I have mentioned a couple of times the two programs on “Progressive Christianity” on the ABC Radio National program “Spirit of Things”. I thought I would just put up the links for all of you to look at, listen to and ponder.
The Spirit of Things – 9 May 2010 – Progressive Christianity Pt 1
Can you take Christ out of Christianity and still remain in the Church? Critics of the Rev’d Gretta Vosper claim she has done just that, but the Canadian minister in the United Church of Canada says she is forging a new inclusive form of Christianity where the Bible is not ‘privileged’. She and Australian fellow travellers are part of the Progressive Christianity movement and they speak to Rachael.
The Spirit of Things – 16 May 2010 – Progressive Christianity Pt 2
After a spiritual epiphany Fred Plumer wanted the experience of God to be at the centre of his Christian faith. Now the California-based Rev. Plumer is President of the Centre for Progressive Christianity, with a growing list of international church affiliates. The Rev. Margaret Mayman of Wellington in New Zealand sees Progressive Christianity as the best hope for achieving justice for lesbians, gays and transgenders in the church. Dean of the Anglican Cathedral in Darwin, The Very Rev. Jeremy Greaves, has to mind the gap between his Progressive Christianity beliefs and his aging congregation.
There are times in these interviews when Rachel Kohn, the interviewer (she is Jewish, by the way) gets a little frustrated with the ideas being expressed by her interviewees. For instance, she says to Fred Plumer, the founder of Center for Progressive Christianity:
I must say that your description of what young people don’t want was very disheartening this morning. I mean you talked about how the Bible’s fusty and they hate the music and they want to dump all sorts of things, basically dump a whole lot of the tradition, put in some rock music, things that feel good for them now. But it does make me wonder whether this is a rather unfortunate dumbing-down of a great long tradition, simply because a couple of generations of people have not been raised with any Christian education, they haven’t got any deep familiarity with the texts, certainly no love for them, and so they’re pretty alienated from them, and I wonder whether then this is kind of selling Christianity short, just in order to get the young people in at any price?
And again, at one point, she challenges the Dean of the Anglican Cathedral in Darwin about why he remains in the Anglican Church if he can’t abide the Apostle’s Creed:
Rachael Kohn: Do you specifically then have difficulties with the Apostles’ Creed that you might like to rewrite it or ditch it?
Jeremy Greaves: I’d be happy to abandon the Creed. And it’s certainly a point of conversation with some of my colleagues in Darwin. And I think when so much of the rest of our worship talks about spirituality and God in very different ways, to then stand and recite the Creed, particularly after some of the sermons that get preached in the cathedral, seems a very odd thing. There’s a great dissonance and the real challenge is how we move past that, I think…
Rachael Kohn: And is the whole issue of ‘does religion work for you’, the central one? It seems a kind of functional way of looking at religion, you know – if it works, good; if it doesn’t, ditch it. It’s a bit brutal, isn’t it?
Jeremy Greaves: It is brutal, but I think we’ve got a really good story to tell and if we can’t find a way of telling the story that people will hear, then what’s the point of having the story?…
Rachael Kohn: When you said the gut, it reminded me of what Gretta Vosper said, she was quoting Carter Haywood, who named the lurch in her stomach as God. What was your response to Gretta’s charge to the conference here to leave behind a lot of what has been traditional about Christianity, and even abandon some of the terminology?
Jeremy Greaves: I feel very conflicted about some of those things because – and she talked about that chasm between what so many of us believe and what we feel we have permission to say in our churches. And for so many of us in ministry, we’re locked into a model where the people who sit in the pews pay our salaries, pay our way. I have a wife and three small children to support and so the challenge of being too prophetic and changing too many things too quickly is that there won’t be enough people left in the short term to help me survive financially, and that’s a brutal and very difficult challenge.
Indeed yes, it is hard to be “prophetic” when you have to pay the bills. Tell me about it. If I could offer the Rev’d Greaves a word of unrequested advice, given that I know something about making hard choices in line with your conscience when you earn your bread and butter as a clergyman of a particular religious community. Sooner or later, Jeremy, you are going to have to bite the bullet and ask yourself whether, in conscience, you can truly be “prophetic” if you are not acting on your convictions…