Q&A with Trevor Malkinson

photo 1 copyTrevor 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.

Q&A with Gary Paterson

Gary Tedx Photo
We asked the Very Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson, co-founder of the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology and the lead minister at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church in downtown Vancouver, about his views on the Centre and about changing religious perspectives and practices.

1. How did the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology get started?

The idea for (r)Evolutionary Theology began after a dozen or so people attended a major Process theology conference last June (2015) in Claremont, CA, and were inspired by how the theological conversations that took place there were thoughtful, progressive and connected to what was happening in the world. We wanted to create a centre that would bring together people who are wrestling with how to talk about God in our times. The idea is for (r)Evolutionary Theology to create a space where people can explore revolutionary theological topics, such as Process thought, Ecotheology, new expressions of Liberation theology and other topics.

2. How is (r)Evolutionary Theology’s approach helping to meet modern spiritual needs?

These days, people are hungry for a spirituality that touches their souls and everyday lives, but, too often, they’re finding that hunger unmet by what is happening in traditional churches. I believe that we are called upon to explore new ways of talking about God, and new ways of practicing our faith.

3. What’s the broader significance of the inaugural (r)Evolutionary Theology Conference in Vancouver?

When we thought about starting up a centre, we decided that holding a conference might be the best kick-off strategy. The (r)Evolutionary Theology Conference: Re-imagining God and the World, was to be a drawing card – an event that would bring a variety of people together and create some energy, some synergy. Out of this would emerge the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology. The Conference was not understood to be a one-off event, but the beginning of a new conversation. Further, we are so excited to be bringing together some incredible theological voices, such as John Cobb, who just turned 90 years old and is still speaking and writing; he’s truly an inspiration. Sally McFague is 82 and sharp as a tack. Add to this Jay McDaniel, who is of the next generation and doing work on Process thought, Buddhism and Ecotheology. Then drop one generation further to Tripp Fuller, whose podcast ministry is enabling so many to discover new theological voices.

4. What’s next for the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology?

The Centre is still emerging, and part of what comes next will be shaped by the conversations and ideas generated at the Conference. Our vision is for (r)Evolutionary Theology to be a forum where these conversations can continue. In the future, (r)Evolutionary Theology may produce events where key speakers are invited to Vancouver. There may be resources made available for discussion groups, rooted in neighbourhoods or in congregations. There may be courses offered at the Vancouver School of Theology and elsewhere. With all the networking possible through modern technology, it will be exciting to see what emerges.

5. Why is it important to foster public discussion about Progressive theology and God-talk?

How we think about God, how we understand God to be present in our lives and in this world, shapes and impacts how we see ourselves and the world. It undergirds and energizes our work in the world, particularly our commitment to love and justice. Too many people are discouraged about dead-end theologies and are unaware of some of the alternatives. I have heard from some people in the green movement – who are working hard on climate change issues and sustaining the environment – that fear and guilt are insufficient motivators. If there is also a spiritual energy to enliven this movement, the long-term impacts will be greatly enriched.

Vancouver is perhaps the most secular corner of North America; and, the number of people who have no religious affiliation is growing in leaps and bounds. The big question for churches and for people of faith is how to respond to this. Not with criticism, e.g., what’s wrong with them?, but with new ways of talking about faith that actually respond to where people are at, and that open up new ways of thinking and acting.

Brews and big names coming to (r)Evolutionary Theology Conference

July 15, 2016, VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver’s first (r)Evolutionary Theology Conference: Re-Imagining God and the World (July 10-17, 2016) is putting a new spin on the theological talk, including a sold out podcast taping that also serves up craft beer.

“Vancouver has many people who are spiritual, but not religious per se,” says Trevor Malkinson, co-founder of the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology, the group that organized the Conference. “The good thing about this Conference is that it covers topics of interest to both religious and nonreligious groups, such as social justice, evolutionary thought, environmentalism and feminism, and it does it in a fun way that appeals to younger generations, as well as our longstanding supporters. I mean, we have a podcast event with craft beer!”

The weeklong Conference includes a course and public lecture on ecotheology; a live taping of Tripp Fuller’s Homebrewed Christianity podcast, featuring notable theologians John Cobb, Jay McDaniel and Sallie McFague; and a boot camp for theology nerds led by Fuller, Cobb and McDaniel at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church in Downtown Vancouver. Space is still available for many of the public talks and workshops.

The Conference is also a springboard for the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology – a growing network of individuals who are creating a public forum for discussion about new ways of understanding and talking about God.

“The evolutionary spirituality we’re talking about through the West Coast Centre for (r)Evolutionary Theology is designed to help connect us with the earth and cosmos,” explains Malkinson. “This breaks the loneliness and isolation often found in modern societies, and has enormous healing potential for humans and the earth, including breaking addictions that stem from materialism and overconsumption.”

After the Conference, Malkinson and co-founder, the Very Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson, who is also the lead minister at St. Andrew’s-Wesley, want to continue to produce events, lecture series and resources through the Centre. Their aim is to support further exploration of the role of God in modern society and a Christian presence that advocates for justice, love and equality.

For more information and to register for events at the July 10-17 Conference, please visit: r-evolutionarytheology.org

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