Recent Articles

Dominic Crossan leads PCN conference in Sept 2011

Here's a chance to get a taster of our September conference speaker.

John Dominic Crossan's work on Christian history challenges us to rethink what Jesus meant to those who knew him while he was alive. PCN Britain has invited him to lead a conference in Leeds from Sept 16th - 18th 2011, at St Andrews URC in Roundhay. For details of the conference and how to book please go to the event page.

To hear a Youtube clip of Crossan, got to

PCN author writes about Christmas

PCN author writes about Christmas

Adrian Alker's contribution to the Together in Hope study guide series explores the place of myth within the gospels and how its meaning can contribute to the shaping of a progressive Christian faith.

Adrian Alker is a longstanding member of the PCN Britain committee. Explaining his approach to the Christmas narratives he writes, "In chapter one I explore the place of myth and story within the gospels and attend to questions of truth and meaning and how this can contribute to the shaping of a progressive Christian faith. Chapter two covers some of the main themes and ideas emerging from Matthew’s gospel and chapter three highlights some of the special characteristics of the Lukan narrative. In chapter four I offer a number of themes which emerge from the Christmas stories and explore how these ideas and concepts can be expressed through liturgy in the Christmas season. The book ends, as do all the books in this series, with suggestions for further reading and resources available for more study and practical use. At the end of each chapter there are some questions which may be helpful in promoting discussion if this book is being used by a group of people or as a study course."

Adrian is an Anglican priest. He began his ministry in Liverpool, and was then five years as Diocesan Youth Officer in Carlisle, where he got involved in Christian education. Although always of a liberal, questioning frame, a great inspiration to him over recent years has been the writing of Marcus Borg and the work of the Jesus Seminar people in the States. Borg’s acceptance of an invitation to come to St Mark’s led to the founding of St Mark’s Centre for Radical Christianity. He says that “The whole thrust of my work as a priest at St Marks was how liberal Christianity can be a real force for good in a parish context.” Adrian is currently Director of Mission Resourcing in the Anglican Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, supporting parishes to engage with contemporary issues of faith and life.

Bishop Spong visits Glasgow

A report is now available of Jack Spong's visit to Glasgow in June 2011. You can also hear part of his last lecture and buy CDs of all his lectures on this website, (see below)

Jack Spong was the controversial Bishop of Newark in the United States. His open minded progressive approach to theology was refreshing. He offered an enlightening antidote to the oftentimes prejudiced and literalist approach of some in the Episcopalian and more fundamentalist churches. Eight years ago, Jack came to the UK to launch the “Progressive Christianity Network Britain” and he has been touring the UK regularly ever since. This was his last visit. On 2nd June 2011, he spoke to the Thinking Allowed meeting at Cairns Church in Milngavie, Glasgow. From 3rd to 5th June he led a conference at Orchardhill Church in Giffnock, Glasgow. Among those attending the conference was John Hetherington who is the convenor of PCN Britain's Kendal group and secretary of the South Lakeland Interfaith Forum. To read his report please go to To purchase a recording of Jack Spong's lectures, please go to To listen to an excerpt from his lectures, please go to

New group for Dundee University

PCN Britain is pleased to welcome “Thinking Allowed” to the PCN Britain group network.

The new group will meet for the first time on Tuesday, 13th September 2011 in the Common Room, The University Chaplaincy, University of Dundee, DD1 4HN. Convenor, Angela Smith, says: "We will meet on Tuesday lunchtimes during semester from 1.05 until 1.55. All are welcome from 12.05 onwards for informal chat (whilst eating lunch) before the start of meetings. The group is open to everyone interested in exploring questions of faith and spirituality. You do not need to be a member of PCN Britain or belong to any church. For contact details and information about the programme please go to THINKING ALLOWED seeks to provide a welcoming forum in which there is opportunity to: Explore matters of faith Meet other thoughtful, enquiring minds Be yourself Have the freedom to remain silent Enjoy support Have a sense of belonging Network with others Celebrate diversity

New PCN Group launches in East Shropshire

People living in the West Midlands will soon have more choice when looking for local group of progressive Christians

The seeds of this group were sown when John Churcher gave a talk to the local C of E Deanery Synod in July of last year, followed next day by a workshop. For some people these occasions provided a wonderful freedom to be able to ask questions which they had been nervous of asking before, for others the new thinking was challenging. There was uncertainty as to how to take things forward but ultimately it was the new vicar who suggested the formation of a local group of PCN. THE FIRST MEETING OF THIS NEW GROUP will take place on Monday, 18 July 2011 at 7.00p.m. for 7.30 in St Chad’s Church, Boningale, WV7 3BY. Boningale is a tiny village near to Albrighton on the Eastern boundary of Shropshire and the origins of the church go back to Norman times. Anyone interested in exploring progressive Christianity will be welcome at the meeting, you do not have to be a member of PCN. Don’t be worried about having to “make a contribution”, you may just like to enjoy the fellowship of others in a quiet, country church. It would be helpful, but not absolutely necessary, if anyone wishing to come could contact David Cotterell. The present intention is that the group should meet monthly but this will be for the group to decide. David Cotterell's contact details are at

