Probably the first thing that comes to mind with a title like the one for this article is the often bitter debate between literalist devotes of Genesis 2 on the one hand, and secular Darwinists on the other. Few of us might expect to participate in a conversation wherein the concepts of creation and evolution are valued by all concerned as equally helpful for understanding who we are and how we got here. And that’s too bad, really, because beyond the confines of a few state and local Board of Education meetings, for decades increasing numbers of people from many disciplines have been searching the confluence of scientific and spiritual insight. Appreciation for the intentionality and beauty pervading the physical structure of the universe infuses knowledge with wisdom. Slowly, we are learning to bring science and religion together in our efforts to realize our true place in the world as human beings.
One important insight made possible by that dual perspective is our ability to see creation as an evolving process rather than an accomplished fact. All the powers of space and time and matter and energy are in continual relationship, shaping physical reality across the myriad eons and light-years, and simultaneously inviting us to ponder the sacred reality we infer to be its source.
So too, the conceptual synthesis of creation and evolution can be helpful in understanding the human experience. Spiritual self-awareness allows us to see our individual selves as finite creatures with discernable beginning and endpoints, and simultaneously as works in progress throughout the span of our life-cycle. Perhaps you know people who’ve decided (albeit tacitly) to be finished with learning and other aspects personal growth. It is not an enviable existence. The same holds true for families, congregations, corporations and most all social institutions. With growth, experience and the changing pressures and opportunities of the social environment, organizations evolve from their original shape and size to pursue their potential for enabling the well being of their members. This seems to be the case for TCPC of late.
Allow me to share some observations about our organization (TCPC) that have been occurring to folks on the executive council over the last year or so. Relatively soon after our founding, we noticed a subtle dissonance between our name “The Center for Progressive Christianity” and who/what we really are. For one thing, the words “The Center” used in this context seem to imply self-claims we never intended. We certainly didn’t mean to suggest, for instance, that the handful of men and women who began this project in the mid 90’s were the first and/or most important thinkers on the subject, nor its primary resource. Many religions have given rise to progressive movements throughout history. Jesus’ own ministry was one such movement within Judaism. They are the alternative voices presenting a minority perspective to advocate for those at risk of being excluded or marginalized by the status quo. They are the loving critics who challenge an institution to reinvest in its own best values.TCPC hopes to be such an influence within Christianity, but knows itself to be one humble resource among many. To claim a position at “THE CENTER” belies the humility we know is appropriate. Especially now, as our numbers are growing in several countries around the world, we realize that we are more accurately understood as part of a network than an authoritative or strategic “Center.” We are a growing web of relationships between individuals, congregations, study/discussion groups, campus-ministries, and others sharing support and encouragement in a particular approach to Christian faith.
With an eye on our first, best intentions of facilitating such relationships, TCPC is itself an evolving creation, growing as an organization within a much larger and more potent progressive movement in modern Christianity. Our self-perception is maturing, our articulation of The 8 Points is in continuous review and refinement, and our technical ability to enable communication and shared reflection across vast distances is improving. Also, we seem to be approaching an important shift in structure. It is becoming increasingly clear that TCPC is not primarily a US or North American institution. Similar networks of progressive Christians are being created and evolving in Europe, Australia and elsewhere. Thus, we are arranging for an international consultation of progressive Christian network representatives, of which the US Progressive Christian Network would be one part, to be held before the US Forum in June.
But the most important aspect of our organizational evolution lies not in our increasing membership, structure, nor in the precision or flexibility of our language, but rather in the growing sense of connection we offer one another in pursuit of relevant Christian faith. The whole of physical reality is united as one creation of a sacred mystery. As progressive Christians continue developing community in light of that awareness, TCPC will strive to evolve and realize the potential of our particular approach to faith.