I was speaking to a member of my church last Sunday, who told me she had been invited to a meeting being arranged at another church in our area, which was to be addressed by a leading light in the Progressive Christianity Movement, but she had reservations. I had to admit, I hadn’t heard of the movement or the speaker involved before but I said I would check it out and then feed back to her. So I googled “Progressive Christianity”, and without further ado suggest readers do the same. As a taster, the blurb at the top of my search gave me an inkling of what to expect: “Progressive Christianity is a form of Christianity which is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the Earth”.
Those who have read my blogs and other writings will know that while I care about these things, I am nevertheless a Christian in the Reformed Evangelical tradition even though I unashamedly describe myself as a community activist. When I read, as I did earlier in the week, a blog of one prolific US fundamentalist, when he reflected disapprovingly that certain elements of the church have replaced preaching the gospel with social activism, I agreed and disagreed at the same time, for it should not be a case of either / or but both with a warning about the potential pitfalls when trying to reconcile the two or getting the balance wrong. Besides wanting to fulfill my promise to this lady, the issue of truth and steering people in the right way is important to me as is doing the things advocated in the afore-mentioned blurb. Now I am getting on a bit, I can look back having seen many “Christian” movements at various points on the spectrum between sound/wholesome to dodgy/unwholesome and realize along with preacher in Ecclesiastes that there is “nothing new under the sun” and Liberalism (if that is what this latest movement is) has had many different manifestations over the centuries.
So back to my venture into google searching. To an extent, the jury is still out since I do not wish to pontificate on subjects I don’t know enough about, especially when I suspect there are a number of my Christian friends who do community activism that have been influenced by the teachings coming from exponents of this “progressive” movement. However, I will give my take thus far. There is a lot that is being said that is not only right but needs to be said since it isn’t being said loud enough elsewhere. The speaker at the meeting my friend was invited to clearly had a thing about corruption in the church and in the main I couldn’t disagree. However, and this is the crunch, overall too much is stated that denies orthodox beliefs which are axiomatic to living the life God wants from us. The jewel in the crown to doctrinal statements is the Westminster Confession of Faith and there is much that does not tally or, more importantly, with what the Bible teaches, and therefore my message to those inclined to embrace the teachings of this movement is to proceed with caution and reject what is false.
Having got this off my chest, I am mindful there are important issues this movement has raised that Christians do well to consider. Many of the concerns of the Progressive Christian Movement are valid and need addressing. These include reaching out to a de-churched, unchristianised, ignorant world, including groups like the homeless, socially excluded, LBGT, ethnic minorities etc. who we are obligated to reaching out to. We should rightly question much of what we do and whether that is what God wants us to do. However, it must never be at the expense of sacrificing truth, however unpalatable it is to modern ears. The great doctrines of the church remain so as does the authority of the Bible. The challenge facing the church today is being Christ to the world, which without exception Christians of all shades have a long way to go to meet.