Chair's news update

This email went out to PCN Britain members at the beginning of May 2011

Chair's update Further to my email update at the end of March I now bring you other items from the March Management Committee Meeting. The Management Committee is grateful to those who have sent in contributions for the progressive Christian liturgy project. The Liturgy subcommittee has decided to work on some guidelines for contributors to make sure that we stay within the copyright laws. We’ve discovered that a wholesale quote is easy to attribute but it is more difficult when contributors 'borrow' lines from different sources and mix them with their own! PCN Britain is looking for places to meet for its future committee meetings in London and elsewhere. Locations will be determined by the geographic spread of elected members of the new Management Committee. Please let me [or any Management Committee member] have your thoughts concerning accessible and affordable venues for a daytime meeting in places such as London, Leeds and Birmingham. A similar request is made concerning a venue for the annual Management Committee 24 hour residential. As you know PCN Britain is working to update the list of churches which welcome progressive Christians into their congregation. So far two new churches have come forward. In our July committee we have agreed to discuss how PCN serves the churches and how our relationship with them might develop. Thoughts welcome. PCN is aiming to link with other organisations for a joint presentation at this year’s Greenbelt festival. The new Young People’s subcommittee, led by Sonya Brown is also working on a programme of making new contacts. University chaplains are likely to be high on the list. Contact if you think you could help. Finally, as this is the year when we carry out our three-year strategy review, I will be working with three of our newer committee members, Angela Smith, Paul Onslow and Richard Tetlow, to put together the consultation form that will go out to members with the September newsletter. In the meantime here’s a challenge to all our members: can you write a short pithy three lines (max) that encapsulates what PCN Britain is about? I look forward to reading your ideas. Send them to me Thank you for your continued support of the work of PCN Britain. It is good to belong to a community of active, open and progressive Christians. John Churcher From the website NEW TICKET PRICES FOR SPONG IN GLASGOW Separate tickets are now available for the Friday and Saturday sessions of the weekend conference with Bishop Jack Spong, so you no longer have to sign up for the whole conference. Like the Thursday evening lecture at Cairns Church, the Friday evening lecture at Orchardhill is available at a cost of £10 to all participants. The three Saturday lectures plus a buffet lunch are available at a cost of £21 to members, (non-members £25). A student ticket covering both Friday and Saturday is available at £20, which is a £15 reduction and includes a free meal! Full details of the four days, 2 – 5th June, are available through the following links. Thursday 2nd June: Friday 3rd – Sunday 5th June:

Spong's last speaking tour in Britain

Bishop John Shelby Spong has said that his June 2011 visit to the UK will be his last speaking tour in this counrty.

Every since its foundation in 2003, Bishop Jack Spong has been a strong supporter of PCN Britain. We have been delighted to host many visits by Jack to these shores during the last 8 years. Sadly, the PCN events in Glasgow in June this year will be his last public speaking engagements in Britain. He will be celebrating his 80th birthday shortly after returning to the States, and he and his wife Christine have decided to reduce the workload. Jack Spong is an electrifying speaker and has done much to put progressive Christianity on the map. His writings have given hope and encouragement to a generation of Christians looking for a new paradigm to give meaning to their human experience. Through his biblical scholarship Spong has opened up a fresh perspective on Jesus and the message he preached. His status as a bishop has not deterred him from criticising Church traditions. Jack Spong is giving five lectures in Glasgow at the start of June. On Thursday June 2nd he is giving a talk at Cairns Church, Milngavie called "The New Testament - Where does fact stop anhd myth begin?". More details at . On Friday June 3rd - Sunday June 5th, Bishop Spong is leading a conference at Orchardhill Church in Giffnock called "A New Christianity for a New World". There will be one lecture on the Friday night, three on Saturday and a sermon at the 10.30 service on Sunday. More details at Recent books 1999 – Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile 2001 – Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love and Equality, 2002 – A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born, 2005 – The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love, 2007 – Jesus for the Non-Religious, 2009 – Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell

Progressive Christianity features in a new novel

A PCN Britain member has followed in the footsteps of Marcus Borg and written a novel which encapsulates the approach of progressive Christianity.

