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What Would Be Your Three Great Reforms?


Adi Gibb
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Being raised in Australia the heavenly sport of cricket has played a large part in my life. One of the most famous of our commentators is someone called Ritchie Benaud, famous as a player, even more famous behind the mic for close to half a century. He was asked once what makes a great player and he replied something like, "I would say 90% of people can identify problems, only about 10% will try and come up with solutions!". To this end, I thought I would ask the question above.

 

I was recently having a conversation with someone about the failings of organised religion and was challenged to come up with three great reforms, effective immediately, which I thought would radically help the Church. I pondered over this, and this is what I came up with. These are my three great reforms!

 

1) SEPARATION: The figure, teacher and meta-physical presence of Jesus, as discovered in and through the NT, should be immediately separated from the doctrine and dogma of the church developed in the name of Jesus. One can and should be a follower of Jesus without necessarily being a follower of a particular church.

 

2) EMPHASIS: Emphasis must be placed on the NT or 'Greek Bible' over the OT or 'Hebrew Bible'. Within the NT emphasis should be placed on the words and teachings of Jesus above all and any other apostles. Within the words and teachings of Jesus emphasis should be placed upon the Golden Rule and the Greatest Commandment above all.

 

3) INCLUSION: There should be an immediate rejection of any exclusivist dogma relating to salvation, whether based on a person's faith (or lack there-of), race, gender, political orientation and sexual orientation. All peoples should be, and already are, within the embrace of the loving Jesus.

 

So there you go, that is what I came up with. Of course there is more I could have included, but that is the point, challenged me to come up with those I found most important. Now if you want to critique my reforms, please feel free to do so, but I would really love to hear your own reforms.

 

If you could, how would you broadly change our faith, and make it better?

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Hi Adi Gibb,

 

Those three would in my view be an excellent start. On number 2, I would recommend Psalms, and Proverbs be included with the NT and the book of Revelations be excluded from the NT.

 

Joseph

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Being raised in Australia the heavenly sport of cricket has played a large part in my life. One of the most famous of our commentators is someone called Ritchie Benaud, famous as a player, even more famous behind the mic for close to half a century. He was asked once what makes a great player and he replied something like, "I would say 90% of people can identify problems, only about 10% will try and come up with solutions!". To this end, I thought I would ask the question above.

 

 

Hi Adi Gibb,

 

I don't know much about cricket, since I come from the land of hockey. (Ice hockey, that is! Summer is officially allowed to begin now that the Stanley Cup is over). But I like the question you've posed.

 

The interesting thing about your question is the way in which it kind of forces a person to crystallize his/her thoughts.

 

I see a lot of openness and inclusiveness in your answer, which is great. I don't think we can build a successful Progressive church without ongoing and intentional loving-kindness towards others.

 

I'm a bit more cynical than most Progressives when it comes down to the "details." For instance, your idea of "separation" (#1) is good in principle, but thorny and extremely difficult to untangle in practice, because each author in the NT presents Jesus in his own way (I don't think, realistically speaking, that any NT authors were women, and this in itself has created problems for Christians).

 

In the United Church of Canada, there have already been significant reforms in the direction of inclusiveness, both at the grassroots level and at the national church level (General Council). Official church policy is to accept gay & lesbian ministers, although some individual congregations still refuse to. Meanwhile, at the political level, same-sex marriage is legal in all provinces and territories of Canada, and even our current Conservative government has little political support for trying to reverse the laws on same-sex marriage. The majority of Canadians are okay with it.

 

But even when these important and necessary moves towards inclusiveness are in place and are part of everyday life, there are still deep problems in the church.

 

So, from a realistic point of view, you have to start somewhere, and "inclusiveness" is an excellent place to start. All I'm saying is that once inclusiveness is firmly established, there will be more things to work on as we continue to deepen our relationship with God.

 

Best to you,

 

Jen

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Hi Jen!

 

I actually saw the Stanley Cup final on ESPN. Had literally no idea what was going on but the pace of the game was incredible and entertaining. Tell me something though, why does every player wear a beard? Am I missing something? You and everyone on this plant should really learn as much about cricket as you can as, when you get heaven, there will be a match on, and Jesus will be a brilliant opening bat! On June 8th the ultimate in the cricket world begins, the Ashes series, where the old foes England and Australia play a series of five test matches (each test lasts up to five days) in England. Can't wait!

