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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Why faith and doubt are not opposites

Why faith and doubt are not opposites

"In Defence of Doubt" was the title of Dr Val Webb's 2013 tour of the UK. It is also the title of her best known book. In this excerpt from one of her talks she rejects the idea that faith and doubt are opposites.

Part of the problem is that, traditionally, doubt has been promoted in hymns and sermons as the opposite of faith or belief. St. Francis’ popular prayer says, where there is sorrow, bring joy; where there is doubt, faith. Hymns about “driving the dark night of doubt away” reinforced this dichotomy. Yet the opposite of faith is to be without faith. The opposite of belief is unbelief. Neither equate with doubt.

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The most hated book in the Bible

The most hated book in the Bible

While agreeing that the progressive religious community is right to dissent from passages in Leviticus, Rabbi Maurice Harris make the case that there's 'a lot of baby in that bathwater' - a great deal of insight that enriches a progressive, pluralistic, humane, and loving approach to religion.

Among progressive Jews and Christians, Leviticus is often treated like a dirty word. With its animal sacrifices and purity rituals, its skin diseases and genital discharges, Leviticus manages to alienate and even offend liberal Christians and Jews alike.

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Why I am thankful for feminist theology

Why I am thankful for feminist theology

Australian theologian, Val Webb, recently completed a tour of the UK. The talks she gave can now be read, in an expanded version, in the Resources section of this website. In this excerpt she outlines the importance to her of feminist theology.

Feminist theology played an important part in my evolution. When I was first introduced to feminist theology at an academic level, it suddenly dawned on me that many of my childhood doubts about Christianity came from being a girl raised in the fifties and sixties.

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What is Nelson Mandela’s heroic quality?

What is Nelson Mandela’s heroic quality?

Former PCN Trustee, Alison Morley, makes a link between Mandela, Tolstoy, Ghandi and other twentieth century heroes; their understanding that the world can be changed if we change ourselves

‘I sometimes believe that through me Creation intended to give the world the example of a mediocre man in the true sense of the term’ (Mandela:Conversations with Myself’, page 7).

This is a mediocre man who proved that there can be the highest honour and integrity in the human being. A man who is embarrassed when caught in the act of braking prison rules (passing letters) in front of a young prison guard who he knows will turn a blind eye because of the respect that has grow up between them. Mandela is hurt and embarrassed because in some pure and fundamental way he has betrayed this young guards trust and put him in the position of having to fail in his job. He has diminished himself and created a barrier between them. (Conversations with Myself page 193). This is a subtlety of feeling and a development of conscience that few of us will ever attain but when we read it or see it we know that this is the truth of who we could be.

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The changing meaning of sin

The changing meaning of sin

Richard Holdsworth looks at how the meaning of the word 'sin' changed when transferred from the Judaic tradition to Christianity.

While listening to a sermon in which the priest listed a selection of sins, I realised with dismay that they reflected behavioural indicators of my childhood abuse. I had learned about emotional abuse while training to become a child abuse investigator. In horror I realised that the first abuse I should investigate was my own.

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What does it mean that Christ died for our sins?

What does it mean that Christ died for our sins?

Andrew Parker argues that the metaphor of being 'saved from sins', used by St Paul and St John was taken too literally by the Medieval church and in the process the political reality of Jesus' message was lost.

Since the Middle Ages and the rise of conservative-revisionism within the Catholic Church the traditional answer to this question has always been that Jesus died for our sins to make atonement for them. However, in recent years liberal scholarship has rightly pointed out that this is just a spurious conservative gloss not found in the texts for the very good reason that, however you understand the idea of atonement (and any number of ways have been tried) it invariably reduces the texts themselves to nonsense. This is all very well but it still leaves us with the question as to what Paul meant in I Corinthians 15.3:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures ...

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Dying to the Law: The Church That Dies

Dying to the Law: The Church That Dies

Katharine Sarah Moody on the idolatry of God. Having written earlier about the God who dies, Katharine here explores the fate of the church.

Like the last, this article is inspired by the Idolatry of God retreat in Belfast in April, which focussed on the work of Peter Rollins.

Slavoj Žižek is one of a number of contemporary philosophers who find in Saint Paul a rich resource for their own projects, particularly in relation to political theory and ideology critique.

