The hidden influence of progressive theology.

The following post from Len Baglow is reproduced here with his approval. It was first posted in the APCV blog – A Progressive Christian Voice Australia

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Henderson Conference 2018 at the University of Melbourne. Professor Ronald Henderson, led a national inquiry into poverty from 1968-1975. From this inquiry came many wide-ranging reforms including increases to the aged pension. It also saw the creation of the Henderson poverty line, which continues to be updated by the Melbourne Institute, and is used by policy advocates like myself to this day.

The conference brought together outstanding speakers from around Australia all of whom were committed to reducing poverty in Australia. This resulted in truly fascinating discussions and it was great to be among so many committed people.

However, one of the highlights for me was at the conference dinner, when Ronald Henderson’s son William spoke of his memories of his father. In particular he remembered a framed quote from the protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr which was on his father’s desk. The quote ran, “Remember, if a thing is worth doing, it will take more than one generation: hence the extreme importance of hope.”

I am not sure how traditionally religious Ronald Henderson was or whether he was a church goer at all. However, it is apparent from his son’s recollections that there was something in the progressive theology of his day that helped guide and galvanise his actions.

As it happens, I had been thinking a little about Niebuhr of late because it was he who championed the Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel in the USA during the 1950s. For the last 4 months I have been engrossing myself in Heschel’s work, which, though written over half a century ago, prefigures and resonates with much postmodern theology.

Towards the end of his life, Heschel became involved with Martin Luther King in both the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations. He was involved with the Selma march and his daughter, Susannah Heschel records, “The greatness of that Selma march continues to reverberate because it was not simply a political event, but an extraordinary moral and religious event as well. For my father, the march was a deeply spiritual occasion. When he came home, he said, ‘I felt my legs were praying.’”

Progressive theology needs legs. If it does not lead to loving committed action it is useless, a waste of time. It also needs to be grounded in that loving committed action and not something produced in the ivory towers of universities alone.

One of the things that Henderson did when he first began his research into poverty was that he sent his young university researchers out into the community to talk with every community group who would listen. They talked about their findings and discussed their implications. In this dialogue, their ideas were tested and they developed a strong sense on how to communicate. I am not sure whether he got this idea from Niebuhr or not, but it is certainly a model which is strongly biblical.

Today, too often theologians and the church have forgotten this and talk just to themselves and those like them. (Perhaps this is why Bishops often appear to be talking gobbledegook; they have forgotten the common language.)

Palm Sunday is coming up. This is a time Christians have traditionally prayed with their feet. In Australia while church attendances have been dropping, those in the secular society committed to justice have taken this festival up. It is now a rally for those who want justice for refugees and for people seeking asylum. What a sign of grace! Though we in the churches have forgotten the covenant, God has not forgotten!

Palm Sunday is our opportunity to do theology on the street and with our legs and with our ears. On Palm Sunday you will hear a God who confronts, who calls for justice, who challenges and for those who have committed themselves to justice, who also consoles.

My first challenge then to progressive Christians reading this article: Get out on the street this Palm Sunday. My second challenge is for you to ask your local Minister, Pastor or Bishop to be there as well.

Len Baglow  March 2018

Management Committee of APCVA (A Progressive Christian Voice Australia)

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A new kind of Christianity

From Rev John Churcher – Permission to Speak

Following the Way of Jesus means that we have chosen the responsibility to speak truth to the powers that be, challenging injustice and any unjust systems and laws that work against both the individual and the common good.

As followers of the Way of Jesus we have chosen the responsibility to be involved in creating a world in which there is a fair sharing of the abundance of all the good things that Earth has to offer to all people.

Followers of the Way of Jesus are called to defend human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of actions, civil liberties – and we should never take our hard-fought for freedoms for granted, nor should we use them irresponsibly to abuse or exploit others.

Following the Way of Jesus means that we have chosen to serve and, if necessary, to sacrifice our comfort and even risk our lives for the benefit of others.

Following the Way of Jesus is to choose to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’.

Following the Way of Jesus is to choose to work to tackle the causes of poverty both at home and abroad.

For the full article go John Churcher

Book Review: Prayers For Progressive Christians

Michael Morwood has been engaging Christians searching for a more relevant faith for thirty years. He has interacted with people from various denominations who have been prepared to reflect, discuss and change their thinking in the face of new information and discoveries. He uses the word progressive to describe the willingness of these Christians to move beyond traditional forms of thinking and acting.

I have found this book an inspiring resource that fills a great need in the growing progressive movement and I will get a great deal of use out of it for personal as well as corporate use.

For people who have severed all ties with the church, it is a wonderful tool for personal moments of deep contemplation, meditation and reflection. For them it would be a liberating resource. For others who form small groups meeting privately, and for those who still attend church services it will help to support their questioning minds.

Prayer has been a contentious matter for many progressives who would rather see it as an instrument for centring their thoughts and finding ways to be practically helpful to others in need, than a means for calling up God to intercede and change the course of events.

