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26 September 2007: Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney, Australia The Face of Tomorrow’s Congregation

Some twenty years or so ago the leaders of Australia’s Uniting Church, a body that came into being in 1979 as a merger of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, with samplings of some other smaller Protestant bodies, decided that the Pitt Street Uniting Church of Sydney was doomed and probably should be closed. Its empty pews …

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Q & A:

I was a Christian once - for about 18 years, or most of my

adult life. But then I read the Bible honestly and realized it

was mostly evil. I am now Pagan/Hindu and will never be a

Christian again. I know you agree that there is much evil in

the Bible. You even reject basic Christian doctrines like being

born in sin, the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus' blood for those

who believe and heaven and hell. How then are you still a

Christian? The depiction of Satan in the Bible is far better

that the depiction of God. If the Bible reflects God in any way

truly, then he is a monster and Satan is a hero for rebelling.

Don't you agree? So, why are you still a Christian?

Read the Answer...

19 September 2007: Common Dreams, Sydney, Australia, 2007

It was the best conference I have attended in my entire career. Entitled “Common Dreams” and attracting 1500 plus people to Sydney, it was the brainchild of a committee of about a dozen people representing various Christian groups in Australia. Chaired by Rex Hunt, a Uniting Church of Australia pastor from Canberra, and Greg Jenks, …

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Q & A:

In your inspiring book Jesus for the

Non-Religious, you make the case that the healing miracles

were not literal events but were instead meant to convey that

Jesus "opened people's eyes to see what life could be." I could

not agree with you more. However, John Crossan says that

healing was part of the ministry of Jesus (see page 332 of

The Historical Jesus). I cannot envision this healing

ministry in a literal sense. So, from your perspective, how did

Jesus "open people's eyes?" What would a day in the life of

Jesus of Nazareth look like? You make a profound case for Jesus

as the breaker of tribal boundaries, prejudices and stereotypes

and religious boundaries. How did this look in practice? If we

were to take a video camera and follow Jesus around, what would

we see? How did a Jewish peasant people, who more than likely

kept exclusionary boundaries themselves, experience boundary

breaking as life-giving? How can we understand the Jesus

experience without resorting to the examples of metaphorical

healing stories?

Read the Answer...

12 September 2007: If Christianity Cannot Change, It Will Die.

Author’s note: While in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald invited me to write an op-ed piece on the future of Christianity. I found that a particularly interesting thing to do since both the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans of Sydney seem to me to live in a time warp and most of the citizens of …

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Q & A:

In an interview with BeliefNet, Hans Küng said that the Vatican knew for decades about sexually abusive priests and the bishops" mishandling of them. In you opinion, why did they allow the situation to continue for so long?

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5 September 2007: A Public Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams

Dear Rowan, I am delighted that you have agreed to meet with the House of Bishops of the American Episcopal Church in September, even if you appear to be unwilling to come alone. It has seemed strange that you, who have had so much to say about the American Church, have not been willing to …

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Q & A:

This week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

television program Compass, hosted by Geraldine

Doogue, ran a production on Interfaith Ministry. It was based on

a book written by Peter Kirkwood and published by ABC Books in

Sydney, Australia. Now I am reading the book — The

Quiet Revolution — and it is an inspiring story

indeed. I had never heard of the Parliament of the World's

Religions, so I am moving into a set of stories completely new

to me.

Despite the glamorous report presented through the television

lens, the movement may have much goodwill building to do. Given

that I live in a far-flung part of the world, I feel the need

not to invest too much hope in it yet. On the other hand, this

is no time in the life of the planet to be timid and doubtful.

Perhaps you might comment on the movement and provide some

guidance to those of us unfamiliar with, but not averse to, this


Read the Answer...

29 August 2007: Why Should People Pay Any Attention to the Christian Church on Sexual Matters?

In recent decades the primary battles that have been fought in the Christian Church have not been about theology, but about issues of human sexuality. Huge debates polarize the Church on whether priesthood will be limited to males; the morality of birth control and abortion; who has the right to decide on what birth control …

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Q & A:

I attended your recent lectures in Austin and realize I forgot to ask you a question that has been increasingly on my mind: How does the concept of "worship" figure into your vision of a new Christianity? For a long time I have felt that God doesn't need my worship or praise, and to think that God does need my worship and adoration seems silly. (I think that "worship" and "adoration" are different from feeling a sense of gratitude and connection to God.)

