the trees of other faiths, but the scientific trees all around us and the trees of mystics both ancient and very modern. Join with us in Lorraine’s exploration of the many advances in science that are making exciting connections with the sacred.  She will also offer a strong possibility for naming the un-nameable.

Lorraine is a biblical scholar, theologian and author, and considers herself ‘somewhat of a mystic’.  Exploring the faith from a viewpoint outside traditional boundaries has allowed and encouraged her to see the ‘biggest picture of all’.  Come along on Monday 7th November to find out what that picture includes!

As usual we’ll meet in the Function Room at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe) at 6 p.m., with coffee and chat until 6:30. If you’re not a regular Explorers attendee, please be aware that the security gates at Azure Blue are locked early in the evening, and won’t be attended by a key-card holder until just before 6 p.m. For more information about the group or access to the venue, please call Ian on 0401 513 723. Hoping to see you there!




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Has the Church dropped the Refugee ball?

At our seminar on Refugees and Asylum Seekers last Wednesday, we were privileged to have PCNQ executive member, Ruth Delbridge gives us part of her story. Here is it is in more complete form.

In 1978 Rev Doug Kirkup asked me to be a member of the Synod Ecumenical Relationships Committee and also the Queensland Ecumenical Council, now (the Queensland Churches Together).  Little did he know what lay ahead for me when I accepted his request.

I regularly attended the biennial meetings of the Australian Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches), and other related meetings of World Christian Action (now Act for Peace) and the Refugee Sub Committee.

This was in the years when the Australian Government and its policies were somewhat more generous in responding to those seeking refuge in Australia, unlike today when people come to Australia who are already traumatised, they are then further traumatised as they negotiate the inhumane policies of the Australian Government.

In 1978 Frank Galbally, a Criminal Lawyer from Melbourne, at the request of the government, produced a report which focused on ways of helping migrants settle into Australian life, of maintaining their cultures and of ensuring they had the same rights and access to services as other Australians.  He recommended the changing of the policy of assimilation to one of multiculturalism.  Out of that Galbally Report came the Community Refugee Settlement Scheme (CRSS) which was introduced in October 1979.  This was in response to the Indochinese refugee crises, but later it included other ethnic groups and particularly Women at Risk.  It was to help take the pressure off government run migrant centres and hostels, and it allowed refugees to move directly into the community and be supported by community groups and individuals.  These groups were expected to assist the refugee for a minimum of 6 months.  Through this scheme over 30,000 were helped to successfully settle and integrate into the community.

I was a member of the CRSS scheme in Queensland for its two-year life.  It was chaired by Joe Rinaudo, a lawyer, who was described at his funeral as someone with an extraordinary sense of social justice.  His son Ray is now a District Court Judge in Queensland.

My local parish at Mt Gravatt helped to settle about fifteen families through this program.  Last week I met up with Adele Rice who had been the Principal of Milperra Special School for many years. She and I were invited to a meal to celebrate the day, 42 years ago, that one of the men we helped to resettle at Mt Gravatt had arrived in Australia.

In 1988 I visited refugee camps in Hong Kong and Thailand.  No documentary or story can convey the utter despair of seeing  people living in those conditions.  One of the Cambodian refugee families resettled by the Mt Gravatt Parish included a woman who lost two of her three children through starvation as she gradually made her way to the Thai border and a refugee camp.  Her husband been a government official and was killed very early in the conflict.  It took her almost twelve months before she trusted me enough and was comfortable to tell me this part of her story.

In the late eighties and early nineties there was a refugee advocacy presence within the Social Responsibility section of the Queensland Synod, but I see no evidence of that today.

In 1995 I was one of four Uniting Church in Australia delegates to the Christian Conference of Asia General Assembly in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  This was at the height of the civil war. The Tamils of Sri Lanka were alienated and discriminated against for many years, living largely in poverty, leading to much discontent, anger, war and terrorism.   After the conference, I took part in a pastoral visit to Tamil areas with Rev Gregor Henderson, who, at that time was the Assembly General Secretary, and Joy Balazo who was Associate Director – Peacemaking Program at Uniting World and Secretary for Human Rights, Uniting Church in Australia, and also Rev Christo Roberts, a minister of the Church of South India, Jaffna Diocese.

(Joy Balazo founded the Young Ambassadors for Peace, and worked closely with young people in the Solomon Islands and PNG.  In 1912 she was awarded the World Methodist Peace Award.  Later she was nominated for the Australian of the Year Award).  Joy had been a Catholic nun from The Philippines.  When she completed her time at The Uniting Church Assembly she returned to her home country to continue her work for peace).