 

Thanks for your thoughts. Here in Australia the Anglican Church also allows, in theory, gay clergy and woman ordained to the highest levels, but in practice it is another thing. The Sydney diocese is VERY conservative and blocks a lot of reforms, though they may argue that point.

 

Anyway, what about you, what would your great reforms be?

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Hi Adi Gibb,

 

Those three would in my view be an excellent start. On number 2, I would recommend Psalms, and Proverbs be included with the NT and the book of Revelations be excluded from the NT.

 

Joseph

 

If you leave out Isaiah and Leviticus (or maybe it is Deuteronomy) you leave out God's teaching on having compassion for the poor. And what about the book of Ruth? Rather than excluding the Hebrew bible it is much better to understand it in context. The problem is with holding the bible as sacred. Taking things out is simply laziness, imo.

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I actually saw the Stanley Cup final on ESPN. Had literally no idea what was going on but the pace of the game was incredible and entertaining. Tell me something though, why does every player wear a beard? Am I missing something? You and everyone on this plant should really learn as much about cricket as you can as, when you get heaven, there will be a match on, and Jesus will be a brilliant opening bat! On June 8th the ultimate in the cricket world begins, the Ashes series, where the old foes England and Australia play a series of five test matches (each test lasts up to five days) in England. Can't wait!

As you can tell from previous posts Jen and I do not get along based upon hockey. It is a major religious disagreement. God is obviously a baseball fan although I disagree with Arnold Kanter who wrote the classic book “Is God a Cubs Fan?” We are dealing with the mythic stories about exile and return—about the deep desire for coming home. We are talking about existing outside the world of time—there is no clock in baseball. I have made it a habit to return to Canada every year in hopes that I can help Canadians like Jen. It seems like this is an endless task with not much in the way of recognition.

 

I have found in Victoria this game that is called cricket which is obviously played with much passion. I have watched it on several occasions but it is obvious that the participants do not understand baseball. I have thought on occasion that I should become a missionary to Victoria and preach to the cricket players about baseball but perhaps we should leave that to God to do in her/his own time. So I will pray for you also Adi Gibb and all those within your country who know part of the Truth and call it cricket. You have the right idea that there are bats and balls in heaven and Jesus is a star player.

 

I don’t even know what to say about the Victoria Lawn Bowling Club. They dress up like they are going to Church but it all seems so “high Church” to me. It seems like they all need to let loose a little bit at a baseball stadium. You know a beer, a hot dog and some peanuts would probably help. But being the progressive that I am I can accept different forms of the holy meal. The main point is that to be saved you all need to find a baseball game.

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Adi Gibb

 

In response to the suggested reforms. I am wondering given your purpose of “radically helping the Church” how you would do that without being a follower “of a particular Church”. Faith without “particulars” just does not exist as a Church. You recognize this implicitly when going from your first goal to your second. In fact your first goal contains some kind of “particular” thing about the “meta-physical” that sounds a lot like a “particular” that would be important for you. One “particular” thing that is obviously important for you is Universalism. The UU movement has this history. You may want to consider how you would reform the faith differently than the UU movement. Look at the Christian community within the UU movement and you will find others who share your three points. My point is that the Christian UU community is a particular Church within a particular denomination. You will always end up with some form of this as long as you want to “do Church” with other people. Having said this I fully agree with the general idea of “reformation” and with Spong who says we must help in that process or watch this thing called Christianity die.

 

David

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As you can tell from previous posts Jen and I do not get along based upon hockey. It is a major religious disagreement. God is obviously a baseball fan although I disagree with Arnold Kanter who wrote the classic book “Is God a Cubs Fan?” We are dealing with the mythic stories about exile and return—about the deep desire for coming home. We are talking about existing outside the world of time—there is no clock in baseball. I have made it a habit to return to Canada every year in hopes that I can help Canadians like Jen. It seems like this is an endless task with not much in the way of recognition.

 

I have found in Victoria this game that is called cricket which is obviously played with much passion. I have watched it on several occasions but it is obvious that the participants do not understand baseball. I have thought on occasion that I should become a missionary to Victoria and preach to the cricket players about baseball but perhaps we should leave that to God to do in her/his own time. So I will pray for you also Adi Gibb and all those within your country who know part of the Truth and call it cricket. You have the right idea that there are bats and balls in heaven and Jesus is a star player.

