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The Eight Pointed Star

THERE IS A TABLE WITH A VARIETY OF BREADS AND CHALICES ON IT IN THE CENTER OF THE CATHEDRAL. AT EIGHT POINTS AROUND THE TABLE, THERE ARE SMALL TABLES WITH CANDLES ON THEM. Opening Litany Leader: As …

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Truer Than Fact: A Sermon on the Nature of Biblical Truth

Texts: Dt. 11:18-21. You shall…lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul’ and you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. …

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The Eucharist

The author describes this as a “liturgical form known as a ‘bibliodramatic sermon,’ a technique… developed out of my study of psychodrama…it is a great way to actively involve the entire congregation in the creation/experience of a …

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Reflections on Sexual Diversity

Reflections from a workshop at one of TCPC’s national forums about sexual diversity and the Christian church.

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Building Community With Our Differences

One of features marking the renaissance of Jesus studies is the centrality of the social world of Jesus. Because meanings are embedded in a social world, if we are to understand and appreciate what Jesus said and did, his message and activity need to be located in his social world.

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Reflections on Building a Network for Progressive Christians

Reflections from a workshop on networking at TCPC’s 3rd national forum.

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Why Bother to take God Seriously?

Most people haven’t any interest in religion – mainly because they haven’t any interest in God. If asked as part of a survey whether they “believed in God”, many would say that they did, but there be would few if any differences in their lives compared to those who deny the existence of God.

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“Abba:” A fair interpretation or a putdown of the Jews?

Abba, the word for “father” in the Aramaic language appears untranslated in the Greek Scriptures and in most English versions. Some people have tried to make a theological statement based on Jesus’s use of Abba, which appears to have a similarity to a toddler’s expression of intimacy with a father, such as “dada” and “papa”.

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What Can Progressive Christians Say About “Sin” and “Original Sin”?

Some of our detractors have suggested that in our attempt to include all people, we have abandoned the concept of sin. Not so. In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the word translated “sin” is based on a metaphor taken from hunting. Both the Hebrew chatah’ and the Greek hamartia originally meant that the hunter missed what he was shooting at. The arrow fell short of the target.

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A Letter to a Friend… how to find a church.

I think you know where I stand on the church front. I have been a strong advocate of such things for a long time. Since you bring the topic up, let me sketch out what I see as the dimensions of the issue for someone who hasn’t experienced a persuasive altar call or revelatory “Road to Damascus” experience.

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Why TCPC Advocates Equal Rights for Gay and Lesbian People

If you look through the eight points that define what we mean by “progressive”, you will see that omitting a concern for these people would leave us with a glaring inconsistency.

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What’s In a Name?

More than one person took me to task for using the adjective “reactionary” to describe the point of view I found in the newsletter United Voice.

Although I thought that the description was accurate, I though I had best check up on myself by consulting with The Oxford English Dictionary. This is what I found: “reactionary, a. and n. [f. reaction (chiefly in sense 4). adj. 1. Of, pertaining to, or characterized by, reaction. 2. Inclined or favourable to reaction. Also, in Marxist use, unfavourably contrasted with revolutionary.” Under sense 4 of reaction, I found “A movement towards the reversal of an existing tendency or state of things, esp. in politics; a return, or desire to return, to a previous condition of affairs; a revulsion of feeling.”

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The State of Progressive Christianity in England

from a speech delivered at the 1998 TCPC Forum

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What

All too often I have heard people attacking gays and lesbians, saying that they are an abomination to God. I wonder if such people have ever bothered to check their Bibles for the meaning of the word. I did, and this is what I found.

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Tit for Tat

Even though 87 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians, few dogmas are as pervasive or have as much influence in our culture as the aphorism, “If you do this, you’ll get that,” where that may either be a reward or a punishment—a carrot or a stick. Popularized by psychologist B. F. Skinner, behavior modification can be traced back historically to the law of retaliation — “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” — which is a perversion of an ancient Hebrew commandment prohibiting unrestrained vengeance.

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Survey Results: TCPC

In October, the TCPC board asked me to work with it on ways in which to more effectively build awareness and usage of the various TCPC resources — books, discussion guides, annual Forums, newsletter, and the website. The board was also interested in starting a discussion about what additional tools and resources TCPC should consider developing as it moves ahead into this new year.

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What Every Progressive Christian Should Know About the Tobacco Industry

The tobacco industry likes to portray itself as just another American business, but the facts point to precisely the opposite conclusion. Evidence uncovered in the recent tobacco litigation demonstrates that the tobacco companies deliberately deceived the public into believing that their products were safe and non-addictive while conspiring to keep the industry’s knowledge to the contrary secret, manipulated the nicotine delivery of their products to better addict consumers, and targeted children in their advertising campaigns.

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The United Religions Initiative

I was invited to research and write what turned out to be a chapter entitled, “Anglican Attitudes and Behaviors Concerning War,” in an Anglican Ethics text book edited by Paul Elmen, The Anglican Moral Choice. The gist of it is that Anglicans are second to none in being for peace in peacetime, and for war in wartime. This illustrates the unfortunate tendency of religions to sanctify violence.

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Reimagining Ecumenism for the 21st Century

One of the questions we may rightly ask at the beginning of a new century is what is ahead for ecumenism and the ecumenical movement.

