• Bruce Epperly
    • I am a practical theologian, pastor, spiritual guide, author, and leader in lay and pastoral faith formation. This fall I was Visiting Professor of Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology/Claremont Lincoln University. Prior to that I served as Director of Continuing Education and Professor of Practical Theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary (2003-2010). I also was co-pastor of Disciples United Community Church (a partnership Disciples of Christ/United Church of Christ congregation) from 2004-2010.

      Prior to coming to Lancaster I served as acting Associate Dean, Assistant to the President for On-line Programs, and Adjunct Professor in Theology, Spirituality, and Pastoral Care at Wesley Theological Seminary (2000-2003). Always enjoying combining pastoral with teaching ministry, I have also served as interim minister in several UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations. For seventeen years I served as Director of the Protestant Ministry and Adjunct Professor in Theology, Spirituality, and Medicine at Georgetown University and Medical School.

      My passion is to join open spirited, bridge building progressive practical theological beliefs with life and health affirming holistic spiritual practices which can bring about personal and congregational healing and wholeness.

      In addition, believing in an interdependent universe and an omni-active God with whom we are called to be powerfully transformative co-creators/partners, I am led to believe that current movements in “emergent” and “convergent” Christianity and globally based interfaith/inter-spiritual can one day heal our earth.

      An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with standing in the United Church of Christ, I have written twenty-three books in the areas of theology, spirituality, ministerial excellence and spiritual formation, and healing and wholeness, including Holy Adventure: Forty One Days of Audacious Living; God’s Touch: Faith, Wholeness and the Healing Miracles of Jesus; and Healing Worship: Purpose and Practice.

      Celebrating 34 years in marriage and ministry in 2013, my wife, Kate Epperly, and I enjoy working together and we have co-authored three books on ministerial wholeness, excellence and spirituality: Feed the Fire: Avoiding Clergy Burnout; Four Seasons of Ministry: Gathering a Harvest of Righteousness; and Tending to the Holy: The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry, selected as 2009 Book of the Year by the Academy of Parish Clergy.

      My most recent books are Starting with Spirit: Nurturing Your Call to Pastoral Ministry, Philippians: An Interactive Adult Bible Study and Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed; Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church, The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for a Postmodern Age, and Healing Marks: Spirituality and Healing in Mark’s Gospel.

      Always exploring new horizons, I am currently working on texts related to the spirituality of grandparenting, Acts of the Apostles as a postmodern gospel, the spirituality of blessing, and emerging theology and spiritual formation.

      I speak regularly throughout North America on subjects such as: healing and wholeness, personal and congregational spiritual formation, process theology, ministerial spirituality and excellence, emerging Christianity, and contemporary movements in theology and spirituality. Over the years, I have appeared on Nightline, ABC World News Tonight, and PBS News Hour.

The Inward Journey, the Outward Gaze

Progressive Mysticism with Julian of Norwich

Theologian Karl Barth once counseled, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” In graduate school over 40 years ago, I heard a modification of Barth’s wisdom, “The preacher should have the New York Times in one hand and the Bible in the other.” This advice surely applies to the spiritual seeker and social activist as well. We must have our eyes trained on eternity while boldly living in our time and place. Touching eternity, the cosmic wisdom of God, grants perspective and hope in the moral arc of history. But the wide perspective – our hope in God’s arc of justice – is of value only if it guides our pathway in responding to the unique challenges of our time.

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Mysticism and Social Action: The Spirituality of Howard Thurman

Activism is at the heart of progressive theology. The way of Jesus is both personal and social. Jesus’ embodiment of prophetic spirituality was reflected in his welcome of the marginalized, affirmation of women, expansion of the scope of salvation and ethical concern to include foreigners and the disinherited, and challenge to narrow purity codes which promoted exclusion. Jesus proclaimed that the “spirit of the Lord” was upon him, and this meant the healing of the social order as well as people’s religious lives.

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The Work of Christmas: The Twelve Days of Christmas with Howard Thurman

This book is a celebration of the twelve days of Christmas, offering us a chance to dwell on the meaning of the season in dialog with the wisdom of one of America’s greatest mystics and activists, Howard Thurman.

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Progressive Mysticism?

A number of years ago, I did a consultation for a progressive congregation in which the relationship between contemplation and social action was a source of friendly debate. On one side, several congregational leaders asserted that the task of the church is to change the world.  The way of Jesus compels us to be activists, they contended, challenging anything that threatens human and nonhuman well-being. We must provide meals for the soup kitchen and volunteer in the local schools, but we must also challenge our leaders to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). 

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The Mystic in You

Discovering a God-filled World

What is a mystic? Bruce Epperly defines mystics as people who see holiness in everyday life. We can be mystics without leaving our families, disengaging from daily responsibilities, becoming a priest, or joining a monastic order. Epperly shows how we can experience the living God in the midst of daily life and never again take everyday events for granted.

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Prophetic Hospitality and Social Justice

We live in an increasingly polarizing time. In politics and church life, many people are on hair-trigger alert, ready to retaliate at the slightest provocation. Disagreements lead to division and governmental and congregational gridlock. Even proponents of diversity often launch attacks on those who hold more conservative positions on immigration, global climate change, and marriage equality. It is clear that our times call for prophetic action. We need to present imaginative alternatives to injustice, environmental destruction, and prejudice. But, in our quest for social and political justice, we need to find ways to nurture Shalom practices that include our opponents as well as those for whom we advocate. If we are to be true to our progressive and prophetic ideals, we need to treat the opposition with the same care that we treat the oppressed.

