Monday, April 07, 2008

What is Progressive Christianity

Via James McGrath I discovered the blog of Gretta Vospera, and this post on the continual redefinition of what is progressive Christianity. What it is, she says, depends on where the Christian community is starting. Progressive Christianity can refer to becoming more welcoming, re-thinking liturgy and worship, focusing on justice issues, re-imagining God, and more:
But the very nature of progressive thought is that it keeps moving on. And so it has. Churches that struggled through the gender-inclusive language debate in the 1980s and 1990s now turn their attention to the beingness of God and challenge the theistically-exclusive language that has been formerly privileged. Those that contextualized the Bible’s message, now struggle through the idea that it is not only not divinely inspired but that it is potentially dangerous when held up as a moral or ethical authority and should be demoted as a spiritual foundation. Those that have changed the names of God to ones that are less dominated by the traditional pictures the word “God” evokes are now faced with scientific and archaeological findings that challenge the idea of God as creator; philosophical ideas that undermine the ultimate reality of God as a being separate and distinct from human experience; anthropological examination that exposes the human need to create deities and supernatural forces. They struggle to reflect new understandings within their worship and congregational life, honouring the old ideas they set aside even as they embrace interpretations, new understandings, and new experiences.

So it is that the definition of progressive Christianity is a difficult one to make. Any community that pulls itself outside of its own worldview to question its purpose, its practice, its foundations, and its beliefs will be challenged by what it finds. Working through the reality of that challenge will eventually cause it to reject one thing (or many things) in exchange for something else. Whether it be an understanding of what is just, a belief in a theistic God, or a way of creating a welcoming environment, the communities that employ the elements of progressive thinking, openness, creativity, passion, intellectual rigour, honesty, courage, balance and respect, will see themselves progress along that endless continuum of what Christianity can be.

Progressive Christianity cannot be nailed down to one thing. It lives in flux. It always will because that is its nature. It always will because it must.
Very nice post.

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