Category Archives: Progressive Christian

About Progressive Christianity, especially in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australasia

evolving vs progressive

Are self-identified “Progressive Christians” guilty of exclusivity and conceit?

Rev Dr John Bodycomb writes, “There is now a much larger clearly observable ‘movement’, for it is as such that progressive Christianity is best understood. I have likened it to a flood moving slowly but relentlessly over the cultural landscape. It is pluriform and cannot be stereotyped, although its critics are apt to do so.”

He prefers “evolving christianity” to “progressive christianity”. Find out why in his article, “One Man’s Assessment of Progressive Christianity”.

Progressive Christianity transforms the world…


Progressive Christianity transforms the world and individuals by:

  • Teaching and spreading a path of joy and loving kindness.
  • Reclaiming a compassion based Christianity.
  • Taking a stand against exclusion, hate, ignorance, and violence through our writings, resources, and letters to newspapers and political offices.
  • Recognizing and speaking about Jesus as a historic teacher and activist.
  • Encouraging peaceful and positive inter-faith relations through education and events.
  • Nourishing a deep spirituality in children through our curricula and educational resources.
  • Building and supporting community around intention and meaningful action through our global network, events, and partners.
  • Encouraging the protection and restoration of our earth home through our curricula, resources, and events.


Better domain name!

We’ve upgraded the website to an easier-to-remember domain name and no ads version. Find us now at:

Registration for next year’s conference will be via this site, and we wanted you to have an easier website name to go to.

Our email address is still Save it to your Contacts list now!

Pohutukawa blossom


Why “Progressive” – aren’t we all Christians?

The self-described “progressives” among America’s Protestant clergy at the turn of the twentieth century were well known in church circles and beyond for their advanced thinking on theology, politics, and foreign affairs.

As they faced the prospect of a new century, these ministers and academics thought of themselves as broad-minded, humane, and cosmopolitan, in harmony with the very best scientific, political, and theological wisdom of the age.

– Richard M. Gamble in “The War for Righteousness

The War for Righteousness - Richard Gamble

Christians – Dangerous or Boring?

Tony_Franlin-RossTony Franklin-Ross shares some thoughts from the recent NZ Common Dreams Conference in Napier – first printed in Methodist Touchstone

Faith as resistance to ego, orthodoxy and the political status quo was the theme of a Progressive Spirituality NZ conference that was held in Napier on 6-8 May.  The gathering drew 122 people from around New Zealand, and they heard a number of speakers address the topic.

The keynote speaker was US author Rev Dr Robin Meyers, who is known for his books The Underground Church, Saving Jesus from the Church, and Spiritual Defiance. Robin criticises the church for neglecting the initial concept of Jesus’ Way, in favour of beliefs and dogma that were created later.

He suggests the Beatitudes is closer to the creed of the early followers of the Jesus Way, along with the affirmations ‘Jesus is Lord’ and ‘Caesar is not’. Christianity was initially not a belief system but a peculiar way of being in the world.

Robin also criticised contemporary empires that protect the majority and the status quo in a broken world. Rather than be content to benefit from such structures, the Church should meet in joyful defiance to the political and economic prophets of power, he says.

Jim McAloon provided examples of faith-based resistance in Aotearoa. These include the Peace Squadron, the anti-Apartheid movement, and the Hikoi of Hope, as well as earlier reforms against sweated labour, peace movements, and the development of the welfare state as ‘applied Christianity’.

Playwright and actor Jo Randerson explored the place of art. Is art just nice decoration, the icing on the cake of society, or can it be used to challenge, question and disrupt the status quo? Jo says the arts can provide different voices and explore different possibilities.

Be wary of the seeds sewn into the fabric of the Bible that can be used to suppress, exploit and dominate. This was the message Robert Myles brought to the conference. Robert says the Bible is used to support reaction and revolution.

How can the Bible be used to counter current politics and economic inequality, rather than romanticise Jesus’ poverty as a way of life?

While the conference stirred cerebral activity, counter-point moments were provided through pop-up engagement with the works of Shakespeare and workshops on drama, dance, art, walking and meditation.  The conference dinner was embellished with spiritual songs, themselves voices of resistance and hope, performed by the Napier Community Gospel Choir.

