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Word of God or Just a Storybook?   Leave a comment

This Q&A was first published at on Feb. 7th, 2018

Question & Answer

JP from the Internet, asks:

I don’t understand why, for centuries the BIBLE has been and IS the inspired word of GOD. Now, for some reason, a few (and not chosen few) think it is just a storybook. It is their fault that the United Methodist church is breaking up. The BIBLE is clear on what GOD thinks of homosexuality. If you notice, the churches that are growing are not mainline liberal churches but fundamental Bible-believing churches. I was raised a Protestant Methodist.

Answer: Rev. David M. Felten

Dear JP,

Wow, growing up in the Methodist Protestant Church makes you a member of a unique and particularly tenacious group of Southerners! I understand this is a group that walked out of the 1939 Methodist merger bringing together denominations that had split over slavery 100 years prior. Your MPC ancestors were (and I believe still are) convinced that the Bible is infallible and inerrant (which is demonstrably NOT the case). It did, however, help them make a Biblical case for slavery (and the “attacks of the Abolitionists,” who “would disturb the settled order of Providence, and dissolve the connection between master and slave, that has been recognized by the great Governor of the Universe).

My guess is that the MPC probably doesn’t support slavery any more (at least publicly), but back in the day, they made the same argument for slavery that I think you’re making for opposing basic civil rights for non-heterosexuals: the “settled order” “recognized by the great Governor of the Universe.” I hope we can agree that God’s “settled order” was wrong about slavery. According to the Bible, God’s “settled order” also included the advocacy of genocide, women as property, and rampant xenophobia. I’d like to be able to say that these ideas are no longer considered acceptable, but like zombies, they don’t want to die. Sadly the’ve been given new credence by President Trump (who doesn’t understand why, “if we’ve got the nukes, why we can’t use them”, brags about grabbing women by the genitals, and dismisses whole countries as “shitholes.”) So, far from being embarrassing chapters we’d rather forget, we’ve still got to contend with people who think genocide, misogyny, and xenophobia are OK, but homosexuality is bad.

It begs the question: What is it about the issue of homosexuality that makes people so upset? What is it about basic civil rights for all Americans that causes people to resort to getting God involved in opposition? That’s a strategy that hasn’t worked out too well for God over the years. Breaking news: “God is against basic human rights.” Yikes.

Look, I don’t have an answer – and neither do the poor sots who’ve been tasked with trying to keep the United Methodist denomination from breaking up over the next year or so. It goes right back to the slaveholder vs. abolitionist playbook: anti-LGBTQ advocates clinging to disreputable Bible-passages vs. those convinced that all human beings are of sacred worth (despite what a few passages in the Bible say).

You may not believe it, but I have deep respect for the Bible. I’ve spent my entire adult life studying it. And I’m here to tell you (as evidently one of the “not chosen”) that it is indeed a storybook — but not “just” a storybook. It contains the stories of people who have spent their whole lives wrestling with and interpreting the meaning of life. It is not inerrant. It is not historical. Its books contain stories — stories with way more meaning than mere history. Our job is to interpret those stories for a new generation, not simply try to conform to old ways of thinking.

One of the books I recommend to people who are wrestling with some of the things it sounds like you’re wrestling with is Bishop John Shelby Spong’s “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.” He, too, grew up in a Southern fundamentalist denomination and has since come to a different understanding of the Bible and his faith. If you get it and read it, I’d love to correspond with you about any questions you have.

Wrestling with new ideas is never easy – especially when they seem to threaten a comfortable, established way of looking at the world. To paraphrase Harry Emerson Fosdick (a Baptist, BTW), “The enemy of Christianity isn’t change, but stagnation.” To celebrate and encourage the cessation of change will continue to drive young and old alike out of what’s left of the church.

But, if we embrace the core values of justice and compassion expressed in the Bible, we are compelled to stand with the oppressed and voiceless, accommodating the reality that the Spirit is flexing with our evolving humanity. For me, clinging to values that exclude and disrespect others is made even worse when they’re justified by out-of-context Biblical proof texting. It’s theological malpractice.

Read Jack’s book. Go sit in a quiet place and ask yourself, will God really love me more because I hate the right people? I’ll leave it to you.

