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On Saturday, June 11th, Dr. Diana Butler Bass, whose book Christianity For the Rest of Us has played a major role in shaping our Ministry Assessment Process, told an attentive audience of 110 gathered at Christ Church Cathedral what our churches can do to respond to this new situation.
First, she said, we must reformulate some questions: What do we believe? becomes How can we believe? How can one believe creeds written some seventeen hundred years ago, now in the present age where scientific method is the touchstone of rationality?
How do we behave? becomes What do we do? What do we do in a world where people and their governments seem unable to stop destroying themselves and the planet by war, famine, and climate change? Who are we? becomes Whose are we? Do we identify ourselves as belonging to God, or to each other, or just to oneself or to those like oneself?
Secondly, she went on to say, we must pose the questions in the reverse order. Behaviour and belief follow from identity, not identity from belief and behaviour.
Dr. Butler Bass claims that these questions are being posed by SBNR (Spiritual but not Religious) people, whose number is growing especially here on the west coast, and that, if we are to be heard outside our churches, they are the questions we must attempt to answer. Her audience at the cathedral seemed to concur.
The reformulated questions are well put. Indeed, as far as behavior and belief are concerned, more and more Anglicans are addressing issues of social justice and are examining the metaphysical assumptions lying behind our creedal statements. Dr. Butler Bass seemed to be telling us to answer them for our own sakes and not just because others are asking them. If we do, we might even find that our answers are not altogether different from those given by SBNR people.
The reordering is also well put. Identity must depend on personal relationships and not on institutions. This is hardly a new position for Christians to take, dependent as we are on a personal relationship with Jesus our Lord. It is at this point, however, that any agreement with SBNR people seems to end. 
She said that the difference between the religious and the spiritual-but-not-religious lay in the role of institutions as against personal experience. Up to a point that may be so, but the more significant difference lies, surely, in the matter of relationship. The Christian answer to Whose are we? must be that we belong to God, or more specifically to God as revealed in Christ. The SBNR answer seems to be that one belongs to a vaguely-defined spiritual force, or to the Cosmos, or simply to oneself. This is a fundamental difference.
In recent years we have come to identify ourselves less by our institutions and more by our relationships, reverting, perhaps, to a more authentic approach to our faith. To that extent, we have been redefining ourselves as spiritual-and-also-religious. We may thank SBNR people for compelling us to do that. We may also thank Diana Butler Bass for helping us to recognize the change.