Much media attention has been given in recent weeks to issues of criminal detention, highlighting some major problems to be addressed in Queensland and elsewhere in the country. At our next meeting, on Monday 1st March, the Redcliffe Explorers are privileged to have as guest speaker a Prison Chaplain who will give us some insights into her work with incarcerated adult criminals, and problems associated with ensuring they have adequate support when released from detention. Some members of our group also have experience in this area of ministry, so this is likely to be a very informed discussion. It may also be of interest to those who heard Wayne Sanderson’s recent most informative talk to the Merthyr Rd PCN Explorers group about juvenile justice issues.
We’ll be gathering as usual in the ground-floor Function Room at the Azure Blue Retirement Centre (91 Anzac Ave., Redcliffe 4020) at 6:00 pm. If you’re planning to come but are not a regular attender, it would be advisable for you to contact Ian Brown (mob 0401 513 723 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) for advice on accessing the complex.
Our first Gathering for 2021 will be on Sunday 7 March at 5.30 pm in the Caloundra Uniting Church hall. Our topic will be Discussion, direction and devotion and we will be looking forward and looking back. We will follow COVID safe guidelines and we will be able to enjoy fellowship over a meal. We will need to bring our own meal with no sharing, but we can have tea or coffee.
Our first book study of the year will be Donald Schmidt’s The beatitudes for progressive Christians (cost $25).
“It addresses the current situations of violence, unrest, and uncertainty with the challenges of Jesus’ teaching. The stories and illustrations alone make this book valuable” Reviewer
We are planning six weekly studies from 13 April until 18 May on Tuesday afternoon at the church. If there are sufficient numbers we will have a second group on Thursday afternoon at Margaret Landbeck’s home. We need to know numbers so we can order the books, so please let me know ASAP if you would like to join this book study.
The UC Forum website continues to draw subscribers from far and wide and it is refreshing to see that some of them recently are of a younger generation.
One would expect to find doctrinal progressivism being the choice of young people having, as they do, lives of several decades ahead of them. The sad observation, though, is that it is the more mature folk who are drawn to this more open way of fitting religious faith to the 21st century environment. Indeed, to the extent that they are drawn to Christian faith, fundamentalism seems to win in the appeal to the young. An explanation of this contrast may be that thinking, older people, after a lifetime of seeking and expressing a Christian faith, are finding that the suppositions behind orthodoxy do not fit their experience and realities of the current intellectual age.
But where do young seekers go to find and share experiences of their faith in something beyond orthodoxy?
In Australia there are actually very few Uniting Churches (or other mainline denominations) which avowedly declare themselves as doctrinally wholly “progressive”. There may be only several in each Australian state or territory. Last week we featured one of them, the Woden Valley Uniting Church in the Australian Capital Territory. There are of course now many congregations that would describe themselves as liberal/inclusive/open and welcoming people who think critically about all they are told. These congregations have many progressive thinkers in them.
What we do find, however, is that most congregations, perhaps the majority, have one or two individuals with a progressive orientation. Likewise, with the ministers of many congregations, Paul I and I have been surprised, when having a quiet private chat with many church leaders, at how many of them, in confidence, are receptive to progressive interpretations of Christian traditions and of, for instance, the UCA Basis of Union.
On the right-hand panel of this website, you will find a long list of congregations being attended by our subscribers and these are only the ones we know about. Those congregations and their ministers would value your moral support. They do need to be wary of the guardians of orthodoxy in being too public but in many cases I expect you will find they will be helpful in finding you a niche.
Perhaps if more young people come along and show their interest in promoting and following the Jesus way in a non-supernaturalist, non-theistic view of the world, they will come to find warm companionship in many more of our churches.
St James has been one of the original and continuing flag bearers for Progressive Christianity in Australia.
The 10 am service on Sunday 7 February was the last service in that building under the name of St James. It was a time of joy and remembering, and a tribute to 57 years of faith and action. The reflection offered by Simon Clarke as part of that service can be found here.
On 14 February 2021, St James Uniting Church and South Woden Uniting Church merged to form Woden Valley Uniting Church.
The vision and mission statement for the new church is printed below and sets a standard for other congregations aspiring to be progressive.
The formal commissioning of Woden Valley Uniting Church took place on Sunday 14 February, in the hall at the Pearce Community Centre.
The first morning worship service of the newly merged congregation will be at Curtin at 10 am on Sunday 21 February – in person and on Zoom.
The location of morning worship services from March onwards will alternate monthly between Pearce and Curtin.
The range of activities, classes and small small group meetings that have been operating at Curtin up until now will continue – this includes Meditation and Gathering@6.
PROPOSED WODEN VALLEY UNITING CHURCH VALUES, VISION AND MISSION As followers of the Way of Jesus, within a Uniting Church congregation, we strive for a church community which is: • Welcoming and hospitable to all regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, age, circumstance or cultural background. • Loving, compassionate and steadfast in our relationships with each other, supportive in pastoral care and offering encouragement for active participation and lay leadership. • Honest and accountable to each other and to the communities we serve. • Inclusive and creative in worship which nurtures faith and strengthens connections with each other, the sacred and the world. • Serious and honest in our exploration of the Christian faith, respectful of the Bible and informed by contemporary Biblical scholarship, while allowing room for questioning and doubt. • Open to learning from other faith traditions, scientific revelation and contemporary thought. • Active in our support of our local communities. • Fearless in advocacy and energetic in action in support of social justice, reconciliation, peace and wise environmental stewardship, locally, nationally and globally. • Acting ecumenically with other churches and other faith groups. VISION • A vibrant community of faith living out God’s love and acting for the common good to build a just and compassionate community. MISSION • To be a welcoming, inclusive, progressive and outward looking Christian community that nurtures spirituality and faith and encourages service. July 2020
Greeting friends in the Progressive Christian Network and other interested people.
It was good to gather with around 30 of us in November. I am not going to re-iterate all the adjectives that have been applied to the past 12 months. However, I do want to say:
May 2021 mark the beginning of a Tidal Wave of Love, Happinessand Bright Futures.
PCN Explorers meets again on Wednesday 24th February at 10 am at Merthyr Road Uniting Church.
Sorry this is late notice, but I am hoping that you have the last Wednesday of each month as a recurring date in your electronic diary so that you will always have that date free for PCN Explorers.
I have been wondering how we should start the year. Maybe since we last met together you have had some significant experiences around Christmas, New Year, Epiphany. The world is waiting to see how USA will respond to a new President. We are all waiting for a vaccine against Corona Virus to be available and wondering if it will be shared equally across the globe. The one thing that has been prominent in the news over the past few weeks in Queensland is the Youth Justice System, so I thought we might take some time to be better informed and to think through our response to calls for change. We are fortunate to have amongst our number Rev Wayne Sanderson who has been passionately involved in this area for a long time so I have asked him to share some insights with us on Feb 24th. Here is a little teaser for the topic and Wayne will give us more background information for us to peruse prior to our session together.
YOUTH JUSTICE SYSTEM REFORM IN QUEENSLAND
What are we dealing with here? Start with late colonial baggage which has privileged punishment of offenders until the early 1990s. Then consider the various circumstances in which 10-18 year old offenders live their lives: deeply dysfunctional and dangerous families; Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; out-of-home-care burden; record expulsions from state schools; rural-regional disadvantage; historic substance addiction levels; Aboriginal dispossession and disadvantage; historic fragmentation of government services and interventions; substantial reforms since 2010. Still want to lock them up and throw away the key? How about Christian Social Values? The Common Good? Let’s discuss on 24 February?
Looking forward to getting together again. Some folk have been extending the fellowship time by having lunch together at Moray Cafe. You may want to consider making this part of your morning out.
Ross is not able to set up tables and chairs now so if a couple of people could come about 9:50 to help with that it would be appreciated. I am also looking for a few people whop could bring a plate of food to share. When you reply to let me know you intend to attend, could you let me know if you are able to help with morning tea.
Note:Progressive Christianity is inherently always evolving and progressing. Please take these lightly but seriously. They are not dogma, they are simply a starting point to establish conversations and a foundation of values and beliefs that we have observed Progressive Christians generally share. It’s ok if you don’t agree with all the words or all the parts. We support your authentic path. You can use these in your faith communities and with family and friends to talk about what it means to you to be a Progressive Christian in today’s world. Here is to always progressing!
[from ProgressiveChristianity.com 2020, co-created with Progressive Christian pastors, theologians, scholars and visionaries]
By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who…
1. Believe that following the path of the teacher Jesus can lead to healing and wholeness, a mystical connection to “God,” as well as an awareness and experience of not only the Sacred, but the Oneness and Unity of all life;
2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience “God,” the Sacredness, Oneness and Unity of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom, including Earth, in our spiritual journey;
3. Seek and create community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:
Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, Believers and agnostics, Those of all races, cultures, and nationalities Those of all sexual orientations and all gender identities, Those of all classes and abilities, Those historically marginalized, All creatures and plant life;
4. Know that the way we behave towards one another and Earth is the fullest expression of what we believe, therefore we vow to walk as Jesus might have walked in this world with radical compassion, inclusion, and bravery to confront and positively change the injustices we experience as well as those we see others experiencing;
5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning with an open mind and open heart, than in absolutes or dogma;
6. Work toward peace and justice among all people and all life on Earth;
7. Protect and restore the integrity of our Earth and all of Creation;
8. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love on this journey toward a personally authentic and meaningful faith.
Because the topic of creeds generates so much conversation among progressives I have included here my own notes on the development of the Nicene Creed. Other contributions and critical comments are welcome.
Notes on the Nicene Creed – Paul Inglis 2/02/2021
The Creed of Nicaea was crafted by Eusebius of Caesarea (AD260-340 ). When Bishop of Caesarea he wrote the first history of the (Christian) Church and is consequently recognised as a church historian. His credal document was presented to the Council of Nicaea which had been called by the Roman Emperor Constantine in AD325. Eusebius described Constantine as ‘God’s chosen instrument’ attributing the safe future of the Church to Constantine’s conversion. One can assume the emperor’s influence over the shape and doctrine of the church to have been dominant at that council. Was there a quid pro quo arrangement for church and empire? Both needed each other. Today we can witness the influence of the empire on the structure and culture of the church – designations, organisation, and costume.
Constantine may or may not have been a genuine convert to Christianity, but he certainly had no biblical basis for officiating a theological debate among Church elders. Nevertheless, Constantine brought such theological debate to the most prestigious stage known to mankind – the emperor’s court. Christianity would be marked indefinitely by the political shift and, more importantly, the theological convictions of those men who gathered at the Council of Nicaea.
The Council of Nicaea was called because Arius, a presbyter from Libya, was gaining followers around the empire, teaching, “There was a time when the Son was not.” Egyptian bishop Alexander and his chief deacon, Athanasius, fumed at the teaching. The argument spread throughout the empire, promising to rip the church in two. This council was to close the doctrinal fissure.
Eusebius was enthralled with the teachings of Origen, who, incidentally, has been criticized for 1,800 years for his belief that the Trinity was a hierarchy, not an equality. So, Eusebius was less concerned with Arius’s heresy than the threat of disunity in the church.
When the council was over, Eusebius was reluctant to agree with its decision even though he had been the architect of the approved creed. He eventually signed the document the council produced, saying, “Peace is the object which we set before us.” But a few years later, when the tables flipped and Arianism became popular, Eusebius criticized Athanasius, hero of the council. He even sat on the council that deposed him. Eusebius was not himself an Arian—he rejected the idea that “there was a time when the Son was not” and that Christ was created out of nothing. He simply opposed anti-Arianism. Perhaps he was upholding free speech and thinking?
The original Nicene Creed of A.D. 325 was much shorter than the one used in churches today. The creed needed to be expanded as time went by and new challenges and theological questions arose from both outside and within the Church.
The original creed read, I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made, who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and on the third day He rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.
The original A.D. 325 version was greatly expanded at the Second Ecumenical Council, also called the First Council of Constantinople, in A.D. 381. This second version is nearly identical to the one still used today.
First Council of Constantinople, (381), the second ecumenical of the Christian church, was summoned by the emperor Theodosius I and met in Constantinople. Doctrinally, it adopted what became known to the church as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, effectively affirmed and developed the creed earlier promulgated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 (Creed of Nicaea). The Nicene Creed was, however, probably not an intentional enlargement of the Creed of Nicaea but rather an independent document based on a baptismal creed already in existence. The Council of Constantinople also declared finally the Trinitarian doctrine of the equality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son. Among the council’s canons was one giving the bishop of Constantinople precedence of honour over all other bishops except the bishop of Rome, “because Constantinople is the New Rome.”
Nicaea did not put an end to the controversies but only gave the parties a new rallying point. Doctrinal debate was complicated by the rivalry among bishops and theologians as well as by the intrusion of imperial politics that had begun at Nicaea. Out of the post-Nicene controversies came that fuller statement of the doctrine of the Trinity which was needed to protect the Nicene formula against the charge of failing to distinguish adequately between the Father and the Son. Ratified at the Council of Constantinople in 381 but since lost, that statement apparently made official the terminology developed by the supporters of Nicene orthodoxy in the middle of the 4th century: one divine substance, three divine persons (mia ousia, treis hypostaseis). The three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—were distinct from one another but were equal in their eternity and power. Now it was possible to teach, as Nicaea had, that Christ was “of the same substance as the Father”. Although the doctrine seemed to make problematical the unity of God, it did provide an answer to the first of the two issues confronted by the church in its doctrine of the person of Christ—the issue of Christ’s relation to the Father. It then became necessary to clarify the second issue—the relation of the divine and the human within Christ.
The debate about the nature of Christ ensued at the 5th Century councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. The Council of Chalcedon in AD451 under Pope Leo 1 of Rome produced a settling agreement:
We all unanimously teach…one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, perfect in deity and perfect in humanity…in two natures, without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated. The distinction between the natures is by no means done away with through the union, but rather the identity of each nature is preserved and concurs into one person and being.
We believe in God, the creative force that sustains and nurtures humanity in ways beyond our understanding.
We believe that Jesus of Nazareth embodied the power of this force; extraordinarily able to grasp its meaning, he revealed this face of reality to us in his life and teaching.
Because he was human, like us, through grace and mercy he offers us access to this incomprehensible power.
There are forces in our lives that assault humanity, that bring suffering, degradation and death. Because of the strength of such forces, Jesus was rejected and killed. But death did not silence his voice.
Evil will not eradicate the good that he showed us, a good that lives in us and through us.
The power of this creative force is at work in our lives today. Our forefathers and mothers gave witness to this source of life and goodness in their words and deeds. We, as members of this community of faith, will likewise give witness in our words and deeds.
Secure in our faith, we will fear no evil. When we falter, goodness and mercy will rescue us. Beyond our lives, grace will abound. Amen.
by Carl Krieg 29th January 2021 for ProgressiveChristianity.org
In 1841 the German philosopher of religion, Ludwig Feuerbach, wrote that “if birds had a god, it would be the perfect winged creature”. Human beings, like birds, create god after their own image, and the god they create assumes the characteristics of those doing the creating. The modern white Christian church has presented to the world a Savior who is tall, blue-eyed with long brown hair, clean, sporting a long off-white robe, and gazing into the distance. That was certainly the Jesus I grew up with in my childhood church, with the added touch that he was carrying the lost sheep in his arms.
The facts are quite different. Granted that we are speaking in terms of probability, and that Jesus could have been a handsome six-footer with blue eyes, a neat beard and long brown hair, more likely he looked like a typical Jew of his time. This put him at about 110 pounds, 5’1” in height, with a life span of about 40 years. His hair, cut short and reasonably messy, matched a beard of similar description. Forensic experts in 2002, working in conjunction with Popular Mechanics, created what seemed to them to be a likely image of Jesus. He was swarthy, dark-skinned, with hints of Neanderthal lineage and not at all the lithe, fair-skinned, and curly-locked Jesus so prominent in church sanctuaries. Of course, the re-created image was not accepted by all, and continues to create controversy.
Since it is impossible to say with 100% accuracy what the man from Nazareth looked like, we all need to seriously question our own perception. Who is the Jesus we accept, or reject? Are we open to thinking new thoughts, or are we captivated by the past? With the resurgence of white supremacy in the west, it is mandatory that we tear down the false images that command loyalty and instead search for truth. We may not know exactly what Jesus looked like, but we can be reasonably certain what he did not look like.
Your thought-provoking ‘Reply’ posting of January 2021 is timely. It is relevant to some discussion I have been in with my colleagues In (SOFiA) about the faith we live by.
Your resolution presumably comes from a life time of experience and it is interesting that it contrasts so differently with mine over perhaps a comparable lifetime. What each of us ends up with depends on our world views and the way from this that we develop the faith which drives us to do what we do – or don’t do.
One of the major divisions of people in this world, I find, is between the optimists and pessimists. To soften the edge of negativity from any grouping into “pessimismistic” people with that inclination have been described to me as “realists”. Your statement, it appears to me would see you putting yourself squarely in the pessimist/realist camp.
Do these orientations come from our inherent nature or do they build up over a lifetime? A favourite aphorism of mine is that “good judgement comes from experience and we gain experience from bad judgement”.
Anyway, I am an optimist. That leads to my strong focus on being a peacemaker. This is expressed as a philosophy of loving my enemies. For many people this stance is highly impracticable. From what you are saying, it doesn’t get the desired result.
This then raises the question, “What is the desired result?” For you, reconciliation is one desired result. The weakness of this for me is that it takes two to reconcile and those two may or may not agree on what needs to be reconciled. It may also require an underlying assumption of reciprocation and compromise.
To be loving, however, requires only one party, ourselves. It, of course, incorporates forgiveness. One has a different attitude to one’s adversary if one sees that person as a friend and not an enemy. It means seeking to understand what the other party needs. To identify and meet those needs can very satisfying.
You have linked your conclusion to what Jesus would have done. Of course, we can all quote from the Bible record to support our own view. I am as guilty of that as anybody. If we read the New Testament one way, we see Jesus coming across as a rather cranky fellow. On the other hand, he is also recorded as proclaiming “love your enemies” and also as forgiving his murderers. What we do is take our pick.
One way to examine the validity and relevance of the ethics of Jesus. Is to make a list of virtues which we see as making up a good person. Do they fit what we know of Jesus? If he seems to have possessed those characteristics which we see as making a good life and society, then we may find him worth following. If not, we can either go and follow someone else or just depend on our individual experiences and personalities to live day to day.
It would be good to have you outline some of the experiences which have led you to have a somewhat disheartened view of peacemaking. You could spell out the “great cost” of attempts at peacemaking.
I trust you will agree that being a peace-maker is not the soft option. Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Count Bernadotte provide some evidence of what a dangerous business it can be. At the personal level I have found that loving my enemies can result in the risk of losing my friends.
I wrote a little article many years ago of how I spent a couple of years pondering the virtues of love and forgiveness as against reciprocation. – give and take. That is “I’ll only do good things for you if you do good things for me”.
With the current kerfuffle over our relationship with China one might ask as a friend, “What Does China want?” Someone spoke with people from China recently. The answer given was that what China wanted from the West was “respect”.
I had a little experience this week just after I had written the above notes. The anecdote may illustrate the point I am making.
I have a friend who over the past year or so has kept asking me for money – pretty much on a weekly basis. I give him the money with no expectation that it will be paid back in full. But there is a moral issue in this for me. The money does not matter too much. I can afford to make the gifts. He is adequately catered for financially by his Government benefits. The trouble is that by these gestures of mine he is not learning how to manage his money effectively. I won’t be around for ever to help him out. So last week, despite his pleading I said, “No! No more money until you have paid me back what you owe me.”
Then, a day or two later we were to meet at the church for a routine morning tea. I was a bit anxious, that he would want more money from me or be upset with me for refusing him. I was strongly tempted to avoid him so as not to have the discomfort of his badgering.
But, “No,” I concluded. “This was not the sort of person I wanted to be; nor the way I wanted to operate.” I approached the veranda, noticed him sitting there and “forced” myself to wave a warm welcome. We greeted each other (no handshake with Covid 19 being around) moved into the kitchen and organised a cup of tea. There followed a pleasant full hour of conversation with him as satisfying as it has ever been. There was not one mention of money. I felt buoyed up by this experience of choosing to nurture a friendship and not run away from a potentially difficult situation.
To me this typifies a moral of approaching “enemies” as “friends” which can apply to all relationships right up to international dealings of the major world powers.
Dear Brigid, Lesley, Margaret and Wayne, and others who have responded to or thought about my recent post.
Thank you for going to the trouble with your detailed and well thought out response to my reflections on the impact of Corona virus and its relation to our decision making in times of national and individual stress. That you have bothered to make a comment I count as a blessing.
I have the impression that some of my commentary may not have been clear, particularly as to where I stand personally. Perhaps I was being a bit too subtle and seeking to be balanced as to how other people might react. One reader – not a UC Forum viewer – took the article as implying my support of the anti-vaxxers approach. That, I hope you will have recognised, is far from being the case.
So, in further explanation and at the risk of seeming defensive, let me expand a little on some of the content of the article.
Brigid: Certainly, if we are caring people as I assume all people subscribing to this website would be, concern for others matches, perhaps sometimes exceeds our concern for ourselves. One of the points I was making is that unless we care for ourselves in choosing how much risk of infection, we allow we are not going to be of any use to others if we go down with the disease. One is reminded of the safety measures broadcast on any aeroplane flight. “If there is an emergency and you have children you are responsible for, make sure you supply yourself with oxygen before you attempt to meet the child’s needs.” Similarly as we are finding with the catastrophic corona virus situation overseas, if the doctors and nurses are not kept alive with their PPE gear, they are not going to be available to their patients.
Lesley: Good points there about different courses of action for different situations. One has a greater obligation perhaps to take less risks if one is a middle-aged person with elderly parents in a nursing home as against a man or woman in their early twenties with young children who can drive them barmy when constraints are applied severely to what they may or may not do. And then to your final sentence, how much can we trust the particular authorities we come to be saddled with – more on that below.
Margaret: Following on from my final comment to Lesley, “How much can we trust our governments?” We could have had a Boris Johnson who branded it (initially) I think as a bad case of the ‘flu. Or Donald Trump, “Corona virus goes away with the heat”. It is noteworthy that our relative success in Australia has been because we trusted the technical experts who gained their knowledge through empirical research; not the politicians or the social media postings. The Government medical officers have become such a familiar sight on our screens over the past year that we can recall many of their names, Jeanette Young, Paul Kelly, Brett Murphy, Sutton, Cheng, Chant and so on. This still leaves us as individuals to “do our own research” and be choosy about the persons or sources we use for our information.
Wayne: To some degree I agree with you. Although this is a matter of opinion (in line with my representation of Maslow) that ultimately (despite the example of risking life in wartime, for instance) survival remains the base need for people in normal circumstances. We have had examples of this in Australia this year when a number of commentators have claimed that the unexpected electoral success of people like Anastacia Palaszczuk and Mark McGowan – perhaps even Joe Biden – occurred because a significant part of the electorate cared more about their physical health than about the health of the economy. From the news reports over the past 24 hours, it seems that this fear has been evidenced in Queensland. Observations of the streets of Brisbane, including my own at Sunnybank Hills, have shown a remarkably willing uptake of mask-wearing in Greater Brisbane.
General: I hope I have made myself a bit clearer above. I had originally intended to extend the theme of what I was writing but the posting seemed long enough so I left it at that.
So, I’ll go back to the initial conversations which prompted this reflection. That is, with the attendance at a crowd gathering or the decision whether or not to hold a church service, I observed a contrast in attitude. One was that “the Government has been constraining us but now that they have made it legal to take more risks then we might as well take those risks.” The opposite, as touched on by correspondents above is, that “there is still a risk and dependent on circumstances such as age of close relatives, perhaps worry about mental stress of confinement, the need for employment etc, etc. we still have some choice in the matter, whether it is legal or not”.
Then to make the more general point, this applies to other areas of life. Some people wait for the government to say what is right or wrong. Others of us make our own decisions in terms of our own values and may be “ahead” of the government. Acknowledgement of climate change and environmental pollution are two very live current examples. Many of us in Australia may consider that our governments are too slow to act on alleviating these. We, especially in a liberal democracy such as Australia, still have the opportunity to make up our own minds and do something about it rather than waiting for Governments to give us the green light.
Another application , in the matter, very relevant to this UC Forum is in regard to religion. Orthodoxy (right opinion) lays down the “correct” answer. Liberal/progressive religion leaves it more open and seeks to live with the questions and fit answers to changing circumstances.
Again, thank you for your correspondence. I value it highly.
A PS (Sunday 17th) Having just returned from a holiday on the Sunshine Coast (no mask required) to our suburban Hot spot, Sunnybank Hills, (mask required) and experienced the contrasting environments I would firmly acknowledge with gratitude the strong steps our Australian governments have taken to protect their constituents. To face the daily risk of infection and death that our fellows in other countries have to do must be very demoralizing indeed.
A retired senior citizen was asked what sort of changes he was feeling in himself? This was his sage response:
1 After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children and my friends, I have now started loving myself.
2 I have realized that I am not “Atlas”. The world does not rest on my shoulders.
3 I have stopped bargaining with vegetable & fruit vendors. A few pennies more is not going to break me, but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.
4 I leave my waiter a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than I am.
5 I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already narrated that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane & relive their past.
6 I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.
7 I give compliments freely & generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the recipient, but also for me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment, never, NEVER turn it down, just say “Thank You.”
8 I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.
9 I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.
10 I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat & neither am I in any race.
11 I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.
As the hours and minutes drew near to 6 p.m. on Friday 8th January 2021, for Brisbane’s short sharp lockdown in response to the corona virus I found myself strangely at odds with some of my family and associates. Given the advertised restrictions, some intended to carry on with a family meal with attendance to the limit imposed by the Government. In discussions with fellow officers of my local church congregation and pondering whether to go ahead with a church service normally attended by people in their 80s and 90s, the question put was not as to whether it was healthy or not but whether the Government would allow it!
Just as we have the contrast between the optimists and pessimists (some would say “realists”) in our society, I am finding a binary in our reactions to the virus.
One group wants clear limitations. You can’t do this or you can’t do that (perhaps grammatically better expressed as “you may do or may not do that”) seems to be the major hinging point.
From my perspective, with some surprise, I found myself wondering “Hey, what is this all about?” I am not too concerned about what the Government thinks. I am more concerned about the impact of the virus on me. This being the case it is up to me to decide how I respond in countering its potentially deadly effects.
Of course, in some respects this puts me at the level of the anti-vaxxers. They are not going to be told what is good for them. But it can work in the other direction, too. That is that, rather than wait for the authorities to make the decisions as to what is safest for me as an individual, I may have the option of doing my own research and using my own experience in deciding what more promising action I might take.
A specific example of this might be. The Government makes a ruling that it is “all right” to attend a crowded football or cricket match. Do I then say, “Good, it is now my duty to attend the football match even though there remains some potential for becoming infected. Some Governments, indeed, have actually urged, or paid, for people to go to a restaurant or tourist resort during the pandemic.
“It will help the economy and it is the loving thing to do because it will keep people in jobs” they say.
Or do I say, “It may be a loving thing to put myself at risk but I can’t be helpful to anybody if I am dead or permanently disabled from the ravages of the disease.
It all comes down to priorities doesn’t it? What needs come first?
I am a keen follower of the analysis of needs provided by psychologist Abraham Maslow, and I use this in day-to-day decision-making. Maslow sees the base need to be survival. I touched on this in my earlier article, “Better dead than Red?”
When survival is assured we go for security. Beyond survival and security we give attention to the more esoteric longer-term aims such as socialising, success and self-actualisation.
Mind you, we don’t always follow this pattern. Clearly, attending a football match or dancing at an intimate night club may meet needs having priority over survival. Millions die in wartime through putting perceived security and socialising ahead of survival.
So in coping with Covid-19, do we just do what we are told, more or less, or do we use our own informed judgement and experience to favour our individual survival and thus remain available to play our part in making this world a better place?
The Politics of Prayer Monday, December 28, 2020 I’ve often said that we founded the Center for Action and Contemplation to be a place of integration between action and contemplation. I envisioned a place where we could teach activists in social movements to pray—and encourage people who pray to live lives of solidarity and justice. As we explained in our Center’s Radical Grace publication in 1999: We believed that action and contemplation, once thought of as mutually exclusive, must be brought together or neither one would make sense. We wanted to be radical in both senses of the word, simultaneously rooted in Tradition and boldly experimental. We believed . . . that the power to be truly radical comes from trusting entirely in God’s grace and that such trust is the most radical action possible.  To pray is to practice that posture of radical trust in God’s grace—and to participate in perhaps the most radical movement of all, which is the movement of God’s Love. Contemplative prayer allows us to build our own house. To pray is to discover that Someone else is within our house and to recognize that it is not our house at all. To keeping praying is to have no house to protect because there is only One House. And that One House is Everybody’s Home. In other words, those who pray from the heart actually live in a very different world. I like to say it’s a Christ-soaked world, a world where matter is inspirited and spirit is embodied. In this world, everything is sacred; and the word “Real” takes on a new meaning. The world is wary of such house builders, for our loyalties will lie in very different directions. We will be very different kinds of citizens, and the state will not so easily depend on our salute. That is the politics of prayer. And that is probably why truly spiritual people are always a threat to politicians of any sort. They want our allegiance, and we can no longer give it. Our house is too big. If religion and religious people are to have any moral credibility in the face of the massive death-dealing and denial of this era, we need to move with great haste toward lives of political holiness. This is my theology and my politics: It appears that God loves life—the creating never stops. We will love and create and maintain life. It appears that God is love—an enduring, patient kind. We will seek and trust love in all its humanizing (and therefore divinizing forms. It appears that God loves the variety of multiple features, faces, and forms. We will not be afraid of the other, the not-me, the stranger at the gate. It appears that God loves—is—beauty: Look at this world! Those who pray already know this. Their passion will be for beauty.
 Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace, anniversary edition (December 1999).
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Prayer as Political Activity,” Radical Grace, vol. 2, no. 2 (March–April 1989).
Franciscan Richard Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in 1987 because he saw a deep need for the integration of both action and contemplation. If we pray but don’t act justly, our faith won’t bear fruit. And without contemplation, activists burn out and even well-intended actions can cause more harm than good. In today’s religious, environmental, and political climate our compassionate engagement is urgent and vital.
370,000 people now subscribe to Richard Rohr’s daily meditations.
I was invited to write a story for Christmas for Sea of Faith. Perhaps a liturgy for Christmas religious celebrations with a non-supernatural theme.
I thought about this. No doubt there are many writers who have sought to do this and been relatively successful.
But how redeemable is this supernatural rationale for festivities which remain just as popular and more and more secular as time goes on. There is a lot that is good about Christmas, particularly in its promotion of a spirit of goodwill in our community and indeed world-wide, whether people are nominally Christian or not.
Some might suggest that the tale as told basically in the Bible books of Matthew and Luke could be classed as a fairy story. If that is so, while being aware of its mythological foundations, we can still get a lot of fun and pleasure from the goodwill that it generates. We can enjoy our Christmas festivities.
Christmas is not a fairy story for the real person whose birth we celebrate; whose life made such an impact on his followers, including the gospel writers, that they turned him into a god. Part of that process was to build up around Jesus of Nazareth the supernatural tales of his conception and birth which are so familiar to us.
But what about the human being behind this? He turned out to be far from the “Gentle, Jesus, meek and mild”; rather a person who took on the Roman Empire and of course got killed for his pains.
And yet in a way he overcame that empire. His legacy lives on in the world-wide Christian community.
How did he do this? He proclaimed a new way of dealing with domination and power. Although it has been corrupted by his later followers and the institutional church his proclamation was “Love your enemies”. I have not had the opportunity to check this but I understand that the quotations from the relevant passages in Mathew and Luke are given red-letter status by the Jesus Seminar as being probably close to the actual words of Jesus.
Moving ahead in time, in the Courier-Mail of 15th December 2020 we read this extract, quoting federal Australian politician, Barnaby Joyce.
“Australia needed to figure out what its biggest challenge was. I don’t think it is climate abatement. The biggest issue facing my children’s lifetime and my grandchildren’s lifetime is how they live in a world where China is a superpower and it is not a liberal democracy.”
Now I am not a fan of Barnaby Joyce’s when it comes to attitudes to the environment nor when he has made taken some probably unwise steps in personal relationships, but I am inclined to agree that on this issue he has a point.
All this warlike rhetoric over trade and armed build up makes me nervous as we slide towards a MAD (mutually assured destruction) climax. It is so reminiscent of the events leading up to World War 2. With MAD, climate change won’t be the prime issue when a good proportion of the human population has been wiped out or severely irradiated.
Hopefully the West and the Communist nations will pause before we get to that point. It bothers me, though, that there seems to be very little public comment about a worst case scenario. The exchange continues, “You can’t beat me. Mine is bigger than yours”
For hundreds of years despite the major world war conflicts, the world has basked more or less in the pax Britannica or pax Americana*. For Australia, “They have been on our side”.
With China becoming the dominant world power that is no longer going to hold. How are we going to respond to the challenges of that power? I fear from the current rhetoric that it is war or nothing.
The trade-off for solving our problems by going to war, from the experience of World War 2 is a cost of 60 million human lives. With nuclear weapons the deaths will exceed more than 100 million in a very short time.
Despite the loss of those lives we all cheer the outcome of the second war. After all, “We won, didn’t we?”
Like so many Australians I cheered the stirring words of Churchill to stick to it and fight on. Despite the deaths of husbands, sons, fathers, daughters it all came out all right in the end! Until I saw the film about Churchill “The Darkest Hour” I had assumed that his way was the only way to go. From that film, though, and later research I discovered that there had, at the time of near invasion of Britain, been rational arguments for negotiating with Hitler. It was very close. Britain nearly lost that war. We can speculate what the outcome might have been – once again remembering that negotiating a compromise might have saved a good proportion of those 60 million lives.
Whenever I have suggested that there might have been alternatives to war people throw their hands up in horror. Emotional nationalism takes over “Oh you could never do that. Look what happened to Neville Chamberlain”.
I write this piece because I would encourage readers to enter into some rational discussion of some these dreadful possibilities. I could say more but this is enough for now. If there is any response, I would be keen to continue the conversation. There are very many more implications coming from this point of view than I have touched on here.
So that you can get a grip on the subject let me put it to you this way.
Xi Ji Ping leader of China, the dominant world power, sends a message to the President of a weakened United States
“We are planning to take over Taiwan. If you try to stop us we shall drop an atom bomb on New York City” in one month’s time”.
My question to you, my reader is, “How would you react and how would you like our Prime Minister and Government to react to such news”.
“What’s this got to do with Christmas?” you may ask.
What I am saying is that perhaps the world has got to the stage when instead of battling enemies we would do better to learn to love them, the heart of the message of the baby born in Bethlehem.
*Despite the hiccups of Vietnam, and the middle east, Afghanistan and so on, America still holds overwhelming naval power.
Sadly we have to report the death of our good friend and active subscriber to the UCFORUM Rev Don Whebell. I enjoyed our discussions with this former moderator and minister and particularly his strong defence of the Basis of Union of the UCA which he told me was a most progressive mission statement and future focussed document. In his own words:
I never cease to be amazed, inspired, guided by and awe-struck by the Basis of Union each time I read it – or even read bits of it! Its vision for Christian unity is always timely and necessarily provocative. The centre of what inspires me in the Basis of Union is its Christological focus, its timely call to respond to the missional imperative, the Gospel and the call of Christ to mission that is ecumenical.
With the help of Andrew Dutney he used his latter years to produce a wonderful resource that makes the BOU a living set of guidelines for the Church. It is well worth perusing at: Listening to the Basis of Union.
Don’s life journey has been published in Journey online. He wrote his own story too. This is a poignant tale. It includes illustrations and a footnote from his wife Pam.
Descriptions of Jesus as ‘the man’ and/or ‘the Son of God’ are at the core of where many progressives find themselves at odds with sections of institutional Christianity. Indeed views differ significantly around the nature of ‘God’ as well. Where did we get our understandings from? How much of what we think is the product of our experiences from within and without church teaching, our interpretations of scripture, our gut feelings, our education and willingness to think critically, our exposure to science, philosophy, history and theology?
Recently Brian Reep posted a brief statement of his thinking, inviting others to post their thoughts. This conversation starter can be found at Reflection on “God”. Wally Stratford (A Long Time to Wait) responded with God’s Reality. Brian came back with:
Jesus was a man (MATH 19:17 )(The Gnostic Gospels ), a peripatetic Wisdom Teacher ( The Gospel of Thomas p 111 ) in the tradition of His time. He has achieved a stature greater than any other human being in the known history of the world. There are , of course , other contenders and a mention of the Buddha (“work out your own salvation with diligence “) is not inappropriate.
The child Jesus escaped the wrath of Herod when He was taken to Egypt (MATH 2:14 ) and His mission was anticipated by John the Baptist (MATH 3: 1 and 2). From the age of twelve He discussed profound religious issues with the doctors of the temple (LUKE 2:46 ) and they were “ astonished at His understanding and answers”. We do not read much more about Him until He was 30 years old when His ministry began in earnest. By this time He was preaching with “power” (LUKE 4:32) and “ authority” (MATH 7:29) and making the people of the synagogue so angry that they threw Him out of the city (LUKE 4:28 and 29). He became obedient unto God even unto death.
Something utterly amazing had transformed His teaching and actions. He was no longer an Orthodox Jew but a religious revolutionary with a message, initially for the Jews, but ultimately for the world. This transformation is entirely consistent with having a major mystical experience, probably just before His Ministry began.
So what changed?
The priests , who were once astonished at His understanding, are accused of making His house a den of thieves (MARK 11:17) and they sought to destroy Him (MARK 11:18). More emphasis is placed on love instead of dictating the way people should behave— two commandments instead of ten (MATH 22:37 to MATH 22:40). The people were told to choose forgiveness not judgement (LUKE 6:37) and not to depend on tradition (MARK 7:13). They also ,and this is crucial , were told to choose Truth (JOHN 8:32 ).
Jesus had become inclusive rather than exclusive, He now emphasized the importance of experience over teaching and the universal rather than the particular. We are encouraged to seek the mystical because through that we can know exactly what we are supposed to do. All that remains is to discover what is the best way for you ,I and other people to do it!!!
In the spirit of all that we do at the UCFORUM, Wally has offered a further response not intended to generate conflict in opinion but to add to the conversation and stimulate thinking:
A difficult problem when reflecting on Jesus, lies in the variety of references to him that appear in the gospels. Some of this difficulty is in choosing which of the references might be genuinely from Jesus, and which can be claimed as reflecting the life of the young church in what we deem to be four contexts. As we are aware, the gospel, in its differing accounts, appears some 40-80 years after his death.
I think they often confuse the matter and become less helpful the more we associate Jesus with the church’s declaration of him as Son of God.
This is particularly difficult at Christmas time with the presentation once again of the birth stories in Luke. and Matthew. There is some considerable agreement that in Luke. and Matthew, the first two chapters are a prologue rather than the main event. When they become the main event, as they seem to do at Christmas time, much is lost.
I think Jesus’ answer to John (Luke 7:18-23), allows us to find the focus in which the character of Jesus emerges, allowing the reader to see the divine nature of his life.
Brueggemann paraphrases this response – “Go tell John new life swirls around me. Go tell John that where I am present, impossible things happen. Go tell John that people are switching over to my narrative because they are worn out by blindness and want to see, they are tired with deadness and want to live. Go tell John a new world is being birthed among those who no longer accept dominant notions of the possible.”
“The underlying storyline in the New testament contains an unstated assertion of Jesus as an enabler of presence – a presence shrouded in mystery that continues. … In his time blindness was widespread but Jesus responds, and the blind man discovers a new way for recognizing life (John 9). The Sabbath was enshrined in rules and regulations, but Jesus cut across these, and in doing so placed himself in opposition as he interacted with the man who was unable to help himself (Mk 3:1-5). He was compassionate towards the harassed and helpless, and was also capable of intense feelings of loss, withdrawing from the crowds when hearing of John’s murder (Mt.13:14)”.
Much of this has been lost or sidelined as believers look heavenward for a glimpse of the Son of God.
Geza Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, in response to a question asking, how can we improve our understanding of Jesus, writes: “Look for what Jesus himself taught instead of being satisfied with what has been taught about him”.
 Brueggemann. Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope. 13-26.
The four descriptions of God listed by Brian Reeps present interesting possibilities for further reflection. I have chosen to reflect on the first – God is Real. Here it is. Like all reflections it is open to further examination. The He and His are acknowledged as needing change.
“God is Real. He can make his presence known to human beings. All other gods are figments of people’s imagination. That is not to say they have no value.” (Brian Reep)
What does it mean to say something is real and something else is not?
To claim something as real is to say I can see, touch, hear that something, and therefore can visualize it – gather it as a mind picture.
But real comes with more than one expression of something’s actuality. To say that something is real even though not physically presentable, gives voice to a feeling or experience that is personal, and abides within one’s understanding of the something.
Claiming God to be real is an expression associated with belief. The next question asks where this belief comes from, and with regards to God it must be said that “his” being comes to mind as a proclamation from the church.
Belief in God – the claim of God’s reality – is a learned belief, in the first place through the church’s retelling of Christmas stories with their emphasis on ‘baby Jesus’. Indirectly, parents reinforce the story, children being reminded to be good, particularly around Christmas time, if they want Santa Clause to come with gifts.
This has a continuing effect on children, and we may claim, on parents also, who reinforce the child stories with references to Jesus’ goodness and attachment to God as father.
Belief is packaged in many ways, but its foundation is in a learned experience of a ‘real’ God.
The church’s claims, systematized in creeds, is the result of discussions, arguments, debates, and claims that God comes to Christians as the original God of the Jews.
He can make his presence known.
The Genesis story speaks of chaos and order. The chaotic sea is quietened as the wind of God blows over it (Gen 1:1). There is however an alternative reading which says, while the spirit of god… The creator God in this first verse is revealed as a mighty wind and also as spirit. The story continues and when finally, all is prepared, humankind begins to emerge.
The first glimpse of presence emerges in these Genesis stories of beginnings. The brief word in the story that introduces the notion of presence is found in the one verse that describes the beginnings of humankind. (Gen 2:7). The story tells us that firstly God formed the man out of the dust of the ground. The dusty shape has no life, only a form, so God leans down and breathes into his nostrils and the man lives. This story, as with all stories, requires imagination to hear God say in the breathing “the life of God for the life of humankind.”
From this story we may glean a number of things. Dust as dust is shapeless. It cannot be formed into any shape. It flows but may also be blown away. But humankind emerges from the dust and is given a form. We might even want to claim that it is the energy of God that holds the dust particles together. People’s connection with land is absolute.
There is one essential element for all life presented in this story and that is in the necessity to breathe. Arising from the story, the first breath for humankind, coming from God creator of all, contains an element of the universe – life itself. It is as if, in the action of breathing, a necessity in living, humankind inhales something of the marvel of the universe.
The key is in imagination and specifically in the words “life of God for the life of humankind”. The language of those ancient biblical times makes room for a link between breath and spirit. Can it be said that breath and spirit are of each other and thus constantly present in the life of humankind?
Neither breath, wind nor spirit are controllable, but together they are life. Perhaps it can be said that life itself is a demonstration of presence.
The gift of life is for all, but it does not come with everything in place. It requires unwrapping as do all gifts, and not all gifts are exactly what people want.
Presence contained in the gift of life becomes real when shared between people. Whether ill or well, among people presence is always a possibility.
Figment – a fantastic notion or fabrication.
It is quite false to claim that people’s responses to the spiritual experiences they have recognized in their life are merely figments of imagination.
It can be claimed that all gods, all considered divine, have an imaginative quality. They all belong in stories and along with every human being the stories that are portrayed of life are all of value.
Spirit, earth, people, belong to each other. The differences are religious ones assembled from among the desires to have a God.
Gods and people have lived together on the earth for aeons. Smart takes us back thousands of years far beyond biblical times. Archeologists have unearthed evidence of ancient links between people and gods. Mythology tells of gods as separate beings – in our day god like responses might be discerned among the many activities that awaken passion in lives.
Among many religions, and for my purposes within the church, Gods are named and set apart; separated from those who would seek to worship them. I think it is reasonable to claim that the God of Christians has a beginning in the desert meeting with Moses, and YHWH’s call to free the Israelites (Ex. 3). YHWH showed no face (Ex.33:20-23) and gave no name (Ex.3:14). The people knew presence in smoke by day and fire by night (Ex.13:22). Throughout the biblical story, God is recognized only as spirit presence.
The Israelite experience of God is not the same as the Christian experience of God. Both experiences are imaginative connections through which believers find life. One cannot claim that the Christian God is real any more than one can claim all others as figments.
WBS. Dec. 2020
 Smart, Ninian. The Religious Experience of Mankind. Collins/Fount Paperbacks. 1969.
I am deeply humbled and thrilled to announce that I am again being called to ministry in Sydney – as the next Minister of Pitt Street Uniting Church. This is a wonderful high profile progressive faith community which gathers on Gadigal land in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. After much reflection and careful discernment with the Uniting Church, Penny and I believe that this is the very best way in which I can serve with others in nurturing faith, love and hope in the next few years (from 1 March 2021) – as well as, very happily, being again close to family in Australia. I extend my thanks and blessings to all with whom I have journeyed in the past and to those I look forward to joining soon… I have long been grateful to Pitt St Uniting Church for its prominent prophetic commitments to the core Uniting Church values of seeking God’s justice and compassion, celebrating diversity, and being actively open to dynamic fresh expression of God’s love and truth. To become a part of its vibrant life is a great joy, particularly in our challenging times. For as part of the Sydney Presbytery and wider Uniting Church, its members continue to look to the future with a renewing vision for themselves and others. This involves developing as a metropolitan city centre for spirituality and the arts, as well as strengthening Pitt Street’s key role as a fully affirming beacon of hope for the common good. I am therefore hugely looking forward to life together with all involved. It is also personally very inspiring to follow the ministries at Pitt St of such liberating leaders as Dorothy McRae-McMahon and Margaret Mayman.
Penny and I are immensely thankful for the rich and diverse Anglican and other ministries in which we have been blessed to serve. Such love and joy will assuredly continue to flourish in many parts of the Church here and overseas. However, in our particular Australian context, the time has come for us to move into more creative and truly affirming new life. We therefore give thanks in this for the generous hospitality of the Uniting Church, for its continuing courageous Christian leadership in society, its distinctive collaborative style of ministry, and its vital part in God’s grace and love. We rejoice, as pilgrim people, to step out afresh together. oOo
The Faith of a Radical Christian – theologian, Reverend Don Cupittis interviewed by Neville Glasgow.
Reverend Don Cupitt speaks about the concept of salvation, the comparison of his view of Christianity to Buddhism, how people view God as perceived through cultural values, and the concept of sin. He then speaks about Jesus as a revolutionary, and “Christian Platonism” – Christianity intertwined with Greek philosophy.
