What Does It Mean To Be A Progressive Christian?
There are many kinds of Christians identified by denominations, such as Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox, and so forth. There are also Christians that follow different core principles, such as fundamentalists, charismatics, evangelists, and progressives.
Progressive Christianity is not the same as being supportive of progressive politics. There may be some similarities with progressive politics, but there are specific things that progressive Christians believe in and do as part of their daily worship and religious practices.
Progressive Christians are not intimidated by those who question traditional beliefs that some consider discriminatory and overly rigid. Progressive Christians accept diversity in people and fight for social justice. They like to care for poor people and oppressed classes. They act responsibly toward the Earth, with environmental stewardship focusing on efforts to create overall sustainability.
These actions are in alignment with their daily worship. They pray and then get to work for a good cause, demonstrating prayer in action.
James Rowe Adams founded The Center for Progressive Christianity (TCPC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1996. He is a retired Episcopalian priest.
There are five core principles of progressive Christians, embraced by TCPC in 2022, which are:
- Follow the Way and Teachings of Jesus: Following Jesus can lead to an experience of the sacredness, completeness, and unity of all life. There is the recognition that the Spirit moves in many beneficial ways in many traditions of faith.
- Inclusivity: Seeking a diverse community that includes all people with honor for differences in theology, class, age, race, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.
- Compassion: Promote peace and justice among all with selfless love towards each other.
- Embracing Science: Welcome the insights provided by modern science and endeavor to protect the Earth’s integrity through environmental sustainability.
- Life-Long Learning: Make a commitment to learning that gives more value to questioning than a belief in absolutes.
Some fundamentalists claim that progressive Christians are not “true” Christians with significant condemnation of their “sins” using quotes from the Bible as proof. These fundamentalists are especially against the concept of same-sex marriage.
Progressive Christians might say, in response to such condemnation, that Jesus never wrote a single word found in the Bible and that the only requirement for being a Christian is to follow the ways and teachings of Jesus. As an example of the Bible’s fallibility, it is full of supportive references to slavery. Progressive Christians object to slavery on the same grounds as any other forms of oppression regarding gender identity, same-sex marriage, age, race, nationality, etc.
What you will not find very often are progressive Christians condemning other Christians. That is something they usually do not do. In the past, others may have condemned them. Some turned away from the church for a while because of this condemnation. Sometimes they had to overcome many obstacles to find their way back to faith in a place of worship that accepts them as the unique and wonderful people they are.
Progressive Christians look for positive things in other people and value caring, compassion, and kindness very highly. When they pray as part of their daily worship, their prayers will likely be about reducing the suffering of others.