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The Church’s Seven Deadly Secrets: Identity Theft from Within

There is a strange silence in churches about biblical and theological scholarship. A huge knowledge gap exists between the pulpit and the pew. Consequently, many Christians cannot reconcile their belief system with modernity. Paul Jones explores seven secrets that jeopardize the nature and purpose of the church. These secrets, he asserts, must be exposed to restore the church to vigor and vitality.

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A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better

“Bessler makes an innovative argument about the question of the historical Jesus and he makes it well. He challenges my own skepticism about the historical Jesus, awaking me from my skeptical slumbers.” — Clark Williamson, Christian Theological Seminary emeritus

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Abraham Had Stirring Dreams

From the ‘Sing Young, Sing Joyfully’ collection

Abraham had stirring dreams
That called for emigration.
Steadfast faith sustained his search
Despite its worst privation.

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King David

From the ‘Sing Young, Sing Joyfully’ collection

King David was a man of fire
Who sang and danced for God.
The raptures of his heart’s desire
Were sacred gifts from God.

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Progressive Christianity Forum – An Update on a Community Building Experiment

Last month I wrote at some length about a series of gatherings my husband and I are hosting called Progressive Christianity Forums. We launched the first one on February 18, and our second session was last night, March 18. So far, we are extremely pleased with this experiment.

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Thesis for a New Reformation

The traditional Christian church with its traditional message and image is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It happened in Europe a long time ago, and is happening now in the US. More and more people who try to do good identify themselves as secular humanists rather than Christians. More and more Christians identify themselves as progressives for whom the traditional gospel story is meaningless. It really is time to rethink and reform how we understand both church and world.

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Redeeming the Bones: A Ritual of Participation

The dry bones raised by Ezekiel are a metaphor for those who died in the service of God’s justice: those who died working to restore God’s distributive justice-compassion to God’s Earth, and who themselves never saw the transformation. The army of dry bones is an army exiled from justice. Fairness demands that if Jesus was resurrected into an Earth transformed into God’s realm of justice-compassion, then all the other martyrs who died too soon should also be raised with him. “But in fact,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” It is the Christ – the transformed and transfigured post-Easter Jesus – who has started that general resurrection, which restores justice-compassion to a transformed Earth. The transformation has begun with Jesus, and continues with you and me – IF we sign on to the program.

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On Sacred Communities

For the last 18 months I have interviewed or have corresponded with people who are either leading a small group or are part of a small group that meets on a regular basis for community and spiritual direction. I plan to continue to do this with more groups and in more depth. My hope is that we can gain more information from a variety of groups to see what is working and what is not. Most of the information I gained from these interviews so far comes from groups who have been meeting on a regular basis for more than a year. In a couple of cases they have been meeting for over a decade. I am certain I will be revising my thoughts on some of this but I wanted to share what I have learned so far.

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Lenten Prayer

In ancient times a woman from the streets of Bethany, emboldened by faith and gratitude, came into Jesus’ presence carrying a jar of fragrant nard.

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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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A Beginning-Intermediate Grammar of Hellenistic Greek

“A clear and intelligent presentation displaying a linguist’s understanding without the linguist’s jargon. Our online Biblical Greek Forum treasures this work enough that its members have labored at digitizing it and making it available to the scholarly community. We are delighted to see it back in print.” —Carl Conrad, Washington University emeritus

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The Once and Future Scriptures: Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church

“This collection of essays by Brisbane Anglican scholars, pastors and teachers . . . leads us deeper into both our treasured heritage and the future which God s Word is still creating. We are indebted to them.” —Phillip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane, Anglican Church of Australia

“… a courageous and thoughtful attempt to meet the need for ever-new and ever-fresh encounters with the biblical text.” —Focus

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What a Friend They Had in Jesus: The Theological Visions of Nineteenth-Century Hymn Writers

Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me

Edward Hopper, 1871

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll.
Hiding rock, and treach’rous shoal;
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boist’rous waves obey Thy will
When Thou say’st to them, “Be still;”
Wondrous Sov’reign of the sea? …

When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
’Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”
What a Friend They Had in Jesus

Available from Polebridge Press

Edward Hopper (1816–88) was born, lived, and worked in New York City for all of his life, save eleven years in Greenville and Sag Harbor (Long Island), New York. He was a graduate of New York University and of the Union Theological Seminary, also of New York. He was for eighteen years the minister of the Presbyterian Church of the Sea and Land in lower Manhattan that had been founded as a mission for mariners, who then were numerous around the southern tip of that borough. The edifice was built in 1819 when Hopper was an infant. The hymn’s first appearance was anonymous entry in the Sailor’s Magazine in the same year as it was written. It was spotted early on by the New York composer, conductor and music store owner John E . Gould, who set the still-anonymous text to music.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – The Bible

We need to acknowledge that the final week in Jesus’ life is a blending of separate biblical accounts. In other words, the story grows and develops as each successive gospel writer imaginatively retold the story. There may be some historical memory in their stories, but the details are not historical.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Passion Week (or Holy Week)

We need to acknowledge that the final week in Jesus’ life is a blending of separate biblical accounts. In other words, the story grows and develops as each successive gospel writer imaginatively retold the story. There may be some historical memory in their stories, but the details are not historical.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – the Resurrection

We need to subject the resurrection stories of the New Testament to the same critical analysis as we did the crucifixion. So let us examine Paul’s writings and the gospels in an attempt to discover what the event we call Easter really was.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – the Crucifixion

One of the most reliable facts concerning Jesus is that he was crucified during the reign and by the action of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, who served by appointment of the Caesar from 26-36 CE. The Roman senator and historian Tacitus referred to Jesus’ execution by Pilate in his Annals, which was written circa 116 CE. Beyond that, however, there is not much historical evidence.

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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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