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Study/Discussion Groups on Religion & Theology

Hi everyone! We are looking for dedicated volunteers to lead and participate in local study/discussion groups on religion, history and theology. You can find local groups and learn more about starting your own by following this link …

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Host a Jesus Seminar on the Road!

Calling all community groups and churches! We are looking for Spring 2015 hosts for Westar’s regional programs, called Jesus Seminars on the Road (JSOR). JSORs bring religion scholars into conversation with interested non-specialists across North America. Led …

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The Evolution of a Progressive Christian:

Making U-Turns in the Cul-de-Sacs of Life, Dramatic Turn-Arounds Along Life's Unpredictable Journey

From Conservative Lutheran to Progressive Christianity How does someone evolve from a conservative Lutheran upbringing into a Progressive Christian? This book traces what the author calls “ten conversions” or life-altering experiences which made that evolution possible. Drafted …

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Praying to Love

For many Christians, a supernatural theistic God is a daily reality in their lives, but for many others, this kind of God is simply not there. They long to feel God’s presence and God’s love, but instead they experience emptiness and isolation. They worship God in church, but find that God is not present in the sanctuary. They pray fervently to God in private moments, but realize that their prayers often go unanswered. In the end, there is only silence.2 The biblical character of Job cried out to God in despair, “I cry to you God, but you do not answer. I stand before you, and you don’t even bother to look.”3

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On Prayer and Pentecost

When prayers in Jesus’s name go unanswered, and when unrelenting “knocking on heaven’s door” produces no result – even when bargains are offered (“I’ll stop smoking”) – instead of confronting the possibility that God is not going to intervene, the failure is treated as a “test of faith” that “God has a better plan for me.” But the transformation of human thought is far more powerful than petitions to a discredited god. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, first given by John’s Jesus, descends in tongues of flames on the Christian community gathered in Jerusalem. They are empowered to tell the story of Jesus in every language of the known world. Peter quotes the prophet Joel, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Paul proclaims, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” The imagery of fire represents the outpouring of the presence of sacred being and of creative power. No magic is required.

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My Kind of Atheist- Book Review

Book Review of Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to Give Love, Create Beauty and Find Peace, by Frank Schaeffer

Although this book is very much about Schaeffer’s own journey to freedom, there’s enough of the good theologian and good biblical scholar in him to delight those of us who can never get enough of that kind of thing. He does a lot with the figure of Jesus as the only lens through which to grasp what God might be like, if God existed (the key God-marker in Jesus, according to Schaeffer: “non-judgmental co-suffering empathy”). He notes that Jesus violated every religious taboo of his time and place: touching dead people, touching lepers, touching women and letting women touch him.

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Developing Rituals With Meaning and Life

Over the last few years I have spoken and written extensively about my concerns with churches that continue to use ancient rituals, hymns and icons that reflect an understanding of a Fourth Century Christianity while the church leadership claims to be part of a progressive or at least “emerging” church. I am referring here specifically to the story that Jesus was the only begotten son of God, came to earth with one purpose, to suffer a horrible death as God’s sacrifice for the sins of the world. More than one critic of religion over the last century has argued that religions control participants with rituals that few ever give rational thought to.

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Jim Burklo’s Book of Common Prayer- Liturgical Elements

We are here to praise and enjoy God with body and soul, mind and heart, with song and word, with hands and feet.
We are here to give because of the abundance God has given us, to share with each other, and to receive, because God has created us to depend on each other.
We are here to celebrate the differences that otherwise might divide us: differences of age, of body, of culture, of opinion, of ability, of religious conviction.
We are here to put things in perspective: to celebrate what matters, to laugh about things we take too seriously, to cry about things that truly touch our hearts.
So may it be this morning: Amen!

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Ritual in Progressive Christianity

When we look at Christianity in particular, there are three issues to address: the role of the sacraments of baptism and communion in the future, new ritual created by and for small progressive groups, and thirdly, ritual that would be inviting to all people, regardless of religion.

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Corporate Worship

My understanding of the flow of worship is that it is a four act drama beginning with a “gathering” and ending with a “send-out”. The four acts of worship between the gathering and send-out are: 1) CONFESSION; 2) PRAISE; 3) DEDICATION; and 4) COMMITMENT.

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Beyond Ritual – a Life of Prayer and Action

Bonhoeffer believed that in the future a religionless Christianity—stripped of its religious garments—would be limited to two things: prayer and action.3 He believed that through these two acts Christians would learn to see the world from a new perspective, with the eyes of those at the bottom of society—the people that Matthew called “the least of these.” For Bonhoeffer, prayer—especially intercessory prayer—becomes important because it creates a powerful sense of empathy and solidarity with the people one brings before God. This, in turn, motivates one to engage in “righteous” action—the seeking of justice in human society.

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Leadership Learnings from “Down Under” (Part 1)

In the mid 1980’s I was invited to be the ministerial leadership for the Uniting Church of Australia in Frankston, Victoria. This congregation taught me a great deal about the church as community.

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A Joyful Path Children’s Curriculum Year Two- Intro Video

In A Joyful Path, Year Two, we focus on some of the main tenets of Progressive Christianity and Spirituality, giving our children the foundation they need to walk the path of Jesus in today’s world. It has stories and affirmations written to help children clarify their own personal beliefs while staying open to the wisdom of other traditions.

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Belief that Brings Life

To believe, or give assent to, a fixed set of beliefs, such as, “I believe in God the father almighty….,” or the inerrency of the Bible is to cut off the possibility of growth. If you have all the answers you are not open to new thoughts or questions. Communicating with a fundamentalist is very difficult, and we are all fundamentalist in a variety of ways. But Leonard Cohen reminds us that “there is a crack in everything, that’s where the light comes in.”

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Beyond Belief: Spiritual Practice as the Focus of Christian Community

Dogma and doctrine should not get in the way of practicing Love, who is God. Doctrines can be interesting: they help us understand the origins and background of our religion. But repeating creeds is not the price of admission into Christianity. Instead of caring whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection was a fact or a myth, let’s look in the story for inspiration to turn from the way of death to the way of life. Let’s care about our neighbors without jobs or health insurance, face the resentment in our hearts that needs to be released, become activist citizens, and learn to bring our careers in alignment with our highest values. Let’s gather in churches, soup kitchens, work-places, living rooms, and cafés to support each other in doing things that matter, and let go of old doctrines that don’t.

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Church Music Search 2015

This annual and international church music contest calls authors and composers to create congregational hymns, choral anthems and orchestral music that engage and exclaim liberal Christian theology and associated themes. Download the PDF of this flyer here

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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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Ten Ways EVERY Church Pastor and Youth Worker Should Use Social Media

Every church pastor, and youth worker, should be using Social Media. Every church should also have an online strategy, but church strategies need to be bigger than their pastors. Pastors come and go, and for this reason, I’m a big advocate for pastors to have their own independent online presence. While pastors are in particular churches, their presence will inevitably direct traffic back to the church, but beyond that pastors will develop a non-local online tribe who will support them no matter where they are.

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