Category Archives: News

Closure of The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought, Canberra

We have received advice (25/08/2021) that CPRT Canberra has been wound up after a number of years of inactivity and after the achievement of its goals of advancing new thinking in spirituality.

The CPRT was established in 2002 with a small grant of seed funding from the Uniting Church in Australia.  It was an initiative of St James Uniting Church Curtin, led by Rev Rex Hunt.  Over the next twelve years or so, the Centre offered a rich and diverse program of speaker and other events and members participated in the Common Dreams Conferences – the direct outcome of CPRT initiative – and related ‘On the Road’ seminars.

There were many presentations by Australian and overseas theologians, biblical scholars and progressive theologians and many people will have fond memories of being challenged and fascinated by new thinking in spirituality.  Of special mention is the support given by both St James and other churches /individuals to a small team of local organizers when they managed the Common Dreams Conference 3 in Canberra in 2013.  On that occasion they welcomed Professor Marcus Borg to Australia!

The Centre enabled and empowered its members to explore spirituality beyond their locale.  There are now so many progressive resources available in print and online either via membership of broader groups, podcasts, and blogs etc. that people are no longer limited in their spiritual journeys.  Many of course, remain as members of local churches or faith organizations.

CPRT Canberra has done its job.  Locally.  Nationally.  Internationally.

CPRT Canberra had a large number of books and other resources held jointly in the St James Uniting Church Library. These resources will remain with the Library to be managed as the congregation (now part of Woden Valley Uniting Church) wishes.

Secondly, funds held in account totaling approximately $7,358.58 will be transferred to Common Dreams Inc, to be used to facilitate progressive spirituality events as the management board of that organization determines. More information on Common Dreams Inc can be found at: https://commondreams.org.au/ including links to like-minded progressive websites.

This information was provided by the CPRT Canberra Team-

David Slater, Linda Pure
Rev Rex Hunt

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Progressive Victorians

Our friends at the Progressive Christian Network Victoria haven’t let the pandemic stop their efforts to generate critical progressive christian thinking. Here is the link to their latest newsletter.

Link to PCNV July Newsletter.

The contents include the following articles and information:

  • Living with change – David Merritt
  • Talking to My Country by Stan Grant – Review by David Merritt
  • Uluru Statement from the Heart
  • Making sense of the Progressive Christian Movement – Dr Val Webb
  • The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage by Sr. Joan Chittister -Review by Lorna Henry
  • Freeing Jesus – by Diana Butler Bass  – Review by Paul Inglis
  • August 22 PCNV meeting: Mining John’s Gospel: Wisdom for our times? with Prof Mary Coloe @ 4:00PM
  • PCNV programs for remainder of 2021

PCNV conducts regular zoom seminars also.

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A new approach to youth justice

A new approach required to alter the youth justice trajectory

In response to the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021  passed by the Queensland Government, the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod (Uniting Church in Queensland) calls for effective, compassionate and evidence-based solutions.

“Most repeat young offenders are growing up in entrenched, intergenerational disadvantage. We need to address the complex and long-term causes and resource real long-term solutions.” said the Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland, Rev Andrew Gunton

“Family support services are crucial in assisting the whole family when trying to address offending by children and young people. Unfortunately, there are long waiting lists to access these services due to a lack of funding.” he said.

The Uniting Church in Queensland with agencies like UnitingCare Queensland and Wesley Mission Queensland provides services and support to Queensland families and young people coming into contact with police and the courts.

“We have seen that engagement in education is central to developing the skills and capacity that children and young people need to enter and remain in the workforce, which is what really brings change. It is vital that teachers and principals receive adequate training to identify and respond to the trauma related responses they see in the classroom. Increased funding should be directed at the Youth Support Coordinator roles in Queensland Schools and alternative models of education delivery, such as flexi schools.

If we address family issues at an early stage and provide therapeutic, flexible and innovative support for children, we have a better chance of reducing youth offending and increasing the wellbeing and security of the whole community.”

The Uniting Church in Queensland’s position paper on youth justice is available here.

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Changes at St James Uniting, Curtin, ACT

New name – revised mission.

St James has been one of the original and continuing flag bearers for Progressive Christianity in Australia.

The 10 am service on Sunday 7 February was the last service in that building under the name of St James. It was a time of joy and remembering, and a tribute to 57 years of faith and action. The reflection offered by Simon Clarke as part of that service can be found here.

On 14 February 2021, St James Uniting Church and South Woden Uniting Church merged to form Woden Valley Uniting Church.

The vision and mission statement for the new church is printed below and sets a standard for other congregations aspiring to be progressive.