He then discusses the role of the Church in society, and his own personal role within it as a priest. He speaks about the idea of evil, and addresses the question of why God allows suffering – he says human beings are responsible for the world, and that is where change needs to come from. He also talks about miracles, belief, and the need for Christianity to transform from tradition to a ‘new’ Christianity.
The interview concludes with further discussion about his radical views on Christianity which compromised his position in the Church, with some labelling him as a heretic.
Thanks to Ruth Eldridge for reminding the PCN gathering this week about the wonderful online progressive service each week from St Michael’s in Melbourne. Previous services are also available to view. Also available is the order of service. Enjoy the beautiful music the singer and the worship and message led by Rev Dr Margaret Mayman.
Another reflection on the notion of “God” demonstrating the diversity of ideas within this large group. Reminds me of when I surveyed 40 people and asked them to describe God. I received 40 different descriptions:
GOD IS REAL. He can make His Presence known to human beings. All other gods are figments of people’s imagination. That is not to say they have no value.
GOD IS LOVE. He loves all that he has made and we are required to do likewise. Hell is incompatible with a God of love and there will be people of all faiths (and none) in what we call heaven.
GOD IS GOOD. He has provided a way out of all the world’s problems but we have to implement the practical solutions.
GOD IS TRUTH. The Prophets reveal truth but they are not THE TRUTH. They point the way to God.
In short we have to focus on God , with the help of a prophet if necessary, and interpret what the mystical experience reveals wisely.
Olga has kindly shared these thoughts prepared by Noel.
My CREDO is also a poem of GRATITUDE. Gratitude for LIFE and the JOY of being part of it all….. Gratitude for the influences that have shaped me and for the love of those who have nurtured me….. Gratitude for those epiphanies (some mystical, some public encounters, and some serious illnesses) which have been watershed points in my life’s journeys…..
The CREED I believe…. Together with all life forms and the ONE who is the ground of all being, I am part of a GREATER SELF. (“The everywhere God” to some, “the Ground of all Being” to others). As a human being I am one piece in this evolving WHOLE. The family of humanity is the primary community to which I belong, a Community that only flourishes in a culture that is eco-centric (not anthropo-centric). I acknowledge that other human beings may find the way toward union with the Greater Self on pathways different from mine. I am content to be known as a Christian if that signifies one who has been formed, and continues to be inspired, in the tradition which owes its origin to the life, teachings and death of Jesus. In the evolution of the Greater Self, Jesus of Nazareth is an extraordinary expression of humanity’s vocation to LOVE-AS-ACTION (grounded as he was in his relationship with the ONE he knew as “father”= abba.) When I contemplate life, the beauty of Earth and the glory of the COSMOS, I am aware of suffering, death and arbitrary destruction, but I am also conscious of mystery, compassion and redemptive purpose which are at the heart of the Greater Self. When I die, Love lives on and my self will merge into the heart of the Greater Self as do rivers into the sea. Therefore……. My life’s purpose is best expressed by contributing beneficially to the evolving Greater Self. This purpose is directed toward the sustenance of life in all its abundance. In this quest, Love-as-action in its diverse forms (compassion, tenderness, grace, fairness, justice, care of kin and ecological responsibility) is the supreme expression of my life’s vocation.
EPI-LOGUE: living the Creed I also believe that how we live is more important than what we believe. Living this way is pursuing the pathway to eco-justice which requires caring for Planet Earth and all its life-forms; and promoting social justice in the human community. As human beings we are the cosmic custodians of compassion. (First drafted 15/3/2010; Revised 3/2/2020)
How to support our progressive friends at the Indooroopilly Uniting Church, Brisbane with their Refugee Clinic and Food Bank which is now battling to meet the needs of 653 adults and 137 children:
Many people have become aware of the active role of the Indooroopilly Uniting Church in supporting innocent victims of cruel federal asylum seeker policies.
Some have volunteered, others have brought donations of goods and deposited funds.
No one dreamt it would take more than seven years, yet over 100 men are today incarcerated in a suburban hotel, without freedom, or the right to work, or to reunion with close family – and into their eighth year of indefinite immigration detention.
Others, including families are living in limbo, uncertain of their future. There are standing offers from citizens to accommodate in our community and help the Kangaroo Point men, but all we see and hear is political recalcitrancy
Denied income support, and access to Jobkeeper and Jobseeker because of their immigration status, law abiding people are now in dire straits. It is poverty and despair like I have never seen.
They come to the Food Pantry at our church for basic food – rice , cooking oil, bread, milk and whatever fruit and vegetables are collected from FoodBank in Morningside. With donations, we provide when we can, food vouchers which grant some dignity to people who have no income .
Do it now!
A DIRECT DONATIONby bank transfer is greatly appreciated!
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. —1 John 4:7–8 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . This I command you: love one another. —John 15:12–14, 17
Love is perhaps the last thing anyone wants to be reminded of in these days following the election in the United States. Yet our resistance to love is precisely why we need to talk about it! We have strayed so far from love; and yet, love is the essence of who we are, and how we are called to treat one another.
“Whoever loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Unfortunately, many Christians think, “If I read the Bible, I’m born of God; or if I go to church, I know God; or if I obey the commandments, I know God.” Yet the writer of 1 John says it’s simply about loving. Note that the converse is true also: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). In the Gospel of John, Jesus takes this to its logical conclusion. He does not say, “There is no greater love than to love God.” Instead he says, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends” (John 15:13). As biblical scholar Allen Dwight Callahan writes of this passage, “Jesus has loved his followers so that they may love each other. Love calls for love in turn. Love makes love imperative.” 
The beginning and end of everything is love. Only inside of this mystery of the exchange of love can we know God. If we stay outside of that mystery, we cannot know God.
When most of us hear the word “commandment,” we likely think of the Ten Commandments; that is not what Jesus is referring to here. He speaks of a “new” commandment surpassing and summing up the “ten” of the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:1–17; Deuteronomy 5:6–21): “This is my commandment: Love one another” (John 15:17). He also says that the entire law and the prophets are summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another (see Matthew 22:36–40). Perhaps we don’t want to hear these commandments because we can never live up to them through our own efforts. We’d like to whittle this down to a little commandment, like “Come to church on Sunday,” so that we could feel we have obeyed the commandment and accomplished love. But who of us can say that we have fully loved yet? We are all beginners. We are all starting anew every day, in utter reliance on the mercy, grace, and compassion of God. This is a good example of “the tragic gap” that faith always allows and fills.
 Allen, Dwight Callahan Love Supreme: a history of the Johannine Tradition (Augsburg, Fortress, 2005, 78-79.
We are gathering again after a long spell because of Covid. It will just be a general conversation to catch up with each other. Please RSVP to Desley at: email@example.com so we can monitor numbers and safe seating.
When: 25th November
Venue: Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm, Brisbane.
Morning Tea with donation to cover cleaning costs.
A service of remembrance and thanksgiving for the life of Rev Dr Noel Preston will be held this Friday, October 30, at 1:30 pm at West End Uniting Church (Sussex St). The family regrets that, due to COVID restrictions, attendance is by invitation only.
Two venues will offer a public livestream but seats need to be reserved: West End UC hall (book here) and Trinity UC, Marlborough Rd, Wellington Point (book here). Or view the livestream at home on YouTube.
Thanks for the many condolences and comments posted at Replies on the previous post. These will eventually be forwarded to Olga.
Rev Dr Noel Preston AM – retired UCA minister, friend and activist in the progressive movement, ethicist, author, educator, academic, eco-theologian and social justice advocate – passed away peacefully at home early this morning with family around him, after a long illness, aged 78.
Our thoughts are with his wife Olga Harris, sisters Adele, Pam and Elizabeth, and children Lisa, Kim and Christopher and the extended family as well as his many friends.
We hope the members of our growing network of progressive thinkers and explorers are all safe and well. Rex Hunt has taken the initiative of inquiring of several of the scholars and practitioners we follow just how they are managing in the Covid crisis.
Here are their responses:
Brandon Scott (USA)
Hi to everyone in Aussie Land, Margaret and I are here in Taos NM in the wonderful house we stayed in last fall. We are halfway through our 5 week stay. We travelled in our quarantine bubble. Things are pretty shut down here, but we get out for walks and short car trips; always something new to explore.
From the news, some parts of Australia, esp Melbourne have had a hard time. Hope everyone is doing well.
If Tyche favors us, it looks like our four year nightmare may be coming to an end. Take care and be safe.
Joe Bessler (USA)
Thanks so much for thinking of us! We’re doing pretty well even as cases in Oklahoma are at their highest levels yet and continue to, pressuring hospital staffs. At school we’re doing all online. I’m transitioning from the Dean’s office where I’ve been for the last two years.
How’s the economy there? Are you all on edge as you move into summer—concerns of fires? Has drought eased?
We’re all on edge with the election coming up—that Trump is not being utterly rejected,
And with still a fair chance of winning (and anything can happen in the next couple of weeks), is beyond my comprehension.
Jack Spong (USA)
How nice to hear from you. The stroke slowed me down considerably so I live in the past today. I am not depressed. I had a wonderful life and I look forward to what comes next. Australia was very kind to me and formed many of my happiest memories. I remember meeting you for the first time in Canberra and being very pleased with your leadership. That was never diminished by a long association. Thank you for that.
Please give my best regards to my friends. I recall them well and with gratitude.
Keep the fight up. We have much to be proud of.
Jeff Proctor-Murphy (USA)
Thanks Rex! Appreciate the warm thoughts. We’re hunkered down and so far have avoided the virus. Church has been virtual since mid-March and likely ’til Christmas Eve.
We’re all getting along fine. Love to you and yours!
John Churcher (Britain)
Thanks for the email and for your concern. It is good to hear from you in these challenging times.
I cannot remember whether or not I told you that although the prostate cancer treatment appears to have been successful there was a very unpleasant side effect in that the radiation damaged the blood vessels in the bowel and I have been bleeding daily for the past year. Things came to a head 3 weeks ago when the GP wanted me to have a blood transfusion but the hospital decided otherwise. Then, almost immediately, having waited 5 months for the second argon beam coagulation treatment [having been told that I would be waiting only 2 -5 weeks….] The consultant who carried out the treatment thinks that he has done the trick… Fortunately I am feeling much better…
Obviously regular preaching ended abruptly in March and so far shows no sign of restarting but lockdown has given me precious time to catch up on all those books waiting to be opened…
I have just finished re-reading Geering’s “Christianity Without God”, brilliant book!
Best wishes to you and hope that you continue to enjoy retirement and stay well away from those Covid bugs – we need you fit and well for a long time yet!
Gretta Vosper (Canada)
Has it not been almost the worst year E.V.E.R? I hope you and Dylis have been staying well.
Scott continues to work in the long term care facility he’s been at for the past many years. It is a publicly funded one which receives from the local government an additional 2/3 of what the province provides. So they have been able to keep COVID out of the home excepting one staff person whose partner brought it home from a private home that had a staggering number of deaths. Money truly is the root of all evil. The company that owned several of the private homes in which dozens died paid out huge profits to its shareholders in the same quarter. Time to dismantle some of the more egregious corporate laws, like limited liability, for instance.
Imagine me heading off on a rant straight out of the box!!
West Hill, too, has been spared any COVID losses. We did not return to regular meetings when we were permitted to simply because we felt our members were too vulnerable.
The result has been that we have extended our community reach to the UK, Africa, the US and all across Canada.
It has been a good thing in that, but we have many seniors who are not able to connect at all. It is like solitary confinement for them. So so so difficult.
Thank you so much for reaching out… As it begins to warm up there, I hope you are able to avoid the kind of destructive fires that were so devastating last year.
Wesley Wildman (Aussie in USA)
I’m running along just fine here. Weird times in the USA with weirder to come given the strange election.
My routines haven’t changed much aside from not traveling. Not sure how much I need to travel anymore, in fact.
But I miss not connecting with people in person.
Jerome Stone (USA)
So nice of you to be concerned, Sue and I are both OK. But I do have trouble getting a wi-fi connection. (Long story.)
We have both voted. We mailed our ballots. We think they will get through. Our daughter’s mailed-in ballot was received.
Been reading Spinoza to stay calm. He’s half right.
[Dr Suter was the author of a scenario planning project for the UCA in recent times.]
We are in an unusual recession. Never before have governments closed down economies for any reason; let alone for a virus that no one had heard of less than a year ago.
Even in the 20th century’s two World Wars, Australia’s economy continued to flourish. One can look at a graph of Australian economic activity throughout the 20th century, and not be able to identify easily where the two world wars occurred on the graph. Factories were kept even busier than usual building tanks and warships rather than (say) cars; there were more workers in the paid workforce because many men had gone off to fight in the war, and women had been recruited from home to work in the factories.
Now virtually every national economy has declined and the world is in an economic recession. There is even speculation of a depression dragging on for some years.
Australia’s unique record as the economic “wonder downunder” has vanished. It had the world’s longest consecutive period of economic growth (29 years, when most economic cycles only run for about 7-10 years). Even if prompt action has spared Australia the tragedy we see in the US and parts of Europe, Australia is being dragged down by the rest of the global economic decline. Our major trading partner – China – for the first time in many decades has not published any prediction on its annual economic growth target; it wants to avoid the embarrassment of being wrong. Thinking about the Unthinkable Scenario planning is about encouraging clients to think about the unthinkable – to encourage them to think outside their usual comfort zones. The future is rarely simply an extension of the present. There are always twists and turns as we lurch forward in time. A common factor in much of the COVID debate has been an unwillingness to think about the unthinkable. For example, an early response was that it was simply a form of ‘flu, or that it was going to kill off people – usually the elderly – who were destined to die in winter anyway. Similarly there were expectations of a vaccine coming quickly to market and so we could get back to “normal” by early 2021. There has been a consistent under-estimation of COVID’s impact throughout this year. Many Australians will look back to February 2020 as the lifetime highpoint of their wealth. Retirees in particular will find that COVID has cost people the chance to recover assets. There will eventually be improvements in the economy but they may come too late for many older Australians. What is the Shape of the Recession? Economists talk of LUV when discussing economic downturns. An “L” shaped downturn sees a sharp collapse and a very long period of low economic activity. The Great Depression which ran for much of the 1930s is the standard example. A “U” shaped downturn is a sharp downturn, a few years of low economic activity, and then a return to a healthy economy. A “V” shaped recession is a sharp decline, little time spent at the bottom, and then a strong bounce back. Most politicians are expecting that shape. For example, government relief programmes were set about six months – just enough to tide people over until the economy bounced back. I don’t share that “V” shaped optimism, I think the current crisis is going to be longer and deeper than the politicians would like to assume. I therefore expect a “U” shaped recession (while not excluding an “L” shaped one). LUV have now been joined by “K”. This is a sharp downturn and then two separate subsequent developments. On the one hand, some people will emerge from this recession richer than ever because they can make money in the recession (such as food delivery company CEOs), while others can buy distressed assets (like vacant, repossessed homes) at reduced prices. On the other hand, many people will find it even harder to survive in the future. Many young people come into that category. They are now missing out on their initial employment opportunities and may be overlooked when the economy recovers because employers will pick the even younger set of employees entering the jobs market. A person who has been unemployed for several months risks becoming unemployable. A “K” shaped recession will further erode social cohesion and could lead to social unrest.
Nothing Lasts Forever Recessions end. That is a fact of life. We may not know when, and economists differ as to how. But we know that eventually economic activity will pick up again. The previous great pandemic – the “Spanish” ‘flu of 1918-9 – killed as many people (if not more) than World War I (1914-8). This was followed by the Roaring Twenties – immortalized in the movie The Great Gatsby. But the world of the 1920s was different from that of the previous era. The post-COVID world (or at least a world in which we have learned to live with COVID) will be different. The economy will have changed, such as increased working from home and greater use of “gig” employees. COVID has reminded us that there will always be unpredicted events and so we need to have the capacity to deal with uncertainty. Hence my interest in scenario planning. There is a need to think like an entrepreneur and to look for opportunities, and these can emerge from scenario planning. Therefore, we need to be ready to think about the unthinkable, be resilient, and to look for opportunities. Keith Suter
ENCYCLICAL LETTER FRATELLI TUTTI of Pope Francis ON FRATERNITY AND SOCIAL FRIENDSHIP
3rd October 2020
Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.
1. “FRATELLI TUTTI”. With these words, Saint Francis of Assisi addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavour of the Gospel. Of the counsels Francis offered, I would like to select the one in which he calls for a love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance, and declares blessed all those who love their brother “as much when he is far away from him as when he is with him”. In his simple and direct way, Saint Francis expressed the essence of a fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.
2. This saint of fraternal love, simplicity and joy, who inspired me to write the Encyclical Laudato Si’, prompts me once more to devote this new Encyclical to fraternity and social friendship. Francis felt himself a brother to the sun, the sea and the wind, yet he knew that he was even closer to those of his own flesh. Wherever he went, he sowed seeds of peace and walked alongside the poor, the abandoned, the infirm and the outcast, the least of his brothers and sisters.
3. There is an episode in the life of Saint Francis that shows his openness of heart, which knew no bounds and transcended differences of origin, nationality, colour or religion. It was his visit to Sultan Malik-el-Kamil, in Egypt, which entailed considerable hardship, given Francis’ poverty, his scarce resources, the great distances to be traveled and their differences of language, culture and religion. That journey, undertaken at the time of the Crusades, further demonstrated the breadth and grandeur of his love, which sought to embrace everyone. Francis’ fidelity to his Lord was commensurate with his love for his brothers and sisters. Unconcerned for the hardships and dangers involved, Francis went to meet the Sultan with the same attitude that he instilled in his disciples: if they found themselves “among the Saracens and other nonbelievers”, without renouncing their own identity they were not to “engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake”. In the context of the times, this was an extraordinary recommendation. We are impressed that some eight hundred years ago Saint Francis urged that all forms of hostility or conflict be avoided and that a humble and fraternal “subjection” be shown to those who did not share his faith.
4. Francis did not wage a war of words aimed at imposing doctrines; he simply spread the love of God. He understood that “God is love and those who abide in love abide in God” (1 Jn 4:16). In this way, he became a father to all and inspired the vision of a fraternal society. Indeed, “only the man who approaches others, not to draw them into his own life, but to help them become ever more fully themselves, can truly be called a father”. In the world of that time, bristling with watchtowers and defensive walls, cities were a theatre of brutal wars between powerful families, even as poverty was spreading through the countryside. Yet there Francis was able to welcome true peace into his heart and free himself of the desire to wield power over others. He became one of the poor and sought to live in harmony with all. Francis has inspired these pages.
5. Issues of human fraternity and social friendship have always been a concern of mine. In recent years, I have spoken of them repeatedly and in different settings. In this Encyclical, I have sought to bring together many of those statements and to situate them in a broader context of reflection. In the preparation of Laudato Si’, I had a source of inspiration in my brother Bartholomew, the Orthodox Patriarch, who has spoken forcefully of our need to care for creation. In this case, I have felt particularly encouraged by the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, with whom I met in Abu Dhabi, where we declared that “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters”. This was no mere diplomatic gesture, but a reflection born of dialogue and common commitment. The present Encyclical takes up and develops some of the great themes raised in the Document that we both signed. I have also incorporated, along with my own thoughts, a number of letters, documents and considerations that I have received from many individuals and groups throughout the world.
6. The following pages do not claim to offer a complete teaching on fraternal love, but rather to consider its universal scope, its openness to every man and woman. I offer this social Encyclical as a modest contribution to continued reflection, in the hope that in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words. Although I have written it from the Christian convictions that inspire and sustain me, I have sought to make this reflection an invitation to dialogue among all people of good will.
7. As I was writing this letter, the Covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly erupted, exposing our false securities. Aside from the different ways that various countries responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident. For all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all. Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.
8. It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Fraternity between all men and women. “Here we have a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation… We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together… By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together”. Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.
9. Without claiming to carry out an exhaustive analysis or to study every aspect of our present-day experience, I intend simply to consider certain trends in our world that hinder the development of universal fraternity.
10. For decades, it seemed that the world had learned a lesson from its many wars and disasters, and was slowly moving towards various forms of integration. For example, there was the dream of a united Europe, capable of acknowledging its shared roots and rejoicing in its rich diversity. We think of “the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent”. There was also a growing desire for integration in Latin America, and several steps were taken in this direction. In some countries and regions, attempts at reconciliation and rapprochement proved fruitful, while others showed great promise.
Synopses of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Thomas, Peter and other gospel fragments and the reconstructed Q Gospel.
Reviewed by Paul Inglis for the UCFORUM
The Complete Gospel Parallels features the new and expansive Scholars Version translation from the Jesus Seminar at Westar Institute, which has been thoroughly revised and fine-tuned to facilitate the precise comparison of parallel passages, using consistent English for the same Greek and different English where the originals vary. The Complete Gospel Parallels lucid translation, its easy-to-use format, and its broad range of gospel materials is for the serious reader who wants to be informed by material that has come to light with the discoveries of the many non-canonical writings and work of cutting-edge scholarship at Westar, the academy that has generated a great deal of material from well-known progressive thinkers like Borg, Crossan, Spong, Wink and many more.
As someone who has been frustrated with the conflicting and often poorly argued commentaries of translations from the original Greek and absence of speculation about redaction and interpretation of the scriptures over many years, this book fills a great chasm. It deals with the material that has parallels in eleven known gospels and in doing so presents a strong argument for treating a lot of the non-canonical material as reliable sources for confirming many of the sayings of Jesus. At the same time it gives credence to a moderate re-interpretation of some of them. It also give insights into early Christian literature styles. For instance, the Gospel of Peter is an early passion gospel with important differences from the other passion narratives. It may have been the forerunner of the canonical passion and resurrection stories.
I have been able to come to a better personal understanding of Jesus thinking because I can now distinguish the historical Jesus from the Christ of faith using the tools in this book. The addition of other gospel writings to the lexicon of the biblical gospels gives more insights into the views of Jesus time. For instance, the fragments of the Gospels of the Hebrews and the Nazoreans represent distinctive ways in which Jewish Christians interpreted the Jesus tradition while offering parallels to the familiar Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Poring over the ‘parallels’ is interesting!
Recommendation: One for the serious reader of scripture.
Available through Amazon Australia in paperback format.
A Handbook of Life Challenges from the Jesus Story: a personal growth and parenting guide.
Comment by Greg Jenks, Dean Christ Church Cathedral Grafton, NSW: Stecher gives us a helpful way to approach the life of Jesus. Paying attention to attitudes which Jesus advocated and practiced offers a fresh entry point for people seeking to draw on his legacy for their own lives today. A useful handbook for both religious and non-religious alike.
The author: Gene Stecher began his career in ministry as a United Methodist pastor; he also eventually assumed responsibility for training those who answered the phones of a community telephone Helpline. In time he entered the field of Clinical Counseling Psychology, specializing in family counseling and custody evaluations. He is currently retired from the practice of licensed psychology in Pennsylvania.
Review by Paul Inglis:
Gene recently sent this book to me and I enjoyed two days of intense reading what is a very interesting and practical guide for anyone wanting to learn about and/or adopt the life changing attitudes and teaching of Jesus as their raison d’être.
He uses the authentic historical teachings and events compiled by biblical scholars of the Jesus seminar looking at 1500 sayings. The primary sources are the canonical Gospels as well as the Gospel of Thomas discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945. Stecher has assigned this material to an attitude complex according to the degree of reliability for clear interpretation. Some verses are assigned by ‘educated guess’ because of limited comparing evidence; others verses have reasonable contextual evidence to make the discernment of an attitude more reasonable; and other verses have copious length and consequently interpretations are more transparent.
Amateur scholars, like myself — as well as qualified and experienced practitioners will gain a lot from Stecher’s work. In the words of the author:
Rather than having information about the Jesus of history overwhelmed by the Christ etermal life story, maybe we would get more balance in the form of hearing more sermons and Christian education lessons on the esential Jesus and have more interest in adapting Jesus’ attitudes to our own lives.
This is a workbook for everyone – the general populace, laity and pastors including those who have committed their lives to following Jesus and want their lives to have the integrity of an authentic understanding of the attitudes of Jesus, the greatest teacher.
Available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com.
Nathan Mladin writing for Theos (Theos Think Tank UK)
Nathan is Senior Researcher and Relationship Manager at Theos. He holds an MTh and PhD in Systematic Theology from Queen’s University Belfast and is the author of several Theos publications, including ‘Religious London: Faith in a Global City’ (with Paul Bickley), ‘Forgive Us Our Debts: lending and borrowing as if relationships matter’ (with Barbara Ridpath), and a chapter on Václav Havel in ‘The Mighty and the Almighty: How Political Leaders do God’ (Biteback, 2017).
Natan Mladin argues that Netflix docu–drama ‘The Social Dilemma’ reminds us that we are not autonomous as we think we are. 23/09/2020
The revelations from the FinCEN files, the debates over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement at the US Supreme Court, and the second wave of COVID–19 infections are the main stories at the time of writing. In this context, a review of a Netflix docu–drama, two weeks after its release, might seem ill–timed and somewhat frivolous. And it would be, were it any other documentary than The Social Dilemma, which highlights an issue that runs deeper, and is as pressing as any news story of the day: the damage that social networks and the tech companies that shepherd them are doing to us, individually and as a society.
It’s a familiar story – how the tech industry, and social media companies in particular, for all the good they have brought to our lives, have made us more distracted, more anxious, more isolated and depressed, more outraged and polarised. Addiction, fake news, election hacking, viral conspiracies are just a few of the many unsavoury phenomena linked to our culture’s social media dependence. While the broad outline of this story is known, it’s how the story is told that makes The Social Dilemma essential viewing – through the voices of industry insiders, former tech executives, engineers, and other experts, and, crucially, by lifting the bonnet on the business model as the root cause of what seem like disconnected problems.
An hour and a half of interviews, graphs, animation and drama add up to a bracing and sobering exploration of how social networks have wreaked havoc on our mental health, unravelled the social fabric, and undermined the premises of our democracy.
Tech companies, the film makes clear, are in an arms race for our attention. The digital environments in which we are immersed day in day out are meticulously designed, to the finest details, with this singular purpose in mind: to keep us ‘engaged’ for as long as possible – scrolling, sharing, liking, posting etc. And everything we do, online and increasingly offline, is tracked or surveilled; from the obvious to the creepy: the things we post and share, but also our typing speed and rhythm, our scrolling and clicking patterns, the time we spend looking at an image, and so on. All this ‘behavioural surplus’, as Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff calls it, is aggregated and fed through powerful machine learning tools, which then churn out highly accurate models and predictions of our behaviour. It’s these models and fine–tuned predictions that are sold off to the highest bidders, mainly advertisers. It’s become a bit of a cliché to say it, but it’s still true: “If you’re not paying for it, you are the product”, or, as Zuboff puts it, the raw material.
The cycle is relentless and self–reinforcing. With every click and scroll we are unwittingly training the opaque algorithms behind the platforms to ‘know us better’, to predict and ultimately alter our behaviour – what we desire and fear, what we believe or distrust, and – most importantly for the advertisers – what we purchase.
The Social Dilemma, directed by Jeff Orlowski, compellingly shows the logical ramifications of this business model – the alarming increase in depression, self–harm and suicides, particularly among young girls, the increasing difficulty of civil democratic deliberation, conspiracy theories spreading like wildfires, election hacking and so on. It makes for a sobering watch that calls for swift action, chiefly tighter regulations for the tech sector if not a complete overhaul.
The case for the damage being inflicted by social platforms is overwhelming, but what intrigues me is how blasé or resigned most people I’ve spoken to about this topic are.
There are many reasons for this. Sheer ignorance of the facts – how it all works and what’s really at stake – is one. The Social Dilemma should help remedy this (there is also a whole raft of books published on the topic in the last ten years – see, for example this, this, and this). Our addiction to convenience and ‘free’ is another. Thirdly, one shouldn’t underestimate Google’s and Facebook’s sustained efforts to get us off the scent.
But I think there’s an even deeper reason: a particular picture of ourselves, as ‘brains on a stick’, fundamentally autonomous, fully rational, and firmly in control, is holding us captive. While this hubristic conception of human beings – what some refer to as the ‘modern subject’ or ‘sovereign individual’, with roots in Renaissance humanism and Enlightenment thought – may have succumbed in academic discourse some time ago, slayed by post–structuralist literary theory, neuroscience, cognitive and social psychology, alas, it endures, in zombie–form, in our collective consciousness. We simply don’t like to believe we can be manipulated into anything, be it clicking funny cat videos, checking our phone for the millionth time or purchasing yet another jumper.
This is increasing our vulnerability and making us even more susceptible to the dark magic of algorithmic manipulation and control. And the bitter irony is this: because of this false picture, while everyone worries about the Terminator–like AI coming down to overwhelm human strengths in the future, algorithms are already here, overwhelming our weaknesses.
Seen in this sombre light, The Social Dilemma is an important prompt to return to a more rounded and humble conception of ourselves; to recognise, amid mounting evidence, that we are not as strong, as free, as rational as we think we are. This, I suggest, is a crucial step, moving away from a technology that is shrinking our humanity, towards a technology that is truly humane.
 Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (PublicAffairs, 2019).
 Nicholas Thomspon, ‘Tristan Harris: Tech is “Downgrading Humans.” It’s Time to Fight Back’, Wired, 23.04.2019, https://www.wired.com/story/tristan-harris-tech-is-downgrading-humans-time-to-fight-back/
A thought to start with… You have wings. You can fly. You can be utterly peaceful, happy and strong. Your existence can be Life Written Large. The principles of successful living are very simple. Read on and be blessed – enormously.
The journey of living for many of us is a time of grief and pain and dislocation. Extraordinary difficulties seem to be our natural state and we are pushed and pulled and pummelled from all directions. What follows is a small work of daily meditations to be used to find in that healing practice the solution to our burdens and the resuscitation and comfort which we may be seeking.
I am satisfied that our lives can be overwhelmingly happy and complete and that they can reflect order on scales that we may not dare imagine. I am convinced, however, that the price of such blessing is one that may be too high for some of us. We have been overwhelmed by the pressures of the world around us to “conform” and we may have become afraid of the pejorative descriptions of difference. Our due obedience to the temporal gods of rationalism and its allies of materialism and consumerism damages us greatly. The servants of Mammon find it hard to appreciate that the solutions to all confusions lie in seeking richer visions of our potential and experience. Now that I am what is called so patronisingly a “senior citizen” – I see only an admittedly rather late state of youth! – I find myself compelled to offer the wisdom of the years to those less blessed with grey (or little or no) hair or damaged skin. Those insights will provide us with the comfort we seek. What I have found as I enter my eighth decade is that in a very relaxed Buddhist vision of total living can be found a simple guidance to healing and re-construction second to none. That insight is one which seeks our restoration within ourselves by regular and disciplined meditation which will guide us to a gentle loss of egotism and an ever-growing trusting acceptance of the nearest other, whoever he or she may be. Those criteria will be found to offer the transformation we seek – drug-free, and sweetly fulfilling and yet of an easy timeliness.
What I am offering is the remedy offered so it seems by all who have found deeply satisfying solutions to the riddles of our existence. It is an easy and gentle understanding of man that is mystical and which sees the individual as a universe of potential awaiting its release and satisfaction. It is not a religious answer. It rejects, indeed, belief systems as otiose and likely to damage by stultifying and enslaving. Deep within ourselves and accessible to the timeless journey of meditation in solitude, silence, stillness and the emptying of the mind, is a very sweet and simple quality of serenity and enablement and invigoration that the Greater seems to offer as its own definition of itself in action. That others will not understand and may indeed perhaps criticise those making the spiritual journey will sadden but it must not be permitted to diminish the courage and conviction of the spiritual explorer. I am here however to say that a life-long experience of meditation will provide us with rewards of inestimable value. We shall be the ones described by St. Paul as “more than conquerors.” The world will see us for what we have done and some will even seek our advice and support – which we must give as unconditionally as endlessly.
I see such difficulties in so many lives. There are those for whom the day-to-day of life is a seemingly constant challenge of grief and dislocation. Pain and sadness, it has to be said, do enter our lives and so often from quarters from which we least expected such things. This small work presents solutions of great effectiveness and yet of surprising naivety.
We are, as individuals, of the vastness and immensity of the Greater or the Universe – and of its spaciousness of soul and heart. We find that we are as individuals important and that our destiny lies in all that is creative and constructive. Our potential is infinite and our duty is to lead lives that reflect not merely our capacity to be enhanced but the Infinite that conferred such qualities upon us. The tragedy of men and women of the early 21st century is that, in denying the religious traditions that are embedded within our Western culture, we are cutting ourselves off from our origins. We are in need of a spiritual re-birth. Our challenge is harder with our rationalism and our materialism and our failure to seek any inward life. We have lost our roots in our cleverness and our failure to take a larger view of ourselves and our suffering is substantial. Alcohol and drugs and riotous living only make our pain greater. Our simplest and most reliable remedies are too easily discarded.
It is necessary for us again to discover that the way home is within us and that the essence of the Greater and Infinite and its enormousness are to be found only by gentle and time-consuming enquiring. We are to find in the language of the Christian theologian that God, the Transcendent, is, also and equally, immanent. We are to discover not something new and different but what has lain inside us from the time of our conception – our very origins.
We are of that Transcendent and Immanent and its very completeness lies at our “core” or “centre.” Psychologists would use the terms “fully functioning” or “self-actualising” to denote the attainment of a rarely met wholeness. Quite a challenge but utterly worthwhile.
None of this is for the faint of heart. It is the spiritual equivalent of the experience of the athlete who has trained for years for a possible gold medal or an international championship or of the musical prodigy whose hours were filled with seemingly endless and at times unproductive practice or of the student whose doctorate came after years of “hard slog.” The virtuoso of the soul will find few who understand but his inner compass will be clear and unambiguous. That solitary patient explorer will find however such joys and satisfactions as will reward as little else can and an experience of very rich living will follow. He (or she) will have found the source of what is at the heart of good living. The Western mind for which this work was conceived will almost certainly be concerned with procedure – “How do I go ‘within’?” The answer is simple – “meditation.” It is however a process, for all the traditional pictures of those sitting in the so-called asana position, that is as personal and as varied as the individuals who will seek its blessings. A better point of practice will be solitude, silence, stillness and the emptying of the mind. Physical relaxation and a comfortable sitting position (probably in a chair with feet squarely placed in front of the sitter about 15 to 18 inches – 40 to 50 cm. – apart) with a straight back and open shoulders are imperative as will be the slowing of the breath to reduced inhalations and exhalations but these are only points of guidance. The fact that any individual is making the effort to slow down will be itself a start to the gentle, incremental process of healing and re-construction and the practice should be followed without any regard to time or reward. It is equally important to allow the wild fluctuations of the mind but to realise that all that turbulence will steadily quieten if only the sitter does not react to it. The meditation that follows for Day 19 makes the observation of the one sitting on the roadside undisturbed by all that passes. This is the perfect metaphor and the steady serenity of such a measure of non-involvement is the reward of the months for the singular effort of quietness and detachment. As time goes on, however, the searcher (and the responsibility of the search is his or hers alone) will find that he or she has come to a point where the celebration of meditation will be as necessary a part of the day as eating or bathing. A Zen guide has observed that “eating is Zen” or “walking is Zen” – the experience is all-consuming and equally generous.
I have nothing to sell and in a sense nothing to offer. The journey being recommended is of the individual in his or her own terms – and life-long and constant. All responsibility and all reward are thrown back on the individual. Modern nostrums about “communities” have nothing to offer here at all. It is of you and in your own personal terms. You will find that whatever the problems of living may be, their dominance and the painful consequences of their thrall will slowly lift – even if the external disturbances continue. The Buddha was emphatic that what he was offering by his wisdom (and it was a totally practical guidance on peace of mind and completeness of living) was not an easy life but a capacity to deal with oneself that made life easier. His was an entirely pragmatic guidance on a quality of calm and tranquillity that could cope with the oscillations of life, however substantial they may be, successfully – by remaining untouched by them. You can find a peaceful centre to the storm, however strong the gales and intense the downpours, and cope and have victories accordingly. This is the thrust of all that is set out in this little work. This is true “wakefulness” – some may want to call it “mindfulness.”
Wholeness, strength, imperturbability, and simple ease of living can be yours. Read on and be deeply blessed. But remember the journey is for you within yourself and for your commitment to the other in acceptance of all that other is or may be – simple compassion and benevolence.
By way of further guidance, I am presenting a borrowing for whose inclusion in this small opus I make no apology. What has gone before is an invitation to you to pursue the virtues of a Buddhist meditation regime at its most gentle and at its least formal. I am setting out below as a further introduction a section of a biography of the Buddha which I find so clear and comprehensive that I felt compelled to set out some pages of it virtually untouched. My thanks go to the Oxford scholar Karen Armstrong for her vividly free and straightforward statement. When wisdom is expressed so well, reproducing it is the sincerest form of praise, or, if you wish, the sincerest form of flattery.
The Redcliffe Explorers will re-commence monthly meetings on Monday 5th October, at the usual time and place – 6 p.m., Azure Blue Retirement Complex, 91 Anzac Ave, Redcliffe. As with our last ‘group’ meeting, we’ll be observing the necessary procedures to comply with Covid-safe requirements, including signing in and out, hand sanitising and appropriate physical isolation.
We will examine what’s probably a commonly-held view about the nature and purpose of prisons, and perhaps be receptive to changing this view as a result of the investigative work of Dutch author Rutger Bregman in his very recent (2020) book Human Kind: A Hopeful History. Bregman deals with this in Part Five – The Other Cheek, the turning of which was part of Jesus’ teaching and, to those of us raised in the Christian tradition, should be very familiar, but unfortunately extraordinarily difficult to put into practice.
We will understand completely should you prefer not to attend if you’re not yet entirely comfortable about being in a group situation, and of course IF YOU ARE FEELING AT ALL UNWELL, PLEASE STAY AT HOME! Although we’re allowed 30 people in the Azure Blue café/meeting room, I would appreciate a brief email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone call (0401 513 723) if you’re planning to come, in case it becomes necessary to limit attendance. Please be aware that entry will be via the main foyer door.
Sermon – All Saints Floreat UC, Perth, Sunday, 13th September 2020
Old Testament Reading Ecclesiastes – Epilogue (Trans. Lloyd Geering), New Testament Reading Matthew 19:16-24 Rich Young Ruler
The Moral Challenges of Climate Change
In 2007 the Prime Minister declared Climate Change to be ‘The Greatest Moral Challenge of our Generation’. At the time, I was working in Indonesia on the application of Satellites from Space to detect the illegal clearing of rainforests for our much-loved Palm Oil. It was part of an Australian plan to buy Carbon Credits under the Kyoto protocol to offset our nations emissions. We were part of a United Nation program called REDD for Reduction in Emissions by Deforestation and Degradation for which we developed the satellite technology. The Indonesians balked at its implementation and the REDD initiative collapsed into a seeming ‘Murder Mystery’. What had collapsed were the religious values of honesty and integrity – the vital social pillar of sustainability. Five years ago, Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si – ‘On Care for our Common Home’, called on all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action” to address the Climate Crisis. In 2017, the national Synod of the United Church of Christ in America (of the Congregational tradition) passed a motion naming the climate crisis as “an opportunity for which the church was born”. Our WA Synod employed environmentalist, Jessica Morthorpe to lead our young people into this brave new era with her five-leaf program of sustainability.
These were encouraging signs.
Our Jewish scriptures tell us of the moral crises faced by the Hebrew people; of escaping slavery in Egypt, building a United Kingdom under King David and rebuilding their nation after the Babylonian conquest and exile. These three historical streams, evolved into the great Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Separate, was the Wisdom stream of writings, recording not history, but human experience and knowledge from which we are still gaining insights into the human predicament. It is in this stream scholars place the authentic parables and sayings of Jesus. From this Wisdom stream, Science from the Latin scientia to Know, would emerge, leading to the discovery of the Earth as a unique self-creating entity, with life developing by Evolution through processes of chance and human purpose. This new way of seeing Earth, is called Nature (from the Latin – natura for birth). As I celebrate entering my 78th year, I reflect on my own origins, resulting from the romance of my parents and the act of good luck of being conceived in the middle of WW2.
The first lesson we learn from our Scriptures is the importance of Sustainability. In Leviticus 25:23 The Lord reminded the Hebrews ‘… the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. For Aboriginal people: ‘The Land owns us, and not we the Land’, reflecting their sacred duty to care for the land and hand it back in the same condition in which it had been given.
A year ago, we were reminded of this truth of sustainability when some 6 million young people worldwide protested at the inter-generational inequity of global warming. These protestors were our grandchildren’s generation who will see the end of the 21st Century and the full fury of climate change, unless we act. Jesus reminds us that ‘the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these’ (Mark 10:13-16).
The second lesson we learn is from Ecclesiastes to ‘Stand in awe of Nature and do what it requires of you. For everything we do Nature will bring to judgement …whether it be good or evil’. Nature’s Laws exist to maintain the integrity of life on Earth and show no mercy – for example if we defy Nature’s law of gravity, we will come off the worse for wear. If Nature’s laws are disobeyed, we are warned we will suffer the consequences for 7×7 generations (Gen 4:13-15, 23). But, Nature as Jesus reassured his disciples also offers us unlimited generosity and mercy through the gift of life, means of sustaining it, and enriching it with unlimited beauty and love (eg. Matt. 6: 25-34). Such Wisdom of seeing God in Nature resulted in Dutchman Baruch Spinoza in the17th Century, being banished from the Jewish Community and declared a Heretic. Albert Einstein who believed in Spinoza’s God, recognised the mutual importance of Science and Religion saying: ‘Science without Religion is Lame and Religion without Science is blind’. He also said ‘God is a Mystery, but a Mystery that can be understood’.
A third lesson we learn from scripture is the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, fundamental to both Judaism and Christianity (Exodus 20:2–17 and Deut. 5:6–17) and the ethical cradle of Western Civilisation. On coming to Jesus, The Rich Young Ruler understood these commandments in their prescriptive form, but Jesus told him the principles they embodied, required him to share his wealth with the poor (Matt. 7:12). Climate Change is a similar dilemma. It is caused by the lifestyle of the Rich like us, without realising that the climate impact of our emissions falls disproportionally on the Poor on the other side of the world. Therefore, most of us probably have no sense of having a moral obligation to reduce our emissions.
A Gift of Encouragement – a work of individual possibility.
by Max Dodd
A sample of this work. If you would like to read the whole publication, send an email to Max to receive a free copy…..email@example.com
PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT….as we begin We are all masterpieces of the very highest order. We are all geniuses and heroes. We are all the possessors of qualities of brilliance. We are told we can be anything, do anything and have anything. All this is utterly true and yet we fail daily to meet any of these standards. Our lives are limited and shallow and our experience bleak and restricted. What to do?
Let me ask you a further question. Imagine that tomorrow is your birthday and that it is a neat 100 years since you first appeared as a screaming bundle of urine and faeces. No one can answer the question “Did you lead a totally complete life?” honestly and say “I did.” The honest answer that should be given is “I did not do everything but I have had a very rich varied and diverse life of great challenge and much accomplishment and I pass beyond satisfied that to the extent possible I have made the most of my time.” One of the definitions of “success” is that the individual met God’s inner compass. If you could say that, you can say probably as much as you can.
A Gift of Encouragement is an operation here to assist you on the very personal journey of living that may make possible your providing the answer set out in the last paragraph. It is concerned only with you as an individual. It is not interested in social solutions or business solutions or religious solutions. I simply want you to be able to say that you made the most of your time and that the world probably gained something by your being here.
This is a work of individual possibility. It is interested only in what individuals can do. It is recognised that human beings are social animals and that there is an underlying cosmic architecture of unity that is propounded so effectively by the Eastern spiritualities. This is not however a work seeking religious conversion or the adoption of an arcane system on which to build one’s life. It is interested in the dignity and worth and freedom of the individual and in that individual’s enormous, if often almost totally undiscovered, genius and brilliance. The only disappointment in life is that you did not try – or try hard enough. This is a work of guidance on action. There are people who are motivators who can offer individuals recognition of their power to find for themselves careers and all that falderal of the world of business and commerce. There are people who will assist as life coaches whose function will be to ensure that careers are more fully developed than might otherwise be the case. There are people who can offer support when the demands of life and the complexities of the workaday world become too much. Whole professions exist in aid of our growth and yet the general simple principle of growth and possibility is rarely offered as one united and simple approach. This work is intended to do just that. By doing so, it is offering the highest view of any individual to be and to do and to have – and perhaps, most importantly, to become.
A Gift of Encouragement is a thoroughgoing approach to the total development of the total being, physical, intellectual, emotional and, of course, and most importantly, spiritual. It is interested in your total journey to wholeness and full functioning. It is concerned to ensure that you recognise that the journey to wholeness is of you alone and that nothing really can be done for you. I can discuss with you as an impartial (and if you wish, highly partial) adviser all manner of the questions of your life but the fundamental will always be that you must lead your own life and that you must take a total responsibility for it in all its dimensions. You are you and that is a fact to be celebrated.
What is set out are many brief commentaries on the journey to wholeness which are based on a worldwide contact with people in all manner of places and activities. The questions that are dealt with are those that have been met in practice and relate to the concerns that are most commonly thrust at us. The guidance is therefore very broad and not remotely concerned with detail. The detail of your life is of you and for you and not for anyone else. That comes not from our lack of interest or concern but our determination to ensure that the advice we give can be given a suitable application to the dilemmas and challenges of life in such a way as will give maximum benefit to that most important of all individuals, you.
Maxwell Dodd has kindly gifted his writings to us and this is a sample – where Christianity meets Buddhism.
I felt as a youth as long ago as the 1950s that what I was hearing on Sunday night in a fashionable Anglican church on the North Shore of Sydney was less than sensible. I had little doubt that the God of the service was being very inadequately presented though I kept my questions to myself. In 1989 after a very successful career in Sydney in the law where I was a litigation solicitor and the senior partner of a three office city and suburban practice with surprising gifts as a “rainmaker,” I went to the (Presbyterian) San Francisco Theological Seminary and met my own guide and encourager the Revd. Professor Warren Lee (with whom I exchange even now emails almost daily). Warren’s advice was not to seek an Anglican ordination – he saw the institution to be far too conservative for one who had been so accustomed to high levels of accomplishment – but to wander as a “bodhisattva” – a term I understood with my Buddhist enquiries – and bring “hope” to a wider world.
