Friday, November 18, 2016

Basic Definitions by Don Murray - A Conversation Starter for Maritime Progressives

God – The great Mystery that can never be adequately named.

God – the big-guy in the sky who is in control of everything and just might be out to get you.

Theism – belief in the big-guy God

Atheism – Not believing in the big-guy God. Often confused with not believing in any sort ot God.

A-theism – Very specifically not believing in the big-guy version of God.

Non-theism – Not as easily misunderstood as “atheism”.

Pantheism – God is everything, the whole universe.

Panentheism – God is within everything.

Polytheism – There are many gods.

Humanism – Human values are the foundation of life, not engendered or supported by anything beyond the human.

Religion – (original meaning) a system of beliefs, rituals and practices that enable us to connect and commune with God, the Ultimate Mystery.

Religion – (contemporary) An outdated set of dogmas and practices that fails to speak to our souls. 

Spirituality – An innate desire to commune with something beyond and grander than ourselves; God, the Ultimate Mystery.  

Mysticism – The feeling of intimate communion with or oneness with God, the Ultimate Mystery.

Fundamentalism – My beliefs are right, and yours are wrong; no questions asked.

Fundamentalism – can be religious, scientific, political and most anything.

The Material Universe – The body of God (Sallie McFague). About the same as panentheism. 

The psychic/spiritual Universe – the mind and heart of the Mystery that is real and alive and finds expression in each of us, if we are paying attention.

Energy -- The basic stuff of the material universe, the psychic/spiritual universe, thought, life, everything that exists. There is nothing that is not an expression of energy.

Energy = God – The scientist calls it energy, the theologian calls it God.. 

Psyche – our inner self which is part of the universal Self. The voice, our awareness of our inner being, is the voice of the Mystery of the universe urging us to be what is in us to be.

Evolution – The continuous development and growth from all that has gone before, starting with the Big Bang.

The Big Bang – The popular name for the minuscule drop of energy from which the universe and all that is evolved: itself a mystery.
Consciousness – the energy of the universe that is life and awareness (Eve’s knowledge of good and evil) within us pushing us to grow and become our own unique selves.

The nature of energy is to push toward consciousness.

Carl Jung – the Universe is itself in the process of growing in consciousness.

Carl Jung –  our consciousness enables the consciousness of the Universe to evolve. 

Carl Jung – The journey and goal of life is to become conscious, mature, fully human.

Jesus is an excellent model, even if he is only human and not God.

Jesus partakes in the divine, even as we all do – he being a big step ahead of most of us.

The Universe Story – everything, including humanity, has evolved from the Big Bang through 13.7 billion years. “You are a child of the Universe”. It is the universal, all uniting, story incorporating all others. “We were stardust, now we sing operas.” (Drew Dellinger. Need to check the quote.)

Bishop John Shelby Spong's 12 Theses

The Twelve Theses
1. God
Understanding God in theistic categories as “a being, supernatural in power, dwelling somewhere external to the world and capable of invading the world with miraculous power” is no longer believable. Most God talk in liturgy and conversation has thus become meaningless.
2. Jesus – the Christ.
If God can no longer be thought of in theistic terms, then conceiving of Jesus as “the incarnation of the theistic deity” has also become a bankrupt concept.
3. Original Sin – The Myth of the Fall
The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which we human beings have fallen into “Original Sin” is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
4. The Virgin Birth
The virgin birth understood as literal biology is impossible. Far from being a bulwark in defense of the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth actually destroys that divinity.
5. Jesus as the Worker of Miracles
In a post-Newtonian world supernatural invasions of the natural order, performed by God or an “incarnate Jesus,” are simply not viable explanations of what actually happened.
6. Atonement Theology
Atonement theology, especially in its most bizarre “substitutionary” form, presents us with a God who is barbaric, a Jesus who is a victim and it turns human beings into little more than guilt-filled creatures. The phrase “Jesus died for my sins” is not just dangerous, it is absurd.
7. The Resurrection
The Easter event transformed the Christian movement, but that does not mean that it was the physical resuscitation of Jesus’ deceased body back into human history. The earliest biblical records state that “God raised him.” Into what, we need to ask. The experience of resurrection must be separated from its later mythological explanations.
8. The Ascension of Jesus
The biblical story of Jesus’ ascension assumes a three-tiered universe, which was dismissed some five hundred years ago. If Jesus’ ascension was a literal event of history, it is beyond the capacity of our 21st century minds to accept it or to believe it.
9. Ethics
The ability to define and to separate good from evil can no longer be achieved with appeals to ancient codes like the Ten Commandments or even the Sermon on the Mount. Contemporary moral standards must be hammered out in the juxtaposition between life-affirming moral principles and external situations.
10. Prayer
Prayer, understood as a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history, is little more than an hysterical attempt to turn the holy into the servant of the human. Most of our prayer definitions of the past are thus dependent on an understanding of God that has died.
11. Life after Death
The hope for life after death must be separated forever from behavior control. Traditional views of heaven and hell as places of reward and punishment are no longer conceivable. Christianity must, therefore, abandon its dependence on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
12. Judgment and Discrimination
Judgment is not a human responsibility. Discrimination against any human being on the basis of that which is a “given” is always evil and does not serve the Christian goal of giving “abundant life” to all. Any structure either in the secular world or in the institutional church, which diminishes the humanity of any child of God on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation must be exposed publicly and vigorously. There can be no reason in the church of tomorrow for excusing or even forgiving discriminatory practices. “Sacred Tradition” must never again provide a cover to justify discriminatory evil.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Invitation to Gather

