• An Introduction to Progressive Episcopal Christianity and the Fruit of the Spirit

    Posted on October 16, 2013 by in Christianity

    Bishop Mansell C. Gilmore

    Over the last two centuries academic and scientific disciplines have successfully
    challenged the traditional understanding of Christian scripture, tradition, and
    the world. We now know that there was no monolithic, Orthodox Christianity in
    the first several centuries of the Common Era. In fact, the varieties of early
    Christianity are astounding. We now know that doctrines such as the trinity and
    the cannon of scripture are ideas that evolved over time with much contention.
    There is even the possibility that the school of thought that best represented
    the original teachings of Jesus and his disciples was deemed heresy and
    suppressed. We have learned that the Bible is as much myth as history. When the
    Bible is viewed with a critical eye we find that it is a collection of
    documents which do not agree on such important topics as the life and role of
    Jesus, the place of Judaism in the life of the Christian, and even what the
    death and resurrection means. The search for the historical Jesus has become an
    indelible mark between Jesus of Nazareth and the Post-Resurrection Christ. This
    demands a response from the tradition.

    We can deny what academia and sciences have revealed, or we can embrace it and allow
    our tradition to evolve in light of it. Progressive Christianity refuses to
    deny the lessons of our time.

    There are two primary approaches to Progressive Christianity: one that abandons
    tradition (sometimes even the bible) in search of a new experience, and those
    who respect the tradition and seek to learn from both the good and bad of the
    tradition.

    Progressive Episcopal Christianity takes the second approach. We take full responsibility
    for our two millennia of tradition. We seek to learn lessons from our history,
    to take the lessons of academia and the sciences seriously, and evolve our
    tradition.

    We are going to look at our eight guiding principles as an example of what
    Progressive Episcopal Christianity is all about.

    •The ancient Christian faith can be a relative expression of the universal truth that all life is sacred and
    united

    An individual’s relationship with GOD and the world is a process and a product of
    the whole of the personal context. My relationship with GOD and the world is
    different than your relationship with GOD and the world simply because we are
    different. However, the vast Christian tradition can provide a foundation and a
    support for each of us.

    •Christianity is one of many paths on the journey of experiencing the divine and all people are free to
    explore and discover the heritage of diverse spiritual traditions

    One of the most destructive doctrines of ages past is that Christianity is the only
    way to know GOD. Progressive Episcopal Christianity affirms the validity of
    virtually all religious traditions.

    •A progressive Christian community is inclusive of all and exclusive of none and denounces
    discrimination based on gender, race, sexuality, nationality, language,
    culture, religion, disability or other distinguishing feature

    This is self-explanatory.

    •Participating in the “Great Commission” (St. Mark 16:15) requires demonstration of the liberating
    message of the Gospel, not just its proclamation. We must practice what we
    preach

    Each of us can have a personal relationship with GOD is the core of the good news of
    Christianity. In truth, we already have an ongoing relationship with GOD, many
    of us are simply not aware of it. “Working out your own salvation with fear and
    trembling”, is the process of learning to see through what obscures and
    distracts us from our relationship with GOD.

    Living the proclamation of the Good News of Christ requires us to embrace the
    commandments of Jesus, “… you shall love the LORD your GOD with all your heart,
    and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength… You
    shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (St.
    Mark 12:30 – 31 NRSV).

    As we mature in the process of cultivating Love of GOD, we will begin to develop
    the “fruit of the Spirit” which is the key to embracing the second commandment of
    Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit marks our maturity and makes it possible for us
    love our neighbor as our self. See below for more on the Fruit of the Spirit.

    •Progress on the journey of spiritual development requires we welcome and encourage the questioning
    of traditional and contemporary interpretations of the Christian faith

    We need to move away from the view that our tradition is infallible. In the light
    of our evolving relationship with GOD, and with academia and the sciences we
    need to reassess our doctrine. All of us who embrace this path have the responsibility
    to test our tradition, reassess, and re-envision our tradition. This is the
    only way our tradition will continue to meet the needs of contemporary society.

    •The Gospel message of Jesus Christ compels all believers to struggle for justice and peace among all people
    and to become dedicated advocates for the poor and oppresse

    This is self-explanatory.

    •The Christian faith includes reverence and care for the Earth and all created things

    We are to be stewards of this world, not consumers of it.

