Why Weren't We Told? by by Rex A. E. Hunt & John W. H. Smith
A Handbook on ‘Progressive’ Christianity reviewed by Peter Creevey, Christchurch Quaker Meeting, Universalist Unitarians of Canterbury, Sea of Faith, Christchurch, Cosmic Celebrationists, Christchurch.
With a foreword by the Rev. Lloyd Geering, this is a collection of notes, ideas, sermons and articles, by a
wide variety of theologians and thinkers, most of them New Zealanders or Australians. It has been put together for Polebridge Press, of Willamett University, at Salem, Oregon. The Editors (and contributors, too) are Rex A.E.Hunt and John W.H. Smith, of Australia. Margaret Mayman, Jim Veitch, Noel Preston and Val Webb are just a few of the names of other contributors.
It is a collection for dipping into and thinking about, and is not made for reading straight through. There could be a sermon on every page!
The main burthen of the lay is that theological colleges may have been ‘hotbeds’ of ecumenism and
progressive thought when the current crops of ministers/priests/pastors were in residence, but those
ordained persons were not exhorted to spread progressive ideas to lay persons in their church
Indeed, some of them found that conservative elements in the congregations themselves were highly
resistant and bitterly-opposed to new information. Biblical scholarship and archeological news were alike
spurned or ignored ‘in the pews’.
All of this has produced the current church bodies, of which many are composed of ageing and often
fundamentalist attenders, who simply seek spiritual comfort as they near death. Also, many church leaders and theologians have become disillusioned and left the church institutions.
More secular persons outside the churches are now stating that they are ‘spiritual, but not religious’. They
do not attend church, but they are Seekers-after-Truth. Young people, particularly, hunger for ethical standards and value systems, but are repelled by the churches’ medieval vocabularies and dusty, theological terms. Secular political change has seen sport and commerce intrude into the Sabbath, so that the former socialization via Sunday School has been denied most of the currently youthful western population.
In some belief groups, such as the Religious Society of Friends, there has been a gradual acceptance of ‘non-theists’, but Progressive Christians have often found themselves frozen out of ‘the church’. Not all of them have experienced the trial for heresy which descended on Lloyd Geering; ironically, his persecution by the church has produced a keen following for his controversial writing and lectures.
Now that progressives, such as Gretta Vosper of Canada (who wrote With or Without God), are finding
listeners within the church and in the wider community, this latest publication may perhaps be seen as more leaven intruded into the secular loaf.