Pittsburgh church's seminar to offer 'radical' view on Christianity and the Cosmic Christ
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.
“We have a lot of diversity in our church — race, economic status, even Christian perspective,” said Lynette Jacobs-Priebe, 40, of Oakmont, who married her husband, Eric, in the church 10 years ago. “Part of the appeal is (Fox's) inclusiveness. It's a real celebration of diversity.”
Young professionals could be attracted to Fox and Harvey's “Bay Area” version of religion, experts said.
“It's still California and the culture doesn't change,” said Carl Raschke, professor of religious studies at the University of Denver.
Their message has “a certain variety of leftist liberal Christianity melded with spirituality,” said Alexander Riley, a cultural sociologist at Bucknell University in Lewisburg.
Fox, listed No. 25 on Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine's 100 most spiritually influential people for 2013, was a guest on an ecumenical radio program hosted by Pittsburgh diocesan spokesman the Rev. Ron Lengwin in the 1970s.
“He was New Age back then ... experimenting with various forms of religion,” said Lengwin, who doesn't recall specifics of the interview.
Officials with the Western Pennsylvania United Methodist Conference, the church's administrative body that includes Pittsburgh, said the program appears to fit with those allowed at churches.
“Quite often, churches will do programs that are ecumenical or given as a way of surveying other religious practices. First UMC Shadyside has had a long history of ecumenical and theological reflection,” said the Rev. Dawn Lynn Check, spokesperson for the conference.
The program is meant to challenge church members and force them to think about their beliefs, organizers said.
“The purpose of the seminar is to transform the way we think of the church in relationship to our culture,” Ransom said. “We are members of a cosmic community, held together by a benevolent force.”
Craig Smith is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Animal activists targeting Vick at Steelers preseason game
- Risks don’t get any better as online dating prospers
- 2 Brentwood council members keep positions, council approves third resignation
- Animal welfare groups see opportunities in dialogue about Vick signing
- 3 from Allegheny County charged with Medicaid fraud
- Board members bring business attitude to nonprofit August Wilson
- Newsmaker: John Malone
- W.Pa. to observe International Overdose Awareness Day
- Penn Hills fire displaces 10
- Man critical after being shot in Pittsburgh’s Knoxville neighborhood
- Solarize Allegheny powers up with more communities