Religion in Crisis - what Crisis?

Tuesday 7th June, 2016

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.

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Letter from a refugee kitchen in Athens

Tuesday 26th April, 2016

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.

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Extremism - a perspective on the religious factor

Friday 1st April, 2016 | Author: Howard Grace

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.

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Plug-in Christianity and Prayer

Wednesday 3rd February, 2016 | Author: Harry Houldsworth

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.

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Why beliefs are best kept provisional

Thursday 7th January, 2016

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.

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The Slaughter of the Innocents

Wednesday 23rd December, 2015 | Author: Dave Coaker

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.

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The Lord’s Prayer in cinemas

Tuesday 1st December, 2015 | Author: Adrian Alker

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. 

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Prayer – the practice of the presence of God

Thursday 15th October, 2015 | Author: Ray Eveleigh

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’?

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Women in the spread of Christianity

Thursday 15th October, 2015 | Author: Harry Houldsworth

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.

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The Fear of God

Tuesday 13th October, 2015 | Author: Richard Holdsworth

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. 

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