Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Evolution Sunday



February 11, 2007 is Evolution Sunday. Dr. Michael Zimmerman, the Dean of Butler University, started this movement. He has collected over 10,000 signatures of clergy (including yours truly) who support teaching evolution in the classroom. In addition to the letter, a Sunday in February is designated to bring awareness of science and religion in the pulpit. This is Dr. Zimmerman from the Clergy Letter Project website:

For too long, the misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict has created unnecessary division and confusion, especially concerning the teaching of evolution. I wanted to let the public know that numerous clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith.

In the fall of 2004, I worked with clergy throughout Wisconsin to prepare a statement in support of teaching evolution. We were called to action by a series of anti-evolution policies passed by the school board in Grantsburg, WI. The response was overwhelming. In a few weeks, nearly 200 clergy signed the statement, which we sent to the Grantsburg school board on December 16, 2004. Additionally, groups of educators and scientists sent letters to the Grantsburg School Board and to the Superintendent of Schools protesting these policies. In response to all of this attention, as well as the efforts of others, the Grantsburg School Board retracted their policies.

The outpouring of support from clergy around the country encouraged me to make this a nationwide project. If you want to read more about it or join us in sharing this important perspective, click here. Encourage your clergy to consider signing the statement and please feel free to link to these webpages. And, while the current focus is on Christian clergy, please let me know if you are willing to write and/or host a statement from other religions.

Here is a list of participants so far for 2007, a list from last year, and a list of clergy who have signed the letter. If you are a clergyperson, consider signing it yourself and consider celebrating Evolution Sunday!

If you are not a member of the clergy, tell your favorite Rev. to get with Darwin! Here are some resources. And here is the text of the letter:

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.


Amen.

John

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Where are the Progressive Presbyterians?










Progressive and Presbyterian!

On the right of this blog you will run into the heading "Progressive (and nearly progressive) Presbyterian Congregations." If you are looking for a progressive congregation in your area or are just curious about what these congregations are like, check out the list. The list is alphabetical by state, then by town or city. I have gleaned various web pages and have listed congregations that meet the following criteria:

1. The congregation has a functioning web page. There are many progressive congregations without web pages of course. But they cannot be checked out except to visit them physically. If a congregation cares at all about attracting people, it needs to be on-line.

(I have changed my thinking and I now include congregations without web pages. I link to an on-line article or to the list to which the congregation is affiliated, ie. More Light Presbyterians).

2. The congregation exhibits some kind of progressive identity. It either demonstrates at least one of Hal Taussig's five characteristics, is listed on a progressive site, or calls itself progressive. Here are the characteristics Dr. Taussig identified in his book, A New Spiritual Home: Progressive Christianity at the Grass Roots.

  • Creative, expressive worship. This includes worship that is becoming less clergy focused and includes more congregational participation. This may include guided meditations, extended periods of silence, dance, sharing of joys and concerns, a variety of rituals and readings from other traditions including marginalized aspects of Christianity.
  • Intellectual curiosity. Progressive Christianity demonstrates an openness to new ideas and to scholarly research. You will find progressive congregations hosting book studies on the historical Jesus, feminist theology, early Christian communities, and so forth. These insights are used to inform worship and practice.
  • Gender-bended. Progressive congregations are specificially open and affirming to all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender-identity and proud that they have taken that step. They are also fully supportive of women in the full life of the church and include insights from the various feminist theologies including inclusive language for God.
  • Deep Ecumenicity. Progressive congregations do not view other religions as false. You will find in these churches study groups to learn and appreciate the insights of other religions, incorporating some of their prayers and rituals into worship. Some may include yoga meditation as a ministry of the congregation.
  • An emphasis on social justice, particularly, eco-justice. Progressive congregations have a deep concern for the environment as well as other social justice issues, speak of them, and advocate for changes in public policy.
3. The congregation is Presbyterian. If I had time, I could make a listing of UCC, Methodist, ELCA, Episcopal, MCC congregations and so forth. I was pleased to find this many Presbyterian congregations.

Some of the links that were most helpful in finding these congregations are Faith Futures which lists all of the churches in Taussig's book, including those without web pages. GayChurch gleans from all the welcoming organizations (including More Light Presbyterians and Covenant Network). The Center for Progressive Christianity (TCPC) has a listing of affiliates and Westar has a listing of congregations connected with the Jesus Seminar. The Clergy Letter Project is another source.

