Recent Blogs

A Catholic Nun on What It Really Means to Be Pro-Life - Joan Chittister

A Catholic Nun on What It Really Means to Be Pro-Life - Joan Chittister

A moral world is one whose societies realize that none of us can manage alone without the help of those who believe that every life is as important as their own.

It’s so easy to be a one-issue voter. It’s also so superficial to be a one-issue anything. It’s a narrow, delimiting approach to the very essence of life.

And there may be some truth in that. But it is also true that all humans must be enabled to live as human beings — with dignity and decency — or the rest of us are no longer fully human beings ourselves, whether we realize it or not.

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Conservative evangelicals in the United Kingdom - an overview by Tom  Jackson

Conservative evangelicals in the United Kingdom - an overview by Tom Jackson

Whilst the Evangelical Alliance has promoted the evangelical wing of Christianity over a long period there have been many other allied developments in recent decades.

When in my early years living in Keswick the convention was an annual weekly event that in recent has been extended to three weeks. The Keswick Convention has been the spiritual home of conservative evangelicals for the last 145 years. It was started by two men, Canon Hartford Battersby a local vicar and Robert Wilson, a Quaker and businessman. Both had recently attended the Oxford Conference on religion from which both were inspired to start a religious gathering in Keswick in 1875. There was at the time much religious fervour in the country and in America stimulated by Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife Hannah preaching a holiness doctrine that influenced many. Both the Pearsall Smiths were originally Quakers who later became members of the Plymouth Brethren, with its strong emphasis on the inerrancy of scriptures and strict members' discipline. Robert was invited to speak at the first meeting, but illness prevented his attendance. Subsequently many speakers from the UK and America have been welcomed to lead the convention meetings who have a theological perspective as evangelicals that is fundamental to the Keswick Convention.

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The greatest commandment has guided my politics By Joe Biden, The Christian Post

The greatest commandment has guided my politics By Joe Biden, The Christian Post

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’” he said. “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

These abiding principles – loving God and loving others – are at the very foundation of my faith. Throughout my career in public service, these values have kept me grounded in what matters most. As a husband, father, and grandfather, they are the cornerstone upon which our family is built. Through the pain of losing my wife, my daughter, and my son, they have sustained me with eternal hope. My faith has been a source of immeasurable solace in times of grief, and a daily inspiration to fight against the abuse of power in all its forms.

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a perspective from outside the contemporary political and religious “encampments” of our day

a perspective from outside the contemporary political and religious “encampments” of our day

In our ugly and injurious present political climate, it has become all too easy to justify fear-filled and hateful thoughts

November 2, 2020

The title of these Letters from Outside the Camp is a reference to the many usages of “outside the camp” in the Hebrew Bible. In this series, we are using the phrase to signify a perspective from outside the contemporary political and religious “encampments” of our day.

These letters are addressed to those of you who are sincerely and devotedly trying to camp elsewhere than in any political party or religious denomination and outside the world of strongly held opinions. We know full well that we must now avoid the temptation to become our own defended camp.

As always, we want to inhabit that ever-prophetic position “on the edge of the inside,” which is described by the early Israelites as “the tent of meeting outside the camp” (Exodus 33:7). And even though this tent is foldable, moveable, and disposable, it is still a meeting place for “the holy,” which is always on the move and out in front of us.

In our ugly and injurious present political climate, it has become all too easy to justify fear-filled and hateful thoughts, words, and actions in defense against the “other” side. We project our anxiety elsewhere and misdiagnose the real problem (the real evil), forever exchanging it for smaller and seemingly more manageable problems. The over-defended ego always sees, hates, and attacks in other people its own faults—the parts of ourselves that we struggle to acknowledge. We do not want to give way on important moral issues, but this often means we don’t want to give way on our need to be right, superior, and in control. It is our deep attachment to this false or manufactured self that leads us into our greatest illusions. Most of us do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.

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And Jesus wept: a good idea, by Joan Chittister

And Jesus wept: a good idea, by Joan Chittister

Reflecting on the USA Joan says "From where I stand, it seems to me that we have to reboot the nature of the country that we are."

There is a very poignant moment in Scripture that gets little exegesis, it seems, but it touches the deepest nerve of a people in mourning for the loss of the character of their nation. Like our own.

It is the picture in Luke 19 of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem — the city on the hill that was the heart and soul of the nation.

"Jerusalem," Jesus cries, "you killers of the prophets." And then he speaks to the troubled city, "If only you had known the path to peace."

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Christ for a reality-TV generation

Christ for a reality-TV generation

Adrian Alker reflects on the power of story to change livesTODAY, across all platforms, the life stories of the famous and the infamous are as popular as ever.

Thousands follow their favourite singer or sports star on Twitter or Instagram. Every week, Hello magazine reaches more than two million adults, keen to see and read about the world’s celebrities. Autobiographies, such as Michelle Obama’s Becoming, often top the booksellers’ charts. Recent cinema releases have told the “true-life” stories of stars such as Judy Garland and Elton John.

