Progressive Christians looking for a home may want to explore The Experience that meets on Sundays at 4:00 PM at St. Pauls which is at 15th and J streets. This group is not a progressive Christian group, but it is a group that seeks to “strengthen, serve and enrich all faith traditions”. Their leader, Dr. David Thompson, reflects their mission of stressing interfaith hospitality. He is the president of the local Interfaith Service Bureau. He has shared the pulpit with a local Imam who provided some insights from Islam and, on another occasion, a clergyman from a local Christian Science Church came to speak.
It is helpful when a church shares as much on the internet as The Experience shares. On their website you can find videos of past sermons and some examples of the music that is shared. You can also explore how they want to be identified by mission and vision.
One suggestion for finding a progressive Christian church is to find out what is preached on Easter Sunday. There is a great divide that separates progressive Christians and those churches that preach some form of “atonement theory”. That atonement theory will be worded like “We believe in the death of Jesus on the cross as payment for the sins of the world and we believe in his bodily resurrection from the dead, ascension to heaven and eventual return to earth”. Many times an additional claim is made that only those who accept Jesus as such a Savior will go to heaven and the rest will be “left behind”.
Interestingly from The Experience website one learns that Dr. Thompson believes that God raised Jesus from the grave. It is not clear whether he believes in the physical body being raised, but it is clear that this is not related to an atonement theory. His Easter thoughts are reminiscent of the universal salvation preachers in the 1800’s who argued that humanity needs to be reconciled to God, but God did not require a payment for sins in order to be reconciled to humanity. All will be raised from the dead and the resurrection of Jesus is only a sign of things to come.
Most progressive Christians will not support “miracles” like raising the body of the dead. The stories surrounding the death of Jesus can be understood within the cultural understandings of that time and place. Jesus was a Jew who was unjustly killed, but he is then vindicated and involved in exalted claims of resurrection.
Some would argue that the Gospel of Peter provides the earliest stories from which the canonical gospels copied. The Gospel of Peter has the familiar canonical stories plus additional material. There is the story of two men coming down from the sky and walking into the tomb after the stone rolled itself away. They left with Jesus who was followed by his cross and people watched as two heads reached up to the sky and the head of Jesus reached beyond the skies from which a voice was heard.
Progressive Christians just can not support the “miracles” that were common descriptions during the time that Jesus lived. Progressive theologians like Marcus Borg will explore how the cross needs to be saved as a Christian symbol and how it really defines Christianity, but this does not require “miracles”.
Some progressives only ask that people advocate justice and seek to live together in peace and mutual support. Dr. Thompson shares those values including advocating for LGBT rights. He is involved in a noble and worthy attempt at “doing Church” outside the boundaries of denominations. And it is clear that whatever Dr. Thompson believes will not prevent the hospitality that he seeks. In fact, Dr. Thompson specifically invites all people regardless of theology to join him. It is a remarkable invitation.
However, most progressive Christians will probably continue to wait for the Progressive Christian Church to come to town. Theology is important and needs to be cultivated within a community. When the Progressive Christian Church comes to town they will certainly want to join Dr. Thompson and the people at The Experience with ecumenical and interfaith opportunities.