The formal commissioning of Woden Valley Uniting Church took place on Sunday 14 February, in the hall at the Pearce Community Centre.

The first morning worship service of the newly merged congregation will be at Curtin at 10 am on Sunday 21 February – in person and on Zoom.

The location of morning worship services from March onwards will alternate monthly between Pearce and Curtin.

The range of activities, classes and small small group meetings that have been operating at Curtin up until now will continue – this includes Meditation and Gathering@6.

PROPOSED WODEN VALLEY UNITING CHURCH
VALUES, VISION AND MISSION

As followers of the Way of Jesus, within a Uniting Church congregation, we strive for a church community which is:
• Welcoming and hospitable to all regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, age,
circumstance or cultural background.
• Loving, compassionate and steadfast in our relationships with each other, supportive in pastoral care and offering encouragement for active participation and lay leadership.
• Honest and accountable to each other and to the communities we serve.
• Inclusive and creative in worship which nurtures faith and strengthens connections with each other, the sacred and the world.
• Serious and honest in our exploration of the Christian faith, respectful of the Bible and
informed by contemporary Biblical scholarship, while allowing room for questioning and doubt.
• Open to learning from other faith traditions, scientific revelation and contemporary
thought.
• Active in our support of our local communities.
• Fearless in advocacy and energetic in action in support of social justice, reconciliation,
peace and wise environmental stewardship, locally, nationally and globally.
• Acting ecumenically with other churches and other faith groups.
VISION
• A vibrant community of faith living out God’s love and acting for the common good to build a just and compassionate community.
MISSION
• To be a welcoming, inclusive, progressive and outward looking Christian community that nurtures spirituality and faith and encourages service.
July 2020

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Church of England is Institutionally Racist

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has admitted the Church of England is still “deeply institutionally racist” as he speaks out about its treatment of black and minority ethnic people. Justin Welby has spoken of his personal shame at the Church of England’s institutional racism and has promised to replace a “hostile environment” with a hospitable welcome. Speaking at a meeting of the Church’s ruling body, the General Synod, the Archbishop said he was “ashamed” of its history of racism. Mr Welby said he was “almost beyond words” after hearing about the racism faced by minority parishioners, priests and officials within the church.

The Archbishop added: “There is no doubt when we look at our own church that we are still deeply institutionally racist.”

Justin Welby

Mr Welby’s comments come as Synod members voted unanimously for a motion to apologise for racism in the Church of England since the Windrush generation arrived in the UK.

The body also voted to “stamp out conscious or unconscious” racism.

The General Synod also voted to request research on how racism had influenced the fall in member numbers and the increase in church closures over the years.

The church will also now appoint an independent person to assess racism within its ranks and seek to increase the number of BAME Anglicans seeking ordination.

Mr Welby, who decided to “ditch” a prepared speech and make off-the-cuff remarks, said church appointment panels – including the crown nominations commission, which recommends new bishops – needed to have better minority ethnic representation, along with longlists and shortlists for senior clergy posts.

He said: “We did not do justice in the past. We do not do justice now.

“And unless we are radical and decisive in this area in the future, we will still be having this conversation in 20 years’ time and still doing injustice, the few of us that remain.”

The leader of the Church of England added the Church’s “hostile environment” must become a “hospitable, welcoming one” and called for “radical and decisive” progress to put an end to institutional racism.

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Rights of Nature Australia 2020 – early notice

RONA2020 – “Rights of Nature Australia 2020” – is a national arts celebration, organised by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA). The National Exhibition will run from 12-17 October 2020 in Brisbane, in conjunction with AELA’s week of exploring and celebrating the Rights of Nature.

In 2020, the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) will be co-hosting a range of arts activities and events under the theme of “Voices of Nature”. This theme will encourage the exploration of the concepts of ‘voice’, ‘standing’, ‘representation’, and ‘agency’ of the natural world within human governance systems. The theme also promotes AELA’s desire to focus on sound art and acoustic ecology as key mediums for communicating and exploring nature’s voice(s).

AELA is excited to be partnering with the Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology (AFAE) to generate dynamic, cross-disciplinary interactions and projects for RONA2020. And we look forward to engaging with the science, technology, art, wonder, and acoustic expertise of the AFAE members.

For more information go to RONA2020

The Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) is a national not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to increase the understanding and practical implementation of Earth centred governance in Australia, with a focus on law, economics, education, ethics and the arts. AELA’s work is inspired by the theory and practice of Earth jurisprudence, which is a governance philosophy and growing social movement. Earth jurisprudence proposes that we rethink our legal, political, economic and governance systems so that they support, rather than undermine, the integrity and health of the Earth.

