Courtesy of Seabury Publishing
Retha, the unofficial spokesperson and treasurer for the Open Door Sunday School Class, had told me that they would soon be finishing the book they were studying and would need some recommendations. They were the one truly liberal Sunday School class at First United Methodist in Wichita Falls, Texas. I could have given them a list of Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, or John Shelby Spong books that they had not yet discussed. Nothing against any of them, but I really wanted them to get a slightly different perspective even if it was saying similar things with different words and insights. Yet, I hadn’t read much of anything in awhile other than those authors myself. The few different things I had read would not interest them.
Amazon.com had often given me recommendations of books I should buy, but there for awhile, they recommended anything with the label “Christian.” Many of those I was not going to read or recommend, so I was skeptical when I saw a recommendation for What Does a Progressive Christian Believe? A Guide for the Searching, the Open, and the Curious by Delwin Brown. I was not familiar with Brown or his work, and I didn’t really know anything about the publisher, Seabury Books (which is an Episcopal publishing house). The title sounded intriguing to me, but for the Open Door Class who were suspect of anything sounding creedal, there was one word in that title that I knew would turn them off: believe. I couldn’t recommend it and say I hadn’t read it if I wanted them to read it. I was going to have to be able to talk it up and give insights into how Brown used that word, believe. So, I ordered it and read it as fast as I could.
In trying to talk it up, I told the class that the book did something that I’d been saying mainline / progressive Christians should do – be black and white about the fact that there is gray in the world. Since then, I’ve changed that to say that we should be black and white about the fact that there is a full spectrum of diverse colors between the extremes of black and white. This book does that as well for me.
Brown begins by talking about what progressive Christianity is NOT. In doing so, he gives a short but solid history of the development of theology over the past 200 years, highlighting the dominant theological movements from that time period. He shows aspects of each that progressive Christians should not adhere to while also pointing out positive elements of each that can inform a progressive Christian’s journey of faith.