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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.

Reminder: 501(c)3 Fundraiser and Constitution Change

Hi Friends!

We are so close to our goal of raising $400 to file for our official 501(c)3 status. If you would like to donate and haven’t yet, please click here.

We also have an amendment proposal for our constitution that is required to be in our constitution by the IRS for 501(c)3 status. If you haven’t read about it or voted, please click here.

Thank you so much for your support! The Leadership Council is very excited about this very important stage in our organization’s development, and once we’ve filed, we hope we can serve our community even better!

Many Blessings,
Rev. Gina
Councillor-at-Large

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

Dear Friends,

Our Progressive Christian Faith was born of the Spirit in the face of the tyranny of hate and violence in our culture. This continued tyranny expressed at Mother Emmanuel in Charlestown and Pulse 1 in Orlando and in many other venues is our ongoing call to strive for the grace of the Mind of Christ and to exercise our gifts accordingly.

Let us preach love and restorative justice to the limit of the faith that has given to us; let us give loving serving attendance to the oppressed among us, the LBGTQ community, the immigrant, people of color, those in prison, the poor and religious minorities.
Let us cheer one another on, inspire each other, pep one another up in the work of social justice and radical inclusion.
May we be conscientious in paying attention to the task given to us as The Progressive Christian Alliance; giving the degree of care required in the current situation with a preserving determination to the performance of compassion for all God’s creation.
Grace & Peace,
R. Lawton  Higgs
Leadership Council Chair

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

A Call to Action

In Memoriam: Rev. Katharine Royal

It is with great sadness that we have learned that Rev. Katharine Royal, PCA pastor and member of the Leadership Council, has passed away suddenly. Our prayers and sympathies are with Rev. Micah Royal and their family during this time.

May God bless you and hold you. What is remembered lives.

candlesingle

Update from the Leadership Council:

The Leadership Council is saddened by the report of the unexpected death our Co-Chair Katharine Royal. Her spouse reports that Kat spent the day before participating in the ministry she loved so well. She was immersed in joy and died peacefully in her sleep. Please, keep Micah Royal and her Progressive Christian Alliance family in your thoughts and prayers.

Rev. Ann Joyce

Leadership Council Chair

 

October is Pastor Appreciation Month!

October is traditionally Pastor’s Appreciation Month.

With that in mind, I thank you all for all the ministries in which you participate. Thank you for sharing the extravagant love and openness of God. I appreciate all of you!

Rev. Ann Joyce, 

Leadership Council Chair

Website Outage and Clergy Listings

Just to let you know the site was down for awhile, but has now been fixed. Unfortunately, the outage was due to the plugin that creates our clergy listings. For right now, the clergy listings are down, but I will be recreating them over the next few days. If you need to contact the leaders of the Progressive Christian Alliance, please send us an email.

Our apologies for the outage, and thank you for your patience.

bb’s
Rev. Gina
your friendly webmaster