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David
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As my first post let me think big.

I am ready to think about a new denomination. I am not satisfied with waiting on the current denominations to go through possible splits and possible transformations. Nor am I satisfied with individual/local emerging groups that speak to local concerns.

This suggestion is obviously not directed to those who are to some degree satisfied with their church alternatives or who see potential in working on anything less than a new denomination. However, I am wondering if anyone knows of others that are thinking big. If so please direct me to those persons.

David

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As my first post let me think big.

I am ready to think about a new denomination. I am not satisfied with waiting on the current denominations to go through possible splits and possible transformations. Nor am I satisfied with individual/local emerging groups that speak to local concerns.

This suggestion is obviously not directed to those who are to some degree satisfied with their church alternatives or who see potential in working on anything less than a new denomination. However, I am wondering if anyone knows of others that are thinking big. If so please direct me to those persons.

David

 

I don't know of anyone else who is thinking big, but I am interested in learning more about what you would envision this new denomination to be like. It may be similar to what I am looking for, or maybe not. I'm not actually sure if there are many others who are looking for what I am looking for.

 

As for me, I have been frustrated with the sense that there is no denomination that really suits what I am looking for. I am uninterested in existing Christian denominations, even the liberal ones like UCC, because of their use of language, rites, and creeds that to me signal an old paradigm (and yet, unlike Marcus Borg, I cannot recite creeds that I don't believe to be true.) On the other hand, Unitarian Universalism is too amorphous and unfocused to satisfy what I am seeking. What I want is something new that rests within the niche that lies between these two kinds of denominations, a liberal theology similar to what people like Spong and Borg advocate, but lying outside of churches that use the language and rites and creeds of the old orthodoxy. I just discovered this forum by doing some web searching, and I am trying to determine if there are others who see things as I do, or if I am really alone in my theology and what I seek in a religius community. I don't really have the desire to reform any of the existing denominations that I know about; but I wonder if there really is any kind of critical mass for creating something.

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I don't know of anyone else who is thinking big, but I am interested in learning more about what you would envision this new denomination to be like. It may be similar to what I am looking for, or maybe not. I'm not actually sure if there are many others who are looking for what I am looking for.

 

As for me, I have been frustrated with the sense that there is no denomination that really suits what I am looking for. I am uninterested in existing Christian denominations, even the liberal ones like UCC, because of their use of language, rites, and creeds that to me signal an old paradigm (and yet, unlike Marcus Borg, I cannot recite creeds that I don't believe to be true.) On the other hand, Unitarian Universalism is too amorphous and unfocused to satisfy what I am seeking. What I want is something new that rests within the niche that lies between these two kinds of denominations, a liberal theology similar to what people like Spong and Borg advocate, but lying outside of churches that use the language and rites and creeds of the old orthodoxy. I just discovered this forum by doing some web searching, and I am trying to determine if there are others who see things as I do, or if I am really alone in my theology and what I seek in a religius community. I don't really have the desire to reform any of the existing denominations that I know about; but I wonder if there really is any kind of critical mass for creating something.

 

How about the Universalit/Unitarians?

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Thank you for responding.

I too have been caught between the UCC and UU and I too am frustrated with Borg and Spong. Borg has repeatedly said that he has no problem with the Nicene Creed. I just got back from Portland OR where he was to speak on "The Future Church" but gave us nothing more than a New Vision of Jesus/God. His wife's Church reflects nothing new on Sunday. I have watched Spong write about how Christianity must change or die and then suggest that he is impressed that the priests in many churches now face the congregation rather than the alter (not the kind of changes I have in mind). Don't get me wrong-I love Borg and Spong--I just don't think they are prepared to talk about what the future church may look like.

Generally I think there has to be some continuity between the results of what Borg and Spong have shown us and how we do church. For instance, it is well accepted that the Bible is true not based on history but based upon the truth of the metaphor (don't climb the sign post that points towards the road). Yet we sit in pews and listen to three point logical sermons and say creeds that do not sound at all metaphorical. The langauge that we need to speak is musical. The "liberal" seminary does not teach its students how to do church via the musical language (yes music needs logical rules but this does not necessarily lead to great music). I was impressed in Portland with Brian McLaren who is an evangelical that is willing to talk to progressives. His presentation reflected the power of the metaphor. It is interesting to note that McLaren is not seminary trained. We can learn a lot from people like him about how to do church even though I can not support his theology.

Listen to Michael Durall who writes about his vision of the UU Church of the future:

"These churches will have no steeples. no organs, no pews, and no stained glass windows. They are likely to be warehoused in low-rent industrial districts...These places will be noisy and boisterous, full of excitement and energy. Worship will be highly participatory...People will be close together, sing loudly and have their arms around one another's shoulders. The music--jaza, blues, rock and roll and rap will be live, preformed by professional musicians. The lighting will be colorful and dramatic. These services will go on for two hours or more, after which people will stay and share a meal together, a gourmet fare prepared by a first rate caterer. Potluck is a relic of the past...Worship will be conducted to two to three languages, alternating from one to another, with the text of hymns and prayer projected onto large screens, so that all can particpate so to some extent...These churches will attract interracial couples, both straight and gay, bringing the mix we have never been able to achieve before".