Also travelling with us to Vavunia, which was the closest we could go to the Jaffna Peninsular, was  Bishop Jebanesan, who regularly had to undergo this long and difficult journey.    (He is the brother of Rev Mano – who had been the minister at Mt Gravatt in the early 1990s),  and also with us was a  mother whose daughter had been a member of a University Lecturer’s Human Rights Group and she had been killed because of her outspoken writings.

We witnessed two long lines of Tamils, one male, the other female, most of them quite elderly, in the dehumanizing situation of standing in the stifling heat and dust waiting to be searched in case they were carrying contraband goods, which included any form of battery and 48 other items including fuel to run generators to provide power.

We then travelled east to Batticaloa and witnessed the destruction of whole villages, beautiful teak forests that were destroyed and beaches deserted.  It was to understand something of the cost to the environment and the lack of freedom people experienced.  The beauty of their countryside had been taken from them.

We had many pauses in our travels – stopped at army and police check points, with razor wire across the road; semi-automatic rifles pointed as us by fifteen-year-old soldiers; our bags scrutinised, while our Tamil friends produced their identification passes which they had to carry at all times and Joy and I looked carefully where we stood in case of hidden land mines.

We saw holes in church roofs from shelling; experienced the self-imposed curfew at Batticaloa, knowing that the army would shoot at shadows after 6.30 p.m. and we were in the centre of Batticaloa on Sunday afternoon when the Independent Army unit roared through on powerful motorbikes, with faces covered with black hoods – it was to feel the fear and tension that people were living with twenty-four hours a day.

Along the way we visited refugee camps, people who were struggling for survival and their future was totally controlled by others.  They were looking for justice, peace and recognition of their human dignity.  Like the sea of faces I saw in camps in Hong Kong and Thailand, these people were individual human beings, with names of their own; not just a group of people who make up facts and figures, but real people who belong to real families and communities.  An overwhelming majority of them were women and children.  It is a challenge to us all to continue to listen to refugees, hear their needs, and be able, with love and caring concern, to walk with them as they journey onwards.  At the time of our visit there were 420,000 displaced Tamil families and they were living in 74 refugee camps.

I believe many Tamils still fear for their lives, and we have witnessed something of this recently with the treatment of the now successfully resettled Tamil Biloela family.

Committees can set agendas, goals and strategies, but it is individuals like you and I who can build loving relationships, helping to provide justice, which must include compassion and empathy.  Anyone who accepts this challenge can expect their life to be greatly enriched, as I can say mine has been.

Life for me has been a journey of discovery, from the crowded cities of Asia, to the depravation and isolation of a relocated mining community from the Rhonda Valley in Wales, to the remoteness of a hurting Aboriginal community on Mornington Island, meeting and interacting with people from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds – a journey where I have been encouraged to understand the structural and root causes of injustice,  and not just work to  mend the fences.

In 1989 I stood on the same platform at a seminar with Hang Ngor, the lead actor in the Killing Fields, the story of Cambodia and the Pol Pot era.  This had been organised by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and chaired by Rev John Mavor.  To prepare myself for this night I read Hang Ngor’s autobiography – not the Killing Fields story, but his own story.  I felt privileged and humble to be able to share in the intimate details of his thoughts, feelings and emotions as he lived through the Pol Pot years and gradually lost each member of his family including his wife.  He suffered torture three times, including being hung on a cross with a smouldering fire lit under his feet.  Reading his book gave me an even greater understanding of the human tragedy involved in being a refugee and further cemented by resolve to stand alongside those who are the victims of war.

That night Hang Ngor challenged us with a request which is just a relevant today as it was in 1989 –

before you go to sleep tonight, close your eyes and open your minds.

Ruth Delbridge,         October 2022




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UCFORUM: The value of thinking

In the UCFORUM we celebrate thinking and critically and positively explore radical doubt. Thanks to Tim O’Dwyer we have the following reflection from the great Rene Descartes often called the father of modern philosophy.  His unfinished treatise on method, the Rules for the Direction of the Mind, which set out a procedure for investigating nature, was based on the reduction of complex problems to simpler ones solvable by direct intuition. From these intuitively established foundations, Descartes tried to show how one could then attain the solution of the problems originally posed.:

The Latin cogito, ergo sum, usually translated into English as “I think, therefore I am“,[a] is the “first principle” of René Descartes‘s philosophy. He originally published it in French as je pensedonc je suis in his 1637 Discourse on the Method, so as to reach a wider audience than Latin would have allowed.[1] It later appeared in Latin in his Principles of Philosophy, and a similar phrase also featured prominently in his Meditations on First Philosophy. The dictum is also sometimes referred to as the cogito.[2] As Descartes explained in a margin note, “we cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt.” In the posthumously published The Search for Truth by Natural Light, he expressed this insight as dubito, ergo sum, vel, quod idem est, cogito, ergo sum(“I doubt, therefore I am — or what is the same — I think, therefore I am”).[3][4] Antoine Léonard Thomas, in a 1765 essay in honor of Descartes presented it as dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum (“I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am”).[b]

Descartes’s statement became a fundamental element of Western philosophy, as it purported to provide a certain foundation for knowledge in the face of radical doubt. While other knowledge could be a figment of imagination, deception, or mistake, Descartes asserted that the very act of doubting one’s own existence served—at minimum—as proof of the reality of one’s own mind; there must be a thinking entity—in this case the self—for there to be a thought.