Hope More Abundantly is a series of essays written over the last 15 months in Germany and Scotland. It reflects my concern that the triumphs of Evangelical Christianity have done great harm to the Church and to its message. I am sure that the widely trumpeted interest in the apparent certainties of “Bible believing” creedal positions is finally the road to a perdition of irrelevance. As Paul observes in the final verse to the 12th chapter of his first Epistle to the Christians in Corinth, there is a better way – agape – “love” or “charity” or “compassion” or even “fellow-feeling” – in short, the equal other. Difficult, yes, and calling for courage, yes, but it is the Way – and all spiritual traditions agree on it. The Other. Read on, and give and share and surrender yourself to the other – and be deeply blessed. Maxwell Dodd St. Goar (Rh), Germany Thursday 12 September 2013
A word to begin with…. We are blessed with endless potential to lead full and constructive lives. So few of us do. It is the duty of the Christian to lead a life worthy of his call; again, he or she fails signally to do so. Pursuing that vision is the source of this work. A few weeks short of my 70th birthday, I feel constrained to offer some thoughts to the man or the woman in the pew of any age on the wisdom that has led them to be sitting there. I do not see Jesus in the conventional Evangelical Anglican way. I am a child indeed of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in far off Australia, a diocese well-known in the Anglican Communion for the rigorousness of its Evangelical opinions. I have to confess that even as an early teenager with a vision of what I shall be calling in this little work “the Eternal,” I was singularly uncomfortable with what was being offered. Energetic presentations based on man’s “sin” and his need of “salvation” and the substitutionary death of Jesus left me quite cold. I was sure that we were of an accessible Eternal of unimaginable immensity (in all necessary departments) to which we were (perhaps unexpectedly) personally important but that we had to seek forgiveness of these mysterious things called “sins” astonished me. I saw the Eternal at night in the scope of what lay above my head in those remarkable pin-points of light that we called “the Universe” and in the utter acceptance that I knew from an adored smooth-haired fox terrier bitch of impeccable pedigree who shared so much of my life and who listened so patiently to all my questions. She still wagged her tail and wanted to share my bed and have me throw a tennis ball. For that vision of simplicity in the order of the Creation I am deeply grateful. The journey of the years since has been one of a long and at times difficult confirmation of something of astonishing beauty and clarity. My awakening began in the southern winter of 1961 when I met the remarkable Wednesday mid-week ministry of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Macquarie Street in Sydney. The Revd. Gordon Powell (and a string of major international clergy from both the United Kingdom and the United States – I recall hearing the famed Norman Vincent Peale) preached to an overflowing congregation of those working in the local surrounding banking and professional area of all that was positive and constructive. It was a Christianity that sent us (nearly 2,000 people we were told) back to the workplace revived and strengthened by the support of an involved God in the minutiae of committed daily commercial life. For nearly four years Wednesday by Wednesday I experienced a view of Jesus which inspired the searcher to seek growth and challenge with the utmost vigour. My eyes had been opened. By 1963, I was 21 and nearly through the professional course of the law conducted under the Legal Practitioners Act, 1898, (as amended) of the State of New South Wales in the Commonwealth of Australia. I was a capable examinee more than a good student and I was to finish the course and be admitted as a solicitor at 22 – even then very early, now impossible. I knew little of the law but I had convinced one or two barristers of my good memory of essential material and of my capacity for regurgitation. Such was to be my sole formal tertiary education. In 1963, too, I was becoming aware from what I was reading in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney’s only broadsheet newspaper itself owned by a prominent Anglican family) of the work of an Anglican bishop in England, one John A.T. Robinson, who had written a highly controversial book called Honest to God. When later in that year I should have been studying for the then forthcoming Torts and Crimes examinations of the Board in October, I was retiring to my bedroom (accompanied by my fellow student) and instead of reading of negligence or homicide or larceny and the procedures of enquiry and enforcement, I was wrestling with the utterly new and unexpected notions of “the Ground of our Being” and “the Beyond in our Midst,” terms which were remarkable and slightly frightening to me. I found the work difficult – I had no familiarity with theological discourse – and the language at times virtually impenetrable. I did however realise that there was a revolution taking place abroad in the way highly intelligent people were daring to look at the questions of God and meaning and especially how the message of God and Jesus ought to find its way to the consciousness of the churchman or churchwoman. I found this so consoling and struggled on in the assurance that the light would come. It did – my explorations were themselves the wisdom of the Eternal.
Rev Glynn Cardy is a noted poet whose work contains strong threads of spirituality and commentary on the human condition. He is well known for his provocative billboards, making statements on social justice issues, which he displays outside his churches.
Glynn will invite us to reflect on some of his poetry, which will be sent to all PCNV members and friends a week before the event.
Glynn says, ‘I love the sea, the sand and the surf. It has sculpted my soul. I like talking to groups of children because their responses are never predictable or boring. Their capacity for imagination has not been checked. They are therefore capable of seeing the expanse of god without being able to give it a name. I want to tell folks that they’re special, exhort them to be kind and generous, and encourage them to enjoy the great variety of people in this world. If we get those things right everything else tends to follow.’
Glynn is a minister of a progressive Presbyterian congregation (St Luke’s) in Auckland, New Zealand. For some 30 years he was an Anglican vicar, serving in a variety of Auckland parishes, the last being St Matthews-in-the-City. So denominationally he’s bi-religious. Theologically though he’s on the edge of both denominations.
Glynn has a strong commitment to social justice, and the parishes he has served in have been at the forefront of denominational change in regard to indigenous land rights, LGBTI ordination and marriage, and in seeking to address poverty.
Glynn is married to Stephanie (a paediatrician), and they have four adult children and two cats.
There will be Q & A after the presentation. Feel free to share this event with interested friends. This meeting is at no cost. Further information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Scientific GOD Journal | July 2020 | Volume 10| Issue 4 | pp. 277-285 Valverde, R., A Spiritual Science Interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas
Spiritual science tries to merge science and religion. The humankind is always evolving and what was called before religion becomes science in modern times. The Gospel of Thomas, written in the second century teaches that salvation is through the words of Jesus and not through his death and resurrection which are never mentioned. The gospel does not contain cross, suffering, healing, miracle stories or exorcisms. The gospel teaches that salvation comes from the perfection of the individual. The article gives an interpretation to the Gospel of Thomas from the Spiritual Science perspective that empowers the individual as capable of understanding his true nature and relationship with the creation. The gospel reconciliates Christianity with Buddhism as it teaches that reaching enlightenment is the only way to escape the material world.
To read this article go to: Spiritual Science where a full text PDF can be downloaded.
The purpose and mission of Scientific GOD Journal (“SGJ”, ISSN: 2153-831X) are to conduct scientific inquiries on the nature and origins of life, mind, physical laws and mathematics and their possible connections to a scientifically approachable transcendental ground of existence – we call “Scientific GOD.” By “scientific inquiries”, we mean building concrete and testable models and/or hypotheses connected to hard sciences (e.g., physics, neuroscience, biochemistry and physiology) and doing the experimental testing. We believe that in this golden age of Science the GOD in whom we trust should be spiritual as well as scientific. Indeed, since we are all made out of the same subatomic, atomic and genetic alphabets, the scientific GOD each of us seeks should be one and the same whatever our race, religion and other differences. There is also a Scientific GOD Forum available.
From johnodonohue.com “John’s legacy directs our search for intimacy to crucial thresholds: tradition and modernity, past and future, life and death, the visible and the invisible world. At the heart of John’s awakened beliefs was the premise that ancient wisdom could offer desperately needed nourishment for the spiritual hunger experienced in our modern world. John is fondly remembered by an international readership as one who could blend critical analytic thought with imaginative evocation, enabling people to release themselves from the false shelter of the familiar and repetitive to become agents of transformation and change.”
Brandon Scott is the author and editor of many books, including The Real Paul: Recovering His Radical Challenge and The Trouble with Resurrection. A charter member of the Jesus Seminar, he is chair of Westar’s newly established Christianity Seminar. He served as chair of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as a member of several SBL Seminars including the Parable Seminar and Historical Jesus Seminar. He holds an A.B. from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, an M.A. from Miami University, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
Violence is violence, but we are always trying to parse it some other way. We try to divide it into good violence and bad violence. Into good wars and bad wars. Medieval theologians even developed the notion of a just war versus an unjust war. The parsing has always been difficult because we want to see the violence we use as good and the violence of the other side as bad. The winners inevitably see their violence as good, even justified, and actually very heroic. That’s why statues are set up to honor conquering war heroes. The heroic statue makes the violence used good, legitimate, even necessary.
This parsing of violence is intriguing. Theoretically we all agree that violence is bad. But what about self-defense? Well, of course, one can defend oneself when one is being attacked. But how much? How much violence is a proportionable response? Can you shoot to kill the unarmed burglar who invades your house? Once you start splitting hairs, it will not be long until you end up counting angels on the head of pin. Where to stop, where is the line? This is always a much more difficult problem than it first appears.
One way to solve this problem is to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate violence. The government exercises legitimate violence; violence by non-government entities is a crime. When a government kills, the act is presumed to be legitimate. To challenge that legitimacy, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim of illegitimacy. We have seen in many instances how difficult it is to make that case. When a nation goes to war, even under the slimmest of pretenses, for example, the War in Iraq, the majority goes along with the leader. We have seen over and over how difficult it is for a jury to convict a policeman of charges of unnecessary force during an arrest.
When a civilian kills someone, it’s murder and then we sort out the degree, from self-defense to first degree murder. While the accused is presumed innocent from a legal point of view, juries often have a hard time making this assumption. The old canard that where there’s smoke, there’s fire often wins the day. Interestingly Roman law made a presumption of innocence. In the middle ages, in the West guilt was presumed.
Most people and all governments are comfortable with this division and for the most part do not question it. Except when we see a policeman murder a black man on video. Or when peaceful protesters are attacked or provoked by the policing force. Then the whole parsing of violence gets called into question and becomes very controversial.
Recently Rodney Eivers wrote to the National Church Life Survey people questioning the combining of “Mystical” and “Supernatural” as one category in their research:
Dear NCLS Research
Thank you for your Research News with its update on various matters including the planning for the survey in 2021.
In reading your Research News, I find I am disturbed that you should combine Mystical with Supernatural as one category. I would see them as being quite separate phenomena. Mystical may apply as far as I am aware to a number of mental states and expressions of consciousness. This can have a powerful effect on the human psyche but still remains something rational and developed during the evolutionary process. Supernatural, however, I presume, means occurrences beyond the laws of nature as we know them. Behaving in accord with supernatural suppositions would be regarded by thinking people, I imagine, especially in this 21st century, as being irrational. I am aware of many writers who would, while classing themselves as mystics, not consider they were operating irrationally.
I write this with deep concern about the implication from your surveys that religion and Christianity, in particular, comprises the supernatural belief as well as the mystical, to be valid. Rodney Eivers – UC Forum http://www.ucforum.unitingchurch.org.au/
He received the following courteous response:
Thank you for taking the time to express your views with us.
We have used this particular form of wording for many years as it has been used in other international surveys. This has given us benchmarks of changes over time. We will reflect on whether there are other options that can achieve this goal of being able to compare with other groups.
You may also be interested in our more detailed academic work on mysticism among church attenders. UK colleagues used data from church attenders to reflect on the links between mystical experiences and emotional wellbeing. In short, the study found no relationship between having mystical experiences and negative wellbeing.
Francis, L. Powell, R and Village, A. (2020). Mystical experience and emotional wellbeing: A study among Australian church leaders. Journal of Beliefs and Values.
I found this explanation of The Way of the historical Jesus as it contrasts with the evolved orthodoxy of the Church to be one of the best conversations I have found on the topic. Stratford brings the notion of Ascension into focus and places the literal and often confused thinking around it under scrutiny. The result is both interesting and remarkably informative.
“I think a Jesus way may be claimed in all actions that open ways to life, or enable healing, or challenge one to reconsider attitudes. It becomes visible amid compassion and justice. It becomes visible when people find safety in their habitat and live without fear. It becomes visible as one imagines a Jesus who continues to touch the lives of all – a feeling of spirit presence.
“The church’s focus on a mythic future has failed to catch up with the Jesus who continues in the world touching with compassion those who are hurt.” p41.
The focus on salvation religiosity has clearly failed humanity. It is not the way of Jesus.
There is a particularly interesting analysis of the evolution of the term/concept ‘Son of God’. The part played by the Roman Empire in the shaping of the Church is important to this development. A religion of the State was essential to the flourishing of the empire. The Emperors has become ‘gods’ because they shaped the prosperity, peace and security for their followers. Becoming deified was a natural outcome of empire building. With the support of the scriptures (OT), in particular the Psalmist and the David dynasty as a model it was not a big step to view God as father of the emperor. The widespread acceptance of God as father of the Jews contributed to the church’s adoption of the notion also and the evolution of ‘son of God’ to ‘Son of God’ eventually took precedence in accepted doctrine.
The gradual development of ‘orthodoxy’ shaping the Church and the establishment of the basis for the beliefs set out in the faith is essential reading for those wondering how we got to the current church informed way of Jesus. This book is full of standout analyses of how the Christ of faith “had become supreme for the church’s life with the Jesus of history receding into the background”. So the religion of the Emperor Constantine with all its governance, structure and appearance was ratified by the Church and still stands today across denominations very much in tune with the thinking of the 4th Century view of the will of God.
Three elements – claims of authority of the bishops, the authority of the OT and the memories of those who recalled the apostolic times now take precedence in shaping the Church.
I agree with the author when he says:
I wonder what might happen in the world if the words of Jesus the Sage were given serious attention, and what it would mean if the church began to live and teach a reality named as the reign of God. The reality might come to life in the present. Life on earth would not be a shadow of better things to come, but a recognition among humankind that the future is present now. p71.
Instead of waiting for Jesus to return on a cloud, responsible engagement with the present can call into action our own gifts directed to implementing the way of Jesus for all of humankind and the planet.
Paul Inglis 24th August 2020.
Currently the cheapest way to get a copy is directly from Wally Stratford. However Kindle copy can be purchased from Amazon.com
The Author: Rev Dr Walter Stratford is a retired Uniting Church Ministerwho served in such diverse places as the New Hebrides, Traralgon, Townsville and Dandenong. He also spent time as secretary to the Queensland Ecumenical Council, and as a chaplain at the Wesley Hospital, Brisbane. During his ministry Walter found time for study and completed a number of degrees, including a PhD in 2012. He is married with four adult children, a number of grand children and great-grandchildren.Wally has been a discussion leader for the PCNQ in Brisbane and hopefully will do that again when restrictions on gatherings are lifted.
The story of the only Australian captured by Japanese forces in Australia. A World War Two tragedy.
by RevDrNoel Kentish
Have just finished reading this amazing book written by my ‘colleague and friend’ Noel Kentish about his father Rev Len Kentish, the senior Methodist Missionary in the Northern Territory and in charge of the local coastwatchers during the Second World War. It is a great read from many angles – the significance of this piece of history, the passion and love demonstrated by the writer for his parents, the incredible research that has found information across cultures and boundaries, the short but incredibly influential life of a man who distinguished himself through a self-sacrificing commitment to taking God’s love into our northern indigenous communities and his execution at the hands of a desperate enemy. Noel is a writer who leaves the reader gasping and as the story unfolds he weaves the events of his own fascinating childhood into the narrative.
At noon on 22 January 1943, the Patricia Cam was attacked while sailing between Elcho Island and Marchinbar. A Japanese floatplane cut its engine and dove out of the sun releasing one of its bombs no more than 100 feet above Patricia Cam. The plane returned several times, dropping a second bomb and attempting to machine-gun the survivors in the water. It then appeared to fly off, only to return shortly after and land on the water. One of the airmen, brandishing a pistol, climbed down onto one of the aircraft’s floats, and Leonard was hauled from the water and taken to the Japanese base at Dobo Island. In all, four sailors and three Indigenous men died as a result of the sinking of Patricia Cam. The survivors made it to Guluwuru Island, but two men – Stoker Percy Cameron and Milirrma Marika – died of their injuries before the group could be rescued and repatriated. Leonard became a prisoner of war, the only Australian to be captured by Japanese forces in Australia.
This book can be purchased at the best price directly from the author at: Noel Kentish
Noel Jackson Kentish was born in Darwin to Leonard and Violet Kentish on November 10, 1935. When his father was appointed District Chairman in 1939 Noel moved with the family to Goulburn Island, living at Warruwi with an Aboriginal clan. Noel’s father became a coastwatcher, in regular contact with HMAS Coonawarra, the Royal Australian Navy’s long-range transmitter.
“I will never forget the sense of sad relief my mother experienced on knowing that my father’s remains had been recovered at Dobo. Even his work as a coastwatcher was a combined effort of his Maung Aboriginal lookouts and his dedicated work on the AWA radio transceiver that occupied a corner of his study area at Warruwi”.
An introduction to our First peoples for young Australians.
Intended for highschool students, I found this book a great response to the need to provide my generation (I am 75) with information they didn’t get or got wrongly at school.
Marcia includes a very useful glossary of terms that apply to Australian Indigenous people, events, laws and practices with more available online. The book is well referenced and offers useful resources, a comprehensive index and an appendix of maps and colour illustrations.
There is an excellent coverage of prehistory, ATSI cultures and colonial history, language, kinship, indigenous knowledge, art and story telling.
Marcia provides a full explanation of ‘Native Title’ and ‘The Stolen Generation’. She appeals for First Australians to be given their rightful place in the nation and greater cultural awareness by everyone else.
She makes some predictions and assessments about the future for Indigenous Australians and leaves in no doubt her ability to make authentic judgments about the responsibility of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples to work together to achieve a better standard of living for our First peoples.
Highly recommended reading and as a family reference book in all homes. Available at good bookstores. My copy was $29.99.
Professor Marcia Langton AM is one of Australia’s most import indigenous resource people. Her voice for Indigenous Australia is backed by wonderful credentials. She is a graduate of Anthropology at ANU. She has worked with the Central Land Council, the Cape York Land Council and the 1989 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Dr Langton holds the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne since February 2000.
Richard Rohr has this week delved into the work of Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (Crown Publishing: 2018), 23, 117–118. to comment on something that is a problem evident all over the world.
The universal pattern of transformation I’m writing about these three weeks is not limited to religious or spiritual growth. Nor is it only individuals that are invited to make the journey. Whole churches and even cultures experience times of disorder and disruption. In the United States, many of us are discovering that a large number of things we believed to be true—about our nation and ourselves—are not entirely true. I believe this is a necessary step that we must take for the sake of healing and justice in our nation and our world—no matter how “disordering” and even disorienting it may be. Perhaps I can only say this because I believe so completely in the possibility of Reorder! Author Austin Channing Brown, who teaches on issues of racial justice, was raised in a devoutly Christian home and has worked in and with churches for most of her professional life. I hope you can read her words with the openness they deserve.
I learned about whiteness up close. In its classrooms and hallways, in its offices and sanctuaries. At the same time, I was also learning about Blackness, about myself and about my faith. My story is not about condemning white people but about rejecting the assumption—sometimes spoken, sometimes not—that white is right: closer to God, holy, chosen, the epitome of being. . . .
Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It’s not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation?
It’s haunting. But it’s also holy.
And when we talk about race today, with all the pain packed into that conversation, the Holy Spirit remains in the room. This doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t painful, aren’t personal, aren’t charged with emotion. But it does mean we can survive. We can survive honest discussions about slavery, about convict leasing, about stolen land, deportation, discrimination, and exclusion. We can identify the harmful politics of gerrymandering, voter suppression, criminal justice laws, and policies that disproportionately affect people of color negatively. And we can expose the actions of white institutions—the history of segregation and white flight, the real impact of all-white leadership, the racial disparity in wages, and opportunities for advancement. We can lament and mourn. We can be livid and enraged. We can be honest. We can tell the truth. We can trust that the Holy Spirit is here. We must.
For only by being truthful about how we got here can we begin to imagine another way.
Fr Richard Rohr and the Centre for Action and Contemplation have more than a quarter of a million followers. For more of his progressive thinking go to Richard Rohr.
Every Sunday, I pray the Lord’s Prayer and try to mean it. Lately, though, I’ve been pausing over the word power. What does it mean to celebrate power as a divine attribute?
The hymns I sang so eagerly as a young adult offered up a superhero God who holds unshakable sway over people, places, and events. Many of the miracle stories in the Bible literalize this muscled version of power: a God who curses snakes, parts the sea, rains down bread, slaughters firstborns.
As a child, I watched the adults in my life engage in all sorts of theological gymnastics to square this brand of omnipotence with God’s other most abiding and essential trait: goodness. “God allows it” is the explanation I heard most often: nothing happens without God’s permission. God is perfectly capable of conquering evil and suffering but exercises restraint to accomplish a higher purpose.
This higher purpose was most often a mystery, though we were free to speculate: maybe God allowed the hurricane in order to demonstrate divine power over nature. Maybe God allowed the neck injury in order to build character. Maybe God allowed the bomb to detonate in order to punish sin.
Sometimes it takes years to recognize faulty theology and even longer to admit that it does concrete harm in the world. Sometimes it takes a global pandemic, or a mass outcry against systemic racial injustice, or a planet on the brink of catastrophe. This is a complicated moment in our cultural history, one that calls the very nature and morality of power into question. We in the church are not exempt from this reckoning. If anything, we should be leading the charge.
In so many arenas of our common life, we are witnessing egregious abuses of power. They deny dignity to the poor and kill on the basis of skin color. They use sex to control others; they withhold medical care from people who need it. They use religion to excuse or perpetuate evil.
Kairos for Creation – Confessing Hope for the Earth The Wuppertal Call
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” – 2 Chron. 7:14. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” – 2 Cor. 5:17-18 Preamble From 16 to 19 June 2019, 52 participants from 22 countries and from different confessional and faith traditions gathered in Wuppertal, Germany for a conference entitled “Together towards eco-theologies, ethics of sustainability and eco-friendly churches”.
In Wuppertal we were reminded of the courageous confession of faith articulated in the Barmen Declaration (1934) against the totalitarian, inhuman and racist ideology of the time. Barmen continues to encourage us today for “a joyful liberation from the godless ties of this world for free grateful service to his creatures” (Barmen 2). We shared stories from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and Oceania. We heard the cries of the earth, the cries of people vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially children and the elderly, the cries of youth demanding intergenerational justice and the concerns of experts over current trends. We recognize the urgency of the years that lie ahead, nevertheless express the courage to hope and are compelled to call the global ecumenical movement towards a comprehensive ecological transformation of society.
Kairos: A decisive turn in the pilgrimage of justice and peace The ecumenical movement has long committed itself to a pilgrimage towards justice, peace and the integrity of creation. These goals will require urgent steps on the road ahead. The urgency of the crisis calls us to read the signs of the time, to hear God’s call, to follow the way of Christ, to discern the movement of the Spirit and, in response, to recognize the positive initiatives of churches all around the world. The symptoms of the crisis touch on all the building blocks of life and are there for all to see: • Fresh water is contaminated; glaciers are melting; oceans are polluted with plastics and are becoming acidic so that corals reefs are bleached (water). • Land is degraded through unsustainable agriculture and unhealthy eating habits, extractive economies ruled by global financial powers, deforestation, desertification and soil erosion; animals are groaning and creatures are being genetically modified; fish populations are depleted; habitat loss leads to the unprecedented loss of biodiversity (earth). Both the land and the health of people are being poisoned by industrial, agricultural, municipal and nuclear forms of waste and by pesticides and chemicals. An increasing number of people is forced to migrate and to become climate refugees. • Global carbon emissions are still increasing, greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere and climates are disrupted (air). • It is the still increasing use of energy from fossil fuels that is driving such changes (fire). The delicate systems of balances in creation has been disturbed to an unprecedented extent in the Anthropocene. We have transgressed planetary boundaries. The earth seems no longer able to heal itself. Creatures are groaning in travail (Rom. 8:22).
It is not coincidental that the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters and the paucity of cultural heritage protections thereby brought into public view have the feel of a colonial frontier. Resource companies, as necessary as they are in our contemporary economy, are key agents of the longstanding extractive and developmentalist expansion that have been at the forefront of dispossessing Aboriginal people across the Australian continent.
The bludgeoning of Indigenous people through the carceral institutions of the dominant society are similarly longstanding and bound with the same developmentalist expansion. The ancestors of those who die in custody today were forcibly removed from their homelands by agents of the state — including police and Aboriginal “protectors” — in processes that made way for pastoralism and other primary industries.
Nonetheless, the violence released in the explosions that destroyed the Juukan Gorge rock shelters and dispensed in police custody does not mean that the relationship between Indigenous people and miners, and the wider relationship between Indigenous people and Settler Australia, is mono-dimensional. Indigenous-Settler relations are complicated, characterised by intimate entanglement that mixes support with destruction, care with brutal violence, and appreciation with shocking disregard.
Our entanglements are confronting when they are brutalising, but they are also the basis for deeper understanding of the problems we face, and a source of possibility. We should thoroughly excoriate mining companies and the police, along with many others, for appalling practices in relation to Indigenous people, but the extensiveness of such practices also highlights the systemic and structural nature of the problem.
To begin to understand what is at stake and to develop the means to recast the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia requires interrogating the philosophical underpinnings of the dominant political order.
As commentator Stan Grant has observed, Australia is deeply attached to liberalism, and thus to commitments to personal liberty, equality before the law and moral neutrality of the state. Grant has spoken of liberalism as if it is a rock of Australian political order. But as the destruction of the Juukan Gorge shelters shows, how we relate to longstanding artefacts of human creation is in our hands.
From Dr Ian Brown, Convenor Redcliffe Explorers Group.
As with most other groups at the present time, gatherings of the Redcliffe Explorers are in abeyance until we‘re confident that our members, families and friends are shielded from corona virus infection. However, community compliance with physical distancing instructions seems to be having a very positive effect, and it may be possible for us to resume before the end of the year, possibly in September. Let’s hope!
I’m sure we’ve all found plenty to keep us occupied during the ‘lockdown’ period, including listening to some very informative podcasts and television programs. One fascinating (and slightly scary) talk last Saturday may be of interest – it was Geraldine Doogue’s interview with Benjamin Teitelbaum on Traditionalism. Broadcast on ABC Radio Saturday Extra (30/5/20), it can be accessed by clicking on the link below. Teitelbaum is assistant professor of Ethnomusicology and Affiliate Faculty in International Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and author of a recent book War For Eternity: The Return of Traditionalism and the Rise of the Populist Right. He points out that ‘Traditionalism‘ with a capital ‘T’ is not the same as ‘traditionalist’.
Authentic spirituality is always on some level or in some way about letting go. In a consumer society, however, we have little training in how to let go of anything. Rather, more is usually considered better. Jesus said, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Once we truly see what traps us and keeps us from freedom, we should see the need to let it go. As Meister Eckhart said, “the spiritual life is more about subtraction than it is addition.” But capitalist societies make everything into addition.
The freedom Jesus promises involves letting go of our small self, our cultural biases, and even our fear of loss and death. Freedom is letting go of wanting more and better things; it is letting go of our need to control and manipulate God and others. It is even letting go of our need to know and our need to be right—which we only discover with maturity. We become ever more free as we let go of our three primary motivations: our need for power and control, our need for safety and security, and our need for affection and esteem. 
Healthy spirituality leads us to true liberation by naming what’s real, what’s true, and what works—now and in the long run. This Ultimate Reality, the way things really work, is quite simply described as love. The wise ones recognize that without a certain degree of inner freedom, we cannot and will not truly love. Spirituality is about finding that freedom. Jesus even commanded it (John 13:34)—though I’m not sure that we really can order or demand love—to show us how central it is.
Greg Jenks is an Australian religion scholar and Anglican priest serving in the Diocese of Grafton on the north coast of New South Wales. He is an adjunct a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University.
Jenks served as Dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem (2015–2017). He had previously served as Academic Dean at St Francis Theological College, Brisbane between 2008 and 2015. Jenks is a Fellow of the Westar Institute, and served as its Associate Director 1999-2001.
Jenks was awarded a PhD by the University of Queensland for his research into the origins and early development of the Antichrist myth. He has a long-standing interest in Christian origins, and is a co-director of the Bethsaida Archaeological Excavation in northern Israel.
Jenks had been Visiting Professor and Scholar-in-Residence at St George’s College, Jerusalem on several occasions prior to his appointment as Dean in mid-2015.
There is an age-old divide among religious people about just what God—however understood—wants of humans.
For the better part of 3,000 years in the Jewish and Christian spiritual traditions, there have been those stressing the need for purity (often expressed through codes about sex and food) and those who focus on justice for the victims of structural evil.
Recently, Martyn Iles, the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby has stoked the kind of controversy that appeals to their base and drives their fund-raising efforts with a claim that the Black Lives Matter movement is “anti-Christ”.
This is theological ‘dog-whistling’, and especially in the deliberate evoking of the biblical term ‘Antichrist’.
In the current context of global protests and persistent systemic discrimination against people of colour, this claim is highly partisan. It is also ‘tone-deaf’ to the cries of the oppressed which ascend to the God who has promised to hear them.
The intention to provoke (opponents) and alarm (supporters) was clear when—rather than apologise or retract those comments—Martyn Iles doubled down on them by producing a special podcast session with a 20-minute tirade again BLW as another example of radical secular Marxism seeking to destroy Christianity.
Despite his self-description as a “lover of law, theology and politics” (Facebook – About), Martyn Iles has no formal theology qualifications. His only listed qualifications are in the law. That lack of formal training in theology is evident in his public statements.
Iles espouses a fundamentalist form of Evangelical Christianity, with a fascination on apocalyptic eschatology. He has recently announced a new YouTube channel dealing with questions about the ‘End Times’.
The problem is not his naïve use of the complex texts which constitute the Bible, nor his total disconnect from critical religion scholarship. Both those things are typical of Australian Evangelicals. Rather, what concerns me most is the way that he ‘verbals’ Jesus by imposing his own concept of Christ onto the biblical texts.
The domesticated Jesus promoted by Martyn Iles does not engage in political action, so I presume he would neither support nor join the ACL.
His Jesus only cares about ‘saving souls’ and did not care about feeding the hungry, healing the sick, or letting the oppressed go free (fact check that claim against Luke 4:18–19).
Such a Jesus would not have bothered himself or his disciples with a campaign against a religious discrimination bill; or indeed opposed legislation for same-sex marriage. He just came to save souls.
This kind of Jesus crosses to the other side of the road when he encounters a victim lying wounded in the ditch. Nothing can be allowed to distract from saving souls.
He would not have protected a woman from death by stoning at the hands of a self-righteous religious mob. He would have invited the lady to accept Jesus into her heart but done nothing to address the immediate danger of killing by the authorities.
It seems that Martyn Iles frets over a secular Marxism that he sees in the DNA of every social movement, but is blissfully unperturbed by the multiple structural injustices which have promoted white prosperity at the expense of black lives, not to mention indigenous Australian lives.
He notes the correlation of black deaths with crime rates in black neighbourhoods, but he does not question why we have black neighbourhoods nor why poverty is allowed to continue in the wealthiest societies we have ever seen on the planet.
That myopia must be convenient.
Secular Marxism is a special worry to Martyn Iles.
He recycles the nonsensical idea that a secret KGB operation created liberation theology (apparently an especially virulent form of secular Marxism) to subvert Catholicism in Latin America, while simultaneously infiltrating the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
Some people do love conspiracy theories.
It seems that Martyn Iles has no idea that liberation theology occurs spontaneously any time that an oppressed person reads Scripture (not just the Gospels) through the lens of their own experience.
They may be peasants in Latin America, blacks in South Africa or the USA, Palestinians languishing under decades of illegal military occupation by Israel or—an LGBTQI Christian in a Sydney Anglican congregation.
Such is the power of Scripture when the Spirit of God moves in the heart of a reader.
However, as already mentioned, the deeper problem with the analysis promoted by the ACL, is its self-serving blindness to systemic evil.
Possibly the ACL members need to spend some time reading the prophets of ancient Israel. They make up quite a large section of the Bible, actually. Anyone who reads these texts could hardly miss the prophetic denunciation of injustice, poverty and exploitation.
Never mind the prophets, even Deuteronomy is crystal clear about what is expected of those who might seek God’s blessing on them:
Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Deut. 16:20)
If it is too much to ask dedicated Christians who support ACL to read the biblical prophets, perhaps they could find the time to reflect on the earliest version of the Lord’s Prayer and notice the raw edges of poverty in that prayer before we spiritualised it:
Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial. (Luke 11:2–4)
As a sequel, let me recommend Luke’s version of the Beatitudes:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. (6:20–21,23–25)
If even these brief epitomes of the central message of Jesus are too much for the ACL supporters to absorb, perhaps it would suffice for them simply to take to heart the words of the prophet Micah:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Sayings for the Soul: Now I Have Put My Words in Your Mouth: Jeremiah 1:9: Themes for Personal and Communal Meditation offers a mini resource for those who wish to deepen their spiritual journeys through prayer using mantras and sacred sayings.
In a time of
cultural turmoil and declining religious affiliation, at least in the West,
Christians are called back to recover time-honoured approaches to prayer. Karl
Rahner, a leading Jesuit theologian in the twentieth century, once wrote: The Christian in the future will be a mystic
or nothing at all. Mantras and sacred sayings in prayer lead one into this
The first section of the book is a summary of
key ideas towards an appreciation of mantras and sacred sayings in religion
generally and Christianity in particular.
and third sections of the book offer a compilation of over 160 popular biblical
and sacred sayings which may be helpful in choosing mantras and sacred sayings
section presents some examples of music and song as expressions of prayer.
I’ve been surprised at the response with a third print already half sold after just three weeks. The little booklet (A5) is really a personal one for people to deepen their own prayer life. Something is at work here with the response. Dr Kevin Treston
In this book, acclaimed religious scholar Geza Vermes subjects all the sayings of Jesus to brilliantly informed scrutiny. Profoundly aware of the limits of our knowledge but immersed in what we do have—both the “official” gospels and associated Jewish and early Christian texts—Vermes sieves through every quote ascribed to Jesus to let the reader get as close as possible to the charismatic Jewish healer and moralist who changed the world. The result is a book that creates a revolutionary and unexpected picture of Jesus—scraping aside the accretions of centuries to approach as close as we can hope to his true teaching.
Géza Vermes, FBA was a British academic, Biblical scholar, and Judaist of Hungarian Jewish origin—one who also served as a Catholic priest in his youth—and writer on history of religion, particularly Judaism and early Christianity. He wrote about the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient works in Aramaic such as the Targumim, and on the life and religion of Jesus. He was one of the most important voices in contemporary Jesus research, and he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time. Vermes’ written work on Jesus focuses principally on Jesus the Jew, as seen in the broader context of the narrative scope of Jewish history and theology, while questioning and challenging the basis of the Christian doctrine on Jesus.
Available from Amazon Australia in paperback for $31.99 free delivery, or in Kindle for $14.99
Thank you Tim O’Dwyer for this additional review of Vermes work. Go to Guardian Review
After a very detailed analysis of the book, Shortt concludes:
Two related conclusions spring from this. One is that small differences of gospel interpretation can lead to vastly differing verdicts on Jesus. The second is that no single map of the territory seems adequate. Geza Vermes is a respected guide. But don’t consult him in isolation.
· Rupert Shortt is author of Rowan Williams: An Introduction.
CRCOnline provides theological, liturgical and spiritual resources for anyone who wants to live with the questions rather than being told definitive answers; be rooted in the life, work and radical values of Jesus of Nazareth; celebrate the diversity of the Jesus community and engage with issues using the discourses of the contemporary world.
Explore the latest resources below and browse/search all resources using the menus. Find the resources that suit you: from prayers and spiritual reflections to in-depth theological articles, sermons to book reviews, media links to liturgies.
CRC was established in 2003 and based at St Mark’s Church Broomhill, Sheffield, UK. Its purpose was to explore the meaning of the Christian faith in the 21st century and to offer a fresh vision of an open and inclusive church, unafraid to ask the big questions.
St Mark’s CRC was committed to:
living with questions rather than finding answers
being rooted in Jesus of Nazareth
including and celebrating diversity in the community of Christ
engaging with issues using the discourses of the contemporary world.
CRCOnline promises to carry on exploring, commending and understanding the Christian faith and living in this spirit, engaging in critical yet creative dialogue between a living tradition reaching back to Jesus and the challenges and opportunities of our contemporary world, with the aim of helping people understand more what being followers of Jesus means today.
Go to: CRCOnline to examine the Resources around – Mysticism and Contemporary Spirituality, Embracing the Other (Jesus inclusivity), Eucharistic Prayers, Easter and Epidemics, Heaven is a Hologram, Prayers in time of Pandemic, etc.
John Marsh is a subscriber to the UCFORUM. He is in the early stages of doing doctoral research on Progressive Christianity. He is keen to get widespread responses from people who have an experience and opinion about Progressive Christianity as it is practiced in church communities.
“Some years ago Hal Taussig, a prominent American writer on Progressive Christianity, extensively surveyed Progressive Christian Communities in the USA , He wrote a book titled A New Spiritual Home in which he discussed his findings. He identified a number of characteristics of the ‘new spiritual vitality’ which he perceived in these communities, It is my intention, and hope, to conduct a survey exploring the extent to which these characteristics are mirrored in the Australian experience… I am hoping, as a self identified member of a ‘Progressive Christian’ community that you may be prepared to complete the Questionnaire attached to assist me in this project”.
He also states:
“I would want to confine my efforts to groups that had a shared sense of community – with a sense of being a worshipping community, therefore excluding groups that only gathered for discussion.”
So, if you have ever belonged to a congregation/group that practices or inclines towards progressive approaches to Christianity, your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Please contact John for a copy of his questionnaire at John Marsh and become a part of this worthwhile study.
THE ONCE AND FUTURE JESUS Exploring the afterlife of Jesus in world cultures.
Editor: Gregory C. Jenks Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
This set of essays explores the impact of Jesus within and beyond Christianity, including his many ‘afterlives’ in literature and the arts, social justice and world religion. It traces both the impact of Jesus on his devotees as well as his legacy among people who claim no religion.
INDICATIVE TABLE OF CONTENTS
Proposals for contributions around other topics which are clearly relevant to the collection are also most welcome.
SECTION ONE: JESUS BEFORE EASTER
Galilee in the first century 2. First-century Nazareth 3. Historical Jesus research 4. Jesus as a historical figure 5. Jesus the sage 6. Jesus the healer 7. Jesus the prophet 8. Jesus the rebel 9. The crucifixion of Jesus
SECTION TWO: THE CHRIST CULT
The Easter tradition 11. Jesus and the Q community 12. Jesus and the Pauline mission 13. Jesus in the Johannine community 14. Jesus and Judaism after Bar Kochba 15. Jesus and the Byzantine Empire 16. Jesus outside the Chalcedonian matrix
SECTION THREE: JESUS AS A GLOBAL CHARACTER
Jesus in Judaism 18. Jesus in the Quran 19. Jesus in medieval coins, 500–1500 CE 20. Jesus in other major religions 21. Jesus in alternative Christianities 22. Jesus in art 23. Jesus in literature 24. Jesus in film 25. Jesus in popular culture 26. Jesus and human rights 27. Jesus in the Antipodes 28. Jesus through Indigenous Australian eyes 29. Jesus in Pacific culture 30. The Judaic humanism of Jesus
• Chapters will normally be no longer than 6000 words • Chapters will be checked for suitability, language and grammar by our Desk Editors before being sent to the Guest Editor, and may be returned to the author for amendment and resubmission • Chapter authors will be asked to sign a short publishing contract on provisional acceptance. Chapters should be free of rights restrictions. Authors should have the authority to submit the chapter for publication. • Royalties will not be paid to chapter authors
Note: As with most of my “book reviews” this is not an attempt to give the potential readers a good summary of what they might expect from cover to cover of the book. It is a few of my impressions which may or may not lead others to read what this author has to say.
Some impressions by Rodney Eivers, 7th May 2020
really wanted to enjoy this book.
the author’s renown with previous titles, leading to television series,
Barracuda and The Slap, neither of which I had actually viewed, I looked to
sharing in the laudatory attention given to the writing of Christos Tsiolkas. I
had no reason to think that Damascus was other than “inspirational”. I
had read reviews of the book from such disparate sources as the ABC Ethics and
Religion Report and Eternity magazine.
confident was I of its being a good read that my wife had bought a copy of the
book to give to my 17-year-old grandson. Among other things, he had done some
religious studies at his high school. He
had just graduated last year. Furthermore, it seemed to me that it might be
just the sort of book (giving a bit of flesh and blood atmosphere to the early
Jesus movement) that would be an entertaining supplement to the more academic
titles which I give each month to a theological college. For this purpose, I
rushed out in the final days of the Christmas shopping rush to bag the last
three copies of Damascus available at my local Kmart.
was to be the first book of fiction I had read for about two years (for the
previous light reading I had been revisiting a number of the writings of
sheer coincidence when I mentioned this to a good friend and colleague of mine,
he said that he had started reading Damascus and recommended that I continue to
look at it myself. When I mentioned, however, that we were planning to give the
book to our 17-year-old he cautioned.
should read the first few chapters yourself first. It may take a rather special teenager to be
mature enough to cope with this text.”
that I have read Damascus from cover to cover, I think he may have been right.
Remember, I was anticipating something inspirational. It seems to me that
positive inspiration is something our world needs whether we are 17 or 70.
what do we find with Damascus? Christos
Tsiolkas seem to have sought to set the impact of biblical Paul realistically
into the setting of society as envisaged in the Mediterranean region governed
and influenced by the Roman imperialism. Perhaps reasonably accurately he
paints a picture of anger and violence being the norm for just about everybody.
life in that era always like that? I
notice on the back blurb to the book someone notes there are “sudden jags of tenderness”. That would be right. There is not much
tenderness displayed by anybody.
rule lasted for more than 400 to 500 years so it must have had something going
for it. There must have been people reasonably happy with it as long as you
stuck to the rules. I am reminded of the situation in China today, where
despite the protests of the people of Hong Kong, mainland Chinese seem happy to
accept their lot with a very autocratic regime grateful for the stability it
provides. I suppose you could argue that because they did not stick to the
rules, Paul and his lot including the whole Jewish nation got into trouble with
was certainly violence in Roman times. Nevertheless, one thing that I have long
puzzled over in relation to the Roman justice system, was that a fair-minded
legal system existed at all. It seems remarkable to me that someone presumably
as insignificant as Paul in relation to whole wide Roman empire, could go
before Governor Felix in Cyprus and be
packed off to Rome, with expensive guards and travel expenses to face further
court hearings at the far side of the empire.
To claim that this is because he was a Roman citizen does not sound very
convincing to me. Why not impale him, crucify him or feed him to the lions on
the spot when defying such a powerful entity? Would the Saudis, the Russians or
the Chinese provide such latitude for their citizens today?
back to the violence. In this story, sexual intimacy, whether homosexual or
heterosexual does not get much tenderness either. Nothing comparable to the
joyous sensuality of the Song of Solomon from an earlier ancient period. Homosexuality
is treated as something of shame or disgust (I am bit surprised by this as the
author is openly gay). Heterosexual relationships even within marriage are
characterised by rape. An ideal marital relationship is painted as no sexual
relations at all. We are told of men sleeping in each other’s arms, but it is
not clear whether this an emotional closeness or is a further euphemism for
what in the Old Testament is described as “knowing” one’s bed companion.
found the crudity of the language, grating. Nowadays this sort of interchange
is called “coarse” language. This
together with the angry tone may well be the popular style of writing today. I
came across this when reviewing some essays composed in a writing course at
Griffith University- so much anger!
“fucking” (or its Greek or Syrian counterpart) the general adjective of
emphasis with people at that time? Or is that an extension of a 21st
century norm when other general adjectives of emphasis in literary and film
media have gone by the board. What
happened to “damn!” and “bloody” of
earlier centuries? While writing these notes I read a review of another book about
Roman times. This claimed that insults were part of everyday life in ancient
Rome so perhaps Tsiolkas has got it right!
major theme of Damascus is the author’s design to set up a tension between the
people at that time who came to be called Christians regarding the nature of
Jesus. In order to do this, he introduces apostle Thomas as a twin of Jesus.
Thomas is made to represent those who saw Jesus as simply a charismatic human
being who brought a basically non-supernatural message of how to nurture a
better secular world here and now – The Kingdom of God. At least in the early
years under the sponsorship of Jesus’s brother James, this approach was
directed at the people of Israel and sought to retain Jewish culture including
notably such practices as male circumcision.
however, is the one who took the message far beyond Galilee and Jerusalem along
the Mediterranean coast and sought to make it universal. His message, though,
was heavily into the supernatural especially in the expectation that Jesus was
returning to earth someday soon. This aspect gets hammered quite a bit by
Tsiolkas. It is interesting of course – Tsiolkas acknowledges this although not
very clearly to my mind – that although Paul insists that he has “seen” the
resurrected Jesus, his own writings make it clear that it was not a face to
face encounter in the flesh but rather something of an intense vision.
own theological position is, of course, closer to that of Thomas (except for
the link to Hebrew culture) than of Paul. Tsiolkas has consulted a number of
what I regard as reputable literary sources, including, I was glad to see, the
gospel of Thomas. He has what I see as a curious, and to me somewhat
regrettable attitude to institutional Christianity. He acknowledges the
powerful cause for good which arose from Paul’s efforts but is not prepared to
call himself Christian because he does not “believe” in the resurrection. Is
“belief” in the physical resurrection a vital part of Christianity? If one sees
merit in the ethos of the pre-Easter Jesus rather than the post-Easter Jesus
which Paul promoted and proclaimed there may still be room to make the
following of the Jesus Way a worthy calling.
Christos Tsiolkas is trying to show there was merit in what eventuated from the
persuasiveness of Paul, the book fails to be convincing for me because of his depiction
of the personal characteristics of the main protagonists. None of them even our
hero, Paul, come across as lovely people. They are temperamental, speak
harshly, and are sometimes violent. In other words, somewhat hypocritical.
can I share this book with my teenager and trust that he will be inspired by
it? Or provide it to theological
students as they engage in their studies to make the world a better place? I don’t know. Maybe you, my readers, will
have some view on this.
Perhaps what Christos Tsiolkas seeks to remind us is of the ultimate outcome. Through the persistence, and demonstration of love by relatively weak and flawed personalities such as Paul, Thomas, Lydia, Timothy and others, the message survived and thrived. The Jesus presence with its ethic of the equal worthiness of all human beings, of loving one’s enemies, of stewardship rather than ownership of one’s assets, and of turning the other cheek (this gets a fair bit of mention in the book) in due course overcame the controlling influence of the Roman empire and left a legacy which remains with us to this day. That, indeed, is remarkable.
The Trail is a song of comfort for difficult times. It gives new words to a familiar hymn and provides a modern, progressive interpretation of the 23rd psalm.
Words and musical arrangement by Keith Sanford. Performance includes Keith Sanford on drums, percussion, keyboard synthesizers, and vocals.
The tune is Resignation (the tune for, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need), an anonymous melody found in Freeman Lewis’ Beauties of Harmony, 1828.
