Watch for details when it is released.
In 2017 we celebrated both the 40th Anniversary of the Uniting Church in Australia and the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Europe.
These seminal events were worth celebrating, not because they defined forever how we should understand and define the nature of the church and of Christian faith, but because they were declarations of exactly the opposite, namely that “the church” must be under constant reformation.
The very last thing we ought to do is to assume or believe that the so-called “truth” arrived at at a certain point in history is the final truth about either faith or life. The evil and ignorance of such a position is of course best illustrated by the tragedy of Christendom, the approximately 1200 years that preceded the Reformation when Church and State were co-terminus, and when the church decided on what was truth, not only in the religious sphere, but in every human field of knowledge and endeavour, including science and law.
Without the Protestant Reformation the vast advances in human knowledge and well-being that we enjoy today may not have occurred. The “Enlightenment” itself would have been a much greater struggle without this challenge to the church’s control of all truth.
I have no desire to return to the Reformation’s re-definitions of Christian faith and church. They are as dated and imperfect as that which preceded it, which was largely defined by a very flawed, political and academic process which occurred in 325CE under the Roman Emperor Constantine, a definition of Christian faith and expression of church that bears little resemblance (if any) to the foundational events of Christianity in the early decades of the Common era.
The Uniting Church came into being, however, not to reform the churches’ doctrinal positions nor to escape coercive and corrupt leadership and practices, as in the 15th century, but because of an overwhelming ecumenical spirit that saw the scandal of competing denominations of common “free church” or non-conformist origin, and because of a mutually held, and in hindsight naïve and impossible dream of ultimately moving on to greater Christian union with Anglicans and others.
It was precisely this dream that lay behind the Uniting Church’s expression of it’s faith in the “Basis of Union”. Two significant factors guided the expression and content of “The Basis”. The first and most significant was the deliberate calculation that other, especially larger denominations such as the Anglicans, would not take us seriously if we did not, like them, stand under a largely universally accepted definition of faith such as the historic Nicene Creed, which we carefully re-expressed in the Basis of Union.
Second was the purely accidental fact of history that the young “turks” of the three negotiating non-conformist churches (over-represented on the Joint Commission preparing for the union of their respective churches) were largely, if not entirely, the product of a Barthian theological education and who were moving away from their denominational roots to a neo-orthodox theological position. I have to confess that I was one of them at that time, but not myself on the Joint Commission.
Also on the Joint Commission were a number of senior Congregational representatives who were alarmed, both by this step backward to neo-orthodoxy, but equally by any effort to appear to limit the possibilities of a growing, on-going understanding of the truth, or, as some would have put it, the on-going revelation of the Holy Spirit, and the findings of new scholarship.
These insightful representatives of both the Reformation spirit and of their non-conformist heritage, deliberately fought for the inclusion of para. 11 in the Basis of Union, to ensure that that Basis did not in the future restrict the Uniting Church’s ability to respond to new ways that the Holy Spirit might be leading us, and the new discoveries and insights into our origins and our faith that contemporary and future scholarship would inevitably bring us.
The young neo-orthodox “turks” on the Joint Commission would not themselves have introduced para 11. For them the “Basis of Union” was not simply to be the basis on which we came together or united, but the on-going permanent basis of the Uniting Church. So, if they had to bow to the Congregationalist insistence about para 11 it was imperative that it be drafted with sufficient ambiguity to both satisfy the non-conformists, but to allow some of its interpreters 40 years later to misunderstand, and hence misinterpret, the original purpose of its inclusion in the Basis. Fortunately, the uniting document is correctly called the Basis of Union (i.e. the basis on which we agreed to come together), not The Theological Basis of the Uniting Church.
As readers can see, the practical effect of the neo-orthodox majority on the Joint Commission was to reject the foundational principles of reformation of the three non-conformist traditions they were there to represent, in favour of a return to orthodoxy, along with the impossible dream of a return to the bosom of mother church.
So, the Uniting Church, born out of a great ecumenical vision and hope, has effectively managed to deny both the reformation and non-conformist traditions which the three uniting churches had nurtured and expressed for hundreds of years. And it has replaced its ecumenical vision and reforming spirit with a craven desire to be accepted as orthodox by the other branches of the church universal.
Thus the Uniting Church, through some mistaken view that the Holy Spirit has spoken definitively and for all time in 325CE, and fortunately also in the Basis of Union, is afraid to embrace contemporary movements of reform or contemporary scholarship that doesn’t fit with Constantinian or Barthian presuppositions.
There never was only one interpretation of church and gospel until Nicea; and to equate Nicea with the guidance of the Holy Spirit is not only heresy, it is also blasphemy. Diversity, freedom and the necessity of on-going reformation are essential to the Reformation and non-conformist tradition. Since Constantine, uniformity, authority and institutional bureaucracy have been the defining marks of orthodoxy, and are alive and well in the Uniting Church.
It would seem that the Uniting Church has left it too late to reclaim its heritage, especially its Congregational heritage which regrettably was never understood by the other two partners, and has been completely lost in the Uniting Church. But if our church is to have a future it needs to move on from the Basis of Union as para 11 of the Basis encourages it to do.
While the Uniting Church in Australia has many strengths that flow from its greater size and resources, it has failed entirely in its reforming function that its three former denominations once represented in the life of the church at large and the community in which it lives.
Non-conformity is now dead in Australia, and the Uniting Church is moving rapidly towards the same fate.
The Story that Defines Us
Sunday, February 11, 2018
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, is not the Bible’s oldest book. Genesis’ two accounts of creation were compiled in their present form as late as 500 BC. During this period, the Jews were likely in exile in Babylon, where they were exposed to multiple creation stories.
Two excellent teacher friends of mine, Walter Wink (1935-2012) and Rob Bell (b. 1970), both describe one of the most popular stories of that time, the Babylonian Enuma Elish. It describes creation happening after a battle between two gods. The male god kills the female god, then tears her body apart and uses half of her to create the heavens and half to create the earth.
Both teachers point out that the driving engine of this story is violence, carnage, and destruction. So, the exiled Jews decided to write down their own oral tradition, surely to stay cohesive as a tribe among all the competing influences from Babylonians and others. In the Judeo-Christian story of Genesis 1, God—who is “Creator” in verse 1, “Spirit” in verse 2, and “Word” in verse 3 (foretastes of what we would eventually call Trinity)—creates from an overflowing abundance of love, joy, and creativity. Humanity’s core question about our origins is whether the engine of creation is violence and destruction or overflowing love, joy, and creativity. Is our starting point love and abundance or is it fear and hatred? How we begin is invariably how we end and how we proceed. Our creation story is important.
The Judeo-Christian creation story says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26) out of generative love. The focus is original blessing instead of original sin (which comes two chapters later, in Genesis 3). We are first sent out with cosmic hope rather than a big problem that must be solved. The Holy Spirit holds this divine image within every created thing, and becomes its “soul.” It drives us toward “life, and life more abundantly” (John 10:10). When we start in a positive way instead of with a problem, there is a much greater chance we will remain positive as we move forward. Even the business world today knows that a vision statement must precede and inform the mission statement. As Matthew Fox taught many years ago, Christianity’s contrived “Fall-Redemption” spirituality  just keeps digging us into a deeper and deeper hole (my words!). We must return to our original “Creation Spirituality” for the foundational reform of Christianity.
by John L Walker
The author, Dr John Walker, in his seventies, has been a professor of religion and languages, a university administrator, religious leader, prison religious counsellor, public speaker, author and mystic. He and his wife live in California.
“Maybe there is a Creative Power that really is the energy, is the gravity, is the rock, and is the fusion process in the stars. Maybe there is no separation between Spiritual and Physical. Maybe everything that we see or measure physically and everything that we might sense or feel spiritually is really One, a Unity. If this is so, then Spirituality, a human term referring to an awareness of the Presence of the Divine, cannot be left out of scientific reasoning. At the same time, science can enhance an understanding of the concrete aspects of the spiritual.”
“Numinous” carries the idea of relating to the Spiritual Essence of things in non-rational ways. It refers to a creative force, a spiritual nature that inhabits, or even is, every material entity and is part of the Creative Force. It refers to the sense of the Presence of Divinity in everything, a Presence that exists in, as, and through everything that is manifest, including what is not known to us yet. The term sees all things as being made up of a Divinity that can be felt but not logically grasped by our human thinking at the present time.
“The Idea of God is perfectly logical”
All are welcome at the Caloundra Explorers’ examination of this idea on
SUNDAY 18th FEBRUARY at 5.30pm.
Venue: Caloundra Uniting Church
Enquiries or for more on the Sheridan article email John Everall.
“Philosophy, religion and theology are not topics usually aired in a major Australian newspaper. Thus Sheridan’s article, ‘Idea of God is perfectly logical’, is a rare exception to a general trend”.
“I take Sheridan’s challenge as a plea for serious intellectual thought, reflection, and cultural engagement. This requires enlightened leadership. It is pointless for clergy to hide behind their monologues. The one man band has had its day. Church members need to be treated as responsible adults who are able to set a collective church agenda and manage their own learning. It is a question of their ‘empowerment’ and taking responsibility for the christian agenda. I believe congregations sidestep this challenge at their peril!”
“Anyone raising awkward philosophical and religious questions is said to be overstepping the mark of what is acceptable. The demarcation line between the secular and the ‘non-material’ sphere is a fundamentally given! In contrast Sheridan believes philosophical and religious discourses have a valid place in the public domain and can elucidate the intellectual and cultural ‘concerns’ raised there.”
“Sheridan reminds his readers that there is more to living than the pursuit of pleasure. After all having a good time never lasts for long”. [Seminar leader]
For one critique of Sheridan’s argument go to: Online Opinion
The Explorers Group is set up to enable people to experience some of the challenge and intellectual stimulation available from the growing breadth of contemporary theology and emerging biblical scholarship. We get together to explore, discuss and debate within a safe, non-judgmental and structured environment, recently published writings and lectures from contemporary theologians, eminent scholars and others.
I appreciate the spirit and care for each other of Uniting (and other) church congregations. But equally I find church services call on me to say and do things I don’t believe.
What I find difficult is that the way the Bible is viewed fails to apply much of modern biblical scholarship. The Bible is still presented as the inspired word of God, when it is a collection of men’s (yes, men’s) thoughts about what we call God and is presented in a variety of literary forms and narrative settings. There is a part of the Hebrew Scriptures which is wrongly treated as identifying the Hebrew messiah with Yeshua.
And maybe we should stop translating “parthenos” as a woman who has not had sexual intercourse, rather than as just the young woman Mary was. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke may well be cases of writing to audience expectations.
We fail to recognise that the God of the Hebrew scriptures and the God of the New Testament are greatly different. By retaining stories about God from the Hebrew scriptures we muddy the New Testament view. The use of biblical texts which say “fear God” is unhelpful, retaining the Hebrew scriptures’ conception of God as quite different from the God of love. Ma
ny hymns reflect views which are out of step with modern understandings. There is still an insistence on including readings which sit ill with modern enlightened morality, especially in relation to the equality and roles of women.
We still talk in terms of worship and praise and adoration, even though our understanding of what the word God might mean has changed a lot (“logos” is just as properly translated as “concept” rather than “word”). Is the word “Lord” with its feudal connotations appropriate?
We need to drop readings which sit ill with modern science such as the two Genesis accounts of the origin of the world, and at least sometimes read astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s summary. Further, a story like the Gadarene swine story does not help people with mental illness, who have definite biochemical explanations for their condition.
We need to recognise that inspired writing about higher things did not cease in the fourth century AD, and that the choices made for the New Testament canon by the “patristic fathers” aren’t necessarily set in stone.
To the extent that a creed is needed, surely it needs to include the life and actions of Yeshua.
So in addition to innovations like Messy Church designed for children primarily, we need to introduce some other forms of meeting for those who feel embarrassed and uncomfortable with many aspects of the traditional form of church meeting and with the prescientific cosmology (but keeping the traditional approach for those who like it).
Many people today have been turned away from church by its failure to evolve along with human understanding. I am sure others could add to this.
Dr Richard Smith, Chair of the Western Australian Progressive Network wrote the following for the UCA WA Revive magazine in response to the WA Moderator’s challenge to practise Reformation. It was published along with a counterpoint by Rev Dr Michael Owen UC WA’s Systematic Theologian that presents the Church’s supernatural alternative.
On the 500th anniversary it is time to practice Reformation. In so doing we soon discover that Christianity from its earliest days was characterized by diversity. This eventually led to fragmentation of the Western Church, with the separation in the 5th Century of the Egyptian Copts and Far Eastern Nestorians, followed by the Eastern Orthodox in the 11th Century. Even before Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in the 16th Century, there were challenges to the authority of the Catholic Church in the 14th C, by English Papal critic, John Wycliffe and in the 15th C, by dissenting priest, Jan Hus of Bohemia.
Luther’s legacy of Sola Scriptura finds modern expression in the dogmas and doctrines of evangelical Christianity. In the WA Uniting Church, it is recognised in the Synod as PNEUMA, ‘Pastoral Network of Evangelicals Uniting in Mission Action’. These dogmas and doctrines enshrined in the Basis of Union, presuppose a parallel supernatural universe that is increasingly unrecognisable by the Australian population. However we need to recognise that the Reformation opened the door to independent thinking, which came to a head in the Enlightenment or “Age of Reason” in the 18th C, a cultural movement where human reason finally prevailed over the Church’s divine authority claimed by the Pope (for Catholics) or the Bible (for Protestants). According to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), this was humankind’s escape from the bondage to the obligatory thoughts of others, whether secular or religious. Kant became an early exponent of the idea that perpetual peace could be secured through universal democracy and international cooperation.
Critical study of the bible led to the recognition of its human origins which revolutionized biblical scholarship, enabling the scientific discoveries of evolution and the origin of the universe. This caused a fundamental division between the science and orthodox religious cosmologies. Study of this division, revealed that scientific reasoning was a consequence of monotheism expressed so clearly and succinctly in the opening chapters of the Bible, in which everything was thought to flow from one creative source and constitute a Universe. For example on the first day God created “Light”, 3 days before the physical light of the Sun. This “Light” became synonymous in John’s Gospel with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Such “light” in the 21st C is urgently needed to dispel the darkness of humankind’s apocalyptic scenarios such as nuclear war and human induced global warming. A truly worthy legacy of the Reformation for the Church in all its diversity to practice and bear witness to in the 21st C. This legacy finds expression in Progressive Christianity which urgently needs to be recognised by the UCA as a legitimate expression of Christianity as set out in the 8 points – borrowed from the Progressive Christian Network of Britain.
Recommendation: Seek collectively this formal recognition under Para 11 of the Basis of Union?
Our friends at Western Australia Progressive Christian Network, Progressive Christianity.Org in the USA and The Progressive Christianity Network Britain offer these eight points, not as a creed, but as an expression of the Christian life.
We are people who:
1. Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life;
2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;
3. Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:
Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
Believers and agnostics,
Women and men,
Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
Those of all classes and abilities;
4. Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;
5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;
6. Strive for peace and justice among all people;
7. Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;
8. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.
Everald is an Adjunct Professor at the QUT Centre for Future Environments, chair of the Longevity Innovation Hub, an Elder of the Uniting Church and Member of the Order of Australia.
Liz Little recently presented a homily to the congregation at St Mary’s in Exile in Brisbane. It was based on her experience in the Holy Land. She gives some insight into the challenges for progressives visiting the popular biblical places.
Last April I was lucky enough to join three friends to spend a couple of weeks walking in northern Israel – in the Galilee area.
Israel is a country I am drawn back to for some reason. I’ve been there on study tours before. This was the first walking visit. We did it the easy way, staying in guesthouses at the holy sites and carrying just day packs. We had our main luggage transported for us.
We walked first across country from Nazareth to Capernaum and then we walked around the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a lake, of course.
There were markers to show the way and we had a guide book and a compass and various maps. In spite of that, we didn’t always manage to stay on the cross country part of the track. It was wildflower season and sometimes the flowers were so prolific that they covered the track markers. At other times, the track was just poorly marked.
It didn’t matter that we were not always on track. We could often see our destination from the top of a ridge, even if it was 15 kilometres away.
I think we might have sometimes trespassed on private property when the track wasn’t obvious to us. But, there didn’t seem to be anyone around to care. We saw only two other walkers during the whole two weeks.
The walk was not hard, but some days were long and some days were hot. Some days were long and hot. All days were beautiful.
There is something about walking that nourishes the human spirit. It’s the rhythm of the movement and the challenges of the terrain and being out there in the landscape that seems to lift the spirit and engage the soul. The long walk provides time and space for one’s own inner thoughts. It brings to mind Narelle’s homily about human beings not human doings. A long walk allows for the experience of the now; an experience of wholeness and unity, of joy and peace; an experience of God.
Peter has pointed out from time to time that the word God has been tainted for many. In an attempt to understand the concept, religious teaching personified God, into a male of course. God was also presented as a judge, someone who would reward and punish and also as a puppeteer, someone who controls the world and what happens in it. God as the person, as the judge, as the puppeteer all imply that God is a separate entity; apart from human beings and apart from the world. None of those concepts seems to serve us adequately any more.
Lloyd Geering, a NZ Presbyterian minister and a scholar, explores the concept of God in his book Reimagining God. He says that God as the creator was once a useful way to explain the natural world, the seasons, the rains, the floods, crop growth, etc. (Geering 2014: 121) Over time, God the creator became God the controller, God the judge, God the puppeteer. As scientific knowledge developed, so did our understanding of the workings of the natural world and the traditional images of God became less and less convincing. Some people felt they had to choose between God and science.
And yet, for others, there is a sense that not everything about life and living can be explained by science or reproduced in a laboratory. For such people, there remains a dimension of life that is spiritual, a part of us that is inspired by the awe and the wonder of the universe, a part of us that is touched by the goodness of our fellow human beings; a part of us that senses something life giving in the human experience; a part of us that seeks to understand our place in the universe and our purpose in life. Continue reading
“The overwhelming and quite obvious issue is the decreasing relevance of our church to upcoming generations, as expressed in seriously falling church attendances and the notable aging of our church attenders.
We believe that the evidence suggests very strongly that the following are the basic issues to be addressed:
a) That the church needs to come to grips with the increasing intellectual maturity, expectations and discernment of recent generations of church people and the community generally. We must recognise and take advantage of this maturity when planning new directions for the church. We should recognise the reality of today, that the ‘heart cannot accept what the mind rejects”. Since the future visibility of the church will be determined primarily by the decisions of the members (through their decisions to accept or reject the offerings and programs of the churches), active consultation at the widest level with the people in the pews is critical to planning effective measures for the future church.
b) The evidence showing that the church has not kept pace with the massive societal changes which have occurred over recent decades, notably those which could loosely be called ‘post-modern’.
c) That the church has not dealt adequately with the divisiveness of the ideological split between the ‘conservative’ and the ‘progressive’ movements by emphasising sufficiently the commonality of the Gospel and the centrality of the teachings of Jesus. The UC FORUM seeks to address this split by offering a ‘safe place’ for all people to express, and act on, their views on these major challenges facing the church in the 21st Century.
d) That the pre-occupation with ‘clericalism’ has failed. The church must address its myopic and debilitating pre-occupation with impractical clerical ‘coaching’ models of leadership and encourage greater participation in growth, development, and direction by the general membership. A great deal of talent and commitment is being lost by this oversight and neglect of collaborative approaches. We believe that major cultural changes in the church will be necessary to address these issues adequately. We believe also that these changes will be welcomed in a very positive way by the overwhelming majority of people in the church.”
As always, we welcome comment about this statement.
There has been a wonderful response to the key question we posed last week. The question obviously touched a chord. Now we have the task of going through all of the material and putting all the suggestions into a useful document.
It is not too late to add your thoughts on the question: What practical initiatives will help the Church become a significant part of society, give integrity to its work and attract new members as followers of Jesus?
Send your thoughts to: Paul Inglis
Responses have come from all parts of our progressive networks – theologians, senior clergy, lay people, individuals, writers, lecturers and groups. Clearly people take seriously the need for the progressive voice to be heard.
This question is posed at a time when many people are asking What is the future for the Church?
Clearly we have many members who have given up on the church based on their experiences, but there are also many who are inspired by Jesus and see a future church as a great vehicle for presenting him authentically to the world.
There is now a good deal of urgency for a more practical focus by organisations like ours when trying to shift the agendas of faith communities towards informed, enlightened, contemporary and progressive teaching and activity.
Thank you for the rapid response and all the very practical ideas. But your role in this exercise doesn’t stop there. We will be seeking your responses to the ideas as we develop an action plan of useful tools for encouraging the development of a more relevant church.
The subtitle of this book is: Risky choices facing contemporary Christians. Published by Morning Star Publishers in 2016.
Keith Mascord is a Canadian-born Australian who has been a teacher, a priest, and academic and a chaplain. During the 1990s he taught philosophy at Moore Theological College (Anglican) where he journeyed out of fundamentalism. Also author of Leaving Fundamentalism in a Quest for God (2012)
The Hon Michael Kirby says of this book: Mascord explains that rationality, truthfulness and the love of God are the ingredients essential to the efforts to revive Christianity in countries in steep religious decline, such as Australia. His is a message for all Christians everywhere – but particularly for evangelical Protestants as they approach the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s fateful Reformation.
Dr Val Webb says this is a must read for those who struggle with biblical literalism, inerrancy of Scripture, male headship and anti-homosexuality within their Christian denomination, and an invaluable resource for those in dialogue with friends and relatives holding such views.
There is a consensus amongst reviewers that this book is well written. To me it was valuable because it focussed on the issue that is at the core of the differences between most Evangelicals and Progressives – literalism.
In a novel and authentic way Mascord has shown how literalism does not work – by drawing on the life experiences of people whose personal reflections could be that of many others. He has also demonstrated how, often, a commitment to literalism has backed many into unwinnable corners.
Some of the more obvious conundrums are dealt with early:
Mascord also identifies the many ways in which these and other controversies have been explained by interpreters through the ages.
In the search for meaning in the Bible, it is worth noting how Origen in the third century saw the cryptic and metaphorical nature of the lessons in the Bible and while describing much of the literal interpretation as silly, he did not take away any of the high values of the stories and even found deeper meanings than those not seen through literal eyes.
Mascord makes many suggestions for the contemporary reader of the Bible. Standing out was his suggestion that we must become content with uncertainty. There is much we don’t know. There are many things about which we are reasonably uncertain. There is very good reason to think that our interpretations of individual biblical passages are not the only valid interpretations.
To be anything other than humble is to be out of touch with reality.
Whilst on the theme of identifying Jesus, Richard Rohr at the Centre for Action and Contemplation has this to say:
Jesus of Nazareth
It was probably St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1182-1226) who first brought attention to the humanity of Jesus within organized Christianity. During its first thousand years, the Church was mainly concerned with proving that Jesus was God. Prior to St. Francis, paintings of Jesus largely emphasized Jesus’ divinity, as they still do in most Eastern icons. Francis is said to have created the first live nativity scene. Before the thirteenth century, Christmas was no big deal. The emphasis was on the high holy days of Holy Week and Easter, as it seems it should be. But for Francis, incarnation was already redemption. For God to become a human being among the poor, born in a stable among the animals, meant that it’s good to be a human being, that flesh is good, and that the world is good—in its most simple and humble forms.
In Jesus, God was given a face and a heart. God became someone we could love. While God can be described as a moral force, as consciousness, and as high vibrational energy, the truth is, we don’t (or can’t?) fall in love with abstractions. So God became a person “that we could hear, see with our eyes, look at, and touch with our hands” (1 John 1:1). The brilliant Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) said the only thing that really converts people is “an encounter with the face of the other,”  and I think he learned that from his own Hebrew Scriptures.
For the complete article go to: Love needs a face
The CAC now has more than a quarter of a million readers/followers.
For those who like their reading accompanied by beautiful illustrations, the National Geographic HISTORY edition for March/April 2017 includes an article on the Gospels not in the Bible. Written by Antonio Pinero, The Forbidden Books of the Gnostics: Seeking the Hidden Gospels, takes the discussion on the establishment of the Bible into popular reading culture. The NG has supported a significant amount of biblical archaeology for many decades. This report gives support to the notion that what we have in the Bible misses a lot of material hidden for 1500 years. Found in jars in an Egyptian cave near Nag Hamadi, 13 bound papyrus books in Coptic Greek were discovered in 1945. More gospels have been discovered since then.
Gnosticism was not well known until the 19th and 20th centuries. Bishop Irenaeus had been effective in his offensive against the movement from around 180CE. By 367 Bishop Athenasius was the first was the first to list the 27 books including the canonical gospels of the New Testament. The Gnostic writings did not get a look in!
With the Jesus movement growing to more than 300,000 in Asia Minor alone by the end of the first century, and many more through the Roman Empire, this was a movement without any authorized texts or formal organisation. But there were at least three major factional groups putting their claim on the new Church.
The first, mainly Jews, was growing from the group who had been closest to Jesus. Jesus was the anointed Messiah, representative of God, who would one day restore God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus was fully human and certainly not God.
The second, those who had, in the main, been converted to the Christian faith under the influence of Paul. Paul’s radical theology took the idea of Jesus as Messiah a step further – as God the Father who sacrificed his son in order to eliminate the sins of the Jews and all humankind. It goes without saying, that this faction shaped the way that Christianity would develop over the 2000 years.
But it was the third faction – very small in numbers, that was a threat to Pauline Christianity or ‘orthodoxy’. The Gnostics believed one could know God through a life of inner transformation – ‘gnosis’ would help bring salvation. Gnostics taught that all people bear something of the divinity of the Creator (demiurge) and that this knowledge (salvation) was being revealed by a series of beings beginning with Adam to Jesus who revealed the ultimate truth. They believed that they alone understood this absolute religious truth. Salvation was an intellectual activity.
The Gospel of Mary discovered in 1896 is possibly Gnostic. It is not hard to understand why this gospel was not included in the Biblical canon in the context of an official church that could not contemplate women being prophets and preachers.
The apocryphal Gospel of Judas was identified in the 1980s. It had been referred to by Irenaeous in 180CE as ‘fictional history’.
The process of stamping out opposition to the emerging ‘orthodox’ church begun by Irenaeus was continued until the Roman Empire took the Pauline Church as the official religion and documents such as those found at Nag Hamadi were hidden from the authroities.
This eBook examines the history of Jesus’ life, from where he was born, where he grew up and whether there is extra-Biblical evidence for his existence. Available as a free eBook from the Biblical Archaeology Society in Washington.