From these lists I compiled the list of Presbyterian congregations according to the above criteria. This list is not even. Some congregations are more progressive than others. Some are simply mainstream, but even those have taken some modest steps toward progressive thinking. If you know of a congregation that should be listed, or if there is a broken link, let me know.

Good Hunting!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Janet Edwards and the Trial


Rev. Janet Edwards of Pittsburgh Presbytery who is on staff at The Community of Reconciliation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently conducted a wedding for a lesbian couple.




A complaint was filed against her for doing so. She went to trial and the case was dismissed because the investigating committee filed the charges too late. You can read reports in the PCUSA news and in the Washington Post.

In June 2005, Janet conducted a marriage for Nancy McConn and Brenda Cole.






I met Janet at a More Light Presbyterian conference earlier this year in Nashville. I admire her for her stand for justice and her willingness to put herself to public scrutiny in order to raise issues of justice. Many bloggers have been offering their opinions on this case, such as this one. I thought I would ask her directly regarding her thoughts about the trial and the acquittal. She graciously responded with the following:

Reflections on the Trial

PCUSA through Pittsburgh Presbytery V Rev. Janet Edwards, Ph.D.

On June 25, 2005 I presided at the spirit-filled wedding of Nancy McConn and Brenda Cole. On June 28 the marriage was announced in the Wedding Celebrations of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette identifying me as the officiant, resulting in accusations, investigation, the filing of charges for acting contrary the Constitution of the PCUSA, and a trial on Wednesday, November 15, 2006. The trial day was momentous and complex. I offer my reflections on three different aspects of my experience that day.

First, this was a trial of the PCUSA through Pittsburgh Presbytery v. Rev. Janet Edwards, Ph.D. It began with a show cause hearing in which lawyers for the Prosecuting Committee and for me commented on the fact that the Investigating Committee filed the charges four days after the end of the one year statute of limitations on filing charges against an accused in a disciplinary complaint. Protection of the rights of all the parties was the responsibility of the Permanent Judicial Commission and their preliminary ruling was that the charges were dismissed due to late filing, but they heard the arguments and left the hall to deliberate. After an hour and a half they returned and confirmed their preliminary ruling that the charges were filed late and therefore they were dismissed. In my view, that was the only possible outcome according to the Book of Order. The PJC did their job; to me they looked heartsick at this inconclusive outcome.

Second, trials in the disciplinary process in our church are “ordinarily open” so I began right after the setting of the date for the trial to invite as many people as possible and to provide for worship and breaking of bread together after the trial which I expected to end swiftly in dismissal. The invitation specifically encouraged people to invite whomever they might want and it was so thrilling for me to meet so many strangers during the wait in the hall for the PJC to deliberate and at the lunch afterward. The invitation went to friends and opponents in the church, to old family friends, to colleagues in the GLBT community. It reach was extended by a news story about the invitation and the power of the internet which took it to a clergy group in Los Angeles and the entire email system of NYU. Over 200 people were respectful in their attention to the PJC, festive in the hour and a half wait and jubilant in their worship and meal after the trial was over. The presence of many ML, TAMFS and CovNet friends is very precious to me. Ask someone you know who came about the humming; it was awesome.

Third, I made a commitment to myself about a year ago to seek the help of professional media people when the IC made its decision because I feel strongly that marriage as a sacred union without regard to gender is an important aspect of full inclusion of GLBT people in both the church and American life. And, whoa Nellie, did those people do a good job for me. All three news hooks, filing of charges, pre-trial conference and trial, brought press coverage. All three local news channels here included the story all day long, broadcasting in full my statement after the trial. NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian in England carried the story. God richly blessed this opportunity in the court of public opinion. And pardon my sports’ analogy, but a draw in Pittsburgh feels like a win anywhere else. I am released from adjudication, innocent until proven guilty and certain there is no prohibition against presiding at the marriage of two men or two women in our Book of Order.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanks!

We had a highly successful Ten Thousand Villages Craft Sale this weekend! Click for pics!




This is the wrap-up from our organizers, our peacemaking committee:



First Presbyterian Church members can feel good about spreading their own good fortune and blessings of this life to families all around the world.














The unpacking of items Friday evening, November 17, for the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale was an enjoyable gathering of more than twenty of our own "villagers," and
the community effort continued non-stop for the next two days.