 

I don’t even know what to say about the Victoria Lawn Bowling Club. They dress up like they are going to Church but it all seems so “high Church” to me. It seems like they all need to let loose a little bit at a baseball stadium. You know a beer, a hot dog and some peanuts would probably help. But being the progressive that I am I can accept different forms of the holy meal. The main point is that to be saved you all need to find a baseball game.

 

Ah, now, you see, as with all religious debates, it isn't so cut and dried. Though I am all the way down here in the Antipodes cable allows me to watch MLB almost every night and I am a big Yankees fan myself. I embrace baseball as an American interpretation of the Divine, which is cricket, but I don't see the need for you to convert to cricket, your faith is fine by itself. Indeed, our two great prophets met once! Sir Don Bradman and Babe Ruth met up in America once, there is a picture to prove it! Imagine, Jesus and Buddha shaking hands!

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Adi,

I'm glad you started this great topic!!

 

1. Building Authentic Community - church in my past has included many superficial relationships, built during a 2 minute greeting period during traditional services. Even small groups are often focused on book studies or entertainment so that people do not examine themselves or truly know each other. My prayer is that Christianity will find a way (as a whole) to move beyond superficiality.

 

2. Focus - teachings that help us put relationship with God first in our lives, effect personal change, and actively love others (even enemies) before ourselves. I agree that exclusive rights to salvation and conversion based upon fear should be a thing of the past. So should the 3 joke sermon that barely scratches the surface.

 

3. Being Jesus' Hands and Feet - It seems to me that the church as a whole needs to "get out" more. How about coming together for the ritual of traditional worship less frequently and reaching out our collective hands in love, actually being with people and helping them, rather than sending checks to far off places. I know that many opportunities for service exist and are announced during the worship services, but many people do not make time to do both.

 

These late-night ramblings might seem silly tomorrow, but they are my initial thoughts. Other ideas?

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Nice to see you back, Janet!

 

Adi,

 

I’m not qualified to say much about church reform, but on your second point, I feel it’s important to see the bible as a whole. People read secular history partly to see what to avoid, and the Old Testament can be read as a record of both the bad and the good in humanity – not as “God’s will.” Plus as others have said, there is little teaching in the NT that is not also in the OT.

 

One book that gives a helpful overview of scripture is Marcus Borg’s The God We Never Knew -- he talks about three “macro stories” --

The first is the exodus story, Israel’s bondage/liberation from Egypt-- the journey that became their primal narrative.

The second is the exile story, Babylon in the 6th c. BC. This 50 year exile / return also shaped the Jewish identity.

The third is the priestly story, not grounded in history but in the temple / sacrifice model – the idea that humans require an institution to intervene between them and the divine.

All three stories get resolved with Jesus (according to Borg’s view).

 

------

 

Re post #9

 

I may not be much of a churchgoer, but I’ve always been a member of Red Sox Nation :-)

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Nice to see you back, Janet!

 

Adi,

 

I’m not qualified to say much about church reform, but on your second point, I feel it’s important to see the bible as a whole. People read secular history partly to see what to avoid, and the Old Testament can be read as a record of both the bad and the good in humanity – not as “God’s will.” Plus as others have said, there is little teaching in the NT that is not also in the OT.

 

One book that gives a helpful overview of scripture is Marcus Borg’s The God We Never Knew -- he talks about three “macro stories” --

The first is the exodus story, Israel’s bondage/liberation from Egypt-- the journey that became their primal narrative.

The second is the exile story, Babylon in the 6th c. BC. This 50 year exile / return also shaped the Jewish identity.

The third is the priestly story, not grounded in history but in the temple / sacrifice model – the idea that humans require an institution to intervene between them and the divine.

All three stories get resolved with Jesus (according to Borg’s view).

 

------

 

Re post #9

 

I may not be much of a churchgoer, but I’ve always been a member of Red Sox Nation :-)

 

Now, you see this, this is how progressive I am! As a Yankees fan I still seek dialogue with you, a Red Sox fan heh heh. (Here in Australia we have a Rugby League institution called State of Origin, where the best players from my home state Queensland, play the best from NSW. I never thought I would see as passionate a rivalry as can be found in the State of Origin, until I became a Yankees fan and learnt about the rivalry with the Red Sox. Incredible! But based on mutual respect I guess)

 

Your post and a couple of others have made me realise I should clarify a couple of points (as always, the devil is in the detail)

 

I think David was right in seeking clarification is what I mean by 'Church'. I was specifically referring I guess to the Roman Catholic Diaspora, the Anglican Communion and many of the 'mainstream' Protestant churches. UU would not be included within those I feel need to be 'radically reformed'.

