Category Archives: Conference 2016

“Common Ground” Conference, held in Naper, May 2016. Keynote speaker: Robin Meyers

Robin Meyers – Saving Jesus from the Church

Robin Meyers was the keynote speaker at the recent Progressive Spirituality Conference in Napier.  Here are some YouTube links to some presentations  put on line by Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney.

Continue reading Robin Meyers – Saving Jesus from the Church

Faith and Politics – some historical thoughts

jim-macaloonJim McAloon’s Presentation at the Napier Conference – for those of you who were not there, and for those who were 🙂

I want to explore in this talk some of the histories of faith-based political engagement in Aotearoa New Zealand. If my emphasis is on the political sphere and public questions, that is partly reflecting my particular interests and partly because I think it is important for people of progressive faith to know our past.

Why do I say that? Because I think that one unfortunate consequence of the increased strength of conservative forces in many of the Christian churches in the last 30 or so years has been a weakening of the faith-based element in movements for social change, and an almost default setting in the popular media that Christian commitment implies social conservatism (a default setting that many of the leaders of what used to be called mainline denominations encourage, wittingly or otherwise). Continue reading Faith and Politics – some historical thoughts

Christians – Dangerous or Boring?

Tony_Franlin-RossTony Franklin-Ross shares some thoughts from the recent NZ Common Dreams Conference in Napier – first printed in Methodist Touchstone

Faith as resistance to ego, orthodoxy and the political status quo was the theme of a Progressive Spirituality NZ conference that was held in Napier on 6-8 May.  The gathering drew 122 people from around New Zealand, and they heard a number of speakers address the topic.

The keynote speaker was US author Rev Dr Robin Meyers, who is known for his books The Underground Church, Saving Jesus from the Church, and Spiritual Defiance. Robin criticises the church for neglecting the initial concept of Jesus’ Way, in favour of beliefs and dogma that were created later.

He suggests the Beatitudes is closer to the creed of the early followers of the Jesus Way, along with the affirmations ‘Jesus is Lord’ and ‘Caesar is not’. Christianity was initially not a belief system but a peculiar way of being in the world.

Robin also criticised contemporary empires that protect the majority and the status quo in a broken world. Rather than be content to benefit from such structures, the Church should meet in joyful defiance to the political and economic prophets of power, he says.

Jim McAloon provided examples of faith-based resistance in Aotearoa. These include the Peace Squadron, the anti-Apartheid movement, and the Hikoi of Hope, as well as earlier reforms against sweated labour, peace movements, and the development of the welfare state as ‘applied Christianity’.

Playwright and actor Jo Randerson explored the place of art. Is art just nice decoration, the icing on the cake of society, or can it be used to challenge, question and disrupt the status quo? Jo says the arts can provide different voices and explore different possibilities.

Be wary of the seeds sewn into the fabric of the Bible that can be used to suppress, exploit and dominate. This was the message Robert Myles brought to the conference. Robert says the Bible is used to support reaction and revolution.

How can the Bible be used to counter current politics and economic inequality, rather than romanticise Jesus’ poverty as a way of life?

While the conference stirred cerebral activity, counter-point moments were provided through pop-up engagement with the works of Shakespeare and workshops on drama, dance, art, walking and meditation.  The conference dinner was embellished with spiritual songs, themselves voices of resistance and hope, performed by the Napier Community Gospel Choir.

It is hard to do justice to two days of stimulating presentations and conversation. Challenges were laid and questions asked:

  • How do prophetic voices of resistance get translated into action?
  • Does the church need to do a rummage sale of the things in its attics of orthodoxy?
  • Jesus’ people were once anti-imperial, a thorn in the side of the establishment.

Have Christians gone from being dangerous to be being boring?

Art as Radical Change Agent

– Can Humans change our story?

 Jo Randerson spoke at our recent conference in Napier, here is a summary of her presentation.

It was wonderful to be at the conference with you this month.  A short point summary of my talk:

  • I grew up in a church environment where different views were encouraged and listened to
  • We (Barbarian Productions) try to make art which brings different views/people into contact with each other
  • Arts rather than being an extra decorative measure can be a critical tool to achieve social justice where large institutions fail
  • Collaboration is key with any others who share similar goals

Continue reading Art as Radical Change Agent

Accommodation for Hawkes Bay Conference

Pictured here, five of the Hawke’s Bay planning team: Adrian, Helen, Christine, Sally, and Tony. Not in the picture this time: Kerry (financial tracking), Lisa (registrations), and Ingrid.
Pictured here, five of the Hawke’s Bay planning team: Adrian, Helen, Christine, Sally, and Tony. Not in the picture this time: Kerry (financial tracking), Lisa (registrations), and Ingrid.

From your Hawkes Bay Planning Team:

Booking for our May conference is going well and we do look forward to welcoming you to Napier. Napier and the wider Hawke’s Bay region have a fascinating history and plenty to see, scroll down to see some accommodation options for the conference – it is recommended that you book soon. Continue reading Accommodation for Hawkes Bay Conference