Recent Articles

PCN Members Weekend

PCN Members Weekend

Ian and Fran Lovett report on group study of Spong’s “Unbelievable” - report in Progressive Voices magazine - complete magazine available on subscription

Unbelievable: Why neither the ancient creeds nor the Reformation can produce a living faith today

John Shelby Spong

Spong writes in the introduction that this was written in the twilight years of his life, indeed he estimates that some of his best books have been written in these years.

Whilst one might not want to study the fulsome arguments in those books, reading and discussing “Unbelievable” can be sufficient to underpin the notion that the dysfunctionality / dissonance of 1st and 16th

century-based Christianity really is unbelievable now.

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CUF focus on homelessness

CUF focus on homelessness

CUF focusses on homelessness as we are surrounded by visions of the Christmas story:

CUF, is a Christian social action charity working around the country tackling issues such as food poverty, homelessness and financial exclusion. This Advent they are focusing specifically on the issue of homelessness and raising awareness about this issue and what Christians can do to make a difference to the many thousands of people who experience homelessness.

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Oxford Diocese piles pressure on Dean Martyn Percy

Oxford Diocese piles pressure on Dean Martyn Percy

Private Eye suggests that bishop stung by Percy’s outspoken criticism of “Renewal and Reform” policy.

According to Private Eye Bishop Steven Croft (Oxford) has removed PTO (permission to officiate) from Martyn Percy, stopping him taking services anywhere in the Church of England. Bishop Croft has done this even though the actions of Christ Church college do not involve any actions by Martyn that would require such suspension. If Private Eye’s story, entitled “Down the Rabbit Hole” if right this is bound to add to the pressure on Martyn. Private Eye suggests that Bishop Croft was stung by Dean Martyn Percy’s outspoken criticism of the Church of England’s “Renewal and Reform” policy.

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Plans and Projects for PCN Britain

Plans and Projects for PCN Britain

Chair’s letter outlines plans and projects for PCN Britain

Chair’s Letter

There have been a number of well-received PCN events this autumn, in particular our members’ weekend at the Hayes Conference Centre at Swanwick (reviewed in this PV) and the Marcus Borg Memorial Conference held at St Marks Church in Broomhill, Sheffield, when we had the pleasure of welcoming Marianne Borg. These and other events, such as the Future of Faith lectures in Rawtenstall, give a much needed opportunity for PCN members and friends to meet together and to feel part of a bigger progressive movement across the UK. Indeed, we know that we are also part of a global movement seeking to free Christianity from many of the constraints imposed by outdated dogmas and rigid frameworks of belief. Marianne invited us to keep in touch with the work of the Marcus Borg Foundation and you can do this by registering your email address to receive news from that organisation (see www.marcusjborg.org).

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Smiles that mask dark secrets

Smiles that mask dark secrets

Catherine Pepinster, former editor of The Tablet, reflects on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). .

Catherine Pepinster, former editor of  The Tablet, reflects in The Tablet on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). .- a few, of many, disturbing  issues, are noted below in extracts from her support.

While the details revealed of the abuse suffered by individuals are horrifying, the inquiry went much further. It exposed the extent to which the abuse crisis in the Church has been deepened by the institutional response of those in positions of power. A culture of clericalism, secrecy and authoritarianism was laid bare. It became clear how little money is spent on safeguarding. It revealed conflicts between national organisations and those at local level, the struggle of staff to cope with their workloads and their lack of up-to-date knowledge about abuse.

What is now apparent is the extent to which efforts by the Church to improve child protection through the recommendations made in the Nolan Report in 2001 and its follow-up Cumberlege report six years later did not necessarily lead to improved systems at diocesan level. A recent audit of Birmingham carried out by the Social Care Institute of Excellence (SCIE) found that record-keeping was poor, and there was no complete record of all its volunteers in the parishes.

While many of the cases of abuse discussed occurred between 1982 and 1999, when Maurice Couve de Murville was archbishop, the inquiry focused on the response to survivors of abuse who had come forward in more recent years. And what emerged was that the interests of the institution were still being put first.

There was worrying evidence from Eileen Shearer and from Adrian Child, former head of COPCA’s successor, CSAS, that Birmingham’s safeguarding officer, Jane Jones, had shown hostility to their organisations.

