Future of Mainline Protestantism
Progressive Christianity: Meeting in the Public Square
Living in the public square begins with that recognition that "we are all in this together," whether we are cleaning up Gulf Coast beaches or seeking Wall Street reform or supporting our local public schools. Commitment to the public life is an essential aspect of Progressive Christianity.
At the heart of Progressive Christianity is the same thing I see at the heart of the teaching of Jesus (as expressed in the Beatitudes): a commitment to the welfare of all, to a world of "shalom" for all, and therefore advocacy for compassion in public life. To borrow the pithy phrases of Marcus Borg, the practice of "the politics of compassion" (and consequently desisting from "the politics of purity") could be the most important task of our time. Progressive Christians enter the public conversation neither to provide "the right answer" nor to privilege Christianity over any other religion, (i.e., not to win converts to a particular version of Christianity) but rather to join with others to serve the common good. This means Progressive Christians find themselves to be on equal ground with people from all faiths as we commit ourselves to care for God's fragile creation and each other. Our challenge as people of faith is to re-discover and re-engage the public realm.
Anne Howard is Executive Director of The Beatitudes Society, a new organization building a national network for Progressive Christian seminarians. An Episcopal priest, she the author of Claiming the Beatitudes: Nine Stories from a New Generation (Alban, 2009). Formerly Associate Rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, California, she now holds the honorary title there of Preacher-in-Residence. She is a graduate of Episcopal Divinity School and the University of California, Santa Barbara. She serves on the Board of Faith and Public Life, the Advisory Board of God Talk Radio, and the Advisory Board of the Capps Center for Ethics, Religion and Public Life at the University of California, Santa Barbara.