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Is There A Perfect Church?

As we are inching our way back into church, I wonder whether finding the perfect church is fair to any of them. Is a church closer to humanity — imperfect and growing? Or closer to God — a light to the world? And if I’m going to compromise, what is most important to me? Where am I willing to bend?

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Not Dark Yet

Last September, Fred Plumer, a minister in the United Church of Christ, gave the Fall SPAFER* Lectures. The topic of his lectures was “Progressive Christianity – What Is It?” While Plumer cited statistics indicating a wholesale decline in church membership throughout the Western World, the refreshing thing was that he came with no program to implement for jump-starting congregations. Instead of programs, he offered insights into a meaningful way of life based upon the teachings of Jesus.

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Dance the Dark Away

What is the Sacred Dance Guild? As the name implies, it is a group of members who come together to support the goals of sacred dance (or movement) within the context of worship. A more important question, really, is: what is sacred dance? Sacred Dance creates moments of awe and wonder and nourishes the souls of the givers and receivers and, in doing so, helps to create a more compassionate and peaceful world.

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Progressive Christianity Forum – An Exploratory Workshop

For several years, and especially in the few years since I retired, Bill and I have talked about our frustration with most conventional worship services. We find the traditional language depicts a God in whom we cannot believe, and we find the whole enterprise of worship to carry too much emphasis on propitiation, guilt, and a sort of abject deferral to some being to whom we are supposed to owe praise and subservience. We have attended services in other traditions, read widely about variant understandings and experiences of God, but we’ve found little out there in books or practice that looks at worship in radically new ways.

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Social and Spiritual Capital

I have witnessed the remarkable power of religious communities to bring social capital to bear on behalf of their members. Some congregations are particularly good at bringing low-income, isolated people into a milieu in which they benefit tremendously from contact with fellow congregants who have the connections they need to get ahead. It is as if they’ve stepped into an updraft as they enter the door of the church or temple or mosque, and find themselves swept up toward job contacts, vital information about services and resources, and good role models to follow toward creating better lives.

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Know You’re Not Alone

Community can’t make your problems go away, but it can remind you that you don’t have to face them alone.

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The Call

One of the first questions asked of a person planning on becoming clergy is, “tell me about your call to ministry.” God seems to have a wide variety of ways to make “that voice” heard. Some can tell you the day, the hour, and the place when “the unmistakable event” occurred. Others seem to become more and more aware over a long period of time that ordained leadership is what they were meant to be. Even then “the call” can be something grasped and lost.

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Can We Raise the Bar On Church “Community”?

Let’s stop assuming that a collection of individuals constitutes community. It doesn’t. In fact, it usually makes for disaster, as evidenced by the number of conflict resolution experts who are making their living off congregational members who are at each other’s throats. It’s not the fault of congregational members. We need to be teaching what it means to be in community, and that includes practices that are going to make us fit for community. Most of us got our training for community life in dysfunctional families. The moment anything approximating intimacy breaks out in congregations most people simply re-enact largely the unexamined history of our family of origin.

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Covenant – Faith or Fallacy?

Covenant is firmly established in Christian theology, but among mainstream denominations Methodism gives it particular emphasis. Dating from the time of John Wesley and adapted from seventeenth century Puritan ideology, the annual covenant service is an established part of Methodist tradition. In some quarters it has been welcomed as part of Methodism’s distinctive contribution to the World Church. Grounded in both the Old and New Testaments, covenant theology is surely beyond reproach. Or is it?

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Body of Christ: Body of Life

The church sign can be easily read by anyone driving by: “You can’t be a devoted follower of Jesus unless you are part of a local church.” Does the church that posts this sign not trust the people with Jesus’s message? What is the meaning of “incarnation” if not “embodiment” by individual persons of the spirit of the Christ? Is the “Body of Christ” for members only?

The Apostle Paul created the metaphor of the “Body of Christ” as the community of followers. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, he explains the meaning of the ritually-shared meal: “The cup of God’s gracious benefits that we consecrate means that we are involved in the blood of the Anointed, doesn’t it? The bread that we break means that we are involved in the body of the Anointed, doesn’t it? That there is one loaf means that we who are many constitute one body, because we all partake of the one loaf.” In Romans 12:5 he says, “Just as each of us has one body with many parts that do not all have the same function, so although there are many of us, we are the Anointed’s body, interrelated with one another.”

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Spiritual Community

Church is not for everyone. Even for those who like it, there are as many distractions as attractions to the spiritual life there. I thought of entitling this “spirituality for loners” because I want to suggest eight ways of experiencing spiritual community outside of church!

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Community Making

So what do I mean by a sacred community or spiritual community, or as Peck would call it a true community? I refer here to an intentional community with an identifiable common purpose. Maybe that purpose is simple to grow spiritually as individuals. It is a community where one can transcend oneself and experience a sense of the interconnectedness of life. It is a community in which each member seeks to see and relate to the divine or the sacred in the other.

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Affimations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – The Christian Church

Did Jesus Found the Church?

According to Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian novelist, in his magnum non-fiction opus, The Kingdom of God is Within You, the idea that God or Jesus founded the church is “so utterly untrue and unfounded that one is ashamed to refute them.” Only the modern Christian church would even assert such a notion. Jesus could not have founded the church as we presently understand the word. Nothing like the idea of the church with its sacraments and its claim of infallibility can be found in Jesus’ words or in the ideas of other men of his time.

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Beyond Debate: Science, Religion, and Fear

Recently there was a debate at the Creation Museum in Kentucky between its founder, Ken Ham, and Bill Nye, the “Science Guy”. If anything resembling scientific evidence mattered to people watching it, they would have been persuaded easily by the Science Guy’s arguments. But even Nye implicitly understood that, for many in the audience, the debate wasn’t about facts.

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We Need a Site

But what our guide told us next has stayed in my memory for the almost twenty years since my visit. With a shrug of his shoulders he explained, “Well, we need a site. An important event—we need to have a site. Do we know exactly where it happened? No. But we must have a site so that we can remember.”

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Patheos Public Square: Faith in the New Security State- Panel

Since 9/11 Americans have largely accepted the idea that national security requires a trade-off between government power and freedom. However, recent revelations about the extent of government surveillance have raised serious questions about overreach, abuse of power, and the limits of democracy. How should people of faith respond to these revelations? Amid wide-spread public apathy over drone warfare, surveillance, and open-ended wars on “terror,” how can faith leaders provide stronger moral leadership? Do our faith traditions have anything distinctive to say in relation to alleged government overreach, whether by the NSA or the CIA? And how do we assess the ethics of those who expose secret government operations in the name of preventing abuse?

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Judas Iscariot by Ed Taylor

Judas Iscariot, the anti-hero of the story of the crucifixion, has been heaped with scorn and ridicule over the centuries. “Judas” is not used as a child’s name because it became the synonym for betrayal, for being a back-stabber. In Christian art, he is portrayed in dark, sinister tones. Events in western Christian history from the Inquisition in the fourteenth century to the expulsion of the Jews from almost every country of Europe at one time or another, to Martin Luther’s call for the burning of synagogues, to the violence and killing frenzy of the Holocaust in the twentieth century are all rooted substantially in Judas and because he was a Jew, applied to all Jews. Even his name is identical with the name by which the entire Jewish nation was known… Judas is simply a Greek spelling of Judah.

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