Progressive Christianity

I have decided to start collecting resources, links and books as I go along in my journey. All this will be posted on this page and in the end it will hopefully make sense. I find church currently a frustrating experience; rigid structures and an old-fashioned theology– there must be another way.

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Progressive Christianity

its been a year

since the last post 😦 Want to take it up again. Back in NZ now and settling in took much longer than anticipated. So many things are happening that I don’t even know where to start right now. The Lambeth conference has just finished and, unfortunately, it looks as if nothing really noteworthy has happened (lots of things did, in fact, NOT happen).

its been a year

Church in a Pub

zak's place in SwanseaI went to “Zac’s place” tonight. It is run by Sean. On Tuesday evenings at about 7:30 they have a “Church for Ragamuffins”: connected to Zac’s place is the God’s Squad – a biker group. It started out 10 years ago in Australia and Sean started the first UK club in 2001. The place is named after Zacchaeus, the tax collector with whom Jesus had a meal.

When I arrived the place looked locked up and everything seemed shut down, I stood there not quite sure what to do and where to turn to find out more. A guy with two bottles of milk came along the street and I asked about whether they’d closed for the summer (as some other really interesting groups did – like the café church – more about that later) and he pointed to the door that was just around the corner. Oh well. They invited me to bring my bike (take note: I have a bike now, just bought it today, a red Coventry Eagle!) into the room with me. There were about six people there already and later on we were about 15 to 20 people. The room liked like a very small pub. There was food on the counter and people sat around talking and having tea and coffee (this is where the two bottles of milk came handy). Just normal people (which is proven by the fact that I had problems understanding their Welsh accent). Bikers with tattoos and all, women and men, younger and older people, quite mixed.

More people came in, some hugged; everyone chatted and shared the food. I got talking to people and we had tea and coffee. It felt really welcome. Sean started the bible study with a prayer. Normal language, very accessible and down to earth. Each small table got a bible and two people read out the text, then Sean opened the discussion. I liked that we had two English versions which made it easier to see different points and it made it more accessible. The great thing was that you could say just straight out what you meant and when people talked they linked the text to their lives.

It had often bothered me that when you listen to a sermon in a ‘normal’ church and you disagree you can hardly jump up and yell out that you disagree and make suggestions. I often disagreed and wanted to start a discussion and wanted to hear how other people saw it. And here it was, just like that. I really liked it. People listened and agreed or disagreed and had different ideas about what it meant and it all developed while we were talking.

They had been talking about the parables during the last meetings. The reading for this evening was Luke 19:11-27 about the leader giving out money to people to keep while he is away and about what they did with the money (make more of it or just hide it away in fear). People compared it to money lenders and how you can buy goods and only pay five pounds a week but over a long time and they take about 600% off you. They related it to drug dealers and to their lives. This one part in the text had worried me: if you have little it will be taken away – it just does not seem fair. Now I see that it meant if a talent is given to you but you do not use it you will lose it. Makes sense, like speaking a language – if you don’t use and share it you’ll not be able to keep it.

People also pointed out that it was not all happy-clappy: that some people try and invest a lot, especially in the church, and in the end they lose their faith because things do not work out and it is so hard going. It is not that if you try then it will always work out and everyone will be better off and happy. It was also acknowledged that a lot of people get hurt by the church as an institution and that some people misuse their power in the church and people get awfully hurt. It wasn’t as if anyone dwelt on that a lot but it was acknowledged.

At the end, Sean asked what we wanted to pray about and the requests ranged from prayers for people who were ill, to friends and family far away, to a dog with ill health, to good-quality Skype connections and quick car repair. There was a kind of Eucharist if you wanted: a plastic jug of fruit juice and a slice of toast bread were on the counter and you could just take a sip and a piece. I would have preferred a bit more explicit sharing of the meal – but that happened with the tuna sandwiches and the tea ! People stayed and talked afterwards. It was great fun and I am sure I will be back next week.

Have a look at Seans blog.

Church in a Pub

Christian Life

I am currently very frustrated about the latest news from the Anglicans (see below) and the Catholics (Pope: RCC is the only true church). I am also still not over the fact that anyone would even think of refusing to have communion with fellow Christians (i.e., Katharine Jefferts Schori); let alone the primates. I know, it has been a while but it is really bugging me. The sharing of the Eucharist is really important – having bread and wine on your own, if you want to, misses the point. How can anyone claim to follow Jesus, who shared the table with taxpayers and sinners, and refuse to share communion?

