By: Fred C. Plumer
Edited by: Rev. Dr. Mark Sandlin and Rev. Dr. Caleb Lines
This study guide can be used for small group study, intentional communities, conferences, or any group who would like to delve more deeply into the history and the process of living out the core teachings of Jesus. There are discussion questions and space after each point for groups to come up with their own thoughts and ideas.
We have often been asked why we change or update the “Core Values.” There are three main answers to that question. First, we change the wording based on thoughtful comments and suggestions from our readers and supporters. Some of these suggestions are theological, and some are seeking greater clarity, showing us areas where we were not as clear as we need to be.
Secondly, as people with open minds and soft hearts, we continue to evolve and change. That is what “progressive” is all about. New scholarship, conversations and even detractors challenge us to rethink what we have been positing, and at some point, after much discussion and conversation with our advisors, we may decide that we should make a change or emphasize new points. This seems to happen about every five years or so.
Thirdly, we never want the “Core Values” document to become something sacred in itself, beyond testing and questioning. In another words, we are not trying to challenge creedal thinking and outdated dogma with a new creed.
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.
The study guide includes The Core Values, a Reflection Preface by Jim Burklo, an Introduction on What is Progressive Christianity by Gretta Vosper, and a Personal Note from the Author Fred Plumer. Each section has one of the Core Values, a discussion about the point, discussion questions, and a space for notes.
Excerpt from the Study Guide: By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who…
3. Strive for peace and justice among all people, knowing that behaving with compassion and selfless love towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe.
Most scholars would argue we learn more about the Jesus of the scriptures from the things he does rather than what he says. The Jesus we meet in the gospels is a man of action, who heals, who demonstrates compassion, who takes a stand against injustices, who loves unconditionally, and who then tells his disciples to go and do likewise. Maybe that is why the writers of all three synoptic gospels wrote that Jesus believed the most important commandment is to “love God with all of our hearts, minds and souls and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
According to the writer of Luke’s gospel, Jesus then tells a story that suggests our neighbor is anyone who might need our help. Nowhere in these important passages do we find Jesus suggesting that before we extend ourselves on behalf of another or before we love our neighbor, we should first expound a theology, or a belief system. Nor does it appear there was ever a litmus test Jesus used before he befriended someone or helped him or her. Progressive Christians believe our actions of compassion are more important than the expression of our beliefs.