Author, James Quinton, uses a documentary device to pitch himself into a story about the the end of humanity and the final battle between good and evil. Izzy Baker, reviewing the novel in the PCN March Newsletter, describes the plot like this: "Quinton claims he found the manuscript eighteen months ago in his then recently deceased great aunt’s house. What follows is an account written in 1900 by his great, great uncle, the Victorian Time Traveller of the title, to the wife he left behind. The Victorian Time Traveller witnesses a future (the end of the 21st century) where religion is derided and anti-theism is predominant. It’s also where he meets a man in a bar who tells the Time Traveller his own story." A speculative fiction novel combining elements of science fiction/fantasy and pre-apocalyptic dystopia, the book strongly promotes Progressive Christianity, the importance of open thinking, contemporary understanding and embraces the PCN Britain’s Eight Points. Discover how the world ends… “If only you could have seen for yourself what becomes of the human race, you would weep, as I do now.” The Victorian Time Traveller by James D Quinton (Xplosive Books. ISBN 978-0-9567823-0-4. £9.95) will be available to order online and from bookshops from March.

Want to live in a community in Rugby?

Mark Beach, team Rector of the Rugby Team Ministry is aiming to recruit a group of 3/4 young people to come and share in their mission and ministry living together in a community house in a diverse part of the town.

"Are you wondering what to do for the next year or so, aware of the difficulties of the job market? We are looking for 3 young people to come and share in mission and ministry in St Philip’s Community House. We Invite you to Come and Share our life… • Living in community in our diverse parish Worshipping / praying together – developing theology in an urban setting. • Offering hospitality to your neighbours • Volunteering in our schools, community centres and churches • Seed corn money for developing projects • A chance to make a difference in a needy community • Rent Free accommodation What does God want me to do with my life...? • Mentoring from experienced clergy, youth worker and lay people • Training sessions with community development workers There is more to Rugby than an odd shaped ball... • Vibrant relations between churches – • Excellent communications – M6, M1, Rail links Want to know more? Contact The Revd Mark Beach 01788 542936 or" The Rugby team ministry is linked to the churches of St Andrew, St Peter and St John and St George

Who was Jesus? New study guide

"Walk the Jesus Walk" by John Simmonds is the first in a series of study guides co-published by Progressive Christianity Network Britain, Modern Church, Free to Believe and St Marks Centre for Radical Christianity.

The book covers six sessions. The aim is to give encouragement and hope to those who seek a credible Christian faith for the twenty first century. ‘Walk the Jesus Walk’ is ideally suited for groups of people, such as a teenagers group or a new enquirers group who would appreciate a straightforward way of learning about Jesus of Nazareth and be inspired to follow in his way. Note from the author: My conviction is that the real Jesus has been taken away from us, so that we rarely catch a glimpse of the charismatic teacher and prophet who lived in Palestine about two thousand years ago. The Jesus Christ of the Church often bears little resemblance to its founder. Is it possible to discover Jesus as he was before the Church got its hands on him? Maybe it’s impossible, but one has to try. Walk the Jesus Walk is available for £2.95 + 55p post and packaging at If you prefer to order this book by post, send a cheque for £3.50 to PCN Britain, 26 High Street, Newnham, Gloucestershire, GL14 1BB. Discount can be offered on bulk orders. Further enquiries from .

New Year prayer

John Churcher, chair of PCN Britain writes, "On behalf of the Management Committee I wish all members a very happy and peaceful New Year! Here is a prayer that I used in public worship on 2nd January…"

As we set ourselves upon our journey into this New Year, let us recognise the Spirit and Source of Life travelling with us and abiding within our deepest self. Let us begin this New Year by committing ourselves to living ever more deeply and Sacredly as we offer respect, mercy, dignity and compassion to all. Let us begin this New Year remembering that we can experience forgiveness for our trespasses against others in as much as we forgive others for their trespasses against us. Let us begin this New Year with innocent hearts and clear consciences, facing every present moment with courage and hope. Let us daily commit ourselves to fulfilling the Sacred purposes of our lives under the One God of All. Amen.

Chair's December update

Included in this update, the latest news from the PCN Britain committee and some new resources available through this website

Monday December 6th 2010

Letter from the Chair

Although a fuller report will appear in the December Newsletter, here is a brief overview of the main outcomes of the Residential Management Committee Meeting that was held on 20th – 21st November 2010 at the Guy Chester House, Muswell Hill.