This particular book is actually a series of small books by several authors –
This is one of 24 free eBooks downloadable from:
As I like the forensic search for evidence from reliable sources, I have enjoyed reading the first of these and look forward to going through some of the others:
We are interested in opinions about these publications.
I was out in the front garden the other day weeding my row of Autumn crocuses which make an impressive display when they all blossom at once after a good shower or rain.
A woman passed by on the footpath and, as happens, one exchanges greetings. She was impressed by the crocuses and asked to have a close look. I had, regrettably, been a bit too vigorous with the weed pulling and yanked up one of the crocuses, bulb, roots and all. I offered this to my new friend, indeed offered her a whole spadeful of bulbs of the easily grown plant. Jenny (let’s call her that) took the single bulb saying that this would do for now and she had some potting mix just ready for it.
We carried on talking and discovered that we shared an acquaintance, a fellow who attended one of the local Uniting Churches. Jenny who knew this person fairly well and the interests he had in the activities of his congregation, perhaps assumed that he and I might have common perspectives and said, “You are involved with Emmaus?”
Now although I do not shy away from talking about my personal philosophy of life and its linkages to Christianity I am all too careful about coming across as preachy, dogmatic, or even “bible-bashing”.
On impulse my reply was, “Oh, I am aware of Emmaus but I am into “progressive” Christianity”.
At this point Jenny was turning away, about to resume her evening exercise.
She halted, turned back and asked “ ”Progressive” Christianity? What’s that?”
As you can imagine I could easily have used this as a licence to waffle on. It can be difficult to encapsulate “progressive” Christianity in a sentence or two.
I simply replied though, “It’s the Jesus Way with the supernatural removed”.
“How can you remove the supernatural from Jesus?” was her next question.
Anyway, this went on to an extended conversation which at one point led to Jenny remarking, “I visited the Vatican once and I was not impressed. What would Jesus have thought of all that pomp and wealth? I felt nearer to the gospel when visiting the catacombs and the history that they represented.”
As our chat drew to an end Jenny noted. “You can disregard all those rules in the Old Testament. The New Testament gives us only two rules to live by.”
“Yes,” I said, “Indeed, “Love God and Love Your Neighbour””
At that Jenny turned again and went on her way.
“Give my regards to our friend,: I said.
“Yes”, she said. “I’ll do that. Happy New Year!”
The moral of this story is that there may be many people, such as those who marked “no religion” in the recent census, who are willing to talk about issues of faith and their philosophy life but do not readily do so. In some less direct way they need to be invited. Assuming that we see promotion of the Jesus Way as being a path to a better world let’s not be afraid to share and practise our philosophy. The key though is to acknowledge that whatever view of life is held by those we chat with, it is valid for them and we would be wise to recognise that as such.
Certainly a great read…well written and enthralling …. especially for US citizens who would know all the characters! My reading of Fire and Fury: inside the Trump Whitehouse by Michael Wolff was biased by my personal dislike for Trump and all he stands for and so I enjoyed it immensely. What does that say about me?
The final word of Wolff is:
Trump, in Bannon’s view, was a chapter, or even a detour, in the Trump revolution, which had always been about weaknesses in the two major parties. The Trump presidency—however long it lasted—had created the opening that would provide the true outsiders their opportunity. Trump was just the beginning.
If this is just the beginning, what is the world in for? How do ordinary people deal with the current crisis of leadership in the world’s major economic and military power? Or is there no crisis?
The bewilderingly repetitive description of most of Trumps closely aligned campaigners and political leaders as less than really impressed by Trump and often privately very critical of his actions and words, demonstrates the amount of political power games were at play in his election. Trump moved rapidly from a ‘no chance’ in early 2016 to ‘ a likely winner’ by the end of the campaign towards the end of 2016. Much of this can be attributed to alliances and back room deals with media. There were some fateful incidents along the way:
On May 12 (2016), Roger Ailes was scheduled to return to New York from Palm Beach to meet with Peter Thiel, an early and lonely Trump supporter in Silicon Valley who had become increasingly astonished by Trump’s unpredictability. Ailes and Thiel, both worried that Trump could bring Trumpism down, were set to discuss the funding and launch of a new cable news network. Thiel would pay for it and Ailes would bring O’Reilly, Hannity, himself, and maybe Bannon to it.
But two days before the meeting, Ailes fell in his bathroom and hit his head. Before slipping into a coma, he told his wife not to reschedule the meeting with Thiel. A week later, Ailes, that singular figure in the march from Nixon’s silent majority to Reagan’s Democrats to Trump’s passionate base, was dead.
Trump’s failure to offer condolences to Aile’s wife, Beth, was typical of many undiplomatic slips and the funeral with only close Aile’s allies present showed the way in which the Republican Party was imploding and now needed trump to survive.
The president had surely become the right wing’s meal ticket. He was the ultimate antiliberal: an authoritarian who was the living embodiment of resistance to authority. He was the exuberant inverse of everything the right wing found patronizing and gullible and sanctimonious about the left. And yet, obviously, Trump was Trump—careless, capricious, disloyal, far beyond any sort of control. Nobody knew that as well as the people who knew him best.
The Trump campaign was a giant exercise in bluff and bravado. He rationalised that he was a gift to the USA and the world, that he was one win away from turning the US problems, and inevitably those of the rest of the world, around.
But it is not just the story of the election campaign that enthrals. It is the events that have followed too.
Global liberal leadership had been all but paralyzed by the election of Donald Trump—indeed, by the very existence of Donald Trump. But it was an inverted universe in the Middle East. The Obama truculence and hyperrationalization and micromanaging, preceded by the Bush moral militarism and ensuing disruptions, preceded by Clinton deal making, quid pro quo, and backstabbing, had opened the way for Trump’s version of realpolitik. He had no patience with the our-hands-are-tied ennui of the post-cold war order, that sense of the chess board locked in place, of incremental movement being the best-case scenario—the alternative being only war. His was a much simpler view: Who’s got the power? Give me his number.
Trump has worked on the principle that the ‘enemy of the enemy is my friend’. Consequently in its simplest form his notion that Iran was the bad guy in the Middle East brought him into unquestioning support for Iran’s enemies. His lack of foreign power knowledge of relationships will be his downfall. This approach has given Russia an enormous amount of freedom in Eurasia and who knows where this will go.
We are going to see a lot of ‘prosecuting’ in the months ahead and all of this will only add to the hype around Trump and help books like this to sell. We must not forget that a key player in all the events around Trump has been Murdoch, at first opposed but later a friend and advisor. With friends like that, and advice from that quarter, we can expect trump to have plenty of wins in his attack on former friends.
This is a book that must be a significant artefact in the collection of Trump critiques. But the best book is yet to be written … after Trump slips into history.
Richard Rohr has recently put this practice into focus and offers this viewpoint:
Prayer is not a transaction that somehow pleases God but a transformation of the consciousness of the one doing the praying. Prayer is the awakening of an inner dialogue that, from God’s side, has never ceased. This is why Paul could write of praying “always” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is not changing God’s mind about us or about anything else, but allowing God to change our mind about the reality right in front of us (which we usually avoid or distort).
When we put on a different mind, heaven takes care of itself. In fact, it begins now. If we resort too exclusively to verbal, wordy prayers, we’ll remain stuck in our rational, dualistic minds and will not experience deep change at the level of consciousness. Prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, and praising God until we ourselves are an act of praise.
Jesus tells his disciples, “Be awake. Be alert. You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cock crow, or in the morning” (Mark 13:33-35). Jesus is not threatening, “You’d better do it right, or I’m going to get you.” He’s talking about the forever, eternal coming of Christ now . . . and now . . . and now. God’s judgment is always redemption. Christ is always coming. God is always present. It’s we who fall asleep.
Be ready. Be present to God in the here and now, the ordinary, the interruptions. Being fully present to the soul of all things will allow you to say, “This is good. This is enough. In fact, this is all I need.” You are now situated in the One Loving Gaze that unites all things in universal attraction and appreciation. We are practicing for heaven. Why wait for heaven when you can enjoy the Divine Flow in every moment, in everyone?
With a new year about to happen, it is good to reflect on our experiences of the old year and look to the future. This reflection from Richard Rohr is pertinent:
When Things Fall Apart
Friday, December 29, 2017
The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, darkness, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. We will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart.
This is when we need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. Jesus knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12).
Transformation usually includes a disconcerting reorientation. Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians.
In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep “yeses” that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out.
Love wins over guilt any day. It is sad that we settle for the short-run effectiveness of shaming people instead of the long-term life benefits of grace-filled transformation. But we are a culture of progress and efficiency, impatient with gradual growth. God’s way of restoring things interiorly is much more patient—and finally more effective. God lets Jonah run in the wrong direction, until this reluctant prophet finds a long, painful, circuitous path to get back where he needs to be—in spite of himself! Looking in your own “rear-view mirror” can fill you with gratitude for God’s work in your life.
Wishing all our subscribers to the UCFORUM a peaceful and contented New Year.
Writing in the October 2017 edition of New Scientist, Philip Ball argues that “today’s religious fundamentalism that denies evolution and Earth’s age is a peculiarly modern delusion”. Ball is a science writer and author of Curiosity: How science became interested in everything.
Ball asks “Did the religious revolution 500 years ago clear the way for the scientific revolution?”
In part it did.
Four years after nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg castle church, Luther defended his strong movement of conscience to the 1521 Diet of Worms. Much bolder than Galileo’s weak defence of astronomy, Luther’s challenge to the authority of the Church in Rome contributed to the liberating of an enlightenment in scientific thinking that would not be held back any more.
Ball’s argument is supported by John Henry historian of science at the University of Edinburgh, UK. The Protestant Reformation opened the door to thinking outside the Bible. Robert Merton, in 1938, fuelled the idea of the Reformation opening up scientific thinking. he pointed out how Puritanism, an English strand of the protestant movement, fostered the work of Newton, Boyle, Hooke and others.
Pure reason, mathematics and measurement became the tools for understanding the world.
The notion that Catholic dogma was putting a brake on science is a myth based on the misconception that science and religious belief are enemies. Ball highlights the many scientific challenges promoted from inside the Church from the 1400s. Early Protestantism was not exactly ‘progressive’ on science either with Luther calling Copernicus a fool.
The forces for change are more complicated than sometimes reported – with numerous reformations with different origins occurring across Europe in the 16th Century. But one thing aided all of these reformations – the growth of the printing press. At the same time as reformers such as Calvin and Luther were evolving, so too were their reactionaries and it is too big a claim to say science progressed only because of the reformation.
When Galileo asserted that the Bible was not a book of natural philosophy, this viewpoint was not criticised as it would be today by a large section of the Church. 16th Century theology and Church teaching did not dwell on belief in the creation myth so much as how humankind should give God appropriate precedence in all things on Earth. That form of fundamental interpretation was left to a later age.
The December 2017 edition of National Geographic challenges skeptics about the existence of JC while attempting a fact vs fiction review of who he was. Author, Kristin Romey, herself an archaeologist, highlights the work of contemporary archaeology that throws new light on the man Jesus.
The difficulty of finding traces of proof for a person who lived 2000 years ago is acknowledged. The New testament texts, especially the Gospels (despite their divergent reports) remain as preeminent sources while being openly debated.
Tradition and archaeology inform each other in this search. Serious archaeology in the Holy Land is only 150 years old and has made shifts in perspectives in that time. Despite the emergence of some scholarly arguments against the existence of JC, few mainstream scholars today challenge his existence.
John Dominic Crossan, former priest and co-chair of the Jesus Seminar, supports the ‘existence’ arguments. However, stories of his miraculous deeds need considerable re-thinking.
Scholars who study Jesus divide into two opposing camps separated by a very bright line: those who believe the wonder-working Jesus of the Gospels is the real Jesus, and those who think the real Jesus – the man who inspired the myth – hides below the surface of the Gospels and must be revealed by historical research and literary analysis. Both camps claim archaeology as their ally, leading to some fractious debates and strange bedfellows. (Romey)
Archaeologists have succeeded in showing the influence of Rome’s first Christian Emperor, Constantine, in developing the ‘church’ in his building and organisational influence. But proof of links between Bethlehem and the Nativity are scant. Once again Constantine in the 4th Century was responsible for identification and veneration of key sites in the Holy Land. What credence can we give to this?
However, the search for Jesus has produced more evidence in Galilee which had been subjugated by Rome 60 years before the birth of Jesus. John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus in 1991, presented an influential thesis inspired by new archaeological discoveries that Galilee, more urbanised and Jewish than at first understood, had a more significant role in Jesus’ formation than previously thought. He argued that Jesus was a wandering sage, living a counter cultural lifestyle, and challenging the old rules of cleanliness and wealth and status seeking.
Romey’s article goes on to explain how recent (late 20th Century) digs have brought to light evidence for homage to Jesus in the first century homes and meeting places. Similarly, the discovery of a boat, a synagogue and the Magdala Stone from the time of Jesus have only enhanced the speculation about the real Jesus.
But it is in Jerusalem that many lines of evidence attest to the way Jesus died and this is also more consistently reported in the Gospels.
For progressive Christians this search for evidence is important to having a better understanding of Jesus, his life and teaching. The integrity of the arguments are important to following a man of substance and applying his principles personally.
CIFS is a non-profit association, founded in 1996 by a small group of parents whose children were recruited into cults.
Supporting each other in similar situations soon led to a greater understanding of the common practices and thought reform used in all harmful groups, and the damaging after-effects on those who leave these groups.
CIFS soon grew in numbers to include former members, friends, families and individuals working together to increase awareness and educate the public regarding the potential dangers of becoming involved in cults.
Cult Information and Family Support has grown to be at the forefront nationally in offering support and information to people affected by cults and cultic relationships.
CIFS advocates to have stronger laws enacted by policy makers to protect Australian citizens from the untold harm these groups inflict on individuals families and our society.
For more information go to: CIFS
ABC News reports on a cult making its way in Australia.
Providence is a religious group founded in 1978 in South Korea by Jeong Myeong-seok. A self-proclaimed Messiah who sometimes refers to himself as Pastor Joshua, he is a former “Moonie” or follower of the late Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
The group also goes by other names including Jesus Morning Star (JMS, which also happens to be the initials of the founder’s name), Christian Gospel Mission and The Bright Moon Church.
Headquartered in South Korea, Providence claims to have 300 affiliated churches and more than 100,000 followers in its home base. The group also boasts a worldwide following of over 10,000 and operates in a number of other countries including Australia, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, Japan and Taiwan.
Providence was set up in Australia in 1997 and has established branches in major cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra.
for more on this go to: The bizarre world of Providence cult
Michael Morwood, author of Tomorrow’s Catholic and Is Jesus God? speaks to progressive Christians in a voice that is easy to understand, that resonates with their experiences and offers hope and encouragement to critical thinkers.
Michael calls on the reader to ask themselves some serious questions about how their faith or thinking about faith was shaped. How did the reader get to their current world view? The key question is: How is it that our Christian faith, which should be a privilege for us and a source of great peace and encouragement, is experienced by many Christians as a burden, as something restrictive, and, as such, is rejected?
As reported in a recent post, the ARRCC group led by St John’s Cathedral Dean, Rev Peter Catt, issued a media statement to the gathered media in the grounds of the Cathedral on 20th November 2017.
Faith Leaders Climate Statement November 2017
Dear Queensland Premier and Leader of the Opposition And Prime Minister and Leader of the Federal Opposition, We are from diverse faith traditions in Queensland including the Anglican Church, Catholic Church, Jewish faith, Pagan Tradition, Unitarian Universalists, Uniting Church, Quakers, and inter-faith and cultural organisations. As leaders in our faith communities, we feel compelled to challenge Queensland’s proposal to assist and partner with the Adani Group to develop the Carmichael Mine in the Galilee Basin because of the effect the resulting carbon emissions will have on our climate, our economy, the world’s poor and the environment. With global warming being a threat to the viability of our agricultural and tourism industries, our marine life, and the wildlife in this beautiful State, it seems unconscionable that any current or future Queensland government would make a development decision that puts all this at risk. We believe that people of goodwill must work together to reduce greenhouse gas pollution at emergency speed. Therefore, the development of the mine is unacceptable, as are all forms of government support, direct or indirect, for the mining, transport and shipping of fossil fuels.
We urge both governments to instead invest in renewable energy technology which will create far more employment opportunities than the proposed mine. We call on you to refuse approval for Northern Australia Infrastructure Funds to be used to build the railway line for the Adani mine. We plead with you on behalf of our fellow Queenslanders and Australians, for the members of our faith groups, for the millions of vulnerable people on earth, for future generations who have no say of their own, and for all of creation. Yours in peace Dr Paul Inglis – CEO UCFORUM – Uniting Church Peter Arndt – Executive Officer, Catholic Justice & Peace Commission of Brisbane Heather Abramson – Abramson Educational Consulting and member of the Jewish Community Dr Rose Elu – Anglican Torres Strait Islander Community Dr Brian Adams – Director, Centre for Interfaith & Cultural Dialogue, Griffith University Renee Hills – Brisbane Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Linda Ward – Pagan Tradition Dean Peter Catt – St John’s Anglican Cathedral The Rev’d Peter Moore – Chair, Angligreen Taisoo Kim Watson – Quakers Duncan Frewin – Quakers The Rev’d Dr Jo Inkpin – St Francis Theological College, Anglican Church The Rev’d Murray Fysh, Merthyr Rd Uniting Church, New Farm The Rev’d Bruce Boase – Member of the National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Anglican Commission Queensland Churches Environmental Network.The Statement released at that gathering:
Another statement had been issued previously from the Council of the Union for Progressive Judaism:
STOP ADANI – STOP USING PUBLIC FUNDS FOR FOSSIL FUELS
PRESS RELEASE 15th November 2017
The Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia and the Council of Masorti Rabbis of Australia oppose the development of the Carmichael Mine in the Galilee Basin by the Adani Group because of the devastating effect the resulting carbon emissions will have on our environment, and the subsequent risks to our World Heritage Great Barrier Reef.
It is unconscionable for the current or any future government to use public funds, services or loans to support the promotion of fossil fuels.
We urge governments to increase investment in renewable energy technology which will create cleaner and safer employment opportunities.
Further information: Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, Environmental Advisor to the Rabbinic Council of the Union for Progressive Judaism. 0417 104987
Well the whirlwind of 25 lectures in ten different cities and towns has just ended, and with it just in the rear-view mirror, I am writing to tell you how much your wonderful hospitality meant to me during my time with you. Thank you so much.
The whole event ended up being quite meaningful to me and was received very well. Since you are one of my official hosts, I am attaching a two page reflection on the whole time and an overall thanks to all of my direct hosts. I thought you might like to know how our time together related to the rest of the work I did in these two countries. Let me know what you think.
Again many thanks to you, and here’s hoping we meet again.
November 9, 2017
Dear Colleagues and Conversation Partners in Australia and New Zealand—
Yesterday I finished my 25th lecture or reflection to groups of people in your two countries since I arrived on October 5. So it’s finished, and I am writing first to thank you and second to report to you on how the whole process looks to me.
Here are the primary expressions of my gratitude to you. First, your deep, genuine, labor-intensive, and personal hospitality to me. I was new to this part of the world and far away from home, and you all made me feel at home and cared for. Second, even though we did not really know each other at all, you were individually, but even more importantly, collectively deeply open in our exchanges. I could feel your heart-strings loosen, your minds brighten and think energetically, and our wheels turn together as we worked on important issues. This was consistently very moving for me, and a great gift from you. Thirdly, thanks for your two (quite different) nations and all that is in flowing in your respective national gifts and graces. I did not know what I was in for on this trip, and come away wonderfully alive and thankful to all of you. Continue reading
Radio National (ABC) recent broadcast (Sunday 26 November 2017 6:05PM) is available for download here.
The Sea of Faith, an international organisation of ‘progressive Christians’, takes its name from the famous poem Dover Beach about the ebbing of faith. But today’s SOF members entertain new developments in Christianity, including the New New Testament, incorporating ancient documents that were excluded from the canon, edited by Hal Taussig.
Image: Sir Lloyd Geering addressing the SOF in NZ (RK)
The founder of the SOF in New Zealand, Lloyd Geering, was charged with heresy, as was Hal Taussig, many years later. Are they heretics or reformers?
Image: Rev Hal Taussig, United Methodist Church of America (UMC)
For more information or to join SOF contact Rodney Eivers.
A new Study Guide is now available for people to think about forging friendships with people of other faiths.
The Study Guide has been prepared by the UCA Assembly Relations with Other Faiths Working Group which includes UCFORUM member Rev Heather Griffin.
The intention of this Study Guide is to open a conversation about the increasing religious diversity in Australia and how we understand our Christian identity in this context. It is also an opportunity to explore how we might respond to the use of violence or fear based on religious difference. As people of God, called to share in Christ’s love, the best way to overcome such messages of fear and hate is by building friendships with people of other faiths. The Study is based on the paper, Friendship in the Presence of Difference: Christian Witness in Multi-faith Australia , received at the 13th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia in July 2012. The word “friendship” was chosen purposely. It underlines the Gospel call to love our neighbours regardless of our differences and to live with the people around us as “friends”. Genuine interfaith friendship embraces difference rather than allowing difference to create division and distrust. Through this Study, we learn that to live peacefully in the presence of difference is to also be renewed and transformed in our own Christian faith. Friendship in the Presence of Difference is an update to the document Living with the Neighbour who is Different adopted by the Assembly in 2000. These two documents offer guiding principles for the Uniting Church’s relationship with people of other faiths. The Study Guide examines the changed landscape of religion in Australia and the ongoing development in our Christian understanding of how we relate to different faiths.
After the recent news in relation to the Commonwealth Bank what are the next steps in this campaign?
People of faith are encouraged to join in the conversations in Summits being held in various locations around the country.
Stop Adani Summits
Since March over 160 local #StopAdani groups have formed right across the country from Cairns to Castlemaine, Perth to Parramatta. The campaign is moving quickly and opponents are still pushing forward, now is the time to come together
The #StopAdani Summits are gatherings which give us a chance to:
Lobbying Federal MP
Faith leaders have been busy keeping the pressure on Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg. On Friday 25 July an interfaith group protested outside his office in Melbourne. A number of faith leaders met with the Minister on the 3 August, including the NCCA President, Bishop Philip Huggins.
See a further post below, about the ARRCC Media Alert to be presented from St John’S Cathedral next Monday. This will target the Queensland election campaigns.
ARRCC Media Alert
Can you come on Monday 20th November, around 9 am to St John’s Cathedral, 373 Ann St, Brisbane City to be present when our climate change statement to the Queensland Government is released at a media event?
Climate Change Statment
Our statement is complete. We have 10 signatories. Rev Peter Catt can accept signatures until COB Friday 17th November. The list on the letter will be updated and corrected at that time. If you or someone you know would like to be a signatory, please contact Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be great to have some more signatures. Please note that a signatory does not have to be the head of Church/Faith Group. They can be any ordained/Lay person who is seen as a leader in that faith community.
The statement will become available on Monday 20th November.
A wide range of media will be invited prior to the statement release on Monday 20th at 9.30 am but we’d like you to come earlier so that we can be organised. We need as many people as possible to come (with placard if you wish – similar to what we had at the Gathering along the lines of Energy Innovation; Not Earth Desecration), Save the Planet, etc, AND some STOP ADANI posters, T-shirts.
Wear smart casual clothing or religious garb and symbols if appropriate. We need a strong visual presence.
The event will be held in the grassed courtyard adjacent to the Cathedral, away from the street noise. If it’s raining, we will move into a room in the Cathedral.
The media event is due to begin at 9.30 am.
Please RSVP to me if you can come.
PS. Paul Inglis will represent the UCFORUM at this gathering.
In recent days there have been many events commemorating the 500 years since Luther ‘posted’ his 95 theses and disturbed the Church in a way that it could not ignore. But the Reformation Dinner organised by the ACTS group of Aspley Uniting Church was different. Inspirational, 86 year old, dynamic elder, political lobbyist, conscience pricker and entertaining author and speaker, Everald Compton MC’d the event.
Many progressives took up the invitation to the dinner which was limited to 160 people.
Uniting Church Moderator, David Baker, led the field of Church leaders who spoke. He drew a parallel between the ‘indulgences’ that placed the Church offside with moral thinkers of the 16th century and the ‘indulgences’ that operate in our contemporary market driven society. We still seek after unfulfilled promises of great personal outcomes by buying our comforts. He was followed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop, Mark Coleridge, who emphasised the complexity of the social and theological milieu in which the Church has evolved its teachings and the search for Jesus in all of this complexity. Anglican Archbishop, Phillip Aspinall, drew our attention to the unique place of the Anglican Church as it straddles both Catholic and Protestant elements in its makeup and the way it has, since the Reformation, attempted to find the ‘middle’ way for the Church.
These religious identities were complemented with Wayne Swan, former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Tracy Davis, State Member for Aspley, and John Herron, former Senator and Ambassador to the Holy See. Rev Sandra Jebb provided both opening and closing reflections.
An encouraging message was received from the Governor, Paul de Jersey who is currently in Israel for the Beersheba ceremonies.
This is the first event in a long term plan outlined by the Master of Ceremonies, Everald Compton, to address the crisis of credibility facing Christianity in society. It was a great start to an ambitious project… but Everald is noted for many ambitious projects and also for his many successes. Watch for the next stage in early 2018 – calling together of 500 leaders in our community to launch a new Reformation!
Subtitle: A Bible for the 21st Century – Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts
Edited with commentary by Hal Taussig, with a Foreword by John Dominic Crossan.
In autographing my copy, Hal said of his own work: Here’s to the powerful way the old and the new combine to help us grow.
So this combination of the traditional and newly discovered and analysed texts arriving a millennium and a half after the canon was settled for the New Testament will inevitably be threatening and intimidating to some but to many the beginning of a new and exciting journey of discovery about Jesus and his teachings.
A New New Testament contains amazing new material from the first century Christ movements and places this alongside the traditional texts. An eclectic mix of bishops, rabbis, well-known authors, leaders of national churches, and women and men from African American, Native American, and European American backgrounds have studied many of the recent discoveries from the first two centuries rigorously together, and chosen these new books.
The story of the discovery of the new books and bringing them into the light is a remarkable thing in itself and the story of the evolution of the traditional New Testament over 500 years helps the reader to understand why these new texts have not appeared sooner.
