Revisiting the “8 Points of Progressive Christianity”

When revised its “8 Points” in 2020, they invited further recommendations. Their intention has always been to keep the ‘list’ open to modification as we move forward on an evolving discovery of our relationship with and knowledge of Jesus. At a recent gathering of the Progressive Christianity Network (Qld), Dr Steven Nisbett, OAM, conducted a facilitated brainstorming exercise with 25 of our members. We see this as still continuing to evolve as we gather the thoughts of others in our networks and call for our many members to add more thoughts before we send it off to our friends in the USA.

The 2012 version can be found here.

The current 2020 version can be found here.

We came up with the following suggestions and invite further critical comment:

By calling ourselves progressive christians, we mean we are christians who…

  1. Commit to a life of contemplation, learning, compassion and selfless love, following the teachings and example of Jesus as we journey with an increasing awareness and experience of the sacred and the interconnectedness of all life. In doing this we seek a spiritual way through which the one who touched the untouchable, healed the unhealable, fed the unfeedable, and taught the unteachable, may be reflected.
  2. Are gracious in our search for new understandings and recognize the importance of questioning and sharing understandings with an open heart and an open mind. We take the Bible seriously but not literally and seek to also learn from our indigenous peoples. We acknowledge there is a continuing role for the church to play in the provision of a safe environment for exploring new understandings and scholarship in the field of progressive christianity.
  3. Strive for peace and justice for all people and all life.
  4. Strive to protect, care for and restore the integrity of the environment and life in all its diversity.

Comments (not included in the Points and just to show how our discussion went):

  1. We thought that a better word than ‘points’ might be ‘essentials’ or ‘affirmations’.
  2. There needs to be a reduction in words and repetition.
  3. There also needs to be  some reference to the church and its value to society and individuals.
  4. Some people were for including ‘God’ in brackets after Sacred.
  5. The updated version of Point 3 (2020) differed from the earlier version only in some additions that suggested a nod towards racial inclusiveness and a recognition of the importance of ecological awareness. In the ‘header’ to this section ‘and create’ was added after ‘Seek … community..’ We felt it was going a bit far to suggest that ‘we are Christians who … seek and create communities….’ as subsequently described. A more humble and modest approach might be that we ‘encourage [or ‘work towards’] the development [or formation of] ….’ such community.The addition of ‘Those of all races, cultures and nationalities’ is OK but (as was pointed out during the discussion) rather superfluous, given that the header has already highlighted ALL people. If we take ‘ALL people’ as being totally inclusive, there’s probably no need for any of the sub-classes of person listed, but I think we were comfortable to leave them in.However we were not comfortable with the addition of ‘all creatures and plant life’, as it is  doubtful whether anyone could imagine that the phrase ‘all people’ could cover animals, plants, bacteria, viruses etc. This particular category should be deleted and incorporated into Point 4 (2020), which has more of an ecological flavour with its reference to Earth. And why not just say ‘nature’ rather than ‘creatures’ which implies the existence of a creator and by extension an acknowledgement of the literality of the genesis myth, from which we are trying to distance ourselves.
  6. Points 1 & 2 (2020): These are saying much the same thing, and should be collapsed into one statement. The words ‘a mystical connection to “God” are of doubtful value and probably would raise concern from the uninitiated reader to the quote marks. Aren’t we as self-styled progressives trying to unravel the mystery of how and why humankind has felt it necessary to have something we refer to as ‘god’?
  7. Point 8 (2020): The addition of ‘on this journey towards a personally authentic and meaningful faith’ presents a few issues. One is that I’m sure there are many fundamentalist Christians and Muslims, as well as Buddhists, Baha’is, and other ‘people of faith’ (to use that awful term) who would also claim that they are on a journey towards a personally authentic and meaningful faith. In this context ‘faith’ is a rubbery and not very meaningful term, and we think this point would best be left as it was in 2012.

What are your thoughts?