One critique of the dictum, first suggested by Pierre Gassendi, is that it presupposes that there is an “I” which must be doing the thinking. According to this line of criticism, the most that Descartes was entitled to say was that “thinking is occurring”, not that “I am thinking”.[5]

Reference: Cogito, ergo sum – Wikipedia 25th October 2022


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Opinion: Is it all about pain?

Pain is part of the deal

Evolution… from atom to algy, plants to people… is full of struggle. It’s focussed on ‘growth’ and the strongest (?), smartest(?) get a ticket to the future.

Why didn’t the dinosaurs make it? Well, there was the small matter
of meteors, but even before that, they had grown too big… were consuming too much.

The evolutionary method is based on cause and effect. Mathematics even. It doesn’t seem to have the slightest care that plants or animals or people are hurt or destroyed. It’s simple, singular motive is ‘progress’.

Progress. To what end?

Is there some reason for all this struggle and pain?  Clearly, pain is part of almost every experience we have as human beings. Even a day of utter gladness can end with a feeling of sadness.

Pain. Pain. Unutterable pain. What has that got to do with progress?
and what have people had to say about it over the years?

A lot has been said… and written but the earliest and perhaps the best can be found in the book of Job in the Old Testament.

The book deals with the problem of ‘unmerited suffering’. It’s how a man responds when he loses everything… his cattle, his wealth, his children, his well-being.

We all know about ‘unmerited suffering’. We’ve all experienced loss and pain. What are we to make of it?  How should we respond? And where is ‘God’ in all this mishmash?

Job says ‘… it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.’ (Job 32:8)

And I suppose that is where we find ourselves. Struggling, yet convinced somehow there is a purpose behind it all… that searching for ‘Godliness’ in the midst of mystery may be worthwhile… that perhaps, it may be the meaning of it all.

Does this kind of belief fly in the face of scientific method and proof?
I don’t think so. Belief is outside the remit of science. The proof of our belief won’t be known until the end of time… if there’s to be such a thing. Meanwhile we risk our lives on what we decide to believe.

What an adventure!

Bev Floyd


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Report 2: Caloundra Explorers and ‘The Benevolent Cosmos’

Dear Explorers

John Humphreys’ Our benevolent cosmos is only a little book, but it is sure giving us a lot to think about. We are trying to follow John’s advice to ‘read slowly and mindfully’.

We talked about the Celtic Tree of Life and enjoyed John Philip Newell’s quote on p 11.

The universe is like a mighty river in flow. From that single stream, smaller streams emerge.These are to be celebrated and cherished, each one absolutely unique, never to be repeated again—that blade of grass, that autumn leaf, the countenance of that child, your life, my life. Then we dissolve, merging back into the flow, our constituent parts to emerge again in new formations further down the river. The universe wastes nothing in its endless unfolding.

We watched a short video of an interview between Oprah and Eckhart Tolle;

Eckhart Tolle’s definition of God (3.22 min)  www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW7ld4CCPoA

P 15  ‘Only a totally committed atheist could claim the absence of a mysterious intelligence underlying all that is seen and unseen (in the cosmos).’

P 17  A quote from Margaret Wertheim in Pythagoras’ Trousers: ‘Physics . . . is a science based on a conception of God as a divine mathematical creator.’

P 18. ‘The traditional Christian concept of God, external to the secular world and who sits in judgement on its sinful inhabitants, needs reassessment in the light of contemporary theological review and scientific findings.’

Another video Deepak Chopra on meditation & spirituality (1.51 min)  www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PfiARJuUZA

P 19–20 An Andre Auger litany:

God, You work…

In the accelerating expansion of the universe

In the spiralling of galaxies

In the explosion of supernovas

In the singularity of black holes

In the regularity of the Solar System

In the equilibrium of the Earth’s ecology

In the evolving of a society

In the functioning of our organs

In the chemical processes within our bodies

In the forces within the atom

In the ‘weird’ behaviour of quantum particles

P 20  Tolle states that ’the radical (and much needed) transformation of human consciousness is called enlightenment in Hindu; salvation in the teachings off Jesus; and the end of suffering in Buddism.’

P 24  A quote from Dr Kenneth Miles: ‘Mathematical simulations have shown that small changes in just a few, or sometimes only one of these (cosmic) constants would disturb the natural processes they determine to such a degree that life would not be possible. This finding is compatible with the existence of a Creator God.’