A SCIE audit found recently that Birmingham’s senior clergy and protection team still did not understand the impact that abuse has on victims and their families.

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Jesuit Mark S. Massa, argues change is the companion of theological truth

Jesuit Mark S. Massa, argues change is the companion of theological truth

The preacher’s carriage “was built in such a logical way / It ran a hundred years to a day” but then “went to pieces all at once, / All at once and nothing first, / Just as bubbles do when they burst.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Structure of Theological Revolutions: How the Fight Over Birth Control Transformed American Catholicism

By Mark S. Massa, SJ 232 pages; Oxford University Press

Jesuit Fr. Mark Massa opens his new book, The Structure of Theological Revolutions: How the Fight Over Birth Control Transformed American Catholicism, with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem “The Deacon’s Masterpiece: Or the Wonderful ‘One-Hoss Shay’: A Logical Story” first published in 1858. The preacher’s carriage “was built in such a logical way / It ran a hundred years to a day” but then “went to pieces all at once, / All at once and nothing first, / Just as bubbles do when they burst.”

The poem is, of course, a metaphor, and the destruction of the one-horse carriage Holmes is describing represents the sudden destruction of Calvinism as the essential cultural framework for New England society.

“The American Catholic community experienced a very similar, and seemingly equally quick, disappearance of a revered theological system after 1968,” Massa writes. “What passed from the scene was, as in the earlier case, a rigorously systematic, even logical, theological system, which has been traditionally labeled ‘neo-scholastic natural law.’ “

the structure of theological revolutions full review

 

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Martyn Percy dean of Christ Church to face tribunal

Martyn Percy dean of Christ Church to face tribunal

Adrian Alker, PCN Britain chair, has sent Martyn good wishes from PCN Britain in what is a pretty torrid affair which has taken its toll on Martyn’s health.

Martyn Percy is to face a tribunal though the complaint made against him is as yet not clear. ​The complaint does not involve the Church of England and is a purely college matter, The matter has led to his suspension from both college and chapel duties. A defence fund has been formed and has raised £54 000 on GoFundMe

Martyn Percy Defence Fund 

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Haunted by Christ: new book by Richard Harries

Haunted by Christ: new book by Richard Harries

Richard Harries reflects on the works of twenty novelists, poets and dramatists who take religion seriously. His selection of 20 authors stretches back to the 19th century, with Fyodor Dostoevsky and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and through to Marilynne Robinson and Philip Pullman in our day.

W H Auden, T S Eliot, William Golding, Elizabeth Jennings, C S Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, Stevie Smith. . . These are among some of the great poets and novelists whose struggles with faith finds expression in their works, and whose works have helped countless readers to appreciate the different forms that faith can take in different times and places. Richard Harries considers the work of twenty of these writers, painting vivid pictures of their lives and times, and providing us with numerous critically sympathetic insights into the spiritual dimension of their writings.

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National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff issue open letter to the US Catholic bishops: “It’s over”

National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff issue open letter to the US Catholic bishops: “It’s over”

RC bishops in USA invited to try humility ... attend in mufti and leave all the collars and black suits,  silk and lace and pectoral crosses at home.

Dear brothers in Christ, shepherds, fellow pilgrims,

We address you as you approach this year’s national meeting in Baltimore because we know there is nowhere left to hide.

It’s over.

All the manipulations and contortions of the past 33 years, all the attempts to deflect and equivocate — all of it has brought the church, but especially you, to this moment.

It’s over.

Even the feds are now on the trail. They’ve ordered that you not destroy any documents. The Department of Justice is conducting a national criminal investigation of how you’ve handled the clergy sex abuse scandal. It is a point in our history without precedent. We want you to know that you aren’t alone in this moment, you’ve not been abandoned. But this time it must be different. This time it won’t be easy.

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Gretta Vosper - Great news from Canada

Gretta Vosper - Great news from Canada

A message direct from Gretta following the unexpectedly short (and positive) censure hearing

Hello all!

This coming Sunday, I return to my congregation without a cloud hanging over our heads and secure in the knowledge that the community we have built at West Hill United Church can continue, without conditions.

The following joint statement just went out from the United Church of Canada at 1:00 p.m. today.