The sale was a great success thanks to many, many people getting out to work and shop for a good cause.

We brought in more than $6000 all of which will be sent to Ten Thousand Villages for payment to their artisans in struggling parts of the world.












Thank everyone and thank you Linda Sorrell for livening up the last hours of the sale with accordian music. 'Twas a great beginning for what
we hope will be a warm and wonderful holiday season for all.








My mother, of all people, sent me this:

With instructions on how to prepare it.

1. Cut out aluminum foil in desired shapes.
2. Arrange the turkey in the roasting pan, position the foil carefully
3. Roast according to your own recipe and serve.
4. Watch your guests' faces.













American Greetings reports that this is their most popular greeting card ever. So popular, that you have probably had it sent to you a hundred times! Click the pic to play and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

God is Black

"Racism is America's original sin." Black Theology and Black Power
"As long as religion scholars do not engage racism in their intellectual work, we can be sure that they are as racist as their grandparents, whether they know it or not." Risks of Faith: The Emergence of a Black Theology of Liberation, 1968-1998.
Quotes from James H. Cone

At Princeton Theological Seminary I took a course entitled: "The Theology and Ethics of James Cone." It was one of those courses that continues to haunt ("challenge" is too small of a word) me as a white Christian. Cone was the first to create a systematic Black Theology. He has written a number of books. I have read most of them, except for his latest Risks of Faith: The Emergence of a Black Theology of Liberation, 1968-1998, which I plan to buy.

He is an incredibly eloquent and incisive theologian. PBS featured him in its This Far By Faith series. And here is a clip in which he speaks about the Black Church as a resistance movement. You can read a critique of his theology here.

During the class we watched "Eyes on the Prize" which documents the Civil Rights struggle in America. I would recommend it for study with a congregation.

The following is an excerpt from his book Risks of Faith. Read it then look at some images of Jesus and take a quiz.

The Religious Cancer of Racism
By James H. Cone

People often ask me whether I am still angry as when I wrote Black Theology and Black Power. When I hear that question I smile to contain my rage: I remain just as angry because America, when viewed from the perspective of the black poor, is no closer to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of a just society than when he was killed. While the black middle class has made considerable economic progress, the underclass, despite America's robust economy, is worse off in 1998 than in 1968. The statistics are well known, yet they still fail to shock or outrage most Americans.




Reprinted from Risks of Faith: The Emergence of a Black Theology of Liberation, 1968-1998 by James Cone. Copyright © Beacon Press.


America is still two societies: one rich and middle-class and the other poor and working-class. William J. Wilson called the underclass "the truly disadvantaged," people with few skills to enable them to compete in this technological, informational age. To recognize the plight of the poor does not require academic dissection. It requires only a drive into the central cities of the nation to see people living in places not fit for human habitation.

What deepens my anger today is the appalling silence of white theologians on racism in the United States and the modern world. Whereas this silence has been partly broken in several secular disciplines, theology remains virtually mute. From Jonathan Edwards to Walter Rauschenbusch and Reinhold Niebuhr to the present, progressive white theologians, with few exceptions, write and teach as if they do not need to address the radical contradiction that racism creates for Christian theology. They do not write about slavery, colonialism, segregation, and the profound cultural link these horrible crimes created between white supremacy and Christianity. The cultural bond between European values and Christian beliefs is so deeply woven into the American psyche and thought process that their identification is assumed. White images and ideas dominate the religious life of Christians and the intellectual life of theologians, reinforcing the "moral" right of white people to dominate people of color economically and politically. White supremacy is so widespread that it becomes a "natural" way of viewing the world. We must ask therefore: Is racism so deeply embedded in Euro-American history and culture that it is impossible to do theology without being antiblack?

There is historical precedent for such ideological questioning. After the Jewish Holocaust, Christian theologians were forced to ask whether anti-Judaism was so deeply woven into the core of the gospel and Western history that theology was no longer possible without being anti-Semitic? Recently feminists asked an equally radical question, whether patriarchy was so deeply rooted in biblical faith and its male theological tradition that one could not do Christian theology without justifying the oppression of women. Gay and lesbian theologians are following the feminist lead and are asking whether homophobia is an inherent part of biblical faith. And finally, Third World theologians, particularly in Latin America, forced many progressive First World theologians to revisit Marx's class critique of religion or run the risk of making Christianity a tool for exploiting the poor.

