The Center For Progressive Christianity
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Are We Living the Progressive Dream?
Highlights from the Common Dreams 2 Conference
in Melbourne, Australia
May 2010
In This Issue
Coming Back to Earth, Geering
Event- DC Conference
With Or Without God, Vosper
The Challenge Progressive Thinking Is Making to the Church
Are We Living the Progressive Faith or Are We Just Dreaming?
Imagining a Future for the Bible in Tomorrow's Churches and a Post Christian World
Stepping out with the Sacred
Peter Kennedy's First Year in Exile
Featured Book
By: Lloyd Geering

Coming Back to Earth cover

The mainline churches in the Western world are declining, concludes Lloyd Geering, because they are "all out of step" with the modern secular world. This is not so much a result of the supposed renegade behavior of the secular world as the failure of the church to take the next steps in its path of faith. Abraham left his idols behind to go out into the unknown. In contrast, the churches reveal a lack of faith by insisting on an infallible Bible and a set of unchangeable doctrines tailored to an obsolete worldview. In Coming Back to Earth, Geering calls upon us to complete the work of the Second Axial Age by bringing the sacred-banished to an imaginary heavenly realm in the wake of the First Axial Age-back to earth.


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DC Conference:
June 11-14

Strategies for Liberals and Progressives for the Obama Years;
Creating The Caring Society: A Progressive Alternative to Tea Party Extremism and Corporate Domination of American Politics and Culture

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Featured Book

By: Gretta Vosper

With or Without God cover

God does not answer our prayers. Jesus is not the saviour who saved the world by dying for our sins. Simply put, Christianity is "love one another." Gretta Vosper, founder of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity and a minister in Toronto, believes that the church, as we have built it and known it, has outlived its viability. What she proposes in the provocative With or Without God is a radical change that lies at the heart of faith. The new church she envisions will play a viable and transformative role in the shaping of a future society. What will save the church from certain demise, Vosper argues, is a new emphasis on just and compassionate living. Without this reform, the church as we know it faces extinction.In a thoughtful and passionate discourse that speaks to a wide audience, Vosper tackles the issue that concerns so many of us today: how to find spiritual fulfillment, comfort and connection in the here and now. In the vein of Tom Harpur's The Pagan Christ, this is a book that dares to discard old doctrines but does so with respect and dignity. Vosper imagines a new church that leads in ethics-fostering relationships, meaning and values that are solidly rooted in our own best selves.

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Progressive Christian Children's Spiritual Curriculum is here!

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With Spiritual affirmations, fun activities that bring the lessons to heart, and an emphasis on behavior over belief-
not only is this not another curriculum that gives kids definitive answers on doctrine, but it is also not a curriculum that just tells kids how to behave. Rather, it gives them actual experiences that help them each discover truth for themselves.
With lessons on Stillness, Prayer, Forgiveness, Energy, Kindness, Gratitude
Harmlessness, Learning from Mistakes,Patience,
Concentration, Humility, Service, God as Light, and God as Love- this curriculum focuses on a joy filled path, compassion and the wisdom within.
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The Common Dreams 2 conference drew together people from Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world to explore ways that progressive religion including progressive expressions of other religious traditions besides Christianity  can contribute positively to the common good, so that religion enhances human life rather than diminishes it. 

The conference, which was attended by both Fred Plumer and Deshna Ubeda, was rich with inspiration and drew a crowd of around 600 people.  We left feeling excited about the future of progressive Christianity as well as hopeful for a richer understanding of this evolving path.  Therefore, we felt like sharing with you some of the highlights from the conference.

The Conference Planning Team was drawn from an international network of progressives under the chair of Rev Rex A E Hunt, founding director of The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought.
The first Common Dreams Conference was held in Sydney in 2007 when the two keynote presenters included internationally renowned theologian Bishop John Shelby Spong and ordained interfaith minister and renowned author Revd Stephanie Dowrick. 

Common Dreams 2 included such speakers as, Gretta Vosper,Rev Dr Francis Macnab, Dr Val Webb, Rev Professor Sir Lloyd Geering, Rev Dr Margaret Mayman, Dr Gregory C Jenks, Rabbi Aviva Kipen, and Fred Plumer. These presenters joined with several other local and international progressive religious speakers to offer keynote addresses and facilitate small group sessions and workshops around the Conference theme: Living the Progressive Dream.

Enjoy these inspired thoughts and we hope to see you at the next Common Dreams conference in 2013!
The Challenge Progressive Thinking Is Making to the Church
By: Gretta Vosper
Gretta VosperRev Gretta Vosper is a chair and founder of The Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity  and author of the provocative, bestselling book With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important Than What We Believe.  Renowned author Bishop John Shelby Spong, and key-note presenter at Common Dreams 1 Conference in 2007, has called her a "brilliant, insightful and courageous young woman one of the most exciting voices in 21st century Christianity" and the leading voice for a scholarly and progressive Christianity in Canada.

Summary: You'll recall that chasm that once existed between the pulpit and the pew - one we, the clergy, relied upon as we spun our theological mysteries and held the hands of the dying. As that chasm is erased, as more and more people in our pews become familiar with contemporary Christian scholarship and it is no longer the exclusive realm of the clergy, we have a choice to make.  Will we eradicate the chasm altogether, or will we merely shift it to the periphery of the church, to beyond the outer walls of our sanctuaries? The latter keeps us comfortable, strokes our time-proven scriptures, hymnody, rituals, and the beauty of our language and the images it describes.  But it keeps in place and, indeed, deepens the gulf between those in the church and those who have no idea what we are talking about or why it makes a difference.  A progressive perspective is honest.  A progressive perspective is courageous.  In this sense, a progressive perspective utilizes another trait in order to become accepted.  It is respectful.  And finally, a progressive perspective must be balanced. 

