Progressive Christianity

I had been drawn to the Progressive Christian Network in the UK in 2004 until I realised that the people I was in touch with were only interested in changes from within the churches they were involved with. Nothing seems to have changed in the UK but in 2014 I became friends with Eric Alexander who is a Board member of ProgressiveChristianity.org in America. It didn’t take long to appreciate that we had come to many similar conclusions despite our very different journeys. At that time Eric had a project designed to promote awareness and understanding about the various types of people who classify themselves as “Progressive Christians” and participate in “Progressive Christian” communities. He described one group (that I could relate to) as Very Theologically Progressive (VTP):
You may be in this group if you think everything in the Bible is up for considerable interpretation. For example, you may think that the Bible is errant and fallible. You may not be willing to say Jesus was “the Son of God” without a significant reframing explanation. And you may not require a virgin birth or resurrection as part of your theology. But you maintain that Christianity is a path and tradition of value.
This group should understand that their views may be unrecognisable by others who call themselves progressives. Other groupings should realise that these views are a likely evolution of progressive ideas, although they may be tempted to want to exclude this group from the title of Christianity.

Eric had recently written that years ago when he officially decided to be public about his progressive beliefs he found it very challenging. He had to step away from pastoral leadership roles, and some of his best friends deemed him an enemy of the faith because he could no longer agree to the company line in order not to rock the boat. During that time Progressive Christianity was one of the few outlets that not only embraced his path , but also enriched it. In 2015 Eric posted an article entitled “The BIG Tent of Progressive Christianity”. I could relate to much of what Eric was saying but there was one sentence that stood out at the time, “Progressive Christians don’t feel the need to exclude others who hold views that are more congruent with traditional creeds, as long as they are open minded and are willing to accept that progressive Christianity is a “haven of academic exploration, theological freedom, and social activism”. I sensed that views based on living in the real world without theological training would not be very important!

Some time ago a recently retired pastor posted the following on Facebook:
“Many of my FB friends are Christians who signed up for duty under an ages old, pre-modern contract that claimed exclusivity in the religious world. . . This is rapidly changing now in the post-modern world . . .  Many of my friends know or sense that I subscribe to a Progressive Christian understanding of the faith as well outlined in this brief essay . . . Please take time to read it with an open mind”.
Jesus is/isn’t the only way. – “They can’t all be true” – except when they are.

This post written by a United Methodist Progressive Christian Pastor, reflects many of my thoughts. Towards the end of that article the author suggests that Progressive Christians invite us to simply be as faithful as we can and not worry about “the Church dying”, and links to another article about “Christianity in Crisis”.

It was in December 2015 that an article entitled, “Charting the New Reformation: The Twelve Theses” was posted by the retired Episcopalian Bishop, John Shelby Spong. I really picked up on this in July 2016 when I read an article by a pastor I have known well for some 35 years.
See “A Fresh Start – May 2017”

One Response to Progressive Christianity

  1. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Peter, thanks for sharing a heads-up with me about you post. I remember when Eric first wrote the article you mention about four kinds of progressive Christians; I found it very useful. I consider myself progressive, but I did not fit any of the four categories; as I recall, the one that was almost a fit indicated that the group did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus–but I do.

    As a progressive, I do accept that other people think differently from me and have arrived at other conclusions than I have; and that’s okay. As you might recall, however, my mission is to assist and support those from fundamentalist or conservative evangelical backgrounds who are questioning what they have been taught. So I do oppose certain harmful baggage doctrines such as inerrancy, angry god, legalism, and so forth–the harmful doctrines, themselves, not the people who teach them or believe them.

    Thanks for thinking of me, and I am glad to see your are writing new material. Have a great day!

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