The new texts, like the traditional texts were all written between 50 and 175 CE, somewhere around the Mediterranean Sea, with similar themes and within certain realities of life. Like the traditional books, the new ones had a life of their own before they were added to the new New Testament.
The reader is helped through new texts (including The Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Truth, The Prayer of the Apostle Paul, the Odes of Solomon, and the Acts of Paul and Thecla) by a guide to reading the material and making sense of its chronological and thematic order. The reader is encouraged to read thoughtfully taking into account historical contexts. It is important to give thought also to who wrote each text and why. So it is a good book for personal reflection.
Expect to be surprised about the common material found in the old and the new, but most of all be excited about the the totally unique concepts and messages that we did not see in the traditional text. This is a book that provokes feelings and forces the reader to think about the nature of God, of Jesus’ mission and develops positive attitudes about the gift of learning we have in front of us.
Paul Inglis, 2nd November 2017.
Today’s gathering of PCNQ members at New Farm served two purposes – an opportunity for fellowship by progressive Christians and a chance to talk about the impact on each of us of the seminars led by Hal Taussig and Michael Morwood. Some people came because they missed the seminars and had heard about how good they were. So we were able to give them a taste of the topics.
As this gathering came soon after several of our group attended the (New) Reformation Dinner at Geebung, the discussion also included reflections on what was a very interesting event.
PCNQ plans to have regular fellowship/discussion mornings (with great morning teas) to respond to the growing interest in conversations, literature, and developments in progressive Christianity. Also on their agenda is a desire to bring together all the progressive Christian groups of South East Queensland in an informal network of mutual support.
Watch out for future developments from this enthusiastic group by following this blog or the PCNQ FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/pcnqld/
As we look back over the last fortnight and the successful running of seven seminars in New Farm, Redcliffe, Buderim, Fortitude Valley and Caloundra, it is very pleasing to report that each seminar was unique and interesting and brought positive feedback.
Thank you to the team at PCNQ and each of the Explorers Groups that mounted the seminars. Thank you also to the hosts who billeted the speakers and kept our costs down.
It was a great challenge to offer two notable exponents of progressive Christianity, both organisationally and economically, but in the end it was worth it.
Professor Hal Taussig was starting a Common Dreams on the Road series in several States after doing the same in New Zealand as a build up to next years Common Dreams Conference in Sydney. Book sales and orders, especially for his A New New Testament were greater than we anticipated. Watch for a review of this book soon. We brought Michael Morwood from Perth after the incredibly good feedback we had about his presentations at Common Dreams 4 in Brisbane last year. Once again he achieved a very high standard of teaching and discussion. As organisers we were impressed with the way the two speakers who had never met set to work to integrate around common themes.
The PCNQ has resolved to continue meeting monthly at New Farm as a fellowship and discussion group. Watch for more news about this and for events at other Explorers groups.
For an unsolicited and comprehensive review from a young woman who attended last Saturday’s seminar at New Farm go to:
Impressive! Bookmark this blog site and look forward to more great articles.
NOTE: Harry T. Cook died Monday, October 9, 2017, following a three-year battle with prostate cancer. He wrote this essay in advance, anticipating a time when his disease would force him to retire. In fact, he published his last essay just three days before his death. You can read his obituary in the Detroit Free Press.
Circumstances dictate that this essay is to be the last in a series that began in April 2005 and now ends with this post. The magic of the Internet has garnered for these essays an international readership and response that has both surprised and pleased me.
The Readers Write feature that has followed each essay has been the best part as consumers of my prose have responded with critiques, complaints, praise and anger — just as it should have been.
Readers whom I did not know before the series began and have never yet met in person have become friends. They live in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa, France, across Canada and in most of the United States. Their company I shall miss very much.
I have entitled this essay “Testament” because that is precisely how I mean it to be taken. The disease with which I was diagnosed within a week of my 75th birthday has come to call with the message that I am now on a path that will slow me down sufficiently that I could not do my work with the effort I insist on putting into it. As one who has always thought he wanted to quit while he was ahead, I am doing just that. Also, I have promises to keep with not quite as many miles as I hoped in which to keep them.
Meanwhile, I leave you with these somewhat random thoughts:
+ Love the English language and use it with respect and care. None of us is Shakespeare redivivus. Winston Churchill, H.L. Mencken and Graham Greene still stand alone with their Firsts in English composition. They should be our standard.
+ A question — and, indeed, its formulation — is likely to be more rewarding than straining to produce a quick answer. Inquiry, research and hypotheses tend to invite more thorough thoughtfulness — a supreme value in human relationships at any level. If you have never read the work of the late philosopher Richard Rorty and his take on what he termed “contingency,” now would be as good a time as any to do so.
+ Beware the politician who runs for office with an index finger pointed at those of an identifiable nationality or ethnic group whilst blaming the woes of the nation on them. Jews were long victims of such an evil, African Americans and Native Americans, as well. Mexicans and Muslims in recent times became targets of such calumny. Who needs a reprise of Nazism?
+ Resist the claims of absolute truth made by those who march under various religious banners. No one can possibly know what any possible deity wants or wills. Likewise, no one can encompass the whole truth about anything.
+ Conserve Earth, her atmosphere, her waterways and seas, her land, her creatures as good stewards would estates entrusted to their care and protection. One can lick away on an ice cream cone only so long before it disappears.
+ Help society understand that punitive incarceration in and of itself is cruel and unusual punishment. Justice is not served by putting people behind bars in violent environments. In the same spirit, help society understand that capital punishment is legalized murder, collective vengeance under the guise of doing justice.
+ Give all you can to encourage compassion for women who struggle to retain control of their own bodies where unwanted or dangerous pregnancies are concerned. Tell the anti-abortion zealots that, if they oppose the practice, they should take care not to submit to it.
+ At least once a year, listen to all six of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti (BWV 1046-1051) and overture to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (K. 492) as well as his Symphony No. 41, (K. 551), the Jupiter. Each one of them is guaranteed to bestow upon the listener both joy and profundity, mercifully tuning out the mindless cacophony that presses in on every side.
+ Above all, follow the wisdom offered by Hillel the Great more than two millennia ago: “What you hate, do not do to another.” The great sage must have known that such behavior as a habit runs contrary to nature. Also he must have believed that humankind could outdo nature. William Faulkner in his speech accepting the 1949 Nobel Prize in literature appeared to have shared Hillel’s optimism: I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. As a dear bishop friend was wont to say, “May it be so.”
Now an important credit: Susan Marie Chevalier, my loyal and loving wife of almost 38 years, made these essays not only possible but readable by crowding into her busy work schedule their editing and design.
Finally, this last flourish of defiance, taking the closing lines of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses as my own valedictory:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are, —
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Copyright 2017 Harry T. Cook. All rights reserved. This article may not be used or reproduced without proper credit.
Aspley Uniting Church has taken up the suggestion of our good friend, philanthropist and church elder, Everald Compton to mark the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s declaration to the Church that big changes were essential for it to survive, with a dinner at which the Heads of Churches will briefly outline what the Reformation means to the Church today and tomorrow.
Like many insider observers, Everald recognizes that the time is right for a New Reformation, one that will re-instate the integrity and authenticity of the institutional Church as a pivotal player in our nation’s destiny. People of goodwill and commitment to the future church will gather for this event, which marks the beginning of a project that will evolve in the months ahead.
Robyn and I are keen to be there and participate in the development of this initiative. Everald has asked me to extend this invitation to subscribers to the UCFORUM of which he is one. I hope you will give this serious thought. Instead of RSVPing as advised in the Invitation below, please respond directly to Everald at 0407 721710 or by email here.
ASPLEY UNITING CHURCH
is pleased to invite you to attend our REFORMATION DINNER
at GEEBUNG RSL CLUB Newman Road, Geebung
TUESDAY, 31 OCTOBER, 2017 at 6.30pm for 7.00pm
to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg Cathedral.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall and Moderator David Baker will speak on the meaning of the Reformation today.
There will be a charge of 50 dollars per person for food and drinks.
Any surplus funds will be donated to
“Aspley Caring Through Service” (ACTS)
our outreach program to people in need.
Please RSVP by email to – email@example.com
Or Phone the Church office 3263 9275.
Arrangements for payment will be advised
Michael Morwood led an enthusiastic crowd from the Sunshine Coast and hinterland at our first seminar in the current series. Yesterday’s event at Caloundra Uniting Church focussed on Putting Exploration into Practice. Michael’s brilliant talent as a speaker and discussion facilitator was on show.
Exploring how we think and talk about “the mystery in which the universe is bathed”, the discussion picked up on much of the wonderful material that Michael introduced to the Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane in 2016 and delved deeply into our understandings of a progressive and relevant faith.
Great crowd – great event! Congratulations to the Caloundra Explorers.
The program continues over the next two weeks:
Monday 2nd October – 6.30 to 8.30pm – Redcliffe – Michael Morwood “Articulating a 21st century Christian Spirituality”.
Wednesday 4th October – from 7pm – Holy Trinity Church, Fortitude Valley – Michael Morwood “God and Jesus through a 21st Century Lens”.
Saturday 7th October – 9am to 3.30pm – Merthyr Uniting Church, New Farm – Hal Taussig and Michael Morwood – “Christianity, 1st Century, Now, and in the Future”
Monday 9th October – 6pm – Buderim Tavern, Buderim – Hal Taussig – “Breaking Bread, Breaking Rules”.
Tuesday 10th October – from 7pm – Holy Trinity Church, Fortitude Valley – Hal Taussig – “What’s in and what’s out: Canon/Extra Canon/A New New Testament”
Bookings: If you have yet to book a place at one of these sessions please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible, and I will help you to negotiate the booking process.
Merthyr Explorers and Progressive Christian Network Qld present:
Christianity – 1st Century …. 21st Century …. what is the future?
7th October 2017 9 am to 3:30 pm
Merthyr Rd Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm
Cost: $50 including morning tea
BYO lunch or order for $15 per person – pay on the day
Phone: ______________________________Dietary requirements_____________________________
( ) Payment Enclosed for _________ registrations: $___________ (cheques or money orders made out to Progressive Christian Network Qld)
( ) Payment for __________ registrations of $ ___________ has been paid by bank transfer (please post or email registration information)
BSB: 638010 Acct no: 14431629
Acct name: Progressive Christianity Network Qld
Reference: Please use your surname as on this form as the reference.
Name/s of others for whom registration is being paid
Post registration to: PCNQ, PO Box 374 New Farm Q 4005
Or email to: email@example.com
Enquiries: 0409 498 403
Registration closing date: Wed 4th October
I am planning to purchase catered lunch Yes No
Transport and Parking:
Small amount of off-street parking, plenty of on-street parking (no parking meters).
Bus route 196, Stop 13 (outside Venue). Bus leaves from Cultural Centre, outside City Hall in Adelaide St and in Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley.
Our guest speakers:
Professor Hal Taussig from USA
Michael Morwood from Western Australia
The Redcliffe Explorers Group has pleasure in inviting you to this talk by well-known Progressive Christian
Michael regularly lectures and conducts retreats and workshops in Australia, USA, Canada, Ireland and England on themes such as Re-Shaping Christian Thought and Imagination; Praying a New Story; Contemporary Christian Spirituality and Questions of Faith for Modern Christians. A retired Catholic priest, he has authored a number of international best-selling books, and was voted ’most popular speaker’ at the 4th International Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane last year.
Monday evening 2 October 2017 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Azure Blue Retirement Centre Common Room
91 Anzac Ave Redcliffe 4019
Cost: $5 (payable at the door)
Note: security gates are open between 6:30 and 6:55 p.m.
Please register by calling Ian Brown on 3284 3688 or 0419 513 723 or email Ian Brown
*This session has been subsidized by the Redcliffe Explorers to enable a reduced fee.
It is not too late to make an application. Closing date is 30th October 2017 and successful applicants will be advised after 30th November 2017.
Application forms are available from Dr Paul Inglis
We are pleased with the amount of interest in this offer of up to $5000 for graduate studies and up to $500 for short courses.
We also welcome expressions of interest for grants in 2019. We will advise these people when applications can be made formally.
The condition for receiving assistance is the provision of a short essay: “My Response to progressive Christianity”
Important Note: The personal position of the applicant in favour or against arguments presented in the field of progressive Christianity is welcome and will not be used as a determinant of acceptance for a bursary. The award will be based on evidence of understanding. The purpose of the awards is to equip more students to have an awareness of the growing interest within many congregations of critical scholarship in the field of progressive Christianity.
1. A History of God
Karen Armstrong is one of the world’s leading commentators on religious affairs. She spent years as a Roman Catholic nun in the 1960s, but then left her teaching order in 1969 to read English at St Anne’s College, Oxford. In 1982, she became a fulltime writer and broadcaster. She is a best-selling author of over 15 books. An accomplished writer and passionate campaigner for religious liberty, Armstrong has addressed members of the United States Congress and the Senate, has participated in the World Economic Forum, and in 2005, was appointed by Kofi Annan to take part in the United Nations initiative ‘The Alliance of Civilisations’. In 2008 she was awarded the Franklin J Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal for her work on religious liberty.
“Indeed, our current secularism is an entirely new experiment, unprecedented in human history. We have yet to see how it will work. It is also true to say that our Western liberal humanism is not something that comes naturally to us; like an appreciation of art and poetry, it has to be cultivated. Humanism is itself a religion without God – not all religions, of course are theistic. Our ethical secular ideal has its own disciplines of mind and heart and gives people the means of finding faith in the ultimate meaning of human life that were once provided by the more conventional religions” (Armstrong)
Her description of the 4000 year history of God from Abraham to the present day makes for easy and interesting reading and challenges at all points. She is both reverent and curious and ultimately discusses the question: Does God have a future? Which is the subject of our next text ….. This is a big book but held my interest all the way.
David Galston is a University Chaplain and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Brock University in St Catharines, Ontario, Academic Director at Westar Institute, a regular speaker at the Quest Learning Centre, and academic adviser to the SnowStar Institute in Canada. He is the author of Embracing the Human Jesus: a wisdom path for contemporary Christianity (2012) and Archives and the Event of God: the impact of Michael Foucault on Philosophical Theology (2012).
“The Bible holds uncommon authority in Western history and everyone presumably needs to know at least a little bit about it for no other reason than to appreciate great Western literature like Shakespeare. Still, once the surface is scratched, it turns out that underneath the cultural level basic knowledge about the Bible is piecemeal, even among the well-educated and, more surprisingly, especially among Bible fundamentalists. Before it is possible to talk about God and the western tradition of theology, the presupposition of that tradition, which is the Bible and its authority, must be encountered. It is important to know all that we commonly do not know about the Bible.” (Galston)
One of the great strengths of this work is the careful way in which it explains how we got here and where the current state of our thinking is likely to take us. As history it is a very different view of theology from that taught in most mainstream colleges. It is great reading for the sceptical and the progressive thinker. Galston managed to cheer me on rather than paint the depressing picture of human futures. There is a level of liberation in this book that justifies reading and re-reading it.
“We call something that is challenging, playful, and creative a work of art. In religion, we call it a parable. As a theology we can call it one of joy.” (Galston)
Saturday 30th September – Michael Morwood full day program at Caloundra Uniting Church For details – contact John Everall
Monday 2nd October – Michael Morwood evening program at Redcliffe Azure Blue (UCA Village). For details – contact Ian Brown
Wednesday 4th October – Michael Morwood evening program at Holy Trinity Church, Fortitude Valley – contact Steven Ogden
Saturday 7th October – combined one day program with Hal Taussig and Michael Morwood at New Farm (Merthyr Road Uniting Church) [See next post for details] – contact Desley Garnett
Monday 9th October – Hal Taussig evening program at Sunshine Coast. For details – contact Deborah Bird
Tuesday 10th October – Hal Taussig evening program at Holy Trinity Church, Fortitude Valley For details – contact Steven Ogden
We are currently identifying transport, accommodation, cultural and hospitality opportunities for Hal and Michael.
Watch for further updates on this program.
Bio – Hal Taussig has just retired from a seventeen year tenure as professor of New testament and Early Christianity at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York where his teaching ranged widely through the New Testament and recent new documents discovered from the Christ communities of the first and second centuries. Continue reading
by Alan Jacobs – Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University.
The BCP has had an enormous influence on the evolution of church, prayer, doctrine and church and national politics in the most post reformation churches.
The book’s chief make, Thomas Cranmer, created it as the authoritative manual of Christian worship throughout England. It has been the focus of celebrations, protest and even jail terms.
Many forms have been developed to serve English speaking nations, wherever the British Empire extended its arms.
“From pious aspirations to ruthless politics, and from bonfires of hated communion rails to the Star Wars prayer, the history of the Book of Common Prayer, in Alan Jacob’s hands, is both an education and a bright panorama. I can hardly remember another read so swift yet at the same time so helpful.” Sarah Ruden, author of Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Won Time.
“Few texts have had as much influence on the language, culture and religious life of English-speaking nations as the Book of Common Prayer. Alan Jacobs masterfully distills its history with a poetic touch that is at once scholarly, reverential, and highly engaging. There is no better introduction or guide to the Book of Common Prayer than this one.” Carlos Eire, author of A Very Brief History of Eternity.
Common Dreams on the Road 2017 …. coming your way (perhaps!) soon:
You will be interested to know that Common Dreams has arranged for Professor Hal Taussig, one of the leading theologians of the late 20th & early 21st centuries, to tour Australia & New Zealand in October & November this year under the Common Dreams on the Road banner.
Hal has recently retired as Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary where from 1998 he taught masters & doctoral level studies. He is also Professor of Early Christianity at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. He has also retired from 30+ years as a United Methodist pastor & now is specially assigned by his bishop as a consultant to local congregations. Hal is co-chair of the Society of Biblical Literature’s Consultation on Greco-Roman meals, & on the steering committees of SBL’s Seminar on Modern Theories & Ancient Myths of Christian Origins and the Greco-Roman Meals Consultation.
Professor Taussig is a foundation fellow of the Westar Institute & participated in that Institute’s celebrated Jesus Seminar. He is currently co-chair of Westar’s Christianity Seminar. Among his 14 published books are A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century & Newly Discovered Texts (2013); A New Spiritual Home: Progressive Christianity at the Grass Roots (2006); & Re-imagining Life Together in America: A New Gospel of Community (2002).
While in Australia Hal will visit SE Queensland, Sydney, Perth, Albany/Denmark, & Melbourne. The New Zealand segment includes events in Auckland & Wellington and at the Sea of Faith conference. Details of the dates he will be in each centre & the local contacts for enquiries are:
SE Queensland: 5 – 11 October. Contact Paul Inglis, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sydney: 11 – 18 October. Contact, Margaret Mayman, email@example.com
Perth & Esperance: 18 – 25 October. Perth contact Richard Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org . Esperance Contact Elizabeth Burns, email@example.com
Melbourne: 25 – 29 October. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 9571 4575
Auckland: 29 October – 2 November. Contact Glynn Cardy, email@example.com
Wellington: 3 – 5 November. Contact Susan Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sea of Faith: 6 – 7 November. Contact Adrian Skelton, email@example.com
Don’t miss the opportunity to hear this remarkable progressive thinker & speaker.
Common Dreams 2019
This is long range advice that the fifth Common Dreams conference will be held in Sydney on either 4 – 7 July or 11 – 14 July (the exact dates will be determined when the availability of the venue is negotiated). Matthew Fox has been booked as the distinguished international keynote speaker. Matthew is a well-known writer & inspired speaker with at least 30 books to his credit. Formerly a member of the Dominican Order within the Roman Catholic Church, he incurred the ire of the then Cardinal Ratzinger which led to his eventual expulsion from the Catholic Church after which he became a member of the Episcopal Church. Fox was an early and influential exponent of a movement that came to be known as Creation Spirituality. The movement draws inspiration from (though diverges doctrinally from) the mystical philosophies of such medieval Catholic visionaries as Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Dante Alighieri, Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa, as well as the wisdom traditions of Christian scriptures. Creation Spirituality is also strongly aligned with ecological and environmental movements of the late 20th century and embraces numerous spiritual traditions around the world, including Buddhism, Judaism, Sufism, and Native American spirituality, with a focus on “deep ecumenism”.
Make a note in your diary & plan to attend what will prove to be another exciting & stimulating gathering of progressives featuring leading international, Australian, & New Zealand speakers & workshop leaders.
Dick Carter, Melbourne.
Congratulations to Noel and others who are celebrating 50 years since their ordination. A great opportunity to look back on the influences upon his life and the development of his current progressive thinking. A good read giving insights into local and international developments that helped produce new thinking.
NOEL PRESTON REFLECTS
A SHORT PROLOGUE: THESE FIFTY YEARS (1967 – 2017)
2017 marks many anniversaries.
Fifty years ago, in 1967, the seeds of the turbulent sixties were coming to fruition. Multi-factors triggered these social changes: the gross mistake of military incursion in Vietnam, the sexual revolution, the civil rights struggle in the USA or the major shifts in academic debates which even made respectable the idea that “God Is Dead”. Late in 1967 on December 3, an amazing medical landmark was reached – the first human heart transplant was performed by the South African surgeon, Dr Christiaan Barnard. It was around the same time that Australia’s Prime Minister, Harold Holt, disappeared in the surf at Portsea, Victoria. As citizens we followed the grisly search on our black and white TVs. Earlier in the year a more grotesque demise was the hanging of Ronald Ryan in the dawn of February 3 at Melbourne’s Pentridge Gaol. Thankfully, Ryan’s execution was the last such capital punishment in Australia. There are other milestones from 1967: for instance, the Seekers were Australians of the Year and Gough Whitlam became Leader of the Federal Labour Party. Most momentous of anniversaries in Australia was the overwhelming vote of Australians on May 27, 1967, which opened the way for a constitutional change, resulting finally in the inclusion of First Australians in the population count and granting the Commonwealth power to legislate on behalf of indigenous Australians.
Another anniversary of major historical significance to the Western World is marked for All Saints’ Day in 2017. Then, it will 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg, initiating a Reformation which, following the Renaissance, transformed Western culture and the shape of Christendom. Luther’s action and subsequent events crossed a threshold toward the movement historians now call modernity. It was a protest congruent with the mood of rising nationalism and the emerging philosophical emphasis on the rights of the individual. Some might argue in this “semi-millenium” that 2017 should be celebrated as the death of Protestantism. Others might prefer to understand the present era as a departure point for the Christian churches of Protestantism to be revived beyond the recognition of founders, Luther, Calvin, Knox and Wesley. From my perspective, I am convinced that I have lived through the death of the Protestant movement which can be traced back to Luther’s actions and the revolt against Rome which spread across northern Europe. In multicultural societies like Australia, those who represent religion, as well as those who wish to find an authentic spirituality, must now make their way in a society dominated by secularism and post-modern cultural manifestations where science and its technological offspring shape the way we live and, to a great extent, what we believe.
Hello, I’m sitting with my wife, Debbie, in our living room here in Pakse, Laos, reading through various websites on Progressive Christianity. I’m looking for a group/community to become part of, as it has been a challenge being a Progressive Christian for the past 3 years.
We’re from Perth and volunteer with Australian Volunteers in S.E. Asia. Formerly missionaries for 11 years and pastor I have now studied, listened and read too much about the origins of my faith to be able to return to what I believed before. As a result it has been a somewhat lonely journey with a few “heretic” accusations from some of our mostly Evangelical friendship base.
I have written a story of my changes in a blog, www.changedbeliefs.blogspot.com
Any way would be interested to join your group.
Rural Development Advisor
+856 020 55099593
1st August 2017
For a link to APCV news:
Robyn and I are on a seven week caravan tour of Central and Far North Queensland. We are intentionally visiting ‘small’ Uniting and Anglican churches because of our wonderful experience at Dayboro. We have not been disappointed. They usually demonstrate:
Today was no exception as we dropped into the service at St Mark’s Yungaburra, the smallest church on the Atherton Tableland, built in 1912 and determined to be here in another 100 years.
The conversations resonated with our own experiences, but they had more to tell us than we expected. The church in the Far North was founded in the boom years of gold, copper and tin in the late 19th Century and that boom had busted by 1910. Their survival can be attributed to a level of determination we long for today. In the case of St Mark’s the Bush Brotherhood were the drivers of the Jesus train through the Outback and this little church was one of their biggest supporters.
Best of all, for us, was the standard of preaching that raised important and critical questions about our following of the Jesus paradigm. We will have recorded seven of these experiences by the time we finish this tour. Go small churches…!
Paul Inglis, 6th August 2017.
The end of church and the birth of a new spiritual awakening
What is behind the great changes that are replacing traditional forms of faith with new ethical and areligious choices? Diana Butler Bass argues that we are at a critical stage in a completely new spiritual awakening and a wholly new kind of post-religious faith
This is a hope filled engagement with changes that are creating a fresh and authentic way of faith that stays true to the real message of Jesus.
In her typically provocative, well-informed and inspiring way Diana provides a range of essential questions, great insights and wise counsel about the future. She sees a new ‘Age of the Spirit’ dawning which brings both fear and hope. Her critical point is that faithful people should intentionally engage with the emerging issues and be part of the reform, renewal and re-imagination of traditions so that they make sense to contemporary people.
The trend to being multi-religious in outlook reflects the considered ‘choices’ that are replacing unquestioning ‘obligation’ and conformity. at the same time, more people consider themselves spiritual than religious. Many are dissatisfied with institutional religion and want to connect with with God , their neighbourhood and life in a more considered and personal way.
The resemblance of many denominations to corporations that have dominated life for the last century gives the impression of selling a ‘product’. This is a tough spiritual climate for them. Public trust in religious institutions has dropped dramatically in the last decade. Young people are leaving evangelical Christianity in droves. This is an age of choice. Diana sees this discontent as a gift. It is one short step from creating a better way of life, a better society, and a better world. Discontent reflects a longing for a better sort of Christianity, one that embodies Jesus’s teaching and life in a way that makes a real difference in the world. This calls for a return to pre-creedal church while calling for a more responsive and relevant church.
This ‘ great awakening’ is a call to human connectedness, economic equality, democracy, love of creation and spirituality. We need religion imbued with the spirit of shared humanity and hope, not religions that divide and further fracture the future.
Diana gives the last word to Dietrich Bonhoeffer whose prophetic voice from the mid-twentieth century offers:
There is a need for spiritual vitality. What protection is there against the danger of organisation? …. our relationship to God [is] not a religious relationship to a Supreme Being, absolute in power and goodness, which is a spurious conception of transcendence, but a new life for others, through participation in the Being of God. (Letters and Papers from Prison)
This review has not done justice to a wonderful book. There is much more that could be said about it. The reader will soon find that out. It is an important text and one which Brian McLaren expects and hopes will be the must-read church book for years to come.