Michael introduces the themes of prayer with a discussion on why prayer should change so that we pray for what we believe. He says: Twenty-first century followers of Jesus of Nazareth deserve better than prayers based on an outdated redemptive worldview that has been, and still is, perpetuated by the Christ-religion.

One option is to continue praying the prayers despite their disbelief. Another option is to walk away from church attendance. A further option is to look for liturgical prayers that resonate with what they now believe. This approach will reveal the shortage of such prayers.

Michael enters into a refreshingly bold conversation about “God”. He asks the reader to think about where we got our concept of God from. He does not ask for everything to be discarded. The discernment about such knowledge is left to the critical thinker.

Next he asks about the purpose of life. In the context of this he has constructed some lovely contemporary prayers where the thoughts paint pictures of reality, relate to our world and ourselves. One feels very humanly fragile and humble while reading and thinking about the prayers. They capture the seasons of life, the seasons of the church and the key events in a full lifetime. Although they are meant for people of all ages in all situations I managed to find a lot that stirred my senses as a 72 year old and like Michael Morwood brought me to a sense of reality and meaning.

I would commend this book to everyone. [See an earlier post for purchasing details]

Paul Inglis 17/3/2018

A convenient truth – the creation story and the substance of God

Serving the interests of the Roman Empire

Many indigenous spiritualities, Franciscans, and Celts saw creation as good, as a theophany or revelation of God’s very being, just as Genesis taught. How did Christianity come to be so divorced from nature? John Philip Newell (b. 1953), a poet and scholar known for his work in the field of Celtic spirituality, traces the roots and impact of the doctrine creatio ex nihilo. He offers an alternative, still orthodox, view of creation based on the writings of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon:
Irenaeus [130-202] . . . taught that the whole of creation flows from the very “substance” of God. [1] All things carry within them the essence of the One. Irenaeus . . . signaled his concern about the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. . . . This was to become the standard of Western Christianity’s approach to creation. Creation would be viewed not as coming forth from the substance of God but as fashioned from afar by a distant Creator, made out of nothing from on high.

Irenaeus intuited that this would be a disaster, that to neutralize matter, to teach that creation does not come from holy substance, would lead to the abuse of creation. It was a convenient “truth” . . . [meaning] that the empire could do whatever it wished to matter. Matter was not holy. It had not come forth from the womb of God’s Being. Rather it was made from nothing. It was essentially devoid of sacred energy. So, every imperial mind could ravage the earth’s resources with impunity. It could disparage the rights of creatures and subordinate the physical well-being of its subjects. Religion had become the accomplice of the state’s subordination of the earth. It had sanctioned the separation of spirit and matter.

For the rest of this article from Richard Rohr go to The Substance of God  

and scroll down the page.

From this link you can also sign up to receive Richard’s daily meditations.

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A Church for our times

 

 

As a Mission, we provide community based services to Bondi and the Eastern Suburbs. Our goal is to turn good intentions into great action with a large dose of compassion. Our programs are designed to:

Connect people and break down the facelessness of modern urban communities – you care more for the people you know;

Provide a helping hand to those who are struggling in life and a means to get back onto their own path;

Connect people, those wanting or in need, with the opportunity for growth, prosperity, and sense of belonging;

Shepherd our environment and leaving it improved for the next generation.

Chapel by the Sea is a community hub for the exploration of spirituality, justice, community building, creativity and human and eco-solidarity. We are inclusive of all faiths, including agnostics and atheists and all people. We have developed a range of programs and made the Chapel available to other groups with these goals.

The Chapel’s ministry, under the leadership of Rev John Queripel, seeks to promote Jesus as a liberating life-giver. At the heart of Jesus’ ministry is his commitment to the vision of a society where right relations would be present between all people. To that end we work toward justice, peace, harmony and reconciliation with a particular concern for the poor and marginalized both in our community and the world.

Chapel by the Sea celebrates the Christian faith – that God loves us all and entered our world as the man Jesus Christ to bring us forgiveness, joy, hope and peace. We also believe life is to be celebrated as something beautiful and creative. The Chapel service and programs are open to all those interested in building a stronger community and helping others. Our congregation and volunteers share their skills, passions and ideas at our events, community and childcare centres, for which we are truly grateful.

For more information about this UCA congregation go to: Chapel by the Sea

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Study Guide for the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity 2012

This Study Guide has been re-edited and re-printed.
This edition is the second printing.

By: Fred Plumer, Author and President

This Study Guide is for the third edition (2011) of the “8 Points” that have both identified and guided ProgressiveChristianity.org since the organization’s founding in 1994.

