Being a Progressive Christian fulfilling
To call myself a Progressive Christian is risky. Recently, some people informed me the two words cannot be used together, that if I want to call myself Christian, I must reject the term “progressive.” I disagree. I was ordained 35 years ago in the United Church of Christ, a progressive denomination. It is fulfilling to serve as pastor and teacher of a congregation, many of whose members embrace the ideals of Progressive Christianity.
There are many valid expressions of the Christian faith. Sharing our perspectives, disagreeing (without being disagreeable) and being in dialogue is beneficial to the larger community, Christ’s church.
When I served as wing chaplain of the Air National Guard unit at Niagara Falls, my four deputies hailed from the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, United Methodist and Baptist traditions. The five of us spent much time together, learning from each other, appreciating each other’s perspectives, comparing sermons, recognizing that together we might grasp truths greater than those we espouse alone.
When it comes to how we embrace “Progressive Christianity,” we of the First Congregational United Church of Christ are not alone. The tenets of Progressive Christianity as found at that organization’s website – progressivechristianity.org/ -say that by calling ourselves Progressive Christians, we are Christians who:
1.) Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the sacred and the oneness and unity of all life;
2.) Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the sacredness and oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;
3.) Seek community that is inclusive of all people, including but not limited to:
- Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics;
- Believers and agnostics;
- Women and men;
- Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities;
- Those of all classes and abilities;
4.) Know that the way we behave toward one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;
5.) Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;
6.) Strive for peace and justice among all people;
7.) Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;
8.) Commit to a path of lifelong learning, compassion and selfless love.
May grace and peace abound.
The Rev. RALPH S. ENGLISH
Pastor and teacher, First Congregational United Church of Christ