The Center For Progressive Christianity
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Review- Christianity Reformed From Its Roots
Reader Response: "Perplexed"
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Spring Resources
Q & A with Bishop Spong
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Feature Review
Christianity Reformed From its Roots

By: Jairo Mejia
Review by: Gerald Grudzen, Ph.D

book cover Excerpts
The scope of this book is very wide and comprehensive and goes well beyond the title for much of the book deals with what Thomas Aquinas called Natural Theology or Philosophical Theology.  Even though the first part of the book draws heavily upon biblical scholarship and biblical themes, the author's thesis seems to center upon how to reform Christianity in light of the revolutions that have occurred in our historical and scientific understanding of the Bible, Christian dogmas and the very nature of scientific and religious truth statements. He points out very well that organized religions such as Christianity have developed elaborate dogmatic structures that cannot be easily verified within the biblical canon. He claims that many of the honorific titles for Jesus were later developments and that Jesus himself did not claim any divine title for himself but lived fully within the Jewish faith of his time which would have precluded any such claim.  Much of the early part of the book attempts to develop a spirituality based upon the relationship with God (Yahweh) that Jesus had in his own earthly life insofar as we can reconstruct it within the Gospels.

Read Review Here
New Feature Book
Children Praying a New Story

A Resource for Parents, Grandparents and Teachers
By: Michael Morwood

book cover

Michael Morwood's previous books have received wide acclaim for helping adult Christians to re-imagine and re-evaluate their faith in light of the contemporary "story" about our universe. That story and Morwood's writings challenge Christians to expand their notion of God beyond a localized, personal deity and to embrace belief in an all-pervasive Mystery beyond our human concepts. They challenge Christians to review any understanding of Jesus as the unique "way" to a localized God and to know him as the revealer of this Mystery in our everyday living and loving.

Morwood's books have been especially insightful and helpful to adults struggling with prayer and ritual while radically reconstructing their Christian faith.
This book is for adult Christians engaged in this shift, now asking the vital questions:
How do we educate children into this new faith perspective?
How do we pray with them if prayer is not about addressing an external, listening Deity?

Purchase Book Here
More Readers Respond

Dear TCPC,
I enjoyed this eBulletin but have to confess I hang on to Christianity by my fingertips.  Having been a Roman Catholic I had awful problems with its teaching on birth control, having been raped as a child and being only too good at carrying dead children.This church made me feel that Christianity was not for women.  I couldn't believe that God would be so clumsy as to create one half of us second class citizens because our gender did not match his Son.  I see Jesus as my guru, I want to follow his teaching as far as I am capable but I don't believe in the Incarnation.

Dear Victoria,
I suppose that you could go to lot of churches that would call you heretical but it sounds to me that you are taking your guru Jesus pretty seriously. Over the years I have found this issue sadly ironic. Here we have a young teacher who put himself in harm's way, in part, because he was trying to teach people that God that did not require ritual cleansing or a priestly hierarchy. In other words, he made it clear that we did not need a broker to have a relationship with God. And within a couple of centuries we had men (yes I mean gender here) who were insisting that the only way one could "restore" a relationship with God was through one's belief in Jesus Christ as your savior or in other words through a new broker. Ultimately the Roman church became the real "power broker" and the rest is history.   

More Quotes From Our Readers

April 2009

I am not certain why last month's eBulletin, "Recovering Christians," generated so much email but we were surprised. It was a nice surprise because overall it was very supportive.  We always get few responses after an eBulletin goes out. After all, it does go out to close to 12,000 subscribers every month. But the sad fact is that the emails and a few phone calls usually trickle in for the first few days after publication and they usually amount to something like, "nice article" or "stupid article" or "I am with you on that one" or "where did you get such idiotic ideas? I thought you were educated." I won't even bother to mention the "crazy Christians," as we sometimes refer to them, who threaten us or remind us that we are going to hell.

But for some reason last month's eBulletin stimulated nearly ten times the email, phone calls and even a couple of "snail mail" letters than we normally receive. Maybe more importantly, most were unusually well thought out and very supportive. Some were from people who wanted to share their painful experiences in fundamental churches and their successful road to recovery. Others were from people who have been looking for ways to talk to a friend or loved one who was still angry at God, at the church, or at Christianity, because of the religious abuse that they had experienced as a child.  One reader wanted to know why we ran such a "negative article" by Steven Locks about leaving Christianity but then went on to admit that it was probably the most interesting article in the entire publication.  We put that on the positive side.