 

Secondly the reaction to my second point has been interesting. I never actually said remove the OT, not one word of it, in fact the only book I have specifically stated I would remove is Revelations, which I stand by. My point was not to remove the OT but rather place the emphasis for Christians and those seeking a CHristian life on the NT and specifically the words attributed to Jesus. Am I saying that these words are more important than anything in the OT? Yes, like Tony Campolo and other Red Letter CHristians, believe they are. Do I believe the OT should be removed and has no importance? Nah!

 

Thanks for the great points Janet, I can see value in all of them. I have done a course a few times called Alpha, which has pros and cons but anyway, the structure of the evening is small intro, Dinner, watch a DVD, tea and dessert, and then discussion. One of my spiritual mentors, a guy called Ron Bundy, once told me he would love to have an entire Ministry based around this structure, and goodbye to boring sermons! Your points reminded me so much of his words.

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in fact the only book I have specifically stated I would remove is Revelations, which I stand by. My point was not to remove the OT but rather place the emphasis for Christians and those seeking a CHristian life on the NT and specifically the words attributed to Jesus.

 

 

I think the reason we read "remove" instead of "emphasis" is because "emphasis" is what is already done. Nothing would be changing. Perhaps to make your point more clear you could word it "emphasis" of Jesus' teachings over Paul's teachings.

 

I don't know how much you have studied the bible but Revelations has some great stuff in it from a literary point of view, as well. People interpret differently than it was intended. So again, removing it suggests to me a lack of understanding about its value. I would say that the problem isn't with the bible. It is with people worshipping the bible and failing to understand it. I'm continually amazed by people (notably fundamentalists and conservatives) who like to quote things out of context, claim the bible guides their life, etc. who have spent almost no time actually studying Greek or Hebrew. And even less time studying the culture.

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I agree with October's Autumn.

I would be terribly sad to see Revelation have to be jettisoned.

To hear people like Borg and Crossan talk about it, makes one realise how important to our history it is.

I also enjoy it for its imagery and language.

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Hi OA and Timeflows, thanks for your thoughts,

 

First I guess I should clarify I have indeed studied the good ole bible, I have a Masters degree in Studies in Religion, in fact, my thesis was on how the passage in Matthew about Pilate washing his hands is in inverse to an instruction found in Dueteronomy. (I am literally in the process of applying to get into a PhD programme as I had to give up my PhD place in 2005 due to work and family committments. Fingers crossed) None of this matters I hasten to add, anyone's views should be respected on these issues which go far beyond an in depth 'study' of the bible, but I guess my views are based on an educated opinion!

 

I think you are right we already emphasis the NT over the OT generally, though there are many arguments in current theology that states they should be viewed equally and as part of a continuum. Okay then, we need to emphasise the NT more, and more and more. My personal reason for saying that is that I am a supercessionist of the highest order. For me the new, quite simply, supercedes the old, Jesus' grace supercedes the God who fires down brimstone on Sodom and puts Job through three days of hell because of a bet with Satan (and yes, I say quickly, I get the metaphorical messages and of course I don't take these things literally). The God I find in the NT, aside from perhaps the part in Acts with Anninias and Saphira, is the God I wish to worship I guess, the fulfillment of the 'servant' and the 'lamb' as mentioned in the OT, hence my personal desire to emphasise that God. Again, I do not wish to remove the OT, as I have already stated, just view it as subsidiary to the NT.

 

As for the Book of Revelations the reason why I and others, and I have to say that includes the Syrian Orthodox Church, many Bishops in the 4th century, others in these message boards and, at least initially, Martin Luther, who stated that Christ was neither taught nor known in it, want it rejected is down to the lateness of its inclusion in the canon, the fact that it is the only prophetic book in the NT and the only book dedicated wholly to an Apocalytptic endgame, which, for me, already places it 'outside' of the rest of the NT. But even if one leaves these things aside, I want it rejected because, quite simply, it is usually Revelations which poke the psychos into action! These left-behinders emphasise this book, and only this book, and, quite frankly, as Gregory of Nazianzus stated in the 4th century, it is difficult to interpret and open to dangerous abuse. Exactly like Gregory, I don't believe this book should be included in the canonical NT. As to its language, fine, study it as we do the Gospel of Thomas, or the Gospel of Peter, as a part of the rich body of Apocrypha the Christian Church has, but not as part of a canonical structure that many, whether we like it or not, take as literal truth, translation or not. I met a couple at Church once who had emigrated to Australia a few years before. We were talking about Revelations and I told them my views. They looked at me agast! They then told me that they had only emigrated to Australia because God had told them to, through a passage in the Book of Revelations. I asked them if they had made the right move in hindsight. Again, agast! The move had been terribly hard on both of them, physically and emotionally, and they miss their family and friends terribly they said, but God had told them what to do, and in the book where he tells the world what will happen to them if they fail to obey him! I decided to go and get a cup of tea!