Are We Living the Progressive Faith or Are We Just Dreaming?
By: Fred Plumer, TCPC President
Fred Plumer Summary: I have hope that something very special is happening in our world and I would like the Christian tradition to be part of that positive, evolutionary change. But I believe there are things that progressive leaders, progressive teachers and progressive Churches, have to do immediately, if that we are going to have a chance to make it work. First thing on the agenda is we need to develop another whole paradigm for our understanding of God. Secondly, it is time to publically reject that whole idea of substitutionary or vicarious Atonement theories and repent for the harm this religious relic has caused over the centuries.Thirdly, is time we actually observe and to listen to our young adults and begin to make changes that reflect their world and their needs instead of telling them about ours.

Imagining a future for the Bible in tomorrow's churches and a post-Christian world.
By: Rev Dr Gregory Jenks
Greg JenksRev Dr Gregory Jenks is Academic Dean at St Francis Theological College, Brisbane, an Anglican priest, and a religion scholar with a special interest in Biblical Studies, and particularly Christian origins. Greg's current research interests are focused on historical Jesus and Galilee in the early Roman period.

Summary: Jack Spong has attempted to rescue the Bible from fundamentalism and Marcus Borg has encouraged us to read the Bible again for the first time. However, the Bible remains a problematic text for religious progressives, including Christians and people from other faith traditions. This presentation will acknowledge the constraints on the capacity of the Bible to function in the post-Christian global era, but also imagine some ways in which the Bible may make a constructive contribution to progressive religious communities in the future.

Stepping out with the Sacred: Progressives engaging the Divine
By: Dr Val Webb
Val WebbDr Val Webb's professional career spans microbiology, business, public relations, writing, art and theology. Born and educated in Brisbane, she obtained a graduate degree in Microbiology from the University of Queensland and worked there in research. She wrote, Like Catching Water in a Net, Human Attempts to Describe the Divine and Why We are Equal and Florence Nightingale: The Making of a Radical Theologian.

Summary: In progressive religious thinking, old images of God have been retired and new metaphors for the Divine within the universe, whether Energy, Presence, Spirit, Sacred, Ground of Being, Life, have become more authentic for a scientific world. Yet, in a multi-faith world, we cannot speak of the Sacred infusing the universe without recognizing It as that sought and described in all religions. How do we engage this Divine within the world, or the Divine engage us, if at all, in a multi-faith world? How do human beings step out with the Sacred in everyday life across countries, cultures, and religious persuasions?

Peter Kennedy's First Year In Exile- An Interview
By: Peter Kirkwood
Peter KennedyThis interview with rebel Catholic priest, Peter Kennedy, took place almost exactly 12 months after his departure from St Mary's Parish in South Brisbane. Since leaving, he and his followers have formed a congregation outside the Catholic Church that they call St Mary's-in-Exile.
In the video, Kennedy refers to a book of essays recently published about him and his falling out with the Church.  Called Peter Kennedy: the Man who Threatened Rome, it is no mere hagiography. While most writers - and it includes heavyweights like Paul Collins, Martin Flanagan, Hans Kung and Joan Chittister - are in sympathy with him, there is an excellent chapter by Neil Ormerod, professor of theology at the Australian Catholic University, who is critical of Kennedy, and points out very clearly why he can no longer be considered part of the Church.
And that is a pity.  As the video shows, he is a man of some eloquence, conviction and charisma, well able to communicate to the broader culture.  In these days of shortage of priests, and crisis in the Church on a number of fronts, there is an urgent need for people with his abilities.

Peter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant who worked for 23 years in the Religion and Ethics Unit of ABC TV. He has a Master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Fred Plumer in Arizona
Is This a Movement or Are We Just Dreaming?
Sunday, June 13th
AzFCT logo cropped Here's a great chance to chat with the president of the Center for Progressive Christianity. 
Across the globe progressive Christianity is now being called a "movement."  Biblical and theological scholars are using "progressive Christianity" in their respective work..  Organizations and bloggers calling themselves progressive Christians are increasing at an exponential rate.  Progressive Christians gather all over the world in small and large groups.  It would be easy to think that those who have been working in this arena for decades have realized our dream.

Fred Plumer will posit that until we formulate a new, dynamic Christology, until we really begin to articulate the distinct differences between progressive and traditional Christianity, and until we speak openly about the damage that can be done in this world by traditional Christendom beliefs, we may still be just dreaming.

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.  We are coming into a time in which progressive Christianity yearns for a global community and we hope to provide the resources, networking, and support for those who desire to help create it.  We will soon be providing progressive liturgy and sheet music and as always we aim to offer the latest resources for those that choose a path based on intellectual integrity.  Whether you are a solo journeyer, or you are forming an intentional community, or you are looking for a progressive group or church, or you just want to connect with people all over the world, we hope you can turn to us for support.  And, please let us know what else we can do for you. 
Light and laughter to you today,
Fred Plumer and the team at The Center For Progressive Christianity 253-303-0022
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