  1. Our new honorary secretary, Ian McAllister, will review PCN Britain’s policies to ensure they are in line with good practice for charities. Acting on his recommendation, it was decided that the minutes of all committee meetings would be published online, starting with this meeting.
  2. A new policy on the financial underwriting of regional events organised by local PCN Britain Groups was confirmed. The Management Committee is seeking a member willing to give us advice over public liability insurance. This could be someone with a legal or an insurance background. Please contact me if you might be able to help,
  3. Although there will be a shortfall of income against expenditure this year, the Committee has kept the subscriptions for next year at £15 (reduced), £30 (full) and £45 (donor). This is for the 6th year in a row. Membership renewals for 2011 are due in January. The Management Committee is to dedicate its May 2011 meeting to a review of the budget.
  4. It was agreed that the September Marcus Borg Conference in Edinburgh was a great success. The CD recordings of that event are nearly sold out and another 50 are on order.
  5. Dominic Crossan has accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a PCN Britain conference in September or October 2011.
  6. Regional conferences are being encouraged and the West Midlands PCN Britain interfaith conference “Reclaiming a Radical Faith for the 21st Century: an exploration together” has now been rescheduled for January 22nd, (see below).
  7. A new committee member, Sonya Brown, is preparing PCN Britain’s presence at Greenbelt 2011 where we are aiming to link with other organisations in the progressive fold.
  8. Sonya is also leading a new PCN Britain subcommittee on engaging with younger people.
  9. Angela Smith is leading on a new liturgy subcommittee.
  10. The next St Deiniol’s residential will be on the 18th – 20th November, 2011. The speaker is still to be confirmed.
  11. Looking further ahead we are discussing with our progressive Christianity partners the staging of a major joint national conference in 2012.
  12. The first two of the new study guides, produced in conjunction with our progressive Christian partners, will be available for purchase before Christmas. The titles are “Walk the Jesus Walk” and “Jesus Then and Now”. Both are by John Simmonds and will cost £2.95 each. Details will be in the December Newsletter and on the PCN Britain web site,
  13. Feedback from the Group Convenors’ gatherings this autumn was positive. Ideas for group activities were pooled and a report is to be published and feedback sent to each group. The Management Committee thanks all group convenors for their on-going work
  14. The AGM will be on May 7th. The London venue is to be confirmed.

As you can see, the committee continues to be active in working to support the growing network, its groups and its members. Thank you all for your continued involvement.

I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.

John Churcher

From the Website

Interfaith Conference

The interfaith conference organised by the West Midlands group (see above) brings together liberal voices from the three Abrahamic faiths. The speakers are Salma Yaqoob, a Muslim who leads the ‘Respect Party’ and Dr Margaret Jacobi, who is Rabbi at the Birmingham Progressive Synagogue. The chair is Richard Tetlow, formerly vicar of Ladywood and now on the PCN committee. The conference takes place on Saturday 22nd January starting 1pm.

PCN Britain Welcome Poster

PCN Britain has produced a new “Welcome to a Progressive Church” poster for display by churches which are open to progressive Christianity. The poster is available in A4 size for downloading from the web. . Hard copies in A4 and larger sizes may be purchased from the PCN office. Please contact Andy Vivian for prices, .

PCN Britain Group Questionnaire

The PCN Group Census which, was sent out in September, received a response from only a third of groups. We’ve held it open in the hope to getting more. If your group has not completed it, copies are available on line.

Spong’s visit to Glasgow

Bishop Jack Spong is to visit Glasgow during the first weekend of June 2011. He will be speaking at Cairns church in Milngavie on Thursday 2nd June and then at Orchardhill Church in Giffnock over Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th, ending with a sermon there on Sunday 5th June. Booking details for the Orchardhill part of the visit are now on line.

Membership Renewal

To renew your membership there will be a form going out with the December Newsletter. The form can also be downloaded from the website.

Free e-seminar series

The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity

Are you frustrated with how the mainstream media portray the science and religion issue? It's as if the only two games in town were science-rejecting creationism and faith-rejecting atheism. But for the millions of us in the middle who see no conflict between faith and reason, heart and head, Jesus and Darwin, we know that's a false choice. Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science! This is a Michael Dowd initiative. Michael will be ‘working’ as the host and sounding board for the next two months, beginning 4th December 2010. The series will interview leading speakers [many well known to PCN Britain members] considered to be at the leading edge of a new spirituality. Broadcasts can either be heard ‘live’ and on audio links after the event. To register go to

Chair's Remembrance Sunday blog

John Churcher uses the occasion of Remembrance Sunday to distill a few ideas on what survives after death.

