Recent Blogs

Leaving a faith community when we know we can no longer stay.

Leaving a faith community when we know we can no longer stay.

Melinda Henneberger. former columnist with USA Today grapples with the deep sadness of leaving a faith community when we know we can no longer stay.

Melinda Henneberger writing in the National Catholic register, is an opinion writer for The Kansas City Star and previously worked as a columnist for USA Today. Talking of her own faith journey she grapples with the deep sadness of leaving the faith community you were born into. Melinda is a cradle Catholic but many of us know the difficulties that accompany that decision when we know we can no longer stay.

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That was then

That was then

Does Francis still hold to this declaration from 2007?

Reading an extract from a Jesuit magazine I was interested in the following paragraph:

The Latin American bishops in 2007 led by then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio deplored “a Catholic faith reduced… to a collection of rules and prohibitions, to fragmented devotional practices… to the repetition of doctrinal principles, to bland or nervous moralizing.” They wrote, “Being Christian is… the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

Why Faithful Christians Do Not Believe

Why Faithful Christians Do Not Believe

Robert M Ellis outlining why absolute belief is a problem .

Robert M Ellis has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a Cambridge BA in Oriental Studies and Theology writes in PCN (USA):

Despite a Christian family background, I have never managed to be a Christian in the way defined by most churches. I am not a ‘believer’, and could recite no creed without a sense of hypocrisy and conflict. But after many years of engagement with other traditions – Buddhist, philosophical and psychological – it has become increasingly clear to me that ‘belief’ is not what Christianity is most importantly about. It is quite possible to drink deeply of what Christianity has to offer, indeed to be ‘Christian’ in all the ways that matter – morally, spiritually and intellectually – without ‘believing’ such absolute propositions as that God exists, or that Jesus is the Son of God, or that Jesus saves believers from sin. Indeed, I will go further. Such beliefs have no positive practical effects on the lives of Christians, beyond being shortcuts to group conformity which may also have many negative effects.

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Any Thought for the Day?

Any Thought for the Day?

Humanists ask BBC to open up Radio 4’s Thought for the Day to non-religious voices.

Harriet Sherwood, religion correspondent of The Guardian tweeted about a letter sent to the newspaper from prominent humanists who are making a fresh appeal to the BBC to open up Radio 4’s Thought for the Day to non-religious voices.

Amongst the signatories is the philosopher Julian Baggini, a guest of PCN at our conference in London next June, the comedian Ed Byrne, the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, the Labour MP Nick Brown and the Bake Off celebrity Sandi Toksvig.

They are among 33 patrons of the charity Humanists UK who have signed a letter calling on Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, calling for the ban on humanists presenting Thought for the Day to be lifted.

The letter says: “Over half the British population do not belong to any religion and around a quarter have a humanist worldview. By barring humanists from Thought for the Day, the BBC is blatantly failing in its remit to reflect the diversity of beliefs of its audience and wider population, and its legal duty to treat non-religious and religious beliefs equally.” It adds: “To many, the exclusion of humanists from Thought for the Day sends a very clear message that humanists do not have as much to contribute as religious people to one of the BBC’s most high-profile ethical slots.”

Humanists UK has campaigned for 16 years to open Thought for the Day up to non-religious voices.  Andrew Copson, the chief executive of Humanists UK, said the BBC had “blatant disregard” for non-religious people who wanted to contribute reflections but were barred from doing so.

“It is deeply concerning and frankly undemocratic that, despite decades of humanist and secular campaigning to reform Thought for the Day, the BBC still will not budge and instead continues to shut out our voices time and time again.” The majority of contributors to Thought for the Day are Christian, although there are regular Muslim and Jewish contributors and occasional Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.

A flurry of correspondence ensued, including this letter from Adrian, chair of PCN:

“Of course Thought for the Day (letters 13 Nov) should be open to humanists for their contribution to the stream of voices, religious and non-religious, commenting on the important ethical issues of our time. No religion or ideology has a monopoly on truth, no matter how loud the voices, how certain the viewpoints. Surely we should be looking beyond the divisions in an increasingly tribalistic world and see what is good and life affirming in all faith and non-faith traditions? Bring it on! Lets have some thoughts for each day which lift up our spirits to face whatever that day brings! “

What do PCN members think? Lets have your views!

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Cathedral Gin – not such a tonic?

Cathedral Gin – not such a tonic?

Blackburn Cathedral launches own brand gin as 51,507 die from alcohol-specific deaths.

The Church Times reported that the Dean of Blackburn Cathedral, Very Revd Peter Howell, has persuaded the cathedral authorities to spend £18,000 on marketing a gin, called ‘Cathedra’, which will cost around £45 per bottle. The cathedral see this as a fund raising venture and an opportunity, says the Dean, ‘to engage with all aspects of society’…..Indeed click on the cathedral website and the first item which faces you is a bottle of gin!

Is this really what cathedrals should be doing? In 2016 there were 51,507 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK and over 300,000 alcohol -caused hospital admissions. No doubt the cathedral parishioners who can afford to spend £45 on this gin will not be visiting our town and city centres on Saturday night, blighted by the drunken revelry which necessitates the need for stretched police and ambulance services to be on hand. What next does the Dean of Blackburn intend to do? Special cathedral brand cigarettes? Maybe fruit machines in the transept?

If the cathedral truly wants to 'engage with different groups of people' why not try talking to them about a different kind of Spirit? Maybe the way to engage with people under the age of 40 who might well be drinking gin on a night out, is not to offer them a different brand of gin but a fresh look at what Christian faith might look like today? 

