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God, the Trinity and Panentheism

by George Stuart (see bio details at the end of this article.) 

Note: Following posting of Rodney Eiver’s article Our Father Who Art Up There, George has kindly given us this chapter from a book he is currently drafting. George Stuart has crafted the popular series of songs and music entitled Singing a New Song .

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I am in the process of writing my theological autobiography entitled, ‘Rekindling Christianity by Journeying with Jesus, Starting all over again’. One of the sections has to do with my concept of God, my version of the Trinity. It is rather long but you may be interested.

I begin by saying that my present beliefs are panentheistic. I understand panentheism as the belief that God is ‘in’ everything and everything is ‘in’ God. This sets a completely new path for me, from which to view reality, the cosmos, humanity and the meaning of everything, including Jesus and his cross. This supersedes any anthropomorphic (human like) image of God. It replaces what I understand to be, the misleading idea about the separation of God from humanity – God, a separate entity, being away and distinct. It also precludes any violence in God. God being in control also becomes irrelevant. These are all built on anthropomorphic images and ideas.

This is so, so different to what I have believed previously, however, I still have connections with the Bible, with church teachings and some of what I experience in the current church services I attend.

I replace the anthropomorphic images of God with more complicated, mystical images of spirit and energy. These are somewhat abstract, and thus maybe more difficult to embrace. I am reminded of teaching in a gospel conversation that Jesus has with the woman of Samaria.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24.)
Certainly not the easiest to comprehend. In this quotation, God is not ‘a spirit’, but ‘spirit’. For me, the two are different and the quote points beyond the dominant biblical images of God.

The quote includes, ‘those who worship him…’ (John 4:24.)
This falls back into anthropomorphic talk which, for me, is a pity. God again, becomes a ‘him’
I do not find the word ‘energy’ in my biblical concordance, so I’m not sure that this concept is present in the biblical way of thinking. Energy is not a first century concept but it is central to modern thinking, particularly with the explosion of scientific information and the current way of understanding the cosmos.

I also find it significant that God is referred to as ‘love’, see 1 John 4:16a, and not ‘a loving person’. Again, the two are very different for me. The first is mystically abstract but the second sounds very anthropomorphic.

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Politics and Religion

Connecting Inner and Outer Worlds
Sunday, July 8, 2018

Go down to the palace of the king and declare, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” —Jeremiah 22:1, 3
The primary role of religion and spirituality is to reconnect, the very meaning of the Latin word religio. The Greek word polis—which led to the word politics—simply means city or public forum, where people come together. Why have religion and politics become so antagonistic when they have similar goals?

The Hebrew prophets and Jesus clearly modeled engagement with both faith and the public forum. However, unlike its Jewish forbears, in its first two thousand years Christianity has kept its morality mostly private, personal, and heaven-bound with very few direct implications for our collective economic, social, or political life. Politics and religion remained in two different realms, unless religion was uniting with empires. Christianity looked to Rome and Constantinople for imperial protection; little did we realize the price we would eventually pay for such a compromise with Gospel values.

“Separation of church and state” is important to safeguard freedom of religion and ensure that governments are not dominated by a single religion’s interests. But that does not mean people of faith should not participate in politics. Today many believe that “inner work” is the purview of spirituality and that we should leave the “outer world” to politicians, scientists, businesses, and workers. Most of the negative feedback I receive is “Don’t get political!” Yet how can I read the Bible and stay out of politics? Again and again (approximately 2,000 times!) Scripture calls for justice for the poor. The Gospel is rather “socialist” in its emphasis on sharing resources and caring for those in need.

Like it or not, politics (civic engagement) is one of our primary means of addressing poverty and other justice issues. I am not talking about partisan politics here, but simply connecting the inner world with the outer world. As a result of our dualistic thinking, the word “partisan” has come to be synonymous with the word “political.” And so many church-goers do not want to hear the Gospel preached—as it might sound political!

