Have your say on whether PCN’s Eight Points are a help or a hindrance to open Christianity.  One of our trustees fears they read too much like a creed.

Adrian Alker, PCN Britain’s chair of the trustees, introduces this open letter from Pat Fuller, one of our a newly elected trustees. It first appeared in the September 2015 edition of Progressive Voices

Adrian writes:  From the beginning PCN Britain adopted the Eight Points of The Centre for Progressive Christianity (TCPC) in the USA. PCN Britain made a slight change to the Eight Points at its inception and after consulting our membership a more major change in September 2014. Whilst the trustees never intended that these Eight Points should be seen as anything more than a signpost, showing our direction of travel as an organisation, clearly some members feel anxious that such points might be felt to be coercive of thought and practice.

The trustees feel minded at present to hold on to the importance of having the Eight Points as an expression of the Christian life but welcome Pat’s letter as we continuously review our work.  Your comments on Pat’s letter would be welcome.   Adrian Alker, chair.

Pat writes:

I submit this letter to Progressive Voices with some trepidation but there is something I need to raise with its readers and hope there will be some responses. What I write are my own personal thoughts and not those of the Newcastle PCN.

Recently I attended a group which meets in Newcastle every three months or so. They invite a speaker and the group includes many forthright, thinking people who you would think would like to join with PCN. In fact I think several of those who attend are or have been PCN members. However, when asked by one of our PCN Newcastle group if they would join together with PCN Newcastle, the answer was that the Eight Points got in the way. They did not want to subscribe to yet another ‘creed’.

I had never seen the Eight Points as a creed but after such a challenge perhaps it is. It begs the question as to whether some of the EP seem to stop PCN being an open inclusive group that I thought we were.

The PCN group in Newcastle meets to share food and to wrestle with the challenges thrown up by our faith journeys, each one of which is unique. We want to offer hospitality to all who bring their struggles of what it is to be human and who want to work for a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

Of course there is no criticism intended on the other group, but I wonder what readers of PV think about this challenge. Do the Eight Points get in the way of openness? Do we need them? If we didn’t have them how would we define PCN Britain?

Liz Vizard’s letter in the September 2014 edition of Progressive Voices seems to be raising similar issues. We are a Network but I was shocked to think that a group of similar thinking people would certainly not join with a PCN group because the Eight Points made us too narrow.  I look forward to your responses.

Pat Fuller (Newcastle PCN group and PCN Trustee)             


1 On 10/09/2015 Pauline Lane wrote:

Dear Pat Fuller,
At the last PCN meeting I attended we discussed the Eight Points.
One member thought we only needed point number one, but everyone else who spoke seemed to be in agreement with all eight.
I was saved from putting my foot firmly in my mouth, when we were told that a member of our group had actually helped to revise the Eight Points.
These are the things I failed to say…...........
The fact that capital letters are used makes it look like a creed, and feel like a creed. Having so many points makes it read like a creed which we should be able to recite from memory.
Personally, I think we only need point number seven. That sums up the sort of CPN where I’d feel comfortable.
Kind regards,
Pauline Lane

2 On 14/09/2015 edward conder wrote:

I wondered if we need more than Point 1.
Seeking God seems paramount,  whatever that implies.
Involving the life and teachings of Jesus is probably necessary if the title Christian is to be retained.
However the other points do clarify more closely what PCN is about.  Perhaps we also need to realise that they are thus excluding of others, drawing lessons from Point 1 (and 2)  that others may not draw.  So we may need to ask:
Is confrontation a requirement (Pt3) so denying membership to those who are content to serve humbly?
  Is “community” (Pts 4 and 5) a requirement of membership, as is implied, thus excluding the solitary seeker ?  Do we need to come together, or even work together, to be members?
  Is worship (Pt 4) needed (rather than service) and why the call for “bread and wine”, with its formalised association?  Is PCN thereby declaring a relationship with, or even within, the church establishment (as also implied at Pt 8)? 

I suspect that others might find alternative quibbles.
I just wonder whether we could simplify things and so open the door to a wider participation.

3 On 02/10/2015 John McKechnie wrote:

I understand where Pat is coming from. 
My contribution to the 8 Points review included reducing the number of points and removing references to “God”.  When I saw the way the process was going I was disappointed and wondered whether to remain in PCN because I was (and still am) uncomfortable with the emphasis on “God”. 
I chose to remain mainly because I felt “at home” in my local group and was also sure there were members in the wider network travelling a similar non-theistic path: remaining in PCN allowed the possibility of staying connected with them.
This experience made me realise how awkward the 8 Points can be as it is difficult not to see them as a creed, the preamble notwithstanding.  Having them at all is the risk PCN faces: it can define who is in and who is out and worse prevent a conversation ever taking place.  A simple strapline about us might start more conversations than a list.  The best thing about PCN is that we question and challenge orthodoxy in our search for a meaningful faith in the 2st century.  If that describes what PCN is about then why not say that?  I’m sure there are better straplines out there but we need to start somewhere.

4 On 06/11/2015 George Russell wrote:

My penny worth is to pick up John McKechnie’s point about a simple strapline. To me the strapline at the head of the present PCN Britain website is closer to what I feel PCN Britain is about than the 8 Points. Also it is much more effective in that I can comfortably quote it to other members of my village church whereas the 8 Points scatter our ideas into indigestible lumps.
I feel we would do well to thank all the people who have contributed to these 8 Points, they are helpful to the present discussion, but can now be quietly dropped in favour of the strapline.

5 On 15/11/2015 George Drake wrote:

After much thought, it seems to me that without the 8 points, there would be nothing to take our bearings from in a progressive way. In the space age, that we now live in, to operate outside of a space ship, one needs to be attached to it by a life line, to stop the possibility of drifting away into space with no chance of getting back. The 8 points are like that life line, a point of reference one can refer to, to assist one in living a Christian life, however heretical it may seem to more traditional thinking Christians.
I think the new 8 points are a big improvement on the original ones, much less ‘wordy’; I can’t see that there is anything in them that would exclude anyone who wants to try to follow the teachings of Jesus; even anyone who has no concept of God can still find the teachings of Jesus, that we should love one another, a pathway through life that is meaningful and stimulating.
Being a ‘membership organisation’, some basic rules or guidelines are necessary. I can’t see that the 8 points could be any more inclusive; very few people who are trying to make the world a better place for all creation would be excluded.

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