Category Archives: Progressive Presybterian

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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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

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”

General Assembly 2014 “From the Outside”

From Kotukutuku in Spring blog:

The current situation is one where there is space for only one point of view.

…I’m glad that there is a desire to do things differently… But I wish a dramatic stand had been taken before Assembly. Or I wish that a symbolic action, a disruption, could have happened without walking out. I think only a different sort of conversation will help us move forward, but it needs to happen alongside Assembly processes, because that is where decisions are made. For a diversity of views to be respected, General Assembly will need to vote to change the rules.

Rob reminds us (after Edward Hayes) to associate with the hopeful.

Continue reading General Assembly 2014 “From the Outside”

St Luke’s on GA14 decision: “…we have not, will not, and cannot turn sexual minorities away”

“…we have not, will not, and cannot turn sexual minorities away. We will continue to welcome all people into our community, including all who are called into leadership, all who wish to be baptised, and all who wish to be married.”

From An Open Letter to the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, on behalf of the Parish Council of the Community of St Luke, Remuera:

“The decisions taken by General Assembly 2014 are deeply offensive to sexual minorities, deeply offensive to all those who are the parents, grandparents, partners, children, grandchildren, and Christian brothers and sisters of sexual minorities, and deeply offensive to all who believe on the basis of sound scholarship and experience that sexual diversity is a given to be accepted, welcomed and celebrated.

“The decision of General Assembly concerning marriage is also contrary to the clear tradition of Presbyterianism regarding Liberty of Conscience, the clear guidance of our Doctrine Core Group, and the clear wishes of our elected national leaders, namely the Moderator and Moderator-Designate.”


Presbyterian General Assembly 2014

Glynn Cardy on Facebook

Here’s our Moderator, Andrew Norton’s, take on what went on regarding the ‘debate’ on sexuality, leadership and marriage:

“Concerning our ongoing debate on sexuality related issues, General Assembly decided that ministers may conduct marriage only between a man and woman. A new rule, effective immediately, has been added to the Book of Order to further clarify the decision: “a minister may solemnise marriage only between a man and woman”.

Yet at the same time we witnessed another significant divide in the church. During the debate a significant proportion of the commissioners chose, as an act of silent protest, to surrender their votes and leave the debating chamber.

30% of commissioners chose not to vote. These people – from a range of theological positions – view the ongoing debate on sexuality as an act of division and one in which they no longer want to participate.

In spite of this, the Assembly chose to continue with the debate which resulted in adopting the regulation. While the Church has been very clear over the past years on its view on matters of leadership and sexuality and the nature of marriage, our Church is now further divided on our need to become legislative which will inevitability move this debate from conversation into the disciplinary courts of the Church.

The current piece of regulation goes to the Church for further discussion over the next two years to become ratified at our next General Assembly. While I urge the church to abide by and respect the decision of Assembly, I encourage you to also seek further opportunities to engage in conversation about what kind of church we want to become in the future. How will we choose to live together in the love of Christ? How will we choose to use power through our voting system that continues to marginalise many with our own family and wider community?”

St Andrew’s on The Terrace on GA14 decision

St Andrew’s on The Terrace Presbyterian Church (Wellington) is deeply disappointed but defiant in the face of the news today that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has voted to ban Ministers from performing marriages between same-sex couples.

“This decision is deeply disturbing and we strongly dissent from it” says St Andrew’s Parish Convenor, Sonia Groes-Petrie. “The Presbyterian tradition is for ministers to have freedom to make decisions about whom they will marry. There is a range of opinions on same-sex marriage within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and today’s decision does not reflect that diversity.”

Interim Minister Jim Cunningham says “I’m appalled at the decision that has been made. We see sexual orientation and gender identity as irrelevant in the celebration of a couple’s union. It is the quality of the relationship, the love and commitment that matters. St Andrew’s has been blessing the relationships of same sex couples for over twenty years, celebrating civil unions since 2005 and marriages since August last year.”

The national church has been debating the implications of same-sex marriages now being legal.

“It seems incredible that the church is legislating against love. It’s embarrassing that religious organisations are the only stumbling block to full equality for same-sex couples” says St Andrew’s Parish Councillor and General Assembly representative Paul Barber.

Yes to Love website: Faithfully inclusive in Aotearoa

Ministers and celebrants of many denominations – including Presbyterian – have signed up to love and marriage equality.