It seems to me that the new Progressive Christian Church will be staffed by professional musicians who may be more important than trained seminarians (yes I am one of those). I wonder if anyone else that is interested in Progressive Christianity may wonder what The Progressive Christian Chuch may look like?

P.S. Now I look back on this post and see how unmusical it is. Oh well, to recognize the problem......

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What I want is something new that rests within the niche that lies between these two kinds of denominations, a liberal theology similar to what people like Spong and Borg advocate, but lying outside of churches that use the language and rites and creeds of the old orthodoxy.

 

Have you looked into Quakers? There are two kinds of meetings: programmed and unprogrammed. The unprogrammed meetings are contemplative (meditative) in nature. The members sit and wait and listen.

 

I've never been, but I've been interested in attending.

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Thank you for responding.

I too have been caught between the UCC and UU and I too am frustrated with Borg and Spong. Borg has repeatedly said that he has no problem with the Nicene Creed. I just got back from Portland OR where he was to speak on "The Future Church" but gave us nothing more than a New Vision of Jesus/God. His wife's Church reflects nothing new on Sunday. I have watched Spong write about how Christianity must change or die and then suggest that he is impressed that the priests in many churches now face the congregation rather than the alter (not the kind of changes I have in mind). Don't get me wrong-I love Borg and Spong--I just don't think they are prepared to talk about what the future church may look like.

 

I have drawn a lot of inspiration from Borg and Spong, but, like you, I feel like they have refused to take their views to what I think are their logical conclusion. Their theological ideas are great, but their attachment to traditional Christian churches that use traditional language and traditional creeds just doesn't work for me at all. They want to merge new theological paradigms with modes of expressing them worshipfully that emerged out of the old paradigms. As Jesus said, you can't put new wine into old wineskins.

 

I notice that Matthew Fox, in his latest book, has called for a complete rupture between the old and the new Christianities, but I wonder what he means by this. Last I heard, he was an Episcopalian like Borg and Spong. Borg never calls for that kind of rupture in any case. He seems to talk a lot in his books about bridging the gaps between the followers of the old paradigm and the followers of the new, which I think makes no sense.

 

Generally I think there has to be some continuity between the results of what Borg and Spong have shown us and how we do church. For instance, it is well accepted that the Bible is true not based on history but based upon the truth of the metaphor (don't climb the sign post that points towards the road). Yet we sit in pews and listen to three point logical sermons and say creeds that do not sound at all metaphorical.

 

Exactly! This is what I can't undestand. It is one thing to understand that biblical narratives are metaphorical; it is another thing altogether to recite creeds, which are meant to be literal affirmations of belief and which serve by definition as litmus tests of belief, which one doesn't believe to be literally true! This is one part of Borg's theology that I just can't accept.

 

The langauge that we need to speak is musical. The "liberal" seminary does not teach its students how to do church via the musical language (yes music needs logical rules but this does not necessarily lead to great music). I was impressed in Portland with Brian McLaren who is an evangelical that is willing to talk to progressives. His presentation reflected the power of the metaphor. It is interesting to note that McLaren is not seminary trained. We can learn a lot from people like him about how to do church even though I can not support his theology.

Listen to Michael Durall who writes about his vision of the UU Church of the future:

"These churches will have no steeples. no organs, no pews, and no stained glass windows. They are likely to be warehoused in low-rent industrial districts...These places will be noisy and boisterous, full of excitement and energy. Worship will be highly participatory...People will be close together, sing loudly and have their arms around one another's shoulders. The music--jaza, blues, rock and roll and rap will be live, preformed by professional musicians. The lighting will be colorful and dramatic. These services will go on for two hours or more, after which people will stay and share a meal together, a gourmet fare prepared by a first rate caterer. Potluck is a relic of the past...Worship will be conducted to two to three languages, alternating from one to another, with the text of hymns and prayer projected onto large screens, so that all can particpate so to some extent...These churches will attract interracial couples, both straight and gay, bringing the mix we have never been able to achieve before".

It seems to me that the new Progressive Christian Church will be staffed by professional musicians who may be more important than trained seminarians (yes I am one of those). I wonder if anyone else that is interested in Progressive Christianity may wonder what The Progressive Christian Chuch may look like?

P.S. Now I look back on this post and see how unmusical it is. Oh well, to recognize the problem......

 

It's funny, but the musical part of services never did anything for me in worship, which is probably why I was attracted for a period of time to Quaker silent worship. But I would surmise that not everyone is pleased by the same thing. So, that being said, one thing that I would bring out of my Quaker background would not necessarily be the silence (although I think that silence and mystical worship can be part of worship) but the participatory nature of it, where every person can be a minister and where every person can plan or contribute their ideas to the service. My conception of worship services is really, really vague, except that I have this idea that maybe it could somehow be radically democratic, where people can create their worship services as they see fit, where diverse forms of celebrating God and diverse contributions can make up the worship process. What exactly that means in practice, I'm not sure. :)

 

Have you looked into Quakers? There are two kinds of meetings: programmed and unprogrammed. The unprogrammed meetings are contemplative (meditative) in nature. The members sit and wait and listen.

 

I've never been, but I've been interested in attending.