My church has been having some serious discussions regarding worship changes and I've heard some folks say that worship shouldn't be about us — it's simply about praising God. Well, I think that worship is very much about me and about the other worshipers as well — it's about drawing us closer to God, about the community called the church, about inspiring us to care for others, etc. Creeds that I can't say, prayers of confession that beat people up, hymns focused on atonement messages, and an emphasis on liturgy and ritual over spirituality only impede my relationship to God. Am I just spoiled and self-centered to want a more meaningful and more relevant worship experience?

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22 August 2007: The Fourth Fundamental: Miracles and the Resurrection, Part IV

The idea that one can raise a deceased person to life entered the biblical story in two narratives from the Elijah-Elisha cycle of stories. It is then picked up and repeated in the gospel tradition. Was this meant to be read literally? Did Jesus really raise the dead? Is it biologically possible to bring back …

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Q & A:

I have enjoyed your writing for some time. As a

devotee of the philosopher Spinoza, I would be interested in your comments on

this very special man.

Read the Answer...

15 August 2007: The Fourth Fundamental: Miracles and the Resurrection, Part III

In this series we first sought to identify the places in the Bible where miracles seem to appear in groups. There are only three: The Moses-Joshua cycle of stories, the Elijah-Elisha cycle and the Jesus-Apostles cycle. We then raised the question of whether there might be a connection between these three biblical collections. To destabilize …

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Q & A:

Why is the Friday before Easter called "Good Friday"? Where did the term originate?

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8 August 2007: The Fourth Fundamental: The Nature Miracles were not meant to be read as Events of History, Part II

In fundamentalist religion there are a number of strange claims made that arise primarily out of a lack of biblical knowledge. One of them is the claim that the miracles of Jesus, described in the gospels, are proof of his divinity. Only because he is the divine son of God, they say, are these miracles …

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Q & A:

What is your knowledge of the number of priests in the

Episcopal Church who are gay and openly accepted, versus those

whose ministry is rejected because of their gay identity?

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1 August 2007: Miracles and the Resurrection The Fourth Fundamental, Part I

I return this week to our running series on the Five Fundamentals, that supposedly irreducible set of principles that believers were told had to be accepted as literally true if one wanted to be called a Christian. It was from the publication of these five fundamentals between the years 1910-1915, in a series of widely …

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Q & A:

I have just finished reading Jesus for the Non-Religious, which I

found to be as informative and challenging as all your prior

books. I have struggled with Jesus' Resurrection as far back as

I can remember, and have read keenly what you have to say on

this subject. It has been several years since I read

Resurrection: Myth or Reality?, but I recall that you said you

did not know what actually happened, but that you believed

something profound must have occurred to ignite a movement that

put its early followers at grave risk - and attracted billions

of people over two millennia. In your latest book, your

thinking appears to have changed somewhat, with a greater

emphasis on the theory that Jesus' Resurrection evolved as part

of a grief-coping mechanism

used by his disciples. Am I missing something here? I look

forward to your next book in 2009.

Read the Answer...

25 July 2007: Flavius Josephus, Judas Iscariot and Anti-Semitism

During this summer I have read Flavius Josephus’ history of the first century war fought between the Romans and the Jews. That war began in Galilee in 66 C.E. and ended in 73 with the suicide of the last Jewish defenders in a fortress southeast of Jerusalem called Masada. The crucial moment in that war …

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Q & A:

Your credentials are outstanding and I thoroughly

enjoyed your recent recap of events on your lecture tour of

Norway and Sweden. The poem by Tor Littmark that you included

in one column was deep and moving. I wish I could share it with

ALL my friends and relatives. You must, however, have

encountered more than a little backlash from the complaining

conservative evangelical elements in both countries or did they

just roll over and play dead?

Read the Answer...

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