Because the book talks about force fields and energy fields I demonstrated how you can show the invisible force field around a bar magnet.

John’s summary of Chapter 1: ‘God was unmanifested energy before the Big Bang. Afterwards, God’s loving Divinity was manifested and progressively revealed through an expanding, benevolent, evolving and intelligent cosmos. All humans share their oneness in this earth with the natural, living world. We are form expressions of the Divine Power, and co-creators of the evolving cosmos.

Next Tuesday we will study the first half of Chapter 2 Unveiling your pure essence—or ‘God within us’ p 37–60.

Ken Williamson


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Opinion: Body, Mind and Spirit

From Bev Floyd

I want to talk about ‘prayer’ but first I will make a lengthy detour.

What do we need to do to stay healthy in body, mind and spirit?

My one-word answer is ‘awareness’.

Let’s take physical health. People stay healthy if they eat well and exercise to stay fit… if they pay attention to the best available information… have regular ‘checkups’, stay informed
and avoid danger.

It’s much easier in Australia, as we have a good health system, and most Australians can access the medical support they need.
Australia also has a well-educated population and a wealth of available information. All that is required to stay healthy is to keep an eye on
the state of our body and do what
is necessary… to be aware.

Then there’s ‘mind’. Australians have the opportunity for education, and most have completed several years of post-primary education… so there is a fair understanding of science and history etc. However, many Australians put a low priority on developing their minds. Fewer men than women are readers. There are now many new Australians who need to learn English and be able to access suitable resources. Individuals who want to develop their minds need to make an effort… to be aware.

Then there’s ‘spirit’… ‘heart’… ‘confidence’… this is a more difficult quality to define.  Clearly, someone who is confident and happy, with few serious problems, will have a less troubled life. As well, they will be more able to contribute   productively to their community.

Like physical and intellectual well-being, emotional well-being requires attention to basics. Perhaps the first requirement is for people to start learning about themselves… ‘know yourself’ is a famous saying. Another important requirement is to form a view on the meaning of life and be sufficiently aware to live according to that view and modify it as new information comes to hand.

So… that brings us to the matter of PRAYER and what it is… well, at least what I think it is.

It’s quietness. Inner reflection. Awe.
Awareness. Letting go of the ego to notice things that a busy and noisy life sometimes obscures. It’s opening the deepest part of our being to healing and goodness and love. It’s paying attention to truths about our body, our intellect and our spirit.

We need to pray.

Some pray with words. Some pray with dance or music or song. Some pray with poetry. We need to listen to the deep, deep wisdom from within ourselves. Some will call this the voice of Godliness. Some will call it an inner human knowledge.
I don’t mind what it is called. The important thing is that we learn to do it… regularly, happily, satisfactorily. When we do, we’ll find the gift of awareness close at hand. We’ll be able to live better and be an asset to the community in which we live.


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Report on Seminar at Caloundra

Dear Explorers

We had a good roll-up for the first week of our study of John Humphreys’ book Our benevolent cosmos: Embracing the mystery of life. We were indeed lucky to have John with us, and his wife Janice, who did the illustrations for the book. John shared some of his experiences from his 50 years in the science, technology and innovation environment. For those who weren’t there I will endeavour to give you some idea of what we discussed.

To give some idea of the immensity of the cosmos I showed this James Webb Space Telescope image of a patch of sky behind a grain of sand held at arm’s length. It contains thousands of galaxies 4.6 billion light years away.

P vii–ix  John writes that the principal aims off the book are ‘encouraging an open mind in embracing life’s mystery and suggesting pathways to discover our pure essence’. In his book he has included the thoughts of scientists, sages, spiritualists, sceptics, philosophers, artists, anthropologists, theologians and historians. He suggests ‘that the book be read slowly and mindfully, to allow its content to penetrate beyond the thinking, intellectualised mind’.

P x John talks about the ‘universal mind’ or ‘universal consciousness, which can be defined as ‘an energy field or life force that permeates all of creation’ (Bahai Teachings)

P 1 I showed the video What is dark matter and dark energy? www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAa2O_8wBUQ (6.20 min)

P 3  ‘. . . there is a splendid natural order underlying the chaos of the universe, our own planet Earth, and in every human being.’

P 4–5. ‘. . . if organised religion was serving us well, we would witness a surge, rather than a dramatic, accelerating decline in church attendances worldwide . . .(It needs) to embrace an alternative, more contemporary, community-centred, environmentally friendly, spiritually based direction.’

P 6 ‘. . . the rapidly decreasing Christian Church attendances worldwide demonstrate that a new Reformation is occurring, rather than the idea that Christian adherents are doomed to a dying Church.’ What an affirming statement for ‘progressive’ Christians!