The need for new governance systems has never been greater: as we face a climate changed world and transition away from our destructive reliance of fossil fuels, human societies need to create new ways of working together and nurturing the wider Earth community.

AELA works to build long term systemic change, so that human societies can shift from human centred to Earth centred governance.  Our vision is to create human societies that live within their ecological limits, respect the rights of nature and enjoy productive, sustainable economies that nurture the health of the wider Earth community.

AELA carries out its work by supporting multi-disciplinary teams of professionals engaged in research, education, publications, community capacity building and creating new models of Earth friendly governance. Our team includes Indigenous community leaders, lawyers, economists, scientists, deep ecologists, artists and community development practitioners.  AELA works on a membership-participation model and is powered by committed volunteers, who work together as individuals and organisations across Australia.  All our work is driven by our members’ interests and commitment – so become a member and get involved!

AELA is a founding member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, which brings together more than 80 organisations around the world, who support Earth Jurisprudence and Rights of Nature.  AELA participates in the UN Harmony for Nature initiative, is an affiliate of the Earth Charter and a partner of the Global Footprint Network.

AELA’s Board of Management is comprised of lawyers, Indigenous leaders and professionals from around Australia.

AELA is run by volunteers who are committed to the philosophy and practical implementation of Earth Jurisprudence.

AELA is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee (ABN: 54 156 139 221)

Membership is open to all individuals and organisations with an interest in Earth Laws and AELA’s work. 

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Progressive Christianity is building a bigger table

A message from the Director of ProgressiveChristianity.org, Rev. Deshna Charron Shine

We’re Building a Bigger Table

The table is too small. These are crucial times for the planet we call home. The toxic and institutionalized systems of racism, tribalism, colonialism, culture appropriation, sexism, and the general oppression of marginalized people have been thrust to the surface of our society. While this is scary and disturbing, it is also a positive step toward the eradication of white privilege, white fragility, and an empiric worldview. I say this is positive because it is forcing those of us who are privileged to wake up to a systemic culture of greed and fear that has been part of daily life for people of color and marginalized people since the beginning of modern history. These are systems and beliefs Jesus faced and why he was crucified. So why is this necessary for us?

Because we need a bigger table.

We need a bigger table because people of privilege are looking for a way forward to experience repentance, reparation, healing and transformation.

As Progressive Christians, we are called to the work of transformation that we have witnessed in the incredible life of Jesus. We have been teaching these values from our pulpits, from stages, behind cameras and to our readership. We have been gathering around a table and breaking bread and pouring wine, but that table is too small. We have met a moment in history that demands more of us.

I am inviting you to join in this movement. To help us build a bigger table that makes room for the marginalized voices to be heard. Your year-end gift will help us accomplish this!

In 2020, ProgressiveChristianity.org will be hosting in-person conversations and virtual gatherings with leaders in race reparation and climate justice. I’m asking my team and our international community to come together to create three new Christian Reparations Resolutions that we hope will be adopted by progressive Christians and progressive churches all over the world.

We’re building a bigger table. And we need your help.

These Resolutions will focus on 3 main roots of disharmony and injustice plaguing our world and Christianity:

1. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for Indigenous peoples.

2. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for People of Color.

3. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for harm to Creation.

Your year end gift will help us build a bigger table to have these discussions as we pursue the creation and adoption of these resolutions.

When you give it will also enable us to create and distribute digital trainings for faith communities who are ready to affect real change in their local communities.

Healing and positive transformation are our goals here. Closer to radical inclusion and unity. However, to move toward healing we must first acknowledge where our ancestors and where we have missed the mark or have caused harm. We begin by acknowledging, then we ask forgiveness, then we resolve to do better. We can then fully begin to envision a world that is better than the one we have been handed down. We can see into the future, where a rainbow tribe covers the earth, respectful and authentic, as Jesus would have envisioned.

Progressive Christianity as a movement has an opportunity in this moment in history — and we need your help.

For more information go to: The table is too small

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Death of Hymn Writer Shirley Murray

From the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada

“We were saddened to learn of the death today of New Zealand hymn writer Shirley Erena Murray, FHS. She was one of the most prolific and influential hymn text writers in the English speaking world, creating texts finely attuned to the issues facing people of faith today. They have appeared in more than 100 collections worldwide and have been translated into several other languages.

She was brought up Methodist, but spent many years as a Presbyterian, serving with her husband, the Very Reverend John Stewart Murray, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, as he pastored St. Andrew’s on the Terrace, Wellington, where many of her hymns were first sung.

