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Buckwheat Salvation: Native Plant Revival Coming to a Church Near You

To hold a bloom of California buckwheat in the palm of your hand is to admire an infinity of heavens. Each little round flower is a mass of tinier flowers, their delicate pink stamens pointing out in every direction of the universe. The tough stems of the plant, with their little spiky leaves, stay green even now during one of the worst droughts in memory. Hiking on the flanks of Boney Mountain in the Santa Monica range a week ago, in an area ravaged by wildfire, I stopped to gaze at a buckwheat bush and congratulate it on its survival.

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The Stunning Resurgence of Progressive Christianity

With each generation, the popularity of religious conservatism has declined. Forty-seven percent of the Silent Generation (ages 66 to 88) are religious conservatives, compared with 34 percent of Baby Boomers, 23 percent of Gen Xers and 17 percent of Millennials.

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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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Ritual in Sacred Community: Reclaiming Eucharist

The central focus for Christian liturgy is the ritual Eucharist. Traditionally Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”) has reenacted the last meal Jesus ate with his followers before the blood sacrifice of his execution at the hands of the Romans, but with the dogmatic interpretation that Jesus died to save sinners from hell in the next life. Twenty-first century progressive Christians are concerned more with living a life of justice-compassion here and now (as Jesus taught) than reconciling with a god that demands blood sacrifice in exchange for a carefree afterlife. What is required is to act with justice-compassion in radical abandonment of self-interest. Suppose that instead of terrorizing ourselves with the Advent of violent judgment, we were to celebrate the Advent of the Christ consciousness; instead of a Eucharist mourning the personal holocaust of Jesus’s death, a Eucharist of Ordination, in which we recommit ourselves to the great work of distributive justice-compassion? We have the power, at any moment, to transform the way we live our lives. We can choose not to participate in the retributive system of imperial war and systemic injustice. We can step into the kind of ongoing parallel universe of God’s justice-compassion at any moment. We can change our consciousness, change the paradigm in which we live, whenever we have the will to do so. Jesus is not coming again. We are; and when the rare opportunity presents itself, we can break the alabaster jar in remembrance of her.

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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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The Power of Ritual

In the short interval between hearing the words and partaking of the symbolic body of Christ, I was enveloped in one of those rare moments of total oneness with all that is. The word “body” became present to me in a way I had not previously experienced. A feeling of connectedness with all mortal life swept over me. And beyond that an awareness of my aliveness being one with the aliveness of the earth and universe.

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Ritual as Part of Life

Let us hold gently to those rituals which have had meaning for us, but examine them diligently to be sure they are inclusive of others. Let us find richness in rituals which honour the Earth, our home; which revere the non-human community; and which draw together the human species in strength and compassion.

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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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Holy Week – An Exploration of the Meaning of Kenosis

A sample of Sea Raven’s work, a free PDF download of the Bible Study found in Appendix Two of The Year of Luke, is available: “Holy Week: An Exploration of the Meaning of Kenosis.”

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God is not a Guy and Neither am I!

More and more I find myself responding, “I am not a guy,” to waiters in restaurants, to educated people at conferences, and even to people in progressive churches who refer to groups of women and men as “you guys.” Sometimes these are groups of all women, and still they call us “you guys.”

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Why Is Inclusive Language Still Important

“We don’t need to do inclusive language any more,” some of the young women tell Isabel Docampo in her intern classes at Perkins School of Theology. “That was important when you were going through seminary because there were all men. Inclusive language isn’t important anymore because now women can be leaders in church and are in the workplace big time.” Isabel says that when they go out into churches, these students discover that gender discrimination, although often more subtle now than in the past, is still all too prevalent.

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Finding Serenity and Wisdom- Part 2

Serenity! Oh, how we pine for serenity! We crave it! We, somehow, allow ourselves the self-delusion that serenity comes – or not – of its own accord, and lucky the person who receives this rare gift. We look at people who have this precious condition as if it was purely the luck of the draw, that the possessing person had virtually nothing to do with it other than simply to receive it, presumably with welcoming open arms. We are so envious of them. “Oh, how lucky they are!” we acclaim. “Oh,” we sigh, “Oh to be in such a situation that such a wonderful condition might come to us!”

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Finding Serenity and Wisdom- Part 1

Serenity! Oh, how we pine for serenity! We crave it! We, somehow, allow ourselves the self-delusion that serenity comes – or not – of its own accord, and lucky the person who receives this rare gift. We look at people who have this precious condition as if it was purely the luck of the draw, that the possessing person had virtually nothing to do with it other than simply to receive it, presumably with welcoming open arms. We are so envious of them. “Oh, how lucky they are!” we acclaim. “Oh,” we sigh, “Oh to be in such a situation that such a wonderful condition might come to us!”

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Admissions and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Jesus, Part 3

Was Jesus the Christ?
The application of the title “Christ” to Jesus most likely did not come until after Easter. If any of the disciples understood Jesus as the Christ before Easter, their recorded behavior in the gospels was nonsensical.
Where did the word Christ emerge? Christ is our English translation of the Greek word christos, which means “messiah,” “savior,” or “redeemer.” But Christos is an attempt to put the Hebrew word mashiach, which meant “God’s anointed one,” into Greek. In early Israel history the king was also called God’s anointed one.

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Admissions and Confessions of a Christian Layman – Jesus, Part 2

There have been some interesting attempts to discover the “historical” Jesus, but the only Jesus we really know is the one in the New Testament, and those writers were not interested in historical accuracy.

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Admissions and Confessions of a Christian Layman – Jesus, Part 1

When I was a child growing up in the church, I believed everything I heard about Jesus, whether from Sunday School class, the New Testament, the creeds, sermons, or hymns. I was taught that he was divine, the only-begotten Son, God in human flesh, the second person of the Trinity and he thought he was all these things. It never occurred to me that such a person could not be human. If Jesus had superhuman knowledge and power, he cannot be a model for ordinary humans.

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