First of all, please excuse my tongue in cheek title as I am having some fun with the outpouring of criticism I have received. Since I have been accused of heresy hunting and inquisitorial ideas, I figured I may as well roll with it and have some fun. After all, no one expects the Methodist Inquisition. This will evolve into a series of posts examining some of the ideas that I have encountered in Progressive “Christianity” and their new way of thinking. I am starting with how to find a Progressive “Christian” church as that seems to be the logical first step.
This is motivated by a couple of things. The first, believe it or not (I suspect that for most of you it will be not, but I have been surprised before) it is out of concern and love that I began this and continue on with it. While I would not presume it is my place to stand on a street corner and pronounce to everyone “you are doing it wrong”, I do presume that it is my business to address those men and women who call themselves Christian that are indeed following teachings that are out of line with the scriptures as expressed in the historic witness and tradition of the church.
Second this is motivated by my love for the church as it is expressed by the history and tradition of it. The church has indeed changed and new ideas have been examined and accepted or discredited as time has gone on, but her historic and faithful witness has remained and is best expressed I believe, in the Apostle’s Creed, reprinted here for your convenience.
Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae,et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum,qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine,passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus,descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Patris omnipotentis,inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem,remissionem peccatorum,carnis resurrectionem,vitam aeternam. Amen
…or for those not fond of Latin:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholic Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.
(From The Book of Common Prayer; I accept that “Descended into hell is a point of contention.)
Finally this is motivated by both examining what some of the common ideas in the Progressive “Christian” movement are, and by doing so bring light to those who agree and disagree as well as those who self identify as Progressive “Christians” yet might not understand what is being taught and shown as truth. It is, after all, vitally important what we believe as right belief leads to right action and not the other way around. If the ends justified the means, then the inquisition would have been a good thing and not one of the darker periods of church history. As a note, this is not about LGBTQ arguments and debates, so any mention of them will be only for reference not as a required belief of any group of Christians one way or another.
So, onto how to avoid, erm….find….a Progressive “Christian” church. This is a link on how to go about finding a Progressive “Christian” church. I have found myself very thankful for it as it also can be used as instruction on how to avoid a Progressive “Christian” church. I have issues with it as I think that it unfairly attaches certain movements (notably those which agree with full inclusion) with Progressive “Christianity” but that is for another time. Coming from a Progressive “Christian” pastor, I shall accept that he believes this to be an effective way to find a Progressive Christian church so I shall as well. The same said pastor uses the 8 points of Progressive Christianity and expounds upon them in his book in a longer format. (The 8 basic points may be found here) The first 6 points of the piece are sort of common sense and standard fare sort of advice and easy enough to follow. I do think that he unfairly ties churches that support full inclusion with Progressive “Christianity” as I do not find that the two are necessarily linked and that in doing so he hurts their cause. Point number 7 though is where I want to start my concentration…
“You may not be able to find a progressive church near you. If not, you’ve got some options. One is to help to try to transform the most liberal one you can find toward being a progressive congregation.”
This is how the point begins. So, he actively advocates a form of evangelism, that is to say spreading his version of the faith, to others, but with other works condemns those who do the same. If I, for instance, were to go to a Progressive “Christian” congregation and attempt to transform it into one conforming to the Articles of religion and the Apostle’s Creed for example, not only would it be met with resistance, but I imagine outright hostility. Beyond that however, he is actively, in the case of the UMC should one follow his advice, calling for people to openly disagree with, and ignore the tenants of our faith, but also to encourage others to do the same. That is far beyond the live and let live attitude he claims to support, but is rather an open invitation to cause disruption and try to subvert the faith as expressed by the UMC, and depending on the denomination as he is speaking to all, perhaps their beliefs also.
“Another option is to start a home church or meet up group for progressive Christians. Progressivechristianity.org provides this listing of progressive Christians to help you locate kindred spirits near you! Finally, a last resort might be to find fellowship and a “para church” community in one of the many progressive Christian Facebook pages.”
I am all for home groups and think that they can be an important and vital part of faith. I wish here he would have at least said in addition to attending a church. The danger here is that without proper direction and guidance, there is a greater potential for misinterpretation and misunderstanding the scriptures. Yes a small group is important, but not in isolation from the church but in addition to the church. The progressive Christian Facebook pages are virtual echo chambers where no thought of historic and traditional Christianity can be found, heard, or tolerated. This again is far from the everything is open to questioning attitude that is claimed to be possessed as well as far away from the “big tent” idea that the UMC was founded upon and that is claimed to be supported.Before closing, a word on the “big tent”. Yes, the UMC was meant to be and still should be a big tent denomination allowing for a variety of thoughts and ideas as we move forward for truth. It is not however an infinite tent. There must be some sort of baseline belief that is required or you simply have no identity. This applies for the Church Triumphant, the Denominations, and even individual Christians. As I have many times before, I submit that the best and least restrictive “minimum requirement” if you will is to be found in the Apostles Creed. There is a very big tent that is allowed there and plenty of room in it, but it is not infinite. There simply are beliefs that are out of bounds. How to avoid a Progressive “Christian” church is a good start in avoiding those ideas.