Jun 15 2009

June 2009 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters

Sea of Faith        Newsletter

 NETWORK N.Z.                              June  2009



David Kitchingman started us thinking about:
The Trouble with Jesus
David explained:
Last Christmas, the Tui Beer billboards raised howls of outrage. “Let’s take a moment this Christmas to think about Christ…   Yeah, right – Tui”.   That ad went to No. 1 on the Advertising Standards Authority’s 2008 hate list.   There were 86 complaints, claiming it was offensive to Christians, as was the alcohol-religion link.   The complaint was settled when the advertisement was withdrawn by Dominion Breweries.

Tui also brewed up a fight with the “Sure, I’ve got ten minutes to talk about Jehovah” billboard, ninth on the complaints Top 10.   But, with only 16 complaints on that one, the Authority ruled that there were no grounds to proceed, as it did not meet the threshold to cause serious offence.     Nevertheless, I’m a little nervous about how I shall fare with this advance notice for our next meeting:

Let’s take an hour (or even more) this month to think about Jesus.

It’s interesting, from the ASA report, that a moment about Christ seemed to have struck more of a raw nerve than ten minutes about Jehovah.   It’s also interesting that the Press Association’s report on the most complained about ads began by saying, “Advertisements poking fun at God  …  were acceptable in 2008. Yeah, right.”   Would that phrasing have been retained if the word used had been Jesus rather than Christ?

It’s probably fair to say that in the allied area of blasphemy there is also greater sensitivity about Jesus (or Christ) than God.   I can see that in myself.   I occasionally express, for example, a “Good God!” whereas I have no recollection of making flippant or cursing use of “Jesus” or “Christ”.   These distinctions are intriguing, as are many similar ones.

For instance, as some of the traditional Protestant churches begin to draw their wagons in a circle there’s a tendency to downplay the supernatural superstructure, but to insist on drawing the line at Jesus, where perhaps the real trouble lies.     Trouble? Yes, the subject this month is actually a bit more specific than indicated above. It focuses on:

The Trouble with Jesus

After settling on this topic, I was curious enough to check on the Internet to see if there were any books with such a title.   There appeared to be only one exact match, The Trouble with Jesus by Joe Stowel.   According to reviews, it offers a powerful antidote to the all-religions-are-equal attitude that swept America after the 9/11 attacks.    God was at least temporarily welcome, but Jesus often was not.    That’s another angle on the Jesus/God counterpoint, but in other respects, from what I can tell, Stowel and I occupy different worlds. Which only tends to confirm my concerns  –  there is trouble with Jesus.   Difficult and delicate as some of the questions are, they cannot be off limits in any thorough review of the Christian faith for today.   I intend to present a number of propositions about Jesus and to comment on them through a variety of observations and experiences.
“Who needs Jesus?”
After David’s talk and our discussion this month, this topic for this year’s national Sea of Faith conference should be irresistible.   Those who go will hear David Boulton (from England, author of “Who on EARTH was Jesus?” and “The Trouble with God”),  Lloyd Geering and Greg Jenks (from Brisbane, a fellow of the Jesus Seminar) and others, including Margaret Mayman from Wellington and Doug Sellman from Christchurch.
The conference will be held in brand new conference facilities at the Waikato Diocesan School for Girls in Hamilton from early afternoon Friday September 25 to midday Sunday September 27.  There’s lots more detail on the national website: http://sof.wellington.net.nz/ If you’re hesitating, talk to anyone who went to Blenheim last year.
Another Chance to hear Lloyd Geering:
On Wednesday July 15, 7.30 pm,  Professor Lloyd Geering will be Guest Speaker at Mornington Methodist Church (corner of Galloway and Whitby Streets).  His topic:  “How can one speak of God in a secularized world?’”
Our Library:
At every meeting now, Peter Wishart has the books from our Library on display, and quite a few people have already discovered how much good stuff is there.  I recently read Karen Armstrong’s “Muhammad; A Biography of the Prophet” which I fouind to be an excellent introduction to Islam, as well as a biography.
And Peter drew  my attention to the last chapter of Ian Harris’s little book, “Creating God, Re-creating Christ” where, in summing up the whole book,  he says:

God is “for real”.   The secular culture is here to say.  A religious life is open to us that does justice both to our understanding of God and of secular culture.  A church which reflects that is possible.
We are free to project from the human Jesus to the Christ of faith in new ways, and in doing so we can rediscover the contemporary relevance of old myths and metaphors.
Secular culture can then work for religion and religion can work for secular culture. The new wineskin will have new wine.
As for creeds, they should be seen as working summaries for the next stage of the journey rather
than shibboleths of an unchangeable orthodoxy.  Mine is emerging as follows.