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Finding Angels in Boulders and Divinity in Geodes

Progressive Christianity asserts that God is present in each one of us. God is not far off but moves within each of our lives, providing energy and possibility; God’s presence in us and not imperfection is our deepest nature. In contrast to sin-based theologies, accenting original sin and human depravity, progressive Christianity affirms original blessing and the inherent divinity of each creature.

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Transformation by Touch – Reiki Healing Touch as a Spiritual Practice

The body is inspired, and the spirit is embodied. That affirmation describes the heart of today’s holistic spirituality. Long before dualism infected Christianity, the Christian movement believed in the healing energy of touch. Jesus touched people and transformed cells as well as souls and social position. A woman with a flow of blood touched Jesus, and energy flowed from Jesus to her that transformed her physical and spiritual health, and liberated her from social stigma. (Mark 5:24-34) A few decades later, the apostle Paul described the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, alive, holy, and transparent to divine inspiration. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20) The Christian movement saw the flow of divine energy from God to us and from one person to another as inherent in the natural processes of cause and effect, and not an external supernatural violation of the laws of nature. The early Christians believed that we lived in wonderful world and that the body was spirit-filled and reflective of divine wisdom.

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Celebrating God’s Light: A Progressive Christian Solstice

This past year, at my congregation on Cape Cod, we began to celebrate the seasons of the year as part of our affirmation of this good Earth. Our congregation’s proximity to the ocean sensitizes us to the …

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Preaching with Heart, Mind, and Spirit

Preaching is, first of all, an act of the heart. In the biblical tradition, the heart is center of experience and decision-making. It embraces the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. It is embodied and incarnational as well as intellectual. Good preaching moves the preacher and congregation alike. The pastor dances with the text through his or her bodily movements as well as lively ideas. The goal of the sermon is not to provide a final destination, but as philosopher Alfred North Whitehead says, to invite congregants to be part of an “adventure of the spirit.”

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Progressive Praise

The varieties of religious experience call forth hymns and songs, emerging from the varieties of cultures, personality types, and religious expressions. Our worship and song reflects this diversity. We join in sacred worship traditional and contemporary, North American and African, and European and Asian. We chant hymns from Taize and melodies from Iona, and dance to “Siyahamba” (We are marching in the light of God), sometimes in the same service.

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Is a Bad God Better than No God at All?

The issue of the gods we believe in made headlines this week when Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party Republican candidate for US Senate in Indiana, stated that pregnancies stemming from rape, however horrible, are “something God intended to happen.”[1] While Mourdock has sought to soften the impact of his statement, I believe that his words reflected his – and many other Christians – understand of God’s presence in the world.

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The Eight Points in Process: Point Three – Theology and Spirituality of Inclusiveness

A Theolgocial Vision of Process Theology and Progressive Christianity

Progressive Christianity aspires toward a lively inclusiveness that transforms opposites into contrasts as it looks for holiness everywhere. The postmodern project challenged all universal narratives, philosophical systems, and theological doctrines. Postmodernism affirms the importance of personal, communal, and tribal narratives as windows into understanding the universe. No story encompasses everyone but the sharing of many stories provides great insights into the nature of the human adventure and the ambient universe.

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The Eight Points in Process: Point Two – Wisdom and Salvation are Everywhere

A Theolgocial Vision of Process Theology and Progressive Christianity

Pluralism is a reality and it always has been. Diversity is built into the nature of life, whether in flora, fauna, or religious experience. Today, the diversity of religious and cultural experience shapes virtually everything we do. Every congregation and Christian lives with diversity: some deny, some evade, some attack, and others embrace the unavoidable and often blessed diversity of life.

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The Eight Points in Process: Point One – Walking the Pathways of Jesus

A Theological Vision of Process Theology and Progressive Christianity

Progressive Christianity’s Eight Points attempt to provide a framework for progressive theological reflection. In the next several weeks, I will elaborate on each of the Eight Points in a way that may be helpful to pastors and congregants. I will be viewing them from the lens of process theology, which I believe is the best theological perspective for progressive Christian reflection.

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We Are All Mystics: Exploring the Frontiers of Progressive Spirituality

To be a progressive Christian involves affirming “God in all things and all things in God.” Progressive theology asserts that we live in a lively, evolving, and visionary universe in which God’s presence touches every moment and every life.

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Progressive Christianity, Mysticism, and Healing

I believe that progressive Christians need to reclaim and redefine the healings of Jesus as part of their embrace of today’s growing movements in global and complementary medicine. Healing can be understood as natural, rather than supernatural, and can involve the transformation of energy in the dynamic interdependence of mind-body-spirit rather than the violation of predictable causal relationships.

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Living Resurrection

I must admit that resurrection, then and now, remains a mystery – it can’t be defined in terms of literal flesh and bones or explained away as metaphor; nor is it helpful to speak of the pre-resurrection and post-resurrection Jesus.  Jesus is a whole person reality, resurrection as rebirth and healing power characterized his teaching, healing, and hospitality

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Everlasting Life: A Progressive Perspective

Bruce Epperly gives us the bullet points on how Progressive Christians have left go of traditionally negative images of heaven and hell in favor of a more loving, honest and transcendent vision of everlasting life.

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Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living

Holy Adventure, by Bruce Epperly, assumes that we are a part of God’s holy adventure just as much as God is a part of our “holy adventure” Each of our lives, therefore, is an unfinished, surprising and exciting adventure as we partner with God in transforming our lives and the cosmos.

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