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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What I will celebrate on Easter morning 1

What I will celebrate on Easter morning 1

Through Holy week we will publish some thoughts on the celebration of Easter. We start with these words from Bishop Jack Spong, taken from his book, Examining the Meaning of the Resurrection.

The impact of Jesus' life on his followers was so intense it simply did not fade after his death.  They kept awaking to new dimensions of what he meant.  No act of human cruelty could destroy his life, no barriers could withstand his love. Jesus embraced the outcasts, whether lepers, Samaritans, Gentiles or the woman caught in adultery. His life could not be contained within the boundaries of religion  He allowed the touch of the woman with the chronic menstrual ftow; he proclaimed that all religious rules had no value, unless they enhanced human life.  His followers found in him a life that reflected the Source of Life, a love that reflected the Source of love and the being that reflected the Ground of Being and so they said "all that we mean by the word 'God' we have experienced in him."

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What I Would Ask the New Chief Exec of Canterbury

What I Would Ask the New Chief Exec of Canterbury

Justin Welby is the first Archbishop of Canterbury whose background includes being a chief executive in private industry. As one of his newly acquired junior employees, Sonya Brown, has prepared a few probing questions she would ask the boss, should she get invited to a 'team development day'.

Just before I was due to go to theological college I worked as a temporary call centre worker for an international insurance company. This organisations as far as I could see had the morality of a monkey nut and a staffing policy which was less about ‘caring for our staff at every level’ and more about wanting stones worth of flesh for every pound. The longer I worked there the more irritated and critical I became. 

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Was Honest to God ever likely to convince teenage atheists?

While he was re-reading Honest to God, published 50 years ago, Frank Godfrey noticed that the Methodist Recorder had reprinted in its '50 Years Ago' column, a letter about teenage atheism. It got him thinking..

As I read the archived letter, I was struck by the timing of its first appearance.  It was written in January 1963, just two months before Bishop John Robinson published Honest to God.  The writer was a teacher from the Midlands: 

 "I have charge of 54 sixth-formers in a co-educational grammar school.  I would have expected only a minority of these young men and women to have had definite Christian convictions and a majority to have had agnostic views although mellowed with some Christian sympathies.  Alas this is not so. 

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Christian Beginnings

Christian Beginnings

If we’re not persuaded by literal readings of the virgin birth, bodily resurrection and Pentecost, then we need to supply an alternative account for the extraordinary and enduring impact of Jesus upon humanity, writes Ian Wallace

​Ask almost anyone around about Christian beginnings around Christmastide and they will almost certainly point you towards the nativity – those parabolic overtures (to borrow a phrase from Borg and Crossan’s The First Christmas) that Matthew and Luke provide as a means of ‘leaking’ Jesus’ significance prior to the onset of his ministry. Interestingly, the popular re-telling of Jesus’ birth is an amalgam of both versions, with contemporary appropriations. Be that as it may, what is important to recognise is that these narratives relating Jesus’ miraculous birth with angelic annunciation and divine conception, dreams, portents and programmatic infanticide were not intended by the evangelists to communicate historical fact but theological meaning. They bear witness to Christian beginnings, but not to the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth; instead, to the community of faith his ministry conceived. Or, expressed in another way, they are evidence of Jesus’ enormous impact upon those whom he encountered and, more remarkably, upon those who never met him and yet recognised his authority upon their lives.

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Taking Down the Barriers

Taking Down the Barriers

Leading evangelical Steve Chalke's brave support for committed same-sex relationships has been dubbed a bombshell by traditional evangelicals. But according to Brian McLaren progressive Christians could find their own defining barriers challenged in the fall out.

Editor's intro:  Steve Chalke, (pictured), the well known author and pastor of the Oasis church in London, has caused an upset in evangelical circles by declaring his support for monogamous same-sex relationships.  In an article entitled A Matter of Integrity, he argues for a progressive approach to Biblical understanding:

"The process of understanding the character and will of Yahweh as revealed through Jesus - is an ongoing task for every generation.  Here is my question. Shouldn't we take the same principle that we readily apply to the role of women, slavery, and numerous other issues, and apply it our understanding of permanent, faithful, homosexual relationships?"

Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity, is another evangelical who supports committed same-sex relationships.  In this blog he gives his reaction to Steve Chalke's stance and explains what it could mean for evangelical identity.  He ends with a challenge to those who call themselves progressive Christians.

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Why I think “God as a Baby” is confusing theology

Why I think “God as a Baby” is confusing theology

A column in the Church Times prompted Richard Tetlow to pen this letter to the editor of that newspaper. Richard takes issue with the notion of a baby as God.

​In his column in the Church Times (21/28 December), Giles Fraser says because “all religion is intrinsically messy … it won’t tell me that my absurd hopes and dreams are absurd”, for the “best parts of the Bible are the weirdest”. He then says “A baby as God: it’s ridiculous”, presumably upholding both the idea and it being ‘ridiculous’.

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The Power of Parable

The Power of Parable

Peter Fisher reviews the latest book from Dominic Crossan, (pictured). It is subtitled "How fiction by Jesus became fiction about Jesus"

This is a book that makes a major contribution in the continuing struggle against the literalism that bedevils the Christian Church. It is not an easy book, but Dominic Crossan is reader friendly: he takes the reader carefully through each stage of his argument and provides summaries at the beginning and end of each chapter.

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So what do progressives do about the God thing?

So what do progressives do about the God thing?

Giving meaning to the word God inspires a lot of debate among progressive Christians. The notion of a super-being who occasionally intervenes in the normal course of events has lost credibility. In this article, Fred Plumer, the president of our sister organisation in the US, The Center for Progressive Christianity, gives his perspective on the God word.

​I was giving a lecture last year, with about 200 people in the audience. Part of my talk was devoted to an overview of the scholarship that has knocked the foundation out of a belief in Jesus as the “only begotten Son of God” and the sacrifice for the sins of the world. 

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How can we approach Christmas, once we accept that the birth narratives in the Bible are not based on historical fact.

​The Christmas gospel readings report wonderful, fantastic events. A virgin, visited by an angel, is told she will be impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and give birth to a son.  Believe it or not - she agrees to this. When the boy is born, a choir of heavenly angels sing joyful melodies in the heavens. Shepherds on night duty leave their flocks untended as they hasten to pay their respects. 

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Should Britain remain a Christian nation?

Should Britain remain a Christian nation?

Sonya Brown, a curate in Leicester, recently contributed a slot to a week of 4-Thought monologues on Channel Four. The subject was whether Britain should still be considered a Christian nation.

Sonya Brown has been a trustee of PCN Britain since 2010.  Follow the link to view the video.  Alongside the video there are a number of comments from other listeners.

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