Author Archives: Rev. Fred-Allen

What Does It Mean to Be a Progressive Christian? – by Dr. Lou Kavar.

What Does It Mean to Be a Progressive Christian?

I sat with a small group of colleagues one Saturday to engage in the discussion.  We describe ourselves as “Progressive Christians,” but we wondered:  what does that really mean?  As expected, there were a wide range of opinions and insights.

It helps to know that all the members of the group have been engaged in ministry for a couple of decades each.  The group is diverse:  African-American, Korean, Japanese descent, and Caucasian women and men.  We each have very different theological education but we all agree that the traditional theological categories make little sense today.  The traditional categories we learned represent social contexts and understandings about life that are no longer held today.

For example, the foundation of much of Christian theology was articulated when people believed that Earth was the center of the universe and that humanity was the height of God’s creation.  Today we know that Earth is a minor planet in the far reaches of the universe and circles an ordinary star.  In addition, we understand that the ages of humans as the dominant creature characterizes this geological era, but there have been other era and other dominant creatures. Also, homo sapiens are only one species of humans in the genus of human beings.  In other words, the understanding of the human context in the universe has changed.  As Progressive Christians, we recognize that our understanding of God must also change.

As a group, it was easy for us to affirm that Christianity is but one wisdom and faith tradition that holds truth for human living.  It’s the tradition of which we are part, but that doesn’t make it better or worse that other paths, like Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, or Islam.

We also agreed that the essential importance of Christianity is found in the teachings of Jesus as a moral and ethical guide to living.  Throughout the teachings of Jesus, major themes are quite clear:  carrying for others, giving of self, and treating those marginalized in society with deep respect are hallmarks for what it means to be Christian.

As I thought more about this, it struck me how essentially different Progressive Christian is from the very popular American Evangelical Christian understanding of Christianity.  Among American Evangelicals, salvation in the after-life is more important than anything else.  Salvation is achieved by asking Jesus to come into one’s life and heart.  The funny thing about this Evangelical concept of salvation is that it’s not something that can be found in the teachings of Jesus.  Instead, the teachings of Jesus were real life and practical.  It’s pretty clear in the Gospel attributed to John, where Jesus is recorded as saying, “By this will others know that you are my followers:  by your love for one another.”  Even in the Gospel attributed to Matthew, the final judgment at the end of time is based on what people did for others.

I think that the faulty foundation of American Evangelical Christianity has resulted in Evangelical Christians holding positions that appear to be askew from the Biblical tradition and life in the twenty-first century.  American Evangelicals believe that Jesus was born to die for the sins of the world and so that individuals can go to heaven. If that’s true, then essentially everything that happened between his birth in Bethlehem and the cross of Calvary has not merit.    Instead, as is the practice of Evangelicals, a person can simply ask Jesus to save you and it’s all good.  There’s no need to do the difficult work of putting oneself in second place and put those in need ahead of my interests.  If a person isn’t bound to follow the mandate of Jesus to care for our neighbors as exemplified in the story of the Good Samaritan, then there’s no need to root our prejudice from one’s own life.

For me, as a Progressive Christian, what’s fundamental for being a Christian is striving to embody the way of life Jesus taught.  It’s not about pie-in-the-sky-when-we-die.  Instead, it’s the realization that God’s realm is here and now. As a Christian, it’s critical for me to live in a way that’s rooted in the care of others, our planet, and those who will come after me.  After all, that’s the way of living taught by Jesus.  In the end, my colleagues came to the same conclusion.  It’s that which makes us Progressive Christians.

What’s most important in Christianity?  Going to heaven or treating people well on Earth.

(Photo credit: the Italian voice via Foter.com / CC BY)

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

Progressive Christian Alliance LC Meeting Minutes 5.20.16

 

In attendance: Lawton Higgs Sr. (Chair), Gina Pond (Member at Large), J.T. Ramelis (Treasurer), Beth Beyer Abbott (Co-Chair and Recording Secretary for this meeting).

Excused: Fred-Allen Self (Secretary)

Reflection by Lawton speaking to the awesome privilege of being called by God in a variety ways, yet connected to one another through PCA.  He continued with a reading from Exodus, the story of Moses and the burning bush.  “The place where you are standing is Holy ground.”  He also reflected on how God meets humankind in so many ways, including nature.

Minutes approved

Agenda approved

Introduction  Lawton spoke of his study of the Constitution and Canons of PCA and our commitment as a LC to upholding those.  Copies have been sent by email to all LC members for our review as we consider PCA business.

501c3  JT reported previously submitted incorporation papers are unable to be accessed.  Incorporation is necessary to apply for 501c3 status. As a result, we are incorporating in Michigan as Progressive Christian Alliance.

We are incorporating as a directorship with the LC as the Directors, but this does not change our polity.  Our members will continue to vote for any changes to the Constitution and Canons.  The LC will be the legal representatives of PCA as a corporation.  When the LC changes, they will, in turn, become the directors.  JT plans to send the incorporation papers in next week and will send the final copy to the LC members by email for review prior to submitting to Michigan.  He has graciously offered to cover the cost of the application.  There was a question about whether this needs to be voted on by the members.  Lawton confirmed that this is not a change in polity, it is simply providing structure for the future of PCA under the current Constitution and Canons.  JT is wording answers on this form so it is congruent to the requirements of the 501c3 application to facilitate the next step in this process.