My feet they tamp the earth and stones that lay upon this trail And in wide meadows there I find a hope that will not fail I feel a touch upon my hand that pulls me to proceed To see the splendor, oh, so vast, there’s nothing more I need
To mountain streams, this trail does lead, with water splashing clear And there I rest upon the rocks and feel the goodness here I feel a touch upon my hand that pulls me to engage To seek the mysteries of the world, long pondered age to age
At times this trail may lead me down to valleys dark and low Where shades of death may chill the skin and nothing there will grow But then that touch upon my hand it causes me to rise And still I hope for goodness here, as stars light up dark skies
For more information and music lead sheet go to The Trail
Clay Nelson, a colleague in New Zealand, tells a story about a journalist who was stationed in Jerusalem. The journalist’s apartment overlooks the Western Wall which is the holiest site in Judaism. Every day when the journalist looks out towards the Wall, she sees an old Jewish man praying vigorously. One day the journalist goes down and introduces herself to the old man. As a journalist, she cannot resist interviewing the old man. “You come every day to the wall. How long have you done this and what are you praying for?”
The old man replies, “I have come here to pray every day for 25 years. In the morning, I pray for world peace and then for the wellbeing of humanity. I go home, and I have a cup of tea, and I come back and I pray for the eradication of illness and disease from all the earth.”
The journalist is intrigued and asks, “How does it make you feel to come here every day for 25 years and pray for these things?” The old man looks at the journalist with great sadness and replies, “It feels like I’m talking to a damn wall!”
The Progressive Christian book club, which has been meeting for over 2 years every month, has just finished reading Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas. A book that takes you on a wild ride through the time of the early Jesus followers, but particularly the time of Paul. We hear the blood and guts and reality of living in the Roman Empire, and Pauls conversion from a Jewish condemner of those followers to one who himself followed, in vivid detail. But we also hear the humanity in him, and the other leaders of the time. Voices from the past include not only Paul, but Timothy, James, Thomas and Onesimus, the freed slave of Phiimon, who is called Able in the book. We are presented with the variety of understandings of Jesus found even then, near the beginning of our faith tradition.
As Dennis Ryle wrote in his review, we see how leaders and followers negotiate the interactions of Jew and gentile, the Greek cults and Roman tyranny to be fourth generation Christ followers in a challenging world. Particularly when the expectation of those who thought Jesus would return, bringing in a new heaven and a new earth,went unfulfilled.
It is not for the faint hearted, and the descriptions of the bloody times, and the barbarity that some would go to, particularly the Romans to keep people in line are shocking. But also, Pauls struggles with his own desires, and his own need to find faith that speaks to him is also written with energy and gusto. Ultimately, Paul finds that faith in the Jesus story, but the journey is not easy.
Many in the book club didn’t enjoy the book, it was difficult to read the full-on pace of the it, and the inevitable descriptions of death and destruction and grief and yes, even doubt, in the first century CE.
Yet others found it insightful, and courageous. I was one of those.
Several progressive congregations are now using A Joyful Path which is a truly progressive children’s curriculum. Today, children are seriously undernourished when it comes to spirituality. They are either taught dogma or secularism. Children need to know that they are Divine beings and that following the path of Jesus in today’s world means being a spiritual warrior of radical inclusion and deep reverence.
The program has been written byDeshna Shine for ProgressiveChristianity.org. You can help spread this curriculum to children all around the world by supporting a GOFUNDME project that Deshna has started.
[Jim Burklo is an ordained United Church of Christ pastor who serves as the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. He is the author of BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians (2008) and OPEN CHRISTIANITY: Home By Another Road (2000) – both available from the “store ” at www.tcpc.org. Jim served as pastor of Sausalito (CA) Presbyterian Church, and of College Heights UCC Church in San Mateo, CA, served as ecumenical Protestant campus minister at Stanford University, and was the founder and executive director of the interfaith Urban Ministry of Palo Alto. His Masters of Divinity degree is from San Francisco Theological Seminary.]
“Christianity needs a new narrative based on the elements of the Easter week myths. Here is an option: Rabbi Jesus practiced and taught radical compassion to the people of Israel. This threatened the authority of the Jewish elite and the Roman occupiers, so they killed him on a cross – from which he forgave them. This unconditional love prevailed beyond his death and lived on in his followers, who regrouped and formed a new, compassionate community of faith. In this narrative, Jesus and his followers are not victims. Jesus was an agent of positive action, and so are we who follow him. The transformative power of this narrative inspires us to forgive.
For progressive Christians, forgiveness is not in the supernatural hands of a Guy-In-The-Sky God. Forgiveness is up to us. Just as it was up to Jesus whether or not to forgive the people who crucified him. The mythic narratives of Easter week speak for our souls as we recognize our pain, loss, and disappointment, and move from being victims to becoming active agents of positive personal and social transformation. Fred Luskin summarizes forgiveness as the release of our attachment to enforcing unenforceable rules we’ve constructed. We think that our HTOTB’s (How Things Ought to Be) really are the immutable laws of the universe. But other people in fact do get to make choices, even if they hurt us. And we get to make our own choices in the aftermath, as well.”
What Is Progressive Christianity—And Why Do We Need It? by Steve Kindle
In a nutshell, Progressive Christianity recognizes that the world has moved on in its understanding of how the world works—and that Christianity hasn’t. Most denominations and many Christians still live in the 4th century of the church. That is, they accept the creedal formulations of that age, as well as the prescientific worldview, as relevant to our own, even though they are based on understandings that our age no longer finds credible.
Since the Nicene Creed (325 CE), we have learned our planet is round (spherical), and the sun is the center of our solar system; the earth is billions of years in the making; that humans, as all of life, emerged through a process of biological evolution; that germs cause disease, that the universe is expanding and there is nothing beyond it. All of which is not only unknown in the Bible, but it teaches the very opposite. Unfortunately, many Christians refuse to accept these realities. They deny evolution, teach that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old, and still live in a three-tiered universe with God “up there” and hell below us. (Yes, and some even refuse medical help and prefer “faith healing.”)
Progressive Christianity offers searchers who accept the modern scientific worldview a way of respecting it and how the Bible and Christianity can be relevant in this world. Many of our churches advertise themselves as a place where you don’t have to leave your brain at the door. In fact, Progressive Christians revel in the questions life presents and understand that whatever we think we know is always tentative and in need of further clarification. You may find principles among us but not creeds that define what you must believe. That’s that old way of doing Christianity that only leads to triumphalism, elitism, and division.
What are some of the principles that unite us? We need to be clear that Progressive Christianity is not monolithic, and represents many different points of view. But there are some things that most would find hospitable. Here are a few:
Just as people of the Bible lived according to their understanding of the world, we must live according to ours. This is not a repudiation of the biblical worldview, but a recognition that there is no other way life can be lived. To try to do otherwise is ultimately self-defeating. The differences between the biblical world and ours illuminate why we need to move on from it, yet offer us ways to make sense of our own. The fact that ancients believed that God created the world in six days may miss the evolutionary point, but it does point to God as the reality behind creation.
The Bible is the record of certain humans’ encounters with the divine, and as such is a rich source of spiritual wisdom that can transcend the ages. It discloses points of view about God and humanity that resonate today. The inspiration of the Bible comes from our relationship with the stories and the people, not from any supernatural input from God that directly resulted in its words. The sense that God dictated the Bible turns it into a legalistic text that functions more like law than grace. Rather than seek the presence of God in our lives, as is the case of the biblical characters, we then become those who must obey the text. Progressive Christians see these as mutually exclusive.
God is seen as transcendent and immanent. God is wholly other than any aspect of creation, yet resides wholly within it. Since the universe is a self-contained whole, God must be not only part of it but within all of it. God does not reside beyond it “looking down upon us.” Being in touch with every aspect of creation means that God relates to all things, and this certainly includes you and me. Prayer is as close as our breath.
Jesus lived as close to God as anyone can and, consequently, is able to model what a life fully devoted to God looks like. This includes his teachings and actions. As disciples of Jesus, we seek to model our lives after his. In particular, this means that we move away from a religion about Jesus and into the religion of Jesus: God-centered, love-driven, and inclusive of all. We measure the value of all actions by the Golden Rule.
Salvation is oriented to this life, not the hereafter. This is not to deny an afterlife, but we believe that God’s purpose is for the earth not only to prosper but thrive. The Kingdom of God is to be found “on earth as it is in heaven,”
God as Trinity is a useful metaphor but is based on ancient Greek ideas of substance that are no longer helpful. That God relates to all creation as Creator, Savior, and Sustainer
We at Faith on the Edge provide pastors and congregations with means to develop these progressive themes. We do so through a series of videos that lead viewers through the process of seeing the Bible in new ways. Ways that enlighten and transform.
The mission of Faith on the Edge is to revitalize the church for the 20th Century.
“A religion is as much a progressive unlearning of false ideas concerning God as it is the learning of true ideas concerning God.” ~Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan
Dominion: The making of the western mind, 2019, Little, Brown Book group, London.
Christianity is the most enduring and influential legacy of the ancient world, and its emergence the single most transformative development in Western history. Even the increasing number in the West today who have abandoned the faith of their forebears, and dismiss all religion as pointless superstition, remain recognisably its heirs. Seen close-up, the division between a sceptic and a believer may seem unbridgeable. Widen the focus, though, and Christianity’s enduring impact upon the West can be seen in the emergence of much that has traditionally been cast as its nemesis: in science, in secularism, and yes, even in atheism.
That is why Dominion will place the story of how we came to be what we are, and how we think the way that we do, in the broadest historical context.
ABC Radio National Podcast interview between Tom Holland and Geraldine Dougue:
PCN EXPLORERS: Wednesday 25th March, 10 am
(for 10:30 start),
Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd,
A Progressive Take on Resurrection:
Dr Cliff Hospital will facilitate the morning’s exploration on this subject – relevant to us all as we approach the Easter Season. His argument will be that in order to arrive at a critical take on the resurrection event and its implications for Christian faith and life in the contemporary world, we need to begin with an honest awareness that traditional orthodox Christian thinking reflects a composite of disparate strands of tradition available to us in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Quran, etc.
So, to explain the question “Which
Resurrection?”: Is it the collective resurrection of the people
Israel (Ezekiel 37)? Is it the raising of dead individuals on the last
day–the day of judgment–shared by the Pharisees, but not the Saducees, by Christians
following Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52, by Muslims following many passage in
the Quran such as sura 78: 17-40? Is it the thinking reflected in Jesus
words to the good thief crucufied with him: “…today you will be
with me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 43)? Is it the earliest accounts of
resurrection appearances of Jesus found in Paul’s letters, and most fully in 1
Corinthians 15: 3-8, which includes the appearance to Paul himself? Is it
the apparently related distinction made by Paul later in 1 Corinthians 15
between a physical body and a spiritual body (the latter being the body of the
raised dead)? Is it the resurrection as depicted in the gospels and Acts
1, with forty days of appearances (little in common among the accounts)
culminating in the Lukan narrative of Jesus’ ascension into heaven from Bethany
(Luke 24:50) or the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12)?
Cliff will attempt to develop a plausible account of this
diversity; thus Part A.
Part B of the talk will look at a variety of modern
expressions of resurrection faith and hope that he finds persuasive in the
light of our conclusions of Part A.
Come at 10 for ‘eat, meet and greet’ and we will get started at 10:30. Finished by 12. Some venture to Moray Cafe for lunch – all welcome to that for more opportunity for friendship and further exploration.
‘The Easter story culminating in the
resurrection of Jesus stands at the heart of Christian faith and celebration.
But in the modern world is the story still believable? And does it still have
transformative power for modern living? The scriptures contain a mix of
attitudes to life after death, and the resurrection stories themselves contain
a mysterious mix of the physical and mystical. John Queripel argues that we can
no longer hold to a literal understanding of these accounts, but neither can we
see the resurrection as merely delusion and wish-fulfilment.’
75th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s death will be 8th April.
‘In the final days of World War II, early one frosty morning, a young German pastor was taken from his cell by his Nazi captors and led to his place of execution. Coming from one of Berlin’s leading families, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s already brilliant academic and church career was thus brutally terminated. Bonhoeffer found himself in such a strange place for a theologian, being one of the very few in the German Church who stood resolutely opposed to the Nazis to the point where he, as a one-time pacifist, became deeply involved in the conspiratorial plot to kill Hitler and bring down the regime. This course of action saw him enter the murky sphere of secrecy and duplicity as a member of the conspiracy, while two-timing the Nazis as a member of military intelligence. Using that official role, Bonhoeffer was able to travel and communicate with his international ecumenical contacts as part of the conspiracy’s attempt to strike a deal with the Allies to end the war. From a dark period, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, brave and resolute, stands as a bright and shining light.’ Information on my books is available on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JohnHenryQueripel/
Last year, the Queensland Parliament voted to authorise its Health Committee to hold public hearings throughout Queensland to assess public attitudes to Voluntary Assisted Dying and Palliative Care. They did an extraordinary job of holding hearings far and wide across the State and encouraging all opinions to be expressed.
I spoke at one of the hearings and it was evident that there was huge support for Queenslanders to have the right to choose to end their lives peacefully and in comfort when faced with an incurable illness. It was also clear that people felt that palliative care services were not adequate and were not an alternate to Voluntary Assisted Dying as many people will choose both. People who attended other hearings gained the same impression as I did.
At the same time as the public hearings were being held, The Clem Jones Foundation conducted a professional survey of community attitudes on the matter and found that at least three out of every four Queenslanders believed that they should have the right to elect to end their lives via Voluntary Assisted Dying.
So, we now await the report of the Health Committee which is due to present it to Parliament no later than 31 March this year. I have no inside information on the matter but my gut feeling is that the Committee will recommend that Legislation to legalise Voluntary Assisted Dying be placed before the Parliament for a conscience vote as soon as possible.
The key issue is whether or not the Premier will decide to hold the vote before or after the election which is due in October, 2020. If she delays the vote it will become a huge election issue with every candidate being forced to state their position on it.
In my role as Campaign Leader of Dying With Dignity Queensland, I am pushing hard for an immediate vote and I have no doubt that it will passed by the Parliament.
To press the case for a vote before the election, Dying With Dignity is holding a Rally on THURSDAY, 19 MARCH AT 1.00PM AT SPEAKERS CORNER, which is in George Street just over the road from Parliament. We have a police permit and have invited every member of Parliament to attend. Some have already accepted our invitation.
This event is not a protest gathering and will neither march nor block the traffic nor abuse MP’s. We are simply asking the Parliament to vote urgently to authorise Voluntary Assisted Dying in Queensland for those who so choose, similarly to the right that Victorians and Western Australians now have.
I am one of the speakers and my task is to state why, as a Church Elder, I am publicly supporting Voluntary Assisted Dying when the Churches of Queensland have joined together to make a submission to the Inquiry opposing it.
The key factor is that they believe that God decides who lives or dies. I have never ever believed that. God gives you and me the spiritual power to handle whatever life and death throw up at us. With death being an inevitable and unavoidable part of life, why let many people suffer agony to get there.
I will be a definite candidate for Voluntary Assisted Dying if ever I face a terminal illness and I have advised my family in writing that this is my wish.
Indeed, if I become geriatric and am to be committed to a nursing home I will find a way to end my life. I have had a wonderful life and I am not going to end it as a vegetable. And I am not going to waste money on pointlessly and selfishly staying alive when I want my grandkids to have as much of my estate as possible.
Churches, by opposing Voluntary Assisted Dying, are actually encouraging suicide and this is utterly irresponsible. There is clear and irrefutable evidence that people crash their cars in single car accidents because they want out and the laws of the land are denying them the basic democratic right to determine how they will live and die.
So, please come along to Speakers Corner on Thursday, 19 March at 1.00pm and help to convince Parliament that VAD legislation must pass the Parliament before the Election.
There are many Twitter and Facebook friends whom I have not ever met so I hope you will come along and say hello. And if you have any doubts about either the morals or ethics or legality of VAD, lets have a respectful chat about it.
SOFiA is a network of Australians interested in openly exploring issues of life and meaning through reason, philosophy, ethics, religion, science and the arts. We want to explore for ourselves what we can believe and how we can find meaning in our lives.
SOFiA has no philosophical or religious position beyond a desire to ‘openly explore’: it is a forum for discussing ideas, experiences and possibilities.
Any who find themselves in sympathy with our purpose – exploring life and meaning in an open and non-dogmatic manner – are most welcome to join us.
For enquiries about local events/groups please see the local group details.
SoFiA members receive 6 editions of the SoFiA Bulletin annually. Subscription fees are $20 for 10 years’ membership.
The Bulletin is available either as an email attachment or in paper form.
The preferred method for payment is direct bank transfer. Please email email@example.com to request our bank account details. You’ll need to use your own bank’s online banking facility to make the payment. Please use your surname in describing the payment.
Payment through the post by cheque or money order is also possible.
Please note: for overseas members, the SoFiA Bulletin is available only as an email attachment.
If you’d like to join SoFiA please complete and send the membership application together with either direct debit payment or a cheque/money order to:
The Membership Secretary 14 Richardson St Lane Cove NSW 2066
Dr Peter Lewis has produced a second edition of his very interesting book The Ending of Mark’s Gospel.
This is essentially the same content, just expanded a little. A few changes have been made and two chapters added If you have the first edition, no need to rush out and buy the second but new readers should look out for the second edition.
Peter’s hope is that this rational investigation of the abrupt ending to Mark’s Gospel will be a key to understanding how the gospels came to be the way they are. He sees this as integral to revitalising the faith.
“Given the clericalism, abuse, discrimination and lack of proper governance within the Catholic Church, in 2011 Fr Greg Reynolds, a priest of the Melbourne Archdiocese for 31 years, set up a new community, called Inclusive Catholics to embrace those disillusioned with institutional churches. In this community all are welcome without question, especially lapsed Catholics as well as survivors of clerical abuse, divorcees, those who support women’s ordination and LGBTIQA+ people.
This community strives to let all voices be heard and equally considered when planning and celebrating worship and other events. It is now a democratic organisation led by an elected Stewardship Team with Greg Reynolds as pastor. Inclusive Catholics holds fortnightly Eucharistic celebrations at Glen Iris Road Uniting Church Community Centre, monthly lecture-discussions in member’s homes, social dinners, silent retreats and luncheon gatherings where personal stories can be shared.”
“We are all deeply committed to Gospel values and caring for the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our society and the world. We each respond to the call in our own personal way, as we accept and support each other’s approach, gifts and priorities. Above all, our hearts and prayers go out to those who suffer abuse, injustice and oppression. We are a diverse range of personalities, with a wide range of social justice priorities. Early on we decided not to set up our own separate social justice group, but rather to support individual members in the various organisations and activities that they are involved in. For example members are involved in or connected with groups such as IPAN (the Independent & Peaceful Australia Network), Pax Christi, WATAC (Women and The Australian Church), St Mary’s in Exile, Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Acceptance, BASP (Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project), Love Makes a Way, ARRCC (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change), Catholics for Renewal, ACCCR (Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform), Quakers, and various Christian Churches especially Glen Iris Road Uniting Church and St Oswald’s Anglican Church. “
This is an open table and any believer who wishes to receive Holy Communion is welcome. Eucharist is celebrated on the first and third Sundays of each month at Glen Iris Road Uniting Church, 200 Glen Iris Road, Glen Iris at 5.00 pm, preceded by optional quiet meditation at 4.40pm
1ST & 3RD SUNDAYS OF EACH MONTH, 5PM
GLEN IRIS UNITING CHURCH
THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has admitted the Church of England is still “deeply institutionally racist” as he speaks out about its treatment of black and minority ethnic people. Justin Welby has spoken of his personal shame at the Church of England’s institutional racism and has promised to replace a “hostile environment” with a hospitable welcome. Speaking at a meeting of the Church’s ruling body, the General Synod, the Archbishop said he was “ashamed” of its history of racism. Mr Welby said he was “almost beyond words” after hearing about the racism faced by minority parishioners, priests and officials within the church.
The Archbishop added: “There is no doubt when we look at our own church that we are still deeply institutionally racist.”
Mr Welby’s comments come as Synod members voted unanimously for a motion to apologise for racism in the Church of England since the Windrush generation arrived in the UK.
The body also voted to “stamp out conscious or unconscious” racism.
The General Synod also voted to request research on how racism had influenced the fall in member numbers and the increase in church closures over the years.
The church will also now appoint an independent person to assess racism within its ranks and seek to increase the number of BAME Anglicans seeking ordination.
Mr Welby, who decided to “ditch” a prepared speech and make off-the-cuff remarks, said church appointment panels – including the crown nominations commission, which recommends new bishops – needed to have better minority ethnic representation, along with longlists and shortlists for senior clergy posts.
He said: “We did not do justice in the past. We do not do justice now.
“And unless we are radical and decisive in this area in the future, we will still be having this conversation in 20 years’ time and still doing injustice, the few of us that remain.”
The leader of the Church of England added the Church’s “hostile environment” must become a “hospitable, welcoming one” and called for “radical and decisive” progress to put an end to institutional racism.
RONA2020 – “Rights of Nature Australia 2020” – is a national arts celebration, organised by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA). The National Exhibition will run from 12-17 October 2020 in Brisbane, in conjunction with AELA’s week of exploring and celebrating the Rights of Nature.
In 2020, the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) will be co-hosting a range of arts activities and events under the theme of “Voices of Nature”. This theme will encourage the exploration of the concepts of ‘voice’, ‘standing’, ‘representation’, and ‘agency’ of the natural world within human governance systems. The theme also promotes AELA’s desire to focus on sound art and acoustic ecology as key mediums for communicating and exploring nature’s voice(s).
AELA is excited to be partnering with the Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology (AFAE) to generate dynamic, cross-disciplinary interactions and projects for RONA2020. And we look forward to engaging with the science, technology, art, wonder, and acoustic expertise of the AFAE members.
The Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) is a national not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to increase the understanding and practical implementation of Earth centred governance in Australia, with a focus on law, economics, education, ethics and the arts. AELA’s work is inspired by the theory and practice of Earth jurisprudence, which is a governance philosophy and growing social movement. Earth jurisprudence proposes that we rethink our legal, political, economic and governance systems so that they support, rather than undermine, the integrity and health of the Earth.
The need for new governance systems has never been greater: as we face a climate changed world and transition away from our destructive reliance of fossil fuels, human societies need to create new ways of working together and nurturing the wider Earth community.
AELA works to build long term systemic change, so that human societies can shift from human centred to Earth centred governance. Our vision is to create human societies that live within their ecological limits, respect the rights of nature and enjoy productive, sustainable economies that nurture the health of the wider Earth community.
AELA carries out its work by supporting multi-disciplinary teams of professionals engaged in research, education, publications, community capacity building and creating new models of Earth friendly governance. Our team includes Indigenous community leaders, lawyers, economists, scientists, deep ecologists, artists and community development practitioners. AELA works on a membership-participation model and is powered by committed volunteers, who work together as individuals and organisations across Australia. All our work is driven by our members’ interests and commitment – so become a member and get involved!
The Unexpected Light is a book which seeks to inspire through the experience of science, history, and art, rather than theological rhetoric – reaching out to people not necessarily committed to the Christian faith but perhaps interested in it.
The aim is to show how mercy is not just a doctrine, not just a teaching – although these are important things – but rather, a force integral to the future of human life on earth. Peter Fleming examines science, history, art – unified in faith. In a world which is imperfect by its very nature, mercy is a logical response to its people and to human behaviour.
Reflections from a Year of Mercy
By: Peter Fleming
Pages: 160 Publisher:Morning Star Publishing Dimensions:148mm x 210mm ISBN: 9780648118664
WHAT HAPPENED? … studying the Rabbi Yeshuah story … 15 THESES
In concluding a session of my limited observations and drawing on life-long learning, I arrive at some opinions (an opinion, it is said, being midway between fact and belief). There is no weakness in me admitting that I may be wrong:
I am a citizen of Planet Tellus where all human observations, conclusions and
opinions are tentative and challengeable; I make it clear that philosophy invites us to challenge our
most cherished assumptions on a regular basis, even when those assumptions are
as life-defining as religious assumptions often are. “There are no sacred cows
in philosophy; everything is up for scrutiny, fair game to be
challenged.” For Kant & Descartes
‘doubt’ is the key to wisdom.-(ii) A human who has totally died does not come back to everyday
life again and so there was no resurrection;
Virgin-Mary type pregnancies don’t occur. It’d mean that her infant
would have had no male DNA;
All miracles are scientifically suspect; consider Apostle Simon-Peter
walking on water.
-(v) The existence of
divinity or divine-nature is theologically suspect; I see a human Rabbi Yeshuah
as more impressive than a divine rabbi.
-(vi) That great literary work, the Bible, is a wholly
human construct, written by human hands. It has therefore very questionable
verisimilitude on account of its many discrepancies, contradictions and
mistakes (fake news and false facts). It also contains lots of sublime wisdom;
-(vii) You must distrust churchianity, i.e., traditional
institutional christianity, because of the christology that it created which
was presented to followers as divinely revealed deposit-of-faith dogma ;
-(viii) Faith is often the enemy of evidential fact. Assertions
without evidence may merit denial without evidence;
-(ix) History shows for me no evidence of what I
taught as a catechist (scripture-teacher) for 20 years, “Adonai-God the
Father is a loving, caring God”. Prayer may be beneficial but no one is
-(x) It has been difficult for me to arrive at
these theses; it has taken me 8 decades of devoted application trying to find
-(xi) I declare that these observations are for me
joyful and liberating.
I perceive Rabbi Yeshuah as the most completely valid and most completely
convincing practitioner of goodness and integrity (as the inspiring principles
of all human action) that the world has ever known;
As one born saved I spiritually embrace Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth as my mentor.
He is Israel’s greatest prophet, an original thinker, inspiring preacher,
gifted healer & exorcist, convincing teacher of wisdom and integrity,
Jewish mystic, model of kingdom-oriented life-style and promulgator of the
ancient Hebrew ethics of open hospitality and neighbourly love with esteem for
Adonai-Yahweh-Elohim as our loving Father.
Yeshuah of Nazareth died two millenia ago, having emerged from the Hebrew
Israelite Jewish community;
he summed up the essential of its wisdom discoveries. He was able to speak
divine truth with humanity’s own voice. His brief physical presence on the
earth changed the course of history in innumerable ways. We rightly honour him
in titling him as ‘anointed son of God’.
-(xv) I walk through life hand-in-hand with this most admirable spiritual preceptor and I silently converse with him, and I greet his mother too.  [ Kevin Aryeh Hatikvah Smith in Sydney 01/11/2019 / re-edited 09-02-’20 ]
If you have seen the Oscar-nominated movie The Two Popes, you will know it ends with Francis and his predecessor, Benedict, cheering on their teams, as Argentina and Germany play each other in the soccer world cup.
This fictional account of their relationship is drawing millions of viewers. But in real life there’s widening gulf between the so-called Francis and Benedict factions of the church.
The cause of the latest tension is a new book about compulsory celibacy for priests. Are hard-line traditionalists in the church using the 93-year-old former Pope to undermine Francis and his reforms?
For a video clip from the ABC Religion and Ethics site on this topic, go to The Two Popes.
By Naomi Neilson|28 January 2020 , first published in the Lawyers Weekly
Edward Santow has been Human Rights Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission since August 2016.
Ed leads the Commission’s work on technology and human rights; refugees and migration; human rights issues affecting LGBTI people; counter-terrorism and national security; freedom of expression; freedom of religion; and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).
Ed’s areas of expertise include human rights, public law and discrimination law. He is a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Human Rights and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and serves on a number of boards and committees.
In 2009, Ed was presented with an Australian Leadership Award, and in 2017, he was recognised as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
From 2010-2016, Ed was chief executive of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a leading non-profit organisation that promotes human rights through strategic litigation, policy development and education.
Ed was previously a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Law School, a research director at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and a solicitor in private practice.
Certain provisions to the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill have been rejected as being too “severe” and unduly restrict the rights of entire communities of people, said the Australian Human Rights commissioner.
Speaking at a Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) forum hosted at Gilbert + Tobin, commissioner Edward Santow said that while welcoming the government intention to fill in gaps in the law that leave people of faith unprotected, several provisions will only serve to “taint the bill as a whole” and set anti-discrimination laws back further.
“The majority of the bill is an appropriate and conventional law to prohibit any religious discrimination. The majority of the bill is similar to existing laws, here and overseas, in dealing with discrimination of religion, race, age and sex,” Mr Santow said at the forum. “But we have serious concerns about other aspects of the bill.
“We need to consider whether the bill’s problems are so severe they taint the bill as a whole. For me, the short answer is yes. In my view, certain elements of the bill are so problematic that the bill should not proceed unless those problems are addressed.”
Mr Santow pointed to several provisions in the bill the Human Rights Commission has taken issue with, which he added were “unique, even radical”. He noted that there was nothing like these provisions in Australian, or international, law.
For one, under the provisions, corporations can claim they were discriminated against based on associations. Mr Santow said that by claiming this, it is inconsistent with laws both national and international, but would also be inconsistent with logic and common sense “to suggest a corporation’s feelings have been hurt”.
“It’s axiomatic that human rights are for humans,” Mr Santow said. “If you need to be persuaded on this, just remember human rights exist to protect quintessentially human qualities, especially human qualities. And yet, the bill would allow some corporations to claim that they suffered from religious discrimination.”
The bill also allows religious bodies – including schools, charities and providers – to be exempt from religious discrimination law. As such, they are permitted [to] be discriminatory if it is in “good faith and in accordance with religious doctrines”. For example, a teacher of faith at a religious childcare centre can discriminate against a single mother.
“It undercuts protections against religious discrimination, particularly in sections such as employment and the provisions of goods and services. In other words, a significant portion of the bill isn’t about prohibiting religious discrimination, it does something that is the exact opposite of that,” Mr Santow said, adding that the bill would give “license” to certain parties to engage in discriminatory conduct based on their beliefs.
Mr Santow added that parts of the bill, if it proceeds, will override all anti-discrimination laws because it would favour one group’s rights over another.
“We believe that the bill would be easy to fix. The problematic provisions with this bill seem to have been tacked onto a much more conventional bill. If you were to remove the problematic elements, you would be left with a typical anti-discrimination law,” he said.
Dear Friends in the Progressive Christianity Network and other interested people,
The Progressive Christian Network meeting at Merthyr Rd Uniting Church New Farm, Brisbane is please to advise that notable organist and soprano/choir leader, DrSteven and Mrs Adele Nisbet from St Andrews, Creek Street Uniting Church, Brisbane will be the guest leaders at our next Seminar in February (see below). All welcome.
The first month of the year has almost passed so I guess any new year celebrations are forgotten and we are ready to start up regular activities and commitments. We have grieved along with all Australians the loss of life, property, wild life, farm animals and livelihoods in the devastating bushfires. Today we have both celebrated our Australian life and mourned the hurt caused to its First People.
Shirley Erena Murray died peacefully in Paraparaumu, NZ.
Probably most of us did not know Shirley personally, but many have found her words of songs to be helpful on their own progressive journey. In Shirley’s own words: “Go gently, go lightly, go safe in the spirit”
PCN EXPLORERS: Wednesday 26th Feb, 10 am (for 10:30
Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm
All are welcome to join us as Steven and Adele Nisbet help us explore some new songs that express our faith. New words to old tunes, new words to new tunes. Come at 10 for ‘eat, meet and greet’ and we will get started at 10:30. Finished by 12. Some venture to Moray Cafe for lunch – all welcome to that for more opportunity for friendship and further exploration.
The love of God crosses all boundaries. Every. Single. One.
Every day, millions of people lament the loss of civility, respect, and hope, and they wonder if it’s possible to cultivate a love big enough to overthrow hate and heal our hurts. With courage, authenticity, and relevance, Jacqueline A. Bussie proclaims, “Yes! It’s possible!” and urges readers to widen love’s wingspan and to love as God loves–without limits or exceptions.
In Love Without Limits, Bussie imparts practical solutions for people of faith who yearn to love across division and difference in these troubled times. Through poignant personal memoir, engaging theological reflection, inspiring true stories of boundary-busting friendships, creative readings of scripture, and surprising shout-outs to some of love’s unsung heroes, Bussie challenges readers to answer God’s call to practice a love so deep, it subverts the social order; so radical, it scandalizes the powerful; so vast, it excludes no one.
“A must-read for all Christians interested in inclusivity for their communities.” –Publishers Weekly
A Joyful Path, Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds
Uniting Church Dayboro uses “A Joyful Path” for the children’s curriculum. It is a curriculum for children in today’s world. We use it to create Christian practice and teaching that builds in the children a greater concern for the way people treat each other than simply what, if, & how a person believes. The curriculum affirms the variety & depth of human experience. The Joyful Path is first and foremost about teaching and practicing Christian spirituality rather than any exclusive dogma. It seeks to create a foundation of fair, open, peaceful & loving treatment for all human beings. Its primary lesson is to help children discover and relate to the Divine in themselves and each other. Many of the lessons focus on ways that we can practice the same compassion with all as Jesus spoke and demonstrated so often. The Joyful path is just that, & not a mere retelling of the old Bible stories. In the words of Bishop John Shelby Spong “(it) does not equate faith with having a pre-modern mind”. The curriculum provides a Sunday space that you can invite the children of your unchurched friends & family without fear or embarrassment.
Now in our 3rd year of using this curriculum, we have been very pleased with the response of kids, parents, congregation and church council.
Some of the Authors and Teachers drawn upon in writing this curriculum: Eckhart Tolle Houston Smith Rumi Paul Knitter Thomas Berry Paul Tillich Jack Cornfield Meister Eckhart Robin Wall Kimmerer Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox Bishop Jack Spong Marcus Borg Rabbi Zalman Val Webb Sallie Mcfague AND MORE!
38 lessons each year focus on:
suggestions for personal and group reflection (the instructor, the students and the students in community with one another);
resources to expand awareness to other cultures, religions and ways of knowing;
practices to invite spiritual discovery, awareness and application;
embodied activities for direct encounters and experience;
brainstorms for further action and engagement with the community;
rituals for celebrating the gifts Earth provides in each of the 4 seasons; and
ceremonies to explore gratitude, engagement/being in the struggling, peace-making, and forgiveness
Explorers’ first 2020 meeting will take place next Monday
evening 3rd February in
the ground-floor meeting room at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Ave Redcliffe 4020),
starting at 6 p.m. As usual, the first half-hour will provide an
opportunity to enjoy fellowship, with tea/coffee and biccies provided. Entry is
free, but a gold-coin donation to defray costs would be appreciated.
We will be starting to review and discuss what we think is a
particularly important and timely book, titled God, Ethics and the
Secular Society. Written by Melbourne-based Uniting Church
member and former ordained Congregational minister John Gunson, the book deals
with the vexed question of the future of the Church, and what such a future
might look like. According to the author, it is the end-product of a lifelong
search for the answer to the questions: How can we help to make a better
world?, How ought we to live?, How can we find the motivation to do the truth
when we find it? And what do we mean by the word ‘God’? Gunson finds the
answers in what he calls ethical ecology, and in the life and teaching
of an ancient sage – Jesus of Nazareth – who confronts us with the simple yet
profound challenge: “Overcome evil with good”.
In addition, we’ll discuss a very recent sermon titled ‘In
This Life’ by Rev Dr Roger Ray, Pastor of the Emerging Church in
Springfield, Missouri. Rev Ray gives a refreshingly candid and matter-of-fact
account of the ‘soul’, our mortality (or immortality?), and eternity, and how
our understanding of these should affect the way we act.
Our Explorer meetings are open to anyone prepared to think
outside the square and engage in friendly, civilised discussion about the big
questions of life. If you’re not a regular attender of our gatherings you might
like to contact Ian Brown (0401 513 723 or firstname.lastname@example.org) for
From – Lawyers Weekly (Thanks to Tim O’Dwyer for referring us to this item)
[About Lawyers Weekly
Lawyers Weekly is the authoritative source of independent news, analysis and opinion about the practice of law in Australia.
Published daily, and reaching over 110,000 lawyers, www.lawyersweekly.com.au is the essential resource for news, business and market developments for legal businesses and practitioners — both corporate and in-house.
In addition to its digital platform and awards, including the 30 Under 30, Australian Law Awards and Women in Law Awards, the monthly Lawyers Weekly print magazine brings the best of in-depth reporting and feature writing to leaders in the profession.
Lawyers Weekly not only takes pride in its news-breaking reporting, but also in its active role in shaping and progressing the way legal business is conducted in Australia.]
If The Beatles are to be believed, “All You Need Is Love”. This isn’t quite true, says one ANU law lecturer – besides love, he says, there is law.
According to Dr Joshua Neoh, who is an associate professor at the ANU College of Law, a common life would be impossible without the common law. In short, the law unites us in this common life, he posits, and saves us from ourselves.
“Without the authority of law, we would be at the constant risk of collapsing back into the state of war, where no humane relationships could ever survive, let alone relationships of love. Law stabilises social relations and makes the condition of love possible,” Dr Neoh explains.
Dr Neoh is the author of a new book – Law, Love and Freedom – which argues that the law does not just enable love, it may itself be an expression of love.
“Submission to the authority of law is an expression of the love of neighbour. The authority of law unites individuals and binds them together in a community. In a complex society with its coordination problems, the only way of expressing the love of neighbour is through obedience to the authoritative plan for the common good, which we call law,” Dr Neoh told Lawyers Weekly.
“At times, I may disagree with the law, but in matters where a collective decision has to be made, my submission to the collective judgment as embodied in the law, in spite of my disagreement with it, is an expression of my desire to continue living with my fellow citizens in the one community.”
The nexus between law, love and freedom
Law is not just about a set of rules, he continued. It is a “value that is connected to a whole set of other values”, he submitted, which – when put together – makes up what we collectively understand to be a “good life”.
In drawing such a conclusion, Dr Neoh recalled that he explored three key values for his book: law, love and freedom.
A message from the Director of ProgressiveChristianity.org, Rev. Deshna Charron Shine
We’re Building a Bigger Table
The table is too small. These are crucial times for the planet we call home. The toxic and institutionalized systems of racism, tribalism, colonialism, culture appropriation, sexism, and the general oppression of marginalized people have been thrust to the surface of our society. While this is scary and disturbing, it is also a positive step toward the eradication of white privilege, white fragility, and an empiric worldview. I say this is positive because it is forcing those of us who are privileged to wake up to a systemic culture of greed and fear that has been part of daily life for people of color and marginalized people since the beginning of modern history. These are systems and beliefs Jesus faced and why he was crucified. So why is this necessary for us?
Because we need a bigger table.
We need a bigger table because people of privilege are looking for a way forward to experience repentance, reparation, healing and transformation.
As Progressive Christians, we are called to the work of transformation that we have witnessed in the incredible life of Jesus. We have been teaching these values from our pulpits, from stages, behind cameras and to our readership. We have been gathering around a table and breaking bread and pouring wine, but that table is too small. We have met a moment in history that demands more of us.
In 2020, ProgressiveChristianity.org will be hosting in-person conversations and virtual gatherings with leaders in race reparation and climate justice. I’m asking my team and our international community to come together to create three new Christian Reparations Resolutions that we hope will be adopted by progressive Christians and progressive churches all over the world.
We’re building a bigger table. And we need your help.
These Resolutions will focus on 3 main roots of disharmony and injustice plaguing our world and Christianity:
1. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for Indigenous peoples.
2. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for People of Color.
3. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for harm to Creation.
Your year end gift will help us build a bigger table to have these discussions as we pursue the creation and adoption of these resolutions.
When you give it will also enable us to create and distribute digital trainings for faith communities who are ready to affect real change in their local communities.
Healing and positive transformation are our goals here. Closer to radical inclusion and unity. However, to move toward healing we must first acknowledge where our ancestors and where we have missed the mark or have caused harm. We begin by acknowledging, then we ask forgiveness, then we resolve to do better. We can then fully begin to envision a world that is better than the one we have been handed down. We can see into the future, where a rainbow tribe covers the earth, respectful and authentic, as Jesus would have envisioned.
Progressive Christianity as a movement has an opportunity in this moment in history — and we need your help.
“We were saddened to learn of the death today of New Zealand hymn writer Shirley Erena Murray, FHS. She was one of the most prolific and influential hymn text writers in the English speaking world, creating texts finely attuned to the issues facing people of faith today. They have appeared in more than 100 collections worldwide and have been translated into several other languages.
She was brought up Methodist, but spent many years as a Presbyterian, serving with her husband, the Very Reverend John Stewart Murray, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, as he pastored St. Andrew’s on the Terrace, Wellington, where many of her hymns were first sung.
An article in The Hymn (Autumn 2009) announcing that she had been named a Fellow of the Hymn Society included this observation: “Despite her frustrations with the Church, this writer remains committed to working on its behalf, and her positive, ebullient nature dominates her work. Her hymns are ecumenical in their theology and inclusive in their expression. They embody themes of justice, peace, human rights, nurture, and the integrity of creation.”
Shirley Erena MurrayMNZM (born 31 March 1931 – died 25 January 2020) is a New Zealand hymn lyrics writer. Her hymns have been translated into numerous languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn collections.
After marrying Presbyterian minister John Murray in 1954, she eventually moved to Wellington where John was minister for the St Andrew’s on the Terrace from 1975 to 1993. Her hymn writing started in the 1970s and often used the congregation of St Andrew’s as a testing place for the hymns. Many different composers have put music to her hymn texts.
Her hymns have been translated into several European and Asian languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn books around the world. In addition to New Zealand, they are particularly used in North America.
Among her most known hymns are “Hymn for Anzac Day”, “Where Mountains Rise to Open Skies”, “Our life has its Seasons”, “Star Child” and “Upside Down Christmas”.
Professor and hymn writer Colin Gibson, who has set music to some of her songs, described Murray’s hymns in 2009 as “distinguished by their inclusive language and their innovative use of M?ori, their bold appropriation of secular terms and their original poetic imagery drawn from nature and domestic life, but equally by the directness with which they confront contemporary issues.”
Murray lived with her husband at Raumati Beach near Wellington. The couple had three children and several grandchildren.
Her hymns and carols address a wide spectrum of themes ranging from the seasons of the Church year to human rights, care of creation, women’s concerns and above all, peace. Methodist by upbringing, and ecumenical by persuasion, she has spent most of her life as a Presbyterian. She was married to a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of NZ, the Very Rev. John Stewart Murray, who passed away just recently (2017). She had three sons and six grandchildren.
From Rev Fran Pratt – Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas , USA
The Rev Fran Pratt has been on a faith journey which may be familiar to many Christians. She has gone from the charismatic experience of certitude within the Vineyard Fellowship to a place of doubt and uncertainty, where prayer did not come easily to her …
Call and Response: Litanies for Congregational Prayer
A compilation of modern call and response litanies intended for congregational use. Whether your community is liturgical and looking for fresh language, or contemporary and looking to incorporate liturgical elements, this volume contains relevant, reflective prayers that call congregations deeper into the story of Divine Love.
Written with attention to beauty, theological resonance, and justice-mindedness, these prayers probe the depths of what it means to live out faith in today’s context. People of faith from various traditions can find helpful language for integrating spirituality and contemporary life in this rich trove of communal prayers.
I feel a great deal of urgency combined with hope. People, especially people who claim to follow the Christ – the Peacemaking, violence-ending, death-resurrecting Christ – need to wake up to the understanding that caring for creation = caring for the poor. This is my prayer that Spirit People will not wait to face this, that they will start now, make and push for change now. So that we can leave a legacy of a healthy planet to our children and grandchildren.
God, we ask for your help. Our planet, our mother, is suffering Due to human neglect, apathy, and greed; Due to overconsumption, mass production, and pollution.…
A SEARCH FOR ULTIMATE MEANING — I present here my own edited version of an essay by Rev. Fran Pratt, Pastor of Worship and Liturgy at Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas in “Progessing Spirit”.:
In recent millennia our main western religious history started in east mediterranean Asia as a clan, a tribe, a community, sought a way to relate to the divine … in all the ways that complex and fallible humans do … getting some ideas right and misunderstanding others.
traditions, assumptions and rituals surrounding its understanding of higher
power, some of which were timeless and others hopelessly limited. The clan
grows into a tribe, then into a nation, gradually spreading its understandings
across places and cultures … all the while struggling to connect with and
understand the divine, and never quite realising that the divine is within them
Person [ Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth (c.5 BCE-c. 30 CE) ] emerged from the Asian
community who was able to sum up the story and speak divine truth with
humanity’s own voice. In this Person the divine became immanent, wholly at
hand; the best was humanised, fully embodied.
is so compelling that his brief physical presence on the earth changed the
course of history in innumerable ways. He embodied divine love and light, and
believed that ordinary folks can do the same. He’s the catalyst for a whole new
branch of the world’s Wisdom Tradition and inspired many other saints and sages
in history to inspire much of today’s compassionate work.
There’s a grand search for moral truth threading through the whole story, humans asking how best to be in the world and how best for humans to live wisely? We believe we can see the divine pointing the way and remaining compassionately present when its guidance is rejected or scorned. …
A TRIBUTE — Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt )1906-1975) called Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth “the only completely valid and completely convincing experience (that the western world had ever had) of goodness as the inspiring principle of all human action”.
This review is by Paul Wildman, a member of the UCFORUM Executive.
This short book is well written and on topic from the point of view of an intellectual activist. However, the book has little at all to do with act-ual ground up, tr-act-ive, hands on, act-ivism. The book is not entitled the ‘Theology of Activism’ and actually reverses these words to Activist Theology. However, Activist qualifies Theology in the title and as such the latter is subordinate to the former in content, process and ‘enfleshment’ and this does not happen.
The book is really a
Theology of Activism or more correctly it is a Theology of Feminist
intellectual perspectives on theories and issues that are associated with
activism. The author is a self-described ‘intellectual activist’ and this is
indeed an appropriate term, as she doesn’t move from the intellectual, indeed
hyper academic intellectual for the whole book. This means she spends
nearly 20% at the start of the (short) book explaining her ‘perspective’ in the
preface and acknowledgement sections ………And then another 20% on poems….at the
end of the book, and approximately half of the short book on ‘stuff other than
hands on activism’.
This is, I argue, part
of a bigger picture that is the failure of academe in the West to grasp what
action and activism actually is. Indeed, when confronted with this
author’s simple reframe of action and critique to fit within the hyper academic
mind set of ‘my writing is my activism’ and all is at peace with the world, I
recall that I have had this literally said to me by a famous
futurist. So the critique is brushed aside by reframing. She
finishes with a ‘call to action’. Yet, of course, that is not the action that
she does and again is a form of hyper intellectualism on steroids, a hyper
activism that is totally oblivious to itself and, as such, a sort of
intellectual somnambulism. This is a flaw/issue many of us, including me,
struggle with. However, it needs to be surfaced and articulated and owned and
addressed. This book does little to address same.
There is not one actual activist action she has
done listed in the book, not one – bizarre and tragic in a sense as with many
academics. When discussing the futures field they have NO grasp of what
activism actually is and if they even smell a whiff of critique they reframe it
as above as ‘my writing is my activist’, or go for ‘I am very busy so I
outsource my activism to a social justice/religious organisation’, or ‘you
don’t grasp what activism is about. Here read these 5 books I have written…..’
