Believing and Transforming

Believing and Transforming

Howard Grace writes about a gathering of 70 people from various faiths and backgrounds who met last May to discuss personal transformation, guided by the question, ‘How Do I Overcome?’

To set the scene we heard from several panellists. The first was Jo Berry whose father, Sir Antony Berry MP, was killed when the IRA blew up the Brighton Grand Hotel, during the Conservative party conference, thirty years ago. She has since been through a profound personal journey and works as a peacemaker with Pat Magee, the IRA man who planted the bomb. Her insights were particularly poignant in the week following Prince Charles shaking hands with Gerry Adams.

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The Parable of the Walled Garden

The Parable of the Walled Garden

PCN member Harry Houldsworth finds that the retelling of joke heard many years ago provides a interesting lesson about the nature of Scriptural truth.

About twenty-five years ago, there was an in-joke being told among senior members of the Anglican clergy in Nottingham. The joke was told to me by a friend who was training to enter the Ministry.

David died and went to heaven, where he was met by St Peter and given a guided tour. On the tour they passed a walled garden.  Being a builder, David stopped to admire the brickwork, but his attention was drawn to singing heard coming from within the garden.  St Peter nodded. “They are Charismatics.”  He paused, before whispering: “They think they are the only people here.”

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Rehabilitating Thomas

Rehabilitating Thomas

Val Webb, author of In Defence of Doubt, is currently on a tour of the UK. Here she finds a motive which might explain why John's Gospel leaves the apostle Thomas' reputation so discredited.

I have always felt sorry for Thomas. Next to Judas, he drew the worst press for asking to see the evidence. Peter denied and deserted Jesus and became head of the church. Thomas, on the other hand, acted with integrity and earned a negative label - doubting Thomas. 

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Transfiguration and the ballot box

Transfiguration and the ballot box

John Churcher sheds light on the story of the transfiguration of Jesus as an example of Jewish midrash. It means that Jesus is the new Moses. And it provides a lesson as we go to cast our votes in May.

First, we need to remember that this story, (Mark 9: 2-9) was not written for Gentile minds such as ours. We need to try to read this passage as written by Jewish writers to the mainly Jewish readers and listeners in the synagogues at the time of writing - I emphasize, Jewish writers for mainly Jewish listeners and readers. 

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The rush to church at Christmas

The rush to church at Christmas

Having spent his ministry in Lincolnshire parishes, Neil Russell shares a few thoughts why the swollen congregations at Christmas soon fade away.

Christmas should lead us into the very heart of the Christian faith. We clergy get quite excited at the number of people attending our services and see those people as seekers after the truth. We live in hope that at least some of them will become regular Sunday worshippers, but once work and the daily routine resume, and the decorations are put back in the attic, church once again becomes irrelevant to the majority of those worshippers.

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Gretta Vosper interviewed on radio

Before leading a non-theist liturgy in the chapel of Somerville College, Oxford, Gretta Vosper spoke to Charles Nove, presenter of Radio Oxford's Sunday morning Faith Show, about her beliefs.

Gretta Vosper is a Canadian minister and writer who led two conferences in the UK in September 2014.  She explained how her church, West Hill United Church in Toronto, no longer uses the words and narratives of traditional Christianity.  She says it’s time for the church to step beyond religious doctrine. She calls for churches to be theologically barrier-free communities in which individual, communal and global well-being are the primary goals.  In this perspective, belief in a god does not play a central role.
Reactions from the conference floor 2

Reactions from the conference floor 2

The Canadian minister and theologian, Gretta Vosper, came to the UK in September 2014 at the invitation of PCN Britain and the Sea of Faith Network. She was accompanied by her husband, hymn writer, Scott Kearns. Her church, West Hill United Church in Toronto, has dropped reference to God from its hymns and liturgy. The world they celebrate is the natural world; the values they make sacred are human values. How did this go down with PCN members? Andy Vivian has been getting some reactions and giving his own.

John McKechnie is a PCN member from Edinburgh.  He has visited Gretta Vosper's church at West Hill in Toronto, but wasn't able to attend her UK conferences.  After the Oxford conference he wrote to ask me for feedback on the event.  This is what I wrote to him

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Reactions from the conference floor 1

Reactions from the conference floor 1

Gretta Vosper, the Canadian minister and writer, presented two conferences in the UK during September 2014. She argued for the side-lining of belief in God from its central role in church life and, with her song writer husband Scott Kearns, showed what a non-theist liturgy could be like. Norman Pope was one of those in the audience at Oxford over the weekend of 26th - 28th September. He writes:

Gretta Vosper, who is pastor of West Hill United Church in Toronto, spoke with great clarity and verve. She described how, during her first period of theological training, she very greatly enjoyed the exploration of  progressive (left-hemisphere) Christian scholarship.  But not yet ready to be a minister she spent ten varied and sometimes very difficult years experiencing life’s vicissitudes.

