Trevor Malkinson, co-founder of the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology, tells us about his spiritual journey and the importance of new approaches to religious thought and teaching in an ever-changing world.
1. Why was your intention when you decided to co-found the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology?
My intention was to support emergent theologies that have the potential to activate and promote healing on a personal, cultural and planetary level. Various forms of evolutionary theology allow for science and religion to be integrated and offer a new way to practice our spirituality. Evolutionary spirituality recognizes that reality is in process, nothing is permanent and we’re able to be conscious co-creators within our unfolding reality. To use more Christian language, we can participate with God in bringing forth a little more of the kingdom of God, i.e., a society where love, justice and equality reigns. Evolutionary spirituality can bring us into deep accord with the earth and with the cosmos, of which we are a part. This breaks the loneliness and isolation that besets modern society, and which corporations prey upon to sell us more things, driving up addiction.
2. Tell us a bit about your spiritual journey.
My mentor and pastor for eight years was Reverend Bruce Sanguin (at Canadian Memorial United Church), who pioneered what he called evolutionary Christian mysticism. So my entry into Christianity was into a specific setting, one in which the integration of science and religion, and Christianity and an evolutionary worldview, was taking place. At the same time, and for several years before that, I was involved in a cultural current interested in evolutionary spirituality more generally. Carter Phipps’ book Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea (2012), probably best captures this cultural movement and shift. As I started to practice this spirituality of turning myself over daily to the call of the Holy Spirit, my life became an incredible unfolding adventure that I could barely keep up with. So I want to promote this spirituality, and have people test it in their lives and experience what can occur when one has this type of awareness.
3. What makes the inaugural (r)Evolutionary Theology Conference in Vancouver a significant milestone?
The Conference is significant because Vancouver – and Cascadia more generally – is one of the lowest churched areas in the world, but also a place where there are a lot of people who are Spiritual But Not Religious, a category of people who have a spiritual side, but no religious affiliation. This means that there’s the potential for some cross-pollination and for important conversations to take place at the Conference. Ecological consciousness is also prevalent in these regions – and almost all (r)evolutionary theologies are ecologically minded – so there’s the possibility for some overlap and interaction there, too.
4. How might the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology and the Conference shape spirituality in Vancouver?
We hope to, at a minimum, provide a voice for emergent theologies through hosting important theologians and practitioners and organizing other events. How it impacts religious thought and practice in Vancouver will depend on how many clergy and laypeople from a variety of progressive Christian denominations attended such events. Certainly, our live audience at the Conference will be local, and if these theological currents start to seep into sermons, or into small study groups in congregations, then I think we’ll see an impact.
5. Why is it important to foster public discussion surrounding Progressive theology and God-talk?
Two reasons. First, for those already committed to Christianity in some form, these are important new ways of understanding their faith, and ones that are more compatible with science and the rise of ecological consciousness. Thus, they give Christians tools to take part in a transition to a more just and sustainable world.
Secondly – and this is a bit more complex – our modern and postmodern societies in the West and in North America have become increasingly secular and devoid of any overarching meaning system, and often the cosmos is seen as a cold place that we’re not connected to. However, in my view, there’s an infinite or transcendent dimension to reality, which we often call God, and we know this deep down. In fact, our deepest desire is to connect to this dimension of ourselves and to this experience of the infinite, which is also deeply alive in this world. But, when we deny this dimension of reality, it opens up a void that needs to be filled; and, in our society, we often fill that void with endless consumption. Not only has this been incredibly ecologically damaging, it’s resulted in skyrocketing rates of addiction in countries across the world. So Progressive theologies and God-talk are able to reconnect us to the cosmos and to that dimension of ourselves that is divine. This has enormous healing potential for humans and the earth. Without these updated theological options, a mass exodus from church will likely continue, and, with it, a Christian presence that advocates for justice, love and equality.