Remembrance Sunday 2010 In preparation for Remembrance Sunday I have been spending a long while contemplating what Remembrance, life and death are all about. For many church attending Christians there seems to be an emphasis upon this life being a preparation for life beyond the grave. There is also for many a holding to the system of belief that states that to ensure eternity in the presence of God one needs to make a specific confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Redeemer of both self and the world. For some of these Christians the wonderful word pictures of the Book of Revelation are taken literally. There will be perfect happiness where we will all be reunited with loved ones and live in the eternal city of gold, as pure as transparent glass, and pearls and precious jewels. We will constantly praise the Lamb upon the Throne, and so on. But what happens to all those whom we remember today [and also last Thursday at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month] who gave their all, paying the ultimate price in the service of humankind, and yet who never made a dogmatic confession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour? What has happened to all those for whom prayers have been said, such as, “Let us remember before God and commend to his safe keeping all those who have died for their country in war… we remember all who fought and died in the service of humankind.” And what is the eternal outcome of all the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Jews who fought for justice and peace and died in that service of humanity? What’s more, where have all those who were the enemy, Christians included, gone to spend their eternity? Do we make the unconditional love that is God conditional upon the prayer of repentance and confession of faith in Jesus? Do we exclude those Christians who fought on the other side? Do we condemn all those of another religious experience to an eternity in hell fire? If that is what the dogma of the Church continues to maintain [or in some cases clearly states] then I want no more to do with that kind of Church. It seems to me that this kind of barrier creating dogma is damaging to the Church, damaging to the cause and spirit of Jesus, and damaging to the psychological and theological well being of Christian and non-Christian alike. But as far as I am concerned, it arises from a false understanding of the nature of God. Any barrier creating ‘God’ is the figment of humankind’s quest to be the chosen people. It is tribal. It defines who can be in and who has to be out. It has no place within the developing spirituality that I experience beginning to influence the great religious traditions of the world. In Christian funeral services there is a recognition that it is from dust that we come and to dust that we return. I have no problem with that, but it does not answer the ultimate question of what happens to us all upon our moment of physical death. There are those who argue that we are all made from stardust and to stardust we return. That gives the eternal element in that we were eternal stardust before we were born and we will return to eternal stardust forever after we die. This offers some logic to those seeking a way around the dogma and could include all people regardless of their religious labels. But it does not convince me entirely. However, what if Christians could look into the courtyard where some Muslims and Hindus sit? What may we find to help us gather a new progressive insight into life, death and eternity? Perhaps we would rethink who the real ‘me’ happens to be? What if the real ‘me’ is not the body and its ego with a soul / Divine Presence within? What if the real ‘me’ is God, or the Eternal Spirit, or the Ground of All Being, or the Core Essence – or whatever descriptors we use to explain our individual and corporate experiences of God? Could that not mean that we are all sacred beings, we are all ‘God’ from eternity before and into eternity beyond this earthly life? If the real me is the soul / the Divine presence and the body is its temporary clothing then the physical body is just like a coat on one’s back and the mind is like the hat sitting upon the head. They are both discarded when their usefulness is finished. In a similar way so the body and the mind [the ego etc] are both discarded by the soul [by the indwelling God] when they have finished their useful life. But the soul / the Divine Presence, the real ‘me’ continues forever because God continues from everlasting to everlasting. The real ‘me’ is part of the living eternity here and now. And what place does Jesus have in all this? For me, as a follower of the Jesus Way, it means that he no longer needs to be the barrier that separates Christian from non-Christian. It means that Jesus no longer needs to be experienced as the substitution for my sins on the cross. It means that God no longer needs to be seen as the Cosmic Child abuser. The teaching and life style of Jesus form my Gateway into fuller knowledge and a greater experience of the Sacred within. It also changes the purpose of my life from a preparation for life beyond in some celestial city of harmony and peace, into living in that celestial city of harmony and peace in the dirt and grime of life in the ever present. American poet, Richard Shelquist says, “The true purpose of your life is to be an instrument of the Divine Presence, bringing love, harmony and beauty into every situation in every moment. Life is a journey, not a destination, and all that truly matters is how one takes each step of the journey. If you take each step in harmony with the wondrous Divine Presence, then you are fulfilling your life's purpose regardless of the situation.” This echoes well with progressive Christian thinking and experience. It also places all those who died in war in the service of humankind as they fought for justice and peace, into the eternal life that all of us share: Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, atheist, agnostic and so on. I personally do not think that war is the way to peace – peace is the only way, but that is matter for discussion on another occasion. Suffice it for now for me to conclude that the real ‘me’ is not my body and mind communicating with the God out there through my soul. I am increasingly experiencing that the real ‘me’ is the soul, the indwelling God calling me and leading me into ever more sacred experiences. My body and mind are but clothing for the action of the indwelling God in the ever present. Now if all religions could grasp that as an insight into the nature of God and ‘us’, what a different world we would live in. And although it is right to remember the dead who died in war [both civilian and military] the day could come when there will be no more need for war or terrorism. The celestial city would indeed have come in all its glory into the everyday experiences of all people here and now. Open the door and glimpse the way in which the new reformation of religious experience is beginning to happen. Open the door and see the future of spirituality and all the benefits that it offers to humankind. It is the sisterhood and brotherhood of all people being soul / the eternal presence of God within and beyond each one of us. And Jesus, as a brother and exemplar of all that is possible, is no less real and no less my eternal Gateway into that experience. Do not give up hope. The future is here if we could only let ourselves experience it. © John Churcher. 2010. All rights reserved.

Marcus Borg available on PCN CDs

Following his recent appearence at the PCN Britain conference in Edinburgh, Marcus Borg's talks and sermon have been produced as a four CD set available for £11, including p&p.