 

My background is actually as a "convinced" Quaker (a person who was not born a Quaker but who became one.) I do find unprogrammed meetings to be an interesting and sometimes mystical experience. I do think that the mystical or meditative element of Quaker worship has been a positive experience for me, and I like the simplicity of worship and the lack of reliance on creeds or formal rites. But it has a somewhat insular culture, and it has its own internal divisions and disputes about how traditionally Christian its theology should be. Somehow, at some point, I felt a need to look beyond the Quaker horizons, although I think that some aspects of its methods of worship and its culture and values are things I would like to hold on to.

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My background is actually as a "convinced" Quaker (a person who was not born a Quaker but who became one.) I do find unprogrammed meetings to be an interesting and sometimes mystical experience. I do think that the mystical or meditative element of Quaker worship has been a positive experience for me, and I like the simplicity of worship and the lack of reliance on creeds or formal rites. But it has a somewhat insular culture, and it has its own internal divisions and disputes about how traditionally Christian its theology should be. Somehow, at some point, I felt a need to look beyond the Quaker horizons, although I think that some aspects of its methods of worship and its culture and values are things I would like to hold on to.

 

Good to know.

 

My other thought was something WAY outside of mainstream, like the Golden Dawn. Or a gnostic church, if you can find one where you live.

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I have drawn a lot of inspiration from Borg and Spong, but, like you, I feel like they have refused to take their views to what I think are their logical conclusion. Their theological ideas are great, but their attachment to traditional Christian churches that use traditional language and traditional creeds just doesn't work for me at all. They want to merge new theological paradigms with modes of expressing them worshipfully that emerged out of the old paradigms. As Jesus said, you can't put new wine into old wineskins.

 

I notice that Matthew Fox, in his latest book, has called for a complete rupture between the old and the new Christianities, but I wonder what he means by this. Last I heard, he was an Episcopalian like Borg and Spong. Borg never calls for that kind of rupture in any case. He seems to talk a lot in his books about bridging the gaps between the followers of the old paradigm and the followers of the new, which I think makes no sense.

Exactly! This is what I can't undestand. It is one thing to understand that biblical narratives are metaphorical; it is another thing altogether to recite creeds, which are meant to be literal affirmations of belief and which serve by definition as litmus tests of belief, which one doesn't believe to be literally true! This is one part of Borg's theology that I just can't accept.

It's funny, but the musical part of services never did anything for me in worship, which is probably why I was attracted for a period of time to Quaker silent worship. But I would surmise that not everyone is pleased by the same thing. So, that being said, one thing that I would bring out of my Quaker background would not necessarily be the silence (although I think that silence and mystical worship can be part of worship) but the participatory nature of it, where every person can be a minister and where every person can plan or contribute their ideas to the service. My conception of worship services is really, really vague, except that I have this idea that maybe it could somehow be radically democratic, where people can create their worship services as they see fit, where diverse forms of celebrating God and diverse contributions can make up the worship process. What exactly that means in practice, I'm not sure. :)

My background is actually as a "convinced" Quaker (a person who was not born a Quaker but who became one.) I do find unprogrammed meetings to be an interesting and sometimes mystical experience. I do think that the mystical or meditative element of Quaker worship has been a positive experience for me, and I like the simplicity of worship and the lack of reliance on creeds or formal rites. But it has a somewhat insular culture, and it has its own internal divisions and disputes about how traditionally Christian its theology should be. Somehow, at some point, I felt a need to look beyond the Quaker horizons, although I think that some aspects of its methods of worship and its culture and values are things I would like to hold on to.

 

Music is an effective language. So is silence/contemplation. So is ritual that invites the power of the metaphor instead of suggesting that beliefs are closed. A service may have several parts or you may have different forms of worship. My experience with UU however suggests that "radical democracy" has to exist with some form of common vision/structure so that we can be evangelical in the best sense of the word. I am not convinced that we can come together based upon a common theology or even a common sense of ethics. But I do think that there is a common "religious knowing" process that is shown by the languages of music, silence, ritual, etc.

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Music is an effective language. So is silence/contemplation. So is ritual that invites the power of the metaphor instead of suggesting that beliefs are closed. A service may have several parts or you may have different forms of worship. My experience with UU however suggests that "radical democracy" has to exist with some form of common vision/structure so that we can be evangelical in the best sense of the word. I am not convinced that we can come together based upon a common theology or even a common sense of ethics. But I do think that there is a common "religious knowing" process that is shown by the languages of music, silence, ritual, etc.

 

I agree totally that there has to be a common vision or structure. A danger I see of trying to bring people together just based on a common theology alone, besides the fact that it would be hard to get 100% agreement on everything, is how would this be defined or enforced? If you start trying to enforce some kind of new creed on people and you become in a sense the very kind of doctrinaire religion that you rejected in the old paradigm.

 

There does have to be a commonality. I think that a service with several parts, or different services with different forms or worship, or different interest groups who might be interested in pursuing alternative forms of worship, are all conceivable. Of course, I am just fantasizing here, imagining a denomination big enough to accomodate these kinds of diversity.

 

Quaker worship, which I love for its contemplative group mysticism, is quiet and reverential. Yet other forms of worship, including some kinds of music, can be celebratory and loud and vigorous and joyful. Both are just different ways of mediating God. Is it possible to accomodate such diversity under the same religious roof, and is it possible to give people that diversity while still accomodating some kind of commonality of purpose or a common "religous knowing" process?

