Letter from John Cobb – August 7, 2021

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Dear Friends,

I’m pleased to report that twelve of you have signed up on the platform. This is a good start. I hope the rest of you will sign up as soon as you’re able, and that before our kickoff event, which is now scheduled for September 4th at 9:00AM Pacific, many of you will have contributed some content by posting announcements or events. You will receive more information about the event soon, but we will need your help in promoting it to your constituents. I want to reiterate that if, for any reason, you’re unable to make a financial contribution, we still want you to be a part of the Nexus. And if you would like technical assistance beyond the instructions that have been provided, Richard Livingston has assured me that he will be glad to meet with you personally to walk you through the steps to join or post.

I also want to welcome a new member, Agenda for a Prophetic Faith, which brings with it plans for a conference on Reparations. I hope that by the time you receive this, or in the very near future, the conference is described on our platform. This would also be a good topic for an ongoing discussion in the new forum there.

Agenda is most of what remains active from an organization, Progressive Christians Uniting, dating back to the late 1990s. Some of us in the Process and Faith program were troubled about the increasingly conservative public image of Christianity. We process Christians did not fit that image, but we needed a more inclusive Christian group with whom to work.

At that time, many Protestants who were progressive on social matters were chiefly inspired theologically by the European Protestant leaders who had opposed the Nazis. These had stressed a Reformation idea, called “sola scriptura.” The openness of theology to philosophy had made it vulnerable to alien cultural ideas such as Nazism, for which the Bible offers no support. Some American Protestants wanted, in a similar way, to distinguish faithful Christianity from amalgamation into Americanism. They opposed process theology as opening the door to alien ideas through a contemporary philosophy. Hence, in order to gain their cooperation, we leaned over backwards to stress that Progressive Christians Uniting was not a process organization.

Under the leadership of Dick Bunce, now active in the Cobb Institute, PCU flourished, and this continued for some years under Peter Laarman. Sadly, financial problems led it to fade. A Pomona Valley group survives without professional leadership, calling itself “Agenda for a Prophetic Faith.” Although I am a member of its board, because of its history, I hesitated to ask whether it would like to be part of the new Nexus. However, the “sola scriptura” progressives have almost disappeared. Several weeks ago, the Agenda Board unanimously voted to join.

I am delighted for this part of the Claremont Process family to reunite with us. It strengthens our work in Pomona, connects us with Claremont, and introduces cutting edge thinking about current issues. But I fear that its reuniting with us also expresses the weakness of progressive Protestantism. We process folk are glad no longer to be kept at the margin. But it is distressing that our moving into the center is because of a near vacuum there. It also signals our responsibility to strengthen the whole movement. The followers of Jesus should be in the lead in working for peace, justice, inclusiveness, and the health of the whole of creation.

  • John B. Cobb, Jr. taught theology at the Claremont School of Theology from 1958 to 1990. In 1973, with David Griffin, he established the Center for Process Studies, and throughout his career he has contributed to scholarship on Alfred North Whitehead, and promoted numerous process programs and organizations. In recent years he has given special attention to supporting work toward the building an ecological civilization. Toward that end, he led the effort to found the Claremont Institute for Process Studies in early 2019, which was renamed in his honor one year later.