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In short, I think that Christians have something significant to say about God, and starting new churches seems to be the most stewardly, effective, and respectful way of going about it.  It enables us to honor our past and embrace the future at the same time.  So it's not a matter of whether we have something to say; it's a matter of how we go about saying it.

 

Good thoughts.

 

Do you have a vision of what these "new churches" would look like? How would they be different; how the same?

 

I attempt this sometimes...to envision what would constitute a church I could

commit to. Even on the small scale of my own personal preferences it's a daunting task.

 

I'd like to hear more of what you have to say on this topic Xian. Maybe when you have the time you could start a new thread where we may focus more on this.

 

lily

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Reaching out to people in love is something people of faith are called to do.  I think progressive Christians often hide our talents under a bushel and don't get out there and let people know how much we love them.  I definitely believe any reaching out we do to invite people to our fellowship needs to be coupled closely with our efforts on behalf of peace and justice.

 

Sounds good. I can't argue with a single word you've said...and yet, I'm troubled by something vaguely exasperating about what you've said nonetheless. There is an oft-times huge gap between what we are called to do and what we can authentically do. Ideally, people of faith would reach out to everything in love; our every move would be drenched in it; the Christ-Life should burn so bright in us that doing the "right" thing at the "right" time should come as natural as breathing. But we both know that this is rarely the case. We've forgotten that this Grace comes after trials and testings, after weaning and winnowing, after initiations, and after countless little deaths and resurrections, and the church, from where I sit, would be best served by focusing there; on providing an adytum, a sanctuary, a community for people who are committed to this process that God initiates and furthers within them. There is ample evidence to suggest that this is what the early church took upon itself...training the called in the Way, facilitating those who are called by providing guidance with knowledge of the "ordeals" of transformation; empowering by way of transmission; and providing nurture through the sacred rituals of our tradition.

 

Then, it seems to me, that the fruits of the Spirit would overflow within and through us, and all our "reaching out in love" would come with the authority of Christ who alone saves.

 

In my opinion, evangelism too often runs the risk of arrogance. It too often claims to know the right way while saying far too little about the awareness from which this right way springs. It is also way too self-protective in its insistence that this right way is the only right way, and thus offers "salvation" too cheaply and superficially in order to "save some" from damnation....and then, worst of all, it will often sit in your living room for hours arguing with you....sheeesh.

 

When Jesus ushered the directive to go out into the world to proclaim the good news the good news was news. When the word rang out it rang out with the authority (a word that shares the same root with the word "authentic" btw) of Justified men and women; profoundly changed men and women who amazed the largely pagan populace of the time because they demonstrably loved one another; not by going around proclaiming some idea of unconditional love, but by living it, and being it.

 

I know that Cynthia will say that I am preaching to the choir again, and I'm sure that she'd be right if she did, but it is important to acknowledge at this point in my diatribe that I refuse to ignore the fact that Christianity has struck a sour note on many levels in the maws of the world. And I must be completely honest in saying that in many cases I find this justified. And I know that the we've been warned that the world would not understand us, but the fact is that the world understands too many of us far too well. It understands arrogance, judgementalism, religious naivete, smugness, irrelevance, injustice and the lot quite well. Dying before you die? so that not you, but Christ lives through you...nah, most "materialists" or "muggles" don't understand this at all.

 

Pity too...because this is the only good news we've got.

 

 

lily

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"I know that Cynthia will say that I am preaching to the choir again, "

 

LOL lily! I totally agree. I notice that although my faith is currently central to my life, I am comfortable with Jesus as savior (see all the other threads for ideas on what that means :P ), I still cringe when people ask me if I'm a Christian (capital C) or treat me as 'part of the club' because they know I attend an acceptable church. I hear christianity as a four letter word most of the time.... <_< .

 

Actually, this drives my sense of evangelism. I have a burning need to let people know that much of what is done publically in the name of Christ would make Him spit. :angry: And, especially, to let them know the unknown... that you can be a christian without all the exclusivism, hate, and hypocrisy. That's the Good News that is not known, IMO.

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We are all bargining with ourselves, but you seem to project a rich presence, which is not a matter of material extravagance but of sanity and spiritual radiance. I enjoyed what you wrote and the replies. We don't know what Jesus wants, but he will present himself to you in an opportunity so be open and not afraid. It will probably be where you least expect and don't want to go, but that is where you will grow the fastest. We the uncut diamond lay before Jesus the master craftsman who cuts, grinds and polishes us so we may shine with his radiance. We all project different angles to reflect that light. I personally am not gay, but my all inclusive path of Christianity is leading me to many interesting opportunities to grow closer to God.