 

I have read this book many times, all of it, and whether from a linguistic, cultural, historical or biblical context, in my bible, it would be gone! I honestly believe, and, as always, it is a personal opinion which you can totally disagree with, but I honestly believe that no other book has distorted the message of Christ as much as this book.

 

But perhaps I am in the minority. It is, I guess, almost a sub-question. Would you keep the Book of Revelations in your bible? If you did, would you change the wording or context, if so, how?

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As you can tell from previous posts Jen and I do not get along based upon hockey. It is a major religious disagreement. God is obviously a baseball fan although I disagree with Arnold Kanter who wrote the classic book “Is God a Cubs Fan?” We are dealing with the mythic stories about exile and return—about the deep desire for coming home. We are talking about existing outside the world of time—there is no clock in baseball. I have made it a habit to return to Canada every year in hopes that I can help Canadians like Jen. It seems like this is an endless task with not much in the way of recognition.

 

I have found in Victoria this game that is called cricket which is obviously played with much passion. I have watched it on several occasions but it is obvious that the participants do not understand baseball. I have thought on occasion that I should become a missionary to Victoria and preach to the cricket players about baseball but perhaps we should leave that to God to do in her/his own time. So I will pray for you also Adi Gibb and all those within your country who know part of the Truth and call it cricket. You have the right idea that there are bats and balls in heaven and Jesus is a star player.

 

I don’t even know what to say about the Victoria Lawn Bowling Club. They dress up like they are going to Church but it all seems so “high Church” to me. It seems like they all need to let loose a little bit at a baseball stadium. You know a beer, a hot dog and some peanuts would probably help. But being the progressive that I am I can accept different forms of the holy meal. The main point is that to be saved you all need to find a baseball game.

 

David, this is a fantastic piece of writing! Jen

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Hi OA and Timeflows, thanks for your thoughts,

 

First I guess I should clarify I have indeed studied the good ole bible, I have a Masters degree in Studies in Religion,

 

And I have a masters in NT theology... I don't know how much of your degree included biblical studies but if it did I'm surprised you were so willing to dump so much of the bible. Studying religion and studying the bible are 2 very different things.

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And I have a masters in NT theology... I don't know how much of your degree included biblical studies but if it did I'm surprised you were so willing to dump so much of the bible. Studying religion and studying the bible are 2 very different things.

 

Okay, well, let's agree to disagree on this particular issue. Fair deal?

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Rather than remove a book from the canon, I would prefer to see the entire canon as a product of particular times and situations and therefore not possessed of a uniquely "authoritative" position as the "word of God." My position, though, causes me some grief, as my denomination (PCUSA) insists on calling the Bible "unique and authoritative." I have not dealt with that position well. So perhaps my favorite reform would be to remove that kind of language from the "official" documents of the denomination.

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Rather than remove a book from the canon, I would prefer to see the entire canon as a product of particular times and situations and therefore not possessed of a uniquely "authoritative" position as the "word of God." My position, though, causes me some grief, as my denomination (PCUSA) insists on calling the Bible "unique and authoritative." I have not dealt with that position well. So perhaps my favorite reform would be to remove that kind of language from the "official" documents of the denomination.

 

I agree with what you've said here. Thank you.

 

Jen

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Well, if we get to vote, put me down for the reforms suggested in posts #12 and #22. I would also add, since we are in the mood for reform, that we take care of some unfinished business from the last Protestant Reformation movement, and get rid of the clergy/laity system.

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Rather than remove a book from the canon, I would prefer to see the entire canon as a product of particular times and situations and therefore not possessed of a uniquely "authoritative" position as the "word of God." My position, though, causes me some grief, as my denomination (PCUSA) insists on calling the Bible "unique and authoritative." I have not dealt with that position well. So perhaps my favorite reform would be to remove that kind of language from the "official" documents of the denomination.

 

 

That is my position exactly. The problem isn't with the bible. It is with how people view the bible.

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