To be a faith leader is to connect the inner and outer worlds. In the United States’ not-so-distant-past, Christians were at the forefront of political and justice movements to abolish slavery, support women’s suffrage, protect civil rights, and establish and maintain Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Today I am encouraged to see many of my Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist brothers and sisters actively engaged with the political realm, speaking truth to power, and holding our political leaders accountable. Being political is a basic civic, human, and spiritual duty!

The author: Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher and a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.

Fr. Richard is the author of numerous books, including Everything Belongs, Adam’s Return, The Naked Now, Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, Immortal Diamond, and Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. His newest book is The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (with Mike Morrell).

Fr. Richard is academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Drawing upon Christianity’s place within the Perennial Tradition, the mission of the Living School is to produce compassionate and powerfully learned individuals who will work for positive change in the world based on awareness of our common union with God and all beings.

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CIFS helps with cult advice

CIFS is a non-profit association, founded in 1996 by a small group of parents whose children were recruited into cults.
Supporting each other in similar situations soon led to a greater understanding of the common practices and thought reform used in all harmful groups, and the damaging after-effects on those who leave these groups.

CIFS soon grew in numbers to include former members, friends, families and individuals working together to increase awareness and educate the public regarding the potential dangers of becoming involved in cults.

Cult Information and Family Support has grown to be at the forefront nationally in offering support and information to people affected by cults and cultic relationships.

CIFS advocates to have stronger laws enacted by policy makers to protect Australian citizens from the untold harm these groups inflict on individuals families and our society.

For more information go to: CIFS

Cults grow in an uncritical environment

ABC News reports on a cult making its way in Australia.

Providence is a religious group founded in 1978 in South Korea by Jeong Myeong-seok. A self-proclaimed Messiah who sometimes refers to himself as Pastor Joshua, he is a former “Moonie” or follower of the late Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.

The group also goes by other names including Jesus Morning Star (JMS, which also happens to be the initials of the founder’s name), Christian Gospel Mission and The Bright Moon Church.

Headquartered in South Korea, Providence claims to have 300 affiliated churches and more than 100,000 followers in its home base. The group also boasts a worldwide following of over 10,000 and operates in a number of other countries including Australia, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, Japan and Taiwan.

Providence was set up in Australia in 1997 and has established branches in major cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra.

for more on this go to: The bizarre world of Providence cult

Registration for Morwood/Taussig Seminar at New Farm

REGISTRATION FORM

Merthyr Explorers and Progressive Christian Network Qld present:

 Christianity – 1st Century …. 21st Century …. what is the future?

7th October 2017       9 am to 3:30 pm

Merthyr Rd Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm

 Cost: $50 including morning tea

BYO lunch or order for $15 per person – pay on the day

Name: ____________________________________________________________________________________

Email: ____________________________________________________________________________________

Phone: ______________________________Dietary requirements_____________________________

(  ) Payment Enclosed for _____­­­____ registrations: $___________     (cheques or money orders made out to Progressive  Christian Network Qld)

(  ) Payment for __________ registrations of $ ___________ has been paid by bank transfer (please post or email registration information)

BSB: 638010     Acct no: 14431629

Acct name: Progressive Christianity Network Qld

Reference: Please use your surname as on this form as the reference.

Name/s of others for whom registration is being paid

Post registration to: PCNQ, PO Box 374 New Farm Q 4005

Or email to:  drgarn@bigpond.net.au

Enquiries: 0409 498 403

Registration closing date: Wed 4th October

I am planning to purchase catered lunch          Yes      No

Transport and Parking:

Small amount of off-street parking, plenty of on-street parking (no parking meters).

 

Bus route 196, Stop 13 (outside Venue). Bus leaves from Cultural Centre, outside City Hall in Adelaide St and in Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley.

 

Our guest speakers:

Professor Hal Taussig from USA

Michael Morwood from Western Australia

Common Dreams preparing for Sydney in July 2019….