After reading these responses we felt that we should devote a major portion of this eBulletin to posting selective representation of the mail and addressing as many of them as we could.  It is our hope that some of these exchanges will stimulate more responses from others. We are working on a way to post those on our site on a regular basis. As I wrote in a reply to one reader, "progressive Christianity is a work in process and my hope is that it will never be will never be finished...never be codified." But that will be up to readers like you and even to people who have not yet begun their journey on this earth. There is no question that Christianity will change or die and it will be up to people like you to decide if it is worth the time and energy. I hope you think so.

President Fred
Featured Reader Response
"Perplexed" by: Reverend R

Jesus Buddha statue Excerpts
Dear Fred,
When a religion (or family of religions) like "Christianity" can mean anything people by some kind of collective consensus want it to mean can it still mean anything at all? That's my dilemma with the current state of the theological discourse in this global age where all lines are both diverging and converging.
Many of the liberal progressive folks I know in the secular public university and my "latte sipping" community have long ago opted out of the "Christian cultural-linguistic game" altogether and have become either Epicurean Gourmands,  Secular Humanists, Process New Thought, Global Mystics, Unitarian Universalists, or else they define themselves as Unaffiliated Life-Long Learners and Spiritual Seekers who have turned from organized religion to an integral "cultural creative" lifestyle that synthesizes an interest in spirituality, philosophy, literature, history, arts, science, psychology, sociology, economics, politics, cosmology and ecology.
Critics might ask why one would choose to be a "Progressive Christian" when the whole thing looks like a cultural construction and psychological Rorschach test by people who need to legitimize their philosophical ideology and social values through obscure theological weasel words, "the personality of Jesus" and a liberally hip Gnostic Christ? Do Progressive Christians really believe that secular and "spiritual but not religious" social liberals are going to be drawn back to "Christianity" by holding radically immanent theological assumptions and progressive social views that secular folks already hold, but without any need or desire to identify these assumptions and values as distinctly or uniquely "Christian?" If so, I can only say "Really?"

Dear Reverend R,
Clearly Jesus was one of these people and the one that I personally relate to the most.  It seems clear to me that we have allowed the church to interpret Jesus' teachings as commandments and dictates, rather than responses to the question: "And how do I experience the Kingdom or Realm of God that you experienced, Rabbi?"  His teachings were not about avoiding suffering in some place after we die, but rather how do we experience life in union with God or how do we experience Sacred Unity or heaven on When we begin to see the words of Jesus as a teacher of a way of living, relating and being, a lot of things that never made sense before begin to make sense.  Jesus did not have a systematic theology, and he would have been embarrassed, if not insulted, by the Christology that came out of the Forth Century church.  But I believe he would have been perfectly comfortable being known as an honored teacher of a way of seeing, hearing and being that could bring about a deep experience of the Holy.  I believe part of the revelation that often comes from such an experience is the discovery that we are all in God and that God is in us. 

The Christian contemplatives have known about this for centuries.  St. John of The Cross (1542-91) once wrote: "The soul that is united and transformed in God, breathes God in God with the same divine breathing with which God, while in her, breathes her in himself." Do I have to create or adhere to some theological construct to have this experience? I don't think so. In fact, I believe we risk the chance of limiting these kinds of experiences when try and put them in a theological box or wrap them in concrete, descriptive language.

