I must say that the term “progressive” bothers me. I won’t say it annoys me, because I find that when I get annoyed I shortly thereafter find something amusing and there goes my annoyance.


I’m bothered by the term on two counts. The first is obvious. It’s employment demonstrates a want of humility or even a sense of self-deprecation. The second is that it makes me “regressive” a term I reject. I dare say that in many areas I am as progressive as the next person. After all I have a Mac, an I Pad -wish I’d waited for the new improved version – and an I Phone. I am against capital punishment, am sensibly Green and if I had a vote would cast it to re-elect Mr Obama.


But when it comes to church matters, a subject which takes much of my time and energy, I am deemed regressive. For instance I don’t enjoy or find particularly effective new liturgies and rumperty tumperty religious songs. I do think that if the organized church survives, some bright things in the future will push the altar back against the wall and sing Healey Willan at Mass. But when it comes to “church growth and development” I am more than progressive. I’m positively Wesleyan. Wesley was driven from what he called his “commodious pulpit” by the authorities. Instead he organized house churches and group meetings, at first made up of church people and later of their converts. He bade them, in the end unsuccessfully, to go to the parish church to make their communions, but placed his revival squarely among the unchurched people he so loved.


If I had my way, I’d provide one church building in driving distance of most people, close and sell off the rest and use the retained buildings for eucharistic worship and get togethers while centering evangelistic and spiritual growth meetings in the homes of the faithful and from there among their converts. How is that for progressive? Even more I’d invite other denominations to share in the creation of these groups. They could go their separate way for the sacraments until they finally realized just how daft our divisions really are.


What about feeding the hungry? By including the hungry in our evangelism many would be fed, found jobs, given medical treatment simply because including them would drive Christians to be about their duty to God’s poor. “They held all things in common.”  Holding what we have in common doesn’t mean we stop having possessions. No one is going to fire us for being a Christian yet. But living in shared communion highlights our selfishness and spurs us to loving action.


What about sex?  We might well shift our attention from copulation to cooperation. No I don’t think two people of the same-sex may be married with the church’s formal blessing. Nor do i think we should compartmentalize people who have made life long commitments, or label them, let alone drive them away. If sin they do, their sins are pale in comparison with the disruptive people in church, the unforgiving, vicious gossips,  the passively aggressive, all of whom we now include, absolve and bless Sunday by Sunday at worship and tolerate at vestry meetings and coffee hour.  In fidelity many may teach heterosexual people a thing or two, surviving as many do in a culture of prejudice and suspicion. No doubt I have blessed many same-sex couples and their homes as a matter of routine. That my intention was not to marry them or use a form which looks in any manner like a marriage service does not lessen the blessing. For in many ways all blessings are anticipatory. They are not magic. A blessing requires a response, the proverbial proof of the pudding.


I am utterly convinced that our neglect of costly evangelism, something which thrusts us out of the safety of buildings and our fixation on sexual acts demonstrate just how regressive we have become as Episcopalians. But I do believe that the time is coming when, through sheer desperation, we may shed our traditions if only to survive. Hooray for progression.

2 Responses

  1. Yes, the good Anglican parsons had it right – John & Charles – our loss of their evangelical spirit dooms us to an ever expanding morass of muddled religion and life in general.

  2. It’s a despicable how the Left takes perfectly good words and attempts to redefine them for their political purposes. Words like “liberal”, “gay” and “choice” come to mind. Orwell understood this well, as did C.S. Lewis in his book on language (not a well-known title, an academic work). In this morning’s devotional e-mail from the Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, the verse about fighting evil by doing good was quoted (can’t remember the “address” of the passage). That’s what we have to do. And also, we should expose the unfruitful works of darkness, like this mis-appropriation of good words for nefarious purposes by theological and political deceivers. This is a splendid article. “Keep on keeping on” in Christ!

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