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
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
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
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
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
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.