Category Archives: Thoughts

More on “What is Progressive Christianity?”

EyeLen Baglow, administrator of our partner A Progressive Christian Voice Australia has extended the discussion on the critical question of What is progressive Christianity?  This commentary can be found at: A Conversation on Progressive ChristianityLen draws on an interview with Marcus Borg, Progressive, and a long list of diverse thinking theologians which is a wonderful resource because Len has given web links to each of them. Enjoy.


The Churches and the Environmental Imperatives for all of us

For many decades the churches of all faiths have given serious thought and produced powerful statements supporting environmental action that placed the onus on individuals and governments to aEnvironmenatla changeddress related issues of social justice, being good neighbours, saving the planet and changing lifestyles. The challenges have become more urgent and the voices of concern, protest and action become more shrill.

This is an issue that unites all sectors of faith – evangelicals to progressives – and there are many good examples of effective responses.

The Micah Challenge that grew following the year 2000, when Australia joined 188 nations in a historic and inspirational commitment to “spare no effort” to free men, women and children from abject poverty and achieve eight Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015, Micah Challenge began mobilising Christians to hold the Australian government to account for its promise to contribute our nation’s fair share towards these goals. The results speak for themselves.

The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change has played an important role in advocating and bringing all faiths together and share their responses to climate change. Major religions and denominations have made official statements that can be read at this site. A couple of the links are currently not live. It is worth noting that the Muslim Faith topped the leader board in the Clean Up Australia program with 1000 volunteers on 26 sites. The Islamic Declaration before the 2015 Paris Agreement was a very strong statement of responsibility and obligation.

Green Faith is an interfaith coalition for the environment that was founded in 1992.  They work with houses of worship, religious schools and people of all faiths to help them become better environmental stewards.

They believe in addressing environmental issues holistically, and are committed to being a one-stop shop for the resources and tools religious institutions need to engage environmental issues and become religious-environmental leaders.

The Queensland Churches Environmental Network is a commission of the Queensland Churches Together  facilitating the Church’s call to love and care for creation as a vital expression of faith. A major QCEN event was the meeting held in Toowoomba, titled ‘Impact of Mining on Rural Communities and the Environment’, where the conversation with several people from different parts of the Darling Downs was about the impact of mining on their communities and the environment. On Sunday 26th March QCEN is hosting a gathering on climate change in Brookfield (see previous post). Two recent QCEN reports are:

Ecology, War, and the Path of Reconciliation Clive W Ayre (Uniting Church) and

Green Churches: Ecology, Theology and Justice in Practice Coleen Geyer (Uniting Church)

The Uniting Church Assembly through Uniting Justice Australia has passed many resolutions related to the environment not the least being: For the sake of the planet and all its people which includes strategies for engaging congregations, individuals, communities and government in strategic and responsible action for the dealing with environment and climate issues.

We welcome other appropriate links to share with our members.


A reflection: Films that break the ‘conspiracy of silence’.

Our friends at A Progressive Christian Voice have recently posted the following commentary:


by Ray Barraclough

Recently in cinemas around Australia tears were shed in response to the dramatised film Lion depicting the perilous journey of a young Indian boy losing touch with his natural Indian family. But there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of such stories in our own land.

And the children involved did not become lost but were actually forcibly removed from the arms of their families. The Royal Commission, which heard numerous testimonies from what was termed ‘the stolen generation‘, produced its report entitled Bringing Them Home [1997]. It contained dramatic accounts that could be the basis for not just one but many films depicting this Australian phenomenon.

The film Rabbit Proof Fence [2002] took viewers into this sad landscape. But there are many more such stories that Australians need to see on their cinema and television screens.

Bernard Lewis observed that:

History is the collective memory and if we think of the social body in term of the human body, no history means amnesia, distorted history means neurosis. [1]

Suppressed history and neurotic memory – both flow from what has been called ‘the conspiracy of silence’ in nationalistic Australian history. Timothy Bottoms, in his book entitled Conspiracy of Silence, documents what he terms ‘Queensland’s frontier killing times’. [2] But Queensland is not alone in this. No Australian state is devoid of such testimonies, such killings.

It is a challenge to the Australian film industry that that silence be broken. Brief and fleeting utterances have been given of the bigotry and violence that became cloaked in that Australian silence. Thomas Kenneally’s novel, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (made subsequently into a film) attempted to give insights into the life of Jimmy Governor and the ripples of violence that still affect this country’s memory.

