Paul Inglis is a long time member of the Uniting and Anglican Churches in Australia. He recently retired as the Community Minister for Dayboro and Mt Mee Uniting Churches, just north of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He accepted an invitation to become the Queensland's first Uniting Church Community Minister and continued in that role for more than 10 years. Previously he had been a State primary school teacher, school principal for 11 years and then Lecturer in Education at the Queensland University of Technology for 25 years. He has served on UCA Assembly, Synod, Presbytery and Congregational Councils. In retirement he is actively involved in family, church, and community. His commitment to 'progressive' Christianity emerged from contact with the late Professor Rod Jensen who founded the Lay Forum in 2004 and from his experience in ministry with people seeking an authentic faith. Paul's PhD from the University of Queensland is in Adult Learning.
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.