Committed to Progress,


PS: Just to be clear, I doubt the MPC is growing (I think there are only a few dozen MPCs left, scattered across the Confederacy). And as a matter of fact, it’s a myth that “fundamental Bible believing churches” are growing like crazy. Everybody’s losing members — even those wildly liberal Southern Baptists have lost a million members in the last 10 years. If you want more statistics, you can find them on the web.

About the Author

Rev. David M. Felten is a full-time pastor at The Fountains, a United Methodist Church in Fountain Hills, Arizona. David and fellow United Methodist Pastor, Jeff Procter-Murphy, are the creators of the DVD-based discussion series for Progressive Christians, “Living the Questions”.

A co-founder of the Arizona Foundation for Contemporary Theology and also a founding member of No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice, David is an outspoken voice for LGBTQ rights both in the church and in the community at large. David is active in the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church and tries to stay connected to his roots as a musician. You’ll find him playing saxophones in a variety of settings, including appearances with the Fountain Hills Saxophone Quartet.

David and his wife Laura, an administrator for a large Arizona public school district, live in Phoenix with their three often adorable children.

CLICK HERE for to view this article at

Posted February 8, 2018 by livingthequestionsonline in Uncategorized

BOGO Sale on all Adult LtQ Curriculum Programs! Three Days Only!!   Leave a comment

LtQ block coversTHREE DAYS ONLY! Buy one get one FREE! Wed Feb 7th – Fri Feb 9th

Buy one Adult DVD-Based Curriculum program & Get a 2nd DVD-Based Curriculum program of equal or lesser value FREE! To place your BOGO order, log into your member account (or create a new account), add the adult DVD-based curriculum edition program to your shopping cart and continue through checkout. For more details, CLICK HERE

Posted February 7, 2018 by livingthequestionsonline in Uncategorized

Taking the Lid Off the Questions   Leave a comment

Special to The Telegraph

I question everything I don’t understand and even many things I think I do understand. I’m curious, especially about Christianity. I question why some Christians think the dogmas they believe are more important than the actions they perform. And it gets me into lots of trouble — with lots of people. People who believe mysteries are to be accepted and not questioned find me heretical. And heresy is not very popular in Middle Georgia (although many pray for me to be converted and I appreciate that.) Consequently, I have felt quite lonely here from time to time, until now.

“What a delightful surprise it was to find a whole army of people who not only ask the questions, but live the questions.”

What a delightful surprise it was to find a whole army of people who not only ask the questions, but live the questions. Several of the more open churches in Macon, like Centenary Church, have been sponsoring a program called, “Living the Questions,” where they have permission to ask any question they’ve always wanted to ask — but didn’t — for fear of being thought a heretic. The web page, tells you all about it.

Two Arizona pastors, David Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy, founded this organization. They realized they had engaged in fascinating discussions in seminary but were never allowed to introduce these same discussions to their parishioners. They discovered that many adult Christians felt stuck in sixth-grade catechisms, and when they began to question some of those mysterious beliefs and were not allowed to discuss them, they began leaving churches in droves.

We know children can believe without questioning. But you know your child is growing up when he asks, “Hey, Mom, is there really a Santa Claus?” Once we begin to think seriously about a mystery or a myth we begin to question it, and Christianity is a religion full of mysteries and myths. Christians grow up to be thinking adults and they don’t want to stop thinking on Sunday. Unfortunately, Christianity has tried to keep a lid on these questions and, as a result, 4,000 churches close every year.

Most Christians find their faith is strengthened, not weakened, through the process of questioning, and why not? If I find the doctrine of Atonement disgusting, I can do one of two things. I can just accept the fact that God the Father is an angry, vengeful God who could not be appeased until he watched the brutal murder of his son as a sacrifice in place of us and pretend it’s OK. Or, I can ask, where did this ugly doctrine come from? and research the four different interpretations which have tried for centuries to soften and then eliminate this ancient misunderstanding of God.

Resurrection is another one. Why is St. Paul’s idea so different from the later evangelists? Everyone agrees that Christ lives, but three of the four evangelists have the physical body of Jesus contacting the eye witnesses while Paul, on the other hand, calls it a spiritual body. Paul compares it to a seed that dies in the ground and then grows into a beautiful plant; the plant looks nothing like the seed; it might be a ghost. There is no doubt we’re talking about a Christian mystery here; something that cannot be explained in human language. Something that welcomes questions.