One of the key problems that Paul wrestles with is the relationship between sin and the law. In Romans 7, he writes that sin seizes its chance in the commandment, and his awareness of the intermingling of the law and the desire to transgress the law prefigures the psychoanalytic insight that the law operates not only at the level of the letter of the law but also according to its ‘obscene superego supplement’. This is the law’s inherent injunction. It’s a level of implicit rather than explicit discourse that is obscene in its contradiction or transgression of the public text of the law, supplementary because it is this injunction that is what binds the subject to the law, and superegotistical because it takes the form of an injunction to enjoy.

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What unites us is central

What unites us is central

Julian Wood thinks it is more important to celebrate what we share than to focus what divides us

One of the gifts of a spiritually-led life is that we can reflect on what unites us as well as what divides us from other people.

I struggle with attending church- but then often think, ‘Hang on - I agree with all of Christianity apart from the church dogma’.

This is a creed I can sign up to - and I think almost all Christians, non-Christians and people of other faiths can sign up to as well. Can you?

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Quick hymns at the PCN progressive liturgy weekend

Quick hymns at the PCN progressive liturgy weekend

Set the challenge of writing a hymn in twenty minutes, could we produce something both progressive and singable?

​Hymn writing is not normally a communal endeavour, but in her session on the use of hymns Ali Morley set retreatants the challenge of first choosing key words and then putting them together into a short hymn. Each group came up with between two and four lines and somehow we shuffled them into three verses, later reduced to two in an effort to eliminate repetition. Although we wrote the words for the tune of Amazing Grace, we found later that they went better to Dundee, the tune associated with ‘I to the hills will lift mine eyes’

Embracing love, accepting all

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The God Who Dies

The God Who Dies

Katharine Sarah Moody writes about the fictitious projections in which we place our trust, including notions of God. She argues that Christianity has an insight which allows it to live with that.

This blog was written after Katharine returned from a retreat in Belfast which explored the work of Peter Rollins. The title of the retreat was taken from Rollins’ fifth book, The Idolatry of God: Breaking our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction. As Katharine explains, Rollins is influenced by Lacanian psychoanalysis and the work of philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

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In Defence of Doubt

In Defence of Doubt

Starting on 18th June, PCN Britain and the Open Christianity Network Ireland are sponsoring a tour of the United Kingdom by Dr. Val Webb, who will be speaking on the new edition of her book ‘In Defence of Doubt: an invitation to adventure’

Seventeen years ago, I wrote a book called In Defence of Doubt: an Invitation to Adventure. It was written in ‘‘white heat,’’ the summer we moved from Australia to the United States. Such moves are always dislocating because you leave behind old friends and rituals, but they are also ‘’ first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life’’ moments where you have a chance for self examination.

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Church of Scotland’s historic step towards inclusion

Church of Scotland’s historic step towards inclusion

Blair Robertson, Convenor of Affirmation Scotland, gives his assessment of where gay and lesbian ministers in Civil Partnerships now stand in relation to appointments in the Church of Scotland.

Last week, the

General Assembly of The Church of Scotland debated whether the church would be accepting of those in ministry, and those called to ministry, who are gay,

lesbian and who may or may not be in a relationship. Were our prayers answered?

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The theology of Gretta Vosper

The theology of Gretta Vosper

There is a common aim among progressive Christians to be followers of Jesus. But our understanding of divinity is a source of lively debate with a whole spectrum of beliefs and agnosticisms. Gretta Vosper has opened up a new strand in this debate. Michael Wright likes what she has to say.

Gretta Vosper, a Minister in the United Church of Canada, and Chair of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity, is a fresh voice in modern theology. She is blowing a blast of fresh air through hallowed portals. This is the essence of her view expressed in her first book: “With or Without God – why the way we live is more important than what we believe.”

Out of the multitude of understandings of religion, spirituality and faith; out of the varying views of the origins, nature and purpose of life; out of the countless individual experiences of what might be called divine; out of it all may be distilled a core that, very simply put, is love.

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Military Might

Military Might

Andrew Parker makes a case for the rejection of military might, taking his evidence from the Hebrew Bible.

The Bible is all over the place when it comes to the justification, or otherwise, of military might. This makes it easy for preachers to ‘find’ that it supports their personal views (whatever these are) if they carefully select their texts and employ ingenious hermeneutics. The net result is that those who still have the vestiges of an ‘open mind’ are left with the feeling that the whole thing’s an impossible mess. Is there any hope of rectifying this lamentable state of affairs by approaching the biblical texts somehow differently?

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