(all are literal experiences I have had). This book is shades of the
first in my opinion. Action Learning, conscientisation and craft, Peer to
Peer, hacktivism, Wilding, Permaculture are for instance some ways of
addressing same. At least she has the honesty to call herself an
‘intellectual activist’. However, this allows the author and basically most
other so call activist academics to call themselves same without ever actually
There are, some most
excellent, indeed brilliant, paragraphs and phrases in the book, that as
snippets on how to live one’s life somewhat make up for the above. A few of
liberation does not materialize in a vacuum; liberation materializes as we
midwife more shalom into this world.
L815 The struggle to
humanize those who have been most affected by systems of oppression is so much
of our work in activism. To embody a theological imagination that holds the
complexities of our human experiences including our difference and diversity in
tandem with a divine source of becoming is part of our struggle today.
L776 Church was also the
place that could not hold my complexities. Yet though I have left, church
won’t, and I can’t, let go.
L1120 In this martyrdom
of Arnulfo Romero’s, we can see a third dimension of Christian martyrdom. It is a dimension that has received little attention up to now, but
today it is becoming more and more important. The first dimension is suffering for faith’s sake: Paul Schneider. The second dimension is suffering through resistance against unjust and lawless
power: Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The third dimension is participation in the sufferings of the
oppressed people: Arnulfo Romero.
In terms of the authors
analysis of Jesus’s role as an activist she readily identifies that it is Jesus’s
hands on pragmatics with the poor of the poor that come first in his work at
the margins of the margins. Yes, the background theology matters, and yet, it
is one’s personal practical hands on commitment and action that qualify the
theology not the other way around. So
maybe the kingdom/commonwealth of god is an activist theological one after
all??!! I certainly agree with her in this regard.
So, in conclusion 99% of
academics and purchasers would be most satisfied with the value for money they
have received in what Dr Henderson-Espinoza has written, and indeed I
congratulate her for same.
In 2016 Patheos produced this summary of the reasons for this in USA:
Social expectation and pressures have lightened. People used to live their lives according to social convention. Those who strayed from accepted norms were ostracized and shamed. Churches used this power to “guilt” people into a variety of behaviors, including weekly church attendance. Obviously this doesn’t work any more.
Church is no longer the best show in town. For centuries, Sunday morning was an entertainment desert. Shops were closed. Sports commenced at noon. There was no cable TV or video games. Church was literally the only thing happening on Sunday morning – so people went. Sunday now presents lots of attractive options and everyone – including Christians – is taking advantage.
Increased mobility. People travel as never before, so more and more churchgoers find themselves out of town on Sunday. Relatively few see the need to visit a nearby church.
Weekend work. Blue laws used to keep businesses shuttered on Sunday. Now many people work on the Sabbath, which makes attendance difficult or impossible.
People need a day of rest. For stressed-out couples Sunday may be the only pajama morning of the week. Can we blame families for wanting a little downtime with each other? After all, aren’t we supposed to take a sabbath?
The rise of do-it-yourself Christianity. The Internet and various media offerings allow believers to tailor a spiritual life to their own liking. They get Christianity without the challenge of having to interact with other Christians.
The expectation of choice. Modern Americans are used to getting exactly what they want. Amazon.com offers more than 200 million items. Petco sells more than 100 varieties of dog food. Christians shop for pastors they connect with. Megachurch attenders often have favorite teaching pastors – and will skip a Sunday if “the other guy” is preaching.
The most faithful saints are burning out. I know a number of very committed Christians who no longer attend – or do so sporadically – because their churches worked them so hard in the past.
Video streaming. In the past five years many churches have begun live-streaming their weekly worship services. It’s a heck of a lot easer to watch church on your iPad than it is to drag everyone to a building. And here’s the best part: no singing!
Churches increasingly model individuality in weekly worship and teaching. We’ve trained people to pursue Christ on their own – so that’s what they’re doing.
Rev Don Whebell. [Don is one of the few people still living that were actively involved in the process of coming into Union that formed the Uniting Church from three previous denominations. As well as a minister, he was a Queensland Synod Moderator and taught the subject ‘Basis of Union’ for many years at Trinity Theological College in the Queensland Synod].
“That question had been in front of me for some time for at least three reasons:
There was a time when, as a Christian Education and Youth Worker, I had responsibility for a program of education for the participating denominations in North Queensland. Having been involved in studies in the first Basis [and disappointed at its rejection by the Presbyterian Church] my task was to try to help people to understand it in ways that would make sense to them in their journeys.
“I was frequently disappointed at what I saw to be the superficial responses a lot of people were making to the whole issue and a general unwillingness to grapple with the theological basis of what it means to be the Church.
“Most seemed to be just wanting some ‘ecclesiastical carpentry’ to glue the three denominations’ organisations together – or wanting a Church under another name that was vey similar to what they already had….
“2. In my roles as a Presbytery Minister and as Moderator, I was frequently confronted by the same sort of thing in the 80s and 90s that I had encountered in the 70s.
“Many people were often just not willing – or motivated – or able – to do the theological work, wanting a simple way of being the Church that made few demands on their thinking, believing and acting….
“Concerned that the Basis of Union was not being given its intended role, status and authority in the Uniting Church, the Council of Synod asked Duncan Harrison and I to write some studies on the Basis for people in Congregations, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Inauguration of the Uniting Church. And to encourage people to re-engage in a search through the Basis and rediscover the sources of their faith. It’s called A Hitchhiker’s Trip through the Basis of Union.…
“3.The third area of my concern was aroused – say the least – when, at a Presbytery Ministers’ Conference a many years ago, The General Secretary of the Assembly announced that there was a growing problem with the place of the Basis in the UCA.
“He said something like:
“There is an emerging viewpoint among some that holds that The Basis of Union does not have the relevance for the Uniting Church that it had for the three denominations that were negotiating the Church Union proposals that led to the inauguration of the Uniting Church in 1977.”
“That is to say that The Basis of Union belongs to the pre-union denominations, and is no longer relevant to the Uniting Church. A historical archive, that served its purpose in the forming of the UCA, but of no real continuing significance.
“This is no new issue….”
Don’s work on re-appraising the Basis of Union is at last being made publicly available. He has kindly offered his work to the UCFORUM’s readers to reflect on.
You can follow this work at: The Basis of Union re-examined. This is a work in progress. The first six sessions are available and many more are to follow. So come back to this site when you can.
Don welcomes ideas and opinions and although he is battling some serious health issues you can email him at: Don Whebell.
Evangelical churches believe men should control women. It can lead to domestic violence – ABC Report 9th December 2019
An ABC investigation last year showed how conservative Christian churches both enable and conceal domestic violence.
Vicki Lowik’s and Annabel Taylor’s ongoing research shows this is exacerbated by what’s taught in evangelical church communities, creating fertile ground for domestic violence, its justification and its concealment.
Traditional understandings about male headship, both in the family and the Church, were promoted as being ordained by God. This meant the authority of men and the subordination of women were considered to be “permanently binding” principles.
Conservative evangelical Christians enthusiastically embraced this as a form of resistance against the feminist movement, and still support these “permanently binding” principles today.
Sadly, there are no statistics on the prevalence of domestic violence in the Australian Christian community, but it’s addressed in international research. More Australian research is needed urgently.
Summary: An Evolving Faith A School for Love Friday, January 3, 2020 Today, friend and CAC faculty member Brian McLaren continues describing the three shifts Christianity needs to make in order to be true to the vision and mission of Jesus the Christ. Yesterday Brian explained the importance of becoming (1) “decentralized and diverse.” Today, he describes the need to be (2) “radically collaborative” and to (3) “love as Jesus taught and embodied.” Rather than a top-heavy institution concerned about in-house salvation, the Christianity of the future will place love of God, neighbor, self, and all creation at the center. Brian writes: The diverse and decentralized movement we need will be radically collaborative, working with, across, and, when necessary, outside of and in spite of existing institutions to seek the common good. It will not be anti-institutional because institutions are necessary for human survival, but neither will it be institutional, in the sense that it is preoccupied with its own survival or bringing benefits only to its members. Rather, it will be trans-institutional, working across institutions, both religious and non-religious, seeking the common good of those inside and outside the movement and the institutions it involves. . . . The . . . most important aspect of this [new] form of Christianity in the future is simple, obvious, and yet radical: it is about love, as Jesus taught and embodied [emphasis mine—RR]. . . . The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Jesus was about love first and foremost, in word and deed. Jesus began with love for God, but inseparably linked that love with love for neighbor , with the understanding that neighbor includes the other, the outsider, the outcast, the last, the least, the lost, the disgraced, the dispossessed, and the enemy. This love for neighbor was, in turn, inextricably related to an appropriate love for self. In fact, to love neighbor as oneself leads to the realization that oneself and one’s neighbor are actually distinct yet inseparable realities. In today’s world, we must add that, for Jesus, God’s love extends to the wildflower, the meadow grass, the sparrow, and the raven. He saw all of God’s creatures as part of one heavenly realm, as did dear St. Francis, and as do more and more of us. When I think of this [new] kind of Christianity of the future, then, I think of a movement of revolutionary love. I see it as distinctively Christian, but not in any exclusive way, because if we truly see love as Jesus’ point and passion, then the depth of our devotion to Christ will always lead us to love our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Indigenous, nonreligious, agnostic, atheist, and other neighbors as ourselves. . . . In this desirable future, every willing Christian congregation makes every competing interest subsidiary to love, which is the fruit of all contemplation and the goal of all action. If we embody this [emergent] form of Christianity, . . . if we become the seeds of a movement of contemplative activism in the Spirit of Christ, I can imagine hundreds of thousands of congregations, . . . each a locally and globally engaged school of love, teaching future generations to discover, practice, and live in love: love for our neighbor, love for ourselves, love for all creatures and all creation—all comprising love for God, who is all in all in all.
These crazy flames that lick and lap at all that ranges round us, the trappings of our wealth, experience and existence. At birth we can’t anticipate our existential ending, the length of life not ours to count or measure. But then we face eternity, or nothingness, depending on belief. Like night’s thief, flames hotter than hell’s painting are not some distant image, but sharpened fronds dissembling each dwelling. And if we leave reality says, ‘there is no return’. Can faith uphold us through this conflagration? Survival walks naked of all that we have known, valued or possessed. That is the option open to us. Our Hobson has no choice. So if we die we will know what rests beyond this life. Remaining so much is loss or lost. Whichever path we walk pray this, pray only this, that now and on beyond this moment the love a letter writer once described will hold, enfold and keep us still through all that is to come. And no insurance…just the faith…
The Christian Right and Left in USA are driven by the same bible but argue for totally different interpretations.
“While conservative evangelicalism tends to focus on sin, repentance, and salvation, the Christian Left identify Christ’s radical love and inclusion for marginalized people as the locus of their faith. “
“Although some belong to historically conservative denominations, liberal Christians are helping to frame conversations around issues such as environmental action, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s reproductive health, immigration, racial equity, affordable housing, and wealth disparity. “
Is this same set of differences now clearly manifest in the Australian church?
After hearing and watching this year’s Christmas message from the Queen, Tim O’Dwyer has asked that question. What do you think?
“Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth
of a child: a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in
in time, through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the
world how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held
differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.
of us already try to follow in his footsteps. The path, of course, is not
always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small
steps can make a world of difference.
“As Christmas dawned, church congregations around the world
joined in singing It Came Upon The Midnight Clear. Like many timeless carols,
it speaks not just of the coming of Jesus Christ into a divided world, many
years ago, but also of the relevance, even today, of the angel’s message of
peace and goodwill.
“It’s a timely reminder of what positive things can be achieved when people set aside past differences and come together in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation. And, as we all look forward to the start of a new decade, it’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.”
[About Kevin: As a free-thinking progressive-christian messianic god-seeker. Kévin Aryé Hatikvah Smith, aged 98, deaf, in a wheel-chair in Sydney, Supreme Cross of Honour in 2005 (from Benedict XVI) for 50 years of ecumenism (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) in France and Australia. His mother, Esther Myers, was culturally Jewish although non-observant and became Catholic before wedding my Catholic father in 1921. She was a splendid model of Hebrew neighbourly-love and wrote poetry about the blessed virgin Mary and Jesus. He made friends with a messianic rabbi and he invited him to be a reader in his synagogue, which he loved doing. With his wife they were foundation members of the NSW Council of Christians & Jews.
Kevin’s Jewish Cockney ancestor Emmanuel Solomon arrived in Sydney in 1818 and in about 1835 he became a patriarch founder of Adelaide. As a leading Jew he became a close friend of Saint Mary MacKillop and helped her during her excommunication… more than once supplying free accommodation on his properties to the nuns expelled from their convents by a bishop.]1. THE 9 BEATITUDES …
— There are nine beatitudes in Matthew’s Eight Beatitudes! Here is what I understand.
-1. It’s OK to be destitute (ptochoi).
-2. It’s Ok to mourn.
-3. It’s OK to be humble and gentle.
-4. You must hunger for goodness and integrity.
-5. Be merciful and generous.
-6. Be unpretentious and sincere.
-7. Champion peace.
-8. Suffer fools gladly and thugs too. –
9. It’s OK to be reviled or persecuted.
and The Intercession of Yeshuah
Learning not from church christology but from bible christology I note that a main message concerning Yeshuah is that he is shown as subject, submissive, in a servant role to Yahweh-Elohim/Adonai … “Not my will but thine be done.” -Thus NT scripture reveals that divinity has levels, at least 2, since the divine Yeshuah’s is not equal to that of Adonai. — This is rammed home in 1 Cor 15: “After the last judgement, at the final act of salvation history, Yeshuah hands over humanity and the Church to Adonai and then … Wait for it! … he submits. 1 Cor. 24+ “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death for he ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. …” — … THE SON WILL BE MADE SUBJECT … so that GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL — The eternal job of Jesus Christ from then on will be to intercede, a servant role.
Can anyone tell who or what Yeshuah will be interceding for?
In the next few months the government will vote on a religious freedom bill. It’s been hugely controversial, and critics say instead of protecting vulnerable people, it could act as a licence for hate. David Marr and Paul Karp analyse how this bill could change Australia.
IT’S HARD TO KNOW HOW TO OBJECT. MEMO to Management (of my nursing hostel): A lady nurse is wearing a festive ‘top’ bearing the greeting “Merry Stitchmas”. I think that it is an unfunny ugly go at demonising the commercial take-over of the annual birthday celebration of a revolutionary Jewish prophet, Rabbi Yeshuah (Jesus-Christ) of Nazareth (05 BCE-30 CE). The Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt judged him “… the most completely valid and completely convincing experience of goodness (that our world has ever known) as the inspiring principle of all action”. Kevin Smith room 55
This week we celebrate two years since marriage equality became law in this country. A moment of triumph for our community that was made possible by decades of work and millions of Australians standing up for fairness. But the Prime Minister and Attorney General chose this week, on Human Rights Day, to announce the second draft of their Religious Discrimination Bill. And it’s bad. We’ve only had it on our desk for a few days but wanted to share our first thoughts. Over the coming weeks we will be preparing our analysis, briefing campaign partners, and making sure these changes (and the dangers they bring) are accessible to other people like me who don’t have law degrees. This Bill impacts on everyone, from sporting heroes to everyday Australians who should be able to live, study, work and go to the doctor without facing hurtful religious views. That’s why we’ve teamed up with notable Aussies Ian Thorpe, basketballer Lauren Jackson and author Benjamin Law, to make a video explaining just how bad this Bill really is. You can watch it here .
a little bit of good news– The government has realised that its healthcare
clauses went too far. The new Bill has reduced the types of health
practitioners that can take advantage of the conscientious objection in health
care provisions. They still apply to workers most likely to be the first line
of response for people needing care – doctors, nurses, psychologists, midwives,
and pharmacists. It no longer allows these healthcare professionals to refuse
treat to specific people.
But they can still object to certain procedures.
Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of bad news. The Bill:
Privileges religious expression over discrimination protections. The Bill removes discrimination protections for LGBTIQ+ people, women, people with disability, and others when people make certain statements which are discriminatory based in religion.
Entrenches double standards in law. Religious organisations will be allowed to discriminate against others with different beliefs or no belief, even when providing publicly funded services. People will be provided protections when they engage in religious activity that breaches local by-laws which we all have to follow. Corporations associated with religious people will be given discrimination protections, while religious schools will continue to be able to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy.
Privileges religious views over patient health needs. Even with the changes, Australians will find it harder to access non-judgmental healthcare, such as sexual health, family planning, fertility, mental health and transgender health services, where ever they live. Professional standards, such as those that require objecting health professionals to refer patients to alternative health professionals who will treat them, may come under challenge. oOo
Real Estate Escapes – SPECIAL PRICE for Christmas 2019
Another inexpensive Christmas gift idea that informs, protects and warns….
$15.00 from For Pity Sake Publishers
For the real estate enthusiast – Real Estate Escapes by nationally recognised ‘real estate watchdog’ and consumer advocate , Tim O’Dwyer , is just the ticket at only $15.00.
[Tim is a member of our New Farm Explorers group.]
When ‘sold’ isn’t sold and ‘Off-the-Plan’ is just ‘off’
Real Estate Escapes is a collection of timeless property parables where not all agents, solicitors and conveyancers are created equal, and where not all escapes are successful. Drawing from over four decades experience, Tim O’Dwyer combines his deep knowledge of the subject with an uncanny ability to explain, in a simple and entertaining way, these true tales of getting out of contracts, leases, prosecutions and legal liability.
“Real Estate Escapes is more than an informative consumer guide. It’s also a really good read – riveting stories of the traps, rorts and misunderstandings that abound in the real estate industry. I highly recommend you read it BEFORE venturing into the minefield.”
– Helen Wellings – Channel Seven Consumer Affairs Reporter
“Living the Change: faithful choices for a flourishing world” is a globally-connected community of religious and spiritual institutions working together with sustainable consumption experts to champion sustainable ways of life. The website is: https://livingthechange.net/
Living the Change was initiated at the UN Climate Conference in 2017 by the US-based multi-faith organization, GreenFaith, an interfaith organization whose mission is to educate, organize and mobilise people of diverse faiths to become environmental leaders. Serving to coordinate Living the Change, GreenFaith now has Implementing Partners who collaborate to shape a vision for a worldwide community of practice which drives lifestyle-related emission reductions.
Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (Multi-faith)
World Evangelical Alliance (Evangelical Christian) worldea.org
Can lifestyle change make a difference?
The campaign emerged, in part, from a study which showed that “if the world’s top 10 percent of carbon dioxide emitters were to cut their emissions to the level of the average European Union citizen, global emissions would decline by 33 percent. If the top 20 percent were to do so, the reduction would be about 40 percent.” In other words, while structural change is legitimately pursued as being potentially most effective in creating change, individual behaviour change within a targeted demographic can indeed make a meaningful contribution to stabilizing the climate.
Given that close to six billion people identify with a religion (Pew Research Center, 2017), the opportunity for these groups to create meaningful change through collective action cannot be ignored. In Australia, the 2016 census showed 60% of the population identified with a faith tradition.
There’s also the difference it creates in me, the individual. The more we act in ways congruent with science which tells us that climate disruption is a major threat, the more our determination to make climate action a priority can grow. By acting in line with my values, my integrity grows and, hey, fewer greenhouse gases actually go into the atmosphere! The various faith traditions value individual responsibility, and each person is intrinsically important.
What are people being asked to do?
Living the Change invites individuals to fortify healthy, balanced relationships that help sustain the earth. The three areas where religious leaders and people of faith will be asked to take steps are:
reduced use of transportation based on fossil fuels, ie, air and road transport
shifting towards plant-based diets, away from meat-based protein
energy efficiency and sourcing energy from renewables
Leaders in faith communities are encouraged to make their pledges to lifestyle changes publicly and promote these changes in their communities. We are seeking faith leaders who will help us promote the campaign.
people of faith must work for change, by Rev JimAntal, 2018.
The national synod of the United Church
of Christ, USA passed a motion in 2017 that: The climate crisis is the
opportunity for which the Church was born.
Jim Antal’s book
opens with historian Lynn White’s words in 1967.. More science and
technology are not going to get us out of the present ecological crisis until
we find a new religion or rethink our old one. Antal argues that climate change is the greatest
moral challenge humanity has ever faced because it multiplies all forms of
global injustice: hunger, refugees, poverty, inequality, deadly viruses and war.
A compelling case is
presented that it’s time for the church to meet this moral challenge, just as
the church addressed previous moral challenges. He calls for the church to
embrace a new vocation so that future generations might live in harmony with
God’s creation and each other. After describing how we have created the dangers
our planet now faces, Antal urges the church to embrace a new vocation, one
focused on collective not individual salvation and an expanded understanding of
the Golden Rule. He suggests ways people of faith can reorient what they prize
through new approaches to worship, preaching, witnessing, and other spiritual
practices that honours creation, cultivates hope and motivates love for others into
Rev Dr Walter Stratford. [see details about his book at: Why are you here Elijah, now available as a kindle publication]
Following the discussion about the meaning of Christmas at the PCNQ gathering at New Farm last Wednesday, Wally has been inspired to write this….
The gospel account
of Jesus of Nazareth was written as an assertion that Jesus was the Son of God.
The claim comes from the experiences of followers of the way and was
expanded into a declaration on which the church was built. The gospel according
to Luke provides the story that claims Jesus’ birth as an eternal truth.
The angel said to
her, ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will
overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be Holy; he will be called
Son of God’ (Lk1:35).
At the appropriate
time Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem. ‘While they were there the time came
for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her first-born son…’ (Lk.2:6-7).
These few verses
from Luke’s account continue to be a focal point for the church’s declaration
that Jesus is the Son of God, the birth narrative recognized as definitive of his
divine relationship. This literal understanding of Jesus’ birth was linked by
early theologians to a claim that the scriptures of the Jews contained words of
promise that found their outcome in Jesus. His sacrificial death and the claims
of his resurrection sealed the promises of redemption and became the rock on
which, it may be said, the church stands or falls.
It is generally
agreed that Luke was a Gentile God worshipper before converting to
Christianity. The consensus is that he was writing to fellow Gentiles, some of
whom may have also been God worshippers.
The Gentiles of
that middle eastern area contained among their numbers the strong influence of many
Greeks and Romans. Within this mix were many religious stories which included
visitations of the gods with human women. Children born of such liaisons were
referred to as sons of the gods. Some of these went on to become gods. Hercules
is one so named. Alexander a warrior of considerable renown was named as a god.
Augustus, Roman emperor, on his demise was proclaimed a god.
So, the first
point is that the story of Jesus’ birth is located readily in this Gentile
environment. It has more to do with myth than with demonstrable truth.
It is also
important as a second point to realize that Luke’s viewpoint was
‘written’ around 80 years after Jesus’s birth. It is written from within a
group of followers of the way – apparently Gentile in their origins. It
seems unlikely that after 80 years the detailed description of the happenings
surrounding Jesus’ birth could still be contained in memory.
Thirdly, to present the gospel theme as literally true does
not take account of the mythology of the time, nor the many years of argument
and discussion prior to the eventual determination of the essentials of the
faith to which all were called to accede.
background on which the church was grafted, gave rise to many practices that are
questionable in this 21st century. In our time where many bemoan a
steady demise of the Christmas story as more and more it is overlaid by the
world, I think what is needed is a different story.
The story that I
like to tell has its beginnings in Genesis. You will know the story. It begins
with the wind or spirit of God blowing over the water. A lot happens until we
reach the intimate moment of people’s beginnings. The action of this moment requires
of each of us, an element of imagination. “Then the Lord God formed mansic
from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and the mansic became a living being” (Gen 2:7). Imagination will
hear God say with the breath: “The life of God for the life of humankind” In my
reading of these first two chapters, I am prepared to say that breath and
Spirit go together. We may claim therefore that as we breathe, so also the
Spirit is present. This presence is life giving.
Our different story does not begin with a baby Jesus – it begins at the
beginning of everything. It says that always and constantly the Spirit is
present in every life. All of this is part of the different story. This
presence does not need the continual presence of a baby. The Spirit is robust,
paradoxical, mysterious. It rides the wind that we breathe, and consistently
enables life. The baby born again every year may thus become symbolic of new
life constantly growing and developing and becoming adult.
I think that this story is essential, even in Christmas celebrations
that have become a once a year event – to which all are invited, and large
numbers attend. The glitter expands year by year in dazzling arrays of gifts to
satisfy every desire. It seems at times that life has been put aside in favour
of the satisfaction of immediacy. There is however, much in Christmas that is
good, there is much that is important in its celebration. The glamour is
seductive, but also deceptive.
Beneath the glamour is a mostly forgotten world of a young man who demonstrated
in his life and death the vitality and possibility of life with the Spirit of
God. He is seen in our day among those who fight fires, as a companion to the
frail, as one who vindicates the less fortunate, as one condemning violence. This
young man, Jesus is quoted as saying something akin to: “The reign of God is
within you” (Lk 17:21).
Listening to the people, we discover that Christmas is a time for family
and sharing, for gathering and companionship, a time for holidaying and enjoyment.
Christmas has the power to distract us from disturbing influences. Perhaps here
is some merit however, in remembering that the time of Jesus birth was a disturbing
time of considerable violence. Disturbing times are still with us.
Nevertheless, there is a thread of strength in the Christmas message, in which, if we have ears to hear, we will discover its potential as a catalyst for change in ordinary everyday life, a time for imagining possibility. Christmas spilling over into the New Year every year, may become every year a reminder of the connections humankind has with a mysterious, ambiguous and paradoxical Spirit.
Wednesday, 31 of our group gathered to do some exploring of the meaning of
Christmas. Now, 90 minutes of discussion cannot be summarised in a few
sentences – you have to be part of the group to pick up on all of the threads.
A couple of things stood out for me:
when we literalise the Christmas story, we lose much of
the intense meaning of how the life of Jesus was a message to society
From the community perspective, does the church have
only 2 ways of communicating Christianity – Christmas and Easter? Does
that mean the essence of the Jesus story of his life and teachings is not
understood? How can we do that better?
Many of the activities that churches put their effort
into – decorated Christmas trees, Walk through Bethlehem, Christmas
lights, Carols evenings do little to help people understand the meanings
that the Gospel writers had in mind – the meaning behind the crafted
How do we help children and young people to think about
the meaning behind the story?
else may like to share their perspectives after the discussion. That is
probably best done through the UC Forum website or through the PCN
Facebook page. (Sorry I do not have the link for that, but if you search for
Progressive Christian Network on Facebook I think you will find it)
We are already planning for 2020, so do mark 10 am on the last Wednesday of each month in your new diary. We will start the year with Steven and Adele Nisbet introducing “Sing a new Song”. I am sure there will be time for singing some of those new songs – many to familiar tunes. Enjoy your Christmas!
Sometimes books come along at just the right time. One such book has been Activist Theology by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza which my wife and I have been listening to on audible as we have been driving round Tasmania. I can’t recall anything quite like it.
When I first came to this country (USA) and started to teach at Union Theological Seminary, the faculty and students asked me again and again: What has your theology to do with your being a woman? I did not know how to respond. Of course I knew of some things I intensely disliked in male theological circles – namely, the springing from one quotation to the next in their writing without the courage to use personal discourse; the almost anal obsession with footnotes, called ‘scientific style’; the conscious – but much worse, the unconscious – craving for orthodoxy and shelter it offers to the professional theologian; the neglect of historical reflection in favour of glib talk about ‘historicity’; the failure to evaluate and reflect on praxis.
I also felt a certain lack of candour and honesty, and I sensed no need to be personally exposed to the truth of Scripture and tradition.”[i] (p.xvi)
None of these criticisms can be levelled at Robyn Henderson-Espinoza. Her life transparently informs her work. Robyn describes herself a transqueer activist and Latinx scholar with white-passing privilege because of the colour of her melanin who has had to rely on food stamps to survive.
She works at the interface between the academy (university defined widely), the church and local activist movements. While at one level this is not new, (I think of Jurgen and Elizabeth Moltmann, and Jacques Ellul in Europe, James Cone in the USA, the South American Liberation theologians, and even Charles Birch and Veronica Brady here in Australia), her approach has a freshness, immediacy and a companionable solidarity. Her inclusion of the work of and discussion with activist poet Britt!ni “Ree Belle” Gray is one of the many highlights.
When she writes about the importance of “struggle” you know that this is not a remote theological concept, but something that is integral to her life as an activist theologian. Her work then becomes nourishing emotionally as well as intellectually. Her theology is literally written onto her body, tattooed on her hands in prayer as “divine doubter”.
For activist theology, God is in the change that is becoming. Activist theology is thus hope filled, not covered in despair. This is the message our time needs.
A month ago, this was brought home to me when I gave a workshop for social work academics on what they could do about student poverty. Though well intentioned, many of the academics felt overwhelmed and powerless to act. This may seem strange to the outsider, for after all, academics have resources in terms of knowledge, communication skills, status and in some cases money that are far greater than those most in need. Yet it was true that the neoliberal system was putting obstacles in the way of their acting, (lack of tenure, increased workload, greater administration). More importantly, the neoliberal system sent out the message that social problems were all too hard, there was nothing that one can do.
As it happens, a week later I was called to give evidence in person to the Senate Inquiry into the Adequacy of Newstart and Related Payments. This was unusual. I am not employed by any institution, nor am I particularly well known or influential, nor do I have much power or influence. What I and a colleague did was write a submission on student poverty, (no 76), based on our research but not limited to it, that caught the attention of the Senate Committee. There are probably 1,000s of academics in Australia who are better qualified than I to have made a submission on student poverty, but with a couple of rare exceptions they did not submit. Their attention was elsewhere. They missed a valuable opportunity.
The hour in which I was given the opportunity to discuss student poverty with the Committee was a special time of grace. As always, the chair of the Committee, Senator Rachel Siewert of the Greens, was deeply respectful and concerned about the plight of the poor. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy of the Labor Party came down to welcome me into the space before the proceedings began. This certainly helped me feel at ease and calmed my nerves. Senator McCarthy, through her mother, is descended from the Garrwa and Yanyuwa peoples, whose traditional lands straddle the McArthur River and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Both Senators had clearly read my submission closely, asking insightful questions that showed an understanding of the individual and the wider policy issues. Also present was the Liberal Senator, Hollie Hughes, who unfortunately had been given the remit to promote the Government line, that 1. the best type of welfare is a job and 2. increasing income support payments was unsustainable.
Also giving evidence in the same hour was Cat Nadel from Young Campaigns. Her evidence was outstanding. When challenged by Senator Hollis on the sustainability of increasing payments she gave the best off the cuff explanation of the true meaning of sustainability that I have heard. Below is the Hansard transcript.
I would agree that young people are concerned about the future and want to see the Australian economy remain sustainable. I can really only speak for myself and the young people I work with and interact with, not for all young people. We have seen Australia go through years of what we are told has been economic growth, but we’ve also seen inequality widen deeply in that time. In my mind, a budget that is sustainable into the future needs to look after all of society and especially the poorest and most vulnerable in society. We are currently not seeing that; we are seeing the gap widen. While we are talking about how young people look into the future: we are also looking down the barrel of huge challenges to come, like climate change, and it is not clear how governments are budgeting to prevent those problems, and what implications that is going to have for future budgets. I would say that young people do want to see Australia continue to be a sustainable economy that looks after everyone, and that means we have to think about how we allocate support to the poorest in society.
This was a spine-tingling moment in the proceedings. Though the Hansard record can’t show it, there was a moment as Cat finished, when Senator Hollis was left speechless, … before she proceeded on with her next scripted question. With young advocates like this, there is still great hope in these dark political times.
Yet this hope does not come without a cost. Despite her young age, Cat must have spent years preparing for this moment. (Not just this moment of course, but any moment when her talents can be used.) Time spent studying, researching, going to meetings, organising, listening and feeling the pain of others and the environment.
It is this cost that so few academics and church attendees are prepared to pay. Those with conservative views of course can maintain the illusion that they live in the best of all possible worlds, that they are safe and comfortable. However, those who profess progressive views present more of a problem. Why don’t more step up? In my own profession of social work, only a handful of social workers ever become involved in meaningful activism despite a commitment to social justice being written into their code of ethics. Academics, even those with tenure, rarely get their hands dirty with pressing social concerns. As for theologians, they may as well not exist in Australia. At best, the mainstream churches limit themselves to general statements that don’t offend too much.
What is the cost? The cost is a preparedness to share the pain. This is one of the meanings of incarnation, and without it, incarnation makes no sense. It means to regard status, career, security as nothing when compared to the call for justice and mercy for all: not just for humans but for the whole of creation. This seems to be the stumbling block. Progressives, like their conservative brothers and sisters can be too comfortable. They prepare their progressive thinking and their theology, use it to define themselves as not conservative, but then don’t use it often enough to address the growing injustice all round them.
The activist theology of Robyn Henderson-Espinoza does not let progressive Christians off the hook. Without activism there is no theology, progressive or otherwise, there is only a logy of empire, or of a nation, or of a cultic group. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza gives no easy answers. She is flailing about in what Dorothy Searle has called “the open horizon of Christ”.[ii] One sees at times those flashes of sparkling brilliance, but you know that to fully understand you must dive in. This is the challenge for these turbulent times. The need to dive in is more urgent than ever. Safe and steady will not do.
Len Baglow, Management Committee APCVA
[i] Dorothee Soelle, 1968, 1995 preface. Creative Disobedience. Wipf & Stock. p. xvi. (I realise the irony of an old white male footnoting a quote about the “almost anal obsession with footnotes” but this book is very good and I hope some of you will read it.)
The National Council of Churches in Australia has called for Climate Change Action now.
Tuesday, 12 November 2019
A Call for unified National Leadership regarding Climate Change
The National Council of Churches in Australia urges the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, to convene a roundtable on climate change, shaping a bipartisan approach and drawing in civil society leaders. “Let us draw the line now under what is past,” says the council’s President, Bishop Philip Huggins. “Let us just get on with working together to prevent global temperatures rising further.” Bishop Huggins said it would be wonderful, if this could be done before the crucial next UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP25), next month, from December 2 to 13. “I came back yesterday from the Annual Pacific Church Leaders meeting in Suva to the discourse here about the awful bushfires. “In Suva, Church leaders from all over Pacific shared their current experiences of climate change: the trauma for communities displaced and forced to relocate inland and away from a swapped coast; the anguish then for traditional cultures of ‘leaving ancestors behind’; the dread of more frequent and more violent cyclones and even the monthly anxiety for places not far above sea-level at the time of a full and new moon’s impact on tides. Said folk from such places: ‘We don’t sleep so well those nights!’ “It is a global issue. Humankind must find a quite unprecedented and sustained level of cooperation.” Bishop Huggins said the human family could do with some places of hope where there was a unified national response. “We urge our PM and our Leader of the Opposition to meet together and shape a way forward, as soon as practicable. Let Australia be an island of hope! It is a matter now of intelligent and cooperative leadership.” Bishop Philip Huggins NCCA President
Anglican Church, Antiochian Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Chinese Methodist Church, Churches of Christ Congregational Federation Coptic Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Indian Orthodox Churc,h Lutheran Church, Mar Thoma Church, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Roman Catholic Church, Romanian Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, The Salvation Army Uniting Church.
Thanks to Richard Smith from the Progressive Christianity NetworkWestern Australia for this review.
This book reveals how
scholars believe that Paul’s remarkable words in Galatians 3:28 of radical
equality among all people irrespective of race, gender, slave or free was
borrowed from an ancient baptismal creed. The original author long since
This ancient creed said nothing about God or Christ or
salvation. Its claims were about the whole human race. In a world of bigotry,
slavery and sexism the followers of Jesus proclaimed at baptism: “You are
all children of God. There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male and
female, for you are all one.” But Christianity
would within 300 years become a religion that despised Jews, condoned slavery
as the will of God, and championed patriarchy.
Freedom slowly emerged 1500 year later as Christianity gave
birth to secularism (this world) enabling the Church to rediscover its true
original nature, from the historical teachings of Jesus and from science (Latin
scio – to know and scientia – knowledge). Science gives birth to
Ecology revealing the fullness of God, the ultimate reality that sustains all
life on earth irrespective of race, gender, slave or free, human or non-human.
But can Christianity resist the temptation of falling prey to the powers and
privileges of wealth that science has bequeathed us. Again abandoning Jesus’
radical teachings and in Greta Thunberg’s words ignoring for the last 30 years,
the science of climate change.
Applications close for the Rodney Eivers Scholarship on Wednesday 18 December
This scholarship is awarded to students of Trinity College Queensland, to assist with their study. The aim of the scholarship is to provide financial support to enrolled students and to encourage the development of a greater awareness of the breadth and diversity in theology and scriptural scholarship [including Progressive Christianity] as it relates to contemporary Australian society.
The successful applicant will be informed of the scholarship award on or before Friday 6th March 2020. The presentation of the scholarship award will be on Tuesday 21st July 2020.
How to apply
In order to apply for the 2019 Rodney Eivers Scholarship, you must email or post a 2019 Rodney Eivers Scholarship application form and essay submission (see below) prior to December 18, 2019. Applications close – Wednesday 18th December 2019
Post Trinity College Queensland Scholarship, GPO Box 674, Brisbane 4001
Submit an essay of approx. 1,500 words on the following:
‘My Personal Theological Reflection’
Drawing on the two books listed below by Marcus Borg and Tom Wright, compare and evaluate the beliefs and claims of Progressive Christianity and Orthodox (historic) Christianity. The essay should draw on evidence and arguments in the books and include some reflection on our Australian context as well as your personal theological reflection. Please use footnotes for citations and references.
Borg, Marcus J – The Heart of Christianity; Rediscovering a Life of Faith (2004). [256 pages]
Wright, N.T. – Simply Christian (2011) [224 pages]
Both books are available in the Trinity College Queensland Library
A scholarship allowance of $13,000 within one calendar year is available.
This will be paid into the student’s nominated bank account in two instalments of $6,500 at the end of each successfully completed full-time semester (July 1 and December 1).
Australian citizens and/or permanent residents
Eligibility to apply
Be enrolled as a full-time (3 units or more) accredited student of Trinity College Queensland. Have completed one year of full-time study (a minimum of 6 degree-level units) at a Theological College with a recognised Higher Education Provider in the last 10 years. Have not been a previous recipient of the ‘Rodney Eivers Scholarship’
Demonstrate an understanding of the perspectives presented in each book Interaction with both books Theological reflection on the implications of differing viewpoints
Please note that the essay requires neither personal belief nor the defence of a particular viewpoint; rather, it is marked on the above criteria
The Queensland Synod Advisory Council will make a recommendation based on the advertised selection criteria.
The Scholarships Committee of the Queensland Synod Finance Investment and Property Board will review and determine the successful recipient and will also approve all disbursements from the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod Scholarship Fund.
Our friends at Progressive Christianity Network Qld will be discussing this at their final gathering for the year on 27th November at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm.
What is Christmas all About? And what are we celebrating?
It’s a wonderful time, but I wonder …….
started a song I learnt many years back! Back then I did not think any deeper
than a manger, shepherds, angels, wise men ….
I do wonder more about the meaning of Christmas and its celebrations each year.
Do you? Do you have a new understanding?
Let’s explore Christmas together at our next PCN Explorers meeting on 27th November, facilitated by Paul Inglis. There are many books that look at Christmas, drawing on new research and thinking. We have attached 2 one page documents that will introduce our thinking. I hope you have time to browse them in the next 10 days before we meet. Request these from Paul . Maybe you will have other resources in your own library. You might also like to look at Jo Holden’s blog on “I don’t believe in the virgin birth”.
for some starter questions for you to play around with and meld with your own:
what you have read about Christmas from a ‘progressive’ Christian viewpoint:
What was an aha moment for you?
What makes you say – “that is something I have not
when did you say – “that does not sit easily with
do you think of the statement that Christmas is a celebration “under
O’Dwyer wrote: I once had a letter published in The Courier-Mail recalling
how, many decades ago, there was a move to “put Christ back into Xmas” and
suggesting the churches should vacate 25th December, leave it to the secular
world and celebrate the birth of Christ sometime back in September. How do
you react to that suggestion?
PCN Explorers will meet for the last time this year on Wednesday 27th November, 10 am, Merthyr Road Uniting Church.
Come at 10 for eat, meet and greet and we will start our conversation. Some people like to continue the fellowship at Moray Cafe after the discussions so maybe you would like to plan for that also.
Predicting social trends is usually an inexact science, but England’s influential Spectator magazine has boldly put a precise date on the disappearance of Christianity from Britain: 2067.
“What does all this mean? …. First, that reports of Christianity’s demise in the West are greatly exaggerated; and second, that to the extent it does disappear, it will be greatly missed…
The churches will have fewer nominal attendees, so that members are more committed. As they continue their good works, but without much of the moralising of the recent past, the faith will become more attractive. It will be like the fourth century – before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and began its fateful courtship of power and authority….
Much of Australia’s social capital over the past two centuries was built by Christians, explicitly motivated by their faith to work not just for themselves but for the community at large. They believed they were called to love their neighbour – all their neighbours – and brought their (now-maligned) “Protestant work ethic” to bear on the problems and challenges of their time. The economy, and in particular the siren call of profit, is the only language that seems to move government or business now. Or at least, it is the most heard….”
Michael Morwood puts some rubber down on the bitumen exploring how the religious beliefs of many people in countries like ours are changing today. In his new book, “Prayers for Progressive Christians: a New Template”, which we introduce to you today he explores some of the ways in which our prayers and liturgies might have to change.
Go to: Catholica to view the great discussion that is ensuing amongst progressive Catholics.
Statement from the Rev Peter Catt, President of A Progressive Christian Voice Australia.
“There is no need for a Religious Freedom Bill. There are many people throughout the world who are persecuted for their faith. To align oneself with them in the current Australian climate is self-indulgent.
Freedom of religion has to do with the freedom to hold to a particular belief system, freedom to assemble for worship unhindered, and freedom to undertake religious observance and practice. It does not and should not include insulating church institutions or members from being challenged or criticised for poor behaviour.
There is a real danger that a Religious Freedom Bill will become a Freedom to be Sectarian Bill. Religion when it functions properly is about love and inclusion. No Religious Freedom Bill should ever sanction hate speech. Neither should such a Bill allow people who provide goods and services to withhold them from say, LGBTIQ+ people. To allow this would be a retrograde step, taking us back half-a-century to the days when goods and services were withheld from people based on perceived race.
I get attacked more often for my views and practices by fellow religious travellers than I do by people from outside the faith community. Will the Bill stop that from happening? Not that I think that it should. But the Bill is predicated on the idea that it is them (secular forces) and us (religious people). The reality is more complex. How will the Bill deal with religious people attacking one another?
Finally, the Government should reflect on its behaviour during the last Parliament when the greatest threat to religious freedom was the Government’s attempt to curtail religious charities from speaking out on policy matters that affected the poor and vulnerable.”
By Meredith Lake, ABC RN Soul Search presenter and academic.
Meredith Lake collected the Australian History prize for her book The Bible in Australia in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards last month. Lake said when public debate about the national history curriculum was in full swing she decided to write the book as an antidote to the so-called culture wars. She said the phrase “Bible basher” had been coined in Australia and her research revealed Australians still held passionate and varied opinions about the Bible.
“[There exists] the idea of Australia as a somehow Christian nation adrift from its Judeo-Christian moorings, a nation whose freedoms may be somehow under threat. On the other hand, the idea of a Godless or secular nation in which religious belief has been at best weird and is best now put behind us [also prevails],” she said.
The ceremony at Parliament House was hosted by ABC presenter Annabel Crabb. The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were launched in 2008 by then prime minister Kevin Rudd as the nation’s richest literary prize for fiction and non-fiction.
They no longer claim the “richest” title after the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award was raised to $150,000 but they do offer the largest prize pool, with $600,000 distributed in six categories. Winners receive $80,000 and finalists receive $5,000 each, all tax free.
Full list of awards
Australian History: Meredith Lake for The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History (NewSouth Books)
Fiction: Gail Jones for The Death of Noah Glass (Text Publishing)
Young Adult Fiction: Michael Gerard Bauer for The Things That Will Not Stand (Scholastic Australia)
Children’s Literature: Emily Rodda for His Name Was Walter (HarperCollins Australia)
Poetry: Judith Beveridge for Sun Music: New and Selected Poems (Giramondo Publishing)
Non-Fiction: Tanya Dalziell and Paul Genoni for Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964 (Monash University Publishing)
This is a big sweep of the history of Australia and the influence of the Bible on that history and the developing and changing culture experienced by European settlers, indigenous residents, missionaries and in more recent times the new citizens from all parts of the world. The Bible was a staple text of colonial Australian life.
But the influence of the Bible on Australian culture goes back hundreds of years before European settlement and this is a fascinating piece of research that includes St Augustine and Portuguese and Dutch traders. By the time of Cook the Bible had been available in English for 250 years and was ubiquitous. It circulated widely as a whole volume or separate books and was in the hands of settlers and convicts and slowly also the indigenous inhabitants. But it was not a smooth pathway of acceptance. It was a contested document right from the start of European settlement, with settlers, convicts and aborigines. Yet it was clearly locked into popular culture and the basis for many decisions, laws and practices. In a European imperial guise it was wrapped in colonial thought and culture. For indigenous it was a new mind set, one that challenged much of their world view. The ‘civilizing’ view of missionaries played out in many different and conflicting ways. They made reading, hearing and learning from the scriptures a part of the rhythm of mission life.
At the same time it became a focus for challenging the encroachment of colonial thought on the original inhabitants. Many efforts to include a rewriting of the Bible in local languages were the subject of enormous battles within the churches and amongst aboriginal communities. But for colonial governments the role of missionaries was to ‘civilize’ and make the aborigines compliant to the new overlords. One great challenge in translations was to agree on a name for God and in several cases ‘boss’ was the substitute.
The legal notion of terra nullius was a crucial cultural product of the bibles European history. people who knew the Bible, believed it, were among those who harmed aboriginal people or profited from frontier violence. There were humanitarians making some noise about the treatment of aborigines but they stopped short of saying colonialism should end.
Lake does a great job of covering the whole territory that includes how the ‘word’ was spread, the growth of publishing houses, the massive influence of the Bible Society, frontier work in a huge country, the way a devotional attachment to the Bible was seen as a means to a good society, the Bibles influence upon the development of banks, schools, hospitals and much more. But it never produced an agreed model for a good society.
Inevitably the text was re-examined as new scholarship in the form of scientific knowledge made its impact on the developing nation, as it did elsewhere. By the late 19th century many works began to appear critiquing the Bible and by 1869 Jesus was being credibly portrayed as a man rather than a God by none less the evangelical Chief Justice of South Australia. New ideas flourished and spread, but only for a couple of decades. By the 1920s 96% of the population was identifying as Christian and dissent was minimal. Once again new views evolved with the development of critical thinking groups, feminist critics and gradually the Bible became one of many books that informed ethical and good practice. At the same time temperance and moral reform movements were influential until mid-20th century.
From the moment the first Australian parliament met, scripture and prayer were locked into politics. The constitution ‘humbly relied on the mercy of God’. The White Australia was indirectly influenced by interpretations of scripture. religion pervaded political parties and influenced policies. Two world wars had a great influence on future perspectives where faiths were shaken. Nevertheless the commemoration ceremonies captured the scriptures as integral to ceremonies for generations. The country continues to erect ‘religious’ memorials with biblical quotes. ANZAC day has become the new religion for Australians.