Our two pastors, Felten and Murphy, published their book five years ago, “Living the Questions, The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity,” and it truly is filled with wisdom.

After many chapters on our most pressing questions, the pastors end their stimulating tour of what it means to be a progressive Christian with these words, “Those who embrace mystery are set upon a life-long path of discovery, growth, and gratitude for the wonder of it all” (pg. 228).

Over 6,000 churches across America, including our own Centenary Church, seem to agree.

First posted by The Telegraph AUGUST 05, 2017. Reposted with permission.

Bill_CummingsDr. William F. Cummings is an internationally known scholar, consultant, teacher and speaker. He is the author of more than five hundred published articles on Leadership, more than one thousand TV shows on Leadership and the author of “Behind Your Back”.  His new book is called “My Daily Dose,” “a prescription for every working symptom with directions included.”

Contact Dr. Cummings at:

Posted August 9, 2017 by livingthequestionsonline in Uncategorized

50% off All LtQ Curriculum – 5 Days Only!   Leave a comment

Save 50% and Get Ready for Your Fall Classes Today!

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LtQ2, Saving Jesus Redux, Painting the Stars, Jesus Fatwah, Eclipsing Empire, First Light, Singing the Unsung, Uppity Women, and more!

To place your order at the special offer price, simply CLICK HERE and enter coupon code F5CE, Monday, August 7th through Friday, August 11th! 

Please Note: You must be logged in to your member account when placing your order. Please click on “submit” after entering code for code to be recognized and the discount to be applied. If you do not have a member account set up, please do so at Create an Account prior to placing your order.
Coupon code F5CE applies only to DVD-based curriculum products purchased from The coupon code F5CE must be entered in order to receive the special 50% off price. Offer valid through 11:59 p.m. CST, August 11, 2017. Not valid on previous orders or combined with any other promotional offers. You are welcome to share this offer, just click on the “forward email” link below to share with others via email. Sale ends Friday, August 11th! 


Posted August 7, 2017 by livingthequestionsonline in Uncategorized

“Beyondering” Podcast goes “out of bounds” with LtQ co-creator, David Felten   Leave a comment

DMF Beyondering LogoLiving the Questions co-creator Rev. David Felten joins Australian pastors Matt Cutler and Lucas Taylor in their “Beyondering” podcast, where they seek to ask the taboo questions and unearth new ways of seeing and embodying the Christian story. For Matt and Lucas, it’s all about “beyondering” to a faith out of bounds.

Recorded in front of a live audience at the Common Dreams conference in Brisbane, Queensland, in September of 2016, the podcast is just under an hour long.

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast now.

Then be sure to leave a comment on the SOUNDCLOUD page and follow the Beyondering podcast.  Don’t miss Lucas and Matt in conversation with their other guests including John Shelby Spong, John Dominic Crossan, Diana Butler Bass, Rob Bell, and Robin Meyers (among many others).

DMF with Matt & Lucas

Matt Cutler, David Felten, and Lucas Taylor at Common Dreams 2016 — Brisbane, Queensland

Jesus Doesn’t Have Any Skin in the Game…

“There are values — of compassion and generosity and empathy and care for the downtrodden and an awareness of the creation that needs to be cared for. All of these things are values for me that I don’t think are Christo-centric and that don’t need Jesus in the mix — but, when Jesus is involved there are some good stories to tell. And so, whatever the church looks like (in 50 years), I would hope that it continues to acknowledge that Jesus has some good angles on these things, but that I don’t think (and it’s strange to even talk like this!) but I don’t think that Jesus has any skin in the game as far as his being included in the furtherance of these values. If he were here today, I think he’d say, ‘I could care less. I don’t need to be in this. What’s important is that you embrace the values that I embraced. It’s not about believing a bunch of stuff about me, it’s about doing what I asked you to do.’”

— Rev. David Felten (in response to the question: “What will the church look like in 50 years?”)

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast now.