Every year on 25 April we are saturated with Anzac memorabilia, leavened with religious salvific terms such as ‘blood sacrifice’ and martyr-like language of men shedding their blood for the Empire and their country.

Admittedly the numbers who died at Gallipoli vastly outnumber those who died at Myall Creek and Coniston. But what of indigenous people – women, men and children – whose blood was shed for defending their own land? Can not a drop of Anzac memorial water be spared for them?

What Australian town, shire, or city, pauses even for a moment on the 10th of June or over the days beginning on the 15th August, to remember and reflect upon the massacre of Indigenous people that occurred respectively at Myall Creek (10 June, 1838) and at Coniston (from 15 August, 1928).

And there are records in white history that document these events. The two trials over the Myall Creek massacre [3] and the records of a Board of Enquiry [4] into the Coniston massacre, would provide ample material for a full length film script to reduce the enveloping silence.

Even an arch-conservative figure such as Tony Abbott can refer to the treatment over history of the Indigenous people of this land as ‘the stain on our [Australian] soul’. [5]

Fortunately in Australia there are film-makers prepared to make films that will break the Australian ‘conspiracy of public silence’ about at least two of the numerous massacres thRay Barracloughat occurred throughout the length and breadth of this country? Notable is the 2012 production of Coniston by Rebel Films, directed by Francis Jupurrurla Kelly and David Batty. [6]

If our nation cannot bring itself to publicly remember Myall Creek and Coniston, perhaps commercial films depicting these events can break the amnesia and neurosis of our country’s limited memory.


1. Bernard Lewis, Notes on A Century – reflections of a Middle East historian, Penguin, New York 2013, p.5.

2. Timothy Bottoms, Conspiracy of Silence – Queensland’s frontier killing times, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2013

3. For an account of the massacre and subsequent trials note Mark Tedeschi, Murder at Myall Creek – The trial that defined a nation, Simon & Schuster, Cammeray, 2016

4. Police Magistrate A. H. O’Kelly presided over The Board of Enquiry which was established on 27 November, 1928. One Board member was J.C. J. C. Cawood, Government Resident in Central Australia, and Murray’s immediate superior. Cawood revealed his own disposition in a letter to his departmental secretary shortly after the massacre: “…trouble has been brewing for some time, and the safety of the white man could only be assured by drastic action on the part of the authorities … I am firmly of the opinion that the result of the recent action by the police will have the right effect upon the natives.” Cawood to Secretary Home & Territories Dept 25 October, 1928. NAA A431 1950/2768 Part I.

5. Speaking in Federal parliament on 27 May, 2013, Tony abbott said: We have never fully made peace with the first Australians. This is the stain on our soul.

6.The documentary film entitled Coniston was awarded the best Docudrama award by the Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) on 21 November, 2012. It was screened on ABC TV on 14 January, 2013.


A New Year Meditation from Richard Rohr


Image credit: Galapagos Before Sunset (detail) by Iris Diensthuber, summer 2007

From the Bottom Up: Introduction

A New Reformation
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

As I see it, religion is at its best when it leads us forward, when it guides us in our spiritual growth as individuals and in our cultural evolution as a species. —Brian McLaren [1]

Yes, we live in very troubling times; and we are fortunate to be alive now when we have so much possibility for growth in love. Many say we are in the midst of a spiritual awakening. Theologian Harvey Cox calls it the Age of the Spirit. He writes: “Faith is resurgent, while dogma is dying. The spiritual, communal, and justice-seeking dimensions of Christianity are now its leading edge. . . . A religion based on subscribing to mandatory beliefs is no longer viable.” [2]

There is a wide and multi-textured resurgence of the older and essential contemplative tradition. Many are returning to our mystical roots. Science has become one of religion’s best friends as it often validates the consistent intuitions of the mystics. Neuroscience helps us understand how our mind works and the impact of meditation and prayer. Critical biblical scholarship now has the help of anthropology, sociology, history, and archaeology.

There is a broad awareness that Jesus was clearly teaching non-violence, simplicity of lifestyle, peacemaking, love of creation, and dying to the ego for both individuals and groups by offering a radical social critique to the systems of domination, power, and money. There’s a growing recognition that Jesus was concerned about the transformation of real persons and human society here on earth. Christianity is meant to be a loving way of life now, not just a system of beliefs and requirements that people hope will earn them a later reward in heaven. There is a new appreciation for “many gifts and ministries” (1 Corinthians 12), “together making a unity in the work of service” (Ephesians 4) instead of concentrating power and knowledge in a top tier of male leadership.