Read Summarized Discussion Here
Readers Respond and Discuss on Facebook

flower opening Join in on the discussion! It is a great way to respond to what TCPC is doing and gain insight from other progressive Christians.
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From: Adrian Gibb (Australia)
I am curious as to the thoughts of members of this group about the concept of substitutionary atonement, or sacrifice, or penal sacrifice, all the above I guess. The Eastern Orthodox Churches seem not to prescribe to this concept, and two of my progressive heroes Borg and Crossan insist that the crucifixion should not be about this substitutionary idea. Spong goes as far, if I remember correctly, to label this concept as nothing short of an archaic notion of blood sacrifice to appease a wrathful god. Yet it must be said that, at least prima facie, that the notion of substitutionary atonement is quite an established aspect of the power of the crucifixion and resurrection, at least to many of us from the Catholic/Protestant churches. I wonder if the passion narrative loses something with a rejection of this idea?
Response from: Marcos Arroyos
I side with Spong on this issue. A God that would require a blood sacrifice doesn't deserve my worship. I see the crucifixion as a political execution much like still goes on in the world today. I can have a meaningful experience of the passion without having to include substitutionary atonement.  The Roman Empire dealt with dissidents ruthlessly. I find more meaning in considering who plays the role of the Empire today and who plays the role of Pilate. It seems to me that the gospel writers sort of let the Romans off of the hook by blaming it on the Jews. I think they let them off of the hook, because they had just experienced Roman power with the destruction of the temple and the war in the 70s. Telling the story so that Pilate did what the crown demanded sort of cleans up the real situation, and helps the fledgling community to stay viable. In other words, they didn't want to raise Rome's ire again.

Some of our recent discussions also include the following topics:

Our Readers Respond: Any thoughts?
Spring Resources
Earth Day Meditation
By Bob Kleinheksel
We pray, pause and meditate; we breathe deeply of these moments knowing full well the weightiness and beauty of the scene we share: Men, women, friends and family to our right and left, in front and back. Safely in a place where all are welcome. A place all can sit hand in hand, arm in arm no matter who we are and where we've been. We also know this place and time as a crucible for imagining, learning and acting - thinking globally, acting locally. Let us all be comforted, challenged, called out, set free to be all we can be - to be the change we wish to see in the world - to be the difference toward justice, inclusion, eco-sensitivity, hospitality and liberation on all fronts. Amen to spring, to rebirth, to colors; Amen to the beauty of the earth and the lessons to be learned and shared during this earth season. 

My Name
By Mark Strand, The New Yorker, April 11, 2005
One night when the lawn was a golden green
and the marbled moonlit trees rose like fresh memorials
in the scented air, and the whole countryside pulsed
with the chirr and murmur of insects, I lay in the grass
feeling the great distances open above me, and wondered
what I would become---and where I would find myself-
and though I barely existed, I felt for an instant
that the vast star-clustered sky was mine, and I heard
my name as if for the first time, heard it the way
one hears the wind or the rain, but faint and far-off
as though it belonged not to me but to the silence
from which it had come and to which it would go.

Question and Answer with Bishop Spong, TCPC Advisor
Jesus the teacher Question About The Historical Jesus

Irving Letto from Nova Scotia, Canada, writes:
If, as you have suggested, there was no literal empty tomb and the miracle stories do not describe events that actually happened in history, what was there about Jesus that so deeply captivated the first disciples? Is there something about the Jesus of history to which I can point today that anchors one as a Christian to see Jesus as an icon of faith?

Dear Irving,
Since I think that we can document that both the empty tomb story and the miracle stories included in the gospels are later additions to the Jesus story, your question actually carries us into the Jesus experience. It was the Jesus experience that caused people to see him as victorious over death and as the messianic figure around which the miracle stories gathered.

I see the primary Jesus experience as being that of a boundary breaker. His humanity and his consciousness seem to me to be so whole and so expanded that he was able to escape the basic human drive of survival that binds so many of us who are less fully developed. Unlike us, he appeared to need no security barrier behind which to hide. He could thus step across the boundaries of tribe, prejudice, guilt and even religion into a new dimension of what it means to be human and this is what caused people to experience God present in him. His call to us is therefore not to be religious but to be human and to be whole.

That is what every gospel symbol, from his miraculous birth to his empty tomb, is seeking to convey, so we read them as doorways into the meaning of God.
- John Shelby Spong
Thank you for taking this journey with us as we continue to encourage the growth and understanding of a Christianity that is open, inclusive, just, loving and compassionate.  As you delve deeper into the heart of this beautiful and authentic spiritual path, we hope you share it with those around you, educate those who desire to learn, and most importantly let it fill you with light and loving kindness.
Fred Plumer
and the Team at The Center For Progressive Christianity, (253) 303-0022

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