The docudrama genre is increasingly seen on television. Recently, the BBC told the personal stories of those caught up in the Salisbury poisonings affair; it has also screened the harrowing story of the racist killing of the black teenager Anthony Walker, murdered in Liverpool in 2005. Such reality-based stories hit us hard, and help to shape our attitudes and responses.

We human beings are made of stories. Our life in this world is our story to tell: a unique story, whether we be famous, infamous, or unknown. Five short films, commissioned by the Progressive Christianity Network (PCN), tell the stories of ordinary people grappling with important contemporary issues. Since a report in this newspaper (News, 4 September), we have had many enquiries from people wanting to show these films, from dioceses to prison chaplaincies.

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Martin Luther King Jr. on the Beloved Community: Matthew Fox

Martin Luther King Jr. on the Beloved Community: Matthew Fox

"our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation."

September 28, 2020

The idea of the "Beloved Community" was central to the thinking of MLK jr. It appears from his earliest speeches and writings to his last ones. In an early article he wrote that the purpose of the Montgomery bus boycotts "is reconciliation…redemption, the creation of the beloved community." In 1957 he wrote that the "ultimate aim of SCLS is to foster and create the ‘beloved community’ in America where brotherhood is a reality."

In his final book he states that "our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation." Thus, we need to expand our sense of community. He warned that desegregation by itself would only produce "a society where men are physically desegregated and spiritually segregated, where elbows are together and hearts apart."

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England will miss our Church when it’s gone - Mary  Harrington - UnHerd

England will miss our Church when it’s gone - Mary Harrington - UnHerd

Without the steadying influence of Anglicanism, our politics could descend again into extremism

The Church of England is on its knees, and not in a good way. Before the pandemic, physical congregations were already sparse, and getting sparser: in 2019, estimates put the average Sunday service attendance at just 27 people. When Covid-19 reached these shores, the Anglican leadership responded by closing churches even for private prayer, and they’ve issued barely a squeak for months on end. No one knows whether physical congregations will ever recover.

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Order, Disorder, Reorder - Reorder: The Promised Land by Richard Rohr

Order, Disorder, Reorder - Reorder: The Promised Land by Richard Rohr

Liberals, however, must surrender their scepticism of leadership, eldering, or authority, and find what is good, healthy, and deeply true about a foundational order.

There seems to be a universal pattern of spiritual transformation that takes us from Order, through Disorder, to Reorder. Order, by itself, normally wants to eliminate any disorder or diversity, creating a narrow and cognitive rigidity in both people and systems. Disorder, by itself, closes us off from any primal union, meaning, and eventually even sanity in both people and systems. Our focus of this week is Reorder, or transformation of people and systems, which happens when both are seen to work together.

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If I were a butterfly…….thoughts on life after death: Adrian Alker

If I were a butterfly…….thoughts on life after death: Adrian Alker

‘The God that I have met in Jesus calls me to live fully, to love wastefully, and to be all that I can be’.

I have great respect for Bishop James Jones, the former bishop of Liverpool, who did so much to support the many grieving Liverpool families seeking justice after the 1989 soccer tragedy. Jones was adviser to the then Home Secretary on the Hillsborough enquiry. Ninety-six people lost lives then and today we face the reality of over 46,000 deaths, and rising, in the UK from Covid 19. No surprise then that bishop Jones chose to speak of death and new life as his ‘Thought for the Day’ on radio 4 on August 3rd. I confess that I usually switch off the radio for 5 minutes at this point since I tire of bland religious outpourings amongst the news items at breakfast. But on this day I thought I would listen and learn.

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Eckhart on Contemplation or “Loving God Mindlessly” – Matthew Fox , August 12, 2020

Eckhart on Contemplation or “Loving God Mindlessly” – Matthew Fox , August 12, 2020

“quit flapping your gums about God.” Rather, learn to speak from “the inner wealth of silence…

Eckhart admonishes us to “quit flapping your gums about God.” Rather, learn to speak from “the inner wealth of silence….Be silent and let God work and let God speak.” The Word or true Christ is born in us through silence. “There is no question that the proper way to hear the word is in a stillness and a silence.”

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Sheffield Cathedral- choirs and controversies

Sheffield Cathedral- choirs and controversies

So where do cathedrals more generally sit from a progressive Christianity viewpoint?

As a former honorary canon of Sheffield cathedral and living just twenty minutes from the city centre, I might have been expected to have had my ears more attuned to what was happening at the cathedral but the news of the disbanding of the cathedral choir and the anticipated changes came as a complete surprise. The ensuing protests by parents of choristers, former musicians and others managed to make headline news in the mainstream media and no doubt caused many a sleepless night for the Dean, Peter Bradley. So where do cathedrals more generally sit from a progressive Christianity viewpoint?