Not that anything of this is new but sometimes it just seems too much. No wonder that religion and Christianity have a bad name. David C. suggests – in a different context – in his blog that [p]erhaps what we need to do is attempt to reclaim the term Christian from the “Christians”. I love his quote from Jacques Ellul that “”Christianity” is to Jesus what Communism was to writings of Karl Marx”. Having lived in a “communist” country, this comparison makes a lot of sense to me, and it makes me wonder if I have fallen out of the frying pan into the fire.

Christian Life

Harnessing Anglican Anarchists?

Are Anglicans now so homophobic that we need to keep each other locked into place by regulations? That was one of the best things about Anglicans/Episcopalians – that every church was autonomous in their decisions. And now what?

The Church of England wants to have a covenant (says their general synod) – an agreement that we all have to commit to (if I understand the BBC article correctly)
Mind you, they (CoE that is) also have politicians decide upon who is going to be their next bishop. Not quite my idea of separation of church and state. But then again, if this is how the CoE wants to have things, that did not mean that the rest of us have to have it that way.

So what does the covenant mean? And why now? It looks very much like installing an instrument to force churches into obedience, to fence dissenters in. This goes along the same lines as the suggestion from some at the last Primates meeting at Dar-Es-Salaam to create a “robust scheme of pastoral oversight to provide for individuals and congregations alienated from The Episcopal Church”. Good grief – they want to protect us from ourselves it seems.

All this goes back to the discussion about ordaining homosexuals and the blessing of same sex unions (see earlier post). Tom Wright brings it to the point by saying that
“Lambeth, and the Primates [the archbishops leading the 38 independent Anglican churches] asked the Americans not to do something, and they did it anyway.” And it was their good right. They have to follow their own conscience.

And then Tom Wright got very much carried away by saying that “A vote against the covenant is a vote for anarchy” (as quoted by the BBC). What kind of scare is that? Can you imagine anarchy in the Anglican Church? Wow, that would catapult us forward several decades. And now we are trying to cage them in forcefully it seems, our Anglican Anarchists – how dare they have a different opinion to the established tradition?

Labels of anarchy are not the grounds for open dialogue or even serious debate, and not the kind of terms that will allow self-disclosure and the affirmation of those core beliefs about who we are.

On the positive side, there was also the Synod meeting in Canada.
I will write a separate post about it.

Harnessing Anglican Anarchists?

Sanctuary in Toronto

This is a belated entry on my visit to Sanctuary in Toronto two weeks ago. I decided that on my travels I will do some church hopping and try out new types of worship. I always liked the idea of the mystery worshipper on the ship of fools.

My first stop was Toronto. Looking for a church in google (searching for the keywords ‘toronto’ ’emerging’ ‘church’) led me to George Fox’ interview with Len Sweet about emerging church. Len tells about a book by Greg Paul “God in the Alley”, about the Toronto church ‘Sanctuary’ that focuses on people that live and work on the street. I then found Yuling’s blogpost about a visit to Sanctuary and knew that I had to go there.

Sanctuary’s Sunday service starts conveniently at five in the afternoon and I made my way there during the Gay Pride parade. The building does not look much like a church and at first I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place at all. I kept following a guy into the building and we ended up in a large room with tall glass windows.

altar at sanctuaryThe freestanding wooden cross in the room was almost the only thing reminding of a church. People were sitting in three circles with a simple table in the middle with bread and wine. At the open side of the circles were some musical instruments: a keyboard, a guy with some bongo drums, and someone with an electric violin. There were no ‘greeters’ or anything formal; on each seat was a copied book with songs. Immediately after I found a place some people sitting close by welcomed me and started asking where from and where to. It was a very relaxed mingling and chatting.

At some point Greg, who was sitting at the keyboard, suggested that we start with some favourite songs and someone yelled out a number and people started singing. More numbers were called as we went along. After a while Greg suggested that this should be the song for the wine and would someone bless it … then people walked up and started taking wine either from the glass in the middle or from smaller cups … the same happened with the bread – someone from the congregation said thanks and then every one who felt like it walked up and took a piece of the loaf.

People prayed between songs, for some songs people got up and danced. After an hour or so we had a break and you could get cup-cakes and water from a separate table. People walked around and chatted to each other. The second part was a bible teaching, somewhat evangelical and very down to earth and personal at the same time — which I found a surprising combination. It lasted for almost an hour. The service ended at around 7ish with people staying for a chat and the rest of the cup-cakes.

I planned to go back two days later for their drop-in evening but unfortunately did not manage it because work took over. Managed to get Greg’s book before I had to leave Toronto.

Sanctuary in Toronto