Spiritual globalization is allowing churches worldwide to benefit from these breakthroughs at approximately the same time, which of itself is a new kind of reformation! The internet has opened up possibilities for learning, connecting, and networking with faith-filled, committed, loving people all over the world. As Brian McLaren says, now “we can migrate from organized religion to organizing religion—that is, religion organizing for the common good.” [3]

Christian denominations and world religions are realizing they are more alike than different. Consciousness is evolving. Christian theologians are predicting that this century will open up Trinitarian and practice-based spirituality, with a focus on the Holy Spirit, which many call “the forgotten member of the Trinity.” And we have a pope in Francis who is truly a man of the Gospel instead of a mere church man, someone at the top who genuinely cares about those at the bottom and our precious common home, the earth.

Of course, when there’s movement forward, there’s always pushback. But that’s just a call for more action steeped in prayer. Here at the Center for Action and Contemplation, we seek to support individuals and communities in deepening authentic spirituality and engaging compassionately with our world.

Gateway to Silence:
Create in me a new heart, O God.


[1] Brian D. McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Convergent: 2016), xi.
[2] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith: The Rise and Fall of Beliefs and the Age of the Spirit (HarperOne: 2009), 5-6.
[3] McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration, 14.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The Emerging Church: Beyond Fight or Flight,” Radical Grace, Vol. 21, No.4 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008).

Center for Action and Contemplation

Being to Becoming

Another subscriber has drawn attention to a recent ABC RN Interview:

The Posthuman on The Philosopher’s Zone

 with Joe Gelonesi  (3rd December 2016)

To listen, click here

In the 1960s Michel Foucault famously declared the end of man (sic) as we know him. In doing so he propelled what has come to be known as the posthuman turn—an all-encompassing worldview that held for over three centuries was deemed to be coming to a close. So, how’s the project going? Italian-Australian Rosi Braidotti, eminent philosopher and one-time student of Foucault, explains how we got here, and what’s still to come.

What are we capable of becoming – what are we becoming and not aware of it?

The so-called postmodern, post truth, post christian and post humanism era is upon us. But, of course, this has not happened overnight and philosophers can trace much of the end of the influence of the dominant European male face of humanism to the middle of the 20th century – even to the beginning of the nuclear age. The idea of the ‘thinking being’ has changed.

What takes the place of humanism? Is it a utopian socialist humanism or has that experiment failed? Or is it still to come? Or are we about to take a totally different political direction – towards an ethical, collaborative, community building – a form of radical democracy?

The unfolding political scenes around the globe have raised many questions about the future of humanity. This discussion raises the increasing emphasis on the non-human other that influences our future – the creation of a new technical culture.

Should we be pessimistic or optimistic?



What is Progressive Christianity?

Progressive Christianity’s most powerful “evangelism” tools are our willingness to empty ourselves of prideful claims to the ultimate truth, and our efforts to serve the common good of humanity.   Jim Burklo, What is Progressive Christianity?

Amongst the many definitions of Progressive Christianity is that of Jim Burklo author of Open Christianity: home by another road (available from Amazon), He offers 11 characteristics which he describes as ‘a work in progress’:

  1. Progressive Christians keep the faith and drop the dogma.
  2. For us, God is Love, not a Guy in the Sky.
  3. [If] God and Nature are one, science is a way to learn about God.
  4. Faith is about deeds, not creeds.
  5. We take the Bible seriously because we don’t have to take it literally.
  6. Spiritual questions are more important to us than religious answers.
  7. The morality of what happens in war-room and the board-room matters more to us than what happens in the bedroom.
  8. Other religions can be as good for others as our religion is good for us.                                         
  9. Our church parking is for cars, not brains.
  10. God is bigger than our ideas about God  
  11. God evolves, and so does our religion.

But there are other descriptors –

Progressive Christianity.Org  is a global network that offers thoughtful and practical resources for individuals, families and communities to explore and affect progressive Chrisitianity, spirituality, community life, social and environmental justice.

1.  Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life;

2.  Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;

3.  Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:

conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, believers and agnostics, women and men, those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, those of all classes and abilities;

4.  Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;

5.  Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;

6.  Strive for peace and justice among all people;

7.  Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;

8.  Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.

