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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Gay Marriage

Gay Marriage

The chair of PCN Britain, John Churcher, gives this personal take on the gay marriage debate. A survey of PCN members found the 94% were in favour of allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married.

​A number of MPs have thrown the cat amongst the pigeons by asking churches to discuss and report back their responses to the proposed change to the law concerning gay marriage. It is an emotive issue for some Christians but there are very few foundational texts stating clearly that homosexuality is wrong. Genesis 19 is often referenced but a careful reading of the text will show that it is gang rape not homosexuality that is being condemned. What is worse, same sex relations or Lot offering his two virgin daughters to be gang raped in place of the two angels sent to warn Lot to leave the city?

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Tribute to John Hick

This letter by Martin Camroux was written for colleagues from our sister organisation Free to Believe.  We are grateful to Martin for allowing PCN to reproduce it here.

​It is with real sadness that I need to pass on to you the news of the death of John Hick. John was of the most influential philosophers of religion in the English speaking world and arguably the most significant English theologian of the last 50 years, certainly in the Reformed Tradition. He trained for the Presbyterian ministry at Westminster College where he became part of a great tradition of Presbyterian scholarship going back to John Oman and H. H. Farmer. He was a classic liberal who will be remembered, among other things, for his openness towards other religious faiths, his continuation to the problem of evil and his splendid book on Jesus “The metaphor of God Incarnate”. I often find myself Quoting John’s statement on the relation of Jesus to God:

“The heavenly father was utterly real to him – as real as the men and women with whom he interacted every day or the Galilean hills among which he lived. God was evidently so real to Jesus that in his presence the heavenly father became real to many of his hearers”.

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Reflections on John Hick

Reflections on John Hick

This article is written by Matt Hicks, a regular contributor to the PCN forum.

​For many people who tread a humanist path, there is often a history of a traumatic and initially disenfranchising break from the religion of their upbringing. For many others, and myself there is one man who either eased the break somewhat or gave their faith a stay of execution. So it is with sadness and fondness that I reflect on the influence of John Hick who passed away yesterday.

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Charity as Beside the Point (Part 2)

In the second of two articles on the condescending nature of charity, Andrew Parker claims we should ask not what we can do to for others, but what we can do for ourselves. Those who have been marginalised can already see what we cannot see; how we much are tied into the existing domination system.

You must not get caught up in the wishy-washy liberal view along the lines that as the bourgeois revolution was focused on helping the middle-classes find life in the teeth of some pretty awful oppression so the socialist revolution was focused on helping the proletarian classes and likewise the marginal revolution will be focused on helping the marginals. Such an understanding misrepresents not just the Bible but also the modern class revolutionary battles as well…

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Charity as Beside the Point (Part 1)

Charity as Beside the Point (Part 1)

This article by Andrew Parker was written over a year ago for a church magazine in Suffolk but somehow never got published. Was it just too radical? Given the growing support in the Church of England for the Occupy campaign, one hopes that the editors of the parish magazine might now think again. But in case they don’t, here it is for all to read. He wrote a follow up which will be available here soon.

Christianity and Judaism are nearly always associated in people’s minds with charitable works and pity for the poor. Because of this I found it interesting to discover that neither Jesus nor the revolutionary Hebrew writers considered charity as the object of the exercise they were involved in which was ‘world salvation’ or as we would put it ‘the transformation of human civilisation’...

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