A Word to the Spiritual Seekers

A Word to the Spiritual Seekers
From: Don Murray

So, shoot the messenger is still in vogue, at least within the church. We are used to hearing that Roman Catholics have been ex-communicated because they did not fit into the doctrine of the church. Conservative churches can be guilty of “shunning” – giving non-conformists the cold shoulder. But here is a committee of a liberal, inclusive, church, born out of the union of several churches, recommending that an ordained minister “be placed on the discontinued service list” – fired, defrocked. It is my own church, The United Church of Canada.

The minister in question is Rev. Gretta Vosper; a warm, highly intelligent, compassionate person supported by her congregation as an excellent pastoral minister and leader of Sunday Services. She is personally known to Emily and me, and we heartily support her congregation’s view. 
The rub comes in that she calls herself an atheist. This is a statement that does not easily fit within the traditional doctrine of the church. 

“Atheism” can be an often misunderstood and confusing word. For most of us who call ourselves progressive, it means that the view of God as the big-daddy-in-the-sky who is in control of things and can intervene at will is gone. We are a-theists. We do not believe in an all-controlling deity who is there to judge and condemn if we don’t toe the line. It is vaguely based on the Bible, but comes with a great variety of interpretations. Many of us were brought up believing in that deity, but our experience of life and the evolution of society has caused the demise of that image of whatever the ultimate Mystery might be.

“Atheism” can also mean that there is no creative, evolving, force behind it all. The death-of-God of the nineteen sixties leaned toward that view, as I did for a time away back then. Many who hear the word “atheism” put Gretta in that category. Anyone who reads her thoughts and her prayers knows she passionately believes that love and compassion are at the heart of everything and that a community of caring people is what is required of us. 

The church has asked Gretta to reaffirm her ordination vows. This boils down to, “Do you believe in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Not many of us in progressive mode could affirm that statement without much discussion and interpretation. We really object to those words and can’t understand why they are still used at ordination Anyone who breathes the air of Western culture knows that to name God as father is a demonic statement. It means the support of patriarchy and the denigration of women. As Emily keeps saying, “as long as God is thought of as male there can be no equality for women.”  

The church, however, finds it difficult to change. Ever since Constantine forced the church to nail down orthodoxy we have had a one-track mind as far as what we are to believe is concerned. Even the Protestant reformation didn’t change the basic story that Jesus died or our sins so that we might enjoy eternal life; which makes no sense to our understanding of how life works. Oh for the rich variety of approaches to Jesus and religion that existed in the early years of the church. 

Our question to the church is “How can we grow and evolve in our experience and understanding of the Mystery of the universe if we close our ears and minds to the creative voices that push us beyond the traditional views?” We must be prepared to engage not only the thinkers in the church but also the scientists, artists and all the forces that mark our evolving culture. If we don’t, we simply hive off into a little enclave of our own and have nothing to offer the growth in consciousness and understanding that is our only hope for long-term survival.

