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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Not what I came for…but

Not what I came for…but

The 2012 PCN Britain annual residential weekend took place at the Hayes, Swanwick at the beginning of May. A small photo gallery of this event is available in the Resources section under Photos

​This gathering proved to be an amazing transforming experience in so many ways. Perhaps it was not what the participants were expecting. When PCN groups gather around the country the discussions are mainly cerebral. As one participant put it after the first session on the first evening, ‘This is not what I came for. I expected to have deep theological ideas poured into my head.’ Afterwards she wrote, ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and have come home inspired and refreshed….’

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Review of Dying to Live by John Churcher

Review of Dying to Live by John Churcher

Michael Wright reviews ‘Dying to Live: Lessons from Mark’ by John Churcher which is available from the PCN Britain Shop.

​Being familiar with the gospels can lead us into thinking that we know Jesus and his teaching very well. Then when you read a book by a writer who has steeped himself in the text, and the context in which the author was writing, new perspectives dawn.

John Churcher is such a writer. He brings to the surface all sorts of nuggets of information, analysis, many of which I have not seen before. Dying to Live draws lessons from Mark’s gospel. It is a successor to his work on lessons from Luke’s gospel in Setting Jesus Free. His style is easy to read for the non-specialist. It is a very valuable aid to those who have to teach and preach. It will bring some of us up short with the challenge and the insight he offers…

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A very muddy Greenbelt

A very muddy Greenbelt

PCN Administrator, Andy Vivian, remembers PCN's visit to the 2012 Greenbelt festival

​This was surely one of the muddiest Greenbelts on record. The rain fell in torrents on Saturday afternoon. Run-off flooded the marquees and the lush grass of Cheltenham Racecourse was soon mashed by the passage of feet into a mud bath. Six-year old mud larks found delight in testing for the areas of deepest ooze. Shod in bright wellies they were human lighthouses warning us more sober folk of the areas we needed most to avoid.

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Lessons for the Church from the Olympics

Lessons for the Church from the Olympics

Richard Tetlow, a PCN trustee and ardent sports spectator, reflects on a spiritual experience.

​The experience was on a national scale: the Olympics, both ‘warm-up’ and Paralympics, were experienced by many as ‘amazing, fantastic, unbelievable’. Competitors and crowd alike constantly described their experiences like this. Those were the ‘in’ words. Challenges went out to the sporting world especially that of football to take note. What could we all learn, the Church too?

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Gay Marriage 2

​Savi Hensman writes for Ekklesia and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. She lives in London. PCN asked her to comment on the recent campaign by some church leaders against the notion of gay marriage.

“The world is wracked by suffering, and the threat of war. Many face intense poverty, even in rich countries, and social exclusion affects various minorities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. Ecological damage could bring an end to many forms of life on this planet entrusted by God to our care. But some senior clergy in the UK seem more passionate about whether same-sex marriage will be legally recognised.

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