Race criticism is just as crucial for the integrity of Christian theology as any critique in the modern world. Christianity was blatantly used to justify slavery, colonialism, and segregation for nearly five hundred years. Yet this great contradiction is consistently neglected by the same white male theologians who would never ignore the problem that critical reason poses for faith in a secular world. They still do theology as if white supremacy created no serious problem for Christian belief. Their silence on race is so conspicuous that I sometimes wonder why they are not greatly embarrassed by it.

How do we account for such a long history of white theological blindness to racism and its brutal impact on the lives of African people? Is it because white theologians do not know about the tortured history of the Atlantic slave trade, which, according to British historian Basil Davidson, "cost Africa at least fifty million souls?" Have they forgotten about the unspeakable crimes of colonialism? Author Eduardo Galeano claims that 150 years of Spanish and Portuguese colonization in Central and South America reduced the indigenous population from 90 million to 3.3 million. During the twenty-three-year reign of terror of King Leopold II of Belgium in the Congo (1885-1908), scholarly estimates suggest that approximately 10 million Congolese met unnatural deaths -- "fully half of the territory's population." The tentacles of white supremacy have stretched around the globe. No people of color have been able to escape its cultural, political, and economic domination.

Two hundred forty-four years of slavery and one hundred years of legal segregation, augmented by a reign of white terror that lynched more than five thousand blacks, defined the meaning of America as "white over black." White supremacy shaped the social, political, economic, cultural, and religious ethos in the churches, the academy, and the broader society. Seminary and divinity school professors contributed to America's white nationalist perspective by openly advocating the superiority of the white race over all others. The highly regarded church historian Philip Schaff of Union Seminary in New York (1870-1893) spoke for most white theologians in the nineteenth century when he said: "The Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-American, of all modern races, possess the strongest national character and the one best fitted for universal dominion."

Present-day white theologians do not express their racist views as blatantly as Philip Schaff. They do not even speak of the "Negro's cultural backwardness," as America's best known social ethicist, Reinhold Niebuhr, often did and as late as 1965. To speak as Schaff and Niebuhr spoke would be politically incorrect in this era of multiculturalism and color blindness. But that does not mean that today's white theologians are less racist. It only means that their racism is concealed or unconscious. As long as religion scholars do not engage racism in their intellectual work, we can be sure that they are as racist as their grandparents, whether they know it or not. By not engaging America's unspeakable crimes against black people, white theologians are treating the nation's violent racist past as if it were dead. But, as William Faulkner said, "the past is never dead; it is not even past." Racism is so deeply embedded in American history and culture that we cannot get rid of this cancer simply by ignoring it.

There can be no justice without memory -- without remembering the horrible crimes committed against humanity and the great human struggles for justice. But oppressors always try to erase the history of their crimes and often portray themselves as the innocent ones. Through their control of the media and religious, political, and academic discourse, "they're able," as Malcolm put it, "to make the victim look like the criminal and the criminal to look like the victim."

Even when white theologians reflect on God and suffering, the problem of theodicy, they almost never make racism a central issue in their analysis of the challenge that evil poses for the Christian faith. If they should happen to mention racism, it is usually just a footnote or only a marginal comment. They almost never make racism the subject of a sustained analysis. It is amazing that racism could be so prevalent and violent in American life and yet so absent in white theological discourse.

President Clinton's call for a national dialogue on race has created a context for public debate in the churches, the academy, and the broader society. Where are the white theologians? What guidance are they providing for this debate? Are they creating a theological understanding of racism that enables whites to have a meaningful conversation with blacks and other people of color? Unfortunately, instead of searching for an understanding of the great racial divide, white religion scholars are doing their searching in the form of a third quest for the historical Jesus. I am not opposed to this academic quest. But if we could get a significant number of white theologians to study racism as seriously as they investigate the historical Jesus and other academic topics, they might discovered how deep the cancer of racism is embedded not only in the society but also in the narrow way in which the discipline of theology is understood.

From Risks of Faith: The Emergence of a Black Theology of Liberation, 1968-1998 by James Cone.

Which image most looks like Jesus to you?





















Here is an interesting test to raise your level of consciousness regarding racism.
Check it out!