It can be used for small group study, intentional communities, conferences, or any group who would like to delve more deeply into the history and the process of living out the core teachings of Jesus. There are discussion questions and space after each point for groups to come up with their own thoughts and ideas.
We have often been asked why we change or update the “8 Points.” There are three main answers to that question. First, we change the wording based on thoughtful comments and suggestions from our readers and supporters. Some of these suggestions are theological, and some are seeking greater clarity, showing us areas where we were not as clear as we need to be.
Secondly, as people with open minds and soft hearts, we continue to evolve and change. That is what “progressive” is all about. New scholarship, conversations and even detractors challenge us to rethink what we have been positing, and at some point, after much discussion and conversation with our advisors, we may decide that we should make a change or emphasize new points. This seems to happen about every five years or so.
Thirdly, we never want the “8 Points” document to become something sacred in itself, beyond testing and questioning. In another words, we are not trying to challenge creedal thinking and outdated dogma with a new creed.
The background material and the questions of this Study Guide were designed to stimulate conversation and to raise issues that might not otherwise come up. None of these materials are intended to make a final theological, Christological, or canonical argument. The last thing we would want to do is to tell anyone how he or she should believe or approach their faith. We simply offer this as a starting point to the conversation and we look forward to the continual evolution of our faith.
The study guide includes The 8 Points Flyer, a Reflection Preface by Jim Burklo, an Introduction on What is Progressive Christianity by Gretta Vosper, and a Personal Note from the Author, by Fred Plumer. Each section has the 8 Point, a discussion about the point, discussion questions, and a space for notes.

Excerpt from the Study Guide:
By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who…
Point 4 — Know that the way we behave towards others is the fullest expression of what we believe.

Most scholars would argue we learn more about the Jesus of the scriptures from the things he does rather than what he says. The Jesus we meet in the gospels is a man of action, who heals, who demonstrates compassion, who takes a stand against injustices, who loves unconditionally, and who then tells his disciples to go and do likewise. Maybe that is why the writers of all three synoptic gospels wrote that Jesus believed the most important commandment is to “love God with all of our hearts, minds and souls and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
According to the writer of Luke’s gospel, Jesus then tells a story that suggests our neighbor is anyone who might need our help. Nowhere in these important passages do we find Jesus suggesting that before we extend ourselves on behalf of another or before we love our neighbor, we should first expound a theology, or a belief system. Nor does it appear there was ever a litmus test Jesus used before he befriended someone or helped him or her. Progressive Christians believe our actions of compassion are more important than the expression of our beliefs.

To buy – go to Progressive Christianity.com – $10 US

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The quest for a Christian story in our time

Kevin Treston’s latest book:

There is general agreement that Christianity in the West is facing a major crisis, with research confirming that there is a rapid decline in church membership, especially among young people. Why is this happening? And does the crisis present opportunities for the church in its evangelising mission? Why have the life and teachings of Jesus – the way of Jesus – become so complicated? Based on a key New Testament text that the Spirit ‘blows where it chooses’, the author argues that part of the problem is that so much of Church doctrine, structure and life is based on a world view that no longer makes sense. In faith, he reflects on how the Jesus tradition can be presented to a world where scientific discovery makes us aware of our planet within a vast universe and the interconnectedness of every living thing in the cosmos. He asks what are the implications of this new cosmic awareness for the Christian story in the third millennium? He well understands the experience of those many people who have abandoned traditional church communities yet express deep longings for spiritual sustenance and support to lead a good life; and to find meaning in their Christian heritage or recover something of a lost faith heritage. He calls for serious and sustained renewal in the church, attentive to the Spirit, learning to trust, listen, study, celebrate, act and above all, discern the most authentic paths to experience the presence of a living God in our ever-evolving world. THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT CHOOSES The quest for a Christian story in our time

Coventry Press – 9780648230304 – $22.95
To order online go to: www.coventrypress.com.au Phone: 0477 809 037 Email: enquiries@coventrypress.com.au Post to: Coventry Press, 33 Scoresby Road, Bayswater Vic. 3153

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Core values of the UC FORUM

Our statement of values is a working document that is open to change and further input. We base our work on the following three principles:

  • Acknowledgement of a diversity of beliefs and respect for those who hold them, with a consequent need to encourage actively creation of a diversified unity centred on Jesus, rather than continued self-centred-divisiveness.
  • Dedication to continued teaching, learning and spiritual growth by open and frank discussion of significant church, religious and theological developments at all levels of the church.
  • Recognition of the importance of listening to the church membership and taking them into the confidence of the church bureaucracy in discussion of new knowledge and new approaches to spiritual development.

We welcome comments about this statement and consider it subject to review and revision at all times.

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Our Impact on the Earth

Hosted by West End Explorers

Sunday 11th March 5.30pm

Uniting Church West End · Brisbane

For our next Contemplative Service, we will be reflecting on our impact on the Earth …

Join Mark Delaney, a Brisbane local who’s spent much of the last 20 years in the slums of India, as he helps us reflect on our impact on the earth. In response, Mark invites us to change the only thing we can – ourselves.

All welcome.

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