There was much discussion about what applying for 501c3 status means for our members.   This incorporation and eventual filing for 501c3 status will make us legally recognizable and credible as a denomination as we move forward, which is a key in getting approval for our chaplains to be recognized as clergy by accrediting bodies.  It will not make PCA responsible for financial or other actions taken by local ministries.  It will not change polity or require an amendment to the Constitution and Canons.

We thanked JT for his hard work in moving this forward.  It is our understanding  that once this is approved, we can begin functioning as a 501c3, even before the 501c3 paperwork is submitted.  JT will have a final word on this shortly after the paperwork is filed.

Financial Infrastructure and Financial Planning Policies will need to be created.  Lawton asked JT to begin putting these together before we gather a finance committee. Those policies will need to be voted on by our members as they will be an addition to the Constitution and Canons.

Monies will need to be raised for the 501c3 submission which will cost approximately $850.  We can begin raising funds, even before becoming a tax exempt institution.  Gina suggested we consider a Go Fund Me and invite folks on the open page to help us in this process.  With small donations, we can likely make this goal.

Wild Goose Festival  The response to our letter to the organizers of Wild Goose about LGBTQ inclusion and policies for the event was swift and more than we had hoped for.  The Festival organizers shared that Gina’s suggestions from other similar events helped to facilitate their revisions.  They have offered us space for a tent and Lawton and Kevin Higgs plan to attend with brochures and to be a face for PCA.  Lawton also hopes to have some kind of meet-up with others who are on our Facebook pages.  Gina is unable to attend.  Beth is going to contact friends to see if anyone is available to travel with her to the event.  JT is planning to attend.

RSL  Business  Gina spoke with Debra Newcomb and she is unable be John Contabile’s replacement for West Coast RSL.  Lee Whitaker was suggested.  At one time, John asked about having an assistant and it was suggested we contact him to see if that was ever initiated and if so whether that person would be willing to be the West Coast RSL.  Beth reviewed and will email the names of those on the West Coast who have been ordained so that Lawton can look into whether any would be a good fit.  Gina had other names from previous contact with John Contabile.

We have a person who contacted us from Africa about ordination.  We’ve been considering who might be the mentor for him.  Beth suggested we ask the RSL’s if there is anyone who wants to be in that relationship with him.  Lawton will contact the RSL’s about this.  In the meantime, Gina has replied and apologized for our delay as we seek the right person for his needs.

 

A church in FL recently contacted us about connecting with PCA and there was no follow up from the RSL for the region causing them to withdraw.  We are cognizant of the challenges of volunteers and some discussion took place about the demands of the position and how to prevent things like this from happening in the future.  The RSL did say that contact would be made, but if that has happened, we are not aware.  This does not represent who we want to be as an organization.

Statement of Inclusion  Gina would like body size added to our statement of inclusion.  Lawton asked her to put together a copy and we will take it to the membership for a vote.

Next Meeting:  Friday, June 24 at 6:00 CST

Respectfully submitted, Beth Beyer Abbott

Approved by LC 6.24.16

LC Meeting Minutes 3/13/2016

 PCA – LC Meeting Minutes

Sunday, March 13, 2016 @ 6 PM CDT

In attendance

Fred-Allen Self, Gina Pond, Lawton Higgs, J.T. Ramelis, Beth Abbott

Minutes recorded by: Fred-Allen Self

Opening Reflection and Prayer – Lawton Higgs

Approval of Minutes of Last Meeting – *noted that Beth’s name has 2 b’s and 2 t’s. Motion to accept: Lawton      Second: Gina     Accepted unanimously.

Approve Agenda – unanimously approved.

Old Business:

Web site domain name & hosting –

  • Fred-Allen now holds the domain. Servers are moved over. Email is not currently working, but we believe it should be working shortly!
  • Fred-Allen will take care of cancelling 1and1.
  • Beth asked what will happen to the domain in the future. Fred-Allen offered to transfer GoDaddy account to the PCA itself. We will make this transfer after 501(c)3 is done.

Facebook administration –

  • Talked about the PCA User Covenant.
  • Fred-Allen will send final version of Covenant in email for approval. Upon approval will post it.
  • New members must agree to the covenant.
  • Fred-Allen will write rules for adding members to the group and post it to the admin group chat.
  • Fred-Allen will approach Kim Shinabery about being a group admin.
  • We will offer to remove admins if they would like to no longer remain admins, per Gina’s

Ordination Committee and ordination & affiliation process

  • Discussed membership/affiliation/ordination processes.
  • Do we have a record of everyone who is ordained? Beth has records of everyone she has sent out certificates to, but that is only the last couple of years.
  • Lawton will check in with Roger and Ann to see if they have a list of names.
  • Unanimous approval of process set forth by Beth. Will be sent to RSLs.
  • Lawton will contact Mike Kear about the possibility of serving as SW RSL. Recommended by Beth. She also recommended him as an admin. We believe that there is a vacancy in that area.
  • Beth also suggested Mike Wright Chapman.