The Yes to Love website ‘is a celebration of faith that is accepting and welcoming. It profiles leaders of religious and spiritual communities in Aotearoa who are saying “yes” to love and marriage equality. These are people of faith who are willing to conduct weddings for same-sex couples.’

“Progressive Christianity exists to be an authentic gospel voice” – Margaret Mayman

Progressive Christianity in our time has emerged through two related but distinct processes. One is a process of elimination: Christians, over the last couple of centuries, have realized that many elements of our Western culture are not essential to – or even compatible with – Christian life and belief, and we have sought to shed them. We have looked hard at the false claims of government absolutism, of slavery, of racism, sexism and homophobia and have rejected them.

The other process has been one of refocusing. Here the question isn’t “What is extraneous to our faith?” but “Where is its centre?” Our answers take different forms, but, eventually, they come back to the way Jesus united, in both his life and teaching, the two commandments to love God and to love neighbour.

The two processes may produce related results, but they are not identical. One prunes the excess at the peripheries; the other is looking for the ground of our faith. Many of us who claim the name of progressive Christians are probably more comfortable with the elimination than the search for the centre, clearer about what we don’t believe than about what we do.

We have seen how the powers-that-be have repeatedly invoked Christianity to justify their sins. We are clear that we need to reject this entanglement of Christian faith with the status quo. But simply to reject is not enough. Rejection does not inspire hope or love or delight or even intellectual coherence.

The real reason why progressive Christianity exists is not to prune away archaisms and false accretions. It exists to be an authentic gospel voice, to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ life and teaching: a vision of humanity united to the sacred and to one another in love and justice.

Rev Dr Margaret Mayman (extract from sermon, postmodern prayer?” July 2004)

Ian Harris on Sir Lloyd Geering’s themes on religion

At the age of 66, when most people are thinking of retiring, Sir Lloyd Geering began a ministry to Wellington and the modern world, as principal lecturer for St Andrew’s Trust for the Study of Religion and Society.

Now 96, he delivered his valedictory lecture this month to a crowded church and a standing ovation.

His topic was ”The Evolving City”, tracing the evolution of the city from the earliest settled population clusters and the biblical city of Cain, in Genesis, to the megacities of a globalising world and the biblical vision of the City of God in Revelation. Continue reading Ian Harris on Sir Lloyd Geering’s themes on religion

progressive faith stories: Fiona’s story

againstthestreamBelonging here was a gradual process for me. Becoming more involved meant taking the risk of openness and trust. Fiona McDougal, St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Glimmers of the sacred in the form of individual conversations, moments of connection in worship and shared meals drew me on.

In particular being at the series of services over Easter offered a way to integrate the psychological abuse I had endured at work in Scotland within a larger story. Holding that painful period of my life alongside the story of Jesus’ death, the losses of others in the community, and the pain of the world, on Good Friday has been very healing. Continue reading progressive faith stories: Fiona’s story

Presbyterians and Involvement in Social Issues

Whether it’s protesting for the rights of women or trying to stop the liberalisation of gambling, Presbyterians don’t just sit down on a Sunday and sing. We get involved! Presbyterian Support is the largest provider of Church-based social services in New Zealand—Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand website

For Progressive Presbyterians, this includes speaking truth to power, within and beyond our church organisation.

Read how one progressive faith community supports the Living Wage campaign, lobbied for marriage equality, buys Fair Trade coffee and tea for sharing after Sunday services and supports Ethical Investment… as well as making submissions on a range of issues including the Care of Children (2003) and the Green Paper on Vulnerable Children (2012).

Share your stories, submissions and social justice initiatives:




Progressive Christianity – “a new kind of community”

“For progressive Christians, the future lies with our willingness to own up to the depth of our own convictions, to proclaim the good news without fear, to live as people deeply touched by the Spirit’s power.” – Rev Dr Margaret Mayman Continue reading Progressive Christianity – “a new kind of community”

What THIS Presbyterian Believes

In response to “What Presbyterians Believe” (except me), here are a few things I think about. .”  John Shuck

I believe…

  1. in evolutionary theory. This obviously includes human beings. Evolution and science in general have had major implications regarding theology that we mostly ignore or in our worse moments deny. Continue reading What THIS Presbyterian Believes