Joint Statement Toronto Conference, Rev. Gretta Vosper and West Hill United Church have settled all outstanding issues between them. Rev. Gretta Vosper will remain in ordained ministry at West Hill United Church. We acknowledge the faithful work of all of those who have been involved in this process.

I cannot say how central your support, love, expressions of empathy, and constancy has meant to me over these three and a half years (plus one day!). It has strewn this difficult path with wisdom, late night and early morning insights, en-coeur-agements, letters of support, of outrage and sorrow, perspective, cups of tea, space for the expressions of anger or heartbreak, shoulders braced against the wall. You persevered and this story has been told. In the telling, in the hearing, we have been affirmed. The first denomination to allow an atheist, whose heart and mind, leadership, and theology, formed by that church’s own hand, to continue unobstructed in their ministry. Might I even say “celebrated”? It is a new day in the Christian world. And I am so grateful for your presence by my side.

With much love, gretta

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Gretta Vosper “Heresy” Trial background

Gretta Vosper “Heresy” Trial background

Gretta Vosper Judicial Hearing due 12th November resolved. 

Scott Kearns had reported to us just the other day that  Gretta was exhausted having worked on a mountain of material to submit. Gretta has had to work hard to correct the many, many misquotes and misrepresentations in the report of the Ministry Personnel Review Committee that found her “unsuitable”, to outline objections to the dozens of breaches of natural justice in the process the Church administration developed to try her. Gretta has been able to evidence scores of samples of the work she has done with West Hill to offer a non-exclusive, theologically barrier-free community united in their commonly held commitment to justice, compassion, integrity, etc.  Gretta and Scott had no idea what would happen at the trial –  now all the worry as to whether indeed the court would be willing to listen to a wide scope of material, or merely “sentence” (their word) her right at the start is answered . Throughout Gretta has exemplified her integrity and passion for people and that has been recognised.

There is Facebook page hosted by the Friends of Gretta Vosper Association that will be keeping folks posted almost every day regarding what’s going on related to the Hearing. Here’s the link:

 

Gretta Vosper Support Group

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Catholic alt right seeks to scapegoat gay priests and homosexuality

Catholic alt right seeks to scapegoat gay priests and homosexuality

Dominican sisters who run the Siena Retreat Center outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had to hire security to defend against anti-gay protestors

Dominican sisters who run the Siena Retreat Center outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had to hire security to keep more than two dozen protesters off the property, where they were runniong a retreat for gay clergy and lay people. The National Catholic Reporter reported DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, the Catholic LGBT advocacy and educational organization, stating  it as all part of a “toxic atmosphere that has been building up for decades.” 

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Marcus Borg Memorial Lecture - Adrian Alker reports.

Marcus Borg Memorial Lecture - Adrian Alker reports.

Marianne captivated her audience through the warmth of her personality and the sincerity of her deep commitment to following in the path of the compassionate Jesus.

The Marcus Borg memorial lecture took place this year in St Marks Church in Broomhill, Sheffield. The conference resonated with significance for it was in this parish church in the year 2000 that Marcus Borg first spoke at a local parish church in the UK. Marcus had accepted the invitation to come to Sheffield at a time when many people across the country were beginning to read his published books. Through his work many came to realise, in an increasingly conservative Church, that there was another way of seeing the Christian faith. We were being asked to look again at the person of Jesus, to read again the Bible with fresh eyes and understanding, to conceptualise in different ways notions of the divine.

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Justice Week  - new initiative setup by the  Bar Council, The Law Society, and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

Justice Week - new initiative setup by the Bar Council, The Law Society, and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

The purpose of the week is to boost the profile of justice and the rule of law, helping to place them at the centre stage of public and political debate.
With many parts of the system at breaking point, now is the time to make a strong and clear case for why they are so fundamental to our society, economy and democracy.

Adrian Alker, Chair PCN Britain,  writes, “The Progressive Christianity Network Britain proudly supports Justice Week and the programme of events which will raise the profile of justice and those institutions which promote its cause in these islands. For Christians, Jesus embodied the justice of God in his life, actions and teachings. The Bible as a whole puts distributive justice at the heart of how we should live in society “Give justice to the weak and the orphan, maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82. Justice is the body of love, and love is the soul of justice. God is Love. Love empowers justice and justice embodies love. Keep both or get neither.

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