Progressive Christianity in our time has emerged through two related but distinct processes. One is a process of elimination: Christians, over the last couple of centuries, have realized that many elements of our Western culture are not essential to – or even compatible with – Christian life and belief, and we have sought to shed them. We have looked hard at the false claims of government absolutism, of slavery, of racism, sexism and homophobia and have rejected them.
The other process has been one of refocusing. Here the question isn’t “What is extraneous to our faith?” but “Where is its centre?” Our answers take different forms, but, eventually, they come back to the way Jesus united, in both his life and teaching, the two commandments to love God and to love neighbour.
The two processes may produce related results, but they are not identical. One prunes the excess at the peripheries; the other is looking for the ground of our faith. Many of us who claim the name of progressive Christians are probably more comfortable with the elimination than the search for the centre, clearer about what we don’t believe than about what we do.
We have seen how the powers-that-be have repeatedly invoked Christianity to justify their sins. We are clear that we need to reject this entanglement of Christian faith with the status quo. But simply to reject is not enough. Rejection does not inspire hope or love or delight or even intellectual coherence.
The real reason why progressive Christianity exists is not to prune away archaisms and false accretions. It exists to be an authentic gospel voice, to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ life and teaching: a vision of humanity united to the sacred and to one another in love and justice.
—Rev Dr Margaret Mayman (extract from sermon, “postmodern prayer?” July 2004)