 

http://thinkunity.com

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Lily

 

I believe that you've carved out a sensible delineation of the crisis of belief that we all find ourselves in.

 

On the one hand we strive to become as one on the material and secular side of things by complying with laws enacted by our elected peers and enforced by our publicly paid enforcers and protectors. But the underlying principle on this side of the equation is that we are also all equivalent under the definitions of the law, and in this regard we are still encouraged to behave and think as individuals, taking personal responsibility for our actions in the secular world. A really complex foundation for erratic bipolar behavior if you ask me.

 

Then there's this guy who magically appeared 2,000 years ago, taught his peers new ways of looking at and dealing with the repressions of the world at that time, and above all stressed the concept of oneness as defined and protected under the wings of love as it were. He directed his immediate followers to start churches in his name to carry his words and concepts into the future. He promised hard life, suffering, and rejection for those who followed the 'Way', but He stressed that the oneness achieved by the individuals who took this path would enable them to not really taste death.

 

I believe it all worked pretty well until about the time of the second world war. Then science and technology began to transform all of our lives to the extent that it is now very difficult to define what it means to act and function as "real" human beings in a "natural" world. The beginnings of this massive transformation actually extend back to the mid-nineteenth century. But the cultural conflicts that this has engendered were not really very self-evident until we began to assume technical and administrative control of life processes.

 

Taking all this into account, just what sort of "new" church could be initialized to compromise these immense ethical conflicts for a secular world. After all we are not monks in caves, hiding from the world to preserve knowledge for the future. We are the ones creating the new knowledge in the world that we must earn a living in; and today, we have almost no voice or control over how knowledge is to be controlled or used for the purported benefit of our children and grandchildren. And the authorities who are supposed to be doing this on our behalf are constantly at each others' throats in neverending secular-cultural warfare.

 

DUHHHH! :unsure:

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Actually, this drives my sense of evangelism.  I have a burning need to let people know that much of what is done publically in the name of Christ would make Him spit. :angry:  And, especially, to let them know the unknown... that you can be a christian without all the exclusivism, hate, and hypocrisy.  That's the Good News that is not known, IMO.

 

Right...and I'm not talking about hiding any lights under bushels or anything. I am very outspoken in defense when I feel that our tradition is being unfairly heaped upon its lowest common denomination. Jamake Highwater said somewhere that it is only the worst and the best in a culture, society, religion that defines it; the good, decent, middle-of-the-roaders don't really affect that much. Currently, in popular opinion, Christianity is generally defined by its worst manifestations, and we can cry foul all we want and bemoan the injustice, but we still have to face it squarely and take responsiblity for it. My concern is that we will act out of a self-consciousness that comes from a hyper-awareness of Christianities image and water down the tradition in an effort to appease the world and end up losing all that is vital and powerful and life-changing within it.

 

I think we find ourselves in a unique time where bold and radical revisioning can take place. But before this can happen we may have to let go our persistent need to be the worlds dominant religion and instead focus on becoming a religion of substance for the world.

 

lily

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Reaching out to people in love is something people of faith are called to do.  I think progressive Christians often hide our talents under a bushel and don't get out there and let people know how much we love them.  I definitely believe any reaching out we do to invite people to our fellowship needs to be coupled closely with our efforts on behalf of peace and justice.

 

Sounds good. I can't argue with a single word you've said...and yet, I'm troubled by something vaguely exasperating about what you've said nonetheless. There is an oft-times huge gap between what we are called to do and what we can authentically do. Ideally, people of faith would reach out to everything in love; our every move would be drenched in it; the Christ-Life should burn so bright in us that doing the "right" thing at the "right" time should come as natural as breathing. But we both know that this is rarely the case. We've forgotten that this Grace comes after trials and testings, after weaning and winnowing, after initiations, and after countless little deaths and resurrections, and the church, from where I sit, would be best served by focusing there; on providing an adytum, a sanctuary, a community for people who are committed to this process that God initiates and furthers within them. There is ample evidence to suggest that this is what the early church took upon itself...training the called in the Way, facilitating those who are called by providing guidance with knowledge of the "ordeals" of transformation; empowering by way of transmission; and providing nurture through the sacred rituals of our tradition.

 

Then, it seems to me, that the fruits of the Spirit would overflow within and through us, and all our "reaching out in love" would come with the authority of Christ who alone saves.

 

In my opinion, evangelism too often runs the risk of arrogance. It too often claims to know the right way while saying far too little about the awareness from which this right way springs. It is also way too self-protective in its insistence that this right way is the only right way, and thus offers "salvation" too cheaply and superficially in order to "save some" from damnation....and then, worst of all, it will often sit in your living room for hours arguing with you....sheeesh.

