Update by PCN Chair, John Churcher

Here is a shortened version of the December update which was emailed to PCN members before Christmas...

PCN-Britain has achieved much since its inception, and there is much more that can and will be achieved in the future. These are exciting times to be developing this work locally and nationally. The Management Committee is here to serve the membership and as part of its work, members of the MC will be meeting at a 24 hour residential in January. The first day will be an open agenda to review the roles of Management Committee officers and to discuss ways in which the work load and role specifications can be developed to meet the changing needs of this growing membership organisation. There is a wealth of expertise within the wider membership that should be used much more in developing the local and national work of PCN-Britain. The Management Committee’s task is to find ways of unlocking that talent. Changes are inevitable. Co-options onto the Management Committee will need to be made. There may need to be amendments to the constitution, and if so, these will be brought to the next AGM.

All organisations change or die. There is no standing still anymore. PCN-Britain has achieved much in these years of establishing its place in the progressive network of similar organisations in Britain. Now we need to look to the next stage of development. Whereas many Christian organisations and Churches are moving into strategies of survival at least PCN-Britain is looking to cope with the fresh challenges of growth! Blessings, John Churcher

ON this website:

In the Events section -

PCN Britain is delighted to welcome back to the UK Marcus Borg, author of the bestselling Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, The God We Never Knew, The Heart of Christianity and many other publications. He will be leading a PCN weekend in Edinburgh on 10th – 12th September 2010. To find out more and download a booking form visit http://www.pcnbritain.org.uk/index.php/events/detail/being_christian_in_the_21st_century/

In the News section -

“We are not fallen sinners, we are incomplete human beings”, said Jack Spong during his recent PCN tour of the UK. For a selection of quotes from the tour visit http://www.pcnbritain.org.uk/index.php/news/post/what_spong_had_to_say/

From the PCN Forum

Progressive Spirituality, posted 2nd December by PCN committee member, John Hetherington

“My most recent interest has been exploring how to see God in all faiths and spiritual paths. But this of course stretches the more rationalist ‘liberal’ to the limit, and can be a source of tension, for we all journey at different paces”.

Read the whole post: http://www.pcnbritain.org.uk/index.php/forums/viewthread/10/ and find out how to visit John’s new blog.

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Setting Jesus Free

This is the title of a new book by John Churcher, chair of PCN Britain.  Here is a review received from Rev Jairo Majia, a retired Episcopal…...

The book Setting Jesus Free, by the Rev. John Churcher, is an extraordinary book. When I first contacted the author regarding the book, he wrote to me “you may have read much of the book previously as it is really an adaptation of my sermons.” Not exactly; the book - besides its fundamental subject - is full of anecdotes, personal and others, and historical references, which often get lost in sermons.

I don’t know how many books about Jesus and his doctrine I have read, but this one certainly is at the top, and has the best explanation I have read of the real meaning of the message of Jesus. Setting Jesus Free helped me to better understand Jesus, his message and his mission.

In a conversational tone with the reader, the author offers a concrete and pragmatic insight in the ‘Way of Jesus’; his convincing comments reflect on all areas of life: from the individual and the family, to international politics. Reading this book was not just learning but enjoyable; it is a book full of new insights and interest.

Due to the frankness of the author you understand the goal of the author from the first pages:

I can fully understand why many ministers leave the Christian Church, even having become Christian agnostics or even atheists as they find that the well of traditional theology is drying up in this post-Enlightenment, post-evangelical, post-Christian and perhaps post-atheist society that so much of the ‘first world’ and ‘new world’ seem to be living in (page 6).

We are at the crossroads. Either we continue down this dry, dusty and increasingly barren road into the desert from which there is no return, or we find the substance of the New Reformation (page 6).

The Empty Tomb, whatever that was, is not just something from the past but it is to be lived and experienced today and every day… the important thing is that “The Lord is here! His Spirit is with us!” (page 16)

Like it or not, we are either at the forefront of a new reformation of the Christian Church, or we are in the midst of its death throes” (page 139).

As the Christian Church faces an uncertain future I am convinced that we who are members of it need to think afresh about how to live; the death of creeds and doctrines; the impact of history remembered, history interpreted and history developed into theology… whatever ‘God’ is deserves better than that (page 181).

The first chapter, “The Beginning,” is about the “miraculous” conception and birth of Jesus; it is an extensive exposition of all the events related in the gospels, with clarifying details and considerations. I used it for my meditation during Advent, and read it twice. Then, the author goes through all Jesus’ parables with wise comments and applications; the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector is particularly good. He, the author, finds meaning in the most insignificant actions or brief words of Jesus. He proves that the gospels were written as Midrash, and that as Midrash must be interpreted; and shows clearly how each gospel writer is amplifying the preceding writer with parallel remembrances from the Hebrew Bible.

When the author comes to the details of the resurrection of Jesus as related in the gospels, he makes clear the point that the four different reports cannot all be true because they contradict each other. As he says, this is the best proof against those affirming the inerrancy of the Bible. He concludes that, regardless of what resurrection means, Jesus is still alive; and, because of that, the gospel was propagated so rapidly and extensively. This was the miracle of Jesus alive, of those who love one another. He shows how a world inspired by the ‘Way of Jesus’ would make the difference!

There is an extensive and useful bibliography; although, I missed several authors, in particular Hans Kung, one of the greatest pioneers of the reform of the Church.

This is a splendid book that I recommend.

Jairo Mejia
Retired Episcopal Priest

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What Spong had to say

Bishop John Shelby Spong recently completed a speaking tour of the UK organised by PCN Britain.  His subject was the title of his latest…...

Spong took a Darwinian approach to his subject. The evolution of a self-conscious mind brought with it the fear of death and of our vulnerability. This shaped the way religion developed:

“Human beings are chronically anxious people… The human image of God is created by man’s anxiety.”

“Flattery of God and reverse flattery (denigrating ourselves) for the purpose of manipulating God is what we’ve done in worship.”

Denigrating ourselves, says Spong, makes us more likely to oppress others – Jews, coloureds, women, homosexuals have all been targeted by Christianity.

He is particularly scornful of the image of God which lies behind this.

“God becomes a child abuser and punishes his own son and as a result you and I become a guilt laden people. Guilt is the currency that keeps the church going… Guilt based gratitude never produces wholeness”.

Spong denies being an atheist:

“I am not saying that God does not exist”

So what does Spong believe about God? His vision is mystical, using non-human allegories:

“The Ground of Life coming into our consciousness”.

“Maybe God is the experience in all things… the life that flows through the universe…

“Maybe God is that quality of love that calls us to go beyond our survival mentality, freeing us to love wastefully”.

And what does Spong believe about Jesus:

“In Jesus we see a freedom from fear about people who are different, a freedom from the survival mentality… Jesus loved beyond the boundaries of self-survival.”

“God - the source of love, the source of life – becomes a new way of seeing Jesus: as portraying a human so whole and full that all of God could be expressed through him.”

This leads Spong to a new vision of humanity:

“We are not fallen sinners, we are incomplete human beings”

“You don’t need to be born again, you need to grow up.”

“The Holy Spirit didn’t make us religious, it made us human.”

“If we see God as the source of love, the source of life, then we have a new way of seeing Jesus – as portraying a human so whole and full that all of God could be expressed through him.”

Returning to the theme of evolution, Spong says that Jesus shows us what humanity can achieve:

“Unity with God – to let God live in us and through us.”

“Our mission is not to convert people but to transform people; to be all that they can be, to love wastefully and to live fully.”

“You can be part of who God is and he becomes part of what you are… You come into being”

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