Paul Inglis, July 2017
GATHERING 5pm. – Sunday 20th AUGUST 2017
“WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH AND RELIGION?”
How religious will the World be in 2050?
Background: All around us rapid change is taking place. How does the Church cope with all that is happening? Is religion still evolving in the midst of this change or is it phasing out? And, in the midst of this rapid change, the population of our World is increasing dramatically.
The number of Australians stating “no religion” in the Census has been increasing and now stands at 29.6%. Is our society predominately secular and materialistic?
Does religion have a future in a Secular Age!!!
Our Leader this Gathering is Rev. Kevin Bachler: Kevin looks at this stark statistic and brings us into the reality of our current church trends. We will be invited to explore the potential for us, that is, a group of broadly progressive, and certainly spiritual people. We are part of that census statistic shown as “religious”. What issues within our community will respond to the influence of these seemingly inescapable pressures accelerating around us. “What future for religion – we ask?” “And we discuss !”
Join with the Explorers and regional “Friends of the Explorers” as we meet at 5pm for our 20th August “Gathering” with a byo light meal and ‘progressive’ liturgy. Explorers’ “Gatherings” maintain a safe environment and all views are respected. We encourage stimulating discussion and support each other on our individual “exploring journeys”.
Contact: John Everall P: 0408624570 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Kevin Bachler P. 5492 3420 E: email@example.com
Margaret Landbeck P: 5438 2789 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where : Caloundra Uniting Church Hall 56 Queen Street Caloundra.
A Faith And the Modern Era series
‘IMAGINING THE CHURCH AS AN OPEN SPACE OF FREEDOM’
@ Holy Trinity
for the launch of The Reverend Dr Steven Ogden’s latest book
“The Church, Authority and Foucault”.
Fork dinner to follow proudly sponsored by Holy Trinity’s Hospitality & Arts Consortium.
Please assist with catering: RSVP by Tuesday 15 August to email@example.com
or leave a voice message on (07) 3852 1635.
Sunday 20 August, 6 pm
The dates and locations are still being settled on, and possibly more will emerge. We still have dates available for other venues. This is the picture to date:
Professor Hall Taussig:
Arrives in Brisbane – 5th October
7th October – Merthyr Uniting Church, New Farm – all day
9th October – St Marks Anglican Church – evening
10th October – Holy Trinity Anglican Church Fortitude Valley, Brisbane – evening
Departs Brisbane – 11th October
Arrives Brisbane – to be confirmed
30th September – Caloundra Explorers (Uniting Church) – all day
2nd October – Redcliffe Explorers (Uniting Church) – at Azure Blue Residential – evening
4th October – Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane – evening
7th October – Merthyr Uniting Church, New Farm – all day.
Departs Brisbane – to be confirmed.
Enquiries: Paul Inglis
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community is a a sect of Islam that rejects terrorism and violence of any kind. Members practice loyalty to the government of the country in which they are living and regularly undertake community service. For example during the March floods 50 members of the Logan Ahmadiyya Muslim Community joined the ‘Mud Army’ to help cleanup after Cyclone Debbie flooding in the Logan area.
The sect is ostracized and persecuted by other Muslims in many countries. There are approximately 4000 members living in Australia, many from Pakistan, with mosques in Queensland, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
Ahmadiyya Public Relations spokesperson Ibraheem Malik said:
‘Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to present the True Islam – which is just Peace, Love & Respect to all Humanity. We all have to stand up for any kind of evil and support goodness. Together we will be stronger & fight the evil and the people who tries to divide society for their personal gains.”
Please join us in welcoming members of this community to our Fellowship and feel free to invite other interested members of your networks to hear this presentation.
We meet at Brisbane Theosophical Society Rooms, 355 Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill at 10 am.”
Enquiries: Renee Hills
The picture is starting to become clearer about the location and times for seminars in South East Queensland for Hal Taussig (left) and Michael Morwood (below).
Confirmed venues dates and times:
Caloundra Uniting Church Saturday 30 September – full day
Redcliffe Monday 2 October – 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Holy Trinity Fortitude Valley –– Wednesday 4 October – 7.30pm – 9.30pm
New Farm, Brisbane – Merthyr Road Uniting Church – Saturday 7th October – all day
(Subject to changes and additional venues)
St Marks Buderim –– to be advised
New Farm – Merthyr Road Uniting Church – Saturday 7th October – all day
Holy Trinity Fortitude Valley – Tuesday 10th October – 7.30pm – 9.30pm.
(Subject to changes and additional venues)
Note: The seminar on 7th October will include Michael and Hal in a series of presentations. More details on location of venues, all topics, ticket prices, programs and other details will be available soon.
Other groups wanting to engage either speaker at their venue should contact Paul Inglis as soon as possible.
Some recent commentary on the ABC TV program Grantchester has prompted us to post this opinion piece. Perhaps you have been watching this program. For Rodney Eivers it has been more than just a story….
[Incidently this program comes from the pen of James Runcie, son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury.]
I deliberately minimise my television viewing except for some ABC news and documentary programmes but usually because certain “family” nights occur at the weekends I have come to sit back and enjoy what generally turns out to be one or two British crime shoes on ABC TV.
I don’t pick and choose. Thus it came about that a recent show which I could not avoid turned out to be the series “Grantchester.” This features an Anglican clergyman who strikes up a friendship with a police detective. As usual with just about all popular TV shows there is a love theme with sexual tension running in the back ground.
So I continued to watch episodes of this show each week enjoying the story at face value. As time went on, though, I got caught up in the moral questions it raises. The writers certainly know their Christian church culture, especially within the Church of England environment. The preaching is intelligent and related to the struggles for human nature in being people of the Jesus way. It avoids both sanctimony and ridicule in evaluating a Christian life.
As the series drew to a close and certain catastrophes in personal relationships had to be unravelled I feared that the self-centredness of erotic love would win out.
Although God as a concept is assumed, that presence is represented as something of an internal struggle, an argument within oneself, as to what might be the priorities of a person committed to the Way.
It turned out in the end that I was happy with the way the writers wound up the story.
Although the tale focuses on sexual waywardness in relationships(after all that probably makes it more compelling for the general viewer) rather than the other “sins” which engage us, I think it paints a good story of what can go wrong and hopefully ultimately right.
This series has finished on ABC television for now but for those who like to ponder these things and may well have had their own struggles in human relationships I would make it recommended viewing if repeated or available on iView or DVD.
For more from Earth Link go to: http://www.earth-link.org.au/
Sunday at 5:30 PM – 6:15 PM
Uniting Church West End
Vulture St, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Enquiries: Kris Maslin
Our guest, Lucy Lopez, will facilitate a guided contemplation on the theme ‘Acceptance’.
A bit about Lucy:
She has trained in MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn) and has also trained in MBSM (Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation) with Ian Gawler, Australia’s own former athlete, veterinarian and cancer-survivor. She is a fully Accredited Meditation Teacher with Meditation Australia.
Her professional portfolio includes High School and Tertiary teaching, Consultancy in Human Resource Management, Retail Assistance, Research, Mentoring, Counselling, Teaching Meditation and Transpersonal Workshopping for individuals and groups.
Her website is Get Enlightened Today (http://
and her Facebook page is Get Enlightened Today (https://web.facebook.com/
more about Lucy’s direction for Sunday night; she explains:
“I recently ran a mini survey with my Facebook friends most of whom I have never met in person. I asked them some questions about ‘Acceptance’ as it pertains to personal issues such as loss, disappointment and illness as well as to more global issues such as war, social and financial inequity and racial and religious extremism and intolerance.
The responses seemed to me to be very thoughtful and honest expressing familiar ides, beliefs and values. Two or three of them were refreshingly ambivalent. (The true seeker, I have come to realize, is willing to accept that he/she does not know :)).
One answer, however, stood out from the rest, both by its simplicity and by its crystal clear ring of truth. I shall use it as the basis of our contemplation on ‘Acceptance’.”
A bit more about Lucy:
Lucy has a Bachelor of Science honours degree from the University of London, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the University of Hong Kong and completed 80% of her Masters of Education degree before switching to a research degree toward a PhD. She chose not to complete that after spending approximately 5 years part-time researching and reading in the area of Cognitive Psychology where her particular focus was on the impact of beliefs on our wellbeing. She continues, however, to research independently.
She has done courses (and in some cases worked) with Lifeline Australia, Volunteering Australia and the remarkable visionary, scholar and researcher, Jean Houston (a student of Joseph Campbell), as well as the enormously successful, heart-tuned, smile-inducing Mike Dooley, author of Notes from the Universe.
A month or two ago in response to some earlier Christmas greetings I received a message from a retired Uniting Church minister which included the words, “I would like to know more about your work in ‘Progressive Christianity’ “.
With some hesitation, because I was not sure of his religious orientation, I duly sent my friend a couple of books, one of which was Hunt and Smith, “Why Weren’t We Told”. This is the title I usually recommend for Australian newcomers to “progressive” Christianity .
Some time later I was pleasantly surprised to receive a further greeting:
I appreciate your kind gift. It was the right book at the right time!
On retirement I shed the cloak of “orthodoxy” and became much more “progressive” in my thinking (and writing). So there was little I would disagree with. In fact, I have even gone further in some of my perceptions and understandings.
So the context of the book came as a reassurance that I was not alone!
Thank you for this. It surprises me that I should have come to similar conclusions.
With best wishes…
The moral of this story is that there may well be any others out there having a comparable experience. If you, as a viewer of this site, have your own story along these lines we would be pleased to hear from you. If you would prefer to remain anonymous send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Of course it would be good if our ministers could become aware of the progressive option before they enter ministry rather after they leave it. This is the rationale behind our UC Forum bursaries. That is to provide payment of fees in full or part – up to a value of $5,000 for students aspiring to attend (in the first instance) Trinity Theological College Queensland courses. Enquiries may be made to email@example.com .
Posted by Rodney Eivers
Yuri Josef Koszarycz, Former Theologian, Ethicist and Historian at Australian Catholic University, Brisbane (1975-2010)
Translations of the Old and New Testaments into “modern languages” was discouraged by the medieval church – but from 1520 onwards more versions began to appear, particularly after the invention of the printing press. The word for ‘carpenter’ in Greek was ‘tekton’ – and a ‘tekton’ in the Middle ages was someone who was a “hewer of wood” or someone who collected wood shavings from various building sites – usually sold very cheaply as kindling wood to start a robust fire.
What we have to realise is that by the time biblical translations began to be given in the 1500’s, there was a lot of “unionisation” of the building trade. In fact the guilds at that time listed 17 different levels of “tekton’ beginning with the arche tekton (the tirst tekton – and we still retain that engineering term with the English word “archtect!”). His assistant would be the ‘duotekton’ followed by the tritotekton, and so on down the chain until we ended up with the poor, humble tekton at the bottom of the list!
So when, for example Martin Luther translated into German in 1522, and he came to the word “tekton” he would have assumed that Joseph and his sons lived in dire poverty as the poorest of one in the building trade. However, to REALLY understand the meaning of that word as used in Jesus’ time, and in that period of history, we have to see how the word “tekton” was used by the Hellenistic/Romanwriters in that period! There were the Greek philosophers of course, and writers like Menander, Apollonius, historians like Timaeus, Polybius, Diodorus, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus – and of course, there were large chunks of the Old Testament that was actually written in Greek by the time Jesus was alive, teaching and preaching.
If we examine these texts, we see that a “tekton” was what we would call “a structural engineer” today – someone who built fortresses, main roads leading the city, someone conversant with ship building and construction, and definitely would be equivalent (but more varied in the tasks they could do) to the architects of today. They would be skilled in understanding the maths, physics, and geometry of the period – much based on the works of Archimedes and Euclid – and certainly extremely skilled artisans! A tekton was NOT a humble carpenter, but rather a valuable and skilled (and no doubt quite wealthy) professional!
From Being Driven to Being Drawn
|When I was a young man, I liked ideas and books quite a lot, and I still read a great deal. But each time I come back from a long hermitage retreat, I have no desire to read a book for the next few weeks or even months. For a while I know there is nothing in any book that is going to be better, more truthful, or more solid than what I have just experienced on the cellular, heart, and soul level.
If you asked me what it is I know, I would be hard pressed to tell you. All I know is that there is a deep “okayness” to life—despite all the contradictions—which has become even more evident in the silence. Even when much is terrible, seemingly contradictory, unjust, and inconsistent, somehow sadness and joy are able to coexist at the same time. The negative value of things no longer cancels out the positive, nor does the positive deny the negative.
Whatever your personal calling or your delivery system for the world, it must proceed from a foundational “yes” to life. Your necessary “no” to injustice and all forms of un-love will actually become even clearer and more urgent in the silence, but now your work has a chance of being God’s pure healing instead of impure anger and agenda. You can feel the difference in people who are working for causes; so many works of social justice have been undone by people who do all the fighting from their small or angry selves
If your prayer goes deep, your whole view of the world will change from fear and reaction to deep and positive connection—because you don’t live inside a fragile and encapsulated self anymore. In meditation, you are moving from ego consciousness to soul awareness, from being driven by negative motivations to being drawn from a positive source within.
Through a consistent practice of contemplative prayer you will find yourself thinking much more in terms of both/and rather than either/or. This is what enables mystics and saints to forgive, to let go of hurts, to be compassionate, and even to love their enemies.
Gateway to Silence:
Reference: Adapted from Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014), 17-18, 22.
2 Day Conference – Thursday 23rd November to Friday 24th November 2017
Multi-faith Centre (Building N35), Griffith University, 170 Kessels Rd, Nathan, Brisbane
For a copy of the PDF file giving details about the conference and guidelines for proposed papers contact: Noel Preston
Conference proposals now close on 10th July.
Friend of the UC Forum, Everald Compton, has posted his latest opinion bulletin on the topic of the current circumstances of three Australian leaders – George Pell, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. Everald presents an observation on the parallels and linkages amongst these three men of church and state and makes a prophetic observation on their futures. Time will tell how accurate his is, but be aware that Everald has been right many times before!
Go to: https://everaldcompton.com/2017/07/08/cardinal-and-prime-minister/ for this story.
Everald is a Uniting Church member, and has a strong commitment to the huge task of implementing the Blueprint for an Ageing Australia as Chairman of the LONGEVITY INNOVATION HUB.
His work as a consultant to ATEC RAIL GROUP LTD, of which he was Chairman for 18 years, is part of his plan to see that Australia has top quality long distance railways to efficiently transport domestic freight and export commodities, preferably owned and managed by private companies.
He also chairs Tenement to Terminal Ltd (3TL) which is building a live cattle export facility at the Port of Gladstone in Queensland. The challenge of designing and implementing the logistics of this operation and establishing export markets in Asia is a fascinating one.
His other passion in infrastructure is WATER, especially the drought proofing of the entire continent. In partnership with his friend John Thompson, they have planned a major project to divert tropical water to the Darling River and constantly lobby governments to implement it.
As an Elder of the Uniting Church in Australia, he is actively involved in the positive role of Christianity in the world.
Two particular activities are:
ACTS, a charity founded by the Aspley Uniting Church to care for people in need. Everald is its Chairman and the activities are mainly concentrated on broken homes, domestic violence, deprived children and refugees.
NORTH BRISBANE INTERFAITH GROUP, which brings together people of all religious faiths in regular dialogue. They particularly concentrate on improving religious understanding, poverty and illiteracy.
We are anticipating having Michael Morwood in South East Queensland as guest of the Progressive Christianity Network in the second half of September 2017. Dates and venues will be posted soon.
About Michael Morwood
Michael Morwood has an extensive background in spirituality and adult faith formation. He is internationally acclaimed for his clear and accessible writing, workshops and lectures on the need for Christians to reshape religious thinking and imagination. He lives in Perth, Australia, with his wife, Maria
We are anticipating having Hal Taussig in South East Queensland as a guest of the Progressive Christianity Network, and other progressive groups, from 5-11th October 2017. This will be a part of the Common Dreams On the Road program. Common Dreams 5 is being planned for Sydney in 2019. More details coming.
Visiting Professor of New Testament
Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York
Professor of Early Christianity
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, Pennsylvania
Co-pastor, Chestnut Hill United Methodist Church (retired)
Hal Taussig is Visiting Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he has taught masters and doctoral level studies since 1998. He also is Professor of Early Christianity at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. He has retired from 30+ years as a United Methodist pastor, and now is specially assigned by his bishop as a consultant to local congregations. Taussig is co-chair of the national Society of Biblical Literature’s Consultation on Greco-Roman Meals, and on the steering committees of the SBL’s Seminar on Modern Theories and Ancient Myths of Christian Origins and the Greco-Roman Meals Consultation. Among his 14 authored books is the recent A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts. His mediography includes the New York Times on-line edition, the Daily Show, Time Magazine and Newsweek opinion pages, the New York Times op-ed page, People Magazine, and Paul Zahn Now.
Ph.D., The Union Institute
M.Div., Methodist Theological School in Ohio
A.B., Antioch College
Hal is also a Charter Fellow of the Westar Institute.
From a member of long standing of a large UCA congregation:
I am not sure if i have anything of interest to add to the subject of progressive Christianity but one thing I am certain of is that the God Of My Youth, The God that I call GOMY, for me, no longer exists , if in fact he ever existed. Now that I have come to that conclusion I have to decide what sort of God do I need in my life, if I wanted a God that makes sense in the 21st century. The difficulty is that GOMY is probably the God that by and large is the UCA God . So where do I go now?
God that I call GOMY, for me, no longer exists , if in fact he ever existed. Now that I have come to that conclusion I have to decide what sort of God do I need in my life, if I wanted a God that makes sense in the 21st century. The difficulty is that Gomy is probably the God that by and large is the UCA God . So where do I go now?
See for forty years I have been a proud member of the Uniting Church and some thirty years prior to that in one of its founding churches . One night many years ago it dawned on me that GOMY doesn’t talk to me . I pray to him but he doesn’t talk to me . Now that is not a difficult thing for the creator of the world to do I would think. But no not a word not even a throat clearing or whisper. So the next question that occurred to me was, does GOMY, or did GOMY ever really exist? Is the God that I was taught to pray to just a figment of my imagination.
What sort of God could I expect, in the 21st century, to be a legitimate and acceptable God. You know the sort of thing , a God that has been around for billions of years, not for no more than eight thousand years . Would this modern God want to be worshipped and can I pray to this God , can I ask this God to do stuff or change the weather?
For the past 10 or 20 years I have tried to do the GOMY – modern God shuffle. You know the sort of thing, try to change words during the hymns and prayers to words that make sense to my current thinking . Trouble is that the pattern it is too incessant and there is nobody speaking my language . I am thinking that it is all too hard . I am never going to change the GOMY worshipers in my church . I will just keep enjoying the fellowship of people I have known for many years and keep doing the shuffle . Still I can dream of a 21st century church . Sounds like fun.
Go to: ABC Census Results for the figures.
Go to : ABC Religion and Ethics Report to catch up on this broadcast focusing on the 40 year experiment of a ‘movement’ that produced a uniquely Australian Protestant expression of ‘church’.
Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.
|Action and Contemplation
Monday, June 26, 2017
|The words action and contemplation have become classic Christian terminology for the two dancing polarities of our lives. Thomas Aquinas and many others stated that the highest form of spiritual maturity is not action or contemplation, but the ability to integrate the two into one life stance—to be service-oriented contemplatives or contemplative activists. By temperament we all tend to come at it from one side or the other.
This full integration doesn’t happen without a lot of mistakes and practice and prayer. And invariably, as you go through life, you swing on a pendulum back and forth between the two. During one period you may be more active or more contemplative than at another time.
I have commonly noticed a tendency to call any kind of inner work contemplation, and this concerns me. Inner work might lead you to a contemplative stance, but not necessarily. We shouldn’t confuse various kinds of inner work, insight-gathering, or introspection with contemplative spirituality. Contemplation is about letting go of the false much more than just collecting the new, the therapeutic, or the helpful. In other words, if you and your personal growth are still the focus, I do not think you are yet a contemplative—which demands that you shed yourself as the central reference point. Jesus said, “Unless the single grain of wheat dies, it remains just a single grain,” and it will not bear much fruit (John 12:24).
We must guard against our “innerness” becoming disguised narcissism, navel-gazing, and overly self-serving. I am afraid this is not uncommon in the religious world. An exalted self-image of “I am a spiritual person” is far too appealing to the ego. Thomas Merton warned against confusing an introverted personality with being a contemplative. They are two different things.
Having said that, I’ll point out the other side of the problem. Too much activism without enough inner work, insight, or examination of conscience inevitably leads to violence—to the self, to the project at hand, and invariably to others. If too much inner focus risks narcissism and individualism, I guess too much outer focus risks superficiality, negativity passing for love of justice, and various Messiah complexes. You can lack love on the Right and you can lack love on the Left—they just wear two different disguises.
We need both inner communion and outer service to be “Jesus” in the world! The job of religion is to help people act effectively and compassionately from an inner centeredness and connection with God.
Gateway to Silence:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace (Orbis Books: 1993), 105-107.
Reviewed by Rodney Eivers – 22nd May 2017
Glorify by Emily C. Heath
Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity
I was drawn to this title in the MediaCom catalogue by its subtitle “Reclaiming the Heart of “progressive” Christianity”. This is because, for all my own commitment to “progressive” Christianity I have to struggle with how we can generate enough passion about this option which will provide people with emotional satisfaction leading them to staying with it as a guide to the way we might live.
Although Emily Heath has much that is positive to say, the content of the book does not live up to my expectations.
Rev. Heath is at pains to identify with the “progressive” Christianity movement. A favourite phrase repeated in one form or another in pretty well every chapter is “We progressives”, yet her progressivism bears little resemblance doctrinally to what would be the standard for proponents such as, Spong, Geering and Borg – especially Gretta Vosper of “With or Without God” – with their dismissal of supernatural attributes of a 21st Century faith.
At one point Emily Heath goes as far as to acknowledge that she accepts a literal resurrection. She then goes on however, to discuss this in metaphorical terms typical of modern liberal orthodoxy which is still anxious about disenfranchising itself from the wider church committed to the 4th Century creeds. Such a retreat from literal interpretation avoids the challenge from an educated public prepared to challenge supernatural interpretations of Bible stories.
Despite this, God, in this book, is spoken of virtually in theistic terms, as some form of ‘being” with whom one may make contact. I doubt that this is really Heath’s base position.
Her attachment to progressivism clearly comes from its acceptance and support of homosexuality and other elements of the LGBTQ community. With her being an openly gay minister of religion, recently married, thanks to changes in USA law, this is understandable.
She is spot on with her analysis of what is happening with the decline of church attendance, especially for the mainline denominations. She notes the reticence of today’s generations to join or commit to anything. This is being exacerbated by the attachment to screens and social media in preference to face to face interaction.
I am fully with her also on the place which local community interaction can play, perhaps must play, in maintaining and sustaining a vibrant Christian presence and initiative.
So I find the prominence given to “doing it our human selves” is made to sit uneasily against depending on God to sort it out.
The trouble is, what sort of God are we talking about here, assuming that we have moved away from the mediaeval, theistic persona waiting out there to come to our aid if we use the right prayer formula?
There are so many avatars of God. Jesus imagined God as a loving father but he also spoke of the God of nature, the creator of flowers of the field and of being neutral as to human welfare. “God causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust”.
Some speak of God as representing the spirit of love. As Don Cupitt has highlighted, the word “life” in common usage has become synonymous with God. Some see God, as the inner voice of conscience and reflection with which we each have an ongoing conversation. Another picture of God, somewhat allied to “life” or “what is” is that entity which comprises all the collection of chance events and probabilities ranging from formation of the cosmos to ordinary day to day living. That is, any moment in time. In this characterisation God itself does not know what is going to happen next. It is unpredictable. It is interesting that in this last case we can pray to this god with intellectual integrity. In praying, for ourselves, or for someone else we can express a hope that the dice of life will fall our way. Is this not, indeed, what we are doing these days when instead of praying for someone with terminal cancer, we do not ask for supernatural healing. We simply express a wish, a hope, that the doctors will do their best or that the end will be relatively peaceful.
So what is the God whom we are to glorify?
Perhaps the best we can do is to celebrate life and express our gratitude that we have the privilege of experiencing this great gift of living, of consciousness, of knowing that we exist.
With these caveats I would suggest that although Emily Heath may not have found the secret to “heart” for most of us who call ourselves progressive, there is much of value in reading her take on the issue.
Following the interest in the recent post from Rev Rex Hunt, Rex has provided us with more useful resources for worship or events that call for a focus on the critical nature of a world of political, religious and military conflict. These are the result of his initiative in responding to a friend’s request which went like this:
“I think if we are at war with various parties in the Middle East we can sadly expect to have incidents on our own soil that remind us that innocent by-standers sometimes share the costs of what we do elsewhere for whatever noble reasons.
They are extremists when they hurt us and we hate them for what they do: and rightly so.
But I guess those who hurt us or our kith and kin empowered by what we call a warped understanding of their own faith, possibly think the same way about us – or those who represent us back there in the conflict zones of the ME…
I sometimes wish that someone would write a hymn or two that reflects the agony of the innocent on both sides – the confusions of our faiths and the way of the Jesus of history that directly addresses the issues of now, but I guess that may be not possible.”
The resources were kindly provided by Rex’s colleagues and follow:
We have received the following message from Rev Dr Noel Preston. [After a period of health challenges and treatment, he is feeling quite well at the moment and preparing to take a holiday trip to Fiji.]
“This message is to advise that I have created a website designed to make my memoir “Beyond the Boundary” available to those interested. It was published in 2006 and has been out of print for some time. I have had a few requests for the text so this is my attempt to make it freely available.Perhaps you have read it and if so you know it provides a window on Queensland social history and also, I trust, through my own journey a background to a quest for progressive Christianity. It is to be found at www.noelpreston.info. Apparently it is best to put this address in the top search bar!!!!) I would welcome it if this word can be spread through networks such as PCNQ and the UC Forum.”
by Dwight Welch, United Church of Christ, Oklahoma.
Mark Sandlin, a Presbyterian pastor and blogger at The God Article, came out with a recent post questioning the trinity and the way it’s been used as a litmus test to determine who is out and who is in the church. It’s a sort of a “the emperor has no clothes” post in that it acknowledges publicly what many lay people have thought but never hear pastors say; the trinity is not to be found in the Bible, it was involved with historical debates and political power plays in the early church that may or may not be relevant to what it means to follow Jesus today. So I wanted to express my appreciation for his post and his naming something that I think has troubled many in the church.