 

When Jesus ushered the directive to go out into the world to proclaim the good news the good news was news. When the word rang out it rang out with the authority (a word that shares the same root with the word "authentic" btw) of Justified men and women; profoundly changed men and women who amazed the largely pagan populace of the time because they demonstrably loved one another; not by going around proclaiming some idea of unconditional love, but by living it, and being it.

 

I know that Cynthia will say that I am preaching to the choir again, and I'm sure that she'd be right if she did, but it is important to acknowledge at this point in my diatribe that I refuse to ignore the fact that Christianity has struck a sour note on many levels in the maws of the world. And I must be completely honest in saying that in many cases I find this justified. And I know that the we've been warned that the world would not understand us, but the fact is that the world understands too many of us far too well. It understands arrogance, judgementalism, religious naivete, smugness, irrelevance, injustice and the lot quite well. Dying before you die? so that not you, but Christ lives through you...nah, most "materialists" or "muggles" don't understand this at all.

 

Pity too...because this is the only good news we've got.

 

 

lily

 

This great post deserves a thoughtful and comprehensive response. But I don't have time right now to do that so I will simply ask a question: How do Progressive Christians carry out the Great Commission?

 

I do think there is a huge constituency out there who wants (needs?) a fellowship where they can share their stories and grow in an atmosphere of acceptance which too many churches both "mainline" and "evangelical" are not providing. How do we find these people and bring them "home"? Or do we just have to wait?

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How do Progressive Christians carry out the Great Commission? 

 

I do think there is a huge constituency out there who wants (needs?) a fellowship where they can share their stories and grow in an atmosphere of acceptance which too many churches  both "mainline" and "evangelical" are not providing.  How do we find these people and bring them "home"?  Or do we just have to wait?

 

Well, we can start by studying the Great Commission itself. The call is to make disciples, not to invite people to a fellowship; then, AFTER a period of discipleship they are to be baptised, and then further instructed and taught in the Way of Jesus the Christ. There were steps in place at the time the original commission was sounded, initiations which those who were committed to discipleship were expected to take. There was a choice involved. One didn't just go to church; one submitted to spiritual direction, initiation, and the ordeals of leaving behind ones past life and beginning life anew as a Christ One. The early Christians literally gave up all property and private financial holdings and shared all equally with those in the community. The Call was a radical departure from "business as usual". It was a literal call to lay down ones life and embrace the Life of God in Christ.

 

These days, the Great Commission is nothing more than getting people to profess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, granting them eternal salvation based on this verbal acquiesence, and setting them loose upon the churchs and the world.

 

I too am short of time right now...but, there is a lot of meat for discussion here and I hope others will join in.

 

lily

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How do Progressive Christians carry out the Great Commission? 

 

I do think there is a huge constituency out there who wants (needs?) a fellowship where they can share their stories and grow in an atmosphere of acceptance which too many churches  both "mainline" and "evangelical" are not providing.  How do we find these people and bring them "home"?  Or do we just have to wait?

 

Well, we can start by studying the Great Commission itself. The call is to make disciples, not to invite people to a fellowship;

 

When I read back over my own posts the tone of some seem a lot more uncompromising than I really feel. But I take this tone to make points that seem important to me, and to strengthen the impact of what I think needs to be questioned, such as why are we concerned more with "span" then we are with "depth"? with more people rather than with more people genuinely changed? with attendance rather than attainment?

 

At the risk of an over-generalization, there seem to be two types of people drawn to spiritual and religious groups or organizations: one type seeks fellowship or companionship with like-minded individuals who share common interests, values and mores; they want to raise their kids in a moral environment where the basics of religious teaching is available; they want to attend church on Sunday, maybe participate in a few charitable efforts the church sponsers throughout the week, or a bible study,and for the rest they want to be left to live their lives as they see fit without too much interference from "the church" itself. This type is probably the majority (and this type is not exclusive to Christians, as Pagan groups can roughly be divided into these two types as well). The other type of person is seeking a direct encounter with God; to be changed and transformed; to experience the promises of God in Christ leading to enlightenment, empowerment, and a radical revisioning of what humanity is and what the world can be in God.

 

These two types have been with us always. I could even go so far as to say that the split between the orthodox and the so-called heretical movements is characterized by these two types. The one is happy to put the responsiblity of their salvation into the hands of those who are ordained according to the apostolic succession or other chain of command and the other is aware that they stand alone before God accountable to Him alone. The two are not going to envision "church" the same way.

