Beyond the Borders 2014 – From Insiders to Outsiders – Val Webb’s conference presentation

Val Webb

From Insiders and Outsiders to People without Borders

Christianity  has for centuries been about staying in the lines and it seems that, when people have tried to colour outside them, more energy is expended rubbing out wandering lines than seeing the new picture they create.  Heresy trials, shunning and shaming are all techniques for punishing “outside the lines” colouring.

These colouring rules are still very much alive today – you will each have experienced your own versions of this.  In Australia, we only need to look at Peter Kennedy and Terry Fitzpatrick’s experiences as priests in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Brisbane to see what happens when people stand up for new ways in the face of institutional rules – they and their congregation are now St. Mary’s in Exile, excluded from the Catholic communion, but actually flourishing after five years of exile.

It seems almost inevitable that insider-outsider mentalities develop as new religions emerge as adaptations or corrections of previous ones – as most are.  Any emerging group has to define its difference – why it is separating out, and why it is right.

In the last few years, some Londoners, disenchanted with traditional church, formed the Sunday Assembly which they describe as “a global network of super people who want to make the most of this one life we know we have”.  They seek to “live better, help often and wonder more”.  While borrowing the Anglican service format, they promoted their assembly as atheist church – keeping the community but not God.  However, insiders and outsiders are already forming.  The London community now talks more about wonder and awe than about atheism, in order to attract the wider ‘spiritual not religious’ audience — but the New York group evangelized from London, promises a strict atheism.  They call themselves the Godless Revival and challenge the marginalization of avowed atheists they perceive in the London assembly.

An excerpt – read it all here – her website has details of her great books too!

Presentation at New Zealand Progressive Spirituality Conference, Auckland, 2014

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