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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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Finding a Sense of Place

In 2008, Willamette University purchased 305 acres of forest and farmland in the Eola Hills of Oregon. Zena Forest and Farm, as it is known, became the subject of an interdisciplinary course taught at Willamette University, in which students collaboratively wrote a comprehensive history of Zena, focusing on relationships between people and the land. The result is this book: both a story of a remarkable place and an example of place-based, student-driven pedagogy.

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Call to Worship for a Sacred Community

Welcome! One thing is for certain. We are all welcome. This is the Jesus way. He called people to him; he asked people to come to him; he welcomed them; he got cranky with his disciples when they tried to prevent anyone, anyone at all coming to him. He ate with outcasts, those despised; he befriended tax collectors, those regarded as thieves; he encouraged children, usually ignored in adult community, to sit on his knees; he had meals with the elite and the riffraff; he conversed publicly with women although that was taboo; unlike the religious leaders of his day, he sought the company of all kinds and types of people, to affirm them, to challenge them, to call them to an abundant way of life. So we are all welcome. This is the Jesus way.

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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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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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Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk

Pluralistic Marriage- Review by Jim Burklo

Impending marriage often leads couples to learn more about their traditions of origin. And that study can lead to confrontation with the question of religious pluralism. Is my partner going to hell unless she accepts Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior – really? Is my partner’s Hinduism possibly as good a path to Ultimate Reality as my Islamic faith is for me?

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“The Wandering Soul” by Luanne Hunt – John Denver’s Previously Unrecorded Masterpiece

Star Creek Entertainment recording artist Luanne Hunt offers this new rendition of a song that John Denver wrote but never recorded. According to Denver’s autobiography, “Take Me Home,” he wrote the tune in Santa Fe, NM about three years before his untimely death in a small plane crash over the coast of California.

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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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Study Guide for the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity 2012- PDF Download

The background material and the questions of this Study Guide were designed to stimulate conversation and to raise issues that might not otherwise come up. None of these materials are intended to make a final theological, Christological, or canonical argument. The last thing we would want to do is to tell anyone how he or she should believe or approach their faith. We simply offer this as a starting point to the conversation and we look forward to the continual evolution of our faith.

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Timelines in Jewish History- a website resource

This is the web version of a Jewish history project I prepared a few years ago, “Timelines in Jewish History, 1000 BCE – 1925 CE, with Parallel Timelines in Relevant General History.”

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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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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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Book Review: Living the Quaker Way

Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today, Philip Gulley

In his highly readable Living the Quaker Way, Philip Gulley graciously welcomes the curious reader into the Quaker faith. His introductory chapter, “What is a Quaker?” is friendly, open, kind, unpretentious, and folksy. I read on expecting a primer on Quaker history, beliefs and practices and was not disappointed. But then I was startled by the change in tone. As he begins to work through the core values of the Quaker faith – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality – Gulley becomes eloquently and passionately critical of modern American life, criticism that I entirely agree with.

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