Posted July 14, 2017 by livingthequestionsonline in Uncategorized

LtQ Co-Creator Featured at Chautauqua this Summer   Leave a comment

LKSD logoRev. David Felten, co-creator of the “Living the Questions” DVD series, will be featured as the Preacher of the Week at Lakeside Chautauqua in Lakeside, Ohio, beginning Sunday, July 30th.  Felten will be in residence to lead discussions, preach, and lead the daily “Faith for Living Hour.” His theme for the week will be “Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back: From Finger Painting to the Grand Work of Art,” where he’ll explore letting go of some of the traditional bedrock concepts of Christianity in favor of deeper and broader understandings of a Christian faith for the 21st century. Specific topics will include “Letting Go of Our Christian Superiority Complex,” “Letting Go of Being Good,” and “Letting Go of Thinking That ‘God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.’” Sunday’s message will be “Letting Go of a Perfect, Error-free Bible.”

Felten is a pastor who knows from experience that most adults operate spiritually on the information they were taught in 6th grade Sunday School (the last time most adults were exposed to any intentional religious education) – with disastrous consequences. “If there were any other area in our lives in which we were satisfied with functioning at a 6th grade level, we’d be deemed as pretty irresponsible – except with religion. And somehow it’s OK for people to piously reject anything new in favor of gauzy half-remembered platitudes they absorbed when they were 8 years old,” says Felten.

There are a lot of people who are looking for simple, pat answers in life. That’s fine. But there are also a lot of people seeking more depth, maturity, and integrity in their spiritual journeys. For them, letting go of what’s holding them back is the first step on that journey.

To that end, Felten believes that the most critical need in the church in America today is theological re-education for adults. Not just education, but unlearning and then RE-education. The need to “unlearn” much of what passes for faith today is at the heart of his theme for the week – and at the heart of the spirit of Chautauqua.

Beginning in late 19th century upstate New York, the Chautauqua Movement began as seasonal gatherings that fulfilled people’s intense desire for self-improvement through education. Intended to introduce people to the great ideas, new ideas, and issues of public concern, these summertime programs featured lectures, music, and the visual arts.

At its height, the Chautauqua Movement attracted millions to hear educators, preachers, explorers, travelers, scientists, politicians, and musicians. With its four pillars of Recreation, Arts, Education, and Religion, President Theodore Roosevelt hailed it as “the most American thing in America.” Today, Chautauqua is experiencing a renaissance and Pastor Felten says, “It’s an honor to be a part of this historic and respected movement.”

David Felten LTQ Grafitti croppedRev. Felten is the pastor of The Fountains, a United Methodist Church in Fountain Hills, Arizona, one of the creators of the popular “Living the Questions” DVD series for Progressive Christians, and co-author of Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity (HarperOne, 2012).

For more information on the Chautauqua schedule of events, accommodations, and passes, visit

Posted June 30, 2017 by livingthequestionsonline in Uncategorized

An Apocalyptic Advent to You and Yours   2 comments

“Apocalyptic Awakening”

By Bruce Sanguin (from If Darwin Prayed)

O Holy One,
we are a sleepy lot,
slow to stir to the calling of the cosmos,
deaf to the cries of the Earth
and the forgotten ones,
human and other-than-human.

We distract ourselves
with trivialities that have become idols;
while the sun and the moon darken,
and the stars fall from the skies,
we are mesmerized by the market’s alluring power,
eyes unflinchingly fixed upon the naval of our own net worth.

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,”
cries the prophet,
or at least tear open our hearts, pry open our eyes,
and end this slumber that blocks out pain,
but with it, wonder.

Our hope, O Holy One, is found in eyes wide open,
in hearts linked in common cause,
in small gestures of compassion,
and in alertness to your coming,
again and again.
As fire kindles brushwood
and causes water to boil,
so we await to be set on fire
with hope and gospel passion.

“Apocalyptic Awakening” can be found in Sanguin’s book, If Darwin Prayed, available by clicking HERE

Bruce Sanguin_scarf

Rev. Bruce Sanguin is a leader in evolutionary Christianity, teaching evolutionary theology and practice with a passion for updating the theology and practice of the church in light of the reality of evolutionary processes and the creative impulse of the universe. He lives in Vancouver. Find more of his writing HERE


PtS logo white frameFor more of Bruce’s insights, check out Living the Questions series “Painting the Stars,” a DVD/web-based curriculum exploring the interface of Science, Religion, and an Evolving Faith. CLICK HERE (or on the graphic at left) for more information. 



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