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I have not lost faith!

I have not lost faith!

Gretta Vosper, who describes herself as an atheist minister, rejects the view that she has lost her faith.

​This article is by Becky Garrison and appears on the FaithStreet website where you can read the full interview.  Gretta Vosper will be speaking at events in London and Oxford later this month.

Gretta Vosper describes herself as both a minister and an atheist. That may sound like an oxymoron to some, but her work and witness offer a model that speaks to those who no longer believe in the orthodox Christian concept of “God” but still seek the community present in church cultures.

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Evangelism, but not as we know it.

Evangelism, but not as we know it.

Theologian Peter Rollins recommends you try the 'Evangelism Project'. Instead of seeking to evangelise other people, he recommends that our churches should invite other communities to evangelise us. This is his idea of the 'Great Commission'.

The Evangelism Project is one of a number of what I call ‘de-centering practices’. And they’re de-centering practices because they’re designed to get us to open up to other ideas, other perspectives; to enter into self-critique. 

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‘Don’t be Christ-like. It’s evil’

‘Don’t be Christ-like. It’s evil’

says George Elerick, who will be speaking at a PCN conference in November. He believes that exhortations to be Christ-like are symptomatic of a misanthropic and manipulating attitude towards humanity.

“Christ-like” sounds like a holier than thou bumper sticker that should never be found on any vehicle. What does this phrase invoke? Ideologically speaking, I mean. Well, prior to someone being this ethereal 'Christ-like' agent, they are, in a sense, nothing. Nothing without Christ. Yet. Christ separates himself from his followers many times. At one point, he even claims that their potential will exceed his own. That there is no template. Hence, why when he leaves, Christ doesn't leave them a Bible. Or any book of instruction after that. 

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Gretta Vosper - a distinctive voice

Gretta Vosper - a distinctive voice

Michael Wright considers the writings of Gretta Vosper whose UK visit takes place in September with events in London and Oxford. Tickets available.

What Gretta Vosper will bring to her presentations in London and Oxford in September are, in her own words, "a challenge to us all to make a paradigm shift in our thinking about our religious faith and practice." This shift has three elements: an intellectual challenge, a practical challenge, and a spiritual challenge.

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“Real Bible Study”: On Seeing the Wood for the Trees

“Real Bible Study”: On Seeing the Wood for the Trees

David Ireson recounts a lecture given by Jeffrey John, Dean of St. Albans. It was part of the Heritage Lecture series held at St Michael's, Dinham, Exeter and took place on April 2nd.

As the saying goes we look down into a well 2,000 years deep, and at the bottom see our own reflection; every age creates its own interpretation of the Bible. This problem was addressed by Jeffrey John with an outstanding lecture. He urged our making the effort to read the documents and books as the first Christians did. This, he said, can only help enrich and deepen faith and understanding.

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Church trials over gay marriage

Church trials over gay marriage

Keith Day of the United Methodist Church in North America writes about its battles over gay marriage

Church trials are not uncommon in The United Methodist Church. I once served on a jury of a church trial. In many instances, clergypersons are charged with some kind of moral lapse: adultery, dishonesty and the like. But the news accounts today are highlighting a growing trend of clergy trials where the defendant has made a decision to preside at a same-sex union, something prohibited by our Book of Discipline.

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The Wall - Solidarity with those in Bethlehem

The Wall - Solidarity with those in Bethlehem

Ana and Tod Gobledale give their thoughts on The Wall, an art installation, eight metres high, which appeared in the courtyard of St James', Piccadilly, over Christmas and the New Year.

Boxing Day in London...Christmas lights garland through the Piccadilly Arcade. Our happy conversation and light footsteps are arrested by an unusual sight in the courtyard of St James' Church.  An 8 metre high replica of the Bethlehem wall completely blocks the the view of St James', a Grade 1 listed building.   We learn that it is part of St James' Bethlehem Unwrapped festival and it is designed to reflect what has happened to the holy sites in Bethlehem.  

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A Conference Notebook - Swanwick November 2013

A Conference Notebook - Swanwick November 2013

Brian Wilson was one of over 150 people to attend this joint conference with Modern Church at the Hayes Centre, Swanwick, marking the 50th anniversary of John Robinson's book, Honest to God. This is his personal catalogue of 31 quotes he took away from the conference.

The conference was called Being Honest to God and each of the five speakers was given a different area to be honest about.

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The meaning of Christmas

The meaning of Christmas

Michael Wright explains how the Christmas stories are still relevant to him, even though he no longer believes it happened like that.

We have long loved the Christmas stories – depicted in our carols and on our Christmas cards. They are lovely - childhood experiences that have entranced us for a life-time.   What do we make of them today – for now we know that these romantic stories are beautiful fictions?  They are not true stories: but many people believe they contain important truths.

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