Gretta has not yet been ousted. It is the recommendation of a committee which must be approved by the courts of the church. There is still hope. A growing movement of support for Gretta is underway. If you would like to add your name to a petition in support of Gretta, go to Join the four dissenting voices, on the committee of twenty-three, who affirmed that “the growth of our doctrine is not complete.” 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Review of Ministry

If you are wondering what's been happening with our friend and colleague Gretta, the following links will help bring you up to speed.

Gretta's Answers to the Review Questions
Review Board's Response

Petition to urge Toronto Conference's Sub Executive to reject the review.

Interview with Ryan Bell
Gretta's reflection on "Acceptance" September 11, 2016
CTV Newsnet Interview
Gretta's response to being found 'unsuitable'

Links to interviews about the whole situation will continue to be added.

The Evolution of Creation – Based in Darwin, Divinity and the Dance of the Cosmos

Submitted by Michael Mugford 


Call to Gather as Community
            L:         Where have you come from?
            P:        We have come from home, work, family and task to be together.
            L:         Why have come here?
            P:        We have come here to be together in holy time and holy community!
            L:         How have you come here?
            P:        We have come here open to the Spirit of Life in the world and to each other.
            L:         What have you come here to do?
            P:        We have come here to sing, pray, learn and share who we are with God and                           find our way deeper into God’s eternal presence!  We have come to worship!

As we gather here this morning, we are challenged to think about things that many consider beyond our finite abilities to truly comprehend.  Science tells us that there is more to know than we can ever know and faith tells us that the ways of God are beyond our ways.  We may not be able to know it all, but we are educated people and people of mature faith, we are ready and able to think deep thoughts and offer our revelations to the deep mystery of God and the universe.  We are ready to walk the journey from the beginning and further define our place in the world and in the universe.  Today we say thank you God, for mind and spirit working together to make me who I am and who I can become.  Amen.

Song – Called by earth and sky – MV 135

Theme Intro – Where did it all begin?

Stories of Creation
Enuma Elish – The Epic of Creation
The Seven Tablets of Creation, L.W. King Translator, London 1902.
When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;

Mi'kmaq - Two Creators and their Conflicts
The Old Man Told Us: Excerpts from Micmac History, 1500-1950. Ruth Holmes Whitehead, Nimbus Publishing, 1991.
Before the earth was new, the sun was all that existed in the great universe. The sun divided the earth into several parts separated by many great lakes. In each part he caused one man and one woman to be born. They bore children and lived for many years. Wickedness pervaded in this family, and slowly they killed one another. The sun wept and wept with grief. The tears became rain that fell from the skies until water covered the entire earth. The family had to set sail in bark canoes to save themselves from the flood. A violent wind overturned their boats. All perished in the sea, but the old man and the old woman, who were best of all people, and it was they who populated the earth.

Genesis 1:1-3
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness covered the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

PoemI Was Fashioned in Times Past, in the Beginning – Susan McCaslin (Darwin Divinity and the Dance of the Cosmos - p. 97)

Theme – Eight Epochs of the Flaring Forth (The Big Bang)

The Big Bang Theory (song)

Eight Epochs of the Flaring Forth
1.)        The Law of Expansion is Fixed

2.)        Struggle Between Matter & Anti-matter

3.)        Creation of Atoms

4.)        Ripple of Gravity

5.)        Supernova Sacrifice

6.)        Our Solar System Born

7.)        Life Emerges on Earth

8.)        Emergence of Conscious Self-reflection in Humans

Song – Each Blade of Grass – MV 37

Theme – The Evolution of Creation and Our Place In It

Song – Touch the Earth Lightly – VU 301

Community Life

Offering & Offertory –TUNE MV 191 What can I do
Earth wind and fire   
all life inspires, 
plants, rocks and trees, 
and rolling seas
Creation lives
If we will give
And so we bring
Our offering.

One with the land
Creation’s grand
Respect for life
Will end much strife
So all might live
We freely give
Bless all we bring


Blessing Song – It’s A Song of Praise to the Maker – MV 30

Labels, Label, Labels...

I thought the poll option might be fun, but what do you put as your first poll on a "Progressive Christian" website?  (Sort of the same with the first post - Jane!) I thought we might as well start talking about the labels.  I wish I could edit them to add your suggestions, but once the voting starts, you can no longer edit. So here are some other suggestions:

Liberal Christian

What other labels exist to describe who you are theologically?  Please Comment below.