Suffice it to say that I agree with him that the trinity should not be a litmus test. In fact, I think most litmus tests should be suspect. They shut down the possibilities of questions, they often operate as power plays, and they suggest that the arguments for a religious ideas are not sufficient so some external force is needed to produce conformity. When that happens, there is reason to doubt the claim. And something happens to a community which has to fear the use of such tactics. They don’t produce space for honest searches, for questions, for religious inquiry in general.
But as a progressive Christian pastor, I will admit, that the trinity has proved to be too important in the making of my own religious ideas to let it go. While it should not be the test of orthodoxy (even the World Council of Churches require for membership), I think of the trinity as the one of those undiscovered treasures when one finally cleans out the attic or basement. You dust it off and you have a new found appreciation for a very old idea. That’s what happened to me in any case.
Like many old ideas it’s had a battered history. Some have taken the trinity to be a “mystery”, an example of how our language gives out when seeking to describe the “ineffable“. Others take it as a contradiction, an example of religious communities requiring belief in the unbelievable as a basis to secure loyalty. It forms our creedal and liturgical language for centuries but its not clear that many members of the church could explain why. And if they could, would those reasons be compelling?
I know my attraction is not because I believe Jesus was God. I don’t. I believe he was a first century Jewish teacher. Nor do I believe that some percentage of Jesus was God and some other percentage was human, as if you cut someone up like that. My thinking of the incarnation is most influenced by Rita Nakashima Brock who speaks of the incarnation as grounded in relationships, not in a single individual, but in the interactions and connections that are had with one another. No person as an individual is so removed from society that you could make a plausible account of incarnation apart from society and those wider set of relationships, including Jesus.
So what compels me to pick up the trinity again? Some of it is history. To me, any religious doctrine that has had sway over a significant period of time and with a broad array of communities, suggests not an esoteric doctrine, a puzzle that can’t be solved, but instead suggests an idea that touches on something important in human experience. That is, religious doctrines that have some staying power, like most kinds of language, disclose something about our world. So I have an interest in what that might be. I’m a language junkie in that way. It’s why I worry about dying languages because something about human life is about to be lost with its passage.
That something Shailer Matthews, describes in terms of patterns discerned about our world and ourselves. What pattern does the Trinity point to? There are a number of good candidates. One that interests me is the inner relationality of God as the pattern of relationships which constitutes communities and human life in general. God never acts alone but is in constant mutual love and reciprocity between the persons of the trinity. From this, we have a model for living. For example, Bob Cornwall finds in the “unity between Father and Son…our unity as church”
But then he writes “can’t we go even further to understand the unity of creation itself to be found within this fellowship? Jürgen Moltmann advocates that God is present in all things, and all things are present in God. Pushing further, he speaks of our existence within this fellowship in soteriological terms of salvation or wholeness.” I’d like to take that insight and run with it in this piece.
The first time the Spirit makes an appearance in scripture is in Genesis. There the Spirit of God, hovers over the deep, and begins the first act of creation by separating water and the land and the light from the darkness. That is, the Spirit separates and makes distinctions which makes for individuality. Abram is driven out from his people into the desert, and like Jacob, is given a new name to express the creation of something new, a new people, a transformed individual. It is the Spirit which names who Jesus is in the waters of his baptism and it is the Spirit which drives Jesus into the wilderness to take stock before his public ministry.
So the Spirit is intimately involved in the creation of the new, of the individual, of uniqueness, and of identity. The Spirit names things, separates people out, and creates new individuals. If anyone remembers the process of adolescence, the separations involved, in the growing up years, especially from parents, this provides the context for an individual to emerge, with a unique set of gifts, ideas, and personality to give to the world. If you watch the movie Boyhood, which just came out, you get to see that process unfold over many years.
The key part to the previous statement is to “give to the world”. The point is not simply to be an individual but to take that individuality and put it in the service of others. That is what makes it a gift. Paul identifies Christ as the power that makes for salvation. To the degree that our gifts can be put into the service of others, the encounter, the exchange that occurs, can become transformational and therefore salvific. In that, Jesus represents the Christ not in the waters of baptism but when he leaves the wilderness and begins his public ministry.
When we share who we are with each other, what HN Wieman identifies as creative interchange, it can transform individuals. They have a shared experience and the result is a different kind of relationship, one marked by growth and change, where new values emerge that are inclusive of those involved in the interaction. Because the moment you invite others into your community, you are inviting them to transform you as much as you will transform them. A new community emerges as individuals add their gifts and individuality into the mix. The act of creation which follows is what I understand when I affirm God as creator.
In this, there appears to be a three folded process. The first is the act of creating individuals and individuality, the Spirit. The second is taking the gifts of individuals and sharing it with others, the Christ. The third is the deepening of relationships, the transformations of individuals and communities, God the creator. All three presuppose each other. You can’t create individuals apart from other people in community. You can’t create growing communities apart from individuals adding their uniqueness to the mix. You can’t deepen relations apart from the encounter with others. All three are necessary, all three need each other, and all three become the creative workings of God.
This three fold process, when separated out, produces problems though. If you have individuals who have no relation or responsibility to others, you don’t have a society nor can you build community. Think Ayn Rand. Think the United States and what fruit that has born. Now if you have communities which seek to squelch individuality, they are digging their own graves. They do so, because they remove the possible gifts that diversity can bring and because the problems inherent in these communities have no means of correction. Think any authoritarian system. It is only when individuality and our relations with others work to build communities which sustain both that you can produce the creative good in life, that is when the act of creation becomes divine.
That three folded movement of God then becomes a way to get a hold of reality in some measure, to understand it and respond to it. That’s what I take the task of good religious doctrine. So when I say I believe in the trinity it is not because I am claiming orthodoxy. I’m pretty sure I’m not. It’s not because I want to make Jesus God. I understand Christ to be bigger then Jesus as much as he represents God’s saving acts for us as a Christian community. That is Jesus, points to something about our world in his life, he gives us a face to represent this reality but the reality is bigger then him or anything else in our tradition.
Of course reality is bigger then our words and our doctrines too. But they can open us up to our world, they can be maps as I noted in my last column. In that there are a treasure trove of ideas, doctrines in our Christian tradition. Some which may need to be put aside. Others which need to be reclaimed. I’m interested in reclaiming the trinity but I have no use for scapegoats and blood atonement. So I’ve done both, dropped ideas and reclaimed them and I believe the freedom to do just that must be accorded to everyone in the church. In that I thank Mark and his blog for his ideas, the conversations they spur in the church, and for anyone who is seeking to live out their faith in a way that humanizes us all.
Dwight Welch is the new pastor at the United Church of Norman, Oklahoma
The Explorers Group has altered the basic form and liturgy of what has been its “ Emerging Church Service of Worship” on the Third Sunday evening of each second Month to a new format – “A Gathering”. This allows a much greater flexibility for style and theme and particularly for a liturgy more appropriate to its underlying ‘progressive’ influence and the ‘journey’ preferences of its participants. A meal, together with other discussion opportunities, now seem to be the favoured interactive segments in the evening’s format. A ‘Theme’ has proved very popular.
We continue to attract participants from the Catholic Church and a growing number from many areas around the Coast and Hinterland. There is a demonstrated strong desire for spiritual refreshment and challenge from many ‘progressives’ whose home churches have not adequately kept pace with their personal spiritual development. Several have ceased contact with the church in their area.
June 18th Jesus –“Meek and Mild” or “Radical Political Activist”?? Christians and Politics!
This Gathering will be led by Rev. Pieter Hoogendoorn with Anne Hoogendoorn. It will be advertised as from 1st June to both ‘Friends of the Explorers’ and the congregation, and will be supported by the church website and listing on the UC Forum blog ( this is sourced by many who have no home church supporting progressives). Highly topical, and quite challenging as to our ‘christian’ activity.
Enquiries: email John Everall
“Living the Questions” Project – 2017 thru 2018.
The Explorers have purchased the major Study and Outreach Program” Living the Questions 2.0” for $350, with $150 donated, and the balance to be recovered from registration fees during 2017/2018. Quoting the Jacket Cover: “Living the Questions” is an open-minded alternative to studies that attempt to give participants all the answers. “Living the Questions” creates an environment where participants not only interact with one another in exploring the best of today’s theological thought, but strive to explore what’s next for Christianity. “ It comprises 21 sessions which can be offered in three segments of seven units. It is DVD based with extensive written study and support material. It is ‘quality’.
The Explorers are putting together a small team to develop a discussion paper on suitable approaches to its use in this Congregation, and possibly as a strong external outreach into the Caloundra District. It is suitable to small groups and classes, and also has a retreat/seminar format. One approach has a two hour time frame covering the twenty minutes of video and incorporating a meal. Another possibility is a study/discussion period for a couple of months before Sunday Morning Church (8-9.10am); another is a full outreach in the style of the recent Anglican “Alpha” Course, with appropriate advertising(recoverable). Two major issues are (i) leadership, and (ii) follow up support for newcomers within the Caloundra Uniting Church.
This is a major exercise requiring quite a strong commitment by Explorers, and potentially Church if a more innovative exploration of possibilities is undertaken.
“May we live in peace, with a smile on our face and love in our hearts for all humankind”
From Explorers Leaders – John Everall May 13th 2017.
“Stir Up Compassion” (Tune: ‘Was Lebet’, 12 10 12 10)
Hopeless to help in the face of catastrophe,
helpless while watching this picture unfold,
history repeating with such regularity,
innocents injured while violence takes hold.
Where is the love when our cities are targeted,
common humanity shattered or lost?
How can we love when such hatred is harvested,
offering grace while not counting the cost?
God bring compassion to heal our communities,
love reaching deep to the centre of loss,
meeting us deep in our horror and fearfulness,
vulnerable saviour of comfort and cross. (© Andrew Pratt 4/6/2017)
Alternate Last Verse:
Stir up compassion to heal our communities,
love reaching deep to the centre of loss,
meeting each neighbour in horror and fearfulness,
draw us together through comfort and cross.
A RESPONSE TO GEOFF THOMPSON FROM JOHN GUNSON (author of God, Ethics and the Secular Society: does the church have a future? reviewed in Crosslight.)
Rev Dr Geoff Thompson’s Disturbing Much, Disturbing Many: Theology provoked by the Basis of Union, received some attention in Journey On Line in July 2016.
[Both books available from Morning Star Publishing] [Thank you to Rex Hunt for helping us to observe this debate].
Rev John Gunson –
The Uniting Church is this year celebrating the fortieth anniversary of our formation, our coming together.
One of the things worth focusing on must surely be the Basis of Union – the expression of the faith of the church upon which three separate denominations came together.
Geoff Thompson has done us a service here in his recently published book about the Basis entitled “Disturbing Much Disturbing Many – Theology provoked by the Basis of Union”. I would like to continue the conversation, both because it is important to the future of the Uniting Church, and because Geoff’s analysis expresses only one point of view in our churches and because it is factually wrong about aspects of the Basis, while other aspects of his theses need challenging.
The title of Geoff’s book is apt. I was certainly greatly disturbed by what Geoff has written. The framers of the Basis expected their work to “disturb much and disturb many”, probably because they knew it was much out of kilter with how many of those in the three churches would have expressed their faith, but there is very little evidence that such an expected theological disturbance took place, or lasted for long.
As one who was involved (not on the Joint Commission itself, but in other ways preparatory to union), I have a different understanding of much that Geoff asserts about the Basis and its function and significance.
Geoff believes that the Basis of Union was intended as the forever definitive theological basis of the Uniting Church. Some of those on the Joint Commission may well have believed that, or at least hoped that would be true.
What in fact determined the theological position expressed in the Basis of Union was the pragmatic need to find a basis upon which three very different denominations with widely diverging theological positions could come together in union. In other words it had to avoid looking like a normative/typical statement of any one of the three negotiating churches. e.g. “That’s Presbyterian. We can’t agree to that. That is a takeover.” So let’s agree on one of the historic creeds that we give lip service to as part of the church’s history – a kind of neutral ground. Nicea is more or less recognized across the major expressions of the church as the first definition of faith to come out of an ecumenical council and its attempt to unify the many different theological positions of the time.
Let’s conveniently forget that this supposed “divine revelation” was implemented under Roman Imperial threat for the convenience of the Roman state and empire, and its consequent continuing orthodoxy for the next 1300 years also imposed by the State which everywhere controlled the church.
Geoff refers to God’s “inscrutable ways” to explain the otherwise nonsensical and inexplicable. The God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth is here seen operating totally out of character with what he reveals in Jesus, and in terms of a revelation that he obviously denied to his “only-begotten” “incarnate” “Son”. Geoff quotes some lonely scholarship that suggests that even if Jesus didn’t claim Messiahship he acted Messianically. But he makes no case that Jewish messiahship is seen by Judaism as implying anything vaguely approximating the incarnate son of God dying for our personal salvation.
Since the Reformation, with the church increasingly freed from the control of the State, and with the benefit of the European Enlightenment(s) and Biblical and theological scholarship freed from “church” control and censorship, many branches of the church were moving on from Nicea.
Our union 40 years ago happened at a time when neo-orthodoxy /Barthian theology was resurgent (that doesn’t mean it was right). Had we come together in the 19thcentury we would have had an entirely different Basis of Union, and Geoff would have been arguing my case – that the Basis of Union was certainly not “for all time”, but simply the best and most pragmatic way to get agreement/union between the churches at the time, and thus subject to review and change.
The second factor at work 40 years ago was the ecumenical spirit of that time.
Dominant in the life of our three churches, it brought home to us powerfully the scandal of denominationalism and disunity. I, along with many others, was heavily involved in ecumenical activities and the work and scholarship of the World Council of Churches and the Australian Council of Churches.
Congregationalists (my background) historically did not look on themselves as a denomination but as a reforming movement in the life of the church, and we urgently desired and worked for both the continuing reformation of the churches and the unity of the church. That was a much higher priority than a particular choice of a confession of faith we could all agree about at the time.
We believed that the Basis was a necessary pragmatic concession, in order to achieve union – which we could each interpret in our own way, in spite of its Greek philosophical thought forms, themselves incomprehensible to most.
The majority of Congregationalists would probably not have entered into the Uniting Church if they had not believed that the Basis of UNION was a starting point on which we could come together, not a permanent “once and for all” expression of the faith of the Uniting church. Such a confession would have been called “The theological basis of the UC’, not the basis of UNION.
To make absolutely sure this was the case, Congregational representatives on the Joint Commission insisted on the inclusion of Paragraph 11.
To those not privy to the background I have described above, Geoff’s interpretation of Para. 11 may seem reasonable. But, in fact he explains away its essential meaning and purpose, and in fact is quite wrong.
I knew personally the Congregational representatives on the Joint Commission.
Geoff mentions both Henry Wells and Maynard Davies and refers to some of their correspondence. Maynard was a member of my congregation and I knew his thinking intimately over nearly a decade of close association.
Maynard believed that modern scholarship was giving us new knowledge and understanding of our sources and our faith, and that he expected the Uniting Church to take it seriously and not reject it because it did not happen to reflect literalist interpretations of Bible or creeds or Barthian or any other interpretation of the faith of the church.
For Maynard (along with most Congregationalists) the church was always a church under reformation, and not to be imprisoned by a 1000 year old statement of faith, nor a 1000 year old interpretation of it. He didn’t believe, as Geoff does, that God wants to be understood in a way that makes no sense to most people today – thatwhile scholarship and knowledge has moved on, yet God and his works are best understood expressed in the limited knowledge and ancient Greek thought forms forced on the church by a Roman Emperor.
Maynard Davies would have approached each meeting of the Joint Commission with the words of Pastor John Robinson ringing in his ears, as Robinson farewelled the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower, fleeing persecution from “orthodoxy” in England for a new life in America in 1620.
Robinson urged them : “I charge you before God … to follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ. If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive truth from my ministry, for I am persuaded that the Lord has yet more truth and light to break forth from his holy word. ….. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw … and the Calvinists … stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented.”
A third and powerful factor also determining the Basis of Union was the vision expressed in the deliberate wording of our name – the Uniting Church in Australia, not the “United” church. In coming together we all believed that this was only the first step in a larger on-going process of union, beginning with the Anglicans with whom preliminary discussions were already underway, and ultimately, some dared to hope, even with Baptists and Roman Catholics. (See paras 1&2 of the Basis.)
To even start conversations with Anglicans and Roman Catholics we knew we had to have a theological/creedal basis with which they would readily agree. Nicea made obvious sense. Further, in support of this goal, great consideration was given on the Joint Commission as to the possibility of including Bishops in the polity of the new church.
Again, all of this was about achieving a starting point, and assumed an ongoing reformation and reformulation of the faith, not a capitulation to the churches with whom we hoped for union, but from which we had since the Reformation distinguished ourselves.
Ecumenism, unity, and the scandal of denominationalism was the driving motivation, formulation of the faith secondary and pragmatic.
Ecumenism and ongoing church union is no longer a central priority of the Uniting Church. The priorities of 40 years ago need no longer delay our urgent attention to a ”fresh confession of the faith” and the ongoing reformation of the church.
These then are the major misunderstandings and misrepresentations in Geoff’s position, but other aspects of his book are perhaps even more disturbing.
While Geoff rightly refers to and recognises the diversity within the unity of the
Uniting Church, he believes that any departure from what he sees as orthodoxy, orthodoxy based on a once for all revelation by God, is somehow a capitulation to what he calls a modern “relativist” culture which characterises the intellectual world of today.
He declares his belief that “the Creed’s homoousiospoints us to the real intellectual, ethical, cultural and spiritual radicalness of the Christian faith. It is a reminder that Christianity has reasons for arguing that the love of enemy, generosity to the poor, a relationship with God based on mercy and grace, the universal scope of God’s love, the summons to resist all dehumanizing and unjust ideologies, the realities of freedom and hope ….have a ground in the one who is the Creator and Lord.” And “that God is not especially impressed by religion or spirituality, that true lordship is servanthood, that forgiveness is unconditional ,”
Geoff contrasts this orthodoxy which he believes points to the radicalness of Christian faith with a number of contemporary scholars whom he believes are captured by the relativist spirit of our age, and whose intent, he declares is either “to dismiss the church and its faith”, or some like Crossan (widely regarded as probably the leading New Testament and Historical Jesus scholar today because of his meticulous and objective research) whom he claims has a deliberate intent to “modernise or re-invent the faith.”
This is so far from an accurate and honest assessment of Crossan that one is tempted to wonder whether Geoff has actually read his research.
But the more important point here is that many, if not most, “progressive” Christians give assent to precisely that “radicalness of the Christian faith” that Geoff refers to above, except that they trace its genesis, not to “the one who is creator and lord”, but to the historical Jesus himself.
If the result of the best contemporary scholarship that Geoff finds so threatening is a radical Christianity that is agreed by both ‘orthodox’ and ‘progressives’, then to make such a fuss about the importance of orthodoxy is to suggest that our particular theology is more important than the life lived.
The Church in Australia moves inexorably through decline to imminent death. Geoff sees no need to work at reforming the church to reverse this decline because it is the world that is the problem, not the church and its practices and its theology. As a teacher of theology training our future ministers for the front line, I believe Geoff has an obligation to present impartially all the best scholarship, not just that with which he agrees, and certainly not to denigrate that with which he disagrees and is in fact outside his particular discipline.
Does the Uniting Church have a strategy and program to ensure that both/all versions of “radical Christianity” receive equal exposure and are in active dialogue both in our churches, and in particular in our theological colleges?
Both interpretations of faith involve Jesus at the centre. Let’s start from there, or just accept that so long as we live what the Christ- life means, whether we find Nicea central to that is a matter of personal choice.
At least the secular world, that has turned away from a Nicean statement of Christianity, needs a chance to hear and respond to a more contemporary version , based on a more historically accurate version of the man from Nazareth.
That is why Para 11 is in the Basis of Union, and why Congregationalists came into the Uniting Church.
A note on John Gunson:
The author is a retired minister of the Congregational Churches in Australia (now Uniting Church). He is a graduate in Arts and Theology from Melbourne, and later completed post-graduate studies in Theology and Christian Education in the USA. He has served parish churches in Australia and the USA, and been Director of Christian Education for the Congregational Churches in Australia.
Retiring early he sought to test his growing questions about theology and the church by undertaking secular employment, where his final lob was as Manager Human Resource Development with a major state road planning and construction authority.
He has been actively involved in the community on issues of social justice and in particular the conservation of the natural environment.
A note on Geoff Thompson:
BAgrSc Hons (Melb), BD Hons (MCD), PhD (Cambridge). Co-ordinator of Studies: Systematic Theology at Pilgrim Theological College within the University of Divinity. Previously Director of Studies: Systematic Theology at Trinity College Queensland (2001-2013) of which he was also Principal from 2010-2013. Geoff’s research has focused on Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, the functions of doctrine in the church, the relationship between practical and systematic theology, the theology of the Uniting Church (especially the Basis of Union). Current and future research is focused on the relationship between Christology and Discipleship and the theological significance of secular or non-Christian appropriations of, or responses to, the Christian narrative.
While spending May on board a YWAM Australia medical ship with 100 other volunteers in the Milne Bay (PNG) island villages, having no TV or internet, I managed to read several books. This one was a real joy as it helped me place the work of the doctors, dentists, opticians, nurses, pediatricians, general volunteers and crew in a context of being ‘agents of love’. As the oldest volunteer on board and feeling the oppressive heat and humidity, I do not deserve this accolade but witnessed much of what the book described in the people around me.
Then he said to the crowd: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me”…. Jesus of Nazareth.
The author, Kurt Struckmeyer, dedicated this work to his grandchildren with the request that
May you work toward a better world where children no longer weep from poverty and hunger, where they no longer live in fear from violence, and where they are taught kindness.
If ever a country needed liberating from poverty, sickness, poor government and hunger it is Papua New Guinea. PNG is listed at the bottom of the World Health Organisations scale.
Struckmeyer is, like many of us, on a journey of transformation and non-conformity to this world (Romans 12:2). He was greatly influenced by Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and early in life took up a stance of non-violence and unconditional love that he saw manifested in Jesus teaching. His thinking was furthered informed by Harvey Cox, Hans Kung, William Stringfellow and Clarence Jordan. He set himself the challenge to find a contemporary life of faith that followed the radical nature of the gospel. He has not found this very often in the church and he is “deeply disappointed by the church’s passionless and feeble response to the dramatic social changes of the postmodern world.” So he has looked more closely at the teachings of Jesus than than the mission and message of the church.
In the 1990s he participated in weekend retreats with Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Walter Wink and followed this with the Jesus Seminar conference in California.
He makes the point that his experience has taught him to say with confidence that following the radical teachings of Jesus is not central to religious life in most congregations in America. Like Ghandi he says that following Jesus is not just for Christians, and this is what I experienced on the medical ship where conservative, liberal and non Christians were working on a Jesus agenda together.
This book Conspiracy of Love offers many different people – those who remain in the church, those who dwell on its margins, those who have left, and those who have never ventured near – with a life of faith that is both intelligent and passionate.
I picked up my copy as a Kindle audio book but it is also available in hard cover or soft cover from Amazon.
William Paul Young’s novel The Shack became a mega sensation after solid word-of-mouth from America’s Christian community transformed it from a little-known novel from a tiny publishing outfit (operating on a shoestring marketing budget) to a USA Today best-seller. With the film adaptation—featuring Hollywood stars Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer—about to hit Aussie cinemas, Rodney Eivers reviews the 2008 book that launched Young’s career.
The Shack is an intriguing book. On just about every page it raises questions which provoke thought. It is the sort of book I would love to chew over in an analytical Christian study group or in one-on-one conversations particularly with someone exploring Christian faith….
For the complete review go to: https://journeyonline.com.au/scoop/book-review-shack/
The key outcomes of the 2015 A level results in England and Wales for Religious Education are as follows:
The contextual evidence shows the growing status of RS as a subject for Higher Education entry:
Sea of Faith in Australia
What Can We Learn about Ecology in Cities
from the Queens Wharf Casino Project?
10:30am to 2:30pm, Saturday 10 June 2017
with optional preview from 9:00am
South Bank, Brisbane
Steve Keating, State Development Department;
Irina Anastasiu, Urban Planner, QUT;
Jonathan Sri, BCC Councillor.
09:00-09:45 View Queens Wharf site from George Street (meet at Queens Gardens)
09:45-10:00 Walk to South Bank
10:00-10:30 Informal morning tea (participants to arrange at local cafés)
10:30-11:15 Riverwalk, South Bank (in front of the Nepalese Pagoda)
View Queens Wharf site, short briefing followed by informal discussion
11:15-11:30 Move to Meeting Room 1B, State Library of Queensland
11:30-12:30 Presentation and discussion
Speaker: Steve Keating (State Development Department)
12:30-01:30 Lunch (light lunch available, $20)
01:30-02:30 Presentations and discussion
Speakers: Irina Anastasiu (Urban Planning, QUT) and Jonathan Sri (BCC Councillor)
The Mini-Conference will be followed at 2.30 pm by the AGM of SoFiA. (Optional)
There will be no charge for the Mini-Conference, but a donation of $10 per person would help defray the costs of the meeting room.
A light lunch will be available for $20.
Please let us know if you intend to come so that we can order lunches and send you further information on the event.
RSVP by Saturday 3 June, to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spokespersons for the AUSTRALIAN PROGRESSIVE CHRISTAN VOICE [APCV] today urged fellow Australians to accept the invitation of the “ULURU STATEMENT OF THE HEART” to “walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future”.
Australian Progressive Christian Voice is calling on the Prime Minister, other political leaders, the media and all Australian institutions to give strong, compassionate and urgent leadership as the nation processes the Uluru statement and its legitimate proposals. As in the 1967 Constitutional referendum, APCV believe there is widespread goodwill in our nation to be harnessed for this historic journey.
Chair of the APCV, Rev Dr Peter Catt, Dean of St John’s Cathedral Brisbane, endorsed the Statement’s claim that “with substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood”. Dr Catt added: “There is nothing for non-indigenous Australians to fear here.”
Rev Dr Noel Preston AM (of the Uniting Church) added: “The Uluru Statement is the culmination of widespread consultation. It is a modest but significant appeal for substantial progress in the unfinished business of reconciliation between the First Australians and us, the other citizens of our nation.”