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PCN Newsletter 31st July 2020

PCN Newsletter 31st July 2020

When replanting our garden we put herbs near the kitchen door and one of the delights has been how well visited the marjoram is by bees and butterflies. - Sarah

Made of Stories – Let us have your views! All PCN members have been able to see our five commissioned films on the new website, where we have also housed a number of discussion questions and resources. If and when you have watched the films, it would be great to hear from you! If you are in a PCN group and have watched one of the films together on Zoom or discussed them in some other way, how did that go? You may have sent the website link to other people, possibly family or friends. I wonder what their reaction has been? If you attend a church you might have asked them to put the link to the films on the church’s website. If so what has been the reaction?

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PCN Newsletter 17th July 2020

PCN Newsletter 17th July 2020

This is the back cover of Issue 30 of Progressive Voices, it made me smile when I first saw it and it still does. I hope that it also strikes a chord with you.

Hopes for a post Covid 19 world As this regular newsletter ceases at the end of July and a monthly PCN bulletin begins in September, here are the top-10 hopes for a post Covid 19 world, which members have been sending in. 1. Urgently attend to the climate change crisis and learn from what less road and air traffic and hence less pollution and carbon emissions has taught us. 2. Remember all those ‘key workers’ who care for us in so many ways – nurses, care home staff, refuse collectors, supermarket staff and so many more and ensure they are all paid a fair wage. 3. Urgently work to eliminate poverty and consider a universal basic income

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Chasing our tales – Richard Holloway review by  Piers Plowright in The Tablet

Chasing our tales – Richard Holloway review by Piers Plowright in The Tablet

“Making Meaning in a Meaningless Universe” - Holloway resigned his bishopric in 2000, declaring himself an “after religious”

Stories We Tell Ourselves RICHARD HOLLOWAY Reading this wise, witty and provocative book, I was haunted by a poem: seventeenth-century Welsh poet and doctor Henry Vaughan’s “Vanity of Spirit”. It begins with a hermit/philosopher, “quite spent with thoughts”, deciding to leave his cell for a bit of fresh air and lie down beside a small spring of water. Here he examines the natural world to see if he can get any of the great answers. He can’t, but “having pass’d / Through all the creatures came at last / To search myself, where I did find / Traces and sounds of a strange kind”. Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, is on the same journey in his latest book. Its subtitle is “Making Meaning in a Meaningless Universe”. And his path is shaped by examining the stories humans have told and tell themselves to find that meaning. Religious, mystical, scientific, psychological.

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PCN Newsletter 2nd July 2020

PCN Newsletter 2nd July 2020

Launch of our PCN films I am delighted to let all PCN members know that the five short films commissioned by PCN are now available for you to see! You can access the films by using this website address : https://madeofstories.uk

Alongside the films you will find questions for discussion which groups might want to use, alongside resources such as relevant websites and further reading to encourage you to explore the issues raised by the films in more depth. Thanks to the generosity of PCN members, you are the first to see these films which will be promoted more widely in the coming weeks. Please feel free to let others know of the website link. We do want the films to be viewed by a wide audience! We will shortly have a page on our own PCN website where you can discuss online the films and we would value hearing from you about further resources which you think can be added. The films will also be linked to our Facebook page for those of you who use that particular social media platform for discussion and comment. Made of Stories marks the beginning of our adventures into the film media and we hope that further films might follow. We shall also be working alongside the Student Christian Movement (SCM) in promoting the films to a young audience. We hope the films might be shown and their content discussed by our many PCN groups. Convenors can request a discussion booklet about the stories if the group intends to use the films in its meetings on Zoom or in any other way. Contact me to request a booklet. Finally, we are indebted to the people who volunteered to tell their story and to Shortform, the media company in Manchester, who have produced such professionally executed short films. Adrian Alker

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A Blessing for a Meeting on Zoom

A Blessing for a Meeting on Zoom

The waving hand, our ecstatic benediction

In the place where eye contact is impossible The silent lexicon of non-verbal cues extinct May this not be the crowd without the wisdom Despite our isolation, our social distance May we give thanks for this awkward digital blessing May we be admitted, May we not be muted May our distorted sound and scrambled words Finally align, May they catch up with our pixelated vision May travelling this unfamiliar landscape Neither lose us, nor completely exhaust us And may our bandwidth always find room For patience, gentleness and the peace that bypasses misunderstanding May every meeting open and close with a poem, A joke or a steadying moment of silence Some brief transfiguration in time, to remind us Of who we were, before all this, And who we may be again May our agenda always be kindness, The waving hand, our ecstatic benediction And may there never be any other business, For ever and ever. Amen Martin Wroe Sent in by Paul Haines, Come-to-Good Local Meeting (from An Krenner Kernewek - The Cornish Friend)

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