Since I didn’t preach this Sunday, let me offer a few thoughts on a controversy that has come to my attention. In Fountain Hills, Arizona, there are eight churches from the Fountain Hills Ministerial Association who have joined together to attack (my word, they claim they are just answering questions regarding the difference between “true Biblical Christianity” and “Progressive Christianity”) the one progressive church, The Fountains United Methodist Church, in their midst. These eight churches have taken out advertising and posted banners that say: “Progressive” Christianity: Fact or Fiction. And on May 17 they started preaching a six-week sermon series with messages like “Why does it matter that the Bible is Reliable?”, “Why Does it Matter That Jesus is God?” and “Why Does it Matter That Jesus Was Born of a Virgin?”
Honestly, I take my hat off to Pastor David Felten and the congregation of The Fountains UMC. They stepped out of the traditional, conservative, Christian box to allow people to question, explore and evolve and they did it well enough to scare a whole bunch of folks into defending themselves and their ancient belief structures. Why should this scare anyone? Because questioning rocks the very foundations of belief systems. If the Bible isn’t inerrant (never mind the mental gymnastics required to accept the many contradictions in a literal reading of Scripture), then how does one know what is true and what isn’t? If Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin (never mind that neither Jesus, Paul or the author of Mark says anything about this) then the church has been lying to us for centuries, and what else didn’t really happen?
As far as I know, Sacred Journeys is the only Christian community in the Racine area that advertises itself as “progressive.” What does that mean? In a nutshell it means these things:
- We take the Bible seriously, not literally.
- We welcome and encourage questions and exploration of our faith journeys
- We believe that other world religions are valid paths to the Divine and that we can learn from them
- We are okay with many expressions, names, and understandings of the Divine
- We are an inclusive community where all (yes, all) people are welcome and accepted (not tolerated) as sacred
- We know that all life is interconnected and strive to reach out in mission, ministry and social justice to heal and enhance these connections
- We believe that God is still speaking, that the Divine is not only around us, but within us, and that psychology and spirituality are intimately connected.
What we will not do is tell you what you must believe in order to be a Christian. We will not burden you with fear-based theology laden with guilt and shame. And we will not give you a set of hoops to jump through in order to get to Heaven (most of us don’t believe in hell, except in a figurative sense.)
While no one really like confrontation, I’m hopeful that this confrontation happening in Fountain Hills will bring more exposure to Progressive Christianity. Hopefully the word will spread that there is more than one way of being Christian. The movement began long ago, but perhaps this will spur growth and interest. I believe the tide is turning and you can’t put the squeeze cheese back in the can. Change is coming. Change is here. We are that change.
Love & Light!