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I agree totally that there has to be a common vision or structure. A danger I see of trying to bring people together just based on a common theology alone, besides the fact that it would be hard to get 100% agreement on everything, is how would this be defined or enforced? If you start trying to enforce some kind of new creed on people and you become in a sense the very kind of doctrinaire religion that you rejected in the old paradigm.

 

There does have to be a commonality. I think that a service with several parts, or different services with different forms or worship, or different interest groups who might be interested in pursuing alternative forms of worship, are all conceivable. Of course, I am just fantasizing here, imagining a denomination big enough to accomodate these kinds of diversity.

 

Quaker worship, which I love for its contemplative group mysticism, is quiet and reverential. Yet other forms of worship, including some kinds of music, can be celebratory and loud and vigorous and joyful. Both are just different ways of mediating God. Is it possible to accomodate such diversity under the same religious roof, and is it possible to give people that diversity while still accomodating some kind of commonality of purpose or a common "religous knowing" process?

YES. Start to imagine what a common vision of "religious knowing" would mean and how that would require that we do church differently. That does not mean that we throw away what we "know" based upon the more accepted way of knowing. However, that way of knowing is limited and has limited our ability to do church. I think one reason the evangelicals are so successful is that people are so hungry for "religious knowing" that they will check their brain at the door to the worship service. We need to find a way to appreciate both ways of knowing, build a church on this basis and evangelize.

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YES. Start to imagine what a common vision of "religious knowing" would mean and how that would require that we do church differently. That does not mean that we throw away what we "know" based upon the more accepted way of knowing. However, that way of knowing is limited and has limited our ability to do church. I think one reason the evangelicals are so successful is that people are so hungry for "religious knowing" that they will check their brain at the door to the worship service. We need to find a way to appreciate both ways of knowing, build a church on this basis and evangelize.

 

Sounds great to me. So how does this new church get built?

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Sounds great to me. So how does this new church get built?

 

And that is the question that started this conversation (by the way I appreciate your contribution to this). I would much prefer that someone else answer this question and I could just join in the process. I have been looking for leadership in this process, but so far I have not found it. I think the process will happen since there is such a natural split in the mainline denominations, not based upon sexual questions that make the headlines, but based upon what the Jesus Seminar and others have brought out of the closet: The United Church of Christ is not really united because "Christ" is either some version of the vision of evangelicals or some version of the vision of the "liberal" scholarship; "Christ" can not be both. The fact that most churches hide this division or at best cloud the difference is what has made a lot of people mad (why did my minister not tell us about this?). This clouding of the difference can be seen in Borg who on the one hand is so clear about his vision of Jesus but so unclear about what difference that makes to the life of the Church.

 

I would recommend to all "The Fourth R" that is put out by Westar/The Jesus Seminar. In the May/June 2006 edition one of my favorite people, Hal Taussig, describes his recent book "A New Spiritual Home" which reflects his research directed towards the emerging Progressive Christianity movement. He has found "literally thousands" of communities that reflect the difference that Progressive Christianity is making across a wide range of denominational lines. My reading of Taussig indicates that this movement will emerge organically from these groups "from the grassroots" into a form that is not yet recognized. He suggests that the next step may be "some new regional and national conversations among progressive churches so that they may emerge more clearly as the elequent new national Christian voice that they are". He also suspects

that "denominational Christianity has--for better or worse--outlived its usefulness and attraction for most Americans".

 

Although I agree with Taussig that the major denominations seem to be on a death march I am not pursuaded that a movement from "the grassroots up" is the only direction. Taussig's research seems to indicate to me just the tip of an iceberg that is in fact being kept underwater by organizational problems.

For instance, I am familiar with a local Episcopal community that is a member of The Center for Progressive Christianity" and reflects some of the energy that Taussig talks about. However, they are limited by the Bishop and that Bishop's Bishop and that Bishop's Bishop. I would like to imagine what a group of people like this could do without those limitations. Yet I would not wish that they become UU without a compass.

 

It seems to me that organizations exist in response to the kind of "grassroots" interest that Taussig finds. Although there are many exciting things happening now I do not see the organizational response that could in fact further that "elequent new national Christian voice". And this explains the nature of my quest.

 

And so how would a "top down" process look? I really don't know. There are the simple answers that an organization needs to be created. A non-profit organization needs to have a board. That organization should probably start with a presence on the internet and perhaps go to other tech alternatives such as podcasts (is that the correct term?), develop resources, communicate about alternatives, etc, etc, etc.

 

However, the difficult part of a "top down" process which makes everyone uneasy is how one includes and how one excludes. Post-moderns attempt to pursuade us that this is an artificial process and the only "true" process is that organic approach where persons meet and form common interest societies and if those grow they grow organically based upon individuals that have no REAL connection that holds them together such as a Ground of Being or any such old fashioned concept. It may be that these persons may tend to be excluded by a "top down" process not because we can not learn much from post modern deconstruction but that because a "top down" process may be dependent upon a REAL connection such as that Ground of Being.