P  7 We must evolve ‘as beings that sense our connectedness to all that is seen and unseen. . . to walk that pathway mindfully—not through intellectual pursuits on the meaning of life, but through sensing, feeling, loving, evolving and discovering the joy of transcending the body in sacred stillness.

We worked though the Appendix: Scientific explorations of our cosmos. This was interesting but we sure didn’t understand it all.

P 135 Matthew Fox said ‘We have a relationship with the stars . . . we should find God in nature—not in a book.’

P 137. I showed the YouTube video What is string theory? (2.34 min)

P 140  John shared his knowledge of the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope.

We look forward to discussing Chap 1 Connecting with the cosmos (p 9–35) next Tuesday (tomorrow).

Ken Williamson


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Opinion: Discovering the Right Questions

Discovering the Right Questions

The Sixth Core Principle of the CAC: Life is about discovering the right questions more than having the right answers. Richard Rohr from the Centre for Action and Contemplation expands on this counterintuitive wisdom:

This principle keeps us on the path of ongoing discernment, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10). The key concept here is the contrast between the words “discovering” and “having.” A discerning and inquiring spirit will make us discoverers in touch with our hidden unconscious and the deeper truth. A glib “I have the answers” spirit makes us into protectors of clichés. Answers are wonderful when they are true and keep us on the human and spiritual path. But answers are not wonderful when they become something we hold as an ego possession, allowing us to be arrogant, falsely self-assured, and closed down individuals.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways. . . . As high as the heavens are from the earth so are my thoughts above your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). The depth and mystery of God leaves all of us as perpetual searchers and seekers, always novices and beginners. It is the narrow and dark way of faith. “Search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you,” says Jesus (Luke 11:9). There is something inherently valuable about an attitude of spiritual curiosity and persistent “knocking.”

The ego is formed by contraction; the soul is formed by expansion. The ego pulls into itself by comparing, competing, and separating itself from others: “I am not like that,” it says. The soul, however, does exactly the opposite: “I am that.” (Tat Tvam Asi, as the Hindus say). It sees itself in God, the other, flowers and trees, animals, and even the enemy: similarity instead of separateness. It participates in the human dilemma instead of placing itself above and beyond all tensions. The long journey of transformation leads us to ask new questions about our own goodness, and where goodness really lies; to recognize our own complicity with evil, and where evil really lies. It is humiliating.

Only those led by the Spirit into ever deeper seeing, hearing, and surrendering—spiritual seekers and self-questioners—will fall into the hands of the living God. This will always be “a narrow gate and a hard road” that “only a few will walk” (Matthew 7:14).

We want to encourage those few and invite many more on a journey of seeking God. In the sixth century, St. Benedict said the only requirement for a monk’s admission is that they “truly seek God.” [1] Not security or status, not education, not roles and titles, not a portfolio of answers, but simply and humbly seeking God. Spiritual seeking will make a person be a perpetual and humble student instead of a contented careerist, a quester rather than a settler, an always impatient, yearning, and desirous lover. I will bet on such spiritual seekers any day. They are on the real and only quest.

Fr Richard Rohr

Thursday, October 13, 2022



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Event: Merthyr Road Explorers – Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Everyone is invited to join in at Merthyr Explorers on 26th October.
Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm.
10 am for morning tea (a few contributions to this will be welcome)
10:30 we begin our exploring of the topic.
A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated.


Wondering about the blizzard of stats, jargon, vested interests, community attitudes right now?
Looking for ways forward in practising Christian values with the strangers at our gate?
On 26 October, our joint presenters offer a wealth of current insight and experience.

Frederika (Freddie) Steen is a strong advocate for just and compassionate practice towards refugees and asylum seekers – by Australian governments and communities.
She did major executive leadership with the Immigration Dept and since, has played a keyrole in the operation of the Refugee Hub at Indooroopilly Uniting Church.

Rebecca Lim brings a strong legal background as a migration agent; research, policy and advocacy work and works pro bono with the Indooroopilly UCA team.  She has edited the recently released book Does Australia Love its Neighbour? Lived experiences of Queenslanders working with people seeking asylum.  Copies of the book will be available on 26 October. EFTPOS is available.
$25 for waged; $20 for unwaged.  Proceeds go to the Indooroopilly Hub.

Like to do some background inquiry?  Here are some reliable options:
Refugee Council of Australia   https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au
The Kaldor Centre (Proposal to Government) https://Kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/project/resettlement-and-other-pathways-protection
UNHCR Australia  https://www.unrefugees.org.au       

I hope you can join us

Desley Garnett


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Opinion: Science and the search for Truth. What can we do?

I’ve come across quite a few scientists who have become single dimensional… simply acolytes of measurement and willing to believe nothing unless it can be measured.