Common Dreams on the Road 2017 …. coming your way (perhaps!) soon:
You will be interested to know that Common Dreams has arranged for Professor Hal Taussig, one of the leading theologians of the late 20th & early 21st centuries, to tour Australia & New Zealand in October & November this year under the Common Dreams on the Road banner.

Hal has recently retired as Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary where from 1998 he taught masters & doctoral level studies. He is also Professor of Early Christianity at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. He has also retired from 30+ years as a United Methodist pastor & now is specially assigned by his bishop as a consultant to local congregations. Hal is co-chair of the Society of Biblical Literature’s Consultation on Greco-Roman meals, & on the steering committees of SBL’s Seminar on Modern Theories & Ancient Myths of Christian Origins and the Greco-Roman Meals Consultation.

Professor Taussig is a foundation fellow of the Westar Institute & participated in that Institute’s celebrated Jesus Seminar. He is currently co-chair of Westar’s Christianity Seminar. Among his 14 published books are A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century & Newly Discovered Texts (2013); A New Spiritual Home: Progressive Christianity at the Grass Roots (2006); & Re-imagining Life Together in America: A New Gospel of Community (2002).
While in Australia Hal will visit SE Queensland, Sydney, Perth, Albany/Denmark, & Melbourne. The New Zealand segment includes events in Auckland & Wellington and at the Sea of Faith conference. Details of the dates he will be in each centre & the local contacts for enquiries are:
SE Queensland: 5 – 11 October. Contact Paul Inglis, psinglis@westnet.com.au
Sydney: 11 – 18 October. Contact, Margaret Mayman, m.mayman@gmail.com
Perth & Esperance: 18 – 25 October. Perth contact Richard Smith, richbert@it.net.au . Esperance Contact Elizabeth Burns, elizabeth.burns@bigpond.com
Melbourne: 25 – 29 October. Contact info@pcnvictoria.org.au or (03) 9571 4575
Auckland: 29 October – 2 November. Contact Glynn Cardy, glynn@stlukes.org.nz
Wellington: 3 – 5 November. Contact Susan Jones, minister@standrews.org.nz
Sea of Faith: 6 – 7 November. Contact Adrian Skelton, adrian.skelton@gmail.com

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear this remarkable progressive thinker & speaker.

Common Dreams 2019

This is long range advice that the fifth Common Dreams conference will be held in Sydney on either 4 – 7 July or 11 – 14 July (the exact dates will be determined when the availability of the venue is negotiated). Matthew Fox has been booked as the distinguished international keynote speaker. Matthew is a well-known writer & inspired speaker with at least 30 books to his credit. Formerly a member of the Dominican Order within the Roman Catholic Church, he incurred the ire of the then Cardinal Ratzinger which led to his eventual expulsion from the Catholic Church after which he became a member of the Episcopal Church. Fox was an early and influential exponent of a movement that came to be known as Creation Spirituality. The movement draws inspiration from (though diverges doctrinally from) the mystical philosophies of such medieval Catholic visionaries as Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Dante Alighieri, Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa, as well as the wisdom traditions of Christian scriptures. Creation Spirituality is also strongly aligned with ecological and environmental movements of the late 20th century and embraces numerous spiritual traditions around the world, including Buddhism, Judaism, Sufism, and Native American spirituality, with a focus on “deep ecumenism”.

Make a note in your diary & plan to attend what will prove to be another exciting & stimulating gathering of progressives featuring leading international, Australian, & New Zealand speakers & workshop leaders.

Dick Carter, Melbourne.

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CARDINAL and PRIME MINISTER – What does the future hold?

Friend of the UC Forum, Everald Compton, has posted his latest opinion bulletin on the topic of the current circumstances of three Australian leaders – George Pell, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. Everald presents an observation on the parallels and linkages amongst these three men of church and state and makes a prophetic observation on their futures. Time will tell how accurate his is, but be aware that Everald has been right many times before!

Go to:  https://everaldcompton.com/2017/07/08/cardinal-and-prime-minister/  for this story.

Everald is a Uniting Church member, and has a strong commitment to the huge task of implementing the Blueprint for an Ageing Australia as Chairman of the LONGEVITY INNOVATION HUB.