 

I have stated that I do not think that a common theology or a common sense of ethics can hold us together (note that much of the Progressive Christian movement defaults to the justice issue because that seems like the "common interest society" that may hold us together). I have to admit that the alternative of a common denominator of "religious knowing" has theological implications not the least of which is that there is a Tao, there is a Ground of Being, there is a Reality that we experience. However, the essence of "religious knowing" is that this can not be named. If we name it we lose it. At the same time we say it can not be named we have to say that we know it based upon some different way of knowing than the naming process that is so fundamental to the other way of knowing. If we can have this as a common denominator and then find ways of being together that explicitly point out this process of knowing then there will be that natural split in the United Church of Christ between those that think that the Christ can and has to be named and those that see the power of the metaphor. We need to be honest about that including and excluding.

I see a lot of potential in the TCPC eight points (another attempt to include/exclude) but I think that we need to include/exclude based upon what I am talking about.

 

Well this is the longer version of my original post. I am still looking for persons who are interested in a "top down" process but I would welcome comments from others.

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This is a great thread. I see building the church starting with group contemplations at private homes with the practise created by the individuals. It could be a group meditation, starting with chant or song and ending with the same and/or discussion. One candle lighting another will create a storm that will shake foundations.

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I have to admit that I'm more attracted to the bottom-up approach rather than the top-down approach. I actually like soma's idea of people meeting in homes and developing their worship practices through an emerging process. That being said, I also think that some kind of leadership is probably a necessary step as well, but I think that the authority of the leadership must be vested in the grassroots movement and not self-appointed. If the movement takes off, there will naturally be people with the energy, and perhaps the charisma, to act as leaders, and they would be recognized as such not by any self-appointed authority but by the abilities that they display.

 

I appreciate the reference to the Westar institute. I did not know abou them. I looked at their web page and they have some wonderful archived articles. I also have taken a look at a yahoo group, pomoxian, where there are literally thousands of messages from people interested in progressive christianity and similar ideas. I feel like I have been missing out on some really important and interesting dialogues taking place in and outside of the internet for many years and now I have so much catching up to do.

 

I have stated that I do not think that a common theology or a common sense of ethics can hold us together (note that much of the Progressive Christian movement defaults to the justice issue because that seems like the "common interest society" that may hold us together). I have to admit that the alternative of a common denominator of "religious knowing" has theological implications not the least of which is that there is a Tao, there is a Ground of Being, there is a Reality that we experience. However, the essence of "religious knowing" is that this can not be named. If we name it we lose it. At the same time we say it can not be named we have to say that we know it based upon some different way of knowing than the naming process that is so fundamental to the other way of knowing. If we can have this as a common denominator and then find ways of being together that explicitly point out this process of knowing then there will be that natural split in the United Church of Christ between those that think that the Christ can and has to be named and those that see the power of the metaphor. We need to be honest about that including and excluding.

I see a lot of potential in the TCPC eight points (another attempt to include/exclude) but I think that we need to include/exclude based upon what I am talking about.

 

I really like the ideas you express in this paragraph. Defining what is common under a new paradigm is key; if it isn't some recitation of a formula or a creed, then what is it? In particular, like the idea of a common denominator of religious knowing.

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YES. Start to imagine what a common vision of "religious knowing" would mean and how that would require that we do church differently. That does not mean that we throw away what we "know" based upon the more accepted way of knowing. However, that way of knowing is limited and has limited our ability to do church. I think one reason the evangelicals are so successful is that people are so hungry for "religious knowing" that they will check their brain at the door to the worship service. We need to find a way to appreciate both ways of knowing, build a church on this basis and evangelize.

Would someone be willing to define "religious knowing" (as is being used in this post) for me? As a Gnostic, my brain defaults to Gnosis (that wonderful direct mystical intuitive knowledge of the ineffable "God" :D ) everytime such a phrase is written. I just might be in agreement with all this, but seem to be missing that common definition.

 

Thanks.

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Would someone be willing to define "religious knowing" (as is being used in this post) for me? As a Gnostic, my brain defaults to Gnosis (that wonderful direct mystical intuitive knowledge of the ineffable "God" :D ) everytime such a phrase is written. I just might be in agreement with all this, but seem to be missing that common definition.

 

Thanks.

 

I like "wonderful, direct, mystical, intuitive" as opposed to knowledge gained by analysis, breaking into parts, nominalism, and most importantly fundamentalism/literalism. I have not studied enough about Gnosis but I think it important to note that the appreciation of awe/wonder/mystery are very common and come quite easily to humans. Therefore I suspect that there is something biological about the process. In that sense the "material body" is important (perhaps one can say necessary but not sufficient). I would not totally separate the "knowing of the body" from the "knowing of the mind". I think there is a tendency to associate the knowlege of the material world with the scientific method and this should be questioned---it seems that the material world can be known "directly, mystically and intuitively". There certainly is truth to saying that the REAL is "beyond" the material world because we are talking about the infinite in relation to the finite. However, one can also argue that the infinite can not be understood without some contact with the finite. I like Tillich when he talks about this dynamic.

 

All of this is getting into philosophy and theology that will perhaps lead to unnecessary disagreement.

