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
or developing.

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
kept separate.

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
a vision.

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!

Click here to read the complete article

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…

click here to continue reading Wilber at

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.”

click here for TCPC

“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.”

You won’t want to miss this one!

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 ASAP. Don’t miss this incredible

click here for the Integral Institutes Seminar page

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Please consider supporting C3 and our efforts to make Progressive
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“The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.” ~Archibald Macleish

Synergy- Uniting in our Difference for the Highest Good!

By: Ian Lawton

A wise member of a previous parish said to me, “Never be afraid to be a minority of one!” It always felt like good advice. The church has certainly provided a fair amount of practice in being a minority over the years.

A new study has shown that independence may be a forlorn hope as our brains are hardwired for social conformity. It grew out of Solomon Asch’s studies of the 1950′s that concluded that we see what we are told to believe. The more recent study, reported in June of this year, gave this conclusion some neuroscientific basis. Researchers at MIT used MRI scanners to detect which areas of the brain were active when people were carrying out various tasks. A decoy group attempted to sway the answers of the subjects in the experiments. In this case subjects agreed with the decoys’ wrong answers about 40% of the time.

The important distinction they were testing was whether brain activity showed that subjects were forming their own judgment or whether they were just feeling pressure to agree. What they found was that there was no activity in the area of the brain where conscious decisions are made.
However there was huge activity in the parts of the brain connected to emotions for those who made independent decisions that went against the group.

The frightening suggestion was that there may be too high a cost in independent thinking. It may be too emotionally draining to “got it alone”. Even more worrying was the researcher’s conclusion that there was probably nothing we could do about it. The research suggests that we are hard wired for conformity, as well as the inevitable social and cultural pressure that we feel to “fall into line”.

I’m not prepared to accept that as a fait a complis just yet. But for now lets stick with the point that the majority view holds some neurological sway with the masses. This might be called “Groupthink”.

Groupthink is a term coined by psychologist Irving Janis in 1972 to describe the process whereby a group makes irrational decisions because each member of the group attempts to conform his or her opinions to what they believe to be the consensus of the group. It’s the rule of the majority.

That’s a tough break for some who believe, like Henrik Ibsen wrote, that “The majority is never right. Never, I tell you!”

Of course it’s not that the majority is always wrong. Majority rule has its place, especially in elections and jury trials. It’s just that this new study places doubt, like a great looming shadow, over whether individuals are thinking autonomously in a given process or whether the group is swaying their judgment.

Soon after 9/11 the world was asked to “support a war on terror” in an act of blind faith in US leaders. We were told that the facts were clear.
Groupthink in this case was a response of fear and impulsive retribution.
The media abandoned its essential “devil’s advocate” role in 2002 when the majority of Americans supported the war in Iraq. Devils’ advocates are important foils to groupthink, as are dissenters. Now I’m not sure whether to be pleased or frustrated that popular opinion has turned against the war and the media have their sensory pitchforks out again. I want to agree with popular opinion in this case, but I don’t want to fall for any conformity traps.

Maybe there’s a distinction between groupthink and group synergy. Group synergy works with productive energy at a common cause even when there are different motivations and beliefs. Group synergy is the convergence of high energy interest in a cause even when it unites people with unique and independent perspectives. It’s concerned with gathering collective energy or passion rather than all members holding the same opinions or mindset.
The American civil rights movement was a great example. Groups with various expectations and agendas came together in what Martin Luther King framed as a movement in the national interest.

Now we may need global synergy to chart our way through the reign of terror. How will we unite our independent groups and motivations, our various intelligences and expertise in the interests of a more peaceful world? Groupthink can have a devastating effect on relations between religions and cultures. It can lead to prejudices that can so often play out as holy wars. Consider groupthink in relation to Islam.

The majority are giving Islam the thumbs down at present. This is unfair and ill-considered. Osama bin Laden and the London bombers are part of an extreme break out sect of Islam called Wahhabism. In fact it is Muslims themselves who have always been al-Qaeda’s principle victims. The terrorists refuse to submit to the ultimate Muslim authority, the muftis.
They disregard any teaching or ideology in Islam that doesn’t fit their agenda. Their movement can scarcely be called Islamic.

Meanwhile some Muslim leaders are modeling a healthy form of group synergy.
A July meeting held in Jordan between Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders issued a statement condemning Wahhabi violence and renouncing any judgment of other Muslims as “unbelievers”. Muslim leaders in London made it plain that the bombings had no sanction in Islam. Those implicated in the bombings were effectively excommunicated from Muslim worship and community.

Group synergy may come when political and religious leaders of all persuasions seek global peace as a common cause. This is not just about religion. Western systems have acted oppressively towards Muslims, for example Iraq sanctions and the ensuing war in Iraq. The role of the West in the Middle East must be addressed. It’s also not just about politics.
Religions need to work together to stamp out hatred based on sectarianism.