Disc 1: What’s Christianity all about, (Friday evening’s talk) + the Sunday sermon 77 min Disc 2: Speaking Christian - Redeeming Christian Language 72 min Disc 3: Beyond Literalism 63 min Disc 4: Beyond Convention - Participating in God’s Passion for Transformation 79 min To buy the CD set please visit our online shop at Notes to accompany these discs are available from the resources section of this website at

Chair's Update Oct 2010

Chair, John Churcher, with news of PCN Britain's activities

1st October 2010 Here are the main points from the meeting of the Management Committee / Trustees held at St James’s Piccadilly on 25th September. Nine Management Committee / Trustee members were present with two apologies. The Admin Assistant was also present. The Minutes of the previous meeting [July 17th 2010] were accepted and signed. Matters Arising included progress on the Joint Publication Project [more details to follow when the first publication date is confirmed]; Greenbelt had been a successful first presence and plans are now under way for an even greater presence in 2011, hopefully with other progressive Christian groups, [Sonya Brown one of our new committee members is leading on this, ]; the appointment of the new DVD librarian, Jess Lee from Ruislip, noting that already 6 loan requests for various titles had been received. In relation to the new DVD library it was noted that one of our original copies of Living the Questions, borrowed well over a year ago, is missing. If you have it, please return it to the PCN office in Newnham as soon as possible as there is a waiting list! [26 High Street, Newnham, GL14 1BB] Feedback on the Marcus Borg weekend in Edinburgh [10th -12th September 2010] was positive and those attending agreed that it had been very successful. A number of points were noted to help planners of future events to learn from the experience. Arrangements for the Group Convenor Gatherings were confirmed [October 9th, Windermere; October 16th, Nottingham; October 30th, London]. All Group Convenors have been invited. These meetings will help identity local group needs and ways in which the Management Committee can further facilitate and support development work in the groups and regions. If any Group Convenors have not received details, please check your SPAM folders and if still no delivery then please contact Mary McMahon or me. St Deiniol’s Residential in 2011 is proving to be difficult to arrange as our preferred dates are not available. Further details will be provided once a date, speaker, or even alternative venues have been agreed. A number of potential residential members have expressed a wish for an alternative venue ‘down south’ and it might be possible to consider two such residentials in 2011, each drawing 25 people. Watch this space… Other possible speakers and national / regional conferences were also discussed, and again more details will be available as soon as we have confirmation of events, etc. Plans are underway to work with other partner organisations to deliver a major joint conference with a top headline speaker during 2012. Recently we have been operating without a Secretary but an offer from a member has led to a co-option to fill the role. More details will be available in the near future. Constitutionally it was necessary to elect the Officers at this, the first meeting after the AGM. Now that both the membership and the number of groups have been growing rapidly over recent months, and ‘new and younger blood’ has been voted / co-opted onto the Management Committee / Trustees, I think that the time has come for effective succession planning. In this context, but not wanting to twist voting arms[!] I announced to the Management Committee that I think it important that after 3 years in the Chair a new Chair should be appointed following the 2011 AGM. With this in mind the Management Committee voted me to continue for my third and final year as Chair. Also, Mary McMahon was re-elected as Vice Chair and Terence Cooper as Treasurer. On behalf of the officers I thank the Management Committee and wider membership for the support and confidence placed in us. We will continue to serve the membership to the best of our abilities. As more local and regional groups undertake the planning and delivery of their own conferences a revised policy for underwriting events organised by PCN Britain groups was agreed. Details of this new policy will be made available to Group Convenors in the near future. The Treasurer’s financial update stated that nine months into the year income was £800 below expenditure. This reflects the growth in support activities [e.g. the new enlarged DVD library] and the Treasurer said that as there are more standing orders to come the balance should improve. At present there are sufficient reserves to cover this shortfall. There is a list available on the website of churches that are happy to be known as ‘progressive’. It was agreed to review this list and to encourage members to discuss new listings with the leaders of their own churches, if appropriate. Approval was also given to a new PCN Britain “welcome” poster for progressive churches and this will be available soon for download from our website. It was also noted that the new advertising leaflet has been well received and copies are available for local group and church distribution. Please contact Andy Vivian. It was also agreed to continue plans to improve the current website. To this end we are forming a small sub-committee and we would welcome the participation of members who have some experience in this field. Please contact Andy Vivian or me if you can help. Finally, one of our new committee members, Angela Smith, is to become PCN’s collector and publisher of progressive liturgy. She will be assisted by a small sub-committee. The aim is to learn what is being used by progressive congregations and to share it through the website and other outlets. So please contact Angela if this is an area where you can contribute. . Future Management Committee / Trustee Meetings are planned as follows: November 20/21st: Guy Chester House, Muswell Hill, London [the annual Management Committee / Trustees 24 hour residential] January 8th: St Columba's York March 5th: London St James's Piccadilly May 7th: AGM and committee in London. July 9th: Provisionally in Leicester Sept 17th: St Columba's, York If you have any comments, suggestions or questions please send them to our admin assistant, Andy Vivian, for forwarding to the relevant committee members. Thank you for both your continued support of PCN Britain and your enthusiasm for progressive Christianity! John Churcher

Spiritual Lessons for Children

"New Curriculum Resource Changes How We Think About God". PCN Britain reproduces here a press release from our sister organisation in America.

