Saturday, March 2, 2013

Progressive Christianity

Well, so much for the good intentions and the blather about writing more often. I think it must be over a week since I last wrote, although I haven't actually checked. Be that as it may, here I am again, Saturday afternoon after spending the morning over at my church listened to a man named Welton Gaddy speak for three hours about progressive Christianity. He was great. Susan and I want to hear him last night when he spoke just down the street from us. Gaddy heads up the national Interface Alliance in Washington DC. He also pastors a church and Monroe, Louisiana, and I was amazed to learn that there are actually progressive Christians there. This little snippet about him barely does him justice, but it will not be long before his talks of last night and today are put up on our web site and you can listen for yourself.

This understanding of Christianity has become my new rock. I went for so long feeling almost alienated in the Catholic Church, that it's just such a comfort just to be with people who don't cause me stress or tension, who tend to see the world like I do and who aren't afraid of either ideas or ideas that don't agree with their own. And who also understand the practice of Christianity the way I do. The practice not the belief system, which is non-essential, although it's the litmus test for many denominations. I talked briefly about the subject of progressive Christianity not too long ago: you can check it out here. So I'll not go over it again--others can do it much better than I; I'm just a neophyte-- but I would like to point you to some resources on the web in case you're interested in learning more about this. I'm absolutely convinced that there are scores and scores if not hundreds and hundreds of churchgoing and non-churchgoing people who need to hear about this. I cannot help but think that this is the kind of religion that would make sense to my children, my son-in-law, and my grandson, all of whom reject traditional Christianity, not to mention Roman Catholicism, as not relevant to their lives.

So the resources. Try these, and in all cases consult the "resources" section:
Finally, here's a good presentation of the central tenets. Different progressive congregations will put it differently than these people at the Progressive Christian Alliance, but this is pretty much the core of it.

pcabeliefs  Jesus’s central message is about radical inclusion, thus we welcome anyone to participate in our fellowship without judgment or forcing them to conform to our “likeness” or affirm our creeds in order to be accepted. We invite and offer all a place at the table – no exceptions.

  • Faith is not about concrete answers, religious absolutes, creeds, or dogma. Faith is about the search for understanding, the raising of important questions, the open honesty of having doubt, and the realization that no one has it all completely right nor does any human hold all the answers. We seek to follow the advice found in 1st Thessalonians 5:21, which is to “seek truth out in all things and hold firmly onto that which is good.” Religious absolutes of dogma, legalism, and strict doctrine become stumbling blocks and “litmus tests” for who is “in” and who is “out” of the circle of God’s grace. These false tests that Jesus never required get in the way of truly following Jesus and his teachings.
  • Following Jesus is counter-cultural, radical, and disrupts the status-quo. The good news of the gospel is intentional in its inclusion of those who are traditionally marginalized and refused by Mainline Christianity.
  • The words of Jesus found in the gospels – specifically, what he states are the greatest commandments: “Love God with all of your essence and love your neighbor as you should love yourself” – are to be the focus for any disciple of him. We submit the rest of Scripture to the position of “sacred commentary.”
  • Recognition and affirmation of the differing belief systems of others, whose faiths offer a way into relationship with God and call upon them to further God’s love and grace on the earth, is crucial. Jesus revealed this path in the acts and works of the Gospel According to Matthew, chapters 5-7; and demonstrated this inclusion on many occasions – including in his witnessing and affirmation of the Samaritan woman, whose culture and people were looked down upon for worshipping God in a different way (the Gospel According to John 4:1-42). As Jesus taught and revealed through example, any “spiritual” or “non-spiritual” person adhering to this way of life are indeed furthering the Reign of God and God’s message of radical love and inclusion here on earth. As Jesus said, “Anyone who is for us cannot be against us” (the Gospel According to Mark 9:39-41).
  • Creating fellowships and communities that are dedicated to lifting up, affirming, and equipping one another for the work the Spirit of God has called us to in Micah 6:8: active peacemaking, striving for justice and equality of all people and nations, loving those who are labeled by our government, society, and – at times – ourselves, as “enemies,” caring for God’s creation, and bringing hope to the poor and poverty-stricken.
  • God created humans with a brain capable of discovery and reason. God does not require us to “check our brains at the door,” along with our coat and hat in order to be a part of the faith. Faith and Science are not in conflict; they are in harmony. The Bible is not a Science textbook and should never be taken as such. We affirm that if God is truth, then any discovery we make about ourselves, our origins, or the way the universe was created has come from God and should not be viewed as heresy.
  • The Church is not simply a four-walled institution, but a ministry without walls that surrounds and encompasses everything, everywhere we go. Our brothers and sisters are not only those who label themselves as “Christian,” but are everyone we meet. Ministers and adherents of the Progressive Christian Alliance recognize that their ministry does not begin only when they are behind a pulpit or that their witness is only conveyed through spoken word; but their ministry extends to all places and their witness is conveyed by their actions.
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