It is hard to do justice to two days of stimulating presentations and conversation. Challenges were laid and questions asked:

  • How do prophetic voices of resistance get translated into action?
  • Does the church need to do a rummage sale of the things in its attics of orthodoxy?
  • Jesus’ people were once anti-imperial, a thorn in the side of the establishment.

Have Christians gone from being dangerous to be being boring?

United Church in Canada and Gretta Vosper


The Rev. Gretta Vosper, an ordained United Church of Canada minister who believes in neither God nor the Bible. Photo courtesy of Gretta Vosper
The Rev. Gretta Vosper, an ordained United Church of Canada minister who believes in neither God nor the Bible. Photo courtesy of Gretta Vosper

After deliberating for more than three months, having received ten volumes of materials consisting of approximately 1700 pages of written submissions, this week the United Church of Canada appeal court (the Judicial Committee Executive) issued a one-page decision refusing, without reasons, to hear Reverend Gretta Vosper’s appeal.

Rev. Vosper is the Minister of West Hill United Church (“West Hill”), located in Scarborough and within the Toronto Conference of the UCC. Rev. Vosper is a self-described atheist who believes in a metaphorical god instead of the traditional theistic vision of god.

Continue reading United Church in Canada and Gretta Vosper

Tips for starting a Local Progressive Group

Extracts from Tips for starting and maintaining a local group from the global network

progressive christianity logoBe able to say in a sentence or two why you want to form the group. For example, do you want to deepen your understanding of the progressive approach to Christianity, be able to articulate a progressive viewpoint in conversations with others, create a supporting community, enhance your ability to strive for peace and justice in the world, some combination of these, or do you have some other objective?  Get clear about what you want to be about. Continue reading Tips for starting a Local Progressive Group

Light in the Midst of Darkness

Fred Plumer reflects on Christmas on 22 December 2014

For decades, I felt compelled to explain that December 25 was really not the date Jesus was born. I suspect I have ruined Christmas mornings for more than one parishioner. But I thought it was important… Over the last few years, I have begun to think that celebrating Jesus’ birthday on the same holiday of Sol Invictus or the Winter Solstice was actually a good idea and in some ways appropriate…

Jesus entered the world in a dark time in human history, particularly for his own people, the Jews…  few of us can even begin to grasp how hopeless and dark the world must have seemed to those oppressed people…

It was into this great darkness that Yeshua entered the world. In spite of his humble beginning, somewhere along the way he managed to bring a new light, a new perspective to many of his followers…

Continue reading Light in the Midst of Darkness

Supporting a Living Wage

In Early May 2013 the St Andrew’s on The Terrace Parish Council voted for St Andrew’s to become a Living Wage Church.

Following that great Social Justice decision, on 23 May, Margaret Mayman spoke at the launch of “The Living Wage” campaign in Auckland.  Read the speech here: living wage.

EXTRACT FROM 2015 SUBMISSION to Wellington City Council on Draft Long Term Plan 2015 – 2025 Continue reading Supporting a Living Wage

Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda: the church reformed, always being reformed.

QUOTE from post in More Light Presbyterians [USA]

After decades of slow changes in the hearts and minds of Presbyterians regarding welcome and affirmation of LGBTQ people, it is in many ways remarkable that the PC (USA) has chosen to ratify these much-needed changes to the Book of Order, not only correcting statements of fact (marriage as a civil contract has changed in most states to allow two people to enter the contract regardless of their gender), but also affirming marriage as God’s gift for the benefit of all humankind, not just heterosexual, gender-conforming couples.

…this is the culmination of a much longer and hard-fought struggle for recognition of LGBTQ people and our relationships. Before Jane Spahr and the couples she married put so much on the line in their judicial cases; before this Massachusetts couple and their pastor took unknown risks to claim the full richness of their relationship,  there were the struggles of prior General Assemblies over civil unions, holy unions, domestic partnerships, and commitment ceremonies; and before that the struggle to keep body and soul together with a Christian sexual ethics based in justice-love. And well before General Assemblies would even talk about any of this there was the love, one person for another, a constant steady stream of what God had joined together, queering our understanding of ourselves and each other, of who God is and what church can and should be.