These 8 Points were the focus in their latest progressive Christian Children’s Curriculum: A Joyful Path Curriculum, for ages 6-10.


What might the new face of the church look like?

There has been a great deal of conversation about the changing character of “Church’.  Recent conferences in Australia and overseas have tapped into this topic. Not everyone agrees that change is inevitable and will not be determined by churches as organisations or as congregations, but by the natural evolution of social values. Just when we were getting used to the idea of being more community relevant, a confronting challenge has been made by Jamie Manson, columnist and book reviewer to the recent National Catholic Reporter Conference in USA….“the new face of the church won’t have much of a face at all,”

Go to: National Catholic Reporter Conference to read a commentary on her paper.



The Pope and the Environment – Everald Compton

The following post was provided by one of our subscribers – Everald Compton*


Posted on June 24, 2015 by Everald Compton

Pope Francis has issued an encyclical on the Environment called Laudato Si in which he firmly and clearly outlines his views on global warming, climate change and pollution, while linking them with poverty, employment, economics, science and religion.

It is a courageous statement that has generated an hysterical response from the usual suspects who say he should stick to religion and stay out of politics.

Clearly, these guys are quite illiterate about the basics of Christianity. The truth is thatJesus Christ was a political revolutionary who spent his life taking up the cause of those inflicted with poverty, hunger, homelessness, illness and injustice. He disturbed the Jewish and Roman establishment to such an extent that they crucified him.

For Francis to be the leader of the followers of Christ today, he could do no other than attempt to follow His ministry.

The encyclical is worth reading. A twelve page summary of it is carried by most news services. It is well researched, carefully written and logically argued.

The only major fault I can detect is his brushing aside of the world’s massive overpopulation as being of little consequence in the overall picture of the future of humanity.

But, it is a major issue that he must address in another encyclical.

When I was born in 1931, the world’s population was 2 billion. Now it is 7.5 billion and projected to peak in a few decades at 9 billion.

This vast population is unsustainable economically and socially. All of us pollute the world daily. It will take a century of family planning to cause a reduction in human numbers because we are all living much longer than ever predicted.

However, the major question right now is what happens next as the result of the Pope’s statement.

My hope is that he will be invited personally to attend the forthcoming Paris Conference on Climate Change. He is the only leader of stature in the world who can broker a sensible solution to the deadlock of how all nations can work positively together to create a cleaner world.

My particular hope is that he can insist on there being an honest charter that controls how emissions trading schemes can be implemented without the financial engineers plundering them in the same disgraceful manner as they inflicted sub prime mortgages on the world.

May Francis continue to give leadership to the concerns of humanity. He has not exceeded his role as a religious leader. He has simply reminded the followers of Jesus that we are not confined by the old dogmas of the Church and we must be responsible carers of the earth.

Indeed, we have an undeniable calling to be crusaders for justice, equality and the good of the human race.

Yours at large, Everald Compton

* More about Everald Compton at Everald@Large

You can subscribe to regular articles by Everald or enter into dialogue with him at Everald@Large

ANZAC and Jesus

20th April 2015

Robyn and I had the privilege of attending the Caloundra UC Explorers progressive service yesterday – Red Poppies for Remembrance, White Poppies for a Peaceful Future.ANZAC diary

The focus was on ‘sacrifice’ and a strong spirit of love pervaded the event. There was an obvious move away from a traditional or familiar liturgy that is repeated every week to an educative and reflective liturgy that drew on the narratives of Jesus and of the ANZACs. Many ‘first hand’  and powerful anecdotes were shared through dramatic readings, symbolic candle lighting and placing, and hymns drawing on contemporary social justice issues that brought the ‘sacrifice’ concept into a focus on the world we know today. Progressive values were clearly stated, many of which pose challenges to people who have lived a life of faith that has not given space for asking the

The crowd attending followed the service with a very friendly conversation and critique of the progressive view on salvation presented in the service. There were examples of individual meaning making and many positive reactions to the way in which those attending had their imagination and mind drawn to deep reflection  on the events of Gallipoli and Easter.

For everyone present there would be a different impact. In our own reflections, on the journey home, we discussed the differences between the sacrifice of Jesus and that of the ANZACs. There is no doubt that there are parallels in the ‘dying for others’ that the scripture describes as the greatest sacrifice of all, but there is a major difference in these events. The soldiers sent to Gallipoli were unaware that the bungling of their leaders was taking them on a doomed journey. Their sacrifice was not part of the big plan. For Jesus there was an awareness of where his sacrifice was going. His sacrifice was foretold and the outcome fulfilled many expectations.

