Study Guide for the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity 2012

This Study Guide has been re-edited and re-printed.
This edition is the second printing.

Click here to purchase the digital version of The Study Guide


By: Fred Plumer, Author and President


This Study Guide is for the third edition (2011) of the “8 Points” that have both identified and guided since the organization’s founding in 1994.


It 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 “8 Points.” 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 “8 Points” 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 In another words, we are not trying to challenge creedal thinking and outdated dogma with a new creed.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 8 Points Flyer, a Reflection Preface by Jim Burklo, an Introduction on What is Progressive Christianity by Gretta Vosper, and a Personal Note from the Author, by Fred Plumer. Each section has the 8 Point, 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…


Point 4 — Know that the way we behave towards others 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.



Review & Commentary

  • Nancy Smith

    One version of the 8 points was “right on” for me; the latest version not so much. Who are your advisors? Are they named somewhere? All of us human beings have prejudices and perspectives, some claimed and some not recognized. That is why I would appreciate knowing who are the people who shape the points. Thanks.

  • DeDe Murcer Moffett

    Thank you for your courage in a world of sheeple gladly following the furry little butts in front of them!
    You and Bishop Spong are mavericks and pave the way for so many who won’t Wake Up, Stand Up and Snap Out of It! Thank you again!!!

    • Deshna Ubeda

      Ain’t that the truth!! Let the lions emerge!

      • anthony l. jacobs

        I have become acquainted with Progressive Christianity within the last four to five years and have found the information to be extremely helpful in my efforts to move from Biblical literalism to an understanding of Christianity as taught by Jesus and his apostle versus the theology of Paul of Tarus who emphasized the need for redemption from sins through the blood of Jesus as required by his Father due to the sin of Adam and his offspring.

  • John Pitney

    I guess I’m way late here, but I am totally with Nancy Smith. I find there is much less to talk about in the new version of the 8 points and several of the revisions take the power out of the Jesus Way for me. Namely the removal of “the way to God’s realm” takes away, for me, the over-againstness of the Jesus community in a time when realm and empire run rampant over ordinary people and creatures. It’s important to affirm another realm. In the same way the changes in what was #4 and deleting “without insisting that they become like us” removes reference to actions that the conventional church takes all the time and we can relate to. I was really disappointed to see reference to the “costliness” of following disappear from the last point. And, finally, deletion of “conscientious resistance to evil and renunciation of privilege” really removes the sense of call to an alternative culture. It helps affirm that we can’t really be serious about doing justice unless we change our own ways. Without conscientious resistance to the frantic, consumptive, in-your-face, oppressive American sense of entitlement we have a wonderful friendly suburban manifesto of a community where people are nice to each other even with the 1%-99% chasm between Lazarus and his dominator. Without renunciation of privilege it almost makes pointless everything that comes before.