John


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Westar Associate: Rex A E Hunt

Today I introduce a Westar Associate and friend, Rex A. E. Hunt. Rev. Hunt, or Rex is from Down Under. This is from his web page:

Rex Hunt is a progressive theologian and liturgist, and social ecologist. Ordained 34 years, he is a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia - presently serving at The Church of St James, Canberra ACT, Australia's national capital....
His vision of ministry includes:
* Awakening others to the best/latest contemporary religious scholarship currently available, as well as allowing that scholarship to shape weekly liturgies, sermons, prayers and hymns;
* Shaping services of celebration, especially the Sunday morning experience, which blend tradition with the contemporary, using inclusive language, story, conversation, Australian images and new metaphors - all from a progressive/liberal theological perspective;
* Inviting parishioners to focus on a theology which advocates: Creativity - 'God' as expressed within religious naturalism, the humanity of Jesus, and an ethical/social stance which values compassion and social justice;
* Encouraging all to push theological boundaries - to reimagine, reconceive and reconstruct, rather than just restate.....

Rex writes: "So here they are. A bit of this. A bit of that. Sermons. Liturgies. Articles. Read on if you are interested in wanting to push some theological boundaries in open and honest ways. Theology has always been an imaginative construction. Seek out those others who have helped me shape my thoughts for they have much more to offer than suggested here. And may we all be blessed and empowered as we re-imagine the world".


He is the pastor at The Uniting Church of St. James in Canberra, Australia. Rex is a pioneer in using progressive liturgies and practices in worship. Here is a description of worship at St. James:

Worship at St James is a blending of the traditional with the modern. Story, colour, image, inclusive language and a music mix help shape this cooperative experience. All services are held in the Church Centre. Preaching is brief, often shaped by narrative and guided by a 'progressive' theology. Three worship styles shape our life. Lay people are encouraged to take an active part in services of worship and share with the minister in leadership of the congregation.

I often "borrow" his liturgies for use in my congregation. I am going to be using the following one this Sunday:

Opening sentences
Planet Earth, spinning silently through space:
All Celebrate your beauty and your grace,
your special place in our solar system.


Planet Earth, gleaming green and blue:
All Rejoice in your ocean currents
as they dance and swirl with hope.


Planet Earth, pulsing with life:
All Join in praise with all your fauna and flora
as they sing their songs with praise.


Planet Earth, enveloped in the breath of God:
All Bless all your creatures this day
with the life-giving breath of God.


Planet Earth, our precious, fragile home:
All Celebrate, with all your children,
God's presence in our planet home.


Spin, Planet Earth, spin!
All Sing, Planet Earth, sing!
G'Day, Rex! And Thanks!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ten Thousand Villages Craft Sale


Here is our latest ad which will appear in the Johnson City Press soon. Look for it and let your friends know about our church! I want to dedicate this post to a great event we have going on this weekend. It is the Ten Thousand Villages Craft Sale. All of the proceeds will go to third world artisans. Last year we raised over $5,000. Folks who shopped carried away some fantastic Christmas presents. Here is the press release:

First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton to host Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale

Festival sale invests in the lives of artisans around the world


(Elizabethton, Tenn) – November 18th and 19th, First Presbyterian Church will invest in the lives of artisans of around the world by selling their exquisite, handcrafted gifts and home d├ęcor. The event, which will be held in the John and Carolyn Martin Hall at First Presbyterian Church at 119 West F Street, Elizabethton offers a unique opportunity for citizens in the Tri-Cities community to invest in their world by shopping fair trade. Shoppers will also learn more about skilled artisans in Africa, Asia and Latin America.


Elizabethton’s first Presbyterian Church has hosted the festival for the last nine years, each year showcasing handcrafted items marketed by Ten Thousand Villages. Sale organizer Elizabeth McPherson says, “For more than 60 years Ten Thousand Villages has worked with talented artisans around the world providing vital, fair income in exchange for their beautiful handcrafted items. By holding this sale we give people in our community a chance to help others feed, clothe and educate themselves and their families.”


The sale of terra cotta piggy banks will directly impact the lives of Lucia Valdez and her family. Thirty years ago Lucia Valdez, of Pomaire, Chile, began to mold clay into hope for a brighter tomorrow. Intrigued by her grandmother’s coil-built clay cooking pots, she asked her sister-in-law to teach her how to shape clay into useful pieces. After much practice, Valdez established herself as a master craftswoman, forming locally dug clay into charming pig salsa dishes and piggy banks.


