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.read more
We all belong. We are each one a part of the Temple of God. Paul wants the church at Corinth to recognize that they all belong to one another, and that it is foolish to divide and polarize around certain leaders. Paul argues that there is no place in the church for petty jealousies and pride.read more
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.read more
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.read more
The church sign can be easily read by anyone driving by: “You can’t be a devoted follower of Jesus unless you are part of a local church.” Does the church that posts this sign not trust the people with Jesus’s message? What is the meaning of “incarnation” if not “embodiment” by individual persons of the spirit of the Christ? Is the “Body of Christ” for members only?
The Apostle Paul created the metaphor of the “Body of Christ” as the community of followers. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, he explains the meaning of the ritually-shared meal: “The cup of God’s gracious benefits that we consecrate means that we are involved in the blood of the Anointed, doesn’t it? The bread that we break means that we are involved in the body of the Anointed, doesn’t it? That there is one loaf means that we who are many constitute one body, because we all partake of the one loaf.” In Romans 12:5 he says, “Just as each of us has one body with many parts that do not all have the same function, so although there are many of us, we are the Anointed’s body, interrelated with one another.”read more
So what do I mean by a sacred community or spiritual community, or as Peck would call it a true community? I refer here to an intentional community with an identifiable common purpose. Maybe that purpose is simple to grow spiritually as individuals. It is a community where one can transcend oneself and experience a sense of the interconnectedness of life. It is a community in which each member seeks to see and relate to the divine or the sacred in the other.read more
Inspired by the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, it is an echo of these and a call for something larger.
Come on- brothers and sisters West to East
Don’t let these corporate suit and ties disrespect the streets
Lets be more than outsiders with an angry speech
It’s time to occupy, speak your peace, let’s go!
Is the lingering importance of “Good Samaritan Jesus” for the religiously unaffiliated a yearning for a more ethically engaged, prophetic Christianity?read more
It’s important to understand that the change I believe must occur is not related to style, but substance. I’m sure most of you remember the abundance of church growth literature accessible at the height of that movement. Almost all of it related to style and methodology, which is not to say that such issues are not important, but my greater concerns relate to substance and message. So, what needs to happen?read more
“The truth of the matter is that the Christian movement, or what we now call the church, was always progressive. Jesus and his followers were change agents and that frankly, is what got them all into trouble.” ~ Fred Plumerread more
Once an idea has been embraced by the larger community, it settles into the realm of the status quo. No longer representing cutting edge thought about the particular issue it addressed, it becomes accepted as the norm.read more
Here’s how many progressive Christians approach, discern, and interpret the Bible…read more
New research from psychologists from the New York University suggests that the desire to feel unique can undermine consensus, cohesion, and mobilization—at least in political contexts. My hunch is that this may extend to religious contexts as well.read more
All are invited to the communion table were we celebrate Jesus’ understanding of life and death. He broke the bread, symbolizing that all of life comes to us in broken pieces. Some waste their lives cursing the brokenness. Jesus wanted his disciples to know that by embracing the brokenness, we find ourselves more fully alive.read more
The idea that a few of the Congressional majority would actually force America into default and bankruptcy, bringing on, the Europeans feared, a world wide depression in order to stop people from getting health care, left them disillusioned with America’s political leadership.read more
I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement.read more
Francis Macnab has been teaching the place of Faith in psychology and theology, in health and growth for decades. He claims that the churches have lost vast numbers of people because their Old Faith has lost empathy and relevance in the 21st Century. He advocates the need for a New Faith.read more
A significant number of scholars and commentators are celebrating the dying of what they believe has been and remains a detrimental institution for our society. They often point to the absence of religion in Europe. They note how those countries have aggressively built public institutions for the support of their citizens in need. In some ways, one could argue they have become more Christian in their public actions than the United States.read more