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About the Charter of Compassion

Compassionate Communities

charter-for-compassion-blueMotivated by the ancient and universal “golden rule” to treat others as you would like to be treated, communities of people across the globe have recently committed to making compassion a driving force with a measurable impact on community life and on the well-being of all members of a community. The concern of people in these communities is driven by the idea that beneath the conflict, inequity, and indifference of our world societies, there runs a deep river of compassion, a vast aquifer of loving kindness waiting to be tapped, yearning to be released into action that will alleviate suffering wherever it exists. In addition, scientific evidence has mounted in the 21st century indicating that compassion is an essential ingredient in building and maintaining thriving, healthy, resilient, and innovative enterprises, institutions, and communities.

Continue reading About the Charter of Compassion

Progressive Christianity values the traditional sources of Christian wisdom and practice… though it may want to reshape or reinterpret them – Keith Rowe

“Progressive Christianity values the traditional sources of Christian wisdom and practice – Bible, church, sacraments, prayer, worship – though it may want to reshape or reinterpret them. Importantly, Progressive Christianity is committed to a vigorous and disciplined engagement with all areas of life and discovery.

So Progressive Christians are engaged in conversation with emerging truth unearthed through scientific discovery.  We welcome the picture opened up by those who have helped us to appreciate the evolutionary nature of our cosmos. There is no conflict between evolution and Biblical myths about creation.

Continue reading Progressive Christianity values the traditional sources of Christian wisdom and practice… though it may want to reshape or reinterpret them – Keith Rowe

Do you know about The Clergy Project ®

It’s an online group offering “Support | Community | Hope” for current and former religious professionals without supernatural beliefs: The Clergy Project Only “current or former religious professional[s] in vocational ministry” – not lay leaders – can join; never-the-less, the public pages of the website have interesting issues and links.

Triptych: Who was this man? – Fiona McDougal

This Reflection (sermon) was written and presented by Fiona McDougal, at St Andrew’s on The Terrace, Wellington on 9 November 2014.

The “triptych” of readings – Simon’s mother-in-law, A hired man and One of the companions – were read by members of the congregation. You can download the Order of Service here.

The community (congregation) sang a verse of Mary Pearson’s hymn before and between each of the readings.

The reflection is based on the day’s scripture reading, Mark 1: 29-38 NRSV

Introduction: In 1968 Italian archaeologists made some fascinating discoveries in the ancient town of Capernaum on the North West coast of the Sea of Galilee. A Fifth century church had been built over a much earlier church. That earlier church had been built around what had originally been a one room of a private house. That room seems to have been used from the 2nd half of the 1st century. Unusually, the walls of the room had been plastered, indicating that it had been a public meeting place. Scratched on the plaster were prayers using the name of Jesus. Since earliest times it seems then, Christians treated this space as holy, believing it to be the house of Simon Peter and the place where Jesus based himself for the start of his ministry. Today a Franciscan church has been built on top of those ruins. [See photo]


At the centre is a wrought iron partition and glass ceiling which allows the pilgrim to see the remains of the original 1st century site. How mind-blowing it would be to look through that thick glass and the layers of the sacred past! How amazing to imagine that perhaps this may have been the setting for happenings out of which today’s gospel narrative was created. Travel with me as in your mind’s eye we enter the story world of Mark’s Gospel and seek glimpse of the Jesus portrayed there.

Simon’s mother-in-law

One minute I was throwing off the blankets, the next clutching them close to me as I shivered in a cold sweat. My mind ran feverishly over recent events and my heart beat rapidly. I’ve always hated change and since Jesus was around, everything had been in a turmoil. I couldn’t understand why Simon and Andrew were so entranced by him.

Then I heard the voices of the menfolk returning from the synagogue and my name being mentioned. They came into the room and to my surprise, I felt a gentle hand hold mine. A warm energy ran up my arm and into my panicky heart. I felt the healing of that touch spread through my whole body. For a never ending moment we were like that, then I felt my strength return as he raised me up out of the bed.

