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The Progressive Christian Network Of Victoria Inc. Newsletter March 2015

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The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria Inc. 76 Coppin Street, Malvern East, Vic 3145 Association A0048832S ABN 93 004 530 948 Newsletter editor: David Merritt The Progressive Christian Network Of Victoria Inc. Newsletter March 2015 http://www.pcnvictoria.org.au Email: info@pcnvictoria.org.au Changes in local churches The theme of the report above is continued on page 2 where John Shelby Spong responds to a question about the gaps between traditional Christianity expressed in church services and contemporary understandings of the world and life. He says, “The past will never transform the future”. See the next page. “Can we be Christian in the 21st century?” The PCNV meeting on 22 February was probably one of our best. About 90 people participated, the adrresses by the three panelists were well received, and the process offering a choice of times to engage with speakers worked well. The feedback suggests PCNV should use the format again. The topic also addresses the feeling of many people today that somehow at least parts of Christianity are out of touch with life and The transcripts of the three addresses are now available in one pdf file on the PCNV website: www.pcnvictoria.org.au “The Fourth R” The Fourth R is dedicated to expanding religious literacy – adding ‘Religion’ to the traditional ‘3Rs’ – ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’. It is published 6 times a year and costs US$30 per year. www.westarinstitute.org Meeting venue to change The next PCNV meeting on March 22 will be our last at Glen Iris Road Uniting Church. A Chinese congregation will occupy the buildings on Sunday afternoons. We are exploring new venues for May and beyond. A changing understanding of Christianity While many of us involved in the Progressive Christian Network of Victoria wrestle with the clashes between conventional Christianity and our experience, major changes continue among scholars. A 2nd century AD library discovered at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945 is having increasing impact on scholars of early Christianity as translations are widely available and early assumptions about them are debated. The Christianity Seminar established by the Westar Institute has just reported on some far-reaching implications for our understanding of early Christianity. The current issue of the journal “The Fourth R” concludes a report from the November 2014 meeting of the Christianity Seminar with the following words: “… the Christianity Seminar affirmed strongly the necessity to claim Nag Hammadi and other recently discovered works from the first two centuries as an integral part of rethinking early Christian history. Such progress hauntingly now manifests itself for the Christianity Seminar in the crucial need for scholars who know the Nag Hammadi and other documents well, and who can help elaborate their meanings and track how early Christianity developed in ways quite different than has been perceived so far. This new direction presses current and future scholars to redouble their study of the recently discovered documents.” Report on Westar’s Christianity Seminar. The Fourth R. March-April 2015. Pages 21-24 “Preserving ancient traditions is not a pathway into the future” In his weekly Q&A email, Bishop John Shelby Spong responded to a question from an Episcopal priest: “I have a grave concern about the way it appears that current Christianity in all denominations is becoming irrelevant in modern culture. … Do you have any suggestions of a way that Eucharistic people can proclaim a faith that suits modern understanding, at the same time doing justice to the ancient story?” Bishop Spong’s reply follows. It is relevant to many of us. “I know the tension in the practice of Christianity to which you refer. The scriptures we read in church were written between 1000 BCE and 135 CE and reflect the assumptions of that era: i.e. the earth is the center of a three-tiered universe, sickness is viewed as God’s punishment for sin and whatever cannot be understood is thought of as a “miracle.” The creeds we recite come out of the 4th century and reflect the dualistic mind of the Greekspeaking Mediterranean world that framed them. Most of our liturgical forms are rooted in the 13th century, a time obsessed with guilt and death, and which portray God as either an angry parent or as a hanging judge. So much of what goes on in church simply does not relate to the world in which we live. So, how can we be faithful to our religious roots and be relevant to the world in which we live is a problem we all must address. I wish I thought it was different in our theological seminaries which are supposed to be training clergy for tomorrow’s world. What most of them are doing, however, is training clergy for yesterday’s world. “The clue for me is to separate the Christ experience from the Christ explanations. All explanations are time-bound and time-warped, they are never eternal. The Bible, the creeds and all liturgical practices are explanations. Increasingly they are viewed by those who have left the church as dated and antiquated symbols of a world that no longer exists. Inside the church, however, they are viewed as the “essentials” for being a Christian. A Dean at one of our theological seminaries recently defended his seminary’s inability to engage the world by claiming the he based his theology on the “Incarnation.” He did not seem to recognize that the doctrine of the Incarnation was framed in the Fourth Century and reflects a dualistic view of God and the world, which no educated person holds today. He was content to be true to this symbol of yesterday’s world view, even when it made him incompetent to speak to the world in which his graduates will do ministry. “The experience behind