Paul Inglis October 2021


5 thoughts on “Revisiting the “8 Points of Progressive Christianity”

  1. Lesley Shaw

    Oh dear! More words! Progressive Christianity is succumbing to the UC Disease; and, unfortunately, this disease is also progressive. It is characterized by excessive wordiness, repetitive explanations, religious jargon, and a detectable righteous attitude. Please – keep it simple! The Good Lord said it short and said it simple. [I hear the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments in my ears as I write.] What hubris makes us think more of our words will make more sense of our beliefs to others? Sometimes, more words merely show the users trying to impose their understandings on simple statements. Leave our interpretations to us.

    The original statement was notable – but, if any improvement were needed, then that original text could have been made more succinct. A good editor, rather than earnest sermonisers (whether amateur or professional ) might have produced a text which we could all grasp and hold on to; one we could make our own and quote from; one we could use as a simple guide to a lived and living faith.

    Of course, any additional exegesis, for those of us who like to explore our beliefs through a maze of words, is always welcome. But those explanations are extras to the main text, and should be presented as such.

  2. Paul Inglis Post author

    Thanks Lesley, the notes (extras) are simply to show how our discussion went and not included in the Points. We have reduced the words considerably and that was our aim. Thanks for your feedback.

  3. Ken Williamson

    The Merthyr road group has done an excellent job and I also think the 2020 version is way too wordy. I agree with Comment 3 about including the church and I would add ‘God’ in brackets after Sacred.

  4. Peter Robinson

    Thanks for posting this Paul. I’m conscious that the readership of any final revision of this doc will mainly be the US market, where Progressive and Emergent theologies are attracting more attention and starting to seriously challenge traditional US fundamentalism.

    So it’s worth the time spent.

    The initial draft is in my view an improvement on the 2 earlier published versions. These were rambling, attempting to do justice to a disparate collection of social concerns beyond core spirituality.

    I like the introduction which is focused. Points to follow might be couched as ‘Affirmation’, but not as ‘Essentials’ as this reverts to dogmatism.

    Point 1 : A direct affirmation of significance of Jesus and reference to the Divine might be helpful to open point 1, achieved simply by reversing the opening sentence structure to read: ‘Follow the teachings and example of Jesus, and experience the Sacred Mystery (God) as we commit to life of contemplation, learning, selfless love and compassion’. (It is worth remembering, Jesus always pointed his followers to ‘God’, not to Himself).

    The second sentence of point 1 leaves me wondering. The references are obscure, and a couple of them arguably doubtfully correct. I appreciate the sentiment about us extending the ‘Doing’ element of Jesus’ mission, however it might sit better as part of a subsequent Point reflecting the ‘Gospel in Action’ – inclusive, non-discriminatory, egalitarian, atmosphere of mutual trust, respect and support.

    Point 2 : Reference to ‘search for new understandings’ – maybe what we are getting at here is ‘search for Meaning, and Understanding relevant to a contemporary worldview’ and following on ‘ Recognising there is more grace and truth in search for understanding than in dogmatic certainty, and that the way we live is the fullest expression of what we believe’.

    I see you have included an ‘indigenous’ reference as discussed in group. To be completely inclusive, might I suggest rephrase as people of all religious cultures, including indigenous cultures, and spiritual paths.

    I agree it’s important ( particularly in terms of the market for this doc) to refer to taking the Bible seriously. But to say ‘but not taken literally’ is too broad a statement and open to dismissive criticism. It needs to be more nuanced, on lines of being’ open to Scripture, other wisdom sources, critical inquiry and sound scholarship, and changing understanding of the physical universe, nature and all life.

    It’s something worth pursuing to a conclusion. I trust some of the above comments may assist.

  5. Paul Wildman

    The 8 points and comments are excellent, esp. Rev Plumer’s quote – brilliant. As are the subsequent 4 points and discussion. Thx for this.

    I suggest these could, in my opinion, benefit from inclusion:
    1 Hands on/craft – it’s strange how we tend to get lost in abstraction and forget the pragmatic. Jesus as carpenter.
    2 Situate the historical Jesus
    3 Mention the future (somewhere)
    4 No mention of historical anything i.e. the bible as narrative in some ways a-historical yet it is/can be still an anchor
    ciao paul

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