Dr Preston further observed: “When the constitution of 1901 was drafted the voice of the original Australians was not present. It is now time to right that wrong.”
“As progressive Christians we especially appeal to our fellow Christians and the leaders of all faith communities to give support to a process which should lead to a referendum in the near future and subsequent decisions by the federal Parliament.”
These decisions include the recognition “establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution” and (not in the Constitution) a Makarrata Commission “to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history”. (“Makarrata” is term meaning “the coming together after a struggle”). END
CONTACT Dr Noel Preston 0419 789 249 and 07 3822 7400 or
A call for expressions of interest in proposed scholarships to support theological studies at Trinity Theological College, Brisbane.
Paul Inglis, 7th May 2017
It is clear that many of today’s congregations include people who have been educated to think critically, have opinions and judge knowledge that is presented to them on its merits and their own life experiences and education. It is also clear that many congregations welcome people who ask questions and have doubts about many taken for granted theological shibboleths. It is always refreshing to hear a preacher say that what he or she is about to say is open to examination and critical study. Congregations of the future are likely to be more diverse in their thinking and require leadership that facilitates a safe environment for a range of perspectives. We want to support the development of this leadership.
The Uniting Church was quite adamant at its formation that there will be flexibility and more to learn about the scriptures as new scholarship emerges.
The Basis of Union stands as witness:
” PARAGRAPH 11 11. SCHOLARLY INTERPRETERS The Uniting Church acknowledges that God has never left the Church without faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have reflected deeply upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to, God’s living Word. In particular the Uniting Church enters into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientific enquiry which has characterised recent centuries, and gives thanks for the knowledge of God’s ways with humanity which are open to an informed faith. The Uniting Church lives within a worldwide fellowship of Churches in which it will learn to sharpen its understanding of the will and purpose of God by contact with contemporary thought. Within that fellowship the Uniting Church also stands in relation to contemporary societies in ways which will help it to understand its own nature and mission. The Uniting Church thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr. It prays that it may be ready when occasion demands to confess the Lord in fresh words and deeds.”
Through the generosity of the UCFORUM chairperson, Rodney Eivers, we will be making available an annual sum of $10,000 to be distributed to students who are prepared to show evidence of reading, but not necessarily endorsing, the thinking of contemporary progressive theologians. The amount of individual bursaries is dependent on interest and further discussions with the Queensland Synod’s Board of Christian Formation. The manner of selecting these students will not be complex and involve writing a short reflection that makes reference to some progressive writers. A comprehensive reading list will be made available. Many of the authors are now represented in Trinity College library and other texts will be accessible from the UCFORUM.
More details will be made available in the near future, but in the meantime we are keen to gather expressions of interest from prospective and current students. We would like to have an email list of people we can send information to when the bursaries are launched. Perhaps you have some study plans yourself or know someone who would value being on our mailing list. Please pass on this information.
Please send your name and email contact details to: email@example.com
There is little of the policy of the current government that resonates with John Donne’s truth that no man is an island unto himself. With the reduction of Australia’s overseas aid at an all-time low of 23 cents in every hundred dollars of national income, the shoreline of our island home marks the boundary of our official compassion.
The guardians of our collective wealth, our treasurers, plead the need at home and budget repair. Countries in a more stretched financial situation than us do much better. For example, in the United Kingdom at the urging of David Cameron, Parliament embodied the British commitment of 0.7% of GDP into legislation.
The Australian Commonwealth Government aid represents 1% of the national budget.
So Australian charity largely begins and ends at home. But at stake are national interests. Our meagre engagement with the world surrenders our capacity to address three global challenges from which our Antipodean remoteness cannot shield us: inequality, climate change and movement of people. This has significant moral implications for Christians as Matthew Anslow of TEAR Australia explains,
“The fundamental failure of the Government is not so much the immorality of failing to increase aid to 0.5% of GNI by 2015 as per our commitment; it is failing to positively invest in a more moral world for the twenty-first century.
Now, this is not to say that aid stands alone in its moral status, especially given there are other policy priorities in our budget that include a strong moral claim. But foreign aid is a signal that we, as Australians, are willing to face up to the world’s broken political economy and our place in it, and deal with the downsides of globalisation, even as we enjoy basking in its benefits.
We should thus look again [at] the Zacchaeus story [Luke 19], and be reminded that our liberation is intrinsically connected to the liberation of all peoples.
Foreign aid is the expression of the idea that Australians are willing to look beyond our borders and immediate interests, and act to build a better world-system where everyone has a seat at the table, where all have a fair share of the world’s resources.”
According to an Oxfam study, “the globe’s richest eight men have a staggering net wealth of $621bn – co-existing in a world of extreme poverty where one in 10 people are surviving on less than US$2 a day, and where one in nine people go to bed hungry every night.”
People are not moved to uproot themselves from home and embark on perilous boat journeys when their homeland is secure and respects human rights. These values, secured by a vibrant civil society, are threatened by destabilising gross inequality, a situation ameliorated by programs of Australian aid organisations now subject to crippling cutbacks ? programs that strengthened civil society and improved governance in societies. Political capture is taking place with those at the top, the wealthiest, excluding the poorest from the common wealth and services. The resulting instability and the inevitable consequences of climate change will create a tsunami of refugees when sea level rise displaces the inhabitants of the Ganges, Irrawaddy and Mekong deltas. Enhancing local capacity to mitigate and adapt to the consequences requires aid. Reducing our own greenhouse emissions and establishment of distributed renewable energy systems can both head off the worst of climate change and lift the poorest out of poverty.
Politicians feel they can get away with savage cuts because there are thought to be no votes in overseas aid and some argue that it disempowers the recipient. Yes, fostering trade is important but projects carefully crafted between aid organisations and local partners are incontrovertibly effective. Australia ranks as an outlier among countries with whom we like to compare ourselves. These aspire to contribute 70 cents in every hundred dollars of national income to overseas aid as recommended by the Sustainable Development Goals. We lose our self-respect, our humanity and imperil our long-term interests.
Bill is a member of the Uniting Church, taught in Malaysia for two and a half years as an Australian Volunteer Abroad. On his return to Australia he worked as an international lawyer in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for treaties and Antarctica. Since leaving the public service he has been heavily involved in drug law reform and social justice issues.
Action Aid – http://www.actionaid.org/australia
World Economic Forum, Outlook on the global agenda, 2015, trend 1, deepening income inequality at http://reports.weforum.org/outlook-global-agenda-2015/top-10-trends-of-2015/1-deepening-income-inequality/,
World Vision Australia: https://www.worldvision.com.au/home2203201701
Commonwealth of Australia, DFAT, Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability, June 2014 http://dfat.gov.au/about-us/publications/Documents/australian-aid-development-policy.pdf and http://dfat.gov.au/aid/Pages/australias-aid-program.aspx
Robin Davies, Measuring Australia’s foreign aid generosity, from Menzies to Turnbull at http://devpolicy.org/measuring-australias-foreign-aid-generosity-menzies-turnbull-20170203/.
General Assembly of the Unitied Nations, Resolution 70/1 adopted on 25 September 2015 on Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [the Sustainable Development Goals] at http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E
Matt Grudnoff, Charity ends at home – The decline of foreign aid in Australia (The Australia Institute) at http://www.tai.org.au/sites/defualt/files/P168%20Charity%20ends%20at%20home%20-%20foreign%20aid%20by%20foreign%20minister%20%28C%29_1.pdf.
Lowy Institute, The facts on foreign aid spending at https://www.lowyinstitute.org/issues/australian-foreign-aid and a fact check here https://theconversation.com/factcheck-what-are-the-facts-on-australias-foreign-aid-spending-71146
Helen Szoke CEO, Oxfam Australia, “Strategy, not charity: why we need effective aid now”, 21 September 2016 at http://ces.org.au/forums/2016/Szoke-audio/SzokeSpeech.mp3
Rev Tim Costello, “Fortress Australia – myth or reality?” Dinner forum, Thursday 27 August 2015 at http://ces.org.au/forums/2015/Costello-audio/CostelloSpeech.mp3
For modern and postmodern readers, the phrase “Kingdom of God” seems archaic. The idea of Kings and Queens who sit at the top of a hierarchy and who “reign” seems highly romantic, or if you know any history, highly dodgy. The tyrannical self-centred nasty Kings far outnumber the benevolent ones. However, this is not a bad starting point. The way the gospel writers use the “Kingdom of God” challenges expected ideas of Kingship (and Empire, the Greek translation of Kingdom) and opens up new possibilities. In a sense, it is akin to Derrida’s discussions of Democracy in which the term is deconstructed, showing up the underlying power relations that distort current realities and impede future possibilities.
Unfortunately, for many years, actually millennia, most churches chose to ignore the critique of Kingdom explicit in the Gospels. This came to a head in the West when the church began to identify itself as the total embodiment of the Kingdom after they became a State religion under Constantine and his successors. The Russian Orthodox church under Putin is currently making the same mistake.
The Kingdom of God portrayed in Scripture is a strange, uncanny place that overturns expectations and which does not lend itself to easy definition. At the start of the Beatitudes we hear “How blessed are you who are poor: the Kingdom of God is yours” (Luke 6: 20). In our context this is like saying blessed are you who are on welfare and struggling to survive, working at poorly paid jobs and not making ends meet, sick with insufficient healthcare, homeless because you have fallen through the cracks of the welfare system, an Aboriginal person still suffering from historical and ongoing oppression or a refugee whose life is being made difficult by the State. This is far from the expected Kingdom where the rich and famous have pride of place. Later Jesus is recorded as making this very explicit when he says “In truth, I tell you, it is hard for someone rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 19:23-24). The disciples are recorded as being astonished by this response.
Matthew in his gospel often uses the term Kingdom of Heaven as a synonym for Kingdom of God. This appears to reflect the Jewish scruple which substituted metaphor for the divine name. Unfortunately, later Christians often replaced Kingdom of Heaven with simply “Heaven” depriving the term of its immanence. Hence the problem for the rich person of entering the Kingdom of God/Heaven is delayed till after death, as is the blessedness of the poor who also have to wait till they die and so then supposedly enter the blessed state. This is clearly not what is meant in the Scriptures. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand” (Mt 4:17): “The Kingdom of God is very near to you” (Lk 10:10): “I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God” (Lk 9:27).
Announcing the good news of the Kingdom of God is central to Jesus’ teaching (Mt 4:43). Yet paradoxically much of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom is done in parables which on first reading or hearing are not altogether clear, a point Jesus himself is recorded as acknowledging (Mt 13:10-11). One of the reasons for this seems to be that for Jesus, the Kingdom of God is not a concept but a reality that is both about to happen, is happening and will happen and that only those who follow him can hope to grasp the reality by entering and helping to create it. The Kingdom of God is not just another concept or principle that can be held at arm’s length and thought about. To begin to understand it, you need to help build it. The poor have a head start, the rich have huge difficulty getting to first base.
The Beatitudes adds other groups for whom features of the Kingdom of God becomes a lived reality: the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for uprightness (or justice), those who are merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness (Mt 5:4-10). This is an action plan for the new community of the Kingdom that is unfolding.
In his actions, Jesus also teaches that the Kingdom of God is a place of healing. This is made explicit in the response Jesus gives to John the Baptist when he asks if Jesus is the Messiah or should they wait for someone else, “Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, those suffering from virulent skin diseases are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Lk 7:22).
There is an expectation on Jesus’ part that his followers will continue the work of the Kingdom in the here and now. One of the clearest theologians I have found who has written on the Kingdom of God is the American Walter Rauschenbusch who was writing at the beginning of the 20th century but whose prose still feels amazingly fresh.
The Kingdom ideal contains the revolutionary force of Christianity. When this ideal faded out of the systematic thought of the Church, it became a conservative social influence and increased the weight of the other stationary forces of society. If the Kingdom of God had remained part of the theological and Christian consciousness, the Church could not, down to our own times, have been salaried by autocratic class governments to keep the democratic and economic impulses of the people under check (Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel, 1918).
To enter the Kingdom of God is to embark on a great adventure. Personal survival is not guaranteed. Jesus and most of the apostles did not live long lives. It is costly in terms of personal wealth, security and fame. The goal of a just, loving, equitable and peaceful kingdom seems not only improbable but impossible. And yet! What a wonder it is! To work always for a better world. To be amazed, surprised, humbled, grateful for the ongoing love present in the world.
I am attending two executive meetings on Thursday and Friday this week.
Thursday – The UCFORUM
Friday – Our new Progressive Christianity Network
Ideas and suggestions that you might like me to add to our agendas are always welcome. Just email them to me at: Paul Inglis
Rodney Eivers, Chair of our UCFORUM Executive, has managed some reading over the Easter break.
Being away from the pull of my at-home office for an Easter break gave me the opportunity to catch up with a bit of general reading. For the rare occasions on which I have done this , over the past 12 months or more, I have been working my way through, Marilyn French’s “Beyond Power – On men women and morals.”
Marilyn French was a flavour of the month feminist writer of a previous generation. Her best known title was probably, The Women’s Room. Beyond Power would probably claim to be an academic study on the tragic and demeaning effect that patriarchy has had on both women and men over many years – it has 640 closely-written pages with several thousand notes and references. I have no quarrel at all with her argument and it is one which needs to put. It does need to be kept in mind that being first published in 1985 the world had moved on in some respects. And yet as the daily newspapers remind us, the treatment of women by men and society’s attitudes even in our “enlightened” Western society still leaves much to be desired.
As I made my way through the book and its litany of “complaints” I found myself from time to time thinking, “Yes, all right, but what do we do about it?” Ms French does not seem to come up with any specific solution other than we can hope to educate people to “do the right thing”. There is no religious orientation. There is plenty to regret and condemnation at the history of religions, including Christianity in their response to the place of women in our culture. The book does not hold back in describing instances of oppression.
Imagine my surprise, then when I reached the penultimate page of “Beyond Power” to find this paragraph:
“But I am heartened by the thought of the early followers of Jesus’s ideas: slaves, women, publicans, poor Jews, Greeks, and Roman soldiers, prostitutes, respectable housewives, intellectuals, people who craved a new and more tolerant way of life; people who were sickened by the ways of power. Of course, if their success stands as an example , the subsequent fate of their religion, which was swallowed whole by patriarchy, stands as a warning.“
Isn’t this what we are trying to achieve by revitalising the Jesus message through Progressive Christianity. I take heart that a relatively secular observer can come to the same conclusion.
Rodney Eivers, April 2017
Planning a visit to Canada?
For details and registrations go to: Everwonder
What ethical compass do we have for navigating these times in which we live?
What do humanists, spiritual but not religious, atheists, and progressive Christians have in common and offer to the common good?
Whether there is a place for spirituality in our activism for a better world?
How to nurture an expansive spirituality rooted in values rather than beliefs?
What teachings the universe story might hold for us?
How to cultivate meaningful community while preserving individual freedom?
Where to find a hospitable place to explore these and other questions?
Ever Wonder is a conference for spiritual seekers who are open to wisdom from many sources, eager to learn from one another and willing to explore beyond the boundaries of belief systems.
Join us to experience meaningful music, inspiring spiritual gatherings, informative theme presentations, panel discussions, and workshops along with opportunities to have meaningful conversations with others exploring values based spirituality. We will also celebrate the work of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity (2004-2016) and explore ways to cultivate an expansive spiritual network to serve us now.
The Transhumanism topic has been exercising the minds of members of the UCFORUM Executive thanks to Paul Wildman. He has drawn our attention to this very interesting paper in the Guardian’s “Long Read” on 18th April 2017. The author is Meghan O’Gieblyn. Meghan is a writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Her work has appeared most recently in the Oxford American, Guernica and Indiana Review
“After losing her faith, a former evangelical Christian felt adrift in the world. She then found solace in a radical technological philosophy – but its promises of immortality and spiritual transcendence soon seemed unsettlingly familiar……”
“At Bible school, I had studied a branch of theology that divided all of history into successive stages by which God revealed his truth. We were told we were living in the “Dispensation of Grace”, the penultimate era, which precedes that glorious culmination, the “Millennial Kingdom”, when the clouds part and Christ returns and life is altered beyond comprehension. But I no longer believed in this future. More than the death of God, I was mourning the dissolution of this narrative, which envisioned all of history as an arc bending towards a moment of final redemption. It was a loss that had fractured even my experience of time. My hours had become non-hours. Days seemed to unravel and circle back on themselves………”
“Transhumanists, in their eagerness to preempt charges of dualism, tend to sound an awful lot like these early church fathers. Eric Steinhart, a “digitalist” philosopher at William Paterson University, is among the transhumanists who insist the resurrection must be physical. “Uploading does not aim to leave the flesh behind,” he writes, “on the contrary, it aims at the intensification of the flesh.” The irony is that transhumanists are arguing these questions as though they were the first to consider them. Their discussions give no indication that these debates belong to a theological tradition that stretches back to the earliest centuries of the Common Era……”
To read the article go to: God in the machine and be disturbed or challenged to find out more.
From A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc.
Professor Gary Bouma
April 14, 2017
In the past 50 years, the nature and shape of religion in Australia has changed dramatically. While secularisation and religious decline was one way of telling this story, it has become increasingly unsatisfactory.
Religion has not gone away, nor has it retreated into the private sphere as predicted, even though increasing numbers declare they have “no religion”. These changes have major implications for social policy and research.
Religion is constantly in the news. It seems to fuel global events, frightens politicians, and is claimed to influence the voting on moral issues.
In the 2011 Census, Australia became at the same time both less religious and more religious. While a rising number declared they have “no religion” (22%), the number declaring a religion also increased significantly. This was partly due to 17% fewer people taking the option of not responding.
The declaration of “no religion” is becoming particularly evident among young people – the so-called millennials. In the 2011 Census, nearly 30% of Australians between 25 and 34 declared that they had no religion.
Research in the UK reports many young people are turning their backs on formally organised religious communities that seem incapable of according women full dignity or recognising and celebrating love among LGBTIQ people.
Increasing proportions of young people have been raised by parents who declare they have no religion. In the UK, the likelihood of children of religious parents being religious themselves is about 50%. But those raised in non-religious households are very unlikely to take up religion. Similar figures are likely for Australia.
From recent research overseas and in Australia, there appears to be three broad types of orientation to religion, and not just the two predicted by secularisation theory, which is no religion or faith celebrated and practised in private.
Also, there has been a tendency to essentialise the religious/secular divide and to ignore the diversity of ways in which people are religious.
First, there are those who associate with formally organised religion because they find it informs their lives and motivates them to do service. They are public about this, and about their efforts to put faith into practice. Religion is important to them and informs the way they seek to shape and reshape society.
Recent focus groups among millennials reveals some who are religious are exclusivist, believing they have “the truth” and that everyone should have the same religious belief as they do. However, most are confident in practising their own religion while being comfortable to let others be themselves – whether religious or not.
While probably a smaller percentage of the population than 50 years ago, those taking their religion seriously cannot be ignored in any analysis of what is happening today. A recent National Church Life Survey (NCLS) revealed 14% of Australians said “religion was very important” to them, and 11% attend worship weekly.
However, this group is highly diverse. It includes many varieties of Christians along with those who are Buddhist, Muslim, Hindus, Sikh, Jewish, and others.
Second, there are many ways of belonging to a particular faith. As one billboard declares: “there are 1.6 billion ways of being a Muslim”. The internal diversity of religious groups is huge.
Among the “nones” there are at least two groups. First, there are those who fully reject or simply ignore religion. It is meaningless and pointless to them.
While a few may be actively anti-religious, most simply do not care about religion, but do not mind if others follow one. The NCLS revealed 36% of Australians said “religion was not important”, and another 25% said “religion was of little importance”. Similarly, 68% said they never (or less than once a year) attend any kind of religious service.
The second group among those who declare “no religion” includes those who actively engage in spirituality, practise meditation, ask questions about the meaning of life, seek ethical ways to live their lives, and reshape society.
According to the NCLS, 28% of Australians claim to “have had (and another 25% believe it is possible to have) a mystical or supernatural experience about which they have no doubts about its reality”. Given that 11% claim to attend religious services once a week (and 7% once a month), supernatural experiences are not limited to religious organisations.
This second group of “nones”, sometimes referred to as SBNRs (spiritual but not religious), needs further research to understand the ways people are engaging with questions of meaning, seeking to promote personal and social wellbeing and improve their world.
The fact they are not associated with existing organisations does not mean these activities have become privatised. They are simply differently organised and networked.
The diversity of ways Australians are and aren’t religious or spiritual impacts on social policy, education, and interreligious relations.
First, the diversity is not among just an increased number of monolithic blocks of identity. No-one speaks for all Christians, or Muslims, or Buddhists, or Hindus or Jews. Intrareligious relations are at times more difficult among people claiming the same religious identity. Alliances on issues will form between people from different religious groups, which are internally divided on the issue.
Responses to census categories indicate one level of increased diversity but do not reveal the huge diversity within the categories. Nor do they reflect the fact that increasing numbers of Australians, given the chance, will claim more than one category.
Overlooking diversity both within the ways of being religious and the ways of having no religion neglects the many forms of spirituality, wholeness, caring, sacred spaces and meaning found within and alongside formally organised religion.
Gary D Bouma Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Monash University
Gary D Bouma is an Anglican Priest in the Diocese of Melbourne.
Article first published on The Conversation
Our next Caloundra Explorers Gathering is on the week after Easter- Sunday 23rd April at 5pm.
Following so closely on the Easter period, our Leaders for this Gathering have chosen their Theme based on the issues that “Resurrection? ” raises for a progressive thinking church goer, and certainly, in a challenged way, for those that have become infrequent visitors to the tradition in which they were brought up within family and later youth groups.
This Gathering will be fascinating and possibly a little unsettling for some. However, our discussions over the byo light meal during the proceedings are always supportive and opinion can be expressed safely. All discussion will be helpful to take our thinking a further stage on our own “exploring journey”. ……. “Looking at the Resurrection with new(modern?) eyes”.
April 23rd Sunday 5pm-7pm “Gathering” : Explorers lead a very special evening with the title “Resurrection? – What can it mean today”. This will follow 1st century thinking as it develops into present day 21st century understandings . For some, Easter can bring doubts and concerns to the surface and this Gathering is an invitation to safely take one’s “exploring journey” a stage further. The liturgy and discussion develop respectfully around a byo light meal. Challenging but Refreshing! “It is OK to raise doubts”. Come along! A Faith And the Modern Era activity. Margaret Ph.5438 2789, Sylvia Ph.5492 2450, John m:0408 624 570
We would particularly like to welcome again new friends –local and regional – that we met for our February Gathering and its Michael Morwood inspired discussions. Put the date in your diary!
Bring a Friend.
Shalom, John Everall
Explorers Group Faith And the Modern Era Series
Caloundra Uniting Church Hall – 56 Queen Street Caloundra
Thursday, 11 May, 5.30-7pm, at Delamore, Turner Road, Kedron. Join us as we listen to the next in the series about “Cry of the Earth and her People”. The speaker this time is John Haught, (publications), who is a Distinguished Research Professor at Georgetown University. He specializes in systematic theology, with a particular interest in issues pertaining to science, cosmology, evolution, ecology, and religion.
No need to reply. Just come, and bring something to drink and nibble during the first half-hour.
The Romans didn’t kill Jesus because he performed miracles or healed people on any day of the week. He wasn’t killed because he taught (or criticized) spiritual truths or religious practices. They executed him because of his subversive politics and his perceived threat to the stability of the Palestinian region of the Roman empire.
They killed him for his work in organizing a labor movement of disgruntled Galilean fishermen who were sick and tired of being oppressed by unjust Roman taxation. They killed him because he dared to disturb the peace of the “Pax Romana” by causing that ruckus at the Temple courtyard seeking to “reclaim it” from those who were colluding with Rome. They executed him because he was proclaiming a rival empire – a kingdom (literally an “empire”) of God – and their perception of him claiming to be the true King of the Jews – and their perception of that as calling for a coup d’état in Israel.
They executed him because his followers were viewing him with the political terms of “Lord,” “Son of God,” “Lord of lords,” “Prince of Peace,” and “King of kings” – instead of Caesar who had been claiming those titles for himself. Jesus didn’t die to appease God, he was killed by those who who worshiped Caesar as god.
In sum, Jesus’ execution was the inevitable consequence of someone living so radically, loving so unconditionally, and teaching so many subversive and counter-cultural things that defied the ruling powers that be — esp. after the disturbing scene he caused in the temple courtyard where he called out the hypocrisy and collusion of the temple leaders and Rome. Authentic Christian discipleship should come with a warning label.
Jesus was, however, willing to receive the worst that Rome could dish out in order to show how the worldly myth of redemptive violence was ultimately impotent – and that the way of redemptive non-violence has the power to change the world.
xx – Roger
p.s. The top two subjects that Jesus spoke about most were politics and economics – proclaiming and describing the subversive kingdom (literally “empire”) of God; and money and our relationship to it.
Rev. Roger Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor who directs the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity
Playing the Bullying Card in The Marriage Equality Debate
A few years ago I had cause to caution a member of staff over bullying behaviour towards a colleague. Her first and immediate response was to contact Professional Standards and make a complaint about me; she alleged that I was bullying her. The complaint against me was dealt with and dismissed and in the fullness of time the employee left our staff.
That employee’s tactic provides some insight into the way power dynamics can play out in our community. Over the past few weeks we have seen the Marriage Equality debate become the latest arena in which this power play is occurring.
Next week Western and Orthodox churches will rehearse the drama that lies at the heart of the Christian faith, the events of Good Friday and Easter Day. On Good Friday churchgoers will reflect once more on the events of Jesus’ unjust execution. In St John’s Cathedral we will read the story in dramatic form. Real people will play the characters in the story and so make it come to life in our midst. We will be reminded that those who wielded political power colluded with the religious authorities to destroy Jesus, whom they saw as a troublemaker. Those at the top of the power tree understand that even a non-violent challenge can change the world.
In the Good Friday story, as is so often the case, the populace, who were themselves subject to the excesses of the powerful, were played by the power brokers and led towards legitimising the authorities’ actions. The mob also called for Jesus’ destruction.
On Easter Sunday we will hear of the world being turned on its head. The disciples encounter Jesus anew and the efforts of the powerful are unmasked. The victim is proclaimed as innocent.