The Center for Progressive Christianity and, is changing the face of progressive Christianity with new groundbreaking children’s curriculum, A Joyful Path. Created for use in congregations, small groups, or individual families, it is ideal for those who are looking for spiritual lessons that are free from dogma and creed. The language is inclusive, inter-spiritual, and intelligent. Sensitively written and beautifully illustrated, this curriculum focuses on behavior before belief, creating and practicing a spiritual path, and knowing one’s true self. It celebrates children’s naturally joy-filled life, and draws upon their compassion, as well as their own innate wisdom. First released at the Common Dreams Conference, in Melbourne, Australia, this set of lesson plans is generating a great deal of excitement among progressive Christians all over the world, as well as others who are looking for a fresh perspective on spiritual lessons. It offers a way of life that centers on the teachings of Jesus, but also celebrates and respects the teachings of other wisdom paths. The curriculum encourages children to listen and respect all people, to think of the all the world as our family, to celebrate and care for the earth, and to see God within each person. It differs from traditional church curriculum in many ways. The curriculum avoids speaking at children, telling them what to believe or how to behave. Rather, it creates a space for children to learn on their own. It is fun and interactive, full of activities, games, and ideas to use children’s own experiences to help them discover each truth for themselves. While it uses the Bible as inspiration, it is not bible centered, nor does it refer to God as something outside of us or as a powerful deity with human like qualities. Based upon our most current understanding of the universe and science, and drawing upon a plethora of wisdom teachings, each lesson or affirmation encourages children to use their energy in positive ways and to see themselves as interconnected to all. Parents, educators, churches, and communities can all benefit from a children’s curriculum that is both spiritually progressive and relevant in today’s world. For more information, contact Deshna at or go to

What’s the equivalent of the Red Flag Act within the church?

Philip Sudworth poses this question in a recent post on the PCN Britain discussion forum. He raises the question in connection with a passage from William Barclay's commentary on Matthew 9 16-17. The quote and Philip's footnote is reproduced below. To respond please go to

New Wine – William Barclay’s Commentary on Matthew 9:16-17 “No-one, said Jesus, tries to put new wine into old wine-skins. To put this into modern terms: our minds must be elastic enough to receive and contain new ideas. The history of progress is the history of overcoming the prejudices of the shut mind. Every new idea has had to fight for its existence against the instinctive opposition of the human mind. The motor car, the railway train, the aeroplane were in the beginning regarded with suspicion. Simpson had to fight to introduce chloroform, and Lister had to struggle to introduce antiseptics into the work of the doctor and surgeon. Copernicus was compelled to retract his statement that the earth went round the sun, and not the sun round the earth. Even Jonas Hanway who brought the umbrella to this country had to suffer a barrage of missiles and insults when he first walked down the street with an umbrella. “Within the church this resentment of the new is chronic, and the attempt to pour new things into old moulds is almost universal. We attempt to pour the activities of a modern congregation into an ancient church building that was never meant for them. We attempt to pour the truth of new discoveries into creeds which are based on Greek metaphysics. We attempt to pour modern instruction into outworn language which cannot express it. It may be that we would do well to remember that when any living thing stops growing, it starts dying. It may be that we need to pray that God would deliver us from the shut mind and give us the open mind. “Viscount Samuel was born in 1870 and he begins his autobiography with a description of the London of his childhood. ‘We had no cars or buses or tube trains; there were no bicycles – except the high penny-farthings; there were no electric light or telephones; no cinemas or broadcasts.’ We are living in a changing and an expanding and a growing world. These verses are Jesus’ warning that the church dare not be the only institution which still lives in the past.” Footnote William Barclay wrote this commentary in 1956, over 50 years ago. Just think how much society, our awareness of the world around us, our use of technology and our knowledge of the vastness and complexity of the universe have all changed in the five decades since then - and how little the church has changed. In the early days of the car, a law was passed in 1865 that a man had to walk 55 metres in front of a car with a red flag and the speed restriction in towns was 2 mph. What’s the equivalent of the Red Flag Act within the church?

Report from the 2010 AGM

PCN Britain's AGM took place on Saturday 17th July. In his latest letter the chair, John Churcher, highlights the main conclusions.