We need to foster responsible dissent from majority opinions and even promote a few devils’ advocates.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Performance of one’s duties should be independent of public opinion.”

The brain study may be partially right about the cost of independence. Be that as it may, I feel optimistic that at least with an awareness of where the tendency to conformity comes from, we can brace ourselves for the reality of independent thinking. Braced for this reality, we can get on with thinking rationally and passionately about issues as they arise, transcending political and religious categorization.

Group synergy, with a common global cause, will run so much deeper and reach so much further than Groupthink.

As Stephen Covey said, “Synergy is the highest activity of life; it creates new untapped alternatives; it values and exploits the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people.”

This would be an excellent launching pad for political and religious groups to unite in the highest spiritual act of all; the transcending of self and group in the interest of the whole.

“Muslims Unite! A New Reformation will Bring Your Faith into the Modern Era

British author Salman Rushdie on Thursday called for a reform movement that would move Islam into the “modern age” to combat jihadists and closed Muslim communities in the West that produce disaffected youths wielding “lethal rucksacks.”

“It is high time, for starters, that Muslims were able to study the revelation of their religion as an event inside history, not supernaturally above it,” Rushdie wrote.

Could There Be Progressive Islam in America?

Speaking of Faith with host, Krista Tippett, from American Public Media presents “Progressive Islam in America.”

This is a wonderful resource of both audio and text files, examining the role of Islam in America, and how it too may be progressing.

If this is a topic you have even a slight interest in, you will not want to miss this resource!

Click here for Speaking of Faith

Words of Wisdom from Buddha

Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it.
Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held.
Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books.
Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin.
Believe nothing just because someone else believes it.
Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.


Connections Groups to Begin September 18th!

Start reading the Sins of Scripture by John Shelby Spong now, and then join others for a 3 week discussion on this thought-provoking book. Connections groups meet Sunday mornings following the 9:30 gathering. Some copies are available for sale at the church, or pick up your copy at the Bookman in Grand Haven. For more information on this program and many others check out the Adult Programs page on our website.

Check Out the Bulletin for Sunday August 14th NOW!

“There is something in all of us that seeks the spiritual….The spiritual is inclusive. It is the deepest sense of belonging and participation. We all participate in the spiritual at all times, whether we know it or not.
There’s no place to go to be separated from the spiritual, so perhaps one might say that the spiritual is that realm of human experience which religion attempts to connect us to through dogma and practice. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it fails. Religion is a bridge to the spiritual ~ but the spiritual lies beyond religion. Unfortunately. In seeking the spiritual we may become attacked to the bridge rather than crossing over it.”
~Rachel Naomi Remen

With inspiring quotations like that, how could you miss joining us in community on Sunday, or at least soaking up the inspiration by reading the bulletin on our website.

Also check out our Bulletin Archive for more Progressive Christian Liturgies.

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.

Are You Trapped in Religious Debt or Are You Paying Spirit Forward?

The good you do today may be quickly forgotten, but the impact of what you do will never disappear. ~Anonymous Paying It Forward To A Friend By: Ian Lawton Two people were shipwrecked on an island. One of them was screaming and yelling, “We’re going to die! We’re going to die! There’s no food! No [...]

Read the full article →

Is Bush Breaking the Law?

“Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.” ~Martin Luther King Jr. Drawing On the [...]

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How Do You Experience God?

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” ~Anais Nin God: A Three Letter Word By: Ian Lawton What images does the word “God” conjure up in your mind? For some it is a personal being, a human looking character. For some it is a sense of peace or presence. [...]

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Are You Looking For a Christmas Miracle?

“What does God do all day long? God gives birth. From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth. What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time and my culture?” -Meister [...]

Read the full article →

Is Bush Breaking the Law?

“Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.” ~Martin Luther King Jr. Drawing On the [...]

Read the full article →

Who Is John Shelby Spong?

“Is it you and me or just this world we live in I say we’re living on love they say we’re living in sin.” – Bon Jovi Jon Spong Jovi By Ian Lawton John Shelby Spong is the rock star of the progressive Christian movement. Put simply, he rocks. No one in the last 50 [...]

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Prayer, Bono. and You Too!

“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance. For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?” ~Kahlil Gibran A Whim or a Prayer? By Ian Lawton I’ve been thinking a lot [...]

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The Rise and Fall of the Verve Pipe

“To be great, be whole: do not exaggerate or exclude anything of what is yours. Be entire in everything. Put all that you are into the least you do. Be like the full moon, living aloft and shining everywhere.” ~Fernando Pessoa Who’s Calling? By Ian Lawton Some pastors work themselves to the ground because they [...]

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