I blinked a few times in astonishment, and looked around at the familiar faces, embarrassed to find them all watching me. Then I muttered something about food and they stood back to let me pass as I rushed outside. There was something grounding about the familiar process of setting the fish and bread and some stuffed olives on the plate for them all. It had been such a strange experience.

Since then I make sure Jesus has the tastiest treats and the most succulent snacks. And though he doesn’t say much, I can tell from his smile that he appreciates what I’ve done. That gives me joy in the work I do about the house every day.

Now when I’m worried, I remember his touch, and the warm energy that flowed into my heart and I feel a calm grow within me.

A hired man

I went out of curiosity really, after he came and James and John upped and left us. Zebedee had to run the boat again. One old man and us young lads – we had our work cut out. I’d heard about the way he taught in the synagogue, so simple, but deep and real. It went right through you, and you pondered and puzzled over it forever. They said as well that he could heal people who were sick in mind and body.

So I followed the others that Sabbath evening and we gathered expectantly outside Simon and Andrew’s house with the rest. You’d think such a crowd would be noisy, especially us fishermen who like a bit of a laugh and a carry on. But no. When Jesus and his friends came out, a luminous hush fell on us.

In the background we could hear the waves lapping on the shore. A few latecomers settled themselves and their sleepy children on mats as the moon rose and oil lamps flickered. Quietly we watched Jesus as he went from person to person, speaking gently and touching each one in turn. Sometimes he talked more firmly, seeming to forestall a wild response. But always he was calm and steady, as if there was all the time in the world and nothing that mattered more than these people, and this place and this moment.

We heard later of great crowds, people crushing in on Jesus, challenging his teaching, and arguments with the authorities. It wasn’t like that that night. I expected miracles, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter much whether people were healed or not. That night, just being there, all of us together in his presence, was enough.

The Sea of Galilee can be rough, storms blow up in a moment and our crew has had its ups and downs too. When I feel the boat start to dip and dive, my stomach knots up, and I hang on to the side and we look to each other for reassurance.

Then I remember that evening when we were gathered in the presence of Jesus. I hold the memory of those peaceful moments inside and they steady me and give me courage as we pull together on the oars and struggle home.

One of the companions

We woke and found him gone. After all we had seen and heard, our whispered discussions the night before had been full of wonder and possibility. Now he was gone. Quickly we pulled some clothes on and went out to look for him.

A shepherd boy pointed to the hills when we asked if he’d seen him, so we followed the track at a half run, scouring the hillside for a glimpse of him. We were breathless and exhausted when we saw Jesus at last, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the water and the villages and towns of Galilee. He was deep in prayer, so we stopped some distance away, reluctant to go closer. Passing a water bottle around, we sat down to catch our breath.

He must’ve sensed our presence, because in a little while he beckoned us to come close.

Somewhat ashamed of our impetuous actions, we straggled over. Someone blurted out “Everyone is looking for you”. After a moment’s pause Jesus looked at us all and said we were to go with him as he took the message to the other towns of Galilee.

It was obvious that something had become clear for him during his time of reflection on that windswept hillside. Though we were taken aback, his intention was firm and we went with him.

It wasn’t until years later that I too learnt to slow down and open myself to the wisdom inside in crucial moments, as he did. Only slowly did we realise that each action of his was based on the deep connection he experienced.

His preaching and healing, his passion for justice, the whole of his life’s energy and direction came from that source. It was in the blood that flowed in his veins and every inch of his body.

He lived the message. So I try to live that way too.



Facing the Challenge: Where Jesus stayed, in Peter’s house in Capernaum

Franciscan cyberspot “Capernaum the town of Jesus”

“you risk losing your identity…”

“So here I am, still on a journey, still in the church. There were (and are) times when the institution deeply frustrated and alarmed me. However, I chose not to leave, because the church was part of my culture. I think one rejects this at one’s peril—you risk losing your identity. I observe this loss of identity in many… and it deeply concerns me.”—Ian O’Reilly

Continue reading “you risk losing your identity…”