Her oldest son works with her in her workshop, which has generated enough income to support their family, Valdez said, “My work has provided an income for my family, but also allowed me to work with dignity. I feel as if I am more respected now, since I have my own business.”


Sales like this one owe their success to dedicated volunteers. Nearly thirty volunteers will be unpacking crafts, conducting the sale and cleaning up following the event. The public is invited to attend this unique and enjoyable sale Saturday November 18th, 8 am – 3 pm and Sunday the 19th from 1–3 pm at the First Presbyterian Church. Traveling east on 321 or Broad St. in Elizabethton, turn right onto S. Roan and go three blocks to turn right onto F St. The church is on the right.





Monday, November 13, 2006

Progressive Christianity

This ad appeared in several newspapers to promote the Jesus Seminar on the Road and our congregation. The JSOR featuring Hal Taussig and Perry Kea discussed faith communities of the first and twenty-first centuries. Hal Taussig has written a number of books including his latest, A New Spiritual Home: Progressive Christianity at the Grass Roots.


This book was the product of research of the progressive movement in the United States. Through the process he identified five characteristics of progressive congregations and found over 1,000 congregations that fit this model. He describes many of these congregations in detail. In an appendix he lists 1,000 of these congregations. He is careful to say that the five characteristics are descriptive rather than presciptive. He doesn't say what a progressive church should be. He also says that these congregations are largely unaware of each other. Often each thinks it is the only one! The impetus for this book was to show that there are many and that the movement is growing and it has no leadership. It is emerging from the grass roots as his book title suggests. Dr. Taussig shared in more depth this movement at the JSOR, explained these five characteristics and provided examples.

The five characteristics he identifies are as follows:

  • Creative, expressive worship. This includes worship that is becoming less clergy focused and includes more congregational participation. This may include guided meditations, extended periods of silence, dance, sharing of joys and concerns, a variety of rituals and readings from other traditions including marginalized aspects of Christianity.
  • Intellectual curiosity. Progressive Christianity demonstrates an openness to new ideas and to scholarly research. You will find progressive congregations hosting book studies on the historical Jesus, feminist theology, early Christian communities, and so forth. These insights are used to inform worship and practice.
  • Gender-bended. Progressive congregations are specificially open and affirming to all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender-identity and proud that they have taken that step. They are also fully supportive of women in the full life of the church and include insights from the various feminist theologies including inclusive language for God.
  • Deep Ecumenicity. Progressive congregations do not view other religions as false. You will find in these churches study groups to learn and appreciate the insights of other religions, incorporating some of their prayers and rituals into worship. Some may include yoga meditation as a ministry of the congregation.
  • An emphasis on social justice, particularly, eco-justice. Progressive congregations have a deep concern for the environment as well as other social justice issues, speak of them, and advocate for changes in public policy.

Dr. Taussig also provides a critique of the progressive movement. Despite claims to be inclusive, this movement is made up of congregations that are mostly white and middle-class. This movement has not appealed for the most part to African-American Christians or to the poor. Race and class are huge barriers within our society at large that few congregations (of any theological stripe) can seem to cross.

I often think it would be good to enact this symbolically by celebrating communion at a round table that is cracked with sharp jagged edges. It would remind us that racism and classism hold power over us even as we seek wholeness and peace. We have a long way to go.

Dr. Taussig also mentioned The Center for Progressive Christianity which is more prescriptive than descriptive. They have a thorough web page with a library, on-line discussion forums, a list of affiliates, a calendar of events and much more.

Their symbol is the eight-pointed star symbolizing the eight points. Many progressive congregations have affiliated with the TCPC. On the right of this blog I have included a section entitled "Progressive Presbyterian Congregations" who are listed on the TCPC website and have functioning web pages. If you know of other Presbyterian congregations that fit Dr. Taussig's description, or that you think embrace the progressive movement, I would be happy to include them.

Below are TCPC's Eight Points.

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who…

1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus;

2. Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God's realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us;

3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus's name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God's feast for all peoples;

4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to):

believers and agnostics,
conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
women and men,
those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
those of all races and cultures,
those of all classes and abilities,
those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope;

5. Know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe;

6. Find more grace in the search for understanding than we do in dogmatic certainty - more value in questioning than in absolutes;

7. Form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do: striving for peace and justice among all people, protecting and restoring the integrity of all God's creation, and bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers; and

8. Recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.


When I speak of the JSOR next time, I will speak of we learned about the various Christian communities in the first century.