Some, like Richard Dawkins, are prepared to say categorically that
they KNOW religion is bunkum.

I think his attitude is quite unscientific. Where is his proof?

Some scientists appear to have CLOSED MINDS, inasmuch as they are only prepared to ‘accept’ an idea or phenomena if it can be PROVEN.

My view of science is the idea of eternal exploration… of being open to ANY idea as a proposition worthy of enquiry.

SO… perhaps we should reorganise our thinking into categories:

1. What is most likely to be true and to remain so.
2. What is most likely true unless we learn more.
3. What may be true, but we haven’t yet tested it carefully.
4. A whole heap of stuff that we have no idea if it’s true or not, but which may be either.
5. Some things we are fairly sure aren’t true but…
6 . Things which have been carefully tested and are almost certainly untrue.

Of course, not all scientists have closed minds, but there are enough for it to be a stumbling block to the view of science providing all the answers required to live life to its full potential.

I suppose, because scientists are human, there will be some for whom the certainty of science seems fitting, natural. At the other end of the spectrum will be adventurers who welcome the challenge of testing fixed ideas… although there are perhaps fewer of these intrepid folk than the world needs.

Science has gained dominion over us. We are not to believe something unless it can be measured and/or proven. Oh dear!!

Humanity is now in an era where science has overtaken religion as the prevailing paradigm. YET… despite many advances, we still require a more complete, more integrated way of looking at life.

We need awe. We need meaning. We need love. We need to belong. We need hope. We need answers to the troubling circumstances that distract us. Can science provide adequate answers for these questions… or solace… or peace?
Certainly not yet. Perhaps never.

What can we do?

Bev Floyd


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Events Update: St Lucia Q

St Lucia Spirituality Group

Newsletter October 2022


In September we held the first of two meetings examining historical influences on our religious beliefs. Our objective is simply to create awareness that many of our beliefs are founded on assumptions and a worldview we cannot accept today in the light of modern knowledge. Thus, we sought to establish this questioning of tradition as a legitimate activity. We are using these two meetings as a prelude to considering the books and videos of Diarmuid O’Murchu who seeks to promote adult faith development.

Kevin Treston writes: “How can the church possibly have renewal expectations for fruitful outcomes from plenary councils and synods unless we have a well informed and spiritually enhanced laity? How will the dream of Pope Francis for a synodal church ever come to fruition if our people are left to flounder in the remnants of a Tridentine church that is slowly passing into history?” (Telling Our Faith Stories, 2022, pg. 140).

We seek to foster interest in continuing adult faith education. However, we hold only monthly meetings and we cannot delve into these matters in detail. We are not a teaching organisation although we have read widely and have a broad grasp of contemporary thinking. Our pre-reading/discussion papers include footnotes and references to facilitate further enquiry for those who wish to follow up.

Ultimately, though, there aren’t any shortcuts, one has to read the books, listen to the podcasts and watch the videos. Reflect and pray. But isn’t that also part of how we grow in faith – rather than being told what to think, what to believe?

What’s Coming Next in the Butterfly Series

At our next Butterfly Series meeting, we continue the theme of historical influences on our faith by examining schisms in Christianity over two millennia. We will outline the major disagreements that led to schisms and highlight the causes as recorded by historians and religious authorities. In addition, we hope to draw some lessons for the Catholic Church today. If these lessons remain unlearned, the mistakes of the past are likely to be repeated. In addition, we pose the question whether schisms at a macro level provide guidance for our personal relationships at an individual level.

The schisms that we will highlight are:

  1. The debate at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE about the teaching of Jesus’ one person in two natures, human and divine. The Oriental orthodox churches (Armenia, Egypt (Copts), Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of Middle East and India) disagreed and separated from the rest of Christianity.
  2. The frequent disputes between Rome and Constantinople which ultimately led in 1054 CE to the separation of the Eastern Orthodox churches. The disputes were primarily over conflicting claims of jurisdiction and papal authority.
  3. The Protestant Reformation in the first half of the 16th century, led by Martin Luther in Germany, John Calvin in Switzerland and King Henry VIII in England. Many different factors about church teachings and practices were involved, including indulgences.

From these schisms, we suggest lessons for the Church and for our personal faith journeys in teaching authority, our understanding of “church” and God, and unity with diversity.

We hope you can join us. If you would like a copy of our discussion paper, simply email us. It is also available on our Facebook page. There is no obligation to join our meeting.

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting – Schisms in the Church

Our Episode 13 meeting will be held on Zoom at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday 25 October.  To register your attendance, please email John at jscoble@hradvantage.com.au.

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

Or you can simply join our meeting through this link:
Meeting ID: 822 3330 8377  Passcode: 671762

 Our Facebook Page & Newsletters

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

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

Finally, do you know anyone who might like to receive these newsletters too? You can contact us by email slsg4067@gmail.com.

Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik




Copyright © St Lucia Spirituality Group 2022, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
PO Box 880 Toowong Qld 4066 Australia
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Opinion: The end of organised religion?

The time for religion… ‘organised religion’ is over. There will never again be just one way to think or believe. Each of us will make up our minds individually. This might seem anarchic, disordered, chaotic… but it is the future… a future where there is more individual decision-making.

There will be a flowering of ideas about the meaning of life and how to live it. People will no longer be IN or OUT because their beliefs are not orthodox. It will be easier to share ideas about ‘belief’. Barriers will fall away, and many will become explorers seeking understanding and fulfilment.

Some won’t live much differently from the way they have in the past… but others will relish the opportunity, the freedom… to find a way to be truly who they were meant to be without the constraining effects of organised religion which is about having a common set of beliefs.

This is how the world will be. It won’t happen suddenly or overnight. Vestiges of organised religion will remain for a long time. Moreover, many of the ideas and beliefs will continue to flourish in the hearts and minds of individuals. All the wisdom of past ages will be available for anyone who seeks it.
But… society will never again be anything other than secular. We
now know that everything is sacred. Nature, humanity, the cosmos, family, friendships, politics. The sacredness of life will become apparent in the secular. There is but one world and we will be drawn together by our common purpose.

To realise this potential, we must stop looking backwards and concentrate our thoughts and efforts on preparing for the future.

Bev Floyd


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An offer: Invigorating and empowering individuals


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

October 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To examine some of my material go to: Maxwell Dodd


A Gift of Encouragement

Spooner Dodd Consulting Services

Post Office Box 462


 Telephone: 0410 940 183





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Events: Update on some Group Gatherings

Redcliffe Explorers:

Greetings all,

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

Shalom, Ian.

St Lucia Spirituality Group:

Telling our faith stories – Dr Kevin Treston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Caloundra Explorers:

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

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

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

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


Dayboro Explorers:

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


Progressive Christian Network Victoria

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

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

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

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

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


Merthyr Road, New Farm, Explorers

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


Progressive Christianity Network, South Australia.


Hope in a time of impending catastrophe.

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

October 20th      ESMOND DOWDY
Worship for postmodern times.

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

For bookings:

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


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Opinion: Sacred and Secular Events in OZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bev Floyd


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Merthyr Rd Explorers (Q) – The Religious Joke

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

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

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

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

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

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

A donation of $5 towards costs is appreciated.


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Next PCNV Event

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

How does Christian faith connect with the contemporary world?

What are the implications now of being Christian?

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

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

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

Download the flyer HERE

Click here for the Zoom Link at 4.00pm

For further information email info@pcnvictoria.org.au

Rod Peppiatt  – PCNV Secretary



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Our faith journeys – a guide

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




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

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

Contact: kevintreston@gmail.com



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Opinion: Why theologians may be wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theologians and thinkers EXPLORE.

Scientists EXPERIMENT.

Ordinary folk EXPERIENCE.

The wisest people do all three.

2 Philipians 12-13

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

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

Bev Floyd (August, 2022)


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Excitement building at Caloundra Q

Dear Explorers

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

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


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

Ken Williamson


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Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery

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

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

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

At the 2015 Assembly in Perth

15.22.03.  Doctrine of Discovery

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


And see also


And see Uncle Ray Minniecon’s paper


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



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From the St Lucia (Q) Spirituality Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Zoom and Face to Face meeting:

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

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


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Next gathering at Redcliffe Q

The Influence of Paul on the Beginning of Christianity

Greetings everyone,

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

Bart Ehram

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

Shalom, Ian


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Congratulations Duncan MacLeod

Thanks Dick Carter for sharing this news with us:

New Executive Officer for eLM Victoria and Tasmania Synod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in fellowship
Tom Spurling
Presbytery Chair


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Performing Arts: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

For Brisbane residents:

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

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


by Stephen Adly Guirgis

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

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

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


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




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

  2.           AdelaideBook launch A4 flyer

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

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

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

3.    Melbourne

“After Jesus Before Christianity”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the Zoom Link at 4.00pm

Download the flyer HERE

For further information email info@pcnvictoria.org.au

Rod Peppiatt  – PCNV Secretary


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Anglican Church in Australia splits

Anglican Church in Australia splits



Please copy and paste into your search engine.



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More on gender transitioning


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

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

Series 36 The Accidental Archivist : ABC iview




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Event: Redcliffe (Q) Explorers

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

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

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

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

Shalom, Ian


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

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

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

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

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

Desley Garnett


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Fiction as message: The Conversation

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

The Conversation

by Paul Mavromatis

 Chapter 1 – The Restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Chapter 2- Vacation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 3 – Who Could Have Imagined

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

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

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

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

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

He tried to speak again but made no sound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” 

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

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

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

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

“Your next question,” the Being said.