So much more could be told here, but that would spoil it for the reader.
At 439 pages this is a big read, but an easy one, full of interesting characters and anecdotes from our history. This is a book that all seekers after the truth about our Australian biblical heritage will find fascinating and enjoyable.
On Religion – Information release from ABC’s Australia Talks with Annabel Crabb
“Australians firmly believe that religious people are subjected to discrimination in this country.
But all the same, we’d rather the godly kept their views to themselves.
Seventy-one per cent of Australians told the ABC’s Australia Talks National Survey that religious discrimination happens “occasionally” or “often” in this country.
Ironically, this is a point on which the devout and the heathen are in agreement.
Even among Australians with no religion, 68 per cent agreed that there is discrimination, as did 74 per cent of Catholics, 72 per cent of Protestants and 74 per cent of “other religions”.
Still, we’d rather the devout kept quiet
But a broad majority of Australians — 60 per cent — would prefer that people keep their religious views to themselves.
This was a view held most strongly, as you might imagine, by non-religious respondents, of whom 73 percent wished not to hear the religious views of others.
But even a slim majority of Catholics — 53 per cent — agreed that it was better to keep religion a private affair.
Protestants were more inclined to support full disclosure; only 39 percent of them felt religious views should be private.
And people from other faiths were divided on the question: just shy of a majority — 47 percent — agreed religion should be a hush-hush affair.
If you’re wondering why all religious respondents besides Catholics and Protestants are grouped together, it’s because only those two faith groups provided a large enough sample to isolate in a statistically reliable fashion.
According to the 2016 Census, 2.6 percent of Australians follow Islam, 2.4 percent are Buddhist, 1.9 percent are Hindu and 0.4 percent are Jewish.
Catholicism is the leading single religious group, claiming 23 percent of the population, while 13 percent identify as Anglican and 16 percent as “other Christian”.
We are not our faith
Australia is not a country in which religious belief is the dominant determinant of identity, social status or indeed even social activity.
When given a list of eight attributes and asked which was most central to the respondent’s sense of self and identity, Australians placed religion stone-cold, motherless last.
Respondents were more likely to identify themselves through their political beliefs (this was the top-rating response, scoring 6.4 on a scale of one to ten), gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation than they were through their religious views, which rated 4.7 out of ten.
What not to bring up at a dinner party
Intermingling between religious groups is commonplace in Australia; 84 percent of respondents said they mixed socially with people of different beliefs to themselves.
But there are some subjects probably best avoided at such ecclesiastically-mixed gatherings.
Climate change, for one; while 80 per cent of atheists think climate is a problem for them personally, only 63 percent of Protestants agree.
Gender roles, for another; 35 percent of Protestants believe that Australia would be better off if more women stayed home to look after children, while only 14 percent of the godless were also of this view.
Would more religion help or hurt?
Overall, Australians are not looking for more religion. Only 15 percent of respondents thought the country would be better off if more people were religious.
And one of the survey’s most striking findings is the poor esteem in which religious leaders are held.
When asked who they trusted, Australians opted for doctors and nurses (trusted by 97 percent) and scientists (93 percent) well ahead of their preachers.
Religious leaders were distrusted by a full 70 percent of the population, with 35 percent saying they did not trust them “at all”.
Even within their own flocks, religious leaders were viewed with some suspicion.
Protestants were the most obedient among the faithful; 58 percent of them trusted their religious leadership. But only 47 percent of Catholics had the same level of faith, while other religions came in at 49 per cent.
It seems trust in religious leaders may be a thing of the past; nearly half (47 percent) of those aged over 75 felt it, but only 23 per cent of those aged 25 to 29.
Where do you fit?
If you’ve not had a chance, use the Australia Talks online tool to see how you compare (and share it with your family and friends). It is available in English, Vietnamese, simplified Chinese and Arabic.
Then, tune in at 8.30pm on November 18 for our unmissable live Australia Talks TV event, which I will present with my excellent co-host Waleed Aly. “ Annabell Crabb
Forward this email to a friend so they can sign up to this newsletter here.
About Kevin: As a free-thinking progressive-christian messianic god-seeker. Kévin Aryé Hatikvah Smith, aged 98, deaf in a wheel-chair in Sydney / Supreme Cross of Honour in 2005 (from Benedict XVI) for 50 years of ecumenism (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) in France and Australia. My mother, Esther Myers, was culturally Jewish although non-observant and became Catholic before wedding my Catholic father in 1921. She was a splendid model of Hebrew neighbourly-love and wrote poetry about the blessed virgin Mary and Jesus. I made friends with a messianic rabbi and he invited me to be a reader in his synagogue, which I loved doing. With my wife we were foundation members of the NSW Council of Christians & Jews. Happy Hanukkah to you and yours from Kevin in Sydney NSW. My Jewish Cockney ancestor Emmanuel Solomon arrived in Sydney in 1818 and in about 1835 he became a patriarch founder of Adelaide. As a leading Jew he became a close friend of Saint Mary MacKillop and helped her during her excommunication… more than once supplying free accommodation on his properties to the nuns expelled from thier convents by a bishop.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? … studying the Rabbi Yeshuah story … Terentius (195-159 BCE): “As a human person, I consider that nothing human is unworthy of my concern”. (Homo sum. A me nihil humanum alienum puto.) -As a human person, I, Kevin/Gauvain, have cast my limited observation powers on the material world that has nurtured me and also beyond at the physical universe that gave me birth.
-I have had it pointed out to me that the universe is
part of a greater realm, the cosmos, where there is Creator-God, heaven,
angels, purgatory , hell, demons, etc.
— Concluding a session of my limited observations and
drawing on life-long learning I conclude in this essay, or I arrive at the
(i) that I am a citizen of a planet where all human
observations, conclusions and opinions are tentative and challengeable;
(ii) that nobody has totally died and then come back to
everyday life again, no resurrection;
(iii) that virgin-mary type pregnancies do not occur
[Yeshuah had no male DNA.];
(iv) that all miracles are scientifically suspect;
(v) that the existence of divinity / divine-nature is
(vi) that a great literary work, the Bible, is a wholly
human construct and therefore has very questionable verisimilitude on account
of its many discrepancies, contradictions and mistakes;
(vii) that you must not trust Christianity because of the christology that it created which was presented to followers as unchangeable ‘deposit of faith’ dogma;
(viii) that faith is often the enemy of evidential fact;
(ix) that history shows for me no evidence of what I
taught as a catechist for 20 years, “God the Father is a loving, caring
(x) that it has been most difficult for me to advance
this thesis since it has taken me 7 or 8 decades of devoted application trying
to find out WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?
(xi) that these observations are for me joyful and liberating.
— As one born saved, I spiritually embrace Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth as my mentor; he is Israel’s greatest prophet,, an original thinker, an inspiring preacher, gifted healer & exorcist, convincing teacher of wisdom and integrity, Jewish mystic, model of kingdom-oriented life-style and promulgator of the ancient Hebrew ethics of neighbourly love with esteem for Adonai-Elohim as our loving Father. I walk daily hand-in-hand with this most admirable spiritual companion and silently converse with him and I greet his mother too.  Kevin Aryeh Hatikvah Smith in Sydney 
Today’s gathering of the PCNQ Explorers at New Farm was another excellent interactive discussion, this time including practical exercises.
Discussion leader, Brian O’Hanlon, is a member of the group, a frequent homily presenter at St Mary’s in Exile, South Brisbane and author of:
A Path to Peace based on his work with veterans experiencing PTS, and
Experiencing the Spirit
Brief notes from the session
Scripture, especially the NT is often seeking enlightenment from a position of love
Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is within and around you
The Buddhist concept of Nirvana similarly calls for a quietening of the mind (taming of the ego)
An enlightened person lives without judgment, with acceptance, awareness of the eternal dimension, the sacred
Matthew Fox, from the recent Common Dreams Conference – What the world needs now is a sense of the sacred
Eckhart Tolle’s concept of the mind is open to God/love when it is empty
Damascus Road experiences are brain activities of experiencing enlightenment or liberation from/of the ego. But there are also many examples where the outcome of an experience of enlightenment where the ego is not completely managed leads to a dogmatic view of life – the ego has not completed the awareness experience. Many examples in history of people who have not managed their egos and taken others on pathways to destruction
Dogmatic thinking comes from the left side of the brain – shifting this allows/prevents the spiritual ego stopping an advancement of awareness.
Ego is your past insisting it is you now.
Example from Philippians 2:7 – but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave being born in human likeness. And being found in human form
Ego is a verb, a process and like power can be good or bad
A balanced mature ego is found through silence/meditation/emptying the mind.
Brian took us through exercises to demonstrate to ourselves how this can be done. It was good to have a psychologist’s perspective entering our very diverse discussions.
Our next gathering will be on
Monday 4th November – to hear Lozang Tsultrim talk about Tools for
Happiness: a Buddhist approach to finding happiness. Lozang is
Carla Pearse’s adopted name since being ordained a nun in the Buddhist
tradition ten years ago. She has gained degrees in Counselling (UNE, Armidale),
Social Science (UQ, Brisbane) and International Studies: Peace and Conflict
Resolution (UQ), and has decades of experience in pastoral care, suicide
prevention counselling, and running mindfulness workshops and retreats in
Queensland, New South Wales, Nepal and India. I’m sure Carla will be happy to
answer your questions about Buddhism to the best of her ability!
As usual, we meet at 6 p.m. in the Azure Blue coffee shop (91 Anzac Ave, Redcliffe) for tea/coffee and bikkies, after which Lozang’s talk will start at about 6:30. All are welcome. For more information please give me a call on 3284 3688 or 0401 513 723.
Geoff Taylor has drawn our attention to the ‘Amazon’ Synod and the debate that is going on in the Roman Catholic Church.
But not all the Cardinals are happy! Cardinal Muller, a German Cardinal without a portfolio is being very vocal on his concerns about the reforms posited by his German Cardinal colleagues who are not prepared to be limited by Rome. Even the reformist Pope Francis is concerned about the pace of the thinking about changes including an end of priestly celibacy, the ordination of women, the reform of sexual morality, and the democratization of powers in the Church. The Synod that is promoting all of this thinking will for the first time give equal voting rights to laity and clergy and almost certainly shake the church to its foundations.
And Cardinal Müller also sees worldliness in the way in which part of the Church has sided with environmentalist ideology:
Church belongs to Jesus Christ and must preach the Gospel and give hope for
eternal life. It cannot make itself a protagonist of any ideology, whether that
of ‘gender’ or environmentalist neopaganism. It is dangerous if this happens. I
come back to the ‘Instrumentum Laboris’ prepared for the synod on the Amazon.
In one of its paragraphs it speaks of ‘Mother Earth’: but this is a pagan
expression. The earth comes from God and our mother in faith is the Church. We
are justified through faith, hope, and love, not through environmental
activism. Of course, taking care of creation is important, after all we live in
a garden willed by God. But this is not the decisive point. What is is the fact
that for us God is more important. Jesus gave his life for the salvation of
men, not of the planet.”
“L’Osservatore Romano,” which has published an obituary for the Icelandic glacier Okjökull, which died
“through our fault,” Müller objects: “Jesus became man, not an
icicle.” And he continues:
“Of course, the Church can make its own contribution, with good ethics, with social doctrine, with the magisterium, recalling anthropological principles. But the Church’s first mission is to preach Christ the son of God. Jesus did not tell Peter to concern himself with the government of the Roman empire, he does not enter into dialogue with Caesar. He kept himself at a good distance. Peter was not a friend of Herod or of Pilate, but he suffered martyrdom. Cooperation with a legitimate government is just, but without forgetting that the mission of Peter and of his successors consists in uniting all believers in faith in Christ, who did not recommend involvement with the waters of the Jordan or the vegetation of Galilee.”
Rev. Dr John Squires was formerly Principal of Perth Theological Hall. He is currently undertaking an Intentional Interim Ministry with Queanbeyan Uniting Churchand is Canberra Region Presbytery Minister (Wellbeing).
John’s blog An Informed Faith is linked to this site in Links – Categories – Leading Practitioners
There has been a lot of media interest in the recent declaration by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, concerning the way that some dioceses, a number of ministers, and many, many people of faith are grappling with our changed understandings of gender and sexuality, and how that relates to Christian faith.
It is a complex matter, with many nuances, that deserve careful consideration, and compassionate reflection.
The words of the Sydney Diocese leader, however, cast the situation in a clear black-and-white manner, with the stinger of a sharp command to those with whom he (and many in his Diocese) disagree: “please leave”.
The full set of words from this part of his speech is instructive: “My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our Church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views – but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture. Please leave us.”
So sayeth the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, the Rev. Dr Glenn Davies.
But there are a number of problems with what Dr Davies said.
The Archbishop distanced himself from “people who] wish to change the doctrine of our Church”. The first problem is, that doctrine is always changing. It was changing in the early decades of the church. It changed significantly in the various Reformations of the 16th century, under the leadership of Jan Huss, Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, John Knox, and then the response of the Council of Trent in the Roman Catholic Church.
It changed in 1540, when Henry VIII of England sanctioned the complete destruction of shrines to saints, and further in 1542, when Henry dissolved monasteries across the country—actions which changed doctrines and led to the formation of the very church in which Glenn Davies was ordained and then consecrated!
It changed when, during the Enlightenment, theologians and scholars applied principles of rational thinking to scriptural texts and faith concerns. It continues to change in the postmodern world, as new discoveries and insights lead Christian leaders to bring new questions to faith issues, and to formulate beliefs in ways that connect with and make sense within the changing world.
In my own denomination, the Uniting Church in Australia, we recognise this when we recall the paragraph in our Basis of Union that affirms “the continuing witness and service”, not only of evangelists, prophets, and martyrs, but also of scholars; and which notes that as we engage with “literary, historical and scientific enquiry … [of] recent centuries”, we are able to develop “an informed faith” of relevance to the current times.
Doctrine is dynamic; it is always in a state of flux. Theology is transient; it is always developing. Church teaching is constantly evolving; it is never static.
Second, the Archbishop referred to “the plain teaching of Scripture”. The second problem, then is that scripture does not actually have a plain teaching. There are words, written in the Bible, which need to be interpreted, if they are to be understood and applied to contemporary life. There is no plain and simple teaching in these words; they are words which always need interpretation.
This interpretation starts with the choice of text. We do not have an “original version”; we have copies of copies, some complete, many fragmented. There are always options to consider–and we all rely on experts in this matter. Then comes the matter of language. Biblical texts were written in languages other than English. We English-speakers are reliant on the careful work of translators and scholars, seeking to render the phrases of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, into contemporary English. There are already multiple interpretive decisions that have been made for us, in our English Bibles.
Then, interpretation needs to take into account the differences in culture that exist, between the patriarchal, honour-shame cultures of antiquity, and the current state of play within (in our case) contemporary Australian society. We can’t just assume that something from an ancient culture “makes sense” in our contemporary culture, let alone that it can be “directly applied” into our context. There are interpretive decisions to be made.
The process of interpretation also needs to bear in mind how the usage of particular words and ideas has changed over time. Awful, for instance, once had a very positive sense, “full full of awe or admiration”, whilst nice had an earlier sense of “silly, foolish”. Guy (from the historical British figure Guy Fawkes) had an earlier sense of a frightening figure, not the generalised reference to men that it has today, whilst meat in earlier centuries was a catch-all term referring to food in general. (And, most pertinent to the particular issue at hand, “gay” once had a very different point of reference in English!)
These kinds of shifts in usage are also found in terms that appear in the Bible, especially in translations from some centuries ago. We need to factor that in to our interpretation.
And then, reading and interpretation of the Bible involves application, discerning how and in what ways a biblical passage is relevant for us today. That means knowing what our situation is as well as what we hear in the biblical text, and connecting the two. It is not simple or straightforward.
That’s an unfair and unhelpfully polemical characterisation of what is a complex and nuanced matter—reading biblical passages about sexuality in contemporary society. The biblical texts about sexual relationships involving people of the same gender are not simple and self-evident prohibitions on such behaviour, and should not be read as such.
Third, the Archbishop—quite strikingly—has urged certain people to leave the Anglican Church. I believe that advocating that people leave one church to start another church is not a helpful activity. Anglicans, like other mainstream denominations, have a commitment to unity in the church. So, the third problem is a lack of commitment to the unity of the church.
That’s quite an amazing position for a leader in a denomination which affirms that it is, indeed, an integral part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church—and which is universally recognised by other denominations as an integral part of that Church.
Each Sunday, in Anglican churches around Australia (and beyond), faithful people affirm, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” That’s a line in the Nicene Creed. And those Anglicans are joined by many Roman Catholics, members of the many Orthodox churches, and quite a number of folk in the various Protestant churches, to say these words together on regular (even weekly) occasions. Across the denominations, there is a commitment to unity.
Not in the Sydney Anglican Diocese, however. The Archbishop’s invitation to those who see things differently from him to leave the church and form their own branch is fracturing the unity of the church even more by this narrow, sectarian dogmatism.
Archbishop Welby is promoting through the Anglican Communion a resource entitled Living Reconciliation, which “offers a vision of Church marked by honesty, truthfulness and love … [and] applies the teaching of the Gospel at precisely the point where we need it most today” (see http://living-reconciliation.org/thebook/).
Is the Archbishop of Sydney aware of just how contrary his words are, to the principles of reconciliation and the commitment to an honest, loving church that is being championed by the Archbishop of Canterbury?
Finally, the Archbishop of Sydney is quoted as imploring those with whom he disagrees: do not ruin the Anglican Church. The fourth problem I see is that exploring and developing ideas is not a process of ruination.
Rather, the exploration of ideas and the development of thought is a constructive process that offers a gift to the church at large: the gift of an ever-evolving, ever-refining articulation of beliefs in ways that resonate with life in the contemporary age. Questions, provocations, redefinitions, and developments in thinking and believing are wonderful gifts!
I wouldn’t characterise the process as one of causing ruin. Rather, I would celebrate it and affirm the importance of this process. The problem, it seems to me, is that if you really believe that you have The Truth, then you are impelled to convince others of that Truth. But if you believe you are called to Love others, then you will listen and learn.
Sadly, the Archbishop has demonstrated this stark difference: when we prioritise Truth, we inform, lecture, admonish, even berate; whereas when we prioritise Love, we enter into relationships, affirm, explore, nourish, question, rethink, and develop in community with each other. Quite a different ethos. Quite a different result.
Please Leave? No—Please Stay! To the people addressed by Dr Davies, I say: Please stay in the Christian church and help us to be faithful to the Gospel. Please stay in the Christian church and help us to change in ways that are positive and life-giving. Please stay and gift your distinctive contribution to the life of the church in your locality and beyond.
And to the Archbishop, if he really is committed to the process of leaving, I say: you please leave. Please leave behind homophobic fear and discriminatory rhetoric. Please leave behind your insistence on conformity to your particular dogmatic assertions. Please leave behind your criticisms of those who happen to be born different from you. That’s what I would like you to leave.
On October 3, 2019, the Prime
Minister, Scott Morrison, delivered a lecture to the Lowy Institute outlining
his vision for Australia’s role in relation to what he called “globalism”.
On the surface, the tone of his
speech was plausible and reasonable. But, on closer examination, his
declarations, couched as they were in general terms, are disturbing for many Australians of
goodwill who seek a better direction for our nation as an international citizen
– including progressive Christians (to whom this response is primarily
PM Morrison rejected what he
described as “unaccountable international bureaucracy”, clearly a side swipe at
the United Nations. There was no acknowledgement of the role prominent
Australian leaders of the past played in
establishing international forums which have defended peace along with human
and environmental rights.
While rejecting “isolationism”,
Mr Morrison opted instead for what he called “positive and practical
globalism”. Moreover, ignoring his power and responsibility to lead the nation
and inspire Australians to less self-centred policies, he insisted that he was “responsible to the will
of the Australian people” (whatever that is) invoking that slippery term, “the
national interest”, as his justification.
Throughout this bench-marking oration he did not once
mention the issue of Global Warming and Australia’s responsibility to take a
strong lead internationally, as life on the planet faces climate change. Interestingly, he did not repeat his recent
assertion to a United Nations assembly: “We are meeting our commitments and reject
any say to the contrary…” That dubious assertion was strongly disputed by
experts as demonstrated on the ABC TV program “The Drum” on the 8th
of October 2019.
Sadly, his silence about this
number one global issue in the Sir Frank Lowy lecture speaks volumes about his
unwillingness to prioritise a national
strategy on the matter. Instead, the priority Mr Morrison espoused was “security through economic strength”, seemingly
code for “business as usual”.
Furthermore, there was no mention
of his government’s record (and that of recent governments of all persuasions)
on matters such as our diminishing humanitarian overseas aid budget or border
protection with its unnecessarily cruel policies. Clearly, he was asserting,
the Australian government will not listen to “unaccountable” international
bodies who justifiably accuse Australia of violating human rights.
That said, the lecture also,
presumptuously, invoked Australia’s “higher values”, presumably the tradition
we share with other middle powers like Canada and New Zealand. Arguably, these nations with whom we share much history apply
values that promote a somewhat different
stance toward “globalism”.
The content of the
Prime Minister’s speech is all the more disturbing when set in its context.
Clearly, it was fashioned and
delivered against the background of his recent international tour which
included his absence at the UN Climate Conference in New York, but an elaborate
State visit to Trump’s USA (and it is President Trump who has given currency to
this term, “globalism”). Of course, the context is wider: China’s rise to
power, Vladimir Putin’s nationalistic style and the UK’s Brexit push.
These geo-political shifts
provide a reason for the Prime Minister to clarify Australia’s approach to
international affairs but they also emphasise the need for caution, lest
Australia fall into line with the mood
for regressive nationalism.
Finally, in my
view, people of Christian faith and all those who share a hope for the common
good, cannot avoid the conclusion that, as he has become a custodian of great
political power, the Prime Minister’s loudly proclaimed Christian faith has
evaporated in the years since he delivered a testimony to that faith in his
Understood prophetically and progressively, Christianity, along with other like worldviews, believes the interests of the global community of life are paramount. It will be up to civil society in Australia, including strong advocacy by religious leaders, guided by a different understanding of globalism, to push back and sound a different note. Otherwise, we will continue to slide further from authentic international responsibility toward a narrow and self-focussed national interest.
Truth and Liberation Concern (TLC Church) is an organic community, responding to God’s grace and the call to love. Just as the TLC community is a ‘work in progress’, so its vision and mission statement is a work in progress. It is a snapshot of our community and aims to give clarity to what is evident among us. And it helps us dream and plan for what may be possible for the journey ahead.
The TLC elders and pastors recognise and name the things that give life and breath to the TLC community. We acknowledge the founding faith statements and mission statements that have underpinned our community for over 40 years.
Our Mission Statement
Spirituality and worship We affirm worship as an all-of-life endeavor, expressed in diverse ways as we respond to God and to one another. We seek to nurture the Christian faith within our community and to provide opportunities for spiritual growth.
A place to belong We offer people a home and a place to belong. We provide a space where people can find love, grace and dignity through their relationships with Christ and with one another.
Mission and community engagement We encourage one another to encounter God as we reach out beyond our boundaries, exploring and sharing the love and justice of Jesus.
An Empowering Community We empower people to take ownership within our community. We encourage one another to embrace both the freedom of the Gospel and the responsibility that the Gospel brings. Our challenge is to express our faith through the way we live.
Restoration & Healing We offer rest, healing and rejuvenation. We invite people to experience the love of God within our community, and we provide space for people to journey towards wholeness.
A seeker’s reflection on the rooms of Christian living
by Kevin Treston
I have been looking forward to more from Kevin Treston since his The
Wind Blows Where it Chooses made practical sense of the crisis facing
western Christianity. Opening Doors is a great follow on from that book
and once again he has produced a text that is useful for personal as well as group
studies. This time the exercise is to reconcile a contemporary faith with
modern science, cosmology and spirituality.
Dr Kevin Treston has taught and lectured for many years in 14 different countries. He is the author of 30 books, and a highly respected presenter among Christian educators. He was a visiting Scholar at Boston College and is a member of the association of Practical Theology Oceania. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his services to education.
He calls himself a seeker because he has taken on board Jesus’ invitation to open the door to him, get to know him better and at the same time bring Jesus wisdom into contemporary society. He invites us to be seekers and gives us the tools for shifting from the old anthropocentric (human centred) faith to an ecocentric faith better suited to our times. This is a very personal exercise and the book acts as a resource that guides the reader/s through a range of elements that enhance Christian living today.
For Kevin it is obvious that the Christ Story is told within the Great Story of the Universe which is a much longer narrative than the 2000 years of Christianity. The profound mystery of God within and beyond creation needs to be reframed within the wondrous story of the universe. He has developed this theme in previous books so that the three great movements from Jewish beginnings to the traditional story we are familiar with are linked to the emerging cosmic story including teachings, theology, liturgy, ethical living that form a new consciousness that includes modern science.
Kevin builds the discussion on a foundation of human evolutionary destiny for homo sapiens as an exclusive species of hominoids exhibiting unique attributes of self-reflection, language, art and consciousness over 150,000 years through towards today’s global people to emerging trans human forms. This is accompanied by a history of the development of religions and especially in the Christian religion the rise of the clerical class which has had a depowering effect on individuals ‘reducing them to a spiritually dependent lay state’. He makes the point that the propensity to be religious deeply embedded in the human psyche is not confined to those who endorse creeds and doctrines. But it does give each of us an inclination to consider the question What Does it mean to live life given the fact that one day I will die? He gives fresh insights into the meaning of ‘incarnation’ as core thinking in the human narrative.
reader is given opportunities to consider the issues and questions raised by
the author’s commentary on life, religion, spirituality, advances in science,
love and relationships, the divine, sin, God as Trinity, the worship of Jesus,
the teachings of Jesus and the Cosmic or Universal Christ, the exercise of
ministry, the role and status of women and the problems of patriarchy and
domestic violence, morality and shifts in teaching about morality. All of this
leads to Kevin’s model for the spirituality journey which is really a framework
for each of us to develop our own intentional model.
I found this book personally liberating and I was motivated to follow up on Kevin’s invitation to describe the room of life that I would like to be in after opening the door. Highly recommended for individuals, conversations and self-directed groups who will find some great ideas for getting underway. It is a resource suitable inside and outside the church with particular benefit to communities looking at the renewal and relevance of their mission focus.
[Posted to demonstrate the diversity of thinking amongst our growing cohort of progressivesand the fact that this sort of thinking was in scholarly circles in the 18th century...]
From Brother Mac Campbell, Society of St Francis
interested in an eighteenth century German philosopher/theologian who was
responsible for the birth of Romanticism.
Perhaps the following might interest readers:
Johann Georg Hamann on sexuality; Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy: “One must also remember that Hamann confessed that he could not conceive of a Creative Spirit without genitalia; indeed, he was quite happy to assert that the genitals are the unique bond between creature and Creator. So sexuality in divine-human relations has two aspects. First, as paradigm of creativity, it is the way in which our God-likeness can most strikingly be seen. Secondly, as the point of the most profound unity, it is the locus for our union both with another human being and with the divine. Provocatively, Hamann sees original sin and its rebellion as embodied not in sexuality, but in reason. Overweening reason is our attempt to be like God; meanwhile, prudery is the rejection of God’s image, while trying to be like God in the wrong sense (bodilessness). (See Essay of a Sibyl on Marriage and Konxompax.) One should therefore distinguish ‘likeness to God’ from ‘being equal to God’. In the Sibyl’s essay, the male version of grasping at equality with God (cf. Phil. 2:6) is the attempt to be self-sufficient, to be the God of monotheism: the sole ruler, who possesses self-existence. Instead, the encounter with the opposite sex should engender in the man an attitude of profound respect towards the woman’s body, as the source of his own existence, from his mother. As the source of his own joy, lovemaking also is an acknowledgement of his own dependence, his lack of self-sufficiency and autonomy. But this dependence on another paradoxically is the Godlikeness of the Creator, the father, the one who humbles himself in self-giving (a favourite Hamannian theme in his discussion of God). Meanwhile, the woman’s temptation is to an artificial innocence; a secret envy of God’s incorporeality and impassibility. The defence of one’s virginity is another cryptic attempt at self-sufficiency. Instead, the woman must brave the ‘tongues of fire’ in a ‘sacrifical offering of innocence’, in order to realize her Godlikeness; which is not to be found in bodilessness and the absence of passion, but in passionate creativity; in the willingness to be incarnate. Thus, if human beings are in the image of God, it is a trinitarian image of God, a mutual relation of love of ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Spirit’; found in creating, in saving, and in tongues of fire.”
Brother Mac Campbell (the Society of St Francis) October 2019
The German philosopher Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) was known as the “Wizard of the North.” He held that truth is a matter of subjective belief, and he sought to reveal the divine in things and people.
While reading this wonderful book, I felt a real sense of hope for the future despite the obvious challenges facing humanity and the growing challenges to our planet and humankind. It is a work that is dense with serious philosophical reflections on ‘the meaning of life’. Elijah is a great vehicle for demonstrating the conundrum that inevitably every thinking person is faced with – Why am I here?
Drawing on a range of great scholars in the field of
existential theory, Stratford takes the reader on a journey through our links
to land and Spirit, of our being in the world, our search for personal
meaning that makes this being significant, the mystery of ‘God’ in the
shaping of the meaning and the part played by shadows that hide the
Ultimately, he grounds all of this in a series of case
stories provided by a range of people who reflect on their own being
As the author says, there are two realities that undergird
all in this book. Land and Spirit are fundamental for our being, and attachment
to the land anchors our life…Imagination and story bind us to the earth and
open pathways for the recognition of the Spirit.
We are reminded that a good religion has been ruined by its advocates, who got so caught up in literalism that its essence was lost. Consequently, much that passes for a Christian message makes little sense for so many. Stratford addresses this by describing God as a verb rather than an elsewhere person. In the web of possibility for hope and affection emerging from this view of God appears mythology and poetry which give life to a personal spirituality that has been lost, in the main, in the evolution of the Church.
Why are you here Elijah? Why in this place? Why not
somewhere else and doing the job I called you to? This question encourages us
to evaluate the situation in which we find ourselves and to live through that
situation. It also encourages us to continue in a way of being,
consciously, in a way that can be modified but which needs to be valued,
to get on with living.
There is an intentionality about being that honours
the earth as a gift for humankind, a place that needs to be nurtured if we are
to maintain a healthy viability of being for all people. It also
requires that we maintain kindness and truth as fundamental building blocks so
that all people are accepted. There is a measure of personal responsibility
implied. There is also a suggestion that we can all be greater than who we are
now, and this will be validated, despite moments of uncertainty, as we become
more aware of all that makes the framework of our life.
This book will cause the reader to think! You will also want to capture the hundreds of great philosophical reflections that Stratford produces, to stop and to make links to your own experiences of life. For me it was not for a single sitting because I needed to put it down for a while and let the ideas settle before coming back to it. Clearly this work comes from someone who has thought long and hard about the meaning of life. You won’t get a single answer to that question but you will be better able to answer it from your own perspective once you have engaged with this book.
The author:Rev Dr Walter Stratford is a retired Uniting Church Ministerwho served in such diverse places as the New Hebrides, Traralgon, Townsville and Dandenong. He also spent time as secretary to the Queensland Ecumenical Council, and as a chaplain at the Wesley Hospital, Brisbane. During his ministry Walter found time for study and completed a number of degrees, including a PhD in 2012. He is married with four adult children, a number of grand children and great-grandchildren.
Currently available as paperback from Amazon.com for $18 plus shipping cost.
Chris is a Minister in the Uniting Church, a resource worker with UAICC, an adjunct member of faculty at UTC, and an associate Researcher in the Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre at CSU. He has a long interest in relationships with Indigenous people, and a commitment to more just ways on being the church in this country. His particular research interests are theological method, theology in Australia, justice for Indigenous people, the relationship between discipleship and citizenship, issues in social ethics, and the social and theological location of the church.
He has a particular interest in the way theology and church practices are shaped by relationships with power. He spent the last five years of full-time ministry as National Coordinator for the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. He remains committed to supporting efforts to develop Indigenous theologies in Australia. His writings include Following Jesus in Invaded Space: Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land (Pickwick, 2009), and Why Indigenous Sovereignty Should Matter to Christians (Mediacom Education, 2018). He contributed to Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization (edited Steve Heinrichs; Orbis, 2019).
you for the invitation to make this presentation.
my respects to the custodians
of this place and particularly to their Elders – past, present and emerging. I
thank them for sustaining the land and the stories of sacred life.
Today we are
talking about postcolonial theology and sovereignty for First Peoples. A more
academic understanding of Postcolonial theologywould highlight its reliance on critical theory, and the
critique of structures of power, dominant systems, and embedded ideologies for
simply we can say that postcolonial theology seeks a more liberating response
to the exercise of power – political, social, economic and religious – over
access to what is needed to live, our bodies, and relationships, including with
the earth. It is ‘postcolonial’ in the sense that it is focused on the
struggles of those who have been invaded and settled by colonial powers, the
justifying stories of those colonial powers, and the role of theology in the
theology is a form of liberation theology. The difference is its emphasis on
empire and empire studies of Scripture, and a very conscious focus on power.
Thanks in no
small part to Reinhold Niebuhr’s work Christ and Culture, Western
Christians are aware of the relationship between faith and culture. Joerg
Rieger reminds us that we can no longer think about culture apart from power.
The primary context in
which we think about Christ – whether we realize it or not – is shaped by large
and ever-changing conglomerates of power that are aimed at controlling all
aspects of our lives, from micropolitics to our innermost desires…
is about (i) the ability to determine/ influence the shape of economy and who
accesses ‘wealth,’ (ii) the ability to make political decisions that shape the
structure of society – including who belongs and who doesn’t, and (iii) the
ability to influence the stories and practices that explain and justify the
has to do with both the material and relational realities and the narratives –
expressed in history-telling, law-making, rituals and celebrations, education
and news, and memorials – that explain, justify and defend the world.
In his book, Dominion
and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, James C. Scott talks about
the public transcripts that those with power tell to ensure that people see the
world their way. These are the transcripts that explain why some deserve to
flourish and others do not. People who invade tell stories to
justify to themselves why they – as good people, and we all want to be good
people – can do this.
Scott also talks of hidden transcripts – the stories that
oppressed people tell in private to sustain their lives. They are stories that
mock those with power and affirm their own worth. They are dangerous stories,
and when they surface in public spaces they are often ambiguous stories – i.e.
stories that seem harmless to those with power, but are understood as quite
subversive by those with ears to hear.
Let me explore the example of Jesus and taxes (Mark 12: 13-17).
The story starts with people coming to Jesus to trap him, so keep that in mind.
They ask Jesus is it ok to pay taxes to the Romans? Romans didn’t pay taxes;
only those who were defeated militarily. Taxes were a constant reminder of
Jesus asks the religious leaders for a coin, which they produce
fairly quickly. The coin had the emperor on one side and his mother – claimed
to be a deity – on the other. First class example of idolatry, and yet they
used the coin. Sort of takes away their high moral ground.
Jesus looks at the coin and says: give to Caesar what is Caesar’s
and to God what is God’s. Good answer – affirms the Romans and God – and Jesus
is safe. A divided world – which we love.
But while this interpretation suits us, it is – I think –
fundamentally wrong. Jesus believes that
everything belongs to God. In Jesus’ world there is nothing left for Caesar and
his idolatrous claims. And those who knew Jesus heard this as a word of hope.
That is why the debate about monuments and Australia Day is
important – it is about which stories shape our identity, access to power and
economy, and sense of belonging. There is a questioning of the public
transcript of discovery and peaceful settlement.
That is why the issue of whether people sing the national anthem
at a football game matters. National Anthems are part of the public transcript,
the way the nation’s story is told, how people’s history is dealt with, and
what place people have in the
nation. Not singing challenges the transcript – it is about voice and truth.
Because of its relationship with power and empire, the church and
its theology is usually a public transcript. It is theology that has been
shaped by its place alongside, and its role justifying, power.
Postcolonial theology explicitly recognises the way narratives/
celebrations support or question power and seeks to take the side of those who
are oppressed and marginalised. It is a form of theology that is closer to a
Postcolonial theology also stands against the way our society has,
for three hundred years, divided the world into religious, political and
economic spheres. It claims that religion is not a separate part of life but is
deeply woven into every part of daily life.
Religion is not about personal and individual beliefs and
behaviour. It is the narrative that holds together, underpins and makes sense
of the world. It is a community agreed-upon set of social practices and
The problem when we let the world be divided into spheres is (i)
religion is told to leave politics and economics alone and (ii) these other two
areas of life have their own narrative and soteriology/ story of salvation – ‘security’
for the state and ‘the market’ for economy.
Distorted colonial theology
To understand the need for a postcolonial theology, we need to understand
the distorted nature of colonial theology; the centre of which is the decision
of the church to align with power and empire rather than with those who have
There is no such thing as a neutral theology. All theology takes
sides. The issue is: which side does theology take in our time and continuing
colonial context, and what theology shapes that choice of location?
Does any one on the UCFORUM list subscribe to Westar Institute publication, FORUM?
If you do I would love a copy of the paper “The Ritual of the Hellenistic Meal: Early Christian Everyday Practice as an Exegetical Challenge,” by Soham Al-Suadi, published in the current (probably still winging its way down under) issue.
Hopefully there might be someone in our large following that can help Rex find this publication. He has raised my interest and for the interest of our readers –
Soham Al-Suadi develops Hal Taussig’s work on the Eucharist meal as a typical Hellenistic meal, which was a site of “social, political, and religious experimentation.” Like McGowan, Al Suadi sees the origins of the Eucharist meal in the everyday practices of the ancient world. But it is important to understand that even an ordinary communal meal could be the place of transformation. So Al-Suadi examines the earliest account of the Christian banquet from Rom 14:1–12 and looks at what it reveals about Christian identity formation. In essence, Paul was faced with a tension between Jews and gentiles at the table and sought a remedy to the tension between them to “minimize the disruptive state of experimentation.” The decisions about identity made at the meal—on how the menu settles differences between Jews and gentiles—then continue after the meal, influencing daily life. Al-Suadi moves from comparisons to Hellenistic meals to the creation of a new hermeneutical method that combines socio-historical criticism with ritual theory and applies it to portions of Paul’s letters related to the Eucharistic meal. She focuses on several aspects: the terms of identification used for the participants, how the order within the meal ritual influences the interconnectedness of those involved, and what the order of reclining during the meal reveals about group and individual identity. As a result, the exegete becomes acutely aware of how participation in the Eucharist at once provides an opportunity to break or transcend social divisions, reflects the tensions that exist in the larger community, and seeks to resolve their differences in pursuit of forming a new group identity. Most interesting about Al-Suadi’s discussion is her argument that the birth of Christianity was not a singular, remarkable event; rather, it arose from the everyday experience of communal meals, occurring wherever Christianity had taken root.
COMMON DREAMS 2019 a reflection by two members of the PCNQ
Steven and I attended this gathering
during July, at Newington College and Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney. To be
honest, we were also attending the Royal School of Church Music Winter School
and as these two events overlapped, we missed some sessions of both.
However, COMMON DREAMS was the fifth
gathering of its kind, drawing people from across Australia, New Zealand and
even further afield. The fourth was held at Somerville House in Brisbane in 2017.
The vision for COMMON DREAMS is described
by Rev Greg Jenks, an Anglican minister, former Principal of St Francis Theological
College in Brisbane, but now Dean of Bathurst Anglican Cathedral:
Common Dreams is intended to be an
interfaith and ecumenical project to promote, protect and expand the role of
reasonable and tolerant religion in the public space. The significance of
Common Dreams as a name for this movement is its potential to invite us beyond
differences derived from culture, ethnicity and religion into a shared space
where we have common dreams for a better future.
The theme of this year’s conference
was Sacred Earth: Original Blessing, Common Home. It was a focus for advocates
of spirituality and social change, providing inspiration for progressive
seekers and sustenance for practical dreamers. International guest, Matthew
Fox, leading exponent of creative Spirituality, addressed the conference with
topics such as Spiritual but not Religious: the future of religion and of
spirituality and of the Earth; On being Deeply Human in a Time of Earth-Crisis;
But there were so many inspirational speakers – Norman Habel and Anne
Pattel-Gray lead us in Time to Publicly Acknowledge the Creation
Spirituality of our Aboriginal Custodians; Jonathan Keren-Black (Jewish
scholar) spoke on In Judaism it is actions that count above all in healing
the world; Rod Bower, from Gosford’s Anglican Church challenged us with his
understanding of Common Home and A Just Society; Ro Allen, Victorian
Commissioner for Gender Equality, showed us through honest dialogue and courage
how to Honour the Rich Diversity of Sex, Sexuality and Gender within the
Cosmos; and Rev Margaret Mayman of Pitt St UC gave the final keynote – Holding
Hope and Acting Out: Engaging Tradition and Doing Ethics in Times of Conflict
We have come home, inspired and
emboldened to look for ways we can put into practice our common dreams.
Here are some sound-bites which I
can share with you. I hope you might find something that engages your thoughts,
your feelings ……
We have twelve years left – before
it is too late – to change direction in response to the climate crisis.
We are the first species who can
choose not to become extinct. We haven’t made that choice yet!
Rabbi Hershel, who walked with
Martin Luther King on the Selmer bridge, said of his own actions “I felt my
feet were praying”.
Beware the sole path of rational
thinking – look to intuition, deep feelings, mysticism. Rationality should
serve intuition because this is where values come from.
There is nothing wrong with the
world today other than we have lost the sense of the Sacred.
Thinking and defining needs to be
led by experience and tasting. How do we do this – through silence, through the
Arts, which will then open us to the Holiness in all things.
The Mystic is the Divine Child in us
– the Arts will nurture this.
Albert Einstein believed God is the
oneness of creation. The Cosmic Christ points to the Divine in the big spaces
as well as in the little spaces.
The story of Abraham’s journey into
Caanan has important parallels and lessons for us about our place in this land
we call Australia, which is, was and always be Aboriginal land.
Abraham, the peacemaker, respected
the peoples of the land.
We ask the same.
Abraham recognized the God of the
We ask the same.
Abraham and the peoples of the land
shared mutual blessings.
We ask the same.
The western concept of buying and
selling land is not in the aboriginal ideology.
The wind existed before everything
else in the stories of many indigenous peoples.
Life without wonder is not worth
The transcendent spirit becomes the
inner presence of God in our hearts.
In our communities, “fitting in”
isn’t “belonging”. A just society is about “belonging”.
PHILOXENIA means loving the
stranger. This points to the act of hospitality.
“Jesus – the Man for Others” – Dietrich
The Feeding of the Five Thousand – a
metaphor for “if we share what we have, there will be enough to go around – and maybe even more”.
Trying to be religious in the public
domain often results in what we say getting lost in translation. We need to
find better ways of acting as well as talking!
We are called to Act Up, that
is, to disrupt the establishment.
But we are also called to Act Out,
which means exploring God’s expectation of love, justice and a shared joy of
Being disturbed by what we see
around us can give us courage to Act Out into society.
We go to a theological reframing to
help us understand the sacred in the world: we have been evolving this
understanding for ever – there was Abraham, then there was Jesus, what next??
“If you want to follow Jesus, you’d
better believe you look good on wood” – Daniel
Everything we say about God is
God is our experience of God!
Jesus was the incarnation of love
and freedom: he showed the divine power of LOVE and that we have the FREEDOM to
act. Faith is believing this!!
The opposite of bad is good. The
opposite of EVIL is the SACRED. There’s more good than bad in the world, but not
find inspiration in the words of Italian priest and philosopher Thomas Aquinas
(1225-1274) and German theologian Meister Eckhardt (1260-1328). For example – Aquinas
said “The proper objects of the heart are truth and justice”.
stand can be costly. Stand up for truth and justice: be surprised by joy (C S
the basis of courage. How do you learn courage? Go to courageous people.
COURAGE – this word means “a large
heart” – a heart so full that it sustains us for whatever ….
Last Wednesday around 20 of us met to hear from some folk who had attended the Common Dreams Conference in Sydney in July. We heard about the highlights for each person – some notable quotes from Adele and Steven Nisbet are in a following post. Our discussions always take on a perspective of their own and led to some considerations around our relationships with our first nation people and I think that will lead us into another topic for one of our Explorers mornings in the future.
David Hale, Anglican chaplain at UQ told us about his work encouraging students to explore theology in an open thinking environment and about their multi-faith activities. David has issued an invitation to an event on 8th November, 7 pm to 9 pm at Old Bishopbourne, St Francis College, Milton, Brisbane.
How Can Christianity become a better wall against injustice?
Our next PCN Explorers is on Wednesday 30th
October, 10:30 am at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52
Merthyr Rd, New Farm, led by Brian O’Hanlon, Retired Psychologist;
Meditation Teacher; Feldenkrais Practitioner
A Spiritual approach
to Christianity: Understanding the Spiritual Ego:
A summary of the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
with particular emphasis on ‘we are Spiritual beings!’
A summary ‘Heaven on Earth’.
We are Spiritual beings so, why are we not in the
Kingdom, ‘Heaven on Earth’? (The Spiritual Ego what is it?)
Turning down the Spiritual Ego.
Sound interesting? make sure it is in your diary – we are always the last Wednesday of the month. Come along and join in the interesting conversations and fellowship.
Our next meeting will be on Monday 7th October which (yes!) is the Queen’s Birthday holiday. I’ll be making some personal observations on a number of inter-related topics including:
Faith, Belief, Truth,
Science, and do I believe in miracles? Be
prepared for an occasional slightly irreverent interlude, along with some
fairly serious stuff which will no doubt generate a bit of vigorous discussion!
As usual we meet for our pre-session coffee and chat at 6 p.m. in the
ground-floor meeting room at Azure Blue, 91 Anzac Ave. Redcliffe. All are very
welcome. For further information please give me a call on 0401 513 723.
Note: If you are coming please be sure to call Ian and let him know so you can be given access to the community at Azure Blue.
The Caloundra Explorers Group’s Evening Service is coming
up and we invite you to add this activity to your diary:
GATHERING Sunday Evening 20th October 2019 5.30pm.
THEME:SCIENCE AND THEOLOGY
LEADER: Rev. Brian GILBERT
The theme is a fascinating one – I’m sure you will have discussed this at many levels at some stage. On Sunday evening, we have it presented by an Elton John fan – Rev. Brian Gilbert.
Inspired by his song “Rocket Man”, and adding in a number of people stressing the link between love and justice eg, JP2nd, Crossan, King, Dowdell, Brian develops “ love without justice is sentimentality, or banal; justice without love is legalism or brutality.”
He says “ Explorers would
be familiar with that. I want to draw a relationship between science and
theology – “either without the other can be dangerous, or meaningless.” “
Just because science can do things (even very well), is it right? – should we
Our evening will include
music and song and our meditations will draw on thoughts by Michael Morwood and
Matthew Fox, the keynote speaker at Common Dreams 2019.