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No One is Disposable: The Fight Against Slavery in the New Global Economy

According to the Exodus story, the Egyptians had begun to fear that the Israelite people living in Egypt had grown more numerous and powerful than the Egyptians themselves. To prevent these Israelites from joining Egypt’s enemies, fighting against the Egyptians, and escaping from the land, the Egyptians

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The Future Shape of Black Religion

Speaking to conference participants from the pulpit at Mt. Enon Baptist Church, Dr. Peter Paris explained that the political role of the African American Church was established from the beginning, that the African American Church has been the only institution consistently serving Blacks in this country, and that the African American church has historically laid the foundation of and continues to reflect the changes in social structure in African American communities.

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We Are All to Some Degree Hamlet-Shaped, Whether We Know It or Not

He is “the fullest representation of human possibility. . Whether we are male or female, old or young he “speaks most urgently for us and to us. . . He can be transcendent or ironic. . . When we are wholly human and know ourselves, we be come most like. . .”

Like whom? Jesus? Wrong! Like Hamlet

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Responding to our Critics

People objecting to positions taken by The Center for Progressive Christianity play an important role in helping us to define more clearly who and what we are. One such person and I had an E-mail exchange that began with a message from him that arrived under the subject heading, “Are you Christian?” I have arranged our correspondence in the form of a dialogue:

Objector: Are you Christian?

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The Jubilation of a Living Wage

This year – which has been proclaimed a Jubilee Year by the Roman Catholic, Episcopal and other churches – affords Christians a special opportunity to make a focus on issues of economic justice a part of their spiritual lives and ministry.

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Rage Against the Machine

  When 50,000 teamsters, environmentalists, animal-rights activists, consumer advocates, peaceniks, libertarians, and protectionists marched downtown in Seattle disrupting the secretive World Trade Organization, most Americans were clueless as to what it all meant. On the night after …

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Progressive Faith vs. the Illusion of Control

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.

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Why Bother to Go to Church? Part of the “Why Bother…” Brochure Series

So why do people bother to turn up on a Sunday when they could be doing all sorts of other things, like washing the car, digging the garden or going shopping? The only good reason for going to church is because you get something out of it. If you find it dull or pointless, or both, you won’t go again.

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Progress Toward an Open Church

Helping a congregation to identify itself as a Progressive Christian Church can be a challenge. In September of 1999 I was called to minister at the Church of Universal Fellowship in Orono, Maine. This church has identified itself as a Christian Community Church and believes that it is on the cutting edge of ecumenical Christianity by being “post-denominational”.

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Rediscovering a Passionate, Converted Christian Faith

PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY in our time has emerged through two related but distinct processes. One is a process of paring away: Christians, over the last couple of centuries, have realized that many elements of our Western culture are not essential to – or even compatible with – Christian life and belief, and we have sought to shed them. We have looked hard at the false claims of government absolutism, of slavery, of racism, misogyny and homophobia and have rejected them.

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The War on Terrorism

In the grip of the grief, rage, and fear that were evoked by the September 11 attack on the United States, many people turned to God. Churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques were filled with worshipers seeking comfort and meaning in the wake of the tragedy. Seeking God in moments of extreme distress may be a healthy instinct, but such behavior has a dark side.

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An Armchair Guide to Exploring the Interface Between Science and Religion

How should science and theology be related to each other? How does our
scientific knowledge fit or not fit with what we think we know about
God and the sacred? Author Graham Kelder surveys recent publications dealng with science and spirituality.

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The Church of Sweden in a Time of Challenges

The Church of Sweden’s situation in its Western European context could be described by statistics. However, I want to start with my own experience. Deep in my memory, I have an experience of physical and existential pain. It is also a story of challenges and vocation.

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The Story of the Magi: Biblical Origins of Anti-Semitism

When Alexander Pope wrote about the dangers of a little learning, he might not have had the Bible in mind. In the eighteenth century, few people realized or cared that Christians who knew the Bible primarily through what they heard in church were absorbing a prejudice against the Jews. What they learned from the Bible strengthened their spiritual well being by convincing them of their moral superiority to the Jews. Their sense of superiority was all the justification Christians needed for pogroms, expulsions, forced conversions, and violence directed toward Jewish people. The question for progressive Christians today is this: Can we learn from the Bible without perpetuating antisemitism? As an attempt to come to grips with that question, I will focus on one particular story, the account of the wise men following a star to Bethlehem.

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The Virgin Mary is No Wonder Woman

Who was Charles Moulton? His name is not a household word but his creation is. Moulton is the man who in 1941 launched the career of a comic strip character who was know as Wonder Woman. Moulton was a psychologist. He was also the inventor of the lie detector. In an autobiographical note in the Wonder Women Archives Vol. 2, he describes himself as “an early feminist,” who believed that “a woman’s rightful place was as a world leader, not servant or helpmate.”

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By Whose Authority

The Bible–with all its strangeness, weirdness, and contradictions; its
metaphors, ironies and stupidities, its untidiness, its sprawling
nature, its boisterousness–is
well suited to this a more democratic definition of ‘authority.’

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Metaphorically-Challenged

Some people have problems with metaphors. The poet John Brehm had one of these metaphorically challenged people in a freshman class that was studying Matthew Arnold’s classic nineteenth-century poem Dover Beach, which likens the decline of organized religion to the outgoing tide of the “Sea of Faith”. To her complaint that the expression confused her, the teacher gently asked what confused her about it.

“I mean, is it a real sea?” she asked.

“You mean, is it a real body of water that you could point to on a map or visit on vacation?”

“Yes,” she said. “Is it a real sea?”

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