“Why does everything seem to go against me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have another question,” the Being said.

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

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

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

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

Chapter 4 – Back to Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was silence at Katherine’s end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Chapter 5 – Two Years Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tell me about your organization,” Lucas said.

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

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

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

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

“I guess so.”

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


The next day Lucas showered early.

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

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

Ava sighed and continued with her breakfast.

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

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

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

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

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

Lucas explained and mentioned the trouble with the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about your drinking?” Ava asked.

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

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

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










Featured post

Connecting up people in isolation

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



Featured post

Meetings coming up at the St Lucia Group (Brisbane)

St Lucia Spirituality Group
Newsletter July 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plenary Council of Australia – Second General Assembly

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

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting – Praying with Scripture Part 1

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

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

Butterfly Series – What’s Next?

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

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

 Our Facebook Page

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

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

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

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

Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik


Featured post

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

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

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

The Zoom link for this meeting is:


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

This is a free PCNV event

Everyone Welcome


Featured post

The Role of Imagination and Theology in the Public Space.

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

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

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

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

The Editors

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about Jason Goroncy go to Jason Goroncy.

Rod says:

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



Featured post

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

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

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

(Reviewed April 2009)

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

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

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

Who to believe?

West is best

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

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

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

We’re all Christian now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life in the void

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

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

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

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

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

On earth as it is in heaven?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

For more information about SOFiA go to SOFiA.


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Film Review: Elvis

From Everald Compton

Enjoyed a relaxing and interesting evening at the local cinema.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just look at our current world leaders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Everald

Books by Everald:




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

or from his website:   EVERALD@LARGE – Everald Compton

and click on BOOKS



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Resource: Being actively and ecologically responsible

The Season of Creation in the month of September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Squires, Editor  0408 024 642





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More on Who or What is God?

Who or What is God?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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A new initiative – Finding similar minded people

You are not alone.

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

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

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

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

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


Paul Inglis


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

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

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

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

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

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

Shalom, Ian


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Event: Gathering at Merthyr Road UC: Evolution is Ongoing

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

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

Here’s a teaser of the content:

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

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

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

Looking forward to our time together.

Desley Garnett


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Book of interest available from author

by George Stuart

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

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

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


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Event + Zoom PCNV Invitation

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

Dr Mark Zirnsak

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

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

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

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

Click here for the Zoom Link at 3.00pm

For further information email info@pcnvictoria.org.au

Rod Peppiatt  – PCNV Secretary


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Events: Stage 2 – What is God? Caloundra Explorers

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

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

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

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



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

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

I look forward to hearing from you.

Ken Williamson



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Book Review: Telling Our Faith Stories

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

Kevin Treston

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

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

Life is lived forwards but understood backwards Kierkegaard.

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

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

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

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

Dr Paul Inglis, UCFORUM, June 2022

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


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Jesus and the Sacrificial System

Dr Peter E. Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Thanks for the great response

Request for your church connection

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




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Book Review: Does Australia Love its Neighbours?

Lived experiences of Queenslanders working with people seeking Asylum.



Compiled by Rebecca Lim

Edited by Brigid Limerick and Fiona Hardy



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommended.

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

Paul Inglis, June 2022

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From our Explorer Friends at St Lucia Q.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butterfly Series – Next Meeting – Introduction to Meditation

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

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

Butterfly Series – What’s Next?

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

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

 Our Facebook Page

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

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

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

Go well…
John Scoble & Robert van Mourik


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Places: The Avenue Uniting Church, Blackburn VIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About us

William Stone Pipe Organ (1879)

Going the Second Mile


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Request for information (voluntary)

Thank you for journeying with us.

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

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

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

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

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

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



Dr Paul Inglis, Moderator, UCFORUM.


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A more Credible Jesus of Nazareth

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

Lloyd Geering, St Andrews Trust

Christianity without God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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PCNV Seminar and Zoom session


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

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

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

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

Click here for the Zoom Link at 3.00pm

For further information email info@pcnvictoria.org.au

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


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Opinion: Hell in the here and now

Voting for hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Len Baglow

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

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



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Roger Wolsey on Progressive Christianity

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

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

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

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

Who is Rev Roger Wolsey? 

Author, Spiritual Director, Soul Coach

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

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

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

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

Know Yourself.

Love Yourself.

Love Others & The World.

 Let’s work together Soul 2 Soul.”

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




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Merthyr Road, New Farm (Q) Explorers next session

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

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


Resurrection: Further Thoughts

Part A: Interpreting Scripture

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part B:  A Few additional Points to Consider

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

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

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

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

There is a magnificent little poem, “Yaksha,” written by the great Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, as a