First of all an enormous thank you to those who managed to get to the AGM held in York on Saturday 17th July. The AGM, chaired by Mary McMahon [Vice Chair of PCN Britain], concluded successfully with two new members elected to the Committee, Angela Smith and Richard Tetlow; Terence Cooper’s co-option was confirmed into full membership of the committee; two members were re-elected for a further three years, Adrian Alker and Philip Goodwin. Since the meeting there has also been an offer from a younger member of PCN Britain to be considered for co-option onto the Committee. We can continue to look forward to the future with much enthusiasm. Part of the business of the AGM was to consider an addition to the Constitution. Ian McAllister, a member who now advises the Management Committee [MC] on legal issues had commented prior to the meeting that the role of people asked by the MC to provide expert advice, etc. should be more clearly defined. Ian stated that, in the interests of openness and accountability, it is important for members to see how any advice that is recommended for implementation has been subject to a robust discussion by the committee and has been agreed by the committee. The AGM agreed the following addition to the Constitution: “From time to time the committee may gain advice from suitably qualified and/or experienced individuals in areas where they feel they are insufficiently represented within the membership of the committee to provide such advice. Any recommendations emanating from such advice will be subject to committee approval before any implementation.” Other business included the approval of the Minutes of the previous AGM held on 24th October 2009; the Annual Report and the Financial Statement [both 1st January to 31st December 2009]; and the re-appointment of Peter Stribblehill as our Independent Examiner. Members of the AGM also voted unanimously to send letters of greetings and thanks to Jill Sandham and Hugh Dawes for their vision, commitment and hard work involved in establishing and developing PCNBritain. The speaker following the AGM was Dave Tomlinson. Dave is the author of several books including 'The Post-Evangelical' and 'Re-Enchanting Christianity'. Through the 1990s, he led 'Holy Joes', an alternative church that met in a pub in South London. Now he is the vicar of St Luke's church in Holloway, North London. Dave gave us all a stimulating and challenging insight into the topic: “How Churches must Change or Die.” Two particular comments struck a chord with me: the first, “‘church’ should be a verb, not a noun”, and the second, “we need to change just to stand still!” The AGM was followed by a MC meeting. Details of that meeting will be included in a future email update from me. Best wishes to you all. John

Letter from PCN chair, John churcher

Breathing new life into churches

Letter from the Chair As always, this E-Update from me is a personal reflection and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of other members of PCN Britain or of its Management Committee. It is intended to highlight concerns and / or experiences that I have in the hope that other progressive Christians will find issues of interest for further consideration and reflection. For four weeks, from early May this year, I had the privilege of preaching, delivering seminars and promoting my book ‘Setting Jesus Free’ in Colorado, Michigan and Ontario. The initial two weeks were spent as the Theologian in Residence at the First United Methodist Church in Boulder. It was a time of great blessing for me. In my travels over the four weeks I met many wonderful people and visited a number of vibrant and hugely committed churches. It was obvious to me that the dynamics of church life 'over there' and 'over here' are extremely different. In the USA 'God' remains an important part of the social as well as the religious life of communities and people are not put off by 'God conversations'. Around 2/3rds of the US population still attend church regularly, whereas here in the UK it is between 2% and 10% depending upon which stats one uses. Church attendance in Canada is not that dissimilar to here, and progressive Christians often have a hard time on both sides of the Atlantic. However, there are some trends in common on both sides of the Atlantic. For example, in USA there is now a perceivable trend towards a decline in church attendance, including amongst churches in the Bible Belts. Even mega-churches are no longer immune. For example, perhaps the best known, the Crystal Cathedral located in Garden Grove, California, has decided to lay off 50 staff owing to a recent decline in attendance and financial giving, along with selling off properties and reconsidering parts of its international television broadcasting service, etc. Another common trend is the concern that regular church attendees in both USA and Canada share with us: the rapid decline in the involvement of the 20 - 40 year olds and therefore also amongst their children. Having said that, I also witnessed an enormous amount of time, personnel and resources dedicated to work with children and young people. Another emerging trend is for an increasing interest in spirituality without the confines of religion. I have returned home with renewed enthusiasm for progressive spirituality in general and progressive Christianity in particular. We really do have a viable alternative to the type of contemporary ‘fresh expression’ that seeks to dress up the old with new suits of clothing. But with such enthusiasm comes the health warning: Stanislaw Lec, the Polish poet and aphorist, stated, “When smashing monuments, save the pedestals - they always come in handy.” Part of the raison d’être of PCN Britain is to support its members to stay in the Church – I hope that we still have the time to breathe new life into her. Best wishes John Churcher From the PCN Website A free day conference is on offer from PCN in York next month. It is lead by Dave Tomlinson, vicar of St Luke’s, Holloway. His theme is How Churches must Change or Die. Dave is author of The Post Evangelical and Re-Enchanting Christianity, as well as founder of Holy Joes in London. His first talk follows the PCN AGM which starts at 11am (10.30 refreshments and registration). The day ends around 3.15. An important meeting is coming up for people living in the Glasgow area. The city has lacked a PCN group until now, though this has not been for lack of progressive Christians. Chris Vermeulen from Orchardhill parish church in Giffnock is organising an open meeting this Thursday for those interested in being part of a PCN group. Mary McMahon, PCN’s vice chair, will be among those speaking. For details see PCN chair, John Churcher is leading a day’s workshop based around the themes of his new book, “Setting Jesus Free”. This takes place on July 14th at St Mary’s church centre, Albrighton, which is ten miles west of Wolverhampton, cost: £5.

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