When Progressivechristianity.org 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- Strive for peace and justice for all people and all life.
- 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):
- We thought that a better word than ‘points’ might be ‘essentials’ or ‘affirmations’.
- There needs to be a reduction in words and repetition.
- There also needs to be some reference to the church and its value to society and individuals.
- Some people were for including ‘God’ in brackets after Sacred.
- 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.
- 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’?
- 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