Progressive and Christian? Feminist and Christian?

Isn’t this a contradiction in terms? 

Elizabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza
Elizabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza

In the 1980s I was involved in debates over whether we could be a feminist and a christian.  The answer very much depended, of course, by what we mean by christian.   For Daphne Hampson, a UK feminist, the answer was no.  Christianity was and is and ever shall be irredeemably patriarchal.

For Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, a US Catholic feminist the answer was yes.  She identified a thread of counter culture that had always been present in Christianity – and it was this that she identified with.  Not the establishment voice, but the voice of prophecy, the cries for justice, the Sophia tradition of wisdom.

I think the debate about progressive and christian ranges similarly between those who believe Christianity is a fixed and never changing faith handed to us in the words of the King James Bible or whether Christianity is a journey, an ever changing culture of engagement with life, justice and God.

Progressive Christian?

Here is how some Progressive Presbyterians have expressed it:

We cherish our diversity, offering a safe place of belonging to any who wish to explore their beliefs in an atmosphere promoting discussion, the development of healthy relationships and spiritual growth.—Knox Church, Christchurch

“…a place where the heart, soul, body and mind can be nourished and enriched.” “A church where I don’t have to turn my brain off at the door,” said one person of worship at St Luke’s. “A place where my journey and my questioning are respected,” said another—St Luke’s, Remuera

We declared ourselves to be an Inclusive Church on 8th December 1991. Welcoming all people of every creed, race, class and sexual orientation.  We strive to be:  A church without labels, welcoming all people; An inclusive church, including people of any creed, race, class or sexual orientation; A church where lay participation in worship is fostered and no talents are wasted; A church which seeks to give a Christian shape to social, economic and political affairs – to be light, salt and leaven.” St Andrew’s on The Terrace, Wellington

What is Progressive Christianity like?

Well, not all that different from everyone else. It’s just we don’t see any need to continue messing around with issues like the equality of women. So yes, we do use old hymns and prayers that we find fulfilling, but we balance them with new prayers and hymns that celebrate the journeys of faithful women as well as men. We take seriously the task of providing a whole range of people with an opportunity to explore what is meaningful for them, think about ethical questions and ‘Celebrate life with a loving community’. To do this we have worship service every Sunday morning at 10:30 am which has space for contributions from a range of people. Saint Paul’s Cooperating Parish, Kamo and Kaurihohore is a church community that welcomes the contributions of people of all genders and sexual orientations. Kaurihohore Historic Church, Whangarei

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, for Progressive Christianity isn’t about indifference or bland tolerance. It’s about the rediscovery of the centre. In Jesus’ teaching and practice of love, humanity is called to a love affair with God and a new kind of community with one another.—Margaret Mayman, Pitt Street Uniting Church Sydney

 What do you think?