Yesterday for our Wednesday meeting, we discussed the 8 points of Progressive Christianity, developed by the Center for Progressive Christianity. These points really spoke to us, with one person commenting: "I've never been able to look at a religious doctrine and say...wow, that's me!" I think we all now feel better able to discuss our faith with others who might wonder what progressive Christianity is all about and why we feel drawn to this particular faith tradition. The 8 points are listed below, along with a sampling of some highlights from our discussion. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments!
By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who...
1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.
We liked that this point emphasizes that there is no "right" way to worship - everyone must interpret the teachings of Jesus for themselves. We also appreciated the emphasis on the life and teachings of Jesus, rather than his death.
2. Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God's realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.
Truly engaging in interfaith dialog with others with a fully open heart can be a scary thing, since it can make us question our beliefs. At the same time, we both value this questioning and realize that the willingness to enter into these discussions demonstrates faithfulness in that we aren't so afraid of losing our beliefs that we're unwilling to learn from the beliefs of others. Many of us saw this interfaith dialog as central to our faith experience.
3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus's name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God's feast for all peoples.
Some of use talked about the fact that, even as Christians, we would be denied communion at some churches. We appreciate the fact that this point emphasizes the idea that everyone is welcome at God's table, and that one doesn't have to subscribe to a certain religion to share a meal and be part of a community. We also preferred this type of symbolism (stated at FCCB as "the bread of life and the cup of blessing") to the body/blood imagery that is often used.
4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to):
believers and agnostics,
conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
women and men,
those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
those of all races and cultures,
those of all classes and abilities,
those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope
We saw this point as ultimately being a challenge to fully welcome all people with open arms, and to not try and push our faith onto other people.
5. Know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe.
People can easily go to church but miss the point of going out and helping others as Jesus would have. We need to act out what Jesus taught us, bringing our faith into the real world and into all our actions.
6. Find more grace in the search for understanding than we do in dogmatic certainty - more value in questioning than in absolutes.
This was difficult for some, because we sometimes just want answers! At the same time, though, we realize that there may not be answers out there (or at least, we haven't found them yet), but that doesn't mean there isn't value in the search. There is a leap of faith involved in a commitment to uncertainty. As one person put it, "I like grappling with things more than certainty."
7. Form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do: striving for peace and justice among all people, protecting and restoring the integrity of all God's creation, and bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers
We saw helping the disadvantaged as central to our faith, giving it a connection to the real world. The phrase "least of his sisters and brothers" really spoke to us, emphasizing the challenge to treat strangers as if they really are part of our families. We also saw this point as focusing not only on each person's individual mission ("the work we feel called to do") but also on community support ("equipping one another") in this difficult task.
8. Recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.
Being a progressive Christian requires a lot of courage. All of these points are truly challenging, which is not often acknowledged by some churches. Actually putting our faith into practice is not an easy thing, but this struggle is part of what makes our faith meaningful. We also discussed the need to consider the privilege that comes from being able to call ourselves Christian in our society.