His work as a consultant to ATEC RAIL GROUP LTD, of which he was Chairman for 18 years, is part of his plan to see that Australia has top quality long distance railways to efficiently transport domestic freight and export commodities, preferably owned and managed by private companies.

He also chairs Tenement to Terminal Ltd (3TL) which is building a live cattle export facility at the Port of Gladstone in Queensland. The challenge of designing and implementing the logistics of this operation and establishing export markets in Asia is a fascinating one.

His other passion in infrastructure is WATER, especially the drought proofing of the entire continent. In partnership with his friend John Thompson, they have planned a major project to divert tropical water to the Darling River and constantly lobby governments to implement it.

As an Elder of the Uniting Church in Australia, he is actively involved in the positive role of Christianity in the world.

Two particular activities are:

ACTS, a charity founded by the Aspley Uniting Church to care for people in need. Everald is its Chairman and the activities are mainly concentrated on broken homes, domestic violence, deprived children and refugees.

NORTH BRISBANE INTERFAITH GROUP, which brings together people of all religious faiths in regular dialogue. They particularly concentrate on improving religious understanding, poverty and illiteracy.

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How religion rises – and falls – in modern Australia

From A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc.

Professor Gary Bouma

April 14, 2017

Gary BoumaIn the past 50 years, the nature and shape of religion in Australia has changed dramatically. While secularisation and religious decline was one way of telling this story, it has become increasingly unsatisfactory.

Religion has not gone away, nor has it retreated into the private sphere as predicted, even though increasing numbers declare they have “no religion”. These changes have major implications for social policy and research.

Religion is constantly in the news. It seems to fuel global events, frightens politicians, and is claimed to influence the voting on moral issues.

In the 2011 Census, Australia became at the same time both less religious and more religious. While a rising number declared they have “no religion” (22%), the number declaring a religion also increased significantly. This was partly due to 17% fewer people taking the option of not responding.

The declaration of “no religion” is becoming particularly evident among young people – the so-called millennials. In the 2011 Census, nearly 30% of Australians between 25 and 34 declared that they had no religion.

Research in the UK reports many young people are turning their backs on formally organised religious communities that seem incapable of according women full dignity or recognising and celebrating love among LGBTIQ people.

Increasing proportions of young people have been raised by parents who declare they have no religion. In the UK, the likelihood of children of religious parents being religious themselves is about 50%. But those raised in non-religious households are very unlikely to take up religion. Similar figures are likely for Australia.

From recent research overseas and in Australia, there appears to be three broad types of orientation to religion, and not just the two predicted by secularisation theory, which is no religion or faith celebrated and practised in private.

Also, there has been a tendency to essentialise the religious/secular divide and to ignore the diversity of ways in which people are religious.

First, there are those who associate with formally organised religion because they find it informs their lives and motivates them to do service. They are public about this, and about their efforts to put faith into practice. Religion is important to them and informs the way they seek to shape and reshape society.

Recent focus groups among millennials reveals some who are religious are exclusivist, believing they have “the truth” and that everyone should have the same religious belief as they do. However, most are confident in practising their own religion while being comfortable to let others be themselves – whether religious or not.

While probably a smaller percentage of the population than 50 years ago, those taking their religion seriously cannot be ignored in any analysis of what is happening today. A recent National Church Life Survey (NCLS) revealed 14% of Australians said “religion was very important” to them, and 11% attend worship weekly.

However, this group is highly diverse. It includes many varieties of Christians along with those who are Buddhist, Muslim, Hindus, Sikh, Jewish, and others.

Second, there are many ways of belonging to a particular faith. As one billboard declares: “there are 1.6 billion ways of being a Muslim”. The internal diversity of religious groups is huge.

Among the “nones” there are at least two groups. First, there are those who fully reject or simply ignore religion. It is meaningless and pointless to them.