    • Fred Plumer

      John, I too wish you had joined in the earlier conversations before we posted the last version of the 8points. It might have made a difference. In the meantime you should be able to access of the last version of the 8Points along with the Study Guide on our website. If not contact me directly and I will send you a file you can reprint.
      I also want to respond to your comments. They deserve some explanation.
      1) For some time now our readers have been challenging us to explain what we mean by “God.” As you may know it is a term that Biblical scholars are debating as I write. I did attempt to address this concern in the Study Guide and I hope you at least read that. Having said that if I were to rewrite the Study Guide today I would put the term God’s Realm back with a footnote explaining what we don’t mean. I assumed with help of the Study Guide most people would realize that this is what we mean when we use the terms Sacred, Oneness or Unity, all capitalized.
      2) I believe you are referring to Point #3 here. We started with the goal to shorten number three since the long list seemed bulky. However although it seemed unnecessary to us, I think if you had made that point during our discussions the committee may have agreed. However the key point here was to achieve radical egalitarianism (in Crossan’s words) or complete inclusiveness. One of the members made the point that they welcomed a recovering child abuser but would insist that he acted like them while he was there.
      3)”the removal of costliness” It seemed obvious at the time that to pursue a life of true and complete compassion and a willingness to seek justice for all will always be costly. However I must admit that when I read that point again through your eyes I think it might be interpreted as a little too easy. I think we will make that more clear in the next version.
      4)”conscientious resistance to evil and renunciation of privilege” We had more comments, complaints from readers and debates on this one portion than any other. The first issue was what do we mean by evil and who are we to determine that? I think many of the readers were concerned that we were replicating President Bush’s comments about the evil empire. But we had far more people concerned about the word renunciation. Most people felt that if we not willing to give up our lovely homes and go live on the streets than we were being hypocritical. My vote would have been to add something like “willing to renounce our assumption of privilege.
      John when I read all of your comments together I see where you might assume that we have gotten a little soft. That was not the intent but was rather to assume that any time one is led to a new experience and awareness of the utter interconnectedness of all life, call it what you want, that their lives will be radically changed and it can be dangerous to resist the norm. But anyone who follows this radical path can and will experience the Realm here and now. We take your comments seriously. Thank You.

      • Grant Lynn Ford

        I too had feelings of nostalgia when the 8 points underwent revision. How very human of me. But the curious part of that same humanity made me rethink the whole business… and that got me thinking things through again. When I get too comfortable with the new points I hope you’ll change things up again. Keep me thinking! Helps keep me ‘progressing.’

  • JPO

    Is there an ebook version of this available?

  • Jamieson Spencer

    No quarrel with any of your points, but perhaps you are being unnecessarily political in drawing attention to your ideals. For number 3 for example, why congratulate yourself on welcoming differing sexual orientations? Once you say “all are welcome,” why trumpet your particular preferences? It becomes a political statement, not simply a clear invitation to what the BCP got right: “all sorts and conditions of men [and women!]”
    #8: 1) isn’t compassion “selfless love”? 2) doesn’t 8 subsume #5?

  • Brandon Harris

    I do not think we are being political. I think we should welcome everyone. I have read the Four Gospels in the Holy Bible and none of them said anything about homosexuality. I think that we should welcome these people and love them like everyone else and not judge them because of their sexual orientation. I believe that people are born with their own sexual orientation. I do not believe that people choose to be Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual or Transgender. I believe people are born that way. People who are Gay cannot change from being Gay any more than we can change from being Heterosexual.

    • Randall

      And if they could change then we would be right to reject them? I don’t think so. Sexual/gender identify is very complicated and probably more fluid than we imagine. It has, however, nothing to do with the rightness of our extravagant welcome. In that, I think Jamieson has a valid point.

  • I would like to see the word “evolving” or “flexible” or “suggested” inserted into the title of “The Eight (evolving) Points.” I didn’t order this earlier because it sounded like a set of dogmas. Then I received a copy at a Fred Plumer event and was delighted to find it open, evolving and flexible. The current title is too rigid for most progressives!

  • Marilyn Currier

    I have a question that may or may not be labelled Progressive Christianity. I have only recently discovered your writings and agree wholeheartedly with most of your ideas. I have recently discovered a book, “The Jesus Papers,” in which the authors alleges that Jesus survived the crucifixion. This turns Cristianity on its head – doesn’t it? I can’t decide if it’s worth my time trying to decide what parts of it to believe. Marilyn Currier.m,JA

  • Jack Senter

    I am really curious about your groups response to the act of the incarnation which it seems is crucial to the Christian faith., or is it ?? As far as I can see, most of your writings deal only with the human nature of Jesus, with no reference to the divine nature . Does one of your 8 Points address this topic??

    • MASNBG

      Progressive Christianity is a form of religious naturalism – there is no God, no afterlife and no resurrection. Both Gretta Vosper and Fred Plumer are atheists.

  • ltcajh

    “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Paul, Galatians 1:8