The Canberra Affirmation

The Canberra Affirmation

As progressive Christians in the 21st century, we are uncomfortable with rigid statements of belief, as we recognise our understandings are shaped by life experiences within cultural and environmental contexts.  Yet, there are some common understandings which continue to shape our lives, both individually and in community with others.  These we seek to affirm and celebrate:

•  We celebrate that our lives are continually evolving in a web of relationships: continuous with historical humans and their societies; with other forms of life; and with the ‘creativity’ present at the origins of the universe.  Over billions of years this ‘creativity’ - the coming into being of the new and the novel - has undergone countless transformations, and we and all other life forms are its emerging products. Thus we are called to live in community, respecting all human beings, all life forms, our planet and universe.

•  We affirm there is a presentness in the midst of our lives, sensed as both within and beyond ourselves, which can transform our experiences of this earth and each other.  Various imaginative ideas have been used to describe this presentness:  ‘God’, ‘sacred’, ‘love’, ‘Spirit of Life’.  We recognise all attempts at understanding and attributing meaning are shaped by prevailing thoughts and culture.  Ultimately our response can only be as awe-inspiring mystery beyond the limits of our ability to understand our world and ourselves.

•  We honour the one called Jesus, a first century Galilean Jewish sage, nurtured by his religious tradition.  A visionary and wisdom teacher, he invited others through distinctive oral sayings and parables about integrity, justice, and inclusiveness, and an open table fellowship, to adopt and trust a re-imagined vision of the ‘sacred’, of one’s neighbour, of life.  As we too share in this vision, we affirm the significance of his life and teachings, while claiming to be ‘followers of Jesus’.

•  We receive the Hebrew and Christian scriptures known as the Bible, as a collection of human documents rich in historical memory and religious interpretation, which describe attempts to address and respond to the ‘sacred’.  It forms an indispensable part of our tradition and personal journeys.  We claim the right and responsibility to question and interpret its texts, empowered by critical biblical scholarship as well as from our own life experiences.  We accept that other sources – stories, poems and songs – imaginative pictures of human life both modern and ancient, can nurture us and others, in a celebration of the ‘sacred’ in life.

•  We recognise there are many paths to the ‘sacred’.  We respect the diversity and pluralism of truth-claims, often in the midst of serious disagreement.  In and with this diversity we honour the integrity and meaning of each religious tradition and the people who practice them.  We reject all attempts to convert others to any fixed body of belief which they would not come to through their own open, free, and considered explorations.

•  We acknowledge that a transformative path of inclusion and integrity involves living responsible and compassionate lives in community with others.  Such a path asks us to adopt values supporting social equality and connectedness.  It entails non-violent peacemaking and considered forgiveness.  It invites passion and action for social justice, and stewardship of the earth and all its life forms.  It encourages humour, challenge, and acts of generosity.  At its centre is an awareness of oneness: one with the ‘sacred’, with ourselves, with others, with the universe.

Rex A E Hunt (Ed)
November 2008.

# Those who feel comfortable ‘standing with’ this Canberra Affirmation as a statement which seeks to express the spirit of progressive christianity at this time, include:

• Revd Rex A E Hunt (ACT/Aus), • Dr Barry McGowan (ACT/Aus), • Linda Pure (ACT/Aus), • Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas, AO (ACT/Aus),
• Revd Ian Lawton (USA/Australia), • Philippa Goodburn (SA/Aus), • Revd John W H Smith (VIC/Aus), • Revd Ian Pearson (NSW/Aus), • Revd Dr Andrew Pratt (Britain), • Revd Eileen Ray (VIC/Aus), • Revd Allan Leggett (VIC/Aus), • Scott Mackenzie (QLD/Aus), • Dr Richard C G Smith (WA/Aus), • Lorraine Neyland (VIC/Aus), • Bruce Neyland (VIC/Aus), • Jonathan Arthur (NSW/Aus), • Marika Simpson (ACT/Aus), • Dr Jeff Simpson (ACT/Aus), • Dr Peter Vines (NSW/Aus), • Kathleen Vines (NSW/Aus), • Revd George Callander (Britain), • Formally adopted by Open Free Church (Britain) - January 2013, • Mark Brooks (Texas/USA) • Passteur Gilles Castelnau (Paris/France) - Translated into French, • Ash Norton (USA)

An invitation is extended to any others who may wish to have her/his name associated with the Affirmation, to eMail such a request to Rex Hunt, accordingly:

The Affirmation and it's beginnings has been published in our book Why Weren’t We Told? A Handbook on ‘progressive’ Christianity, (ed) R. A. E. Hunt & J. H. W. Smith. Salem: Polebridge Press, 2013