This is a radical insight. Until the time of Jesus most people believed that victims were deserving of their fate. Illness was understood to be a punishment and falling under the power of another a sign of faithlessness. This outdated way of dealing with victims is still used by some today when they talk of or to victims. Victims of rape are told that they ‘asked for it’, Domestic Violence victims can be persuaded that they were the cause of their partner’s outburst, those who are subjected to school yard bullying can be lead to believe that they attracted the attention of their oppressors, and the suffering we inflict on the people who are seeking asylum, now detained on Nauru and Manus, is justified using similar logic.
The story of Easter day confronts this. For nearly two thousand years an alternative narrative, driven by the idea that the victim is innocent, has been seeping into our hearts and minds. Our culture, even for those who do not claim allegiance to a church community, has been shaped by the new way of looking at victims. The victims are innocent. They are not the guilty parties. Our modern day interest in progressing and defending human rights is based on this understanding. Victims do not deserve their fate. The perpetrators have to be challenged. The system has to change.
As this narrative has found its way into our communal psyche it has led to different way of looking at those subject to the abuses of power. It has encouraged us to empower the powerless, to provide the voiceless with a voice and to bring the invisible into our view.
Those who wield power never give up power easily. They can see that the Easter day narrative, with its focus on the innocence of the victim, gives a certain amount of power to victims. To be recognised as a victim is to have access to some degree of empowerment. It is the first step in giving one access to support, to the support of allies and the overturning of injustice. As a result some who wield power are beginning to seek ways to harvest this source of empowerment for themselves. They seek to proclaim themselves as victims or to label those who challenge them as perpetrators so that they can have access to the power that being a victim provides.
The bullying employee recognised this and sought to take the narrative of being bullied to herself. She wanted access to the power and protection that being the victim can provide.
For several months now I have been observing this dynamic gathering steam within the Marriage Equality debate. Last week Peter Dutton claimed that equality advocates had bullied businesses into supporting marriage equality and some Christians are claiming victim status. Most of these claims are light on when it comes to specifics and seem to reflect the fact that those against marriage equality are feeling vulnerable as they anticipate the certainty of marriage equality coming to Australia.
Not liking something doesn’t make one a victim. Neither does another gaining equality with you. Lost of privilege and status and a changing world can make us feel vulnerable, but they do not make us victims. Genuine bullying needs to be called out in the marriage equality debate as in all aspects of our living. To claim the status of victim as a way to hold on to power diminishes the plight of those who are truly suffering and we need to call that out as well.
Peter Catt is Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane. He is chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce and President of A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia).
Following our request for more links to groups addressing environmental concerns, we received the following advice from Renee Hills (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change):
Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and others saw that sometimes a situation calls for action rather than words. Many of us in the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) are feeling that now is such a time. We are planning some specific nonviolent direct actions (NvDA) soon.
To prepare, ARRCC is hosting some one-day workshops with facilitators from Pace e Bene who specialise in NvDA skills development and the spirituality of non-violence.
You may want to be involved, or you may simply want to learn more about what civil resistance involves and explore whether or not you want to participate in some way. This will be a safe environment, with plenty of opportunity to raise questions and concerns.
Nonviolence is at the heart of the Gospels and all the major faiths.
“To practice nonviolence, first of all we have to practice it within ourselves.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Date: Saturday April 8th (note correction), 9.30 for 10 am start, finishing at 4 pm
Where: Multi-Faith Centre, Griffith University, Nathan campus, 170 Kessels Rd, Nathan.
Facilitator: Jason MacLeod and Penny Barrington, Pace e Bene
Suggested donation: $50 or $15 concession (but price is not a barrier – contact us.)
Enquiries: 02 9150 9713 or firstname.lastname@example.org
RSVP essential: here
Len Baglow, administrator of our partner A Progressive Christian Voice Australia has extended the discussion on the critical question of What is progressive Christianity? This commentary can be found at: A Conversation on Progressive Christianity. Len draws on an interview with Marcus Borg, Progressive Christianity.com, and a long list of diverse thinking theologians which is a wonderful resource because Len has given web links to each of them. Enjoy.
For many decades the churches of all faiths have given serious thought and produced powerful statements supporting environmental action that placed the onus on individuals and governments to address related issues of social justice, being good neighbours, saving the planet and changing lifestyles. The challenges have become more urgent and the voices of concern, protest and action become more shrill.
This is an issue that unites all sectors of faith – evangelicals to progressives – and there are many good examples of effective responses.
The Micah Challenge that grew following the year 2000, when Australia joined 188 nations in a historic and inspirational commitment to “spare no effort” to free men, women and children from abject poverty and achieve eight Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015, Micah Challenge began mobilising Christians to hold the Australian government to account for its promise to contribute our nation’s fair share towards these goals. The results speak for themselves.
The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change has played an important role in advocating and bringing all faiths together and share their responses to climate change. Major religions and denominations have made official statements that can be read at this site. A couple of the links are currently not live. It is worth noting that the Muslim Faith topped the leader board in the Clean Up Australia program with 1000 volunteers on 26 sites. The Islamic Declaration before the 2015 Paris Agreement was a very strong statement of responsibility and obligation.
Green Faith is an interfaith coalition for the environment that was founded in 1992. They work with houses of worship, religious schools and people of all faiths to help them become better environmental stewards.
They believe in addressing environmental issues holistically, and are committed to being a one-stop shop for the resources and tools religious institutions need to engage environmental issues and become religious-environmental leaders.
The Queensland Churches Environmental Network is a commission of the Queensland Churches Together facilitating the Church’s call to love and care for creation as a vital expression of faith. A major QCEN event was the meeting held in Toowoomba, titled ‘Impact of Mining on Rural Communities and the Environment’, where the conversation with several people from different parts of the Darling Downs was about the impact of mining on their communities and the environment. On Sunday 26th March QCEN is hosting a gathering on climate change in Brookfield (see previous post). Two recent QCEN reports are:
Ecology, War, and the Path of Reconciliation Clive W Ayre (Uniting Church) and
Green Churches: Ecology, Theology and Justice in Practice Coleen Geyer (Uniting Church)
The Uniting Church Assembly through Uniting Justice Australia has passed many resolutions related to the environment not the least being: For the sake of the planet and all its people which includes strategies for engaging congregations, individuals, communities and government in strategic and responsible action for the dealing with environment and climate issues.
We welcome other appropriate links to share with our members.
In line with long held plans to ‘catch up’ with other States and have a Queensland Progressive Christianity group, this concept was boosted considerably on Saturday 11th March. The gathering at the Treston seminar stayed on to discuss a draft proposal prepared by the committee of the former Progressive Spirituality Network. The plan is to transition the hundreds of members in the latter group into the proposed PCNQ while establishing a close relationship with the ever growing UCFORUM. Of course many of our members belong to both groups. Paul Inglis has accepted an invitation to chair the group in the formative stage.
We now also have many international links and are aware of a need to move forward with them in mind. At the same time, as the Common Dreams Conference proved, Queensland has a lot to offer the progressive movement and there will be much about the PCNQ that is distinctly us.
What’s in a name?
The name for the group is not yet finalised but we are keen to align and link to interstate groups for several reasons. Feedback at this meeting and emails I am still receiving will help us to make the ‘right’ decisions.
What is the purpose of such a group?
The scope and purpose of the group is still under discussion, but the following have been mooted:
Some proposed initiatives
The planning team has already begun the process of setting up a Round Table group made up of representatives of all progressive and ‘explorer’ groups and individuals who can informally come together to find common ground and share in initiatives. A draft paper on this proposal is available on request from Paul. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.
We will be considering whether this is part of the brief for the PCNQ.
We want to reach as many interested people across the State as possible and an early challenge will be to find ways to support individuals in isolation from progressive groups. Already we have many members who correspond with us and receive reading lists and other information.
Watch for further developments and please continue to participate in our activities.
Our friends at A Progressive Christian Voice have recently posted the following commentary:
BEYOND ‘LION’ TO FILMS BREAKING THE “CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE”
by Ray Barraclough
Recently in cinemas around Australia tears were shed in response to the dramatised film Lion depicting the perilous journey of a young Indian boy losing touch with his natural Indian family. But there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of such stories in our own land.
And the children involved did not become lost but were actually forcibly removed from the arms of their families. The Royal Commission, which heard numerous testimonies from what was termed ‘the stolen generation‘, produced its report entitled Bringing Them Home . It contained dramatic accounts that could be the basis for not just one but many films depicting this Australian phenomenon.
The film Rabbit Proof Fence  took viewers into this sad landscape. But there are many more such stories that Australians need to see on their cinema and television screens.
Bernard Lewis observed that:
History is the collective memory and if we think of the social body in term of the human body, no history means amnesia, distorted history means neurosis. 
Suppressed history and neurotic memory – both flow from what has been called ‘the conspiracy of silence’ in nationalistic Australian history. Timothy Bottoms, in his book entitled Conspiracy of Silence, documents what he terms ‘Queensland’s frontier killing times’.  But Queensland is not alone in this. No Australian state is devoid of such testimonies, such killings.
It is a challenge to the Australian film industry that that silence be broken. Brief and fleeting utterances have been given of the bigotry and violence that became cloaked in that Australian silence. Thomas Kenneally’s novel, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (made subsequently into a film) attempted to give insights into the life of Jimmy Governor and the ripples of violence that still affect this country’s memory.
Every year on 25 April we are saturated with Anzac memorabilia, leavened with religious salvific terms such as ‘blood sacrifice’ and martyr-like language of men shedding their blood for the Empire and their country.
Admittedly the numbers who died at Gallipoli vastly outnumber those who died at Myall Creek and Coniston. But what of indigenous people – women, men and children – whose blood was shed for defending their own land? Can not a drop of Anzac memorial water be spared for them?
What Australian town, shire, or city, pauses even for a moment on the 10th of June or over the days beginning on the 15th August, to remember and reflect upon the massacre of Indigenous people that occurred respectively at Myall Creek (10 June, 1838) and at Coniston (from 15 August, 1928).
And there are records in white history that document these events. The two trials over the Myall Creek massacre  and the records of a Board of Enquiry  into the Coniston massacre, would provide ample material for a full length film script to reduce the enveloping silence.
Even an arch-conservative figure such as Tony Abbott can refer to the treatment over history of the Indigenous people of this land as ‘the stain on our [Australian] soul’. 
Fortunately in Australia there are film-makers prepared to make films that will break the Australian ‘conspiracy of public silence’ about at least two of the numerous massacres that occurred throughout the length and breadth of this country? Notable is the 2012 production of Coniston by Rebel Films, directed by Francis Jupurrurla Kelly and David Batty. 
If our nation cannot bring itself to publicly remember Myall Creek and Coniston, perhaps commercial films depicting these events can break the amnesia and neurosis of our country’s limited memory.
1. Bernard Lewis, Notes on A Century – reflections of a Middle East historian, Penguin, New York 2013, p.5.
2. Timothy Bottoms, Conspiracy of Silence – Queensland’s frontier killing times, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2013
3. For an account of the massacre and subsequent trials note Mark Tedeschi, Murder at Myall Creek – The trial that defined a nation, Simon & Schuster, Cammeray, 2016
4. Police Magistrate A. H. O’Kelly presided over The Board of Enquiry which was established on 27 November, 1928. One Board member was J.C. J. C. Cawood, Government Resident in Central Australia, and Murray’s immediate superior. Cawood revealed his own disposition in a letter to his departmental secretary shortly after the massacre: “…trouble has been brewing for some time, and the safety of the white man could only be assured by drastic action on the part of the authorities … I am firmly of the opinion that the result of the recent action by the police will have the right effect upon the natives.” – Cawood to Secretary Home & Territories Dept 25 October, 1928. NAA A431 1950/2768 Part I.
5. Speaking in Federal parliament on 27 May, 2013, Tony abbott said: “We have never fully made peace with the first Australians. This is the stain on our soul.”
6.The documentary film entitled Coniston was awarded the best Docudrama award by the Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) on 21 November, 2012. It was screened on ABC TV on 14 January, 2013.
A well attended seminar led by Dr Kevin Treston last Saturday heard about the impact of new scientific movements on the Christian story. Based on his new book Who do you say I am? The Christ story in the cosmic context, we were invited into the world of evolution, cosmology and the anthropic principle, connectivity in the universe, God as primal energy of love, quantum physics, emergence theory, morphic resonance, globalisation, DNA and genetics, global warming, consciousness, and inclusive global spirituality.
While Kevin does not claim to be an expert on any one of these topics, he does have a good breadth of understanding of their basic principles. His book focuses on the challenges to the contemporary Christian churches that resists moving their doctrine along with new understandings. Many of these scientific discoveries offer new critiques for traditional views of fall and redemption, understandings of the incarnation and the significance of the coming of Jesus as the Christ. In terms of the latter, was it a result of the breakdown of humanity’s relations with God or the regeneration of life through the Jesus as Christ in the magnificent unfolding evolutionary story of the universe?
All of the presentation was a stimulus to read Kevin’s book where the Christ story is told and celebrated within the context of modern science, especially evolution and cosmology. After hearing Kevin I was even more attracted to the documentaries by Professor Brian Cox! Kevin goes to considerable pains to ensure that all of this links to very practical features for Christian life each day. In his words: The warning for Christianity is that unless Christianity integrates its core teachings with positive features of the emerging modern world in which we live, Christianity will be further marginalised to the fringes of society and lose its influence for the betterment of people and the earth community.
Published by: Morning Star Publishing $19.95
To order: contact email@example.com or a local bookstore or
We are often asked for recommended readings and we give reading lists to new ‘explorer’s’ of progressive Christianity. Top of my list is Val Web’s Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology: Finding your own voice for many reasons. I am sure many of our hundreds of followers will have already read this wonderful text, but just a few comments for others….
Val is an advocate for theology being done by every Christian. She asks How can the church be a force in the world if its lay people have nothing to offer but dogmatic sound bites that fade into nothing when taken up and challenged by others? Thinking theologically is not the same as believing and we should re-think and investigate what we previously simply ingested by osmosis. In that way we can make sure what we think or believe is not someone else’s formula for making our own lives make sense.
Many explorer groups exist on the sidelines, or in some cases even have a significant part to play in the life of congregations These are safe places for people to discuss questions without censure and to use their brains and life experience to make sense of everything. Nothing beneficial comes from religious debate where arrogant certainty or disdain, the use of clever words, or refusal to engage are the tools for discourse. These groups often share the growing number of books that demonstrate the great scholarship that exists in this field of thinking.
Val Webb’s book gives a good overview of the field of thinking around progressive Christianity identifying it as part of the stable of liberation theologies that have emerged from greater education, the impact of science and the challenges to the way in which church doctrine has evolved. It is also about a universal spirituality movement because the way God is discussed leaves room for openness to other religious traditions. We can learn more about our faith and ourselves by greater understanding of other faiths and atheism. Important to this is the move away from one meta story or universal truth and its medieval understandings of God as an external interventionist, in contrast with the notion of an indwelling Spirit.
Church historian Diana Butler Bass says that, for centuries, we have assumed religious commitment starts with assent to a set of beliefs that also dictates how we behave. This believing and behaving makes us eligible to belong to a church community. While this may have been the way of past generations, she suggests it should be the other way around – belonging, behaving and believing.This would take us to the way of Jesus who invited followers to join him – belonging – to proclaim and live the way of the reign of God – behaving. Beliefs emerged and these were fluid until the creeds declared orthodoxy.
Val manages, in one book to take us through the foundations of theology, the way in which we can all do theology, the history of the church and its theology, reasons for being bold with our doubts, the spiritual journey of life, and living out our theology in ethical and responsible ways.
I enjoyed this book immensely.
It is available from Morning Star Publishers
Just when I was learning about mindfulness and mind (brain) body connections while doing an intensive three week Back Rehab Program at Wesley Hospital Brisbane, along comes a message about Jim Burklo’s latest. (Thanks Noel Preston).
Mindfulness has been liberated from religion. Jim Burklo’s new book liberates religion with mindfulness. The book and website are windows into mindful Christian spiritual practice for individuals, churches, retreats, and groups. More at MINDFULCHRISTIANITY.ORG
About the book:
Just now, mindfulness – defined in secular terms, studied scientifically, and practiced ubiquitously – has come fully into the cultural mainstream. Now is the time to rediscover it in the mainstream of Christian faith and practice, in the writings and practices of contemplatives throughout its history. Mindful prayer leads to fresh interpretation of Christian tradition, and reveals the Bible for what it is: not a book of facts, not a fixed set of prescriptions for behavior, but rather a collection of wisdom and poetry and myth made sacred by the ongoing human quest for intimate encounter with the Ultimate Reality.
Mindful Christianity is spiritual practice in the service of engagement with the quest for social and environmental justice. By seeing clearly what is, we can begin working on what ought to be. The mystical knowledge of God leads to a life of compassion and activism.
For forty dawns in solitude before he began his ministry, what awe filled Jesus’ soul? To what inner and outer realities did he awaken? In silence, searching for himself, whom did he find? MINDFUL CHRISTIANITY invites you to join Jesus in the desert, and with him meet God face to face.
Merthyr Explorers invites you to a Saturday morning seminar:
Saturday 11th March 2017, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm
including morning tea of yummy hot scones, tea and coffee.
The Christ story in the cosmic context
In Who do you say I am?, Kevin Treston explores the features of a Cosmic Christian Story that situates God’s revelation in Jesus as the Christ firmly within the evolving dynamics of creation. It is a Story that takes account of modern science, especially cosmology, quantum physics, energy field theories, genetics, globalisation, technology, and neuroscience that are changing forever how humans live as citizens of the planet.
Dr Kevin Treston will give an insight into the content of the book and there will be time to explore the concepts together. Kevin is a well known author and consultant. He has worked globally for many years in the areas of education, spirituality, theology and pastoral ministry.
Cost: $15 including morning tea
Please register your intention to attend so we have numbers for catering purposes.
This book will be on sale for $20. Please note: no EFTPOS facility available. Cash or cheque only.
Enquiries and registrations: Phone – 0409 498 403
or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Merthyr Road Uniting Church Centre, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm
Bus Stop 13 on Bus Route 196. On street parking available.
Following the sessions there will be an opportunity to discuss how progressive groups across all churches and other independent groups can network together more effectively.
Explorers Group – Caloundra Uniting Church
SUNDAY 19th FEBRUARY
A Sunday “Gathering” at 5pm sunset led by The Explorers Group in the Church Hall
This is the new approach to the Church’s scheduled “3rd Sunday in February” ‘Alternative’ evening service. We each bring a small byo light finger food supper plate to share during discussion around the table as part of the activity. Tea, coffee and cold drinks are supplied. There is always plenty to go around.
Contact person for the “Gathering” is John Everall Ph 5492 4229.
This Month’s Gathering is developed around a proposition put to 300 delegates at the Common Dreams 2016 Conference in Brisbane by acclaimed speaker Michael Morwood.
|We will listen to him discuss: “Three key questions that need to be raised and answered in any process of adult religious faith formation:
Let’s start with “GOD”
Quoting Michael’s opening: “Galaxies like the Milky Way probably have about 17 billion earth size planets. In the grand schema of galaxies, stars and planets, planet Earth rates in comparison with it all as little more than what a speck of dust is to hundreds of millions of planets. A speck of dust.
So, here we are on this speck of dust– and we think we know what “God” is?”
THEN DISCUSSION OVER OUR SHARED MEAL FOLLOWED BY A PERIOD OF CONTEMPLATION/PRAYER AS PART OF THE “Gathering”.
Everyone can feel at ease in contributing to conversation in this safe place.
YOU ARE ENCOURAGED TO JOIN IN THIS Faith And the Modern Era series.
It is for ALL, not just Explorers.
The documentary is hosted by Scientist Brian Swimme and produced by Yale University’s Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim (All are colleagues of the late Thomas Berry). After an introduction by Noel, the DVD will be screened for about 35 minutes and followed by open discussion.
Weaving modern science with enduring wisdom from the world’s cultures, Journey of the Universe explores cosmic and Earth evolution as a profound process of creativity, connection and independence, and offers an opportunity to respond to the ecological and social challenges of our times, times when we, homo sapiens, emerge as the planet altering species.
This presentation invites us to reflect on the wisdom traditions which have evolved with human consciousness, “the cosmos come to consciousness” (as Karl Rahner referred to human evolution). So it prompts philosophical and theological questions which pose a challenge to our culture, our rituals and the way communities committed to a contemporary spirituality are to be developed. It presents the challenge of moving into the Ecozoic era when humans will be present to the Earth in a mutually enhancing manner.( T. Berry)
Questions to be discussed including:
“What is at stake if human activity threatens this 14 billion year process?” “What would we lose if life on Planet Earth were so destroyed that the human species as we know it ceased to exist? “
“How are we (religious progressives) going to tell the story of life on Earth to our children?” “Why is this story basic to the new directions of future spirituality?” “What kind of belief system/spirituality/ethic will sustain an appropriate role for humanity in the continuation of this story?”
Presenter: Dr Noel Preston AM. Among many publications he is the author of Ethics with or without God (Morning Star Publishing).
Rex Hunt has kindly forwarded details of Greg Jenk’s Lenten Studies. This may be of interest to our subscribers because of its contemporary and practical focus. We already have a link under “Leading Practitioners” to Greg and that site has items of interest about his work in the Holy Land and other places. Greg is currently a scholar and Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem and Residentiary Canon at St George’s College.
These studies are available online from: Travel the Slow Path: Lent 2017
The Scientific GOD Journal has been recommended by a member of our UCFORUM Executive.
The current issue focuses on the theme: Beyond the circle of life.
Articles: Beyond the Circle of Life; Death, Consciousness, & Phenomenology; Consciousness, a Cosmic Phenomenon; Idealist View of Consciousness After Death; Science & Postmortem Survival; Non-Locality/Disembodiment; Tilde Fallacy & Reincarnation; Theory of a Natural Afterlife; & Vision Statement on Science & Spirituality.
The purpose and mission of Scientific GOD Journal (“SGJ”, ISSN: 2153-831X) are to conduct scientific inquiries on the nature and origins of life, mind, physical laws and mathematics and their possible connections to a scientifically approachable transcendental ground of existence – we call “Scientific GOD.” By “scientific inquiries”, we mean building concrete and testable models and/or hypotheses connected to hard sciences (e.g., physics, neuroscience, biochemistry and physiology) and doing the experimental testing. We believe that in this golden age of Science the GOD in whom we trust should be spiritual as well as scientific. Indeed, since we are all made out of the same subatomic, atomic and genetic alphabets, the scientific GOD each of us seeks should be one and the same whatever our race, religion and other differences. There is also a Scientific GOD Forum available.
Supporters of APCV, or of streams of progressive Christianity in general, are invited to attend a talk/discussion led by Len Baglow at 2:00-4:00pm at St Francis’ Theological College in Milton, Brisbane, on Tuesday, 14 February.
There is ample parking in the grounds of St Francis’ College. Also, the college is situated just across from Milton railway station, in Milton Road.
Three new members have joined the APCV Management Committee – Len Baglow, Tiffany Sparks and Kenneth Castillo. all three bring distinctive experience, gifts and insights to APCV.
Len is from South Woden Uniting Church in Canberra.
About Len Baglow: Len Baglow is a policy advocate with qualifications in both social work and urban and regional planning. In recent years, He has been involved in refugee and asylum seeker policy, income support policy, housing policy and child protection policy. He is particularly passionate about the growing poverty and disadvantage of students from poorer backgrounds who are attempting further education.
In the 1980s and 90s Len was active in the environment movement and retains a strong interest. He is a keen bird watcher and bush walker.
Len has written several theological articles and one book. His interest is mainly in the practical implications of theology. Many different theologians have had an influence on Len. Most recently he has been exploring the practical implications of Jack Caputo’s work on Derrida.
Please join us for this session of wide interest.
Enquiries: Ray Barraclough at email@example.com
A New Reformation
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
As I see it, religion is at its best when it leads us forward, when it guides us in our spiritual growth as individuals and in our cultural evolution as a species. —Brian McLaren 
Yes, we live in very troubling times; and we are fortunate to be alive now when we have so much possibility for growth in love. Many say we are in the midst of a spiritual awakening. Theologian Harvey Cox calls it the Age of the Spirit. He writes: “Faith is resurgent, while dogma is dying. The spiritual, communal, and justice-seeking dimensions of Christianity are now its leading edge. . . . A religion based on subscribing to mandatory beliefs is no longer viable.” 
There is a wide and multi-textured resurgence of the older and essential contemplative tradition. Many are returning to our mystical roots. Science has become one of religion’s best friends as it often validates the consistent intuitions of the mystics. Neuroscience helps us understand how our mind works and the impact of meditation and prayer. Critical biblical scholarship now has the help of anthropology, sociology, history, and archaeology.
There is a broad awareness that Jesus was clearly teaching non-violence, simplicity of lifestyle, peacemaking, love of creation, and dying to the ego for both individuals and groups by offering a radical social critique to the systems of domination, power, and money. There’s a growing recognition that Jesus was concerned about the transformation of real persons and human society here on earth. Christianity is meant to be a loving way of life now, not just a system of beliefs and requirements that people hope will earn them a later reward in heaven. There is a new appreciation for “many gifts and ministries” (1 Corinthians 12), “together making a unity in the work of service” (Ephesians 4) instead of concentrating power and knowledge in a top tier of male leadership.
Spiritual globalization is allowing churches worldwide to benefit from these breakthroughs at approximately the same time, which of itself is a new kind of reformation! The internet has opened up possibilities for learning, connecting, and networking with faith-filled, committed, loving people all over the world. As Brian McLaren says, now “we can migrate from organized religion to organizing religion—that is, religion organizing for the common good.” 
Christian denominations and world religions are realizing they are more alike than different. Consciousness is evolving. Christian theologians are predicting that this century will open up Trinitarian and practice-based spirituality, with a focus on the Holy Spirit, which many call “the forgotten member of the Trinity.” And we have a pope in Francis who is truly a man of the Gospel instead of a mere church man, someone at the top who genuinely cares about those at the bottom and our precious common home, the earth.
Of course, when there’s movement forward, there’s always pushback. But that’s just a call for more action steeped in prayer. Here at the Center for Action and Contemplation, we seek to support individuals and communities in deepening authentic spirituality and engaging compassionately with our world.
Gateway to Silence:
Create in me a new heart, O God.
 Brian D. McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Convergent: 2016), xi.
 Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith: The Rise and Fall of Beliefs and the Age of the Spirit (HarperOne: 2009), 5-6.
 McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration, 14.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The Emerging Church: Beyond Fight or Flight,” Radical Grace, Vol. 21, No.4 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008).