I give thanks for life and put my trust in all its possibilities for good  – for my good, for the good of those whose lives mine touches, for all people, for the earth itself;
I celebrate the honest search for meaning, for purpose, for truth and wholeness shown by people of faith through the ages, and join them in the quest;
I recognise in Jesus a man of integrity, insight and vision who continually challenges my willingness to settle for too little, both for myself, and in the world around me.
I find in the liberating Christ of faith a source of strength, a focus for wholeness, an inspiration to new beginnings, and a spur to be all I am capable of;
I affirm the communities of trust, love and endeavour of those who from time immemorial have shared in the search and who, with me, have felt our imaginations quickened, our creativity fired, and our understanding extended;
In these ways, and in the dynamic of their interlinking, I experience that which I call God, and in that God I put my trust,
Now and into the future,  Amen.
Now that New Zealand Post have scrapped Sunday box clearances, mailed Newsletters will probably not arrive until Tuesday. If you choose the email version, it should still arrive on Sunday afternoon, eleven days before our meeting.
Chairman:    Geoff Neilson   –    Phone 489-6727  –    Email:  Geoff
Newsletter Editor:   Donald Feist  –   Phone 476-3268   – Email:   Don
Branch Website: dsof.blogtown.co.nz
Supplement to June 2009 Dunedin Sea of Faith Newsletter

“Non-realist Church”

Points from Sea of Faith Discussion  29 May 2009

At last month’s meeting, Marjorie Spittle and Andrew Meek opened up the question of whether at least some churches should, or could, become churches based on a non-realist understanding of the word “God”.
Below is compilation of the notes that were handed to Andrew from the group discussions. They are not necessarily consistent.  Each one may be the consensus of a group, or one person’s idea only  –  which others disagreed with.   Geoff suggested as he thanked Andrew and Marjorie that this discussion among us was probably far from finished.

In a “Non-realist” Church,  SOME would like to keep:

the buildings;    elements of theatre, plays, drama;     ceremonies for rites of passage;poetic language (even the King James Bible);      music, organ, and choir;
some form of liturgy with sacraments;      pageantry: robes, processions;
statement of shared values, not doctrines.
Values of love, compassion, support; concern for social justice; awe and being at one with nature.
A place or structure for bonding, belonging to a group.

SOME would abandon:

“idolisation” of church buildings;                                                  
traditional rituals: bringing in The Word, ceremonial robes;      straight rows of seats;
the hierarchy;      authoritarian symbols, e.g.  pulpit, cross;
25 minute sermons (replaced by 10 minute homilies);   inconsistencies in set liturgy;
creeds;     the lectionary;     hymns with old language;      modern choruses;
realist-God language and theology;     literal interpretation of the Bible;
intercessory prayers asking God, to fix things; Judgmental attitudes;
exclusiveness towards women, gays, non-realists;     making membership dependent on beliefs;
artificial reasons for church attendance;
the vow (for ministers and office-bearers) to seek the peace and unity of the church.

SOME would like to see started:

dialogue, participation, feedback, group discussions;
opportunity to relate, house meetings, SOF groups;
more use of theatre;      contemplative prayer;      celebration of life, awe and wonder;
A new approach to festivals, Easter, Christmas no longer seen as dependent on historical events;  honest, brave leaders – resource people, not authority figures;
inclusive language, stories as stories;     acceptance of metaphor;
acceptance of people with a non-realist viewpoint;
acknowledgment of the variety of Christian experience;   health education;
acceptance that people understand the word ‘god’ in different ways, have different concepts;

Thoughts on the church being: –   a Spiritual Health Service …

We would prefer an expansion of the scope of medical centres, PHO’s etc to cover everything that helps people back towards wholeness.
There was a lot of good in small communities of the past where people could go to parson, doctor, policeman or teacher who would refer them to the most appropriate place of help.
The church could offer non-judgmental love and acceptance; meditation, quiet times, compassion, responsibility; space to be one’s ‘honest self’, a service that encourages honesty, mutual acceptance

…Or…      a Spiritual Education System

It might tell stories to children from the Bible, or about our environment, history, place in the world;  express awe and wonder;      understand the stages of faith and provide for each stage;
give opportunities for thoughtful discussion;   help people understand, or explore, theology.

…Or…       a Spiritual Theatre

Drama is a powerful way to convey ideas or build stories around Important themes; Communion is drama.  The church might celebrate significant events, festivals, birth, death marriage; develop rituals in keeping with our seasons; let the story be story;  learn to use symbolic language and know it is symbolic.

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