Theology versus Sex

Theology versus Sex

In the lead letter of today's Guardian, PCN chair, Adrian Alker, while paying tribute to the late Bishop David Jenkins, also calls for less preoccupation with sexuality in the Church of England and more honest debate about theology.

Two Anglican bishops in the news: a report that the former bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, has died aged 91 managed to make at least the Guardian online (Report, 4 September); but it was the present bishop of Grantham, Nicholas Chamberlain, who succeeded in making it into print (Business as usual for bishop’s first sermon since coming out, 5 September). Sex has always trumped theology when it comes to selling newspapers.

Continue Reading »

Three appreciations of Bishop David Jenkins

Three appreciations of Bishop David Jenkins

Bishop David Jenkins died last Sunday. This blog contains tributes from three admirers in his former diocese of Durham.

When David Jenkins lectured, his speaking speed was like an express train. It was often hard to take in what he had just said that challenged, enthused, encouraged or enlightened me before he was off on the next thought of significance. He was in the tradition of scholar bishops of Durham such as Lightfoot, Henson, Ramsey and Ramsay – but he was very much a one-off.

Continue Reading »

Why I wrote The Great Spiritual Migration

Why I wrote The Great Spiritual Migration

On the eve of his UK tour, Brian McLaren writes about the title of his new book, a theme which he will develop in eight locations around Britain in October.

The human story is a tale of people in motion. 

Anthropologists tell us that our ancient ancestors lived in southern Africa some two hundred thousand years ago, but it didn’t take long before many began migrating north, eventually crossing into the Middle East. Some then migrated west across Europe and others moved east across Asia. And that, we know, was just the beginning.

Continue Reading »

What must the Church of England do to stop its decline?

What must the Church of England do to stop its decline?

Twenty years ago, those who had no religious interest would often describe themselves as CofE when questioned about their faith allegiance. That has changed; such people are now far more likely to opt for the ‘no religion’ category.

Writing in the Church Times (Jun 17th 2016), Canon Alan Billings puts this trend down to widespread disillusion with the Church of England, fuelled by its attitude to homosexual partnerships and its poor record on child abuse.  He calls on the church’s leaders and members to take time to listen to those of ‘no religion’. ‘In truth we known next to nothing about them.’ 

Continue Reading »

How I fell in love with Modern Church

How I fell in love with Modern Church

Julian writes about how he found his way to PCN's partner organisation Modern Church.

Mark 12:31, The Message

29-31 Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

Continue Reading »

Spiritual but not Religious?

Spiritual but not Religious?

PCN chair, Adrian Alker argues that churches should forgo their love of unbelievable creeds and set rituals. He calls on religious leaders to focus on practice rather than belief. In this way they might reconnect with the increasing numbers who claim to be spiritual but not religious.

This article was first published in Sofia 120 (June 2016), the journal of Sea of Faith. Reprinted with permission.

Churches in the United Kingdom, as elsewhere in much of Western Europe and North America, face an accelerating loss of members.

Continue Reading »

After Brexit - Can we find a broad and middle way?

After Brexit - Can we find a broad and middle way?

As the UK faces an uncertain future, and its two major political parties hold internal contests for their leadership, a senior Anglican professor claims that the need for a new, progressive social-democratic political party ‘has never been more urgent’.

The Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, has made the claim in an article published on the website of Modern Church, a society promoting liberal Christianity, of which he is a Vice President.

In the essay, called After Brexit - Can we find a broad and middle way?, Prof Percy notes the absence from the debate preceding the EU Referendum of words such as ‘community’ and ‘union’:

Continue Reading »

Brian McLaren speaks about his UK tour this October

Brian McLaren speaks about his UK tour this October

In this video Brian McLaren explains why the church needs to stop being protective of its nostalgia and to start dealing with the way religious institutions have contributed to division and strife. In the end, he says, justice, joy, peace and the Holy Spirit are what matter.

Brian McLaren will be speaking in Harrogate on Saturday October 15th.  This is the last of eight venues, starting in London on Saturday October 8th. 

Continue Reading »

Religion in Crisis - what Crisis?

Religion in Crisis - what Crisis?

PCN Trustee, Tony Rutherford, dreams up a new vision of religion in general and of the Church of England in particular based on a conference in 2015 led by Linda Woodhead, Professor of the Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University.

In July last year, I attended an exhilarating weekend at Gladstone’s Library. We were about 30 people including self professed heretics, non-conformists, retired and active priests and lay people.  Linda began by suggesting that religion is like a three legged stool. One leg is the everyday life, one is ritual and the third is a belief system or narrative.  All three need to be present or the stool fails.  The word Crisis of the conference title is offered to mean a breaking point - as in a fever - or a point of transition. In Britain, the Crisis is formed of diminishing church membership and attendance, to the point where non-Christians now outnumber Christians. At the same time, atheism is not growing - less than half those who say they are “non-religious” are atheists.

Continue Reading »

Letter from a refugee kitchen in Athens

Letter from a refugee kitchen in Athens

PCN member, Bob Harvey has volunteered to get personally involved in helping refugees. He helps to prepare meals which are then distributed each evening in the city's Victoria Square.

Two new volunteers appeared at our store-room this morning: a girl from Denmark and another from Switzerland. They had been working on a project on Lesvos, and most of their group had transferred the operation to Athens where the need has been increasing.

Continue Reading »

Extremism - a perspective on the religious factor

Extremism - a perspective on the religious factor

There are many factors which lead people to extremism. Howard Grace considers one of them, the belief that scripture demands they serve God in this way.