While a few may be actively anti-religious, most simply do not care about religion, but do not mind if others follow one. The NCLS revealed 36% of Australians said “religion was not important”, and another 25% said “religion was of little importance”. Similarly, 68% said they never (or less than once a year) attend any kind of religious service.

The second group among those who declare “no religion” includes those who actively engage in spirituality, practise meditation, ask questions about the meaning of life, seek ethical ways to live their lives, and reshape society.

According to the NCLS, 28% of Australians claim to “have had (and another 25% believe it is possible to have) a mystical or supernatural experience about which they have no doubts about its reality”. Given that 11% claim to attend religious services once a week (and 7% once a month), supernatural experiences are not limited to religious organisations.

This second group of “nones”, sometimes referred to as SBNRs (spiritual but not religious), needs further research to understand the ways people are engaging with questions of meaning, seeking to promote personal and social wellbeing and improve their world.

The fact they are not associated with existing organisations does not mean these activities have become privatised. They are simply differently organised and networked.

The diversity of ways Australians are and aren’t religious or spiritual impacts on social policy, education, and interreligious relations.

First, the diversity is not among just an increased number of monolithic blocks of identity. No-one speaks for all Christians, or Muslims, or Buddhists, or Hindus or Jews. Intrareligious relations are at times more difficult among people claiming the same religious identity. Alliances on issues will form between people from different religious groups, which are internally divided on the issue.

Responses to census categories indicate one level of increased diversity but do not reveal the huge diversity within the categories. Nor do they reflect the fact that increasing numbers of Australians, given the chance, will claim more than one category.

Overlooking diversity both within the ways of being religious and the ways of having no religion neglects the many forms of spirituality, wholeness, caring, sacred spaces and meaning found within and alongside formally organised religion.

Gary D Bouma Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Monash University

Disclosure statement

Gary D Bouma is an Anglican Priest in the Diocese of Melbourne.

Article first published on The Conversation

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Formation of the Progressive Christianity Network – Qld.

The Plan

In line with long held plans to ‘catch up’ with other States and have a Queensland Progressive Christianity group, this concept was boosted considerably on Saturday 11th March. The gathering at the Treston seminar stayed on to discuss a draft proposal prepared by the committee of the Modern church lookformer Progressive Spirituality Network. The plan is to transition the hundreds of members in the latter group into the proposed PCNQ while establishing a close relationship with the ever growing UCFORUM. Of course many of our members belong to both groups. Paul Inglis has accepted an invitation to chair the group in the formative stage.

We now also have many international links and are aware of a need to move forward with them in mind. At the same time, as the Common Dreams Conference proved, Queensland has a lot to offer the progressive movement and there will be much about the PCNQ that is distinctly us.

What’s in a name?

The name for the group is not yet finalised but we are keen to align and link to interstate groups for several reasons. Feedback at this meeting and emails I am still receiving will help us to make the ‘right’ decisions.

What is the purpose of such a group?

The scope and purpose of the group is still under discussion, but the following have been mooted:

  • to provide a safe place for progressive thinking Christians and others to come together and discuss the many issues in the life journey
  • to be an organising group for seminars and conferences
  • to continue the work of the former progressive spirituality network
  • to build links with non-Christian groups with strong interest in progressive spirituality and religion
  • to welcome atheists in the ongoing conversations about the meaning of life
  • to work with similar interstate groups when planning visits from keynote speakers
  • to publicise events related to our interests
  • to make appropriate commentary on contemporary matters
  • to explore the growing literature and scholarship in the field.

 

Some proposed initiatives

The planning team has already begun the process of setting up a Round Table group made up of representatives of all progressive and ‘explorer’ groups and individuals who can informally come together to find common ground and share in initiatives.  A draft paper on this proposal is available on request from Paul. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

We will be considering whether this is part of the brief for the PCNQ.

We want to reach as many interested people across the State as possible and an early challenge will be to find ways to support individuals in isolation from progressive groups. Already we have many members who correspond with us and receive reading lists and other information.

Watch for further developments and please continue to participate in our activities.

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