I am not sure whether this discussion is helpful but I trust that the reader knows that I think the real split is between those that need to name the Christ and those that see the power of metaphor. I think that there is a natural epistemological split here that is bigger than any justice issue or theological discussion. If we can separate on that split we can then talk about "unity within diversity" (in this case how much of "religious knowing" can be called Gnosis).

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I like "wonderful, direct, mystical, intuitive" as opposed to knowledge gained by analysis, breaking into parts, nominalism, and most importantly fundamentalism/literalism. I have not studied enough about Gnosis but I think it important to note that the appreciation of awe/wonder/mystery are very common and come quite easily to humans. Therefore I suspect that there is something biological about the process. In that sense the "material body" is important (perhaps one can say necessary but not sufficient). I would not totally separate the "knowing of the body" from the "knowing of the mind". I think there is a tendency to associate the knowlege of the material world with the scientific method and this should be questioned---it seems that the material world can be known "directly, mystically and intuitively". There certainly is truth to saying that the REAL is "beyond" the material world because we are talking about the infinite in relation to the finite. However, one can also argue that the infinite can not be understood without some contact with the finite. I like Tillich when he talks about this dynamic.

 

All of this is getting into philosophy and theology that will perhaps lead to unnecessary disagreement.

I am not sure whether this discussion is helpful but I trust that the reader knows that I think the real split is between those that need to name the Christ and those that see the power of metaphor. I think that there is a natural epistemological split here that is bigger than any justice issue or theological discussion. If we can separate on that split we can then talk about "unity within diversity" (in this case how much of "religious knowing" can be called Gnosis).

 

It seems to me that religious knowing and empirical or scientific knowledge should complement rather than contradict one another--I think you said this at an earlier point when you commented on people checking their brains at the church door--and to me this needs to be important in developing a basis for a new denomination. By that, I mean to say that science teaches us that the universe is very old, that humans evolved on this planet, and so forth; any religious way of knowing needs to accept this. In fact, it seems to me that one reason for the necessity of a new paradigm in religious thought is that the old paradigm wasn't really consistent with a rational understanding of the world. We live in an ordered world that conforms to certain physical laws. For the last few centuries, religion has had to cope with this understanding of the world, that differed from the way ancient people saw things. All sorts of "isms" cropped up in religious thought, from deism to fundamentalism, as ways of coping with this newer understanding.

 

I chewing over your comments concerning naming being outside of the religious way of knowing. From my point of view, we come up with names as metaphors for a divine reality that we cannot understand fully or completely, at least not in what you would call the other way of knowing. I think of the world's religions as representing a process by which various people came up with ways of "naming" God that seemed appropriate for their time and culture. This is sort of the "blind man and the elephant" phenomenon, except that I think that later cultures and religious communities can build on what the earlier ones developed. So, to me, revelation is continuous, and ways of knowing should not be individual and always building from scratch; rather each successive individual and community is part of a great historical process of trying to understand the Divine. We read Spong or Tillich because we are interested in characterizing, discussing, and applying our human reason to that other way of religious knowing. It sounds like you are saying that we should never put a name on it. I am inclined to see names as okay as long as we understand that the names are inadequate and incomplete. The problem I see with so much of religion, especially creedal or doctrinaire varieties, is that it comes up with the names and then assigns a dogma to them, rather than recognizing their metaphorical and approximate nature. Maybe we are talking about the same thing. I am not sure.

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It seems to me that religious knowing and empirical or scientific knowledge should complement rather than contradict one another--I think you said this at an earlier point when you commented on people checking their brains at the church door--and to me this needs to be important in developing a basis for a new denomination. By that, I mean to say that science teaches us that the universe is very old, that humans evolved on this planet, and so forth; any religious way of knowing needs to accept this. In fact, it seems to me that one reason for the necessity of a new paradigm in religious thought is that the old paradigm wasn't really consistent with a rational understanding of the world. We live in an ordered world that conforms to certain physical laws. For the last few centuries, religion has had to cope with this understanding of the world, that differed from the way ancient people saw things. All sorts of "isms" cropped up in religious thought, from deism to fundamentalism, as ways of coping with this newer understanding.

 

I chewing over your comments concerning naming being outside of the religious way of knowing. From my point of view, we come up with names as metaphors for a divine reality that we cannot understand fully or completely, at least not in what you would call the other way of knowing. I think of the world's religions as representing a process by which various people came up with ways of "naming" God that seemed appropriate for their time and culture. This is sort of the "blind man and the elephant" phenomenon, except that I think that later cultures and religious communities can build on what the earlier ones developed. So, to me, revelation is continuous, and ways of knowing should not be individual and always building from scratch; rather each successive individual and community is part of a great historical process of trying to understand the Divine. We read Spong or Tillich because we are interested in characterizing, discussing, and applying our human reason to that other way of religious knowing. It sounds like you are saying that we should never put a name on it. I am inclined to see names as okay as long as we understand that the names are inadequate and incomplete. The problem I see with so much of religion, especially creedal or doctrinaire varieties, is that it comes up with the names and then assigns a dogma to them, rather than recognizing their metaphorical and approximate nature. Maybe we are talking about the same thing. I am not sure.

 

 

Thank you for your continued conversation. I understand that when someone suggests that there is a common denominator one had better understand what is being suggested.

