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An aging maverick, Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has no regrets

At 82, retired and enjoying life, Bishop John Shelby Spong doesn’t have to be the liberal enfant terrible whose pronouncements for gay rights and against traditional dogmas once scandalized Christendom.

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Four Yogas in the Life of Church

Sometimes issues need to be reframed, and it can often be helpful to look outside one’s own tradition for a framework. So for those who may be struggling with similar misunderstandings in their congregations, I offer the Four Yogas as a lens through which to see things differently.

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The central problem of ‘rampant evil’ and a ‘loving God’?

How do we pray to God – who seems not to be God, merciful, loving and delivering – for countless women and men in deepest need? How do we move from thanksgiving for our own lives to intercession for those who innocently suffer destitution or even mass atrocity? As if we would stand with Aaron as he ‘stands between the living and the dead’ to halt the plague (Numbers 16:48), while knowing that at countless times the plague, the tragic agonies, do not stop for so many women, men and children…continuing ‘holocausts’…

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I Had No Idea Your Blog Was Gay

One of my reasons for writing my blog is to share what I’ve learned and am learning spiritually with other progressive Christians. It’s not a “gay blog” (though there’d be nothing wrong with that!) but the blog of a progressive Christian.

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Why Isn’t Ferguson the Start of a New Civil Rights Movement?

What’s interesting is that, unlike their predecessors in previous civil rights battles, they don’t appear to be leading the protestors or generating an organizational network to create a larger movement.

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Introducing Jesus for the Non-Relgious to France

How can those of us living in the 21st century understand the Jesus of history? We think very differently from the way the people who wrote the New Testament in the first century thought. Can we any longer believe, for example, that when Jesus entered this world his arrival was announced by a star that appeared newly in the heavens or that his birth was heralded by angels breaking through the midnight sky to sing to hillside shepherds? Can we, who both understand genetics and know that women have an egg-cell, still believe that his mother was a virgin and his father the Holy Spirit?

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Church Music

The lyrics of the hymns and praise and worship songs of the church are, outside of the Bible, the way most people establish their belief system, which is reflected in the way they think about and live their faith. The lyrics may be good or bad, perceptive or trite, and may or may not teach sound theological concepts. Christians should carefully consider what they are singing because it shapes their theological perspective whether they realize it or not.

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Thoughts About Music

I have a friend, he’s a medical doctor and has probably seen some pretty moving things during his years of practice. But he once told me that the only time he has cried in the past ten years was while listening to Bach’s Mass in B minor. That confirms for me what I already knew, that music can move the soul like nothing else in this world can. So the natural question is how can that reality be leveraged for spiritual purposes within sacred community? And this is not a new idea. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians written nearly two thousand years ago, he urged his friends to “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”

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Music in Sacred Community

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” So wrote the famed philosopher, Nietzsche. I believe that music in sacred community is the medium which allows us to feel and to express our deepest emotions: joy, lament, awe and thanksgiving. Music in sacred community binds us together. Studies have shown that groups who make music together feel a certain kinship with each other, and leave that time of singing or drumming, playing instruments, etc. with their endorphins dancing, and their bodies humming with better health and vibrations. Surely when all of this is enhanced by words of hymns or songs, we can know that we have participated in a rich experience which has fed our souls.

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Music Moments

Such a captivating experience is not limited by the type or setting of the music. Classical, pop, bluegrass, jazz, country, blues, to name common Western music, all have the capacity to release an energy within us, previously pent up, but now free. That release can and does happen to anyone, any time, any place. Music is one of the great equalizers of persons. No matter who you are, you are susceptible to this unfathomed power. What is going on here?

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Singing in the Beloved Community

St. Augustine said that the one who sings, prays twice. We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words; we get closest to praying as we ought when we sing. But church singing has changed rapidly in the 30-some years I’ve been a pastor. The hip new hymnal that came out in the nineties contains far too many hymns that were written for an organ and a congregation in the hundreds, not a guitar, a piano, and a raggedy chorus of twenty-some.

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Bath Water Or Baby

Our hymnals are full of great hymns. Great because the melodies and harmonies have survived, in some cases for centuries. Great because the lyrics, whether in their original language, or translated, or adapted, can often read as timeless poetry, lending themselves to effortless memorization.

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