Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Center for Progressive Christianity
The Center for Progressive Christianity (TCPC) was founded in 1996 by a retired Episcopalian priest, James Adams, in Cambridge, MA. It currently represents the most liberal established Christian group within Christianity. It is not a religious denomination. Rather it is a network of affiliated congregations, informal groups, and individuals.
The mission of The Center for Progressive Christianity is:
- "To reach out to those for whom organized religion has proved ineffectual, irrelevant, or repressive, as well as to those who have given up on or are unacquainted with it."
- "To uphold evangelism as an agent of justice and peace."
- "To give a strong voice both in the churches and the public arena to the advocates of progressive Christianity."
- "To support those who embrace the search, not certainty."
What kind of people are attracted to Progressive Christianity? Progressive Christianity casts a very broad tent. All people are welcome as affiliates. Their fourth point invites: "....all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to): believers and agnostics, conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, women and men, those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, those of all races and cultures, those of all classes and abilities, those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope." Most affiliates probably view religious belief as a process -- a searching for truth rather than establishing truth. Most are probably liberal Christians or post-Christians who stress justice and tolerance above creedal beliefs.
They include people who:
- Are repelled by exclusivist beliefs.
- reject the concept that only their branch of their religion has the entire monopoly on truth and that all other spiritual paths are in error.
- Pass beyond biblical inerrancy, established creeds, and church dogma, they recognize, as author Jack Good has written: "the fingerprints of humankind on all religious documents and symbols." 3
- Value the search for truth, even though it can never be fully possessed. They view it as more important and challenging than the acceptance of those fixed beliefs found in the past by others and imbedded in church creeds.
- Who are, as Jack Good describes, "chaos tolerant:" They can handle a degree of disorder, uncertainty, and ambiguity in life and want to be "partners in the exciting search for tentative but satisfying answers to the most pressing problems of existence."
- Believe in the Ethic of Reciprocity: that how we treat other people is more important than the specifics of what we believe about God, humanity and the rest of the universe.
- Have the ability to absorb rapid change in their beliefs, as they integrate findings from social and physical sciences.
The website gives an analogy that symbolizes the methodology of the Progressive Christianity movement. It involves a Sunday school teacher and a class of 9 or 10-year-olds. Even at that age, some were skeptical of the inerrancy of the Bible. They felt that many events recorded in the Bible never happened. Rather then try to convince the children otherwise, the teacher suggested that they read Charlotte's Web instead -- an enduring story of a bashful pig named Wilbur who befriended a spider named Charlotte. The class enjoyed the book. After some great discussions, the teacher interjected the thought that pigs and spiders cannot talk. The kids protested: "Well, it's a story." The teacher asked whether the story was true. They decided that it was sort of true. "In a way, it was true." So the teacher suggested: "All right, well let's look at the Bible in the same way." 4
For the movement's founder, James Adams, "such open-ended and searching conversations are at the heart of what it means to be religious. They are the very thing he hopes to foster through the work of his small, but visionary organization. Education is at the core of the Centerís work, but it is a vision of education that calls for open-ended conversation, the use of scholarship and intellectual gifts, as well as personal experience and emotion."
These are a series of ideas that describe the TCPC's approach to Christianity. 5 It is not a statement of faith or creed. It is more a description of how Progressive Christians approach live. They are paraphrased for brevity and to avoid copyright conflicts:
- Focus: The teachings and life of Jesus provide them with a path to God.
- Pluralism: They recognize that others follow their own paths to God which are equally true for them.
- Communion: They view the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus' name to represent "an ancient vision of God's feast for all peoples."
- Inclusivity: All are welcome to become involved; persons of all genders, sexual orientations, traditions, races, etc.
- Reciprocity: How we treat others is the "fullest expression" of our beliefs.
- Search: They find more grace in searching for truth than in accepting certainty.
- Community: They form communities to support each other in their quest for peace, justice, a restored environment, and to provide hope.
- Cost: Following Jesus involves a personal investment in "selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege."
The Progressive Christian symbol is an eight-pointed star, representing the eight ideas that they hold in common.
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