 

I could venture to say, that by all accounts, Jesus and the movement he began was more of the second type than the first. There was no "business as usual" in Jesus's ministry or in his message. There were no half-way measures, no accomodations to the comfort, stability and security of the status quo. It was, "let the dead bury the dead and follow Me". Period.

 

In my mind, religion by its very nature is a radical departure from business as usual. Siddhartha forsook everything to experience Buddha nature; Odin hung himself from a tree; Jesus, of course, gave up his life unto death...None of these was satisfied that by being "good" that He could attain to the Truth. A decent life; an orderly life; a moral life is a good life, but its not a transformative life and it won't change the world. In our tradition it is written that only those who give up their lives will experience the Christ life and become mediators of Gods Will to the world. Only the Sons of God can work true miracles of transformation and healing and regeneration. The rest of us are biding our time in hopes that heaven awaits us in the afterlife and that hell is for everyone else. But how will we see heaven if we are not changed? How will we see God if we are not transformed into his likeness? How will we vanquish death if we do not die in this life to experience resurrection into life everlasting now?

 

As a political and social construct church is fine, except insofar as those within them claim superiority over those who are not. But as a vehicle of transformation most are found wanting. At least from where I sit. And so I grieve the trend to make "church" palatable to the masses, even though I know the trend will continue. And I grieve even more that there are those among us who feel in a position to condemn and to judge and to dominate while being nothing more than "whitewashed tombs" who don the appearance of holiness without sacrifice.

 

The world will no longer hear these.

 

Jesus never denied the reality of sin or ignorance among us. He never turned his face from the reality of suffering and injustice. But he ALWAYS turned the pointed finger back at the one pointing and until we realize that WE must be changed, all our moralizing and condemning and smug assurances are as sounding brass...and THIS is what I feel the church needs to be focused on, NOT herding in more "sheep" to bump around in the aisles together.

 

lily

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The Christ way is to lay aside our fears, doubts and worries so we can enter into a silent, peaceful contemplation of God the Father. God's consciousness is within us and destroys our doubts and fears, and casts out all uncertainty and disbelief. If people let go, drop every fear from their mind, and enter into inner communion with the Father in the Medium of love as the fundamental element, one will draw full, complete and perfect joy, which causes one to surrender to the Father. The joy is the proof that it is not superstition. God removes every mental obstruction to peace because we surrender all confusion, doubt, condemnation and judgment to Him. I feel my station is to help people find the inner joy, love and silence that is inside of them with Jesus as a guide because I feel this is what Jesus has done for me.

 

http://thinkunity.com

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Well, we can start by studying the Great Commission itself. The call is to make disciples, not to invite people to a fellowship; then, AFTER a period of discipleship  they are to be baptised, and then further instructed and taught in the Way of Jesus the Christ. There were steps in place at the time the original commission was sounded, initiations which those who were committed to discipleship were expected to take. There was a choice involved. One didn't just go to church; one submitted to spiritual direction, initiation, and the ordeals of leaving behind ones past life and beginning life anew as a Christ One. The early Christians literally gave up all property and private financial holdings and shared all equally with those in the community. The Call was a radical departure from "business as usual". It was a literal call to lay down ones life and embrace the Life of God in Christ.

 

These days, the Great Commission is nothing more than getting people to profess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, granting them eternal salvation based on this verbal acquiesence, and setting them loose upon the churchs and the world.

 

 

I agree with most of what is said here - and I certainly agree with what I believe to be Lily's message -That the Great Commission involves Christ-like living not just repeating some rote prayer and thereby beliving oneself saved from the fires of hell.

 

I do however differ with one point - "AFTER a period of discipleship they are to be baptised,"

 

I firmly believe in the importance of infant baptism as a way to show God's love for all humanity. We are afterall, ALL God's children. I see this as perhaps the most inclusive of all sacraments - that God offer's God's love to all of us at all times and all stages of life, even when we are unaware of it. This sarament affrims our belief that we are all members of God's family.

 

I also don't believe in the practice of "re-baptism". Since, I believe we are celebrating God's inclusive love in the sacrament to begin with - to do it over again would be to imply that somehow it didn't work the first time. I don't have any problem with a re-affirmation of the baptismal covenant as long as it is understood to be a re-affirmation and not a re-baptism.

 

In the cases of adults who have never been baptized as Children - I feel that Baptism is appropriate as soon as they desire it and begin to identify themselves with the Christian faith tradition. I do not think that they need to wait for a period of discipleship before they are baptised. My mind goes to the interatction with Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch - with Philip saying (Ok - not in some manuscripts :) "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest".

