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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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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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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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Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

We believe that Jesus has called us to show selfless compassion for others, regardless of how different they are from us and to help others grow and develop their potential – to facilitate human becoming.
All: Help us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus

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Seeker, Teacher, Friend

Seeker of justice, turner of the tables
One who made sure that the poor were fed
Land for the landless, home for the homeless
And baskets filled with fish and bread.

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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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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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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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Jesus: The Ethical Teachings of a Social Deviant

Series on the Teachings of a Galilean Sage: The Sermon on the Mount, PART II

The social world order seems to erupt in chaos and violence on a regular basis these days. Regimes hold on to political power at all costs, while those who are more often than not economically oppressed demonstrate and confront government forces with little more than their willingness to stand in opposition.

If this all sounds like pure political commentary, consider this: The socio-political landscape in first century Palestine, CE, wasn’t much different. The practical means by which the imbalance of power was wielded by some over others may have been rather primitive by today’s technological standards; but the end game was the same.

The itinerant Jewish peasant teacher and sage who would long be remembered as uttering such impractical non-sense as “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy,” was the same historical figure that was executed as an insurrectionist, not a “resurrectionist.” As I’ve put it bluntly elsewhere, Jesus didn’t die for our sins, but because of them.

But the historical Jesus’s message deviated so radically from the “you have heard it said, but I say to you” literary device employed that it constituted a world view that did not simply turn everything upside down; but attempted to right what becomes a distorted “default” assumption of human nature that too easily concedes it is only human instinct to regard ourselves as prejudicial and self-centered creeps.

Jesus’ teachings to “turn the other cheek” and “love one’s enemies” is an invitation to an inward journey of the self; and a call to reclaim our true huma n nature.

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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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