The Face of “Progressive” Christianity
By J.R. Ensey
With apologies to the many godly and faithful Pentecostal ladies who hold a ministerial license, we have to admit one thing: the American church is liberalizing. Some other observers of the religious scene in America sense that women are increasingly viewed as the answer for those wishing to liberalize the church, release it from its homophobia, and set it free from the strict interpretations of truth and righteousness.
More and more women in the pulpit portend a seismic shift to the left within traditional Christian denominations. Many, perhaps most of those coming into positions of spiritual authority in the last 15 years are leading the charge to affirm gay marriage and other avant garde themes of the increasingly blasphemous culture. They seem to be taking dead aim on anything or anyone who “thumps the Bible,” or is traditional in any sense of the word.
Is it because they believe that women have been “restrained” in Western culture and religion and in celebrating their own “liberation” they feel obligated to help anyone else whom they feel has been “bullied” or passed over for some position and equal standing?
The Hartford Institute cites a survey showing approximately 10% of American senior pastors are female. A Pulpit and Pew survey settled at a 12% figure, with this “jumping to 20% for Oldline Protestant congregations and dropping to around 2% for Evangelicals.” Another study showed that the more theologically liberal groups such as the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ lead in the percent of their clergy—with 30 and 25% respectively. The surveys reveal the more theologically conservative movements have fewer female pastors.
Michele Boorstein recently wrote a column in the Washington Post spotlighting Nadia Bolz-Weber, the new female pastor of Denver’s University United Methodist Church.* Her 44-year old, 6-foot-1 frame is plastered with tattoos, and her arms are sculpted by competitive weightlifting. She has just written a book, her “memoirs,” called Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint. Of course it has immediately gone to the NY Times bestseller list.
Noticing the name, one might conclude that the author of the Post review is—or is at least likely to be—a Jewess or a woman with a Jewish husband. No problem, unless she is expressing an anti-Christian bias by focusing on a small Lutheran Church of 180 members in Denver that is poking its finger in the eye of Christianity. The liberal left loves to pick out abnormalities and anomalies to make readers think the whole Christian world has gone to hell in a handbasket.
One of those anomalies is the budding ministry of Nadia Bolz-Weber, a tattooed Lutheran minister, a “pastrix” (her designation) who represents “a new, muscular form of progressive Christianity.” The foul-mouthed Bolz-Weber, wearing “a tight tank top and jeans,” is described as bounding to “the pulpit like a superhero from Planet Alternative Christian.”
To Carmen Retzlaff, a newly ordained Lutheran pastor who came with her husband to an Austin venue to hear Nadia talk, Bolz-Weber is “liberating”—partly because she’s “unapologetic” about her faith. “She talks a lot about JEE-sus”—Retzlaff giggles here—“which hasn’t always been a place of comfort in an increasingly secular world. I really love that.”
Breaking with almost 500 years of tradition and ignoring biblical injunctions, the Episcopal Church of America (Church of England) in 2006 elected a female presiding bishop. Sensing her power and authority by 2009 at a church conference in California, she boldly proclaimed that individual salvation was “heresy.” Here is the AP report from Anaheim dated July 9, 2009:
“Episcopal Presiding Bishop calls individual salvation ‘heresy...idolatry’
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says it’s “heresy” to believe that an individual can be saved through a sinner’s prayer of repentance.
In her opening address to the church’s General Conference in California, Jefferts Schori called that ‘the great Western heresy: that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.’
The presiding bishop said that view is ‘caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus.’
According to Schori, it is heresy to believe that an individual’s prayer can achieve a saving relationship with God. ‘That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy.’” [end]
Why do many female religious leaders feel that they must take a different theological path on some fundamental issue? Is it because they believe that since they are breaking the perceived glass ceiling that they must also justify it by proclaiming something different from male-dominated church leadership of the past? It far too often involves a departure from Scripture: “I don’t care what Paul said, I know what God showed/told/ said to me!” The old “I know what the Bible says, but I think...” philosophy has carried many individuals and church leaders far afield.
Women are making a similar impact in politics. They are by and large more liberal as a group and “compassionately” open to those who might have been “mistreated,” or in some way discriminated against. They just seem to not know where to draw down their emotional support of far left causes. Houston’s female mayor has “opened up restrooms in city buildings to anyone who is either confused about their gender or simply a sexual predator using it as cover.” (source: PastorGram from the TXPC) She has also appointed a transgendered city judge. She affectionately calls her lesbian partner “the First Lady” of Houston.
Jennifer Crumpton is typical of this new breed of women who claim to be giving a female voice to the “new Christianity.” In her new book Talking Taboo, she explodes the “myth” of Eve being the cause of the Fall. Such false concepts are keeping women from feeling that they have value and worth, she projects. She wants to “empower” women, as though “Bible Belt Christianity” has diminished them, or perhaps even enslaved them. More leftist pablum.
Soon God Himself may have to assume a transgender identity to appease the Christian left. Already some professors and writers refer to God as “She.” Forcing God into such a category may seem far-fetched, but NOTHING is far-fetched in this culture. Azusa Pacific University, a “Christian” university, has asked a professor who was once its chair of theology and philosophy to leave after he came out as transgender.
Heather Clements taught theology at Azusa Pacific University for 15 years. But this past year, [s]he began referring to him/herself as H. Adam Ackley. The professor said the university didn’t seem to have a theological problem with his/her transgender, it was just that donors might be put off by “not understanding transgender identity.”
We can’t stop the spread of such practices in the secular world, or even the religious world at large, but are we obligated to ignore the “camel’s head” under our own tent? Ideas become causes. Causes become actions. Actions become trends. Trends become practice. Practice becomes policy.
We can be naïve and think that the challenges of such lifestyle mindsets will never penetrate the Apostolic Movement, or we can be prepared for such innovations within our ranks so that we recognize them when as they surface. Our eyes need to be wide open and our minds informed. That does not justify prejudicial attitudes or actions but merely encourages heads-up awareness via historical analysis.