that explanation will never be seen or heard until we dismiss that doctrine for what it is, an explanation of a truth rooted in a time that no longer is. Most of our doctrinal explanations have long passed their “sell by” shelf life signs. Preserving ancient traditions is not a pathway into the future. Churches dedicated to the traditions of the past will never transform tomorrow. Explanations always reflect the age in which they are formed. THE EXPERIENCE THESE EXPLANATIONS SEEK TO EXPLAIN, HOWEVER, CAN BE TIMELESS AND ETERNAL. So we need to cling to the Christ experience, but we must learn to sit loosely to the explanations. The problem with most religious traditions is that they invest their explanations with the reality of the experience. That will always end in failure and disillusionment. It is because we do not know what to do that I believe we are still trying to pump life into dead forms. The courageous Christian will try to develop new forms. That is hard work. “I am a committed Christian, but I see Christianity as an evolving explanation with few if any fixed parts. So the Christian life is a journey into the mystery of God. I enjoy the journey. I hope you do also.” John Shelby Spong Q & A for 12 March 2015. ProgressiveChristianity.org Used with permission. You can subscribe to the free weekly Q&A email at: johnshelbyspong.com COMING EVENTS SUNDAY 18 MARCH: EMERGING CHURCH People seeking a progressive worship experience are invited to the monthly Emerging Church service on March 18 (5:00pm - 6:30pm, including light meal). This month it will take the form of a Taize-style service. You are invited to experience the music and spirituality of the Taize community, as we focus on a quiet, prayerful Lenten meditation. The service lasts approximately 45 minutes, followed by a BYO light meal of finger food. The venue is Manningham Uniting Church, 152 Andersons Creek Road, East Doncaster, Melways 34 E6. Parking down the drive, behind the church. This service is for everyone, from any Christian denomination or none. PCNV MEETINGS SUNDAY 22 MARCH: “Wisdom from the First Peoples of the Land – Aboriginal Spirituality”. Speaker: Rev Janet Turpie-Johnstone. 3.00pm to 5.00pm at Glen iris Road Uniting Church. See details about the topic, speaker and venue on the final page of this newsletter. SUNDAY APRIL 26: REGIONAL MEETING IN GEELONG Details of speaker, topic, venue and times to be announced. SUNDAY 24 MAY: “Contemporary Spirituality: How does it Enrich Life?” Speaker: Rachel Kohn. Presenter of the ABC program “The Spirit of Things”. Venue to be announced. Details early in May. WEDNESDAY 17 MAY: Address by David Tacey, Emeritus Professor of Literature at La Trobe University, and launch of his new book, “Beyond Literal Belief: Religion as Metaphor”. Venue: Toorak Uniting Church, 6.00pm. More details later. SoFiA 2015 conference “Religion in Education: Children, Ethics, Faith and Meaning” 22 – 24 May, Coolangatta, Queensland In recent decades, the relationship between religion and education in Australia has changed quite dramatically, in ways that are complex – and paradoxical. In a time when the proportion of Australians claiming to have ‘no religion’ has grown rapidly, religion and religious groups have been gaining an increased role in primary and secondary schooling. In this conference, participants will reflect on some of these changes in the religious and educational fabric, and the political, social and religious issues arising from them. Sessions will deal with: the contested place of religion in Australian politics and education; the increasingly diverse nature of the Australian population; the need for compulsory courses in religion and ethics; the control and funding of the various school sectors; and the national chaplaincy program. For details of speakers, registration information and a conference brochure go to the website: www.sof-in-australia.org Sea of Faith promotes the open exploration of religion, faith and meaning. The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria invites you to – “Wisdom from the First Peoples of the Land. - Aboriginal Spirituality” by Rev Janet Turpie-Johnstone WHEN: Sunday 22 March 2015 3.00pm to 5.00pm WHERE: Glen Iris Road Uniting Church Glen Iris Road near the corner with High Street Road Melway Map 60 A9. Parking in church grounds and the street. THE SPEAKER - REV JANET TURPIE-JOHNSTONE works at the Australian Catholic University as Aboriginal Equity Pathways Officer. She also helps with teaching Aboriginal Art and Culture in the Bachelor of Early Childhood and Education Course. She a Priest in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, although only called upon for Locum work. She is enrolled in AOHD at Australian National University looking at “Bunjil Weaves Past and Future in the present. Aboriginal Mythology as an Ethic of Relationship”. She completed Honours at ACU “Bunjil has Brought us Mob Home Again?” Originally from Portland, Janet now lives in Liydale. THE TOPIC “In the footsteps of my research work, I have great passion for the pursuit of wisdom. All that I have come to understand about the ancestors of this land, is that wisdom, that which weaves intellect, feeling and the subconscious into a communal whole through its parts, was the goal. Many times the expression of wisdom came through phantasmagorical creation stories. These stories were never an end in themselves but wove the human journey within the landscape relating the whole with parts and vice versa. To some degree, as I reflect on these networks of narratives, I have come to believe that they need the hugeness of the stories to create webs of life that hold together such disparate, similar and familiar bits. Within the method of my research, my role as elder is a very strong thread. As an Elder one can experience the world and know that it is mostly undefinable and beyond human grasp, and this is okay.” PCNV meeting cost is $7 ($5 for members)