501c3 discussion & fund raising and fund management

  • J.T. was unable to access the 501(c)3 file via DropBox. Gina also has a corrupted local file. We will need to contact Ann Joyce to see if we can get a good copy of the file. We absolutely NEED this file.
  • We need documentation of our incorporation. This is the first step of getting 501(c)3. J.T. will need to contact Ann to see if she has this document as well.
  • The main challenge at this point is the treasure hunt to find all of the required information. J.T. believes that we are structurally sound.
  • Lawton would like to begin developing a budget.

 

New Business:

Annual Meeting @ Wild Goose Festival July 7 – 10, 2016

  • There is likely not enough time between now and July to organize an annual meeting.
  • There are still those planning to attend the festival, but would be happy to arrange a meeting while we’re there.
  • We think that it would be helpful to have a time that people could come to the LC for questions or to connect with.
  • Discussed the possibility of a webinar or online open meeting for LC.

Other Business:

 

Next meeting date & time – Friday, April 22 6:00 CST

LC Meeting Minutes – 2/21/2016

PCA – LC Meeting Minutes

Sunday, Feb. 21st @ 8PM CST

In attendance: Fred-Allen Self, Beth Abbott, Gina Pond, Lawton Higgs

Opening Reflection and PrayerLawton shared a short reflection on the lectionary text of today about Jesus as a mother hen gathering all into peace in God’s care. He shared this as an image of Progressive Christianity.

Approval of Minutes of Last Meeting – motion to accept – Gina  second Beth

Approve Agenda – unanimously approved

Old Business:

Web site domain name & hosting

  • Gina explained that John Shore owns the domain. Gina and Fred-Allen have both attempted to contact him, but have thus far received no response.
  • As a result of the above we may need to create a new domain and port the website over.
  • The question was raised how John Shore owns the domain. Gina explained the background and why the situation is as it is.
  • The cost of the website is currently $68/quarter.
  • Domain is registered with Gina and Fred-Allen will work on contacting John Shore to get details settled.
  • Lawton will contact John Shore to release the domain to us.
  • If we needed to come up with a new domain it’s not a huge deal. Most domains cost between $10 – $16/year.
  • If we absolutely need to get a new domain, we can setup a redirect to our new domain, although this will be difficult, as the current domain is on all ordination letters and official documents.
  • Beth proposed that if we do not get a response from John Shore by the next LC Meeting that we will move forward with a new domain and figuring out what to do.
  • Lawton will discuss with Ann whether the 1&1 bill has been paid or not. Beth has offered to pay the bill if it is outstanding.

 

Facebook administration

  • Fred-Allen sent out an email about concerns about the Facebook Group.
  • Fred-Allen will create a Google Doc for creating the User Covenant for the Facebook Group. Once the covenant is created Group users will have to respond to the covenant before being able to comment.
  • We will need create one for both groups.
  • After creating the Covenant we will revise how admins work and what we need to do to add new people to the group.
  • Beth asked for Fred-Allen to clarify what is needed from other admins until we get the covenant up. He asked that admins help delete the political posts on the page and remove those who repeatedly post politics.
  • Fred-Allen will create the covenant document and get it sent out to the LC to edit.

 

Chaplaincy approval process

  • Beth reports that the 501(c)3 must be completed before the Progressive Christian Alliance can even be considered as a recognized faith group for chaplaincy.
  • Even though we are incorporated it is not enough to be recognized for chaplaincy organizations.

** Due to running out of time we skipped forward to the Brochure.

New Business:

 

Approval of Intercommunion Agreement with TPEC

  • Unanimously approved.

 

Approve PCA Brochure for distribution

  • Beth noted that the front is trifold and the back is not. Lawton shared that the non-trifold section is the inside of the brochure.
  • Lawton will make some refinements to the brochure and send it back out.

 

Affirm new RSL’s and list all others

  • Barbara Tarvid has agreed to take Beth’s place as RSL. Currently she will be a transitional RSL.
  • Jenny Howard will be the southeast region RSL.
  • Both were affirmed unanimously.

 

Tabled to next meeting due to lack of time

501c3 discussion

Ordination Committee and process

Discuss affiliation process and documents

Fund Raising and Funds Management Discussion

Annual Meeting @ Wild Goose Festival

 

Other Business

Next meeting date & time

  • March, 13 – time change Sunday! 6:00 CST

 

Minutes for Leadership Council Meetings

Hello!

The current Leadership Council has met a few times since being elected. We apologize for not updating on minutes, due to transfer of the website to a new server, changes in administration, and technical issues we have been unable to post them.

From this point forward we will be posting meeting minutes shortly after the meetings so everyone will know about the great things that are happening in the Progressive Christian Alliance!

Peace,

Rev. Fred-Allen Self