Valerie Joy, Queensland Regional Meeting
I was fortunate to attend recently a Seminar entitled “Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology”, led by Dr Val Webb. Val was at the University of Queensland in my undergraduate days, and we were both members of the Evangelical Union. I reflected on how far both she and I have travelled over the subsequent years in exploration of faith, spiritual community and belief!
Theology is always subject to change and encompasses the where, what, how, who and if of God. From the early church, Val took us through theologies of the Middle Ages, Luther, Calvin, Kant, Wesley, Hegel, Schweitzer, Barth, Bultmann, Bonhoeffer and Tillich. Outside influences on theology such as that of Darwin’s Origin of Species were touched upon.
An amazing juxtaposition of the Billy Graham crusades and Bishop Robinson’s Honest to God in the early 60s created great tensions between traditional theologies and courageous questioning. Being part of both, I felt great confusion in my early 20s. Following this, saw the start of “contextual theology”– which includes a theology for the planet, liberation theology, feminist theology, and the influences of Buddhism, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and other faiths. A new beginning has emerged, which Val described as a “spring cleaning of our minds”. Our theologies involve our imagination and our passion – not the dry as dust stuff of my early evangelical years. It reminds me of the Quakers in the first decade 1652–1662, where they were on fire with the Spirit and teaching of Christ, as well as the early Christians after Pentecost.
The Buddhist teacher Paramananda asks us to wear our beliefs like a suit of clothes, not a suit of armour and be ready to shed them if necessary. Over my own decades I have shed some, re-examined some, used different language for others – finding an excitement when reading or listening to theologies that fit with my understanding and relationship with the Divine.
Belonging, Behaving and then Believing is what I see Quakers doing. Enquirers come to us looking for a welcoming faith community. They sit amongst us and share their stories. Belief for Quakers then comes, and it is usually individually tailored by the Spirit working in each person’s heart. This comes back in the circle to belonging as we share our wonderful new insights. It is not dry belief either because it leads to compassionate actions, nurture of ourselves and others.
In our small groups, we shared our understandings of doing theology. We looked at theological hospitality, which involves acceptance of one another and being open to learning from them. Being part of the ecumenical and interfaith work of QCT (Queensland Churches Together), I see this sharing work as opening doorways and shedding Light on our paths. Jesus is an incredible role model for us now. Belonging for his disciples, involved behaving in new ways as they struggled with their Jewish theologies towards new life affirming beliefs. I hope the influence of these progressive theologies will make us more certain of our position and practice as Quakers.
A Date Claimer:
“Progressive Spirituality: New Directions” 16-19 September 2016,
Somerville House, South Brisbane.
An opportunity to explore future expressions of faith and spirituality, eco-theology and inter-faith issues (including indigenous connections) with a program of distinguished international speakers and eminent Australian and New Zealand experts.
Speakers include: Dr Val Webb, Australian theologian, internationally popular teacher, presenter and author.
Diana Butler Bass: Specialist in issues of religion, spirituality and culture.
Dr Pamela Eisenbaum- a Jewish New Testament Scholar
David Felton- cofounder of Living the Questions
Registrations are opening shortly. Go to www.commondreams.org