 

Yes I do appreciate the wonderful and really unbelievable results that have come to us as a result of science and that way of knowing. Nothing should be done to stop this or discount the importance of this way of knowing. I would suggest that anything that seems to fall in the realm of the scientific be left to science (for instance evolution). I think that much of what has been called religion was just an attempt to do science and should properly be rejected when science shows that it is bunk. Yet I do not think we will understand awe/wonder/mystery via the scientific method. It is really a different way of knowing. I would suggest that the scientist is looking for the "ah hah" experience and the person looking for religious knowing is looking for the "awe" experience. It is possible that both are experienced at the same time in some circumstances and so in that sense they "complement" each other. I would suggest however that to "know religiously" is to know via the symbol or the metaphor where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts whereas science has no method to deal with that "greater" factor.

 

There also is a desire for the scientist to split the subject from the object and try not to affect the objective by the subjective. We are finding that this really is not possible in looking at the really big scientific questions but nevertheless it can be noted that "religious knowing" may blur the seeming subjective/objective split. When one is struck by awe/mystery/wonder there is a tendency for the ego to take a back seat. Our language seems to require a subject and an object but when one is struck by awe/mystery/wonder one "knows" without the need for the language which requires a subject/object and thus "naming" does diminish what is known.

 

This requires a lot more exploration and perhaps someone else can start a new topic that covers what is meant by "religious knowing". I would like to continue to think about what difference it makes if we believe Borg that the Kingdom of God is not a result of "conventional wisdom". If there is "religious knowing" how are we going to do Church differently?

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Maybe I should clarify my point when I talk about how religion should be consistent with a modern rational understanding. The old concept of God was as a patriarchal authority figure, a transcendent presence who was identified by male names, who dispensed favors according to his whims--which is to say that he intervened in the normal operation of the world when he felt like it and answered the occasional intercessionary prayer by using his omnipotent power.

 

This image of God presented a lot of problems even in the pre-modern world, namely because it was hard to reconcile this image of God with the problems of evil and human suffering. The ancient Jewish prophets believed that the possible reason that God allowed or was responsible for much of his people's continual suffering at the hands of neighboring empires was that his people had turned away from God. In the modern world, many Jews simply reject this kind of theology in the face of the Holocaust (consider Rabbi Kushner as an example of a Jew who argues that there is no way to reconcile divine omnipotence with the extremity and order of magnitude of what happened under Hitler.)

 

But even aside from the famous "problem of evil", the modern rational understanding of an ordered world that follows certain rules according to physical laws forced those who believed in divine omnipotence to believe in the "God of the Gaps", who intervened in the world only in those narrow areas of the physical world that we didn't understand. But these gaps have continued to get smaller over time. The God of the Gaps is reduced to not doing much. So what are we left with? The old patriarchal, favor dispensing, male God has butted heads with modern reality.

 

I see fundamentalism as one way of trying to resolve this problem, essentially by shutting down one's mind and excluding rationalism from one's religion. Deism, which has probably long gone out of favor, was at one time a way of conceiving of a stale, irrelevant God that has no place in the modern world.

 

It seems to me that religion needs to move beyond these patriarchal concepts of God. I think it does matter when we come up with a new religious community. But there is the rub--how do we do that without getting too bogged down in theological details that will divide the community? Since not everyone is going to agree necessarily with my own panentheism, but they might still want to participate in a community of religious knowing as you have describe, can we bring people together in a way that allows freedom of thought, joyous religious participation that is liberated from the old creeds and the old paradigm of Christianity, and yet which at the same time offers a home for at least some level of commonality so as not to simply become another breed of Unitarian Universalism?

 

Perhaps it would be good to flesh out what is meant by "religious knowing". The sense of awe and wonder, and the mystical experience of God, are what I think of when you describe this. This is the experiential aspect to religion, as opposed to the theological aspect. How much should theology figure into this at all? Or should we only focus on the experiential to the exclusion of the theological?

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Some thoughts on what David said.I would like a "new" church, though I am at times quite happy with UCC (and other times less so). Anyway, David said:

> The United Church of Christ is not really united because "Christ" is either some version of the vision of evangelicals or some version of the vision of the "liberal" scholarship; "Christ" can not be both. The fact that most churches hide this division or at best cloud the difference is what has made a lot of people mad (why did my minister not tell us about this?). This clouding of the difference can be seen in Borg who on the one hand is so clear about his vision of Jesus but so unclear about what difference that makes to the life of the Church.

 

I don't think the name was ever meant to be so grandeous. It was the "uniting" of several churches-- Congregational (at least across the Mississippi), Brethren of Christ, etc. and coalition with several others: Disciples of Christ, Metroplitan Church, etc. into one organization. Though the church has very little upper organization (the synod meets every 2 or 3 years) and each church is separate and isn't bound by the Synod. The fact that all UCCs are not the same is based on organizational structure which makes each church it's own. (I have heard of almost evangelical UCCs as well as very radical progressive ones, though most of them tend towards the liberal.) If there was a "higher authority" to rein in individual churches they would be more similar, but UCC takes on the congregational roots and each is self-governed and controlled.