Enjoy your byo light
meal/finger food – relax in discussion around your table – “Science and
welcome. We discuss and
debate within a safe and non-judgemental environment.
Explorers are very mindful in
discussion that each of us may have a different personal understanding of G.O.D
that underpins our thinking at this stage of our life
journey. So, come along and join in what will
hopefully be a very satisfying evening for you among friends, and new friends.
CONTACT: Leaders – Brian Gilbert – Mob 0417 002
274 or John Everall Mob 0408 624 570
WHEN:Sunday 20th October
2019 at 5.30 pm thru to approx 7.30pm
WHERE: Caloundra Uniting Church HALL, 56 Queen
Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids In fact it’s cold as hell And there’s no one there to raise them if you did And all this science I don’t understand It’s just my job five days a week A rocket man, a rocket man
Here is a snapshot of my introductory remarks at our last “exploration”:
On the wall behind the pulpit at the Thompson Estate Methodist Church where I grew up was a large painted scroll with these words: “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness”. Have been reflecting on that text for more than six decades…
Gained some insight as an adult when I discovered Micah 6:8 :
8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
My Aussie paraphrase:
The good oil from God:
Fair go, cobber; be a mate, mate; and let’s all be humble little Vegemites.
Meanwhile, I found much the same message in the Gospel’s setting for Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable where Jesus essentially tells the trickster lawyer to never mind asking who your neighbour is – just be a freaking neighbour!
At the same time, I’ve always been gobsmacked by this New Testament insight: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (From
1 John 4:16)
So to the term “God” which Lloyd Geering in “Christianity without God” has not only had a long and complex history but also has become a very confusing word. After suggesting that we can functionally take “God” to refer to the highest values which motivate us, Geering favourably quotes Theologian Gordon Kaufman’s observation that even in a secular world the term “God” can still have for us a useful function as “an ultimate point of reference”. Hence “To believe in God is to commit oneself to a particular way of ordering one’s life ans action. It is to devote oneself to working towards a fully humane world…while standing in piety ans awe before the profound mysteries of existence.”
Finally why I “go to church” is summed up in part by this provocative passage from Don Cupitt’s “Radicals and the Future of the Church””
“…we should stay in the church and attempt by deception, by reinterpretation, by political stratagems and by perverting the minds of the young to do something for the transformation of Christianity and the future of religion…Self-imposed exile right outside the church may be the right thing for a few very creative people, but…many of us will find it more stimulating to be internal e iles, plotting, scheming and suspected, inside the church…(thinking) of the carefully thought-out deceptions by which we plan to use the old vocabulary as a disguise for smuggling new ways of thinking into the church.”
On going to church
23rd August 2019
These notes were prompted by a presentation to be made to the Progressive Christian Network at Merthyr Road Uniting Church New Farm by Tim O’Dwyer on 31st August 2019.
Tim put the questions: Do you still go to church? If so, why? If not, why not? He invited me to throw in a few remarks from my own experience, so here goes. I have attended church probably from the time I was a baby in my mother’s arms and presumably before then when in my mother’s womb. My earliest memory of any sort, as related in my coming memoirs, was of returning from some function – perhaps a birthday party – alone. This, remarkably at the age of about three or four years. I looked down on my family home from the adjacent traffic bridge and pondered life and the future.
It would be easy to say that from that period on till my now 9th decade I have more or less regularly attended church because I accepted the invitation to be a Christian, or more accurately, as I would put it this way today, a follower of the ethical principles proclaimed by the wandering sage, Jesus of Nazareth some two thousand years ago. But the questions being put by Tim are part of a wider issue and we need to narrow it down quite a bit. I shall assume that going to church and being Christian in ethos and practice is not necessarily the same thing. I shall be referring to belonging to a specific congregation and attending weekly services on “the Lord’s day” more or less regularly. I have been doing that for nigh on 80 years. Why have I been doing this? It is largely habit. It is one of my life’s rituals. Presumably this routine has some benefit to it.
That need not have been the case for everybody. Only the other day when I suggested that the church is an institution which undertakes to make the world a better place, my table companion responded that this has not been the experience for her. An immediate response to the original question may be that the church is my “community”. It is a community which caters for our social, personal and some might say “spiritual” needs. It does that in contrast to just about all other communal institutions, from the cradle to the grave.
We engage in that community at our baptism, we engage in that community at our marriage, we engage in that community in the moral guidance of our children and grandchildren, we engage in that community often in sickness and at our ending with our funeral. I am reminded of the large part a congregation played for so many of my family and acquaintances in our entertainment and social interaction.
Most of my social dancing was with church groups, any girlfriends I might have had would have come from church congregations – not necessarily my own – I met my wife outside the doors of a church in Port Moresby. I have written recently on the impact of Christian Endeavour in nurturing confidence as a public speaker and office-holder in secular as well as religious groups.
One concern I have with the loss of attendance at church by children and young people is that disappearance of an important source of “moral guidance” for those growing up and establishing a place in an adult world. That a congregation provides moral guidance is not taken for granted these day and I would be the first to challenge the negativity which comes from the supernaturalism and rules which come from the preaching in most of our churches. Some of the old stories of vengeance and slaughter in the Hebrew scriptures are truly horrifying. When reading or preaching from the Bible one does need to be selective and in practice this is what preachers and especially Sunday School teachers do.
One can take stories from a recent Sunday as an example. The lectionary reading was from Luke Chapter 13 where Jesus was chided for healing on the Sabbath. The moral guidance from this surely is that acting in a caring spirit is more important than complying with restrictive rules and regulations which can entangle us in exercising the practice of love. Or take the Bible story that my grandson absorbed this morning at his Sunday school class – that of Paul and Silas freed from prison because of an earthquake. After returning home the youngster – six years old – was able to repeat the whole story. It clearly provided for him the lesson of caring for others through its punch line. That is that Paul and Silas the two prisoners chose not to run to freedom because they recognised that this would mean big trouble for their prison guard,
Another aspect of a congregation which draws me is that it is a great social leveller. I am talking largely of the non-conformist Protestant tradition here. Any persons of whatever social class can be officers in the congregation. She or he can rub shoulders, for instance, as an elder, with peers from any level of society.
I recall in my teen years belonging to a congregation whereby the local mill manager shared a pew with people who would have been his employees. For me, personally, it also provides the opportunity to develop administrative and leadership skills. It is rare for me to be associated with an organisation and, in due course, not end up holding some office or other. Such offices are usually within that congregation or with other associated entities. It provides me with a vehicle through which to further my life-long aim of seeking to leave the world a better place than when I came into it.
Some might respond, “But how can you put up with all that supernaturalism and gobbledy-gook language which goes along with the enjoyment of companionship and familiar music, songs and liturgies?”
Well, one may well be swamped by starchy, unintellectual tradition but there is also the opportunity to introduce congregation members to new songs, new ceremonies and even new ways of looking at the scriptures. You have to be in it to win it and it may be that some of the examples we set as individuals may rub off to become new ways of being appropriate for a 21st century community.
My recent sermon on the Trinity (https://ucforum.unitingchurch.org.au/?p=2990&cpage=1#comment-273795 ) led some to say, “I had never thought about it that way before!” One privilege that we have in the Uniting Church is that anyone may address a congregation from the pulpit and additionally there is always the opportunity to express points of view in the variety of study groups.
So yes I continue to “go to church” and what’s more, I enjoy “church crawling” when I am travelling to other places and other countries. Although not to the same extent as with Roman Catholic followers, for whom going to church is regarded as a moral obligation, I enjoy seeing how other Christians express their faith through their church services. The familiarity of the liturgies and the communal environment helps me to sense the connection which Christians have with one another all over the world.
So I anticipate that I shall continue to go to church until they put me in a box. Hopefully this will be after I have cautioned my family and the presiding minister to express none of this supernatural “in my father’s mansions” hope at the final “celebration of my life”.
We get atheism wrong if we see it simply as a detached, philosophical (dis)belief in God, argues Nick Spencer. 06/06/2019
My colleagues Elizabeth Oldfield and Lizzie Stanley had to go to Rome last week. It’s tough working for Theos sometimes.
I tease. It was work, and rather interesting work at that. They were recording a Sacred podcast from a major conference, hosted at the Pontifical Gregorian University and part of the Understanding Unbelief programme, in which interim findings about “unbelief” in Brazil, China, Denmark, Japan, the UK, and US were presented.
Here is a stereotype about unbelievers. They don’t believe in stuff. It’s a stereotype that is popular among some believers and unbelievers alike. The former, in a move of what is essentially self–protection, like to think that being an unbeliever entails abandoning belief in moral absolutes, or in human purpose or dignity. The latter, in a move that is no less self–serving, like to think that unbelievers are rational, materialist, naturalistic, and completely immune to the childish absurdities of “belief”.
The reality is very far from these poles, as the Understanding Unbelief research shows. Two issues stood out for me.
The first relates to what atheists believe. As one would expect, atheists are rather less likely to believe in the supernatural than agnostics or believers. But less likely does not mean unlikely. When presented with a list of such phenomena – life after death, reincarnation, astrology, objects or people with mystical powers, supernatural beings, underlying forces of good or evil, a universal spirit of life form, or karma – somewhere between 10% and 40% of the people in each country said they either “strongly” or “somewhat agreed” in their existence. Indeed, only a minority of atheists were “naturalists” in the sense of rejecting all such supernatural phenomena. The answer to the question of what atheists believe turns out to be quite a lot after all.
The second issue relates to how they believe. Here the answer is, not as strongly as you might think. As the project’s interim report puts it “being an atheist does not necessarily entail a high level of confidence or certainty in one’s views.” In all six of the countries studied, “atheists express overall levels of confidence in their beliefs about God’s existence [that is] either notably lower than…or broadly comparable to the general population’s.” In other words, atheists are not usually much more confident in their (non)beliefs than the rest of us are in ours.
I think these findings are interesting, encouraging and, in two particular ways, familiar.
Around a third of people who belong to no–religion, over a quarter of “Nevers” (i.e. those who answered “never” in response to the question “How often do you participate in a religious service as a worshipper?”) and 15% of atheists said that they believe in life after death;
One in five “Nevers” (21%) said they believe in angels as did 7% of atheists;
More than two in five “Nevers” (44%) believe in a human soul, as do almost a quarter (23%) of atheists;
A quarter (24%) of the non–religious believe in heaven and 15% in hell; and
A fifth (20%) of non–religious people believe in the supernatural powers of deceased ancestors, compared to 23% of the total sample.
More generally, the proportion of people who are consistently “naturalistic” – meaning that they don’t believe in God, never attend a place of worship, call themselves non–religious, and don’t believe life after death, the soul, angels, etc. – was very low, at 9%.
There are lots of ways one might read this. No matter what some atheist polemicists say, thoroughgoing atheistic naturalism is extremely rare, and not even the default position among atheists themselves. Even among those who reject God, there linger persistent beliefs about the supernatural or numinous; the sense there is more in heaven and earth than we dream of in our naturalist philosophies nags away. Atheism is much more variegated and interesting, and atheists are a lot less dogmatic, self–assured or certain, than some public advocates might lead us to believe.
All of this is true, but there is one other reading which interests me and leads back to my second reason for a sense of familiarity.
The matching of atheistic certainty (or lack thereof) about God with the general population’s un/certainty says something more than “atheists aren’t as dogmatic as you imagine”. Take this sentence about unbelief in the US from the Understanding Unbelief report:
“the comparatively high level of confidence exhibited by America’s atheists matches more–or–less exactly the high ‘religious confidence’ of Americans–in–general.”
Or, with slightly more interpretative boldness, the atheists (and atheism) of a nation take their cue (and possibly also their hue) from the believers in it.
This is perilously close to the argument that ran central to my history of atheism, namely that we get atheism wrong if we see it simply as a detached, philosophical (dis)belief in God. Today, as in history, atheism is embedded in the lives (and politics) of the wider culture. A generous, thoughtful, self–reflective culture of belief will generate a similar culture of atheism; an aggressive, self–righteous and exclusionary one will do the opposite.
The parallel is not perfect – Chinese and Brazilian atheists are somewhat less sure about their beliefs than the general population in those countries – and other factors naturally come in to play. Nevertheless, the arguments in the Understanding Unbelief study, our Post–religious Britain? report, and my Atheists: The Origin of the Species, seem to cohere on this issue of the socially– and politically– mediated nature of unbelief, as they do on the wider point that whatever else it might be, the discussion between what believers and unbelievers believe is emphatically not an issue, simply, of us vs. them.
Understanding Unbelief, which was exhibited at the Vatican, interviewed people who were atheist and agnostic (Photographer: Aubrey Wade)
Nick is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, most recently The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Evolution of the West (SPCK, 2016) and Atheists: The Origin of the Species (Bloomsbury, 2014). Outside of Theos, Nick is Visiting Research Fellow at the Faiths and Civil Society Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London and a Fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion
Theos conducts research, publishes reports, and holds debates, seminars and lectures on the relationship between religion, politics and society in the contemporary world. We are a Christian think tank based in the UK. We are part of The British and Foreign Bible Society, charity number 232759.
We joined a very large crowd at Gosford, NSW, for the Climate Action demonstration on 20th September. Gosford is the home of Rev Rod Bower, Anglican priest and advocate for many social justice issues. He has had significant influence here and across Australia.
What we noticed was the high level of participation by Seniors who outnumbered the school children. They carried placards declaring their concern about the future for their grandchildren and our Pacific Island neighbours.
It is clear that there is a rapidly growing consciousness about the state of the planet and the urgency of the need to accelerate the response to climate change.
A standout for us was the strong presence in the ‘Strike’ of UCA, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Quaker church people under their banners. All of these have active social justice and green departments that generated a lot of encouragemental to their members prior to the event.
The climate strikers have a purpose beyond establishing a public image and demonstrating. We have three goals:
No new coal, oil or gas projects, including Adani’s mine.
100% renewable energy generation and exports by 2030.
A just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel workers and communities.
The critics fall into many camps. There are those who deny climate change and their numbers are shrinking. There are those who deny human influence on climate change but to makes their case they will have to counter the growing scientific evidence. There are those who claim that God is in control and we should do nothing. I have never found it fruitful to conduct any discourse with this group whose God is both loving and cruel at the same time. There are those who have given up, live in fear and feel powerless. There are those who think that demonstrating is a waste of time and will not produce a change and there are those who are just complacent or cynical. I am sure there are many other groups.
I am optimistic but frustrated by governments that are obfuscating. But perhaps this is a wasted concern. With growing globalization of opinion and action this may be a change that occurs despite governments. Already there is strong evidence that industry and commerce are moving towards renewable energy sources.
Jesus-inspired people wanting integrity in the change process are getting stronger voices in the movement to turn around climate distopia towards real collaborative action. Instead of claiming to know better than others they are working with science, with conservationists and with those who have found ways to get the message out. Their tradition has always had available arguments but these have been buried in pointless doctrinal and organizational mediocrity.
“God so loved the world….” is a restatement of powerful messages in Psalms, Micah, Genesis, 1 Timothy, Numbers, and hundreds of other encouragements to look after the planet and it’s people. The World Council of Churches has since 1970 been helping to build sustainable communities. In this Season of Creation many church groups are working hard on sustainability projects.
Jesus eschewed political power and sided with the vulnerable. .. We should do the same.
Rev James Bhaguar, the general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, addressing the UCA demonstrators in Sydney, appealed to Mr Morrison (PM) for Australia to do more to reduce its carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy:
We‘ve watched as our homes are eaten away by rising tides, and as Australia allows it’s emissions to rise. For Christians acting to prevent climate catastrophe is not just about survival. It is about loving your neighbour and protecting God’s creation. Right now, Australia is doing more than most to desecrate the precious gift that humanity has been given.
He too is learning how pointless it is to rely on governments.
All of this points back to myself and I have to recommit to doing all I can as an individual to further the goals of our Climate Change Strikers.
In case you have not looked at the ‘Replies’ we are getting to our post seminar question on why or why I don’t attend church , here is a sample:
1.MY JOURNEY INTO ‘PROGRESSIVE’ FAITH
I had a traditional Catholic upbringing, including Catholic schools but not especially devout parents. My mother was Italian Catholic and my father Church of England but religion didn’t play a big part in our family. A sense of God and the sacred seemed to be a central part of my life though and I was open to issues of faith.
At university I chose the Protestant route but it was an evangelical, fundamentalist denomination although I managed to find the more relational, personal stream of that denomination fortunately. Doctrine was central to having a strong relationship and independent thinking was discouraged over ‘faithful’ obedience and belief in a set of rules.
Once childrearing was slowing down, and I started mixing more in the wider world through work. I started pushing the boundaries of the traditional beliefs (my husband was an evangelistic minister) and my thirst for deeper spiritual values was ignited. I could no longer agree with the most fundamental theology of my denomination which led to my choosing to be removed from membership.
My journey didn’t end there, as now I started questioning the fundamental beliefs of Christianity itself – did Jesus really say all those things?; did he have to die for my sins?; what kind of God allows so much suffering?; is the bible really an accurate account of history and God’s interaction with mankind?; who is God?….
With the internet I could explore and I was esp drawn to the writings of Marcus Borg, Rob Bell, Henri Nouwen and then I came across the writings of David Richo a former catholic priest who wove together ideas of Christianity, Buddhism and Jungian psychology. That is where my heart resonated. I have deep respect for the compassionate values of all faiths and no faith and I now believe Christianity is a little arrogant when it says it is the only way to God (or the sacred).
God has become much bigger and more mysterious than any one faith teaches for me and I believe we do well when we learn from one another and help one another to grow closer to the greatest values of loving kindness and do no harm.
I did try to find a faith community but I ended up in a small coastal town where there are only a few individuals here and there who might have similar journeys. I would say I align the most with progressive uniting church ways and Universalism. I am not used to liturgy though after leaving the Catholic church so I really don’t miss that.
I like to think I belong to a tribe somewhere but I have grown more content with surrounding myself with individuals with similar values whether they have a faith or not. I find there are many places where these people can be found – bushwalkers, environmentalists, meditators, those interested in health, community volunteers, artistic people, and social justice advocates. I don’t feel the need specifically to be in a church. Part of me believes that if I belonged to a denomination again it would be a step backwards in my journey.
Having said that there is one sacred gathering that I did feel met a need in my heart but it was only in Canberra. It was a monthly gathering called “the Gathering” and it was a reflective hour where a theme was chosen based on world issues and art, music, and reflections from wisdom teachers (including Jesus) were shared by 2 leaders and a time of contemplation and fellowship over a meal was included. That would be the most I would look for now. Otherwise I feel I belong to the world and do not want to be labeled or boxed in by a denominational label. That is my journey which as others have expressed is always ongoing. It is encouraging to know there are like minded people out there also journeying in somewhat similar ways even though the specifics are all unique to each one of us.
Thank you for the opportunity of sharing.
2. MY EXPERIENCE OF CHURCH
Paul and readers, my experience of church as a child through the 60s, early 70s will be familiar to many. My way of understanding this experience is to acknowledge to myself that my childhood saw the death of an innate desire to explore a wonderful supportive presence that I could sense but not explain. I’m not sure if back then I viewed this presence as resulting from imagination or not, but it sure felt real. Unfortunately the strong message that got through to me was that Jesus died as payment for my sins and that I was a worthless sinner, fit only as kindling for the great fires of hell where most of us were destined to spend eternity. Eternity being a concept a little beyond my understanding as a 12 year old. So by age 16 I decided not to set foot in church again, except for marriages, deaths and christenings. Now the most wonderful thing is that I can see with hindsight that supportive presence of my childhood never left me. Don’t now focus too much on the word GOD, but it seemed I had rediscovered the supportive arms of GOD whilst understanding this was the case all along. All completely at odds with that main message I received from the church. Very important to note I genuinely harbor no ill will to those that delivered the message. No space to explain here but the all pervasive spirit and the Jesus story are central to my genuinely not retaining any malice at the theological teachings received as a child which ran parallel with Billy Graham crusades in Brisbane at the time. At 50 years of age I wanted to strengthen bonds with the supportive arms of GOD which I now understood as real because I deeply needed that connection. I saw the only option to get help with this quest was to reconnect with church. I went to a Uniting church, initially found some help there but after a couple of years saw that the old theology was still dominant, just not as overtly marketed. That may have been the end of church for me but along the way I discovered Greta Vosper and the wider progressive movement. This gave me the space to continue the quest which is very ably facilitated by the West End Contemplative service and West End Explorers group (I do not live close to West End but it is the best I am aware of to continue a quest around the GOD question, though I also do not sense that Progressive theology is dominant in this congregation. But at least we so called progressives are tolerated there and quite possibly are genuinely welcome) Would love so say more about how Sunday evenings at West End are helpful to my quest, but obviously can’t do so in this post. Maybe later if any are interested. Peace – Peter Marshall
Accounts of miracles are found in the four Gospels, elsewhere in the New and Old Testaments, and at other times down to the present. Responses to the figure of Jesus among his Gospel miracles differ with the different judgements that are made about the possibility of there being miracles at all. As a matter of fact, our tradition of inquiry contains diverging, even opposing conclusions on this point, and this has a definite impact on the study of the Gospels and their central character.
This thesis constitutes a comprehensive response to the issue of miracle as it affects the interpretation of the Gospels, and hence, what we are able to believe about Jesus and the extent of his miraculous activity. Having outlined the divided response to miracle (Chapter One), the thesis is built up by studies of six principal respondents to the issue of miracle.
On the one hand, we have chosen St. Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Newman and C. S. Lewis to represent the ’maximal’ depiction of belief in miracle. These three studies exhibit the interpretations of the Gospels that accompany, and in part depend on, the non-problematical acceptance of miracle. On the other hand, we have chosen David Hume, D. F. Strauss and Rudolf Bultmann to represent the ’minimalistic’ position on miracle. While Hume does not formally discuss the Gospel miracles, his conclusions are plainly relevant, and in the two latter studies, close attention is paid to the actual interpretation of Gospel miracle stories.
In all the studies, wherever possible, I have tried to concentrate on what in particular they believed about Jesus in his miracles. In effect, this has meant pursuing a miracle-structure from conception through to Ascension. In discovering what has been believed about Jesus in his miracles, we have often placed the emphasis on the interpreters’ response to a Gospel or Gospel passage. In the concluding chapter, I direct my own attention to St. Mark’s Gospel and, in the light of earlier chapters, put my own questions to it.
While interesting results emerge from the studies of the six interpreters, my principal conclusion is that there are good reasons not to identify the Jesus of the Gospel miracles with Jesus in his pragmatic existence. While it remains coherent to develop an apology or world-view in which literal miracles on the greatest scale have a place in nature and history, it is their very magnitude that raises the decisive objections to locating them as events in Jesus’ mundane existence, prior to the Resurrection.
On Wednesday last week, around 40 people met together to share their experiences about church attendance since moving into a “progressive” understanding of Christianity. I put the word progressive in inverted commas for a couple of reasons – that there is no one understanding that we would all ascribe to, and that no one has yet come up with another word to use for those of us who still want to engage with the Jesus story, but within the framework of the 21st century.
We were a varied group who wanted to share something about why or why not church attendance is part of our practice.
We discovered that we are on a continuum of belief and practice. I did not take notes, but will share a few of my observations that I can recall from people’s stories.
attend church every Sunday … attend occasionally … haven’t been in 30 years… find church services meaningful … finding traditional theology frustrating … finding more meaning in a more ordered liturgy music is inspirational … not able to sing words of old hymns…have been loved and nurtured by the church (people) … my questions have been rejected … have felt emotionally abused…service is most important … Micah 6:8 was an important verse for a lot of people
Now …. as a follow up … It has been suggested that we could collate people’s thoughts on this topic. If you could write a reflection on this topic thinking about the following questions and send them to me, we will learn more about each other and the variety of pathways we have followed to come to our present understanding of participating in organised religion. Half an A4 page would be manageable for us to collate and share. If you were not at the Explorers meeting, you are still welcome to share your thoughts.
These are just a few of the questions that were given by Smith and Hunt to the those who were asked to contribute their stories to the book“New Life; Rediscovering Faith – Stories from Progressive Christians.” .
Has this journey affected my church attendance?Has it changed how I express my faith?Is anything different and does this difference influence why I attend or do not attend church?Why did I / didn’t I walk away?
Our nextPCN Explorerswill be on Wednesday 25th September,10 am, Merthyr Road Uniting Church
Come at 10 for eat, meet and greet and we will get started about10:30.
Several members of the network will share their experience of attending Common Dreams Conference in Sydney last July. We will hear the highlights of the speakers for each person.
Our meeting on Wednesday 30th October will be facilitated by Brian O’Hanlon, retired psychologist, on the topic: A Spiritual approach to Christianity … Understanding the Spiritual Ego:
A summary of the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with particular emphasis on ‘we are Spiritual beings!’We are Spiritual beings so, why are we not in the Kingdom, ‘Heaven on Earth’? (The Spiritual Ego what is it?) Turning down the Spiritual Ego.
West End Explorers are trying to get hold of a copy of the video series …The Challenge Of Jesus by John Dominic Crossan. If you can help with this, please contact Kris 0404 645 007 or email@example.com
By Dr Peter Lewis All the synoptic gospels have the high priest asking Jesus if he is the Messiah (Mark 14:61, Matthew 26:63, Luke 22:67). In Mark Jesus says, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” In Matthew the “I am” is replaced by “Yes, it is as you say.” In Luke, Jesus says that if he told them they would not believe him, and he goes on to say, “But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” Despite these differences, in all three gospels Jesus asserts that he will sit at the right hand of God, but only in the longer ending of Mark’s gospel does this actually occur. In Mark 16:19 Jesus is taken up to heaven and sits at the right hand of God. This is what the reader would expect: it is the logical conclusion to the story and it confirms that the longer ending is what Mark originally wrote. But why is it not in the endings of the gospels of Matthew and Luke?
It seems that Matthew did not know Mark’s original ending because there is nothing in his gospel that relates to Mark’s text after 16:8. Luke knows the original ending because the disciples do not believe the women (Luke 24:11), Jesus appears to two of his followers when they are walking in the country (Luke 24: 13-35) and the disciples stay in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49), but Luke does not have the Ascension (he was taken up into heaven – Mark 16:19) at the end of his gospel because he wants it to be in the beginning of Acts, which is the second volume of the orderly account that he wrote for Theophilus (Luke 1:3). In modern versions of Luke’s gospel the Ascension also occurs in the final verses; “He was taken up into heaven and they worshipped him” (Luke 24:51,52) but this is a later insertion. It does not occur in Papyrus 75 from the third century, Codex Vaticanus and other ancient manuscripts, and should not be in modern versions. But how does Luke deal with the Ascension in Acts? In Acts 1:9, after Jesus spoke to the disciples “he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Then two angels appear and the reader naturally expects them to say that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, which is what he told the high priest (Luke 22:68), but instead they ask a stupid question, “Why are you standing looking into the sky?” What else would they be doing? Then the angels say that Jesus will come back in the same way as he went up. Why has Luke made such a significant change to Mark’s account (Mark 16:19)? To answer this question we need to examine what Jesus said to the high priest in Mark 14:62. His first words were, “I am.” This is what God said to Moses when he asked what was the name of God (Exodus 3:14). God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that ‘I AM’ has sent him to them. This is God’s name and although essentially a mystery it has the connotation of being alive, of being conscious and aware. It is an amazing statement for Jesus to make. It means that he thought he was God or in some way divine. Then, in his answer to the high priest Jesus uses a mixed metaphor: he cannot be sitting and standing at the same time. Sitting at the right hand of God has the sense of permanence and stability, and this metaphor derives from Psalm 110:1, which Jesus quoted in Mark 12:36. Coming on clouds has the sense of movement and this metaphor derives from Daniel 7:13 – one like a son of man comes with the clouds of heaven. Obviously he would be standing not sitting. Actually, what Jesus tells the high priest is a paradox. Divinity is a mystery: God cannot be known as He really is. Ultimate reality is beyond the human mind. Just as the ultimate basis of our material existence is a paradox, i.e. the particle/wave phenomenon of quantum physics, so must the ultimate reality of God be to us. This does not mean that God does not exist: it means we have to use metaphors in talking about Him. Of course He does not sit on a throne in heaven as Zeus was imagined on Mount Olympus. Whether thought of as Being, Mind or some other category God is beyond human comprehension. In Luke’s account of the Ascension Jesus goes up with a cloud and the angels say he will return with clouds (Acts 1:11). Jesus will be standing, as the disciples were at the time, not sitting on a throne. This is confirmed later in Luke’s account because when Stephen is about to be killed he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55). The significance of standing is that he is about to return. Why has Luke changed Mark’s description of Jesus sitting with God, to Jesus being about to return? To answer this question we have to understand the time and circumstances of Mark and Luke. Mark was writing in Rome before the Jewish War (66 -70 CE). Although there had been violence such as the killing of James in about 41 CE it paled in significance compared with the terrible events of the war which climaxed in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and Mark’s circumstances were fairly stable. This is reflected in the ending he wrote: Jesus is seated with God and the Kingdom of God has come. If Luke wrote during or after the Jewish War he would have been greatly affected by it, as was everyone involved in it. It was a horrible time and Luke with all the Christians would have turned to Jesus. The expectation that Jesus would return was greatly heightened, and in his First Letter to the Thessalonians Paul describes the event: the Lord will come down from heaven and the Christians who are still alive will be caught up in the clouds to meet with the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4:16,17). Luke was one of Paul’s companions and he too would have expected Jesus’s imminent return, but to make his account more appealing he concludes it in 62 CE with Paul in Rome preaching the Kingdom of God, as Jesus commanded the disciples in Mark 16:15, and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31). The ending that Mark originally wrote is very significant for a theological understanding of his gospel. Jesus enthroned in heaven at God’s right hand is what it is all about. And it is amazing to think that Jesus did it all himself. He arranged the whole thing, i.e. the birth of Christianity was his doing. On three occasions (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34) he said he would be killed and rise again: he knew it would happen because he was going to make it happen. With his staged entry into Jerusalem and his disrupting the business in the temple he provoked the authorities to kill him, and most importantly with his giving of himself at the Last Supper he carried it off. What an achievement! It was not a group effort: his disciples did not understand him and fled when he was arrested. Even their following him was not their doing: Jesus commanded them to follow him (Mark 1:17). It was all part of his plan, and finally he sat down at the right hand of God. How bold! How confident! Whether God liked it or not Jesus installed himself, and we acknowledge him as Lord. But God did like it because, you see, God was Jesus. God became a human being in order to become involved in the life of the world that he created and to guide it into the future. In this way human beings become co-creators with God in creating the Kingdom of God. Paul summed it up when he wrote that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19a). God expressed his love by giving to human beings the model of Christ: caring, forgiving, healing, and by giving his Spirit. As Paul wrote in his Letter to the Ephesians, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. . .” (Eph 5:1)
Opening Doors: A Seeker’s reflections on the rooms of Christian living Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. (Revelation 3:20) Opening Doors: A Seeker’s Reflections on the Rooms of Christian Living takes seriously the invitation of the Lord for us to open the door to him, and with confidence consider how our faith may be enhanced and energised through the wisdoms of contemporary theology and spirituality. The book is written for those whom Charles Taylor describes as ‘seekers’ – Christians who are searching to reconcile their faith with emerging insights from modern science, cosmology and consciousness. We are invited to open eleven doors and enter eleven rooms of Christian living. Each room offers a flavour of each of the topics in the Christian Story followed by focused questions for individual reflection and shared conversations in self-directed groups. The topics of the rooms include everyday spirituality, the universe story, humans and religion, the mystery of God, meeting Jesus, the church, ministry, women and faith communities, a Christian ethical way of life, Christian spiritualities and faith communities in a global world. Kevin Treston graduated BA (Hons), MA (Hons), MEd., PhD (University of Notre Dame USA) and pursued post-doctoral studies in Washington, Boston and Chicago. He was visiting Scholar at Boston College and is a member of the Association of Practical Theology Oceania. He has worked in ministry across Australia and many countries. To order online go to: www.coventrypress.com.au Phone: 0477 809 037 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Post to: Coventry Press, 33 Scoresby Road, Bayswater Vic Opening Doors @ $24.95 *Postage: $9.95 for 1-3 books; $11 for 4 and more; free freight for orders over $100 OPENING DOORS A Seeker’s reflections on the rooms of Christian living Kevin Treston Coventry Press 9780648566106 — $24.95
Our nextPCN Explorerswill be on Wednesday 28th August, 10 am, Merthyr Road Uniting Church
Come at 10 for eat, meet and greet and we will get started about 10:30.
Tim O’Dwyer will tell us a bit about his journey within Christianity and would like to ask the question of all of us who are exploring the Jesus story in a new way:
“Do you still go to church? If so, why? If not, why not?”
We would like to encourage you to think about the how and why of your Christian experience and thinking prior to the meeting and feel free to write it down to share with everyone at the meeting. In 2013, John Smith and Rex Hunt published a book called “New Life; Rediscovering Faith – Stories from Progressive Christians.” that focuses on people’s stories. If you have access to this book it offers some good background thinking. This is not essential to this seminar.
Here are a few questions you might like to ponder before the day. They are just a few of the questions that were given by Smith and Hunt to the those who were asked to contribute their stories to the book.
Has this journey affected my church attendance?Has it changed how I express my faith?Is anything different and does this difference influence why I attend or do not attend church?Why did I / didn’t I walk away?
By Peter Arndt (Catholic Social Justice Series Book 82)
I was moved to tears while reading this document about the challenges facing the people of West Papua, in particular their claim to freedom and independence.
In 2016, with ten fellow Christians from Australia, Peter Arndt, Executive Officer of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Commission, visited West Papua to hear first hand the stories of the local people. They were especially wanting to hear from survivors of the Indonesia massacre of 6th July 1998. This occurred at a peaceful prayer focussed demonstration for independence. These people had been under the governance of the Dutch, the Japanese and now the Indonesia military. The leader of the demonstrators, Filep Karma, at the time a prominent civil servant had insisted that his followers should only use bibles and hymns as their weapons. The vast majority of Papuans are Christians. They were attacked mercilessly by Indonesia soldiers.
Peter graphically describes this incident, it’s brutality, the many deaths and the torturing. This makes for hard reading as the incidents are dealt with so thoroughly. Peter was approached by Laurens who had been a teenager at the time of the massacre.
He gives evidence for Indonesia’s direct implication in some of the worst forms of human brutality and the incredible journey of Laurens and his Biak people.
Peter and his colleagues then experienced first hand the heavy hand of the Indonesia overlords and it seems they are not the first visitors to be interrogated and followed everywhere.
Peter Arndt’s clear and concise first hand account of the horrific suppression of justice and the state of fear in which the Papuans live is a moving tale.
Arndt sees the experience of Laurens paralleling those of Jesus and draws on the Scriptures to graphically make this clear. Laurens treatment and continuing struggle has moved Peter as it has moved me, to consider the way all Christians and people of good will must identify with the struggle of the Biak people.
Once read, the story cannot be dismissed or forgotten. The reader becomes part of the struggle for justice and freedom of the oppressed and abused people everywhere…
Peter and friends travelled to villages to hear more stories of brutality and killings and later Peter returned to West Papua several times gathering more evidence. The gathering of evidence was challenged at every step by police and corrupt officials and he was placed in fearful situations.
The author reflects on the way Papuans have been treated historically by colonial authorities and missionaries. It is a mixed history of blessings and mistakes. Their subsequent treatment is now part of the problem for a people ill prepared to fight for their rights. He also comments on the way in which Christians can express sympathy but cannot take the next step and offer real support.
The historical context for the current crisis helps to explain but not excuse the stark and shocking events that are now happening. The way in which the Indonesians are gradually reducing the influence of the Papuans culture, commerce, and faith practices is forcing them into minority status in their own land.
Within the Pacific Islands nations there is growing support for and solidarity with the people of West Papua. Drawing on the Scriptures Peter calls on the justice loving people of the world to recognize the plight of these people and for Christians who have been taught about restoration through love, the human values of freedom, dignity and hope to now come to the aid of a people begging for help. He also describes how a personal involvement in such a cause can bring to individuals a deep personally liberating outcome of living in the peace and love of God.
But there is more to this story….As First Peoples of West Papua they form a part of all those peoples who face injustice and deprivation. Advocating for them is advocation for all First Peoples.
I strongly recommend this paper to your reading and personal refection on how to be a part of the solution. If you are not greatly moved I will be surprised.
This is a reminder that our Explorers’ Group will meet on Monday evening (5th August).As usual, we’ll gather in the ground floor community room at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Avenue, Redcliffe) at 6 p.m. for tea/coffee, biccies and a chat.
At about 6:30 Graeme Adsett will introduce Rev Dr Noel Davis’ book Effective Beliefs – Towards Individual and Group Harmony – A Challenge to people of Goodwill. Graeme will challenge us to reflect on Noel’s Attitude 3 ‘A Sense of Community’, and Attitude 4 ‘A Minimising of Tribalism’ through individual activity sheets and a general discussion on the concept of ‘Christian Humanism’.
Hoping to see you there, Ian Brown
Caloundra (Qld) EXPLORERS GATHERING
Sunday 18th August at 5pm
“CONVINCING WORDS AND CONVERSATION”
Our Sunday Gathering, 5pm -7pm, on 18th August, will be led by Caloundra Explorers
in Conversations championing ‘the power of the written word’ in its ability to ignite a life changing ‘conviction’ within our Christian spiritual journey.
You are invited to join in this special and intimate opportunity to be part of a ‘Conversation’ with other Explorers and our Regional Friends.
We have put a proposition to five of our Explorers and Friends:
“ Have you ever read just a few paragraphs in a book or blog and realised that you had been struck by an absolute awesome ‘insight’ or ‘truth’, in fact, a “conviction’” that had you saying almost out aloud “that is right!” YES!”
“ Will you share these excerpts with us?”.
The intimacy and security of our Explorers fellowship allows us to fully explore these five situations. Each of our five Explorers will present their excerpt to us, with a personal comment supporting that ‘insight’… ie “the convincing words” that are so important to them.
We can then discuss, within our Gathering, whether that ‘conviction shared’ has resonance with others as we look through that ‘writing’ and analyse, discuss, and contemplate why it elicited such an enthusiastic YES! from that Explorer.
When our guests’ list of authors includes Dominic Crossan and Richard Rohr, you can see that we are in for a really fascinating evening together.
WHEN: Sunday Evening 18th August at 5pm thru to approx 7-15pm.
WHERE: Caloundra Uniting Church HALL at 56 Queen Street Caloundra
OTHER INFO: The Gathering includes a byo light finger food meal as well as a full opportunity to discuss the issues around your table with friends-old and new!
CONTACT: Anne Hoogendoorn Ph.0419 976 372 or Margaret Landbeck Ph.0402851422 .
Rodney Eivers Preached 23rd June 2019 Death has not been far away from me this week. Indeed it may not be far from the thoughts of many of us in this congregation as we struggle with serious illness. Even without serious illness most of us are in the later years of our lives and will wonder from time to time what lies ahead of us. Some will be comforted by some confidence that this earthly life is not the end and that some heavenly destination awaits us. Do not let me persuade you otherwise. One day we asked my father in law David, “Do you expect to go to heaven when you die?” He did not give what might be called a simple answer but replied. “I have heard it said that we make our own heaven and our own hell here on Earth” This leads me in to the thought of the way we use religious language. What do we mean when we talk about God, or heaven, or hell? But first of all a little diversion over some of the assumptions we make about our Christian faith. A little bit of history. Today is Trinity Sunday. We talk a lot about Trinity in our hymns and in our sermons don’t we? We assume “It’s in the Bible”. Actually Trinity is not in the Bible although there are a number of passages which lead people to think that this was what Jesus was talking about. After Jesus died with his talk of love, of God as caring father and the Kingdom of God his followers thought so highly of him that they wanted to say he was equal to God. But then some of them wanted to take it further and say that Jesus was God. In the next 300 years there were lots and lots of arguments about this and some people got very angry, even to the extent of killing one another. In the end Roman Emperor, Constantine got sick of it. He called all the Christian bishops together for a conference and said, “Enough quarrelling. Get this sorted out” So they got this parliament together and there was lots of to…ing and fro…ing with debate. One fellow called Arius, said that if we were going to say that Jesus was the Son of God (there were actually lots of sons of God in those days, including the Roman Emperor) he could not be God equally with God as father. This is because children must obey their parents. That means they can’t be equal. Also if Jesus was the son of God and conceived as a baby he could not have existed at the same time as God as the book of John claims. To complicate the matter some people threw in the idea of a Holy Spirit as also another form of God, thus making it three – That’s where we get Trinity from. Hazel talked about the spirit of God in her sermon last week and I like the way she described it as an influence for good within our own minds and bodies. Anyway, Arius and his mob lost. But the bishops kept arguing it for hundreds of years and indeed today it is still a source of argy bargy. Most of the ordinary followers of Jesus did not really know what was going on or what it was all about. Perhaps they still don’t but we still make a big thing of the Trinity. You look at our hymns. Our Uniting Church school for ministers is called Trinity College Queensland. Which brings me to the point that all we have for describing God, is our human language. We find we have to think in terms of human beings. We know from our scientists these days (anybody watched Brian Cox on television?) that there are billions of stars bigger than our sun and millions of galaxies full of those stars. Where does a human being fit into all this? A quotation used by many people since but including a Greek man called Xenophanes 2500 years ago noted “If horses could paint their gods, they would look like horses”. So we are limited by our human language. We need to keep this in mind when it comes to interpreting what has been written in the Bible, And we have a big problem here when it comes to bringing the Jesus story today to people, especially young people who have not read the Bible and if they do, find much of the Bible confusing and not making much sense. We can talk about God and think we know what we mean but for people on the outside of the church our images don’t count for much. Most people in our culture (perhaps even some of us in this congregation) have decided that the God who controls and manipulates everything is unbelievable. The characters in the Old Testament and Paul in the New were trying to sort our problems which existed for them at that time. They did not see them as applying to everybody for for the rest of history . It is not about sticking to the law. It is more about being “like Jesus” as best we can. I trust that you, like me, even as we struggle to describe our relationship with God in human language and to cope with getting older and getting sicker will continue to “be like Jesus” as best we can. AMEN
Our recent post about the spirituality of the original inhabitants of Australia brought many personal responses to me. This was a standout reaction from Betty Vawser.
“I am fascinated by this information you have presented about the Aboriginal people at Mowanjum. We lived with the families of the tribes you mentioned for years in the 1960s during which Donny Wollagodja’s father took Professor I A Crawford with him and a group of Aboriginal men into the Outback to repaint and revive the painting of the Wandjina in the caves and crevices. Each major Wandjina had a personal name.
The book he wrote resulting from his annual visits is called ‘The Art of the Wandjina’ and was published by Oxford University Press. He gave us a copy of this excellent book as he stayed with us before and after his trips to see the Wandjina, hear their stories, and observe the men when they entered Wandjina caves or places.
We also had a book written by Donna and his friend Bundell called ‘Keeping the Wandjina Fresh’ which he gave to us while staying with us. We know and love these people. I have more presents than you can imagine, their stories,a massive Wandjina painting,….I could go on but will sign off there…”
That is the title of a blog moderated by Rev Dr John T Squires. John is a Presbytery Minister for the Canberra Region, minister at Queanbeyan Uniting Church, former Drector of Education and Formation and Principal of Perth Theological Hall.
John has been reflecting on a “small and extreme reactionary group that is generating much noise about matters of sexuality”.
He says “There is clearly a place for an artculate, thoughtful, informed theology which is both conservative and evangelical. I dont dispute that. I have always valued such voices in the scholars have read,the students I have taught, and the colleagues with whom I work and interact. Good conservative theology makes a valuable contribution to the life of the church”.
We commend his blog to all crtically thinking members of the Church as well as those who have all but given up on it. In this blog John explores the reactionary edge of the conservative thread running through the four decades of the UCA. In the last three entries he focuses on the failed strategy of conservatives in the UCA as they ramp up the rhetoric, try to generate guilt and provoke panic in congregations and individuals.
Copy this link into your search engine and scroll through the most recent entries.
First Trinity College Queensland Rodney Eivers Scholarship
On Tuesday 30th July 2019, a Trinity College Queensland, Auchenflower, the presentation of the first Trinity College Queensland Rodney Eivers scholarship for the 2019 year was made to Dylan Katthagen, a student currently at the College. The scholarship of value $13,000 was awarded on the basis of the applicant’s undertaking some reading to write an essay on the topic: “My response to “progressive” Christianity “. In receiving the award Dylan commented that although he had some reservations about where the progressive approach to theology might be taking us, he was grateful that the studies entailed had led him to open up his thinking and become aware that there are options for Christian faith beyond orthodoxy. The scholarships will continue to be offered in the coming years but discussions are yet to be held with Paul Hedley Jones, the new Principal of Trinity College Queensland to ascertain what the scope of the awards will be. Those interested in applying may contact the College to find current details. In presenting the award Rodney made the following remarks, (with some editing) which seem to have been well received by the students at the gathering. 30th July 2019 On granting of Rodney Eivers scholarship to Dylan Katthagen My first words must to be to congratulate Dylan Katthagen on being the first recipient of the Rodney Eivers scholarship. I have not had the chance yet to get to know Dylan well but from the brief interaction we have had I feel some confidence that he will be a worthy recipient of this award. Furthermore I am hopeful that his exposure to “progressive” Christianity through his studying for the scholarship will lead him to have an open approach to fitting the Christian gospel to the knowledge and experiences of people of the 21st century. The College and I are still feeling our way with the field of applicants for the provision of the scholarships. I look with keen anticipation in getting together with our new Principal Paul to tease out some of the issues which arise. I would like, for instance, to widen the availability of the scholarships to all students and all potential students. In doing this, however, I have struck a problem. It is connected with the nature of a theological college. A theological college course is different from an academic university course in, say, comparative religion. The nature of the university is to seek knowledge objectively. That is, all fields of enquiry are open. Students come to a theological institution, however, from what might be called a faith position. That is, they already hold certain views and assumptions which are not to be challenged. Enquiry may seek to explain those assumptions but it may not probe into doctrinal concepts. Where do we draw that fuzzy line between “spiritual formation” and academic objectivity? Now I look at the Australian religious scene where Christianity is declining steadily, where the census listed the biggest religious category as “no religion”. This applies for some one third of our population and growing fast. There may be many reasons for this but it is not helpful if we cannot explain Christian traditional doctrine in 21st century terms. I am sure our lecturers here at Trinity College Queensland seek to do that. I must emphasise that I am very sensitive to the charge that I may be trying to buy influence in the content of Trinity College Queensland courses. Nevertheless, I do I see it as appropriate, to push the boundaries. To try to describe traditional orthodoxy not only in today’s language but also to explore its concepts. That would include the traditional doctrines such as the resurrection, the Trinity and substitutional atonement. I trust you will join with me in nurturing the Kingdom of God by building up our student enrolments through such means as these scholarships. I count it as a privilege to have the opportunity to do that and look forward to engaging with your new Principal, Paul, In seeking ways that we might achieve our common purpose of being Jesus people in a turbulent world.