An article in The Hymn (Autumn 2009) announcing that she had been named a Fellow of the Hymn Society included this observation: “Despite her frustrations with the Church, this writer remains committed to working on its behalf, and her positive, ebullient nature dominates her work. Her hymns are ecumenical in their theology and inclusive in their expression. They embody themes of justice, peace, human rights, nurture, and the integrity of creation.”

Shirley Erena Murray MNZM (born 31 March 1931 – died 25 January 2020) is a New Zealand hymn lyrics writer. Her hymns have been translated into numerous languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn collections.

Born a Methodist in Invercargill, she earned a Master of Arts degree with honours in Classics and French from the University of Otago. She later worked as a teacher and researcher.

After marrying Presbyterian minister John Murray in 1954, she eventually moved to Wellington where John was minister for the St Andrew’s on the Terrace from 1975 to 1993. Her hymn writing started in the 1970s and often used the congregation of St Andrew’s as a testing place for the hymns. Many different composers have put music to her hymn texts.

Her hymns have been translated into several European and Asian languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn books around the world. In addition to New Zealand, they are particularly used in North America.

Among her most known hymns are “Hymn for Anzac Day”, “Where Mountains Rise to Open Skies”, “Our life has its Seasons”, “Star Child” and “Upside Down Christmas”.

Professor and hymn writer Colin Gibson, who has set music to some of her songs, described Murray’s hymns in 2009 as “distinguished by their inclusive language and their innovative use of M?ori, their bold appropriation of secular terms and their original poetic imagery drawn from nature and domestic life, but equally by the directness with which they confront contemporary issues.”

In 2001, she became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for “services as a hymn writer”. In 2006, she became a fellow of the Royal School of Church Music. She received an honorary doctor of literature degree from the University of Otago in 2009. The same year, she was named a fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

Murray lived with her husband at Raumati Beach near Wellington. The couple had three children and several grandchildren.

Her hymns and carols address a wide spectrum of themes ranging from the seasons of the Church year to human rights, care of creation, women’s concerns and above all, peace. Methodist by upbringing, and ecumenical by persuasion, she has spent most of her life as a Presbyterian. She was married to a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of NZ, the Very Rev. John Stewart Murray, who passed away just recently (2017). She had three sons and six grandchildren.

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Does Australia need a religious freedom bill?

In the next few months the government will vote on a religious freedom bill. It’s been hugely controversial, and critics say instead of protecting vulnerable people, it could act as a licence for hate. David Marr and Paul Karp analyse how this bill could change Australia.

You can read David Marr’s opinion pieces on the right to expel gay children and Israel Folau’s sacking.

Paul Karp has written extensively on the Ruddock religious freedom review.

The Guardian provides independent editorials with open access journalism. See more and follow at: The Guardian.

If you only have time for a shorter summary go to: What will Australians be allowed to say and do?

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NCCA on Climate Change

The National Council of Churches in Australia has called for Climate Change Action now.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Media Release

A Call for unified National Leadership regarding Climate Change

The National Council of Churches in Australia urges the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, to convene a roundtable on climate change, shaping a bipartisan approach and drawing in civil society leaders. “Let us draw the line now under what is past,” says the council’s President, Bishop Philip Huggins. “Let us just get on with working together to prevent global temperatures rising further.” Bishop Huggins said it would be wonderful, if this could be done before the crucial next UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP25), next month, from December 2 to 13. “I came back yesterday from the Annual Pacific Church Leaders meeting in Suva to the discourse here about the awful bushfires. “In Suva, Church leaders from all over Pacific shared their current experiences of climate change: the trauma for communities displaced and forced to relocate inland and away from a swapped coast; the anguish then for traditional cultures of ‘leaving ancestors behind’; the dread of more frequent and more violent cyclones and even the monthly anxiety for places not far above sea-level at the time of a full and new moon’s impact on tides. Said folk from such places: ‘We don’t sleep so well those nights!’ “It is a global issue. Humankind must find a quite unprecedented and sustained level of cooperation.” Bishop Huggins said the human family could do with some places of hope where there was a unified national response. “We urge our PM and our Leader of the Opposition to meet together and shape a way forward, as soon as practicable. Let Australia be an island of hope! It is a matter now of intelligent and cooperative leadership.” Bishop Philip Huggins NCCA President

Anglican Church, Antiochian Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Chinese Methodist Church, Churches of Christ Congregational Federation Coptic Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Indian Orthodox Churc,h Lutheran Church, Mar Thoma Church, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Roman Catholic Church, Romanian Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, The Salvation Army Uniting Church.

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