Seminar to Offer 'Radical' View of Christianity

By Smith, Craig | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 23, 2013 | Go to article overview
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Seminar to Offer 'Radical' View of Christianity

Smith, Craig, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Matthew Fox and Andrew Harvey have been called mystics, prophets, heretics.

Fox, a former Catholic priest the Vatican expelled for his views on feminism, sexuality and the priesthood, and Harvey, the follower of a Hindu guru who studied with a Tibetan mystic, will bring their "radical, relevant Christianity" to Pittsburgh next weekend.

The two, whose teachings are controversial for many mainstream churches and theologians, will lead a seminar June 28-30 at the First United Methodist Church in Shadyside.

"We hope to get church people and non-church people excited about the Cosmic Christ and Historical Jesus. ... Our species is in trouble; we've got it in us to change," said Fox, who became an Episcopal priest in 1993 and founded University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, Calif. He advocates "goddess" worship and started the Cosmic Mass, replacing pews and hymnals with dancing and DJs, to enliven worship.

Harvey, a lifelong follower of a 13th-century Muslim poet and founding director of the Institute for Sacred Activism, believes the world needs to return to "the words of the mystics and ... the nonviolent philosophies of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama."

Their views are diametrically different from those of traditional churches.

"It's radically different from conservative Christianity," said the Rev. Jeff Miller, pastor at the Harvest Bible Chapel in Wexford. "Our church would adhere to scripture. ... All those different ideas get their authority from somewhere else."

Will this "radical, relevant Christianity" play well in Pittsburgh, a former mill town where some consider a shot and a beer to be a mixed drink?

The Rev. Gail Ransom, director of Christian education at Shadyside's First United Methodist Church, thinks it will.

"Our church is very open," she said. "We are progressive but still a mainstream faith."

The church in 2010 hosted Khandro Rinpoche, the highest-ranking female Tibetan Buddhist teacher, and a year later joined a network that welcomes gay and lesbian churchgoers.

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