Dr Peter Lewis has kindly offered a further reflection on Mark’s gospel following a very interesting seminar he recently conducted for the PCNQ in Brisbane.
A New Appraisal
by Peter E. Lewis
Having read Mark’s gospel in a critical way I have come to the conclusion that it is essentially true. It could well have been largely what Mark remembered of Peter’s preaching in Rome. It is the story of an extraordinary man, and it was told honestly by the original author within the limits of his time and pre-scientific world-view. Although the original text was interfered with in many ways, it can be reconstructed fairly easily. The most drastic interference was the removal of the beginning and the ending as explained in my book The Ending of Mark’s Gospel: The Key to Understanding the Gospels and Christianity. But there were other significant interferences which I would like to point out. In Mark 8:35 Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” A number of ancient manuscripts (including Papyrus 45 from the 3rd century and Codex Bezae) do not have ‘for me and’ in the text, and in the Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies it is stated that there is considerable doubt whether ‘for me and’ should be in the text. If the words are removed, Jesus says what is consistent with what he says all along in this gospel, that his mission is about the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is not primarily about himself although he does, of course, play the main role. As Christianity spread and grew among the Gentiles in the Roman Empire the focus moved onto Jesus himself as a sort of semi-divine figure like Hercules and the other heroes of Greco-Roman religion who were conceived by a god impregnating a mortal woman, and when Matthew and Luke copied the information from Mark’s gospel they changed Jesus’ statement in Mark 8:35 so that ‘for the gospel’ was omitted. In their gospels the Christian loses his life for Jesus. It is the reverse of the situation in Mark’s gospel. Mark 1:1, ‘The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God’, was obviously inserted by whoever removed the beginning of Mark’s gospel because it contradicts what Jesus says in Mark 1:15, that the gospel (the good news) is about the Kingdom of God being near. But what is the Kingdom of God? The answer is in Mark 12:29-34. When Jesus says to love God and neighbour, and a scribe agrees with him, Jesus goes on to say that the scribe is not far from the Kingdom of God: he is almost there. So the Kingdom of God is an ethical matter. It is about how we conduct our lives. When Jesus speaks about love (Greek: agape) he means a self-giving concern for others, and this is what Jesus represents. He gives himself by healing and forgiving people and accepting everyone. But more than this: he gives himself to bring in the Kingdom of God. When he makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem and disrupts the business in the Temple, he is provoking the authorities to kill him, but before they do he has a final meal with his followers. Jesus is the Love that is at the heart of it all. Another significant interference in Mark’s gospel is in Mark 14:27-31 where Jesus tells the disciples that they will all fall away and be scattered like sheep, but Peter says he will not fall away. To anyone reading this passage, verse 28 (But after I am raised up I will go ahead of you into Galilee) seems out of place. It supports the disciples and looks like an insertion by a pro-Peter group. That this is the case is confirmed by the absence of the verse in the Fayyum Fragment, which is from the 3rd century and is the only papyrus manuscript with the text of Mark’s gospel after Chapter 12. Mark 14:28 is significant because with 16:7 there are only two places where it is stated that Jesus will go ahead of the disciples into Galilee after he has been raised. Mark 16:7 has therefore been seen as confirming the prediction made in 14:28, but if Mark 14:28 is a later insertion, 16:7 must be critically considered in isolation. Mark 16:7 is what the man in the tomb said to the women. He told them to tell Jesus’ followers to return to Galilee. If the Jewish authorities had removed Jesus’ body to prevent the site becoming a rallying point for his followers this is what the man would have said. The frightened women misunderstood him and the rest is history. Actually the most important interference with Mark’s gospel was the removal of the ending that Mark originally wrote. It corresponds (with some modifications) to 16:9-20 in most modern versions. In 16:15 Jesus tells the disciples to preach the good news, and this must surely be that the Kingdom of God has come. In Mark 16:19 Jesus is lifted up to sit at the right hand of God, which is what he said to the high priest in 14:62. So the ending of Mark’s gospel is about exaltation. The model that Jesus provided (loving, forgiving, healing) is to be followed by those entering the Kingdom of God. It is the way they should conduct themselves. Then God will rule in their lives. Jesus’ exaltation in Mark 16:19 following the crucifixion refers back to the Transfiguration in 9:1-10. There Jesus is glorified on a mountain between Elijah and Moses, but at the end of Mark’s gospel he is lifted up and glorified on the cross between two robbers (Mark 15:27). After both of these events his followers say nothing to anyone until after he has risen. (Mark 9:10 and 16:8). The Transfiguration in turn refers back to Exodus 19 when Moses brings the people to meet with God. They stand at the foot of the mountain and God descends on it in fire. Then God speaks the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 19:16 God descends on the morning of the third day, and in Mark 16:9 it is early on the third day after the crucifixion that Jesus appears. Jesus has come down from the cross and the people meet with God in a spiritual way in Christ. A careful reading of Mark’s gospel shows that it is very profound. To understand it you should go as far as you can using the God-given gift of reason. Then you will find that your faith is strengthened. Go beyond the exorcisms and miracles and read it in a realistic way with faith, and, like the scribe in Mark 12:34, you will be almost there. ***
Following a flood of comments to me about our recent discussion on reading scripture and finding authentic translations, Tim O’Dwyer has referred us to the following excellent commentary from Rachel Miles.
While on an extended journey through the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of NW Australia, I have been exploring indigenous spirituality through their amazing art. In particular, I have been ‘captured’by the artists of the Mowanjum people and the work of the noted white artist Mark Norval. Mark and Mary Norval are artists and teachers based in Derby whose lives for four decades have become entwined with those of the Mowanjum community made up of the Worora Wanumbul and Ngarinya tribes. The latter three groups are Wandjima tribes. Theirs is a part of the oldest religion in the world still practiced.
Their supreme spirit being is the Wandjima (see illustration).
Only these three tribes see the Wandjima as the true creators of the land. Most of the other aboriginal tribes of Australia believe that the ‘Dream time snake’ or ‘Rainbow Serpent’ was the main creative force.
Mark Dorval, who has dedicated many years to encouraging indigenous artists has explained that some of the people of the Mowanjima believe that these Wandimas control everything that happens on the land, in the sky and in the sea. They created the people, the animals and the baby spirits that reside in the rock pools or sacred places throughout the Kimberleys. I was pleased to procure the following painting by emerging great young artist Tanisha Wungundin-Allies as she put the finishing strokes on her work.
Like most complex cultures, including Christian, opinions differ about creation. In one theme, the people had no laws or kinship until the Wandjima came down from the Milky Way. Until then they were wandering around lost. Familiar? These originals are portrayed in what (white) people call the Bradshaw figures. The ‘big boss’ Wandjima brought many other Wandjima to drive out the evil spirits which were taking ther babies. (The Wandjima had the power of the Rainbow Serpent which slid around everywhere and made all the rivers valleys and mountains. The snake represents Mother Earth.)
So the story continues of how the Wandjima originally painted their own faces and bodies in the caves. Their power is so strong they don’t have to speak. Their eyes are powerful – big and black like a cyclone and the lines around their heads can mean clouds, rain, or lightning.
Today’s artists who are loyal to the cultural tradition (or faith) are obligated to keep the Wandjima happy by continuing to paint them – a tradition that emerged long before the Pyramids of Egypt were contemplated and passed down through hundreds of centuries. The belief in the Wandjima is as strong today as it was for their ancestors.
Many Mowarjim people today follow the ‘two ways’ as a result of the Christian teachings brought to them 90 years ago by Presbyterian missionaries. Most have been able to integrate both cultures to form a unique Mowanjim ‘religion’ in which they believe that God was responsible for creating the Wandjima. Some have discarded the Wandjima altogether and others hold uniquely to the Wandjima spiritual power and shrug off Christianity.
This culture is still evolving as is Christianity. For me this experience has helped to give me greater understanding of the causes for culture clash and an appreciation of people like Mark Norval who give so much of themselves to helping indigenous people grow their wonderful identity and story.
Or next PCN Explorers will be on Wednesday 31st July, 10 am, Merthyr Road Uniting Church
Come at 10 for eat, meet and greet and we will get started about 10:30.
Our leader / facilitator will be Bev Floyd on the topic of Secular Christianity, the subject of her latest book not yet published.
Here is a note from Bev about this topic:
This is the simple story of how the ideas of Christianity began in Judea 2000 years ago and then spread across the world.
It is also an account of how the message has been changed so much even its founder might not recognize it.
It’s a pity it has been treated so badly, because the original message has quite a lot going for it.
Why write such a book?:
‘Western Society is floundering. There’s a lack of conviction, of belief, and I think a simpler form of Christianity
might be found in the actual words and example of Jesus’.
Bev Floyd Bio: B.Ed.St., Dip. R.E. Taught in Queensland; Methodist Training College. Spent 12 years in PNG, several years on a mission.
Foundation member of Australian Democrats. Lectured at Southbank Tafe. Retired 2003. Writer.
Bev has authored several books, several of which are free e-books on her website. I suggest you check it out. https://www.bevfloyd.com.au
Let me flag with you the next 2 meetings:
28th August: Tim O’Dwyer will lead our thinking and exploring. Tim is interested to discuss how the journey into “Progressive Christianity” has changed your opinion of and relationship with the church. A few questions to ponder before the day will be
Has this journey affected my church attendance?Has it changed how I express my faith?Is anything different and does this difference influence why I attend or do not attend church?Why did I / didn’t I walk away?
More to come about this next month
25th September: Brian O’Hanlon will be our leader – more info about the topic to come.l
All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians.
Roman A. Montero, 2017
By their economic practises the Early Christians discovered in Jesus’ life and teachings the corrective to the gross inequalities of the Roman Empire. Global Warming, a product of current economic policies poses a much greater moral challenge of gross inequality.
Is the answer to be found in “All Things in Common” with its striking parallels to the “communism of the apostles” passages in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37, which tells of how early Christians built “social relationships” to solve their problems of discrimination, poverty and dispossession in the violent multi-ethnic world of the first century Roman Empire?
Citing sources ranging from the Qumran scrolls to the North African apologist Tertullian to the Roman satirist Lucian, “All Things in Common” reconstructs the economic practices of the early Christians to reveal that Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 describes a long-term, widespread set of practices that were taken seriously. Practises that significantly differentiated the early Christians from the pagan world of the Roman Empire. Even taking into account Judean and Hellenistic parallels, the origins of the practises for promoting the common good are traced back to the very life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and their brilliant exposition by Paul, revealed in his six authentic and seven pseudo letters.
This book will be of value to anyone interested in Christian history, and the insights it offers to the human construct of capitalism based on self-interest, which now threatens the very basis of the civilisation it has built. Is the climax to the apocalyptic eschatology of the Gospels to be found in “All things in Common”?
The previous post has provoked comment to me which highlights the breadth of thinking and some caution when defining ‘progressive’ thinking. Readers may like to look at this text when it becomes available again through Amazon or chase a second hand copy. Paul Inglis
NT WRIGHT is the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and one of the world’s leading Bible scholars. He serves as the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St Andrews. He has featured on ABC NEWS, Dateline, The Colbert Report,, and Fresh Air. He is the award winning author of ‘The Day the Revolution Began’, ‘Surprised by Hope’, ‘Simply Christian’, and more.
Jesus is under-utilized in the Christian discourse. Anglican bishop NT Wright espouses a compelling thesis of tapping into the potential of Jesus more effectively in contemporary life. There has for too long been a pre-occupation with a biblical faith where Jesus is absent and the full significance of his teaching supplanted by negative pre-Jesus thinking. A focus on ‘the second coming’ also has meant that the work he gave to his followers to complete has been neglected. Postponing the development of the ‘kingdom’ ignores the Pauline precept (1 Cor) of the reign of Jesus in the present age. The God-givenness of authority needs to be constantly acknowledged as Jesus did with Pilate (John 19:11).
He points out how relevant this is when it comes to ‘winning an election’. We have come to think of political legitimacy in terms of the method of gaining it – eg winning an election . The ancient Jews and early Christians were more interested than today’s Christians in holding rulers to account in the name of appropriate values.
He says there are millions of things that the Church should be getting into that the ruling elites don’t bother about or don’t have the resources to support. No one would have thought of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission if Desmond Tutu hadn’t pushed to make it happen.
(In Australia, we could add no one would have listened hard to isolated rural communities as John Flynn did – a situation I have been looking at on a trip through the Outback.)
He rebuts the argument that most of the reforms are small with a reflection on Jesus explaining his own actions in terms of the smallest seeds that eventually grow into the largest shrubs. He describes this as ‘cascading grace’. His idea of the ‘good news’ is that all people can participate in the many small things that make for the kingdom that Jesus foreshadowed.
I am not sure if Wright realized it, but he was also demonstrating how ‘good things and good thinking’ are even now changing the Church.
The central part of the present day meaning of Jesus’s universal kingship is the many varied ways in which each generation or each local church can ‘figure out wise and appropriate ways of speaking the truth to power’ in ways that can’t be ignored by the powerful.
I have been reading Matthew Fox’s “Order of the Sacred Earth” in preparation for Common Dreams in July in Sydney. He says: “The forms of organised religion and education have become frozen and dinosaur like, unable to adapt, too large and waited down with canons and prescriptions of far too many bureaucracies. The result is that the joy of worship and the joy of living out one’s conscience get lost in the maze of rules called religion. Similarly, the joy of learning and the ecstasy that accompanies truth can get equally muffled by the institutionalisation we call education. Both dimensions of life require a simplification, simplification, simplification. Where has all the joy gone?”
The Art of Bible Translation, Princeton University Press (2019) by Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Religion at University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1967. He published a new translation of the Hebrew Bible in 2018.
Alter has been awarded: National Jewish Book Award for Modern Jewish Thought and Experience; Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities (US and Canada.) He is currently President of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. He was born in 1935.
“The practice of translation, as I have learned from experience, entails an endless series of compromises, some of them happy, some painful and not quite right because the translator has been unable to find an adequate English equivalent of what is happening – often brilliantly – in the original language. “(Alter)
Alter is impelled in his years of work on translating the OT by ‘a deep conviction that the literary style of the Bible in both prose narratives and the poetry is not some sort of a aesthetic embellishment of the message of Scripture but the vital medium through which the biblical vision of God, human nature, history, politics, society and moral values is conveyed.’
He shows how word play, diction, rhythm, syntax and strategic choice of words are crucial to the shape of the literary authority and moral and religious outlook of the Hebrew Bible. No one else has done this! In the context of his overview in this book, he provides copious examples that give entirely different meaning to the text.
Reflecting on the history of English translations of the Bible, Alter claims all have been woefully inadequate.
The inspired literalism of the King James version has employed the original Hebrew parataxis (ordering of phrases and clauses), much of which has been discarded in modern English versions. He uses an example of the way ‘the flood’ in Genesis has been dealt with and the loss of authenticity and meaning. He demonstrates how ‘the rage to explain the biblical text’ has had unintended consequences in translation.
But the KJV shows how a limited knowledge of Hebrew by 17th Century translators has led to confused syntax, missed nuances and meanings. There is also a stylistic issue with the KJV. It’s treatment of Hebrew poetry is less successful than its treatment of prose. The Jacobean rhetoric has failed to capture the compactness of the Hebrew and introduced great amounts of extra information to the passages
Later translations have done worse.
“…The Hebrew writers reveled in the proliferation of meanings, the cultivation of ambiguities, the playing of one sense against another and the richness is erased in the deceptive antiseptic clarity of the modern versions.”
Many of the contemporary translations compromise the literary integrity of the biblical texts and Alter contends this is the fault of the university training of contemporary translators and he identifies their training institutions. Also, the absence of an understanding of the Sociology of Knowledge is a major culprit.
You cannot determine the meanings of biblical words without taking account of their narrative and poetic contexts. This has for centuries been a problem with literal translations. There are livelier and more surprising details in the biblical stories than we first realize but those are often erased by translators who have an inadequate grasp of how the narratives work.
Whether the reader of this work is a philological or OT translation scholar, or simply, like myself a seeker after truth in biblical literature and scripture, Alter’s work is seductive, interesting and rewarding.
My copy was purchased though Kindle Amazon Australia. Recommended.
Start reading it for free: http://amzn.asia/h9NeXdv
Saturday 15 June, 10.30am – 3.30pm Queensland Art Gallery Lecture Theatre South Bank, Brisbane – we seem to be all at sea. on how to live, many in our society struggle with social media and other addictions/abuses, our once most-trusted institutions (churches, councils, parliaments, banks, sporting bodies) let us down, advancing secularisation; cause, or ray of hope? popular culture looms large in contemporary moral guidance, from Harry Potter (eg the Harry Potter Alliance) to superhero films.
Can traditional religions, or civil society, claw back their moral authority? What other options are there?
Program 10.00 Registration/Welcome
12.15 Lunch (available for purchase at nearby cafes/restaurants
1.30 Panel session with Q&A
2.30 SOFIA AGM
(1) Rodney Eivers: Can a completely neutral stance towards ethics replace the unifying function of religion?
Perhaps from the influence of his mother and an early association with Christianity, Rodney started life with an aim to make the world a better place. In his teenage years he concluded that the prime need of human beings was food, which led him to became an agricultural adviser in Papua New Guinea. However, he soon came to realise that a more urgent factor than food for human beings, especially in Australian society, was personal relationships. For 30 years he instructed in Parent Effectiveness Training, a democratic approach to child-raising, which reignited Rodney’s interest in Christianity as a social binding force. With the collapse of a common institutional Christianity in Western society – to which, ironically, Rodney contributes with his espousal of ‘progressive’ Christianity – he has become uneasy about where people today imbibe those values which contribute to building a harmonious community. Rodney is currently President of Sea of Faith in Australia.
(2) Gail Parataz:Religion as Culture – how Judaism has different strands of observance within an overall religious culture
Gail was born in Sri Lanka (Ceylon at the time) and emigrated with her family to Melbourne when she was a very young child. She lived there for 30 years before moving to Brisbane. Gail is married to David and has 2 sons – Benjamin 26 years and Jonathon 24 years. She has been a high school Art teacher and her last teaching post was at Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School. Nowadays Gail is the Interfaith Chair on the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies (QJBD) and is also the Chair of the Queensland Faith Communities Council (QFCC).
(3) Professor Sarva Daam Singh: Pursuit of peace and happiness in a world riven by intolerance
Sarva Daman Singh stresses the indivisibility of humanity and its cultural diversity as a natural expression of its bountiful creativity. Professor Sarva Daman Singh, BA(Hons), M.A., PhD (University of London), PhD (University of Queensland, Australia), F.R.A.S., was born at Angai, in District Mathura of Uttar Pradesh, India and migrated to Australia in 1974.He won many awards and five gold medals during the course of a distinguished educational career at the universities of Lucknow and London. He has taught at the University of Lucknow; National Academy of Administration, Government of India, Mussoorie; Vikram University, Ujjain; and the University of Queensland, Australia; and held chairs of Indian History, Culture and Archaeology. He is at present Director of the Institute of Asian Studies, Brisbane. He was the Honorary Consul of India in Queensland from 2003 to 2011.
Neil Davidson is a community activator, catalyst and keynote listener who listens deeply, empathizes, synthesizes, and reflects back to diverse groups: interfaith gatherings, organizations, not-for-profits, NGOs and rural communities in ways that reveal patterns, weave threads and lift those present by unlocking hidden/ignored potentials. Neil takes photographs, writes poetry, and sometimes finds himself seeing/channeling the multiple wisdoms present in ways that surprises him and transforms those present. His academic background was Marine Biology and Geology.
At its heart, reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians.
“… A reconciled Australia is one where our rights as First Australians are not just respected but championed in all the places that matter …”
Kirstie Parker – Board Member, Reconciliation Australia
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Australia’s colonial history is characterised by devastating land dispossession, violence, and racism. Over the last half-century, however, many significant steps towards reconciliation have been taken.
Reconciliation is an ongoing journey that reminds us that while generations of Australians have fought hard for meaningful change, future gains are likely to take just as much, if not more, effort.
In a just, equitable and reconciled Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will have the same life chances and choices as non-Indigenous children, and the length and quality of a person’s life will not be determined by their racial background.
Our vision of reconciliation is based and measured on five dimensions: historical acceptance; race relations; equality and equity; institutional integrity and unity.
These five dimensions do not exist in isolation, but are interrelated. Reconciliation cannot be seen as a single issue or agenda; the contemporary definition of reconciliation must weave all of these threads together. For example, greater historical acceptance of the wrongs done to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can lead to improved race relations, which in turn leads to greater equality and equity.
“Reconciliation isn’t a single moment or place in time. It’s lots of small, consistent steps, some big strides, and sometimes unfortunate backwards steps …” – Karen Mundine – Chief Executive Officer, Reconciliation Australia
Singing is a form of communication that predates language. It is a way that animals and humans alike identify as a group and it is a very important part of our church life.
Yet so many of the songs that we sing within our churches contain outdated language, that make it hard for us to sing out and identify with the messages within the music.
Join Heather Price at Common Dreams on July 12 to warm up your voice and learn new songs that express a progressive theology and embody diversity, while rediscovering the joy of community through voice and song.
Trinity Theological Library serves the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, by supporting theological, ministerial, adult faith and chaplaincy education through Trinity College Queensland, Adelaide College of Divinity and Flinders University.
It resources the learning community that consists of students and staff of Trinity College Queensland and Adelaide College of Divinity and Flinders University, Queensland Synod staff, Uniting Church members throughout the Queensland Synod and guests.
The Library offers free membership to Uniting Church members throughout the Queensland Synod, as well as Raymont Residential College students and St Francis Theological College members. Members of the public are welcome to join on an annual membership basis (fees apply).
Through the generosity of Rodney Eivers (chair of UCFORUM), many progressive texts have been added to the library. Rodney continues to add more books on a regular basis. The current list of progressive texts is:
PCN EXPLORERS MEETS WEDNESDAY 29TH MAY, 10 am at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm Brisbane Q.
I have asked Terry Fitzpatrick from St Mary’s in Exile Community (SMX) to lead our thinking into this topic:
How do we continue to maintain resilience and relationships as we strive to sustain a viable future for our planet?
are the conversations you have been engaged in (or overheard!) since the
election last Saturday? In the bus? at the supermarket checkout? at the
hairdressers? Are the conversations different in the city and the country? Is
there a difference between the ‘Christian’ and the ’non-Christian’? How does
our understanding of the Christian story inform our thinking?
at 10 am for eating, meeting and greeting. About 10:30 we will move into a time
when Terry introduces our theme and its challenges and we can all join in
further discussion to look at the ‘how’ question.
Please send a quick reply to this email to say “I am coming” so we have an indication of numbers . Send email to Desley Garnett please.
Not Just a Dream by one of our subscribers, Bev Floyd, poet and author
“Not Just a Dream is my attempt to explore how far Australia has travelled along the path to a partnership society. I have not tried to write a learned or academic book. My aim has been to give a panoramic overview of social change from circa 7000 BCE to the present and to illustrate (with examples) the gradual ‘return’ to a partnership society. My definition of a partnership society is one in which ‘men’ and ‘women’ participate equally and can reach their potential to contribute to society. It is a society where poverty is minimised; race and religion are not hindrances to contribution and the environment is protected. I have tried to describe what a Partnership Society, ¹ might be like in various areas such as business, gender, the environment etc. I have been influenced by a book called The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler… a work of enormous scope and impeccable research….
It is my hope that Not Just a Dream will clarify issues around contemporary trends and events that threaten our world—that it can be a blue-print for everyone seeking to hasten the return of an inclusive society free of war and want, a society filled with peace, happiness and love….
PARTNERSHIP AND GLADIATORIAL MODELS COMPARED The partnership model The partnership model is a mediator model rather than a gladiatorial model. People who support this model are active peacemakers. They believe in participation, compassion, inclusiveness. They are kind-hearted and thoughtful. Their role is to take care of children and the family. From early childhood, they develop nurturing skills. They have a full emotional range and use it in their role as peacemakers. Around them develops a flat management system where everyone is valued for themselves without a need to prove their worth. Their role is a virtuous and beautiful one. More females than males are in this category but there are also many males. Equality for females is extremely important to social change as women are more closely aligned to the partnership model of life and when their voice is truly heard and respected then society is more likely to change for the better.
The gladiatorial model The role of gladiators is to fight. They are reared knowing they will be gladiators and are trained for their role. They are competitive, heroic and tough. They must be courageous and have an intense will to win. In times of war they are in the forefront of the battle and keep the rest of their community safe. The most successful gladiators develop leadership skills, are decisive and good in crises. They learn to guard their emotions and to switch them off when hard decisions are required. Around them develops a hierarchical system where they test their strength and courage against the next gladiator on the ladder. The hierarchical system is valued also for its ability to instil obedience to commands as well as ensuring quick and effective responses to dangerous situations. Gladiators are generally male although not always.
Amongst many of Bev’s publications, she has made this one free, online. Go to: Not just a Dream
Contents Introduction 1. Not just a dream 2. Social change we have inherited 3. Australia, the lucky country 4. Signs of the times 5. Governance within a partnership society 6. Husbands and wives 7. Religion within a partnership society 8. Gender in a partnership society 9. Growing older in a partnership society 10. Doing business in a partnership society 11. Minding the environment 12. Role of the media in a partnership society 13. Creativity in a partnership society 14. Ethics, responsibility and regulation 15. Australia’s future role in the world
To find other publications from Bev Floyd go to: Bev Floyd
“We seek to be a community in which people matter more than dogma or institution. We aim to value each other, celebrate each other’s joys, care for one another in difficult times, and spur one another on to be the people we were created to be..”
DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE
“We seek to be a community that embraces diversity in age, gender, sexuality, culture, and social status. Our congregation includes young and old, straight and gay, abled and disabled, and people of Anglo, Asian, and other backgrounds, each contributing uniquely to our community life.”
Are you a “Bible believing” church?
“Bible believing” is often shorthand for churches that have a very conservative outlook on social issues, fundamentalist approach to truth, claim that all their views are the clear teaching of the Bible, and see conformity to all those beliefs as the basis of their community life.
That is not the type of church you will find at Hamilton Baptist. We’re bound together by a common conviction that we want to be followers of Jesus and to love and support each other on that journey. We very much value and honour the Bible and look to the story it tells to enable us to understand who God is, who we are, and how we should live in this world. We recognise that interpreting the Bible is not always simple and that there is room for significant difference of opinion. We have also found that the values of the Biblical story, and particularly of Jesus, need to be applied afresh in every generation. Sometimes this means continuing past traditions and sometimes creating new traditions.
“Our vision, grounded in the life and mission of Jesus, is for a nation which: • is characterised by love for one another, of peace with justice, of healing and reconciliation, of welcome and inclusion. • recognises the equality and dignity of each person. • recognises sovereignty of First Peoples, has enshrined a First Peoples voice and is committed to truth telling about our history. • takes seriously our responsibility to care for the whole of creation. • is outward looking, a generous and compassionate contributor to a just world.”
Our Vision for a Just Australia: Foundations – The Uniting Church’s vision and hope for a just Australia is expressed in seven Foundational Areas, the first four of which are set out below: An Economy for Life • Our government makes economic decisions that put people first: decisions that are good for creation, that lift people out of poverty and fairly share our country’s wealth. • The economy serves the well-being and flourishing of all people. An Inclusive and Equal Society • We live together in a society where all are equal and free to exercise our rights equally, regardless of faith, cultural background, race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. • We defend those rights for all. Flourishing Communities – Regional, Remote & Urban • We live in communities where we are connected and we care for one another. • In communities all over Australia, from our big cities to remote regions, we seek the well-being of each Australian and uplift those who are on the margins. Contributing to a Just and Peaceful World • Australia acts with courage and conviction to build a just and peaceful world. • We are a nation that works in partnership with other nations to dismantle the structural and historical causes of violence, injustice and inequality. Our government upholds human rights everywhere, acting in the best interests of all people and the planet.
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s contribution to understanding the future of Christianity and the church in a secular world is fascinating – and even more challenging today!”
We especially invite you to join us in our June 16th Gathering with this intriguing theme appropriate to the co-incidence of dates-“Heretics’ Sunday” and our Gathering!
Confined to Tegel prison in Berlin from April 1943, until his death 9th April 1945 in Flossenburg concentration camp, Bonhoeffer reflected on the future of ‘The Church’ and of Christian communities in a secular world. He questioned the Orthodox understanding of the Gospel as well as Roman Catholic and Protestant church practices. That is, he challenged the church ‘norms’ that many in his lifetime took for granted. Orthodoxy,
according to Bonhoeffer, has held sway for 1900 years, condemning those who
thought differently and silencing them where possible… even putting to death
some unrepentant heretics.
“Letters and Papers from Prison” became Bonhoeffer’s
final words on the subject.
Our Leader, Rev Pieter Hoogendoorn, says “In spite of many developments since, congregations today act as if nothing has occurred”.
theme is developed on Pieter’s proposition that only two options are open to
today’s Christians and congregations. On the one hand ignore his writings- as
many do; or struggle with his insights and take up the implied challenges. Pieter
says “ For Explorers, and modern ‘faith seekers’, the latter is the only
option. It is better to struggle with the challenges of Bonhoeffer’s thoughts
than to throw up our hands in despair because he has not provided a full answer
for us to endorse.”
Intrigued?….Why not make this a special occasion and come to this Gathering:
Evening 16th June at 5pm -7pm
Caloundra Uniting Church HALL at 56 Queen Street Caloundra
The Gathering includes a byo light finger food meal as well as a full
opportunity to discuss the issues around your table with friends-old and new!
Hoogendoorn Ph.0419 976 372 or Margaret Landbeck Ph.5438 2789 .
We seek to explore the boundaries of faith for the 21st century: by focussing on how we live out the gospel and our faith in our daily lives and being aware of current religious issues and trends in theological thinking. We encourage a spirituality of compassion and freedom: by encouraging members to be actively involved in the preparation and conduct of worship, supporting social justice initiatives and building a Christian community which actively helps and cares for each other.
We celebrate life in all its aspects and phases: by sharing in a deep and realistic way the joys and sorrows of life from birth, baptism, relationships, family and working lives, children and grandchildren, life challenges, sickness, and death.
We look to be an enlightened presence in the wider community; by actively supporting social justice activities for asylum seekers and refugees, the homeless and other people in need. We also support and encourage members as they are involved in community and volunteer activities in the wider community.
We respond to the needs of people near and far with the resources we have: by intentionally setting aside a significant amount of money we have raised for selected wider work projects in the local community, Australia and overseas.
We advocate for justice and peace in our nation and in the world: by supporting social justice programs, making representations to decision makers, and where appropriate participating in protest activities.
We continually challenge people to respond to the grace of God in Jesus Christ: by involving the congregation in decision making, affirming people in the contributions they make to the wider community, and to encouraging a faith community which is meaningful, spiritual and life giving.
Sunday Worship: 9.30am
Pearce Community Centre, Collett Place, Pearce, ACT.
Following my request to the President of the UCA for a clarification of the recent ABC TV, Radio and Online news other media reports that the Uniting Church had joined a small number of other denominations in presenting a petition to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader related to so called “freedom of religion” in the Israel Folau case, I have received the following:
urging, the ABC has acknowledged, corrected the online story and apologised to
us for its error. The SMH also corrected its story at our urging to distinguish
between Dr Fihaki’s comments and any official position of the Church.
reminding news editors that the Uniting Church is not a signatory to any letter
to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader seeking reassurances about freedom
Church’s actual position on freedom of religion, as expressed to the Expert
Panel of Religious Freedom in January 2018, is that “such freedoms are never to
be self-serving, but rather ought to be directed toward the Church’s continuing
commitment to seeking human flourishing and wholeness within a healthy, diverse
society.” The full submission is available here.
Uniting Church ministers and other members of the Church from time to time
express a range of public views.
However, we expect ministers, lay leaders and others and the journalists who
cover them not to misrepresent these views as official positions of the Church.
authorised spokespeople on the Church’s national positions are the President Dr
Deidre Palmer or in matters of regional significance, the Moderators of Synods.
Dr. Anne Pattel-Gray is an Aboriginal woman who is a descendant of the Bidjara/ Kari Kari people in Queensland and she is a recognised Aboriginal leader within Australia – nationally and internationally. She has dedicated her life to the struggle of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and she is a strong campaigner and lobbyist and deeply committed to seeking justice, equity and equal representation for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people. She is very proud of her Aboriginal culture and heritage and is a strong advocate for Aboriginal women, children, families and community regarding our Cultural and basic Human Rights. She has developed a leadership quality that promotes and builds a deeper sense of community and participation that brings a greater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and cultural identity and cohesion with the broader community that leads to beneficial partnerships, engagement and reconciliation.
Dr. Anne Pattel-Gray has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Sydney awarded in 1995 in the Studies of Religion with the major focus on Aboriginal Religion and Spirituality (she was the first Aboriginal person to graduate with a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney). And a Doctor of Divinity from India awarded in 1997 (the first Aboriginal person to be awarded the D.D.). Dr. Pattel-Gray has achieved many firsts in her prestigious life and she is known as a trail blazer and she has opened many doors for her people. She is a recognised scholar, theologian, activist and prolific writer with several publications – chapters, articles, edited works and authored books. Dr. Anne Pattel-Gray is deeply committed to the advancement of Aboriginal people and to reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. She has over thirty years in senior management as a CEO and she possesses a wealth of experience and she has developed enormous expertise.
Anne will deliver a Major Public Address on Saturday evening 13 July.
Student (full-time or unwaged part-time; ID check at event)
Early Bird (discount on Regular & Concession rates on & before 31 May,2019)
Concession (pensioners & those on unemployment or health benefits)
Short Program (Friday night to Sunday)
Cancellations received before 11 June, 2019 will be refunded in full. Thereafter a refund of 50% applies.
Accommodation not included
Packed lunch provided on Friday & Saturday only
Dinner voucher provided Saturday evening only
Morning & afternoon refreshments will be provided
Registrations on-line close on 9 July, 2019.
Prices include all relevant fees & taxes applicable to Common Dreams at the time of registration.
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church Toowong, Q is delighted to announce a workshop examining the Progressive Christian Movement.
Date And Time: Sat., 1 June 2019, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm AEST
About this Event
The guest speaker will be former Roman Catholic Bishop of Toowoomba Bishop William Morris. He will be discussing Creation Spirituality as a Social Justice issue. This will be followed by an introduction to A Progressive Christian Voice Australia (APCVA) by the Rev’d Ray Barraclough. After some afternoon tea, a panel discussion will be held looking at various aspects of the progressive movement. One of the panelists will be Rev’d Tiffany Sparks, most recently seen on the SBS special ‘Christians Like Us’.
Location: St Thomas Anglican Church, 67 High Street, Toowong, QLD 4066
The Future of Religion and of Spirituality and of the Earth
That is the topic for one of four sessions with Matthew Fox at Common Dreams 2019 International conference, 11th-14th JULY, 2019 at Newington College in Stanmore, Sydney, Australia and Pitt St Uniting Church, Sydney, Australia.
A conference dedicated to the Sacred Earth: Original Blessing; Our Common Home surely is in pursuit of recovering a sense of the Sacred. This looms as a primary prerequisite for our survival as a species and for our planet’s survival at this amazing but perilous time in human and planetary history. How do we recover the sense of the sacred when it has been lost?
In this context it is of considerable significance that more and more people (80% of people under 30 in the US) are identifying as “spiritual but not religious” today. Is this a judgment against religion? Is it a shout-out for bringing about a re-sacralizing of our relationships? Does it represent a quest for the deeper elements of religion, the “inwardness” of religion that the mystics like Howard Thurman and Dorothee Soelle and Meister Eckhart talk about?
We will reflect on these and other deep matters in this presentation including how we can put such questions into practice, what movements we can create to hasten the journey since the United Nations and scientists tell us we have twelve years left to turn things around.
Those who attended the 4th CD Conference in Brisbane can attest to the mind blowing experience of a Common Dreams Conference.
Early bird tickets are on sale until 31st may 2019.
Rev Dr Noel Preston has forwarded his homily for Sunday 19th May. It is a timely presentation as the Federal Election and political discourse has refocussed many minds on the teaching of Micah … acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly (Micah 6 v. 8. and vs. 6-16.)
It is a message for politicians and for all of us who are deciding who to vote for, as well as a message for the whole population in our individual journeys.
Comments can be left here at “Reply” or directly to Noel.
We have heard the reading from the
Old Testament Book of Micah – one of the “minor prophets”, together with Hosea
and Amos and part of the book of Isaiah. These prophets were around 8 centuries before the Christian era. As prophets they were not foretelling the
future so much as declaring Yahweh’s judgement on the way the nation was going.
In other words they were speaking truth
to power in their own times, a prophetic word of the Lord. Jesus and the
Gospels were strongly influenced by these 8th century BC prophets.
Micah was speaking for the poor and
spoke as one of them. He is horrified at the luxurious , degenerate and corrupt
life of the city, and realises that he and his fellow peasants are paying for
it. In another age he might have led a Peasants’ Revolt though his message is
more than political. It is about right relating with each other and with
Yahweh, their God – interesting challenges the day after a national election!
These days it is rare to hear a
preacher announce a single Text to preach on but that is what I am doing today.
This text is bracketed within Micah’s declarations about false worship and a denunciation of
corrupt dealings. Let’s look at this text, not in the translation of the Good
News Bible we used in today’s reading but in 3 other paraphrases or
translations from different versions.
You may know “The Message” –
this is how our text reads there:
…..what God is looking for in men and
women is quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be
compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously –
take God seriously…..
And maybe some of us who are old
enough have heard of the J B Phillips version of the Bible:
…..For what does the Lord require
from you, But to be just, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God…
And now the version I am most
familiar with, known as the The Jerusalem Bible:
….This is what Yahweh asks of you:
only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God….
It is this latter version which guides my
preaching this morning – the words for today (and everyday) are
Living the Gospel = loving justly,
tenderly and humbly
I am going to reverse the order of
these injunctions – so walk humbly with your God
Walking – we are all on a journey
aren’t we? We don’t know where or how it will end but we know that, in the company of God who
is Love, God’s Spirit will guide our
journey. This suggests a prayerful approach to daily life…..
Walking humbly – that also suggests
to me “living by Grace”, knowing that nothing can separate us from the Great
Love. Furthermore, we are called to live graciously, sharing that Love
Let me add another thought – walking
humbly is a rejection of self-righteousness. We are to be careful of how we
speak and think about “knowing or doing the will of God”.
Walking humbly empowers us for the
life of love and justice to which the rest of the text points.
So now, love tenderly……
To me, “tenderness” is virtually a
synonym for “compassion” . “Mercy” is another like term which some translations
of this text use. Practising “mercy” is also about sharing “grace”, again
“unconditional love”, which never deserts us even when we fail to live that
Tenderness is often a characteristic
of those who themselves have been hurt or damaged. Such tenderness is the style
of the wounded healer or suffering servant. It will be tinged with a forgiving,
empathetic and merciful spirit.
It is in caring for the “little ones”
that we learn to love tenderly -(the anawim of the Hebrew scriptures or
Jesus’ reference to “the least” of our brothers and sisters, as in Matthew 25) – the poor, the hungry, the
imprisoned, the naked. In our time we must understand “the least” or “the
little ones” in a total ecological sense. In caring for the Earth, threatened species and their environments, we
will learn to love tenderly. So, I am talking about eco-justice which is
nurtured by a comprehensive tender love.
Some years ago I wrote of “tender
loving” in my journal, particularly in the context of recovering from serious
illness. I was inspired by the words of an American medico who wrote a book
with the wonderful title, “Love, Medicine and Miracles”. I wrote in my diary as
I contemplated my wounded body: such
“loving is the life-stream which combines wholeness, healing and holiness.”
Then, we are called to Act Justly……….
This is the hardest word to
hear….this is the message for followers of the Jesus way, especially it is
what we needed to hear as Australians in the last few weeks facing an election
and what is needed as we move on as a nation. Justice is not about personal
needs primarily, but about the common good, and why the Gospel is a call to
SOCIAL justice.. We all belong to the human family, indeed the family of all
living beings. When we are grasped by
this insight, the burdens of others are not so heavy to bear – for they are the
burdens of our brothers and sisters.
Of course “justice and love” are
closely related. Indeed, it has been said that social justice is love
distributed. This is why the biblical message is full of references to living
justly. One of the strongest is in the Book of Jeremiah – “To know God is to do
Justice”. Essentially, the biblical idea of justice is about “right relating”
to each other, to our God, to all who share this planet. We are a Covenant
people called to be faithful to all – this is what Jesus said in the Synagogue
at Nazareth (Luke 4) where he named his mission. So the Biblical notion of
Justice goes beyond the way some of our leaders use the word, “fair”. Biblical
Justice has a bias to correcting injustice. It suggests that we must be constantly,
and courageously, ready to change not
only our minds but our actions. Social justice is more than simple charity. It
gives a priority to the marginalised, the vulnerable and the powerless. We see that clearly in the Jesus Story.
It’s worth wondering how we
develop our sense of justice and
fairness. Let me share an autobiographical reflection.
I was a five year old in my first
grade, walking home from school. The entertainment for the afternoon was for a
group of us boys to tease a little migrant Scottish girl. I’m talking 1947 when
Scottish migrants were the outsiders, the Asian migrants or asylum seekers of
our time. We called her names and threw
stones at her. My father found out about this incident. He was very angry with
me, righteously wrathful in fact. He did not hit me but gave me a piece of his
mind (and heart) and insisted on taking me around to the girl’s house to
apologise. This I did very tearfully. My father had opted to take the side of
the aggrieved and ostracised migrant girl to correct the hurt and injustice we
boys had perpetrated. The whole encounter made a profound impression on me,
searing into my self (my emotions, my will my mind, my spirit) a sense of injustice, righteous anger and
empathy on behalf of the vulnerable and victimised. For me, that encounter was
a lesson in right relating and I’m sure my father’s response did something to
empower that migrant family. On reflection, for me it was a lesson on how just
or right relating may correct the
imbalances of power in our society and
In a nutshell, empowering justice
requires us to reflect ethically about economic issues from the standpoint of
the poor, not the rich; or race relations from the standpoint of the oppressed
race; or environmental questions from the standpoint of the most vulnerable
species and so on. There is no better way to learn what social justice is than
to identify with the victims of injustice, as far as that is possible. In my
adult years my own understanding of justice was fashioned by a decade of close
involvement with aboriginal peoples in the seventies.
One of the great contributions of the
Uniting Church has been a readiness to take a stand for Social Justice. And to
tackle issues directly, not just speak vaguely about social justice matters.
When the UCA was formed I was the
Assembly Convenor for Social Responsibility. With others it was our task to
design “A Statement to the Nation” – written in 1977 it still has currency and
meaning. I want to share 3 paragraphs…..
We pledge ourselves to seek the
correction of injustices wherever they occur. We will work for the eradication
of poverty within our society and beyond. We affirm the right of all people to
equal educational opportunities, adequate health care, freedom of speech, employment
or dignity in unemployment if work is not available. We will oppose all forms
of discrimination which infringe basic rights and freedoms.
We will challenge values which
emphasise acquisitiveness and greed in disregard of the needs of others and which
encourage a higher standard of living for the privileged in face of the daily
widening gap between the rich and poor.
We are concerned with the basic human
rights of future generations and will urge the wise use of energy, the
protection of the environment and the replenishment of the Earth’s resources
for their use and enjoyment.
(Can give you a full copy of the
Now back to our Text. “Act justly,
love tenderly and walk humbly with your God……”
That is a great guide for living.
That is a great motto for a congregation to adopt or for our Uniting Churches
in the Redlands to make their chief guideline in the current planning for a
Let us make these matters of prayer for others, especially the marginalised. Let us join action with our prayer. AMEN
From our friends in the Progressive Explorers’ Group (PEG) in Melbourne who have signed this statement.
Action on hate speech: a letter to the churches
We, the undersigned, are
members of a group of mostly clergy, both women and men, still actively
involved in the life of the Church. We meet on a regular basis to
explore and discuss issues of faith, church and society from a contemporary
perspective. We express our profound concern
at the horrific events in
Christchurch New Zealand in March 2019, and believe that our church
should respond strongly, and with conviction.
While we understand the complexity of the
situation, which makes the sheeting home of blame problematic, we accept
responsibility to examine our own thought and practices and those of our
various churches. We do this in the hope that we can identify our contribution,
intentional or otherwise, to the construction of a social, religious and
political environment conducive to race-based hate speech.
We, as followers of Jesus, acknowledge that
our churches have in times past promoted notions that racial and cultural
superiority are justified. We acknowledge that such notions have contributed to
the worst behaviour imaginable. The
fifty deaths in Christchurch are but the most recent symptoms of faulty
theology, poor education, careless talk and the mistaken identification of
faith as a marker of superiority. Often when our society, or individuals within
it, behave in a violent and offensive manner we have said little or have
maintained our silence.
In recognition of our churches’ complicity
we, the undersigned, ask of the churches that, in word and deed, we together:
embrace inclusiveness, and publicly denounce
engage in open-minded study of other faiths
actively build bridges between faiths and
cultures, and decry the forces that keep them apart;
resist the urge to convert or demean people of
proclaim love and peace as the very essence of
stand up in our communities for justice;
speak out against hate speech;
call out racism.
Signed: Members of the Progressive Explorers Group as at Tuesday, 30
One of our very active members has been working with the team at Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation group. Wayne Sanderson has this to say about the ANTaR Q presentation:
This will be an exceptional night with over 300 people present. A great opportunity to meet ANTaR Q supporters and First Peoples Elders – particularly those integral to Youth Justice reform in Queensland. In particular, we are honoured to have Mr Mick Gooda as special guest. Mick is a Gangulu man from Central Queensland. He has worked as Social Justice Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission; and more recently as Co-Commissioner in the Royal Commission into Youth Crime in the Northern Territory. In particular, Mick will address the movement towards constitutional recognition of First Peoples and the Makarrata (treaty) momentum.
We are happy to recommend this event to our subscribers. Enquiries to Wayne (click on his name above).
The Redcliffe Explorers will meet on Monday 6th May in the Azure Blue function room, Anzac Avenue Redcliffe, with tea/coffee and chat from 6:00 p.m. The night’s discussion, starting at 6:30, will be facilitated by Greg and Meryem Brown, who recently participated in two conferences in the US – The Universal Christ: another name for everything (conducted by the Center for Contemplation and Action) in New Mexico, and Conversations with Jesus (hosted by the Gospel Coalition) in Indiana. The focus of the evening’s conversation will be comparing and contrasting the presentations and theological underpinning of the two groups.
The CCA is led by Fr Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, who now has more than 300,000 on line subscribers.
The Gospel Coalition “helps people know God’s Word with their mind, love God fully with their heart, and engage the world with grace and truth.” It has a very strong Calvinist