Where does that leave us in a contemporary Australian culture? Can both of these narratives influence our own actions and thinking in a way that moves us to work for the kingdom of God in this place?

Thank you John Everall and team for preparing this service that clearly left us thinking about possibilities.

The Caloundra Explorers Group has members from the Uniting Church and others. It conducts an ‘Emerging Church’ service bi-monthly on the 3rd Sunday evening at 5pm. You can add your name to their mailing list and be kept informed about events including book club, guest speakers, and services. Just send your contact details to John Everall.


Refugees, fracking and cyclones are three sides of the same coin

Our friends at A Progressive Christian Voice  have approved the posting here of a Palm Sunday statement by their president, Peter Catt. This was also published in the Brisbane Times on March 29, 2015.

The lie that we are separate individuals is dying; dying I hope, faster than the planet which is being destroyed by the fruits of that lie.

The lead poem in Walt WhitRefugees2man’s great work, Leaves of Grass, is titled Song of Myself. It begins with the words “I celebrate myself”. These words make for a first impression that the poem is a self-serving or even narcissistic exercise. However the reader soon comes to appreciate that Whitman is really exploring the idea that what affects you affects me – and vice versa. His third line is “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”.

Whitman explores the territory surveyed by John Donne a few hundred years before him and by Mary Oliver in more recent times. John Donne stated that no one should view themselves as an island but as part of a continent, for:

“if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”.

Mary Oliver wrote: “I believe in the soul – in mine, and yours, and the bluejays, and the pilot whales. I believe each goldfinch flying away over the coarse ragweed has a soul, and the ragweed too, plant by plant, and the tiny stones in the earth below, and the grains of earth as well. Not romantically do I believe this, nor poetically, nor emotionally, nor metaphorically … but steadily, lumpishly, absolutely.” (Winter Hours, 1999)

Each poet expresses a truth we are encountering more and more deeply through scientific disciplines as diverse as biology and quantum physics. These are helping us to understand the world in which we live. And each is inviting us towards an appreciation that we live in a universe made up of interconnections and interdependencies. There are no individuals, only persons: interdependent, interrelated and interconnected.

As I see it, Australia is having a tough time struggling to free itself from the effects of the individualistic lie. In many areas of policy we still have an “I’m alright, Jack” view towards the world’s poor and suffering as if their plight cannot affect us.

Witness the ease with which we made budget cuts to foreign aid. We are one of the world’s 20 wealthiest countries and yet we are cutting funding to the world’s poor as if world poverty cannot affect our stability. Likewise, we help create the world’s refugees by participating in wars and then we largely ignore their plight and even actively indulge in acts of cruelty towards them. In an interconnected universe these decisions cannot but come back at us.

Likewise there is a refusal to recognise that degrading the environment cannot but affect our neighbours and in turn directly or indirectly affect us. Poisoned ground water is not a distant problem but one that will come home to roost. And a higher incidence of destructive tropical cyclones while nations disappear under the waves will increase the likelihood of regional instability.

On Sunday I will be speaking at the annual Palm Sunday Peace and Refugee Rally. Palm Sunday has as its frame the idea that peace is created through peace making. Peace making is an active process. The aim of peace making is to create a state of existence that is best expressed through the concept of Shalom. Shalom is a way of living that is characterised not just by the absence of war or conflict but by a deeper state of fulfilment. Shalom exists when all have a safe place to call home, sufficient food and water that is free from contamination.

In an interconnected world I can only have peace if you do, and when “things happen” to women and children on Nauru “things happen” to me too. I am affected. Deeply affected. Our current refugee policy, which sees us legitimising cruelty for some supposedly higher purpose, cannot but affect our psyche. And if we keep declaring war on terror, drugs, boats and the world’s suffering we will end up with battle fatigue and shell-shock. It is the way the way the interrelated universe works.

This nation is not a detached island floating free and beyond the fate of others, no matter how hard we try to frame ourselves in that light.

Peter Catt is an Anglican priest currently serving as Dean of St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane. He is a member of a number of environmental and Human Rights organisations and serves on Anglican Social Justice Committees at both Diocesan and National level. He is President of A Progressive Christian Voice and is a Chair of The Australian Churches Taskforce of Refugees.