Just a reminder to regularly go to our friends at A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) who are encouraging contributions to public debate by promoting a generous and future-focused understanding of the Christian faith.
A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia):
Another subscriber has drawn attention to a recent ABC RN Interview:
To listen, click here
In the 1960s Michel Foucault famously declared the end of man (sic) as we know him. In doing so he propelled what has come to be known as the posthuman turn—an all-encompassing worldview that held for over three centuries was deemed to be coming to a close. So, how’s the project going? Italian-Australian Rosi Braidotti, eminent philosopher and one-time student of Foucault, explains how we got here, and what’s still to come.
What are we capable of becoming – what are we becoming and not aware of it?
The so-called postmodern, post truth, post christian and post humanism era is upon us. But, of course, this has not happened overnight and philosophers can trace much of the end of the influence of the dominant European male face of humanism to the middle of the 20th century – even to the beginning of the nuclear age. The idea of the ‘thinking being’ has changed.
What takes the place of humanism? Is it a utopian socialist humanism or has that experiment failed? Or is it still to come? Or are we about to take a totally different political direction – towards an ethical, collaborative, community building – a form of radical democracy?
The unfolding political scenes around the globe have raised many questions about the future of humanity. This discussion raises the increasing emphasis on the non-human other that influences our future – the creation of a new technical culture.
Should we be pessimistic or optimistic?
Regular church going has been on the wane in Australia for years. Those who call themselves atheists are more abundant in number. And many of the big institutional religions have suffered reputational damage in recent times. But none of this means we have abandoned spirituality or a search for meaning in the modern world. So says author and social researcher, Hugh MacKay. We want to feel connected to something bigger, he maintains, even if we have turned away from organised religion.
In Hugh MacKay’s recent publication Beyond Belief , he argues that while our attachment to a traditional idea of God may be waning, our desire for a life of meaning remains as strong as ever. In his social research on Australian culture, he asks what do people actually mean when they say ‘God’? Around two-thirds of us say we believe in God or some ‘higher power’, but fewer than one in ten Australians attend church weekly. In Beyond Belief, Hugh Mackay presents this discrepancy as one of the great unexamined topics of our time.
Recorded at the Brisbane Powerhouse 26th May 2016.
The consecration ceremony will be held at St Johns Cathedral, Brisbane at 7pm on Friday 24th February.
Jeremy led our team over three years of planning for the very successful Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane this year. His guiding hand kept a large team with diverse backgrounds and skills working in unity for this long period.
Jeremy brings extensive and varied experiences to his new role:
He has been Parish Priest at Buderim since May 2013. Currently he is also Archdeacon for the area.
Before coming to Buderim, Fr. Jeremy was Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Darwin where he presided over the rebuilding of the cathedral badly damaged by cyclone. He has worked in parishes in Adelaide and remote South Australia as well as Katherine in the Northern Territory.
He has passion for ministry with people, often thought of as being on the margins. He will also maintain a strong interest in the developing Progressive Christianity movement.
Fr. Jeremy is married to Josie and together they have three children.
His administrative region covers all parishes on the northern side of the Brisbane River to Bundaberg and he hopes to reside on the Sunshine Coast where the Greaves children attend schools.
After a lot of planning and discussing, and plenty of other negotiation, Morning Star Publishing – the Australian publisher of my books – has announced readers in UK and NZ (as well as OZ!) can order copies of all my books direct from their web site, and the books will be printed and delivered locally.
Readers in South Africa can also order the same way but their books will be printed in UK.
This is a significant break-through for all authors who reside within the Morning Star Publishing stable. Thanks to all concerned.
Morning Star Publishing: http://www.morningstarpublishing.net.au/
Morning Star Publishing have publishing arrangements with Wipf & Stock.: https://wipfandstock.com/
Thank you for support during the past few months.
Warm regards, RAEH
I am sending this hymn to you as a response to the massive earthquake in N.Z. earlier this week. It was written after the Christchurch quake but is equally appropriate now. It has been published in the USA by World Library Publications as part of a collections of some of my hymns Singing the Sacred Vol 2.
I would be most appreciative if you could send it out to all those who are on your Progressive Christianity list. It can be sung to Lucerna Laudoniae 77 in With One Voice.
Many thanks in anticipation, Bill Wallace.
“When Earth Wakes from Out of Sleep”
When Earth wakes from out of sleep
With a terrifying shake,
Does our faith lie torn apart
Like the dwellings we forsake?
Cosmic God, each process shows
Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.
Once we thought that earthquakes came
From a god to punish wrong;
Now we know they place Earth’s plates
Where for now they should belong.
Cosmic God, each process shows
Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.
If we think that all that comes
Is made solely for our good,
We have placed ourselves above
Cosmic ways and livelihood.
Cosmic God, each process shows
Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.
If Earth’s plates now need to move,
Its great need exceeds our own,
And it does not take account
Where we choose to make our home.
Cosmic God, each process shows
Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.
For the answers we return
To the Cosmos and its ways,
Ways that humble all our pride,
Ways that fill our hearts with praise.
Cosmic God of everything,
Your great mystery now we sing.
Our New Zealand friend, Shirley Erina Murray, has sent me this song which reflects on Refugee children during the Advent/Christmas season. You may care to consider using it sometime soon. Thank you Shirley.
Kevin Treston’s latest book is called Who do you say I am?
It can be purchased from Morning Star Publishing
The religious landscape is changing rapidly and many of those still affiliated with the Christian communities are increasingly uneasy about the Traditional Christian
Story whose original impulse was God’s act of restoration through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus following the primal sin.
Who do you say I am?, Kevin Treston offers a complementary understanding of the tradition, exploring the features of a Cosmic Christian Story that situates God’s
revelation in Jesus as the Christ firmly within the evolving dynamics of creation. It seeks a response to how Christians may understand and celebrate the Incarnation within the wondrous evolution of all things in our cosmic context. It is a Story that takes account of modern science, especially cosmology, quantum physics, energy field theories, genetics, globalisation, technology, and neuroscience that are changing forever how humans live as citizens of the planet. is book is for general readers who aspire to extend their understanding of the Christian story and live their faith in the modern world.
Kevin Treston is a well known author and consultant. He has worked
globally for many years in the areas of education, spirituality,
theology and pastoral ministry.
WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?
The Christ story in the cosmic context
Morning Star Publishing
148mm x 210mm
The presentations at the recent Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane are gradually becoming available from the Common Dreams website. Simply go to this site and follow the link on the left column. More material will become available.
The official review based on participant surveys will not be available for some time but there was a good feeling about this conference from the presenters and the participants.
The planning committee grabbed a brief moment during the clean-up to have a photo taken [Missing from the photo shoot are Noel Preston and Ingerid Meagher]
Go to: Photos for a photo album of ‘moments’ which will remind you of how well things went. This conference will have an enormous impact on developments in progressive spirituality and give participants and their networks a lot to reflect on and act on in the months ahead.
Send me any of your personal reflections – More feedback
With the registrations for the Fourth International Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane closing in a few days, we have been reflecting on the two years of preparation for what promises to be a wonderful event. It is unlikely that Brisbane will see such a gathering of experienced practitioners and newcomers in the progressive field of spirituality for a long time. Our big team of volunteers has undergone professional training in readiness to make hundreds of visitors welcome, safe and happy. From the incredible range of speakers and workshops, to the delicious food and Brisbane hospitality, the bookshop, coffee stations, great technology, and cultural interactions this will be a memorable event in the splendid environment of one of Brisbane’s most advanced colleges.
The Local Arrangements Committee in Brisbane, recognizing that some people cannot make the whole conference, has negotiated with Common Dreams Incorporated for registrations for One Day Only – either Saturday 17th September or, alternatively, Sunday 18th September. As a ‘one-dayer’, you will be able to fully immerse yourself in the Conference and all of the breakout groups as well as enjoying the morning and afternoon teas and picnic lunch being supplied to all delegates. In addition, at no extra charge, the ‘one-dayer’ will have full access to that evening’s Public Lecture by one of the international guests.
The cost of this One day Entry Ticket is only $135 and can be obtained by email or phone to the Queensland Executive Conference Coordinator Ms Debbie Riddell M:0407 573 423 E: firstname.lastname@example.org . Debbie will arrange a bank payment process suitable to the short time frame.
The full program for each day can be seen on the Conference website www.commondreams.org.au
Make your choice as to which day you wish to attend, email your booking request no later than Monday 12th September, and then experience a whole “New Directions in Progressive Spirituality” day of great stimulation!
For last minute bookings for the whole conference, or for just the evening keynote lectures go to commondreams.org.au and make your booking before it is too late.
One Day Tickets are only available between Friday 2nd September and Monday 12th September. All Conference ticket sales will close on 13th September due to luncheon catering contract commitments.
Mapuru Christian School is described by its principal, Linda Miller, as the most progressive school in Australia. It is a place where ‘inclusive’ means having a worldview that is broad, generous and comprehensive. Linda is looking for staff who are keen to experience what Mapuru in Arnhem Land has to offer. See the details below, or meet and chat to Linda at the Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane.
Are you an experienced EAL/D teacher who loves developing students’ early literacy & numeracy skills?
Do you hold deep respect for Yolnu values, histories and languages?
Are you enlivened by the prospect of working collaboratively in teaching teams?
Are you a practical person who can develop creative, purposeful learning for students living with their families on their ancestral estates?
Are you interested to become part of our succession planning team for Teachers, Specialist Teachers and Teaching Principal?
Are you a committed teacher who holds an inclusive Christian worldview?
We invite you to consider joining our team at Mäpuru Christian School
Expressions of Interest are sought for the position(s) of:
English as an Additional Language Teacher, Yrs 1—10
Mäpuru Christian School has vacancies for EAL/D relief teachers who are keen to work collaboratively with Yol?u co-teachers. Relief teaching positions are available for short periods with a view to developing an ongoing relationship with Mäpuru, and to take up full time positions as they become available.
Mäpuru is in NE Arnhem Land and is a unique, beautiful and very remote tiny town of about 100 people inclusive of 40-50 students. There is no alcohol, drugs or domestic violence and the children are enthusiastic learners. We follow an innovative Elder and community guided bi-literacy and bi-cultural curriculum that involves much learning on country.
You can find out more about Mapuru by contacting Linda or visiting the website:
Linda Miller, Teaching Principal: Ph: 08 8970 4996
PMB 301, Winnellie NT 0822
To learn more about Mäpuru visit: www.arnhemweavers.com.au
If you open the Cultural Tours tab, you can see stories written by visitors to Mäpuru about their experiences, year by year.
The Joint Nominating Committee has today asked me to share the following with you in the hope that appropriately skilled, experienced and motivated people will apply for the position of Minister at St Michael’s in Collins Street Melbourne. Please pass on this invitation to people you think could apply…..if only I was younger!
A rare opportunity has become available for an experienced Minister who embraces contemporary, progressive Christian theology and has an understanding of the factors that contribute to psycho-spiritual wellbeing in us all.
You must be an experienced, soundly-researched and inspiring preacher who understands the opportunities a well-resourced city church can offer.
For further information or to apply, please email email@example.com for a confidential response. Closing date: 14 October 2016
With the Common Dreams Fourth International Conference being held in Brisbane this September, we expected that we would see a good number of Queenslanders registering early and we have not been disappointed. The Board of CD4 in Melbourne has kindly extended the Early Bird rate for registrations until 14th August, but time is running out for this lower rate.
You can register for the conference on Eventbrite, with a number of options.
For details about the Conference Program, Eminent Speakers, Workshops, the Special Optional Introduction to Progressive Spirituality and the Program for Young Adult participants go to the CD4 Website. You will also find a link to Registering through Eventbrite on the front page of the CD4 Website.
This is an opportunity not be missed.
If you would like to receive a brochure/brochures please email your postal address details to Paul Inglis. Alternatively you can receive this in electronic form by email.
Looking forward to a great gathering of progressive thinkers, leaders and practitioners at Somerville House College, South Brisbane, from 16th to 19th September.
Rev Dr Robin Meyers, on his first visit to Australia, has been captivating large audiences in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and last night at Merthyr Uniting Church, New Farm, Brisbane. The last opportunity to experience this brilliant scholar, theologian, Oklahoma University professor of philosophy and pastor to the liberal progressive congregation at Mayflower Church in Oklahoma, will be at Caloundra Uniting Church on the Sunshine Coast tomorrow (26/5/16) at 9.30am and 1.30pm.
You can still register a place by emailing John Everall.
$15 per session or $25 for both sessions paid at the door. BYO Lunch.
Session 1: How quantum physics is redefining “Almighty”.
Session 2: Undone – faith as resistance to empire.
Just to wet your appetite we have included here some youtube clips of the Australian Tour:
Saving Jesus from the Church
The Underground Church
God Talk – reuniting science and religion
Things are not the same in Joppa these days
The Annual General Meeting of Sea of Faith in Australia will be held at South Brisbane at 2.00 pm on Saturday 25 June 2016. As it is 18 years since SoFiA was founded, we can say we have reached our majority. To recognise this, the AGM will be preceded by a celebratory lunch and two typical SoFiA sessions – a presentation by an outstanding speaker, and a more informal workshop. It will be a mini conference on the important current issue: Islam in Australia.
Venue: Verandah Room, Fox Hotel, South Brisbane,Saturday 25 June 2016
Full details at: http://www.sof-in-australia.org/conferences.php
The guest speaker, Faiza El Higzi, was born in the Sudan and trained as an architect. She has held a number of senior positions and is currently the Manager of the Romero Centre in Dutton Park, an agency of Mercy Community Services. Newly graduated, married and pregnant, she had to flee her native country and finally settled in Australia. Here, she has worked in a number of roles, including as senior policy advisor on multicultural issues. She has also become involved in a wide range of cultural areas, including health, cinema, sport and fashion. The brief she has accepted for this presentation –Islam in Australia in the 21st Century – is to consider some of the scenarios that may arise in the coming decades in response to religious and political movements and events throughout the world. You can hear her 2012 ABC interview with Richard Fidler here: http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2012/08/07/3562519.htm
Go to CD4 Registrations
The theme of the conference is “Progressive Spirituality: New Directions” and the program will take participants through a broad spectrum of topics exploring what it means to be “spiritual” in contemporary times. Eco-theological aspects of spirituality, indigenous spirituality, and aspects of Muslim and Jewish spirituality will also be examined.
Eminent international writers, researchers and scholars Dr Diana Butler Bass and Professor Pamela Eisenbaum and well known Australian theologian Dr Val Webb will deliver major public addresses and they will also participate in other parts of the program. Rev Dr David Felten, Co-founder of Living the Questions and an acclaimed speaker at the third Common Dreams Conference in 2013, will also feature as will Fred Plumer of ProgressiveChristianity.org and Adrian Alker of the Progressive Christian Network (Britain).
A strong team of Australian and New Zealand speakers will present keynote addresses, lectures and workshops. These include Michael Morwood, Graeme Mundine, Lorraine Parkinson, Margaret Mayman, Jana Norman, Saara Sabbagh and Ian Lawton.
During part of the conference there will be a parallel program designed, presented and led by “young” people exclusively for their contemporaries.
Caloundra Uniting Church, 56 Queen St, Caloundra
9.30am Thursday 26th May 2016
‘In this lecture, especially geared towards those who yearn for science and religion to be reunited in the quest for meaning, Dr. Meyers explores the impact of recent scientific discoveries about the nature of the universe on our understanding of God. Instead of our traditional view of a clockwork universe, where the Whole is merely the sum of its parts, quantum physics ( and especially something called quantum entanglement) has challenged long-held views on our relationship to the material world, even as it has validated the essential and timeless message of religious mystics.’
12.15pm. Enjoy discussion and your byo Picnic Lunch in Church Grounds-tea/coffee supplied. Take the opportunity to meet open-minded friendly people in a safe place.
This Seminar is hosted by Caloundra Uniting Church Social Justice Group and is for all who are interested in social justice within our community .
Quote Dr. Meyers : “ It is a myth that the gospel of Jesus Christ can ever be personally redemptive without being socially responsible. If there is one distinction that is crucial for the future of the church it is this : charity and justice are not the same thing”.
Cost: $15 per session; Pay only $25 for the 2 sessions;
Phone bookings and enquiries: Margaret Landbeck Ph. 0402 851 422
Please Book Your Seat by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tickets at Door.
The website for Common Dreams now has the international conference program outline available for perusal. Shortly Eventbrite bookings will be open and there are significant benefits for early bird bookings. The conference runs from 16th to 19th September at Somerville House College, South Brisbane, near Lady Cilento Hospital.
More information about the speakers, topics, workshops and all of the program details will be posted soon on the CD site. A special parallel program for youthful participants is being offered with access to all keynote presentations for all people. We will keep you informed.
Thank you to the 37 volunteers (so far) who have offered their services to make this a great event. If you would like to be part of this team please drop me an email – Paul
Our Queensland local planning team has been on the job for two years and are very excited about what we have to offer. We look forward to welcoming visitors from all states and many from overseas. Included in the visitors will be a group of students from USA.
Hope to see you there ……
Don’t miss Q&A next week or catch it later in iview. Just type in Q&A in the ‘Find a program’ box.
This link will take you directly to information about panelists on next Monday’s Q&A session at 9.36pm – Q&A Monday 25th April
Tony Jones with panelists:
Professor John Haldane – Distinguished Visiting Professor in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame Australia, is one of the world’s foremost thinkers and a significant public intellectual within the Catholic tradition.
Journalist Julie McCrossin – An Elder and Church Council Member of the South Sydney Uniting Church in Redfern in Sydney. After 20 years as a broadcaster with ABC Radio National, ABC TV and Network Ten, she is now a freelance journalist and facilitator. She presented the radio show Life Matters on ABC Radio National for 5 years
Indigenous Anglican Pastor Ray Minniecon – A descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gurang Gurang nation of South-East Queensland. Ray is also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people with connections to the people of Ambrym Island. Ray’s most recent career engagement was with the Anglican Diocese of Sydney as a Pastor and Director of Crossroads Aboriginal Ministries.
Rev. Tiffany Sparks – Tiffany was ordained in 2011 and appointed as priest in charge of St Paul’s Ashgrove. As one of the youngest female priests in Brisbane, Tiffany has continued on with her passion with social justice issues. Tiffany considers herself contemporary and egalitarian in her beliefs and ministry, while her liturgical style is traditional Anglo-Catholic.
Managing Dir. of the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton – In 1997 he became youth pastor at Toowoomba City Church before being elected to Toowoomba City Council in 2000. He was re-elected in 2004 and stood as a candidate in the 2006 Queensland State election. After a short stint as a political adviser to Queensland Senators Ron Boswell and Barnaby Joyce, Lyle was appointed national chief of staff at the Australian Christian Lobby in 2007. He was appointed managing director in May 2013.
More extensive bios are available at Q&A Monday 25th April.
You can also participate in this session in a number of ways –
And later, tell us what you think! Email to Paul
Just to let you know that Rev Dr Peter Catt, President of APCV, will be interviewed in the ABC TV Compass program at 6:30pm on Sunday, 10 April.
The program is about the churches offering sanctuary to those seeking refugee status. Peter is involved in that program as Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane, as Convenor of the National Churches group monitoring refugee policy and conditions and as President of APCV (A Progressive Christian Voice).
Peter Catt is Dean of St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane.
The theme is “ ’Aboriginal Spirituality’ within a progressive Christianity conversation”.
A very special service of great interest to a wide section of the congregation and general community . All welcomed! BYO light finger food for meal and discussion within the service. John Ph. 5492.4229; Anne Ph. 5492 6761.
Rob Bos has had very long, and current, involvement with aboriginal communities in the Western desert APY Lands and Northern Australia, and his writing activities make him a fascinating speaker. I have given him the challenge of speaking and leading a ‘progressive’ service.
Educator, Writer, Editor, Rob was formerly Principal of Coolamon College and Nungalinya College, as well working with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. He has had congregational appointments in Grace Christian Community, Aurukun and Weipa. He is the co-editor, with Geoff Thompson, of Theology for Pilgrims: Selected documents of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Rob holds the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts (University of Queensland), Bachelor of Divinity (Melbourne College of Divinity), Doctor of Ministry (McCormick Seminary, Chicago), Doctor of Philosophy (University of Queensland), Master of Distance Education (University of South Australia)
Rob is also a co-secretary of the Caloundra Church Council now that he is spending more time in Caloundra.
So, expect a fascinating service which has discussion within it. Aboriginal spirituality, traditional Christian spirituality ‘overlaid’ throughout the last century, and now discussed within a modern and for many, a progressive spirituality, setting.
Progressive Christianity’s most powerful “evangelism” tools are our willingness to empty ourselves of prideful claims to the ultimate truth, and our efforts to serve the common good of humanity. Jim Burklo, What is Progressive Christianity?
Amongst the many definitions of Progressive Christianity is that of Jim Burklo author of Open Christianity: home by another road (available from Amazon), He offers 11 characteristics which he describes as ‘a work in progress’:
But there are other descriptors –
Progressive Christianity.Org is a global network that offers thoughtful and practical resources for individuals, families and communities to explore and affect progressive Chrisitianity, spirituality, community life, social and environmental justice.
1. Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life;
2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;
3. Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:
conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, believers and agnostics, women and men, those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, those of all classes and abilities;
4. Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;
5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;
6. Strive for peace and justice among all people;
7. Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;
8. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.
These 8 Points were the focus in their latest progressive Christian Children’s Curriculum: A Joyful Path Curriculum, for ages 6-10.
Following the spectacular response to Val Webb’s seminars (approximately 400 seats occupied in total), we now look forward to Robin Meyers coming to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast in May.
As we prepare for the Common Dreams International Conference in September in Brisbane, these outstanding speakers are wetting our appetites for what is shaping up to be a feast of brilliant scholars and writers……an opportunity to explore future expressions of faith and spirituality, eco-theology and inter-faith issues (including indigenous connections)
with a program of distinguished international speakers and eminent Australian and New Zealand experts. More about that soon …… but for now:
at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm:
Tuesday 24th May, 7 pm: From Galilean Sage to Supernatural Saviour: The Heresy of Orthodoxy
Cost: $20 per head – payable at the door
Tea/coffee available 6:30 – 6:50
Bookings are not necessary for this opportunity to hear Rev Dr Robin Meyers speak. However, your rsvp with your intention to attend will be helpful for setting up sufficient chairs. email@example.com or 0409 498 403
and then twice at Caloundra Uniting Church, 56C Queen St, Caloundra
Thursday 26th May
Cost: $15 per session; $25 for 2 sessions
Bookings and enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why have millions of Christians across two millennia been convinced that Jesus of Nazareth is the divinely anointed Christ? Lorraine Parkinson sets out compelling reasons why the gospels may be found to have been ‘made on earth’. She builds a strong argument that each gospel was written to make a distinct case for Jesus as the Christ. She presents detailed evidence that the Christ of the gospels is the creation of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, plus later editors. The sub-text of this book contends that by including teachings of Jesus alongside claims for him as Christ, gospel writers bequeathed to Christianity two contradictory gospels – the gospel of Jesus and the gospel about Jesus. There is both detailed and courageous biblical scholarship in Made on Earth.
Rev Rex A E Hunt, Founding Director, The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought, Canberra. Immediate Past Chair, Common Dreams Conference of Religious Progressives, Australia/New Zealand : At last! A book that helps its readers to see and understand how the Way of Jesus with its emphasis on this world, was wrong-footed into fixation on “the Christ” and the next world. There is no bigger challenge to Christianity today than to rid itself of this fixation and from creedal adherence to the worldview that shaped it. In this book Lorraine Parkinson provides us with the perfect follow-up to her previous work, The World According to Jesus: his blueprint for the best possible world.
With the fourth international Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane in September this year, we are now inviting people from Progressive Groups in SE Queensland to offer themselves as volunteers. Volunteers will be particularly important to the smooth running of the conference at Somerville House College, South Brisbane and we also need some assistance for our action teams that are now working on components of the action plan.
A vibrant committee has spent two years planning the conference and assisting Common Dreams Incorporated with the mounting of CD4. Now we have Teams responsible for:
We can use your interest and enthusiasm for the developing stream of progressive spirituality.
As expected the “Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology” and “Practicing Theological Hospitality” seminars have drawn a significant number of registrations. It is not too late to register. Just scroll down for all the details of Val Webb’s presentations at New Farm Uniting Church on 5th March. We need to know numbers for catering and space. Look forward to a great day!
Enquiries: Desley Garnett
More than ten Australian Churches across Australia are offering sanctuary to refugees who may be transferred to detention on Nauru. Now 10 Anglican and Uniting churches around the country have offered sanctuary to the asylum seekers who are at risk of being returned.
The Churches, all with strong progressive values, are invoking the historical concept of sanctuary, opening their doors to asylum seekers facing removal back to offshore detention centres.
The High Court has rejected a challenge to the legality of Australia’s offshore detention centres, a ruling that means nearly 270 asylum seekers who came to Australia for medical treatment could be returned to either Nauru or Manus Island.
One of Australia’s senior Anglican leaders, Rev Dr Peter Catt, said places of worship were entitled to offer sanctuary to those seeking refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.
Peter Catt is Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane. From 1997 to 2007 Peter was the Dean of Grafton. He helped establish and run the International Philosophy, Science and Theology Festival, which was held at Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton. He holds a PhD in evolutionary microbiology from the University of NSW and a BD from the Melbourne College of Divinity.
His interests include Christian Formation, liturgical innovation, the interaction between science and religion, and Narrative Theology . He is a member of a number of environmental and Human Rights organisations and has serves on Anglican Social Justice Committees at both Diocesan and National level. He is the current chair of The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.
The report is based on interviews and medical testing of children at Wickham Point detention facility, many of whom spent time on Nauru.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is under increased pressure to allow asylum seekers to remain in Australia following claims the overwhelming majority of former child detainees are at risk of serious mental health issues.
Labor MP Melissa Parke has lashed out at her party for supporting the Federal Government’s “utterly repugnant” offshore processing regime following a High Court ruling upholding the policy of detaining asylum seekers on Nauru.
A woman who was held in detention on Nauru before giving birth to a son in Darwin last year after complications during the pregnancy has described today’s High Court decision as a nightmare.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton said the government would not be “dragging people out of churches” but insisted that the people’s cases would be individually considered on medical advice.
As well as St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane other churches and affiliated chapels offering sanctuary were:
Acknowledgement: Material taken from several ABC News bulletins and The Guardian News.