Many people in the world, including Muslims, are appalled by the barbaric actions of Daesh. How can people think they are doing this in the name of God?  But this might also make us reflect on what it means when Christians refer to the Bible as the “Word of God”. What kind of God is reflected in passages like Deuteronomy 7, v 1&2.

Continue Reading »

Plug-in Christianity and Prayer

Plug-in Christianity and Prayer

Harry Houldsworth explains why he thinks prayer is still relevant whether or not you believe there is a God. This follows an earlier blog in October 2015 by Raymond Eveleigh.

The subject of prayer opens a major can of worms and many people are frightened of discussing the subject, except among orthodox Christians who are comfortable with prayer and have definite ideas on how prayer works.   I know several Christians in their ‘senior’ years, who are prepared to admit to losing some of their ability to pray in a meaningful way.

Continue Reading »

Why beliefs are best kept provisional

Why beliefs are best kept provisional

Ian Gregory, a retired Congregational minister, reminds us of a lesson taught by William James in his famous book, The Varieties of Religious Experience.

New ways of thinking about God are as common now as when theological storms broke over the Church 60 or so years ago.  That was when John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, stirred controversy with his ‘Honest to God’ in 1963. Later the Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, asked further awkward questions for traditional believers. More recently the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, joined the heretical fray, resigning in disillusion over some traditional beliefs.

Continue Reading »

The Slaughter of the Innocents

The Slaughter of the Innocents

Dave Coaker, editor of PCN Britain's quarterly, Progressive Voices, shared this Christmas message in the magazine's December 2015 issue.

The over-excited anticipation of Christmas has taken a sombre turn this year as it began in the wake of the horror of the events in Paris. The twinkling of lights, carols, seasonal songs, bright wrapping paper, Santas, and stable scenes, all feel out of place in the aftermath with the rolling news that tells of gun fights, explosions, and aerial bombing in distant lands.

Continue Reading »

The Lord’s Prayer in cinemas

The Lord’s Prayer in cinemas

This is the text of a letter from the chair of PCN Britain, Adrian Alker, which was printed in the Guardian today and in the Church Times last week.

Sir

The

Church of England's director of communications is bewildered at the refusal of leading cinema chains to screen a film version of the Lords Prayer, saying that the "multi -generational cultural event offered by the release of Star Wars" was too good an opportunity to miss. A week after "Star Wars :The Force Awakens" is first screened, Christians celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, a man who opposed the normalcy of the Roman Empire's practice of making war to bring peace at the expense of justice. 

Continue Reading »

Prayer – the practice of the presence of God

Prayer – the practice of the presence of God

Ray Eveleigh, a retired clergyman who leads a progressive Christian group near Driffield, makes a plea for us to find a way to pray which escapes the boundaries of a theology we can't believe in.

I have several good books on ‘How to Improve Your Snooker’. I have others on piano technique and jazz improvisation which I have read with great enthusiasm. However, what they have in common is the insistence on regular practice. This is time consuming and it requires a high level of commitment and discipline which, alas, I lack. The same thing can be said of Prayer – the practice of the presence of God. To love means to spend time in the other’s presence. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that he needs to spend two hours in prayer each day otherwise he fails to cope with the demands of his ministry. I knew a lady once – she was my sister’s mother-in-law and a devout Roman Catholic – who said that she went to early Mass every morning, otherwise she would not be able to cope with her family of seven children.

So, what is this thing called ‘prayer’?

Continue Reading »

Women in the spread of Christianity

Women in the spread of Christianity

Harry Houldsworth examines what he considers to be the forgotten role played by women in the growth of Christianity

In my family I didn't have siblings, but my female cousins, my mother, aunts and grandparents, were all independent thinkers, not afraid to offer their own opinions; they could match menfolk in any discussion.  It is commonly believed that in ages past women rarely had this opportunity to influence debate.  The authors of Genesis, for example, could only visualise God as male, and the woman as a helper to man: she was seen as an after-thought, made from a spare rib. It follows that much of the Bible was written by men who, largely, thought in this way.

Continue Reading »

The Fear of God

The Fear of God

Richard Holdsworth argues that being possessed with a fear of God is not a state to be inculcated in our young. And he finds support for his view that at least some Biblical passages on the subject have been misinterpreted.

Scene: a post-WW2 British classroom in rural Yorkshire: The teacher backhands a schoolboy’s ear with his ring finger.

Holdsworth (indignantly), “Ouch, sir! That hurt!”

Teacher (chuckling), “It was meant to, lad!”

At school and at home kids were frequently, legally and expertly whacked across the head or summarily slapped, judicially caned and otherwise callously abused in attempts to instil in us, “the fear of God”. Paradoxically those pitiless assaults resulted not in my conformity but in rebellion against unfair authority and a life-long commitment to social justice. 

Continue Reading »

An Australian Abroad

An Australian Abroad

Theologian Val Webb reflects on her UK tour of PCN groups earlier this year. She warns the progressive movement against developing a new orthodoxy and to be respectful of those taking their first steps into progressive thinking.

In April this year, I completed another "grand tour" of progressive groups in the UK.  Maurice and I drove 2,800 miles, enjoying both the natural beauty of the countryside and the warmth of local hospitality.  Of the ten places visited in twelve days (Stirling, Glasgow, Stockport, Sheffield, Albrighton, Tavistock, Truro, Newbury, Leicester and Welwyn Garden City), only two (Stockport and Sheffield) were groups I visited on my 2013 tour.  I am forever impressed at the number of PCN groups across the UK and of the national organization that pulls them together with its website and events.

Continue Reading »

Page 2 of 6

1234 Last