    •The Christian faith is a journey of spiritual development and requires a commitment
    to continuous learning, progress, grace and love

    See below in More on the Fruit of the Spirit

    More on the Fruit of the Spirit

    The first fruit is Agape, which is love
    by choice, an act of will, not an emotion. Agape is the undefeatable desire towards
    good for others (also called Charity). It seeks to see the highest, the noblest
    in another person, no matter their actions. For this reason, Agape continually
    seeks to understand the other person, without condemnation. It is the
    acceptance and encouragement of the best in all of those whom you may
    encounter. Agape is the choice to see the worth, the true value of another
    person, beyond what they have done, and beyond your own bias. This is where we
    start. Agape is what we cultivate. All other fruit of the Spirit arises from
    the cultivation of Agape. This is the Great Commission.

    Chara (joy) arises from Agape. Chara is derived from the Greek word charis, grace. It is
    the direct result of the application of grace. It is not the same as happiness,
    which is determined by our circumstances. Remember, “…the Joy of the LORD is
    your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). When we see joy as a product of grace which
    comes from the choice to love, Chara becomes a place of rest within us. It is a
    place within us where there is no condemnation, only loving acceptance. This is
    the strength that comes from the LORD, true acceptance without condemnation.

    Arising from Joy is Eirene, Peace. Eirene
    only comes through wholeness or completion. It indicates that place within us,
    by now, fully developed, which cannot be touched by outward circumstance. Peace
    arises naturally from Love and Joy. Agape is the choice to love without
    condemnation. Chara is the is the result of that choice applied to the self,
    and extended to others. Eirene is the wholeness that develops as a result of
    Love and Joy. These are the internal fruit of the Spirit.

    Makrothumia is a word that means lenience and patient endurance. It is the choice to endure
    rather than seek vengeance in word or deed. Love-without-condemnation,
    Joy-through-grace, and Peace-in-wholeness is the foundation for the choice and
    action of patient endurance.

    Chrestotes is a word that means Kindness. Chrestotes was used to describe a ruler who was
    compassionate, sympathetic, humane, kind, and gentle. It is the word St. Paul
    uses to describe GOD’s attitude towards us. It is an attitude that does not
    demand others to hold the opinions, convictions, views, or desires we do. It is
    an attitude that seeks the best for others regardless of any differences. It is
    investment in the highest qualities and best for others, without the desire or
    expectation of anything in return. This includes respect. Once this attitude
    and action has become natural, we can truly be called good.

    Agathosune is a word that means Goodness. It is the quality of virtuousness, of
    generosity, of moral excellence. It is the change of being that occurs with an
    evolving relationship with GOD, and the saturation of the whole of the person
    with the Holy Spirit. Agathosune is not an action, or an attitude, it is a
    state of being which arises naturally from the choice to Love-without-condemnation,
    the embrace of Joy-through-grace, the development of Peace-in-wholeness, and
    Kind-compassionate-and-gentle attitude and action.

    Pistis is a word that means faith or faithfulness. When we view Pistis as the result
    of the development of the six previous fruit we are left with the idea of spiritual-momentum.
    Faithfulness is an act of commitment. At this point on the path, this
    commitment is natural, automatic. Spiritual growth seems to occur on its own,
    in its own direction. We are so saturated by the Holy Spirit, and our lives are
    so habitually focused on our relationship with GOD and our love for each other
    that Faith seems like a gift. This is not to say it is easy. As we can see
    above, the process of Christian maturity is a discipline which results in transformation.
    This transformation causes a commitment to the process no matter the conditions
    of life.

    Prautes is a Greek word that means Gentleness or Meekness. Prautes is indicative of
    strength under control. This is a state of Christ-likeness (Philippians 2:5). It
    is true humility, because it is a choice. Prautes arises out of the balance
    that is cultivated in the previous seven fruit. It is the state of meekness/humility
    that is the hallmark of Christian maturity.

    The pinnacle of Christian maturity is Egkrateia,
    Self-control, or Self-mastery. This is goal we are constantly journeying
    towards, the state of being where everything, every aspect of our selves, and
    our lives “work together for good”, become the tools for the continual
    evolution of our relationship with GOD and our love for each other.

    We must not make the mistake of thinking that self-control is the repression of
    our nature. Self-control is the perspective where everything in our lives
    becomes a tool for Holy Spirit living in and through us. We have truly become
    vessels of the Holy Spirit, expressions of the work and will of GOD in the
    world. We have become Christ-like, a Christian.

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