What do PCN readers think about this?

Adrian Alker

Falling congregations - a reflection

Falling congregations - a reflection

Pointers from a study of university students identifying as Christians

Challenging ‘Belief’ and the Evangelical Bias: Student Christianity in English Universities by Mathew Guest, Sonya Sharma, Kristin Aune and Rob Warner provides interesting food for thought for any who think liberal Christianity has no future and that the answer lies in firm Evangelicalism. The study shows a significant number of students who self identify as Christians but whose faith is expressed in fluid terms. One reviewer thought the study to show Christian traditions transforming into "wells" rathe than "fenced off" enclosures. 

Such a view seems to me a serious challenge to a current train of thought in the CofE which sees the future in fenced off enclosures of  Christians committed to a particular theological rationale. Certainly of the Christian students in the study only a small minority identified with the usual Christian Union line and that should be a warning against the too easy move to a one size fits all approach. 

The full study report can be found here: Challenging ‘Belief’ and the Evangelical Bias: Student Christianity in English Universities by Mathew Guest, Sonya Sharma, Kristin Aune and Rob Warner

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Business plan for the CofE???

Business plan for the CofE???

In May of this year Martyn Percy, Dean of Christchurch, Oxford, as the "Thy Kingdom Come" prayer campaign got under way, challenged the Church of England's way of mission.

Looking back over the blogs on the PCN website I was struck again by the item of May this year by Martyn Percy, Dean of Christchurch, Oxford. Martyn’s focus at the time was a challenge to the whole "Thy Kingdom Come" prayer campaign getting under way. A campaign that had come to symbolise, for many of us, the wrongheaded attempt to rebrand the Church of England. The Church, I believe, is becoming more managerial in the worst possible way and aggressive PR is part of the package. As Martyn wrote ‘It is like a business doing even more hard selling, with increasing desperation, but unwilling to ask the consumers why they aren’t buying.’

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Change is all there is Evolutionary Theology

Change is all there is Evolutionary Theology

Very Revd Jonathan Draper, former Dean of Exeter, and General Secretary Modern Church, delivered this talk on 14 October 2018 to PCN at Exeter URC

this is a paper about theology, and is not a paper about the relationship between science and religion, and most certainly not a paper about evolution verses creationism or even so-called ‘intelligent design’; neither of those are questions I think are really worth asking. 

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Transatlantic voices: two nations divided by a common language? maybe not ................

Transatlantic voices: two nations divided by a common language? maybe not ................

Progressive voices from the USA worth hearing -

This website will carry news from across the water in order to give some insight into currents of thought in the progressive Christianity in North America. There is a ferment of ideas which can only be beneficial to us over here as well as to the folk over there. Those progressive voices are across Reformed and Catholic faith groups. .   

The Kingdom of Shared Humanity

The Kingdom of Shared Humanity

Howard Grace, a member of PCN Britain, seeks a universal approach which could unite people of all religions and world views without trying to make them all the same

My Palestinian friend, Imad Karam, says that a primary problem in his part of the world is that Palestinians and Israelis are both trapped in their own narratives. I’m sure that this entrapment is true for so many situations, whether with international conflicts, religious affiliations, husband/wife clashes or even football team allegiances which sometimes turn to crowd violence. Is there a universal vision which we humans, with our many different cultures and beliefs, can all buy into? And what are the implications for followers of Jesus?

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Whose kingdom are we building?

Whose kingdom are we building?

As this year's "Thy Kingdom Come" global prayer campaign gets under way, Martyn Percy challenges the Church of England whose archbishops came up with the idea

Starting today, the Church of England joins other Christian communities in ten days of prayer ‘for more people to come to know Jesus Christ’,  In his essay, Martyn Percy calls on the Church of England to reflect on what kind of kingdom it is building, as its focus on charismatic evangelism over the last thirty years risks achieving little and alienating many.  This is a synopsis of his essay which you can read in full here

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A Journey from Believing to Beloving

A Journey from Believing to Beloving

Trevor Dorey was ordained in the Church of England nearly thirty years ago, at the age of sixty. In this article he attempts to shed light on the way-marks of his spiritual journey which have taken him more recently towards the Religious Society of Friends, (Quakers).

The Spiritual Journey is a restlessness of the heart, a solitary search for the roots of our identity, for the Ultimate Reality that gives meaning to all things including our own self.

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Abuse in the Church

Abuse in the Church

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has been hearing evidence from the Church of England. It has led Adrian Alker, chair of PCN Britain, to reflect on the hierarchical structure of his former employer

In recent years few organisations, secular or religious, have escaped public awareness and media scrutiny in regard to the scandal of sexual abuse perpetrated by their members. The disclosure of abuse in children’s homes, in local authority care, in churches of all denominations across the globe, has brought shame on so many public bodies and institutions. Men and women, abused over many years of childhood, have been brave enough to come forward to tell their harrowing stories.

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What Do Progressive Christians Think of Billy Graham?

What Do Progressive Christians Think of Billy Graham?

This well known American evangelist died last week at the age of 99. Eric Alexander, the editor of Jack Spong's new website, ProgressingSpirit.com, reflects somewhat ruefully on Billy Graham's achievements.

Overall I’m sure Billy Graham was probably a decent and caring person with genuine motives to help the world. But in many ways I think Billy Graham was one of the worst things to happen to Christianity over the past few decades. 

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