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I agree with most of what is said here - and I certainly agree with what I believe to be Lily's message -That the Great Commission involves Christ-like living not just repeating some rote prayer and thereby beliving oneself saved from the fires of hell.

 

...except that we probably have different understandings of "the fires of hell", if not what constitutes "Christ-like living", which is okay...diversity of belief within Christianity is as old as Christianity itself. The problem with that, and consequently in responding to this post, is that it begins to feel pointless to debate creed. Catholicism is well established in its sacrament of infant baptism and most Catholics have heard all the arguements against it before. I, personally, feel that the sacraments are oaths and dedications as well as celebrations and infants can't take oaths.

 

I do however differ with one point - "AFTER a period of discipleship  they are to be baptised," 

 

I firmly believe in the importance of infant baptism as a way to show God's love for all humanity. We are afterall, ALL God's children.

 

See, I think the Cross covered that. I think the sacraments are for those who consciously and willingly come to the Cross as called, and again, one can't really say that infants consciously and willingly receive the sacrament. I feel that the blood of Christ or the Crucifixion accomplished the adoption of all humanity already. Babies are covered. The sacraments are for those who become awakened to or seek awakening of the fact of redemption, so that they can yield to the deeper and higher implications of that Truth, ie, be changed by it.

 

The taking of an oath in the days of Jesus was a very serious thing. A "man's" word meant something then. I think my last few posts are really about that; returning the gravitas and the mystery to the decision to be Christian, and to renew the sacraments fresh and vital and alive again for those who don't find the conventional or conservative ways of administering them sufficiently "moving" anymore, or for the many who don't see the point of honoring them at all.

 

 

I see this as perhaps the most inclusive of all sacraments - that God offer's God's love to all of us at all times and all stages of life, even when we are unaware of it. This sarament affrims our belief that we are all members of God's family. 

 

I don't agree. I think baptism is the first sacrament that marks you as one of Gods' "peculiar people". I do not consider it all-inclusive. Everything else you say in the above passage I do agree with and I see no contradiction in that. Gods' steadfast love is new every morning and eternally flowing out to ALL creation, but this is true whether you are Christian or not. Therefore the sacraments are a unique oath taken by those who are called to be disciples of Christ, which is, in case you haven't noticed, not everybody.

 

 

I also don't believe in the practice of "re-baptism". Since, I believe we are celebrating God's inclusive love in the sacrament to begin with - to do it over again would be to imply that somehow it didn't work the first time.  I don't have any problem with a re-affirmation of the baptismal covenant as long as it is understood to be a re-affirmation and not a re-baptism. 

 

Well, I think a good point to consider here is whether or not the sacraments are for man or for God. I've been baptised three times. Once as an infant, again at age seven, and then again at age 35. Excepting the first, which couldn't be as I was not yet aware, each time was uniquely meaningful for me. I mean, when you boil it all down, you can get dunked a million times and it means nothing unless it does. Ideally, I agree with you. Ones decision to follow Christ never leaves you. Once you've taken the oath, you're "held" to it in some mysterious way and He never leaves you alone or at peace unless you are honoring it...or so has been my experience.

 

In the cases of adults who have never been baptized as Children - I feel that Baptism is appropriate as soon as they desire it and begin to identify themselves with the Christian faith tradition. I do not think that they need to wait for a period of discipleship before they are baptised. My mind goes to the interatction with Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch - with Philip saying (Ok - not in some manuscripts :) "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest".

 

Yeah, I agree, but "believing with all thine heart" is not a small thing.

 

Thanks for the discussion Carl.

 

lily

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Everything is first developed in the unseen, before it is visible in the world we see. The spiritual ideal from the soul is first invisible before it manifests into the material world. In the material world it is manipulated with the intellect, desires.and people of authority who want power. I think the best thing is to live sincerely and act without words. The soul to soul contact is communication on a much higher plane than on the physical.

Everyone has a purpose Cynthia I think you are on the high road and doing a great service. I feel my station in life is to stear people to the internal Christ consciousness that speaks directly to the soul.

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Some Christian philosophies and theories have a lack of total explanation; therefore, they have lost the power to bring about the original, spiritual, experience of oneness and have become superstitions and an impediment on the road to spiritual development. The world that intersects spirituality and Christianity is unclear and confusing because some ministers and priest are preaching to control the mass, their flock and not to instill a spiritual experience with Christ. With Christian explanations, we can touch the point, the pulse, the essence of the real problem which is the relation between the individual consciousness and the mystery of all life, the universal Christ consciousness, but the imagination and intuition are vital to this understanding so that God ceases to be an object and becomes an actual experience.

 

http://thinkunity.com

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