How to Understand Progressive Christianity

There’s a greater and wider diversity in Christianity, beyond the thousands of denominations or the traditional branches of Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox faith traditions, there is also a wide range of clusters known as fundamentalists, reformed, evangelicals, progressive evangelicals, and progressive Christians. The 1st 3 clusters have been very active in publishing and broadcasting their theologies and teachings through books, radio, television, and on the Internet.

To better understand and maybe explain what progressive Christianity is, here’s what emerged during my recent internet searches:

First, a description from progressivechristianity.org (the website of Center for Progressive Christianity):

Progressive Christianity is an open, intelligent, and collaborative approach to the Christian tradition and the life and teachings of Jesus that creates a pathway into an authentic and relevant religious experience.

And this excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for Progressive Christianity:

Progressive Christianity is a form of Christianity which is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the Earth. Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to “love one another” (John 15:17) within the teachings of Jesus Christ. This leads to a focus on promoting values such as compassion, justice, mercy, tolerance, often through political activism. Though prominent, the movement is by no means the only significant movement of progressive thought among Christians (see the ‘See also’ links below).

Progressive Christianity draws on the insights of multiple theological streams including evangelicalism, liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, pragmatism, postmodernism, Progressive Reconstructionism, and liberation theology. Though the terms Progressive Christianity and Liberal Christianity are often used synonymously, the two movements are distinct, despite much overlap.

The historical origins of “progressive Christianity” could be traced back to 1994 and the forming of the Center for Progressive Christianity, according to progressivechristianity.org/our-history

… founded in 1994 by Jim Adams who was, at the time, rector of St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. At that time, there was no known organization, scholar, or church leader publicly using the term, “progressive Christianity.”

What may be difficult to rationally understand about progressive Christianity is, perhaps, its lack of definition or boundaries. According to theprogressivechristian.org

We believe the search for understanding the mystery of God is more important than having absolute answers, and is more important than church doctrine, dogma, and tradition. Many churches demand that you believe certain things about God and/or Jesus in order to be acceptable. A progressive approach to faith finds more benefit in the journey of faith, less in the conclusions of faith communities.

Matthew Paul Turner has also noticed this: nobody seems to define “progressive Christian” the same way.

Bo Sanders of Homebrewed Christianity noted a big difference between progressive Christianity and liberal Christianity: So please believe me when I say that there is as big a difference between Liberal and Progressive and there is between Evangelical and Emergent.

For an introduction to progressive Christianity, there’s this curriculum:

Living the Questions is a source of curriculum and media for both seekers and “church alumni/ae” convinced that Christianity still has relevance in the 21st Century. Providing a variety of flexible resources, Living the Questions can help people explore the future of Christianity and what a meaningful faith can look like in today’s world.

Based on the book titled, Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity by David M. Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy. Related website at livingthequestionsonline.com.

Found a couple other articles with explanatory things about progressive Christianity:

And what about progressive evangelicals? That’s another story for another day…

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