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Progressive CHRISTIANITY. First Session October 6 th 2013 At Leaside United Church. So what else is new?. Interpretation of Scripture since 1900’s The New World after World War 2 and the 2 nd Vatican Council Baby Boomer’s abandoned institutionalized religion

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progressive christianity


First Session

October 6th 2013

At Leaside United Church

so what else is new
So what else is new?
  • Interpretation of Scripture since 1900’s
  • The New World after World War 2 and the 2nd Vatican Council
  • Baby Boomer’s abandoned institutionalized religion
  • Science and technological advances (the “material” world)
  • Post-modernism
  • Dawn of the Internet Age, global network of communication
can a church change
Can a church change?

The United Church has tried to stay relevant throughout all the above changes.

basic assumptions
BASIC assumptions
  • That church people want current scholarship;
  • That our scientific understanding of the world, and even the universe, has coloured how we see the doctrines of our faith tradition
  • There are other world religions; they have their own integrity apart from us
  • That it matters how we talk about God
  • People still long for meaning. If we don’t provide it, they will go elsewhere
“Religion is as much a progressive unlearning of false ideas concerning God

as it is the learning of new ideas concerning God.”

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan

The reconstructionist movement of Judaism

it comes down to
It comes down to:
  • What kind of world do we want our kids and our grandkids to inherit???
  • What kind of faith is needed in order to create that kind of world???
  • Does our (older) doctrinal faith have anything to give us as we move forward???
  • What are the key messages of a faith for TOMORROW???

This is what Progressive Theology tries to address.


It turns out:

WE have the whole world in our hands!

We have the future in our hands!

centre for progressive christianity
Centre for progressive Christianity
  • Is an American non-profit organization
  • Ecumenical, non denominational, tries to be interfaith
  • Yes there is a Canadian version (quite a bit smaller)
  • Events and seminars are held every year, eg. Westar Institute
  • Most famous seminar was “The Jesus Seminar” in the 1990’s
there are some basics
There are some basics
  • We accept that there are other ways to understand God. Divine wisdom is not resident in only one spiritual tradition.
  • We are inspired by the love and teaching of Jesus and we want to be disciples of his WAY.
  • We want to grow radically inclusive communities
  • Beliefs work best when expressed in action; we don’t think people all have to believe the same things in order to belong, or to get along.

Our questions help us articulate what we know to be true. Questions are good. Doubts are accepted. Everyone has a piece of the puzzle.

  • Peace and justice will not come just by reading the Bible.
  • The restoration of the Earth is probably our biggest spiritual dilemma today.
  • Life is all about learning how to love, be compassionate and kind, generous and faithful. Our communities of faith need to focus on life-long learning of these values.
the bible


An example of new thinking

how many of you have a family bible
How many of you have a family bible?

How many of you read it?

Why is that?

the bible1
The Bible

“As it was in the beginning,

Is now and ever shall be,

World without end, AMEN!”

“The unexamined Bible is not worth reading.”


A very conservative scholar

Basis of our Law and our Society


On which you swear an oath!

It’s hard to quote the Bible with any authority if you have never actually read it.

Is now available online in over 400 translations

Did God write the Bible?

the bible2
The Bible

It is not a SINGLE BOOK, but a collection of writings

LOTS of other writings were not included. Very human decision-making there!

Rich and colourful, challenging and maddening. Full of sex, murder and rape. Also full of steadfast love and the story of divine original blessing, despite all our human mistakes.

The Bible is FULL of contradictions. Repeated stories (feeding of 5000, plus 4000). Two creation stories. Two birth stories of Jesus that do not cohere.

Was written over the course of thousands of years by human beings just like you and me, trying to find meaning, hope, and purpose in life on this planet

for many the bible is an idol and object of worship
For Many, the bible is an idol, and object of worship

It is the Word of God revealed.

But it is not God!!!

The Bible contains the Word, but that Word actually lives inside of us, deep in our human hearts and souls. Is NOT the fourth member of the Trinity!!!! (Harrell Beck)

Not a cow,

Not even a sacred cow.

But it is SACRED!!!

  • We take the Bible SERIOUSLY, just not literally
  • Literalism divides
  • Literalism creates extremes
  • Literalism does not keep up with current times; it locks the Bible in the past.
our goals
  • Is to have a mature faith, to grow beyond our Sunday school faith.
  • To encourage people to explore faith issues and faith stories that are meaningful to them, not meaningful to the church
  • To grow our children’s faith without having to UNTEACH them what they’ve been taught

A Progressive Bible doesn’t have all the bad parts removed. It is a living document again because the language is allowed to live in us in new ways.

  • We do bring our critical faculties to it though.
  • We do ask lots of questions.
  • THESE are very faithful actions!
new words
New words




Multiple narratives


God language (next topic)

have an open mind
Have an open mind

Open minds open our inner hearts to our true selves. This is the key to progressive Christianity: helping people live lives of truth and integrity, in right relationships with their neighbours and all of creation.