What is Progressive Christianity?


Progressive Christianity

I decided to write this short essay after I read a piece by Edward Simmons last month. Its title was What is progressive about Progressive Christianity? 

What does the word ‘progressive’ mean?  Here are some possible ideas.  Enlightened, forward-looking, reformist, broad-minded, and tolerant.  ‘Progressive’ can also mean ‘left-leaning’. I agree, as I wrote recently in my homily on the Beatitudes.

Simmons linked these ideas to the political and social reforms of the American “progressive movement” of the early 20th century.  Jesus, and the earlier Hebrew prophets, likewise showed concern for the poor, oppressed, and underprivileged in society.

The 8 Points of Progressive Christianity summarize Progressive Christianity. Our beliefs at St. George’s are similar.  They include respect for all people, no matter who they are.  It also includes care and respect for God’s Creation.  That is to say, the environment.  

Links to the Reformation

Simmons saw similarities between today’s world and that of the 16th century Reformation.  He also looked back to Jesus’ own ministry and to the Hebrew prophets.  Like today, these were times of great inequality and corruption in society. Religious thinkers called for a fairer society.  They based their ideas on what the Kingdom of God should look like.

Simmons original question, was What is progressive about Progressive Christianity?  He suggested these ideas as possible answers.  First, it is a reform movement.  Jesus was not a reformer, not a revolutionary. He stayed committed to his Jewish roots throughout his ministry. But he challenged outdated traditions.  Similarly, Progressive Christians recognize and adapt to changing times and conditions.  For example, Medical Aid in Dying, is a modern issue that challenges the idea that human life is sacred. 

Progressive Christianity and Discrimination

In the past, discrimination on grounds like race, sexual orientation, and gender identity seemed to be normal.  Even Jesus told stories about slaves. Progressive Christians, including we at St. George’s Lowville, recognize that being open to everyone means no discrimination. Everyone means exactly what it says. there cannot be exceptions, or it doesn’t mean everyone.

In the same way, previous generations accepted the words of Genesis 1: 28 without question. “Fill the earth and subdue it …  take every living thing for your own use …’ Progressive Christians commit to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth and all of Creation.

I end with a slight change of Edward Simmons’ words. “Revolutions, whether political or market-driven, destroy as they seek to build. Reforms attempt to balance the past with adaptation to the present and future. Progressive Christianity is a calming influence.  It nurtures the God-centered and people-centered values of Jesus in a culture overwhelmed by economic and technological change.”