The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in
having new eyes.
~ Marcel Proust
Catching the Integral/ Progressive Wave
By: Ian Lawton
People often want to know where an independent church like C3 fits in the
religious spectrum. Is it liberal or conservative? Is it high or low
church, liturgical or happy clappy? Is it patterned according to any
particular denominational mould? Interestingly, the questions weren’t much
different when I was in the Anglican Church. There were a few more
assumptions, but no more clarity.
So to help to make our independent identity clearer, we have been playing
with the word “progressive”. Clear as mud, you might say. I don’t mean
progressive in the sense of the policy of federal governments keeping
checks and balances on big business. This use of progressive was made
popular in the 1920’s by US President, Woodrow Wilson. I tend to agree
with that approach, but I also think its possible to be a free market
capitalist and a progressive in the religious sense of the word. I also
don’t mean progressive in the sense that all things new are better than
all things old. Progressive as I use the term implies something evolving
So if it is such a loaded word, is it worth using?
It is in the sense that it helps to distinguish it from both fundamentalist
and liberal religion. When I say fundamentalist I am not referring to
extreme cultish groups such as Waco Texas. I am referring to
fundamentalism as a significant historical movement; a tendency to view
scripture as literal truth, where the world was created in 7 days, Jesus
was born to a virgin, and the Bible contains the literal words of a
personal God who is separate from creation but intervenes in history. This
movement has a tribal tendency, where people are in or out of the group
according to loyalty to the group’s beliefs and its God.
The positive feature of this stage is that people experience the value of
belonging and appropriate levels of conformity.
The danger in overly attaching to this stage is the tendency to limit the
circle of human community to those who think alike. More seriously, it has
led to various forms of discrimination and even war.
When I refer to liberals, I point to various features. Liberals tend to a
rationalist approach. The emphasis shifts from dogma to experience. There
is a strong interest in the historical Jesus and scientific method to
demythologize the gospels. They denounce creationism and the miracles of
Jesus as superstition. They tend to see Jesus as a social revolutionary
who had a mission that was primarily seeking liberation for the oppressed.
They see all religions as equal, and hold that equal human rights are
Ironically, they often don’t apply the same tolerance to fundamentalists as
they do to other religions. Much of the liberal movement appears to be a
reaction against the fundamentalist movement. It is driven to correct the
oppression that they feel the fundamentalist movement is partly to blame
There is a strong interest in feminism, civil rights, environmentalism and
removing hierarchies. The positive feature of this stage is care for
others, but usually only those the liberals deem to be in need.
Ironically, the danger is much the same as it is for the fundamentalists.
The circle of human community is still limited to like minded
revolutionaries and the needy.
I know the fundamentalist church well as I grew up in one of the most
conservative Anglican dioceses in the world, on a par with parts of the
African church. As frustrating as it was most of the time, I appreciated
the integrity of people holding to their clear principles. I knew where I
stood. It taught that there are Christians and there are non Christians.
Men are in charge. Gay and lesbian people need to be cured. Beliefs don’t
change. Adults aspire to child like faith. Involvement in the world is
limited as the soul dwells in a place of tomorrow. Science and faith are
When I moved from Sydney to Auckland, I experienced the movement from a
traditional to a modern church. It felt good. It was free and open.
People were people. The divisions were far less pronounced. The power
structures were just as unmovable even if they were more polite than in
Sydney where the term “headkicker” wasn’t unusual for a Dean of a
Cathedral. Over time it frustrated me that the Diocese in Auckland
appeared to lack clear vision, purpose and passion.
C3 is a church that has evolved from a fundamentalist perspective and
through a liberal stage. Now we are evolving in a stage we are calling
progressive or integral. It is an attempt to take the clarity of
fundamentalism and the compassion of liberalism and craft a movement for
peace and justice that grows out of the deepest part of the human psyche.
The way I am using the words, progressive and integral are synonymous. Many
are labelling this stage in history as the integral stage. The church has
generally picked up latest trends later rather than sooner. Think of poor
old Galileo. So C3 is attempting to catch the wave before the white wash
Steve McIntosh has written about the connections between integral and
modernist trends. He suggests that Integral has taken the best of modern
or industrial progress and emphasized the science of inner consciousness
and spiritual practice. Its currently more of an individual consciousness,
but will evolve into a collective integral consciousness in time. Read the
whole thing for yourself, follow the link in the next section. It’s quite
If a fundamentalist believes with certainty that Jesus is Lord and Savior,
a liberal believes that Jesus was a social revolutionary. A progressive
might believe either, but will come to the belief out of deepening layers
of consciousness. Jesus was savior, but in a mystical sense, or Jesus was
revolutionary because he knew that those who were liberated were part of
him and he was part of them.
A progressive/ integral community will seek the spirit that underlies
attitudes and structures. Ordaining women into a male structure is only a
partial gain. Welcoming gays and lesbians into a heterosexual structure
will lead to only partial diversity. Bringing science and religion
together in a way that takes all mystery out of religion is a partial
A progressive/ integral community will celebrate the presence of God in all
people and all situations without prejudice or judgment. It won’t need to
be right in an absolute way. It will know that its never more than
partially right. It will know that it is always evolving, and it will seek
to discern the spirit of life that connects all things.
A Transcendent Vision of Integral Consciousness
Enjoy the link that Ian strongly encourages in this week’s article. Steve
McIntosh has written about the connections between integral and modernist
trends. Check out this whole article for yourself!
Integral Spirituality in Real Life
Check out the forward from Ken Wilber written for Joe Perez’s yet to be
published book, “Soulfully Gay.” It is an incredibly moving piece, that
you absolutely will not want to miss. If you don’t have time to read
right now, make time, or bookmark this page and be sure to come back to
Ken writes, “I am in the awkward situation of writing a foreword to a book
by a gay person. This is an awkward situation not because Joe Perez is
gay, but because I have to point it out. I feel the same damn irritation
as having to refer to, say, Edmund White as a “gay writer.” Nobody has to
point out that I am heterosexual, although now I hear that I am not a
heterosexual but a metrosexual, although, in fact, I have never had sex
with a metro in my life. But I’m sure it is a wonderful experience…
The Center for Progressive Christianity
Here is another example of the term “Progressive Christianity.” The Center
of Progressive Christianity (TCPC) seeks to bring together Christians
seeking to explore an approach to Christianity that is inclusive,
innovative, and informed.
The Center seeks to bring together resources, seekers, and churches that
have a similar mission of inclusion. This site shows the complexity and
range of beliefs under the term “Progressive Christianity.”
“Blink Part 2: Seeing with your Inner Eye”
In Part 1 of this Series Ian encouraged us to “trust our gut, but verify
our assumptions.” This was one of the most popular sermons we have had on
our website! We received great response.
Don’t miss part 2 of this series on developing your spiritual/human
instincts. Explore how your spiritual and human instincts are not
separate, how Jesus acted out of spiritual instincts, and what science has
to say about the “God Spot.”
Attention All Women!
The Integral Institute (where Ian recently attended his life-changing
conference) is working in connection with the Omega Institute in
Rhinebeck, New York to put on the Women’s Integral Practice of Power and
Freedom Seminar. This intensive 5-Day event is open to any woman who
yearns to step boldly into her most dynamic Self. It is the first of its
kind, a rare opportunity to study with Ken Wilber and his training team
from Integral Institute. The Seminar is quickly approaching, running
September 11-16. Allison Rockey and Toni VanDyken both attended similar
conferences put on by the Integral Institute and would be happy to share
the transformative experiences with you. If you would like more
information follow the link to the Integral Institute or email
firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP. Don’t miss this incredible
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