Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Clergy Project

Have you heard of the Clergy Project?  This is not to be confused with the Clergy Letter Project.  The latter was founded by Dr. Michael Zimmerman to encourage clergy to support the teaching of evolution.   I am a member of the Clergy Letter Project and my congregation participates in Evolution Sunday.

The Clergy Project is for clergy who no longer believe in the doctrines of the church.   Many of them are leaving the ministry.

I am a member of the Clergy Project as well.  I am not leaving the ministry.  Not yet anyway.   I do not have supernatural beliefs, however.    I posted these eight points on my old blog Shuck and Jive, under the heading "What Presbyterians Believe (Except Me)."

I believe...
  1. in evolutionary theory. This obviously includes human beings. Evolution and science in general have had major implications regarding theology that we mostly ignore or in our worse moments deny.
  2. in higher criticism of the Bible. The Bible like all other books are human products (what else could they be?) and should be read as such as opposed to special revelation from a divine being.
  3. that all religion is a human construct. Its primary purpose has been and should be an attempt to find and evoke meaning amidst life's contingencies as opposed to speculation regarding supernaturalism.
  4. that "God" functions as a symbol. The concept of "God" is a product of myth-making and "God" is no longer credible as a personal, supernatural being. For me, "God" functions as a shorthand for the Universe and sometimes for qualities and aspirations I wish to pursue or to emulate.
  5. that human consciousness is the result of natural selection. Human beings do not have immortal souls nor will consciousness survive death. Thus there is no afterlife. There is no heaven, no hell, and no need for salvation from one realm to another.
  6. that there is no "end" in human time. Earth is four billion years old. Earth was here long before human beings. Earth will spin on its axis and revolve around the sun long, long after the last human being has breathed her last. We will have to find meaning and our "eschaton" in this life.
  7. that Jesus may have been historical but most of the stories about him in the Bible and elsewhere are legends. But he's cool. He serves as a human ideal and a focal point for devotion (like an ishta deva).
  8. that industrial civilization is in for a long descent. Peak Oil and Overshoot should be everyday terms in our lexicon. We ought to be putting our religious energies toward spiritual, emotional, and practical preparation for this reality.
If many ministers wrote a similar statement they would no longer be in the ministry.  They know that.  That is why they don't tell their congregations what they really think.

I think it is distressing that these intelligent and creative ministers are shut silent in a box of dogma and are unable to share their insights with their congregations for fear of losing their careers. This is a great loss for them, for the church, and for society.

I think it is important for those clergy and laity who do have more freedom to come clean with what they believe (or don't believe).   That is why I am outspoken.   I am fortunate because I serve a congregation that promotes freedom of thought.  Not all are so fortunate.

The Clergy Project exists to support clergy whose insights have moved them beyond the confines of the church.   Their stories are fascinating and important.

I hope to interview some of these clergy on upcoming episodes of Religion For Life

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