It also means that in any UCC you will see a range of beliefs from more traditional to probably identical to Unitarian. For ex. I consider the "trinity" more of an metaphor. I'm actually pretty comfortable with a democratic, self-run church, even if another structure might make it more unified in theology. I would not be comfortable in any church without doctrinal freedom, even if the "imposed" doctrine was more to my liking.

 

 

--des

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Perhaps it would be good to flesh out what is meant by "religious knowing". The sense of awe and wonder, and the mystical experience of God, are what I think of when you describe this. This is the experiential aspect to religion, as opposed to the theological aspect. How much should theology figure into this at all? Or should we only focus on the experiential to the exclusion of the theological?

 

If you participate in a worship service that reflects the power of the metaphor then I do not think you want to preach too much based upon what the metaphor should "rationally"mean. If you are doing some form of communion I think it is important to be explicit in the process as to whether this act is meant to be something that is understood as metaphor or not. How you lift up the metaphor in preparation for communion will have theological understanding but I do not think doing communion in this way will result in a common theology. Certain theologies will not work with "religious knowing" via the power of symbol/the metaphor. Those theologies that are open to the power of symbol/the metaphor can coexist within a denomination. So to some extent theology is important in that way but I do not think that a common theology is necessary for a denomination.

 

 

 

 

Some thoughts on what David said.I would like a "new" church, though I am at times quite happy with UCC (and other times less so). Anyway, David said:

> The United Church of Christ is not really united because "Christ" is either some version of the vision of evangelicals or some version of the vision of the "liberal" scholarship; "Christ" can not be both. The fact that most churches hide this division or at best cloud the difference is what has made a lot of people mad (why did my minister not tell us about this?). This clouding of the difference can be seen in Borg who on the one hand is so clear about his vision of Jesus but so unclear about what difference that makes to the life of the Church.

 

I don't think the name was ever meant to be so grandeous. It was the "uniting" of several churches-- Congregational (at least across the Mississippi), Brethren of Christ, etc. and coalition with several others: Disciples of Christ, Metroplitan Church, etc. into one organization. Though the church has very little upper organization (the synod meets every 2 or 3 years) and each church is separate and isn't bound by the Synod. The fact that all UCCs are not the same is based on organizational structure which makes each church it's own. (I have heard of almost evangelical UCCs as well as very radical progressive ones, though most of them tend towards the liberal.) If there was a "higher authority" to rein in individual churches they would be more similar, but UCC takes on the congregational roots and each is self-governed and controlled.

It also means that in any UCC you will see a range of beliefs from more traditional to probably identical to Unitarian. For ex. I consider the "trinity" more of an metaphor. I'm actually pretty comfortable with a democratic, self-run church, even if another structure might make it more unified in theology. I would not be comfortable in any church without doctrinal freedom, even if the "imposed" doctrine was more to my liking.

--des

 

Thank you for this input. I do not think that "top down" necessarily means the loss of the freedom that you talk about. I would ask whether within your own congregation you can see a split between the two Christs that I described. If so, does this limit the ability of your group to represent to the larger community who you are and what you are about? If you do not have such a conflict then more power to you!!! (I suspect that many more do have such a conflict than those that do not).

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I think scientific knowledge is important because it seeks the truth and can quiet the intellect by answering questions, but at the same time I think mystical knowing is a higher knowledge that is stronger than belief. Mysticial knowledge is the experience of God inside and everywhere, but the communion starts within where as belief starts with believing what another tells you from outside about God.

 

Different personalities commune with this Mystic God in different ways, service, song, contemplation, philosophy or even physical exertion. All good paths to the zone. Different ways to express this experience is necessary for the different personal histories one has to relate to. I think all are valid explanations as long as all are respected and accepted as trying to explain the one truth. One who has mystical knowledge I think would be comfortible with this tolerance.

 

If a pathway to the zone is experienced the church will grow from private quarters to a bigger one. If a person has contact he or she may be able to inspiror many from the top down so bottom up or top down could work.

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I think scientific knowledge is important because it seeks the truth and can quiet the intellect by answering questions, but at the same time I think mystical knowing is a higher knowledge that is stronger than belief. Mysticial knowledge is the experience of God inside and everywhere, but the communion starts within where as belief starts with believing what another tells you from outside about God.

 

Different personalities commune with this Mystic God in different ways, service, song, contemplation, philosophy or even physical exertion. All good paths to the zone. Different ways to express this experience is necessary for the different personal histories one has to relate to. I think all are valid explanations as long as all are respected and accepted as trying to explain the one truth. One who has mystical knowledge I think would be comfortible with this tolerance.

 

If a pathway to the zone is experienced the church will grow from private quarters to a bigger one. If a person has contact he or she may be able to inspiror many from the top down so bottom up or top down could work.

 

I REALLY like this. Thank you.

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Different personalities commune with this Mystic God in different ways, service, song, contemplation, philosophy or even physical exertion. All good paths to the zone. Different ways to express this experience is necessary for the different personal histories one has to relate to. I think all are valid explanations as long as all are respected and accepted as trying to explain the one truth. One who has mystical knowledge I think would be comfortable with this tolerance.

 

Would that be "The United Mystical Church of Christ"? You'd have me showing up each Sunday! Wouldn't it be great to see Gnostics and Quakers and Creation Spirituality folks and ...... all the other branches of Christian mysticism under the same umbrella. :)

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