• The Co-Creators Behind RTE

    Rev. Glen Shedlock has been an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ since 1987, having earned his MDiv degree from Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Mo. After serving his first parish in Wisconsin, Glen moved to Ohio where he has spent the last 34 years doing ministry in a variety of settings. For many years, he served as a professional Hospice Chaplain for a hospice program in northeast Ohio. He also worked as the Bereavement Coordinator for another hospice program for a couple of years. In addition, Rev. Shedlock has been a settled pastor, as well as an interim and transitional pastor for several churches in Ohio. He is currently serving as the Chaplain for Absolute Hospice in Canton, Ohio. He and his wife, Missi, live in Canton, Ohio, along with their two golden retriever fur babies, who have taken the place of their six adult children. Several years ago, Rev. Shedlock created a spiritual transformation program called “Return to Eden: Naked & UNafraid,” which he now teaches, along with his friend and colleague, Rev. Barry Bordenkircher. Together, they are committed to creating a safe and empowering spiritual community for people who have been wounded by traditional forms of Christianity, or are simply searching for a deeper, more intimate connection with the Divine. 

     

    Rev. Barry Bordenkircher is a United Church of Christ pastor who has served nine different local churches in a variety of settings (rural, small town, and suburban to urban core) in the Heartland Conference, United Church of Christ, since the mid-Eighties. He also served as a denominational staff minister for six years in the Northwest Ohio Association, Heartland Conference, and worked as a church growth consultant from 2004 to 2010. Barry recently retired from the local parish but is continuing the work of Return to Eden with Co-Creator and cohort in “doctrinal demolition” (well, at least renewal and reconstruction!), the Rev. Glen Shedlock (see below). Barry is a son, brother, father, and grandfather who also happens to be an amateur astronomer... with five telescopes and two humongous pairs of binoculars! He lives in Maumee, Ohio with his fiancé, Cindy, who is a published poet. His love and deep awe for the night sky and our numinous universe have become a huge and formational part of his spiritual life and ministry. He is also a lover of golf, fishing, poetry, science fiction, and the Outer Banks.

    During many years serving as a hospice chaplain in Ohio, Glen repeatedly encountered people in difficult circumstances, who time after time reported that their faith CAUSED much more pain, confusion, and angst than it did to help them. Their Christian faith--and its underlying religious narrative--left them bereft of hope and struggling to come to terms with mortality...much less to help them experience inner peace and strength from a God of total and unconditional love and compassion. "What's WRONG with this picture?" he began asking himself, more and more, with each troubled (and often angry) soul he encount-ered in his care-giving ministry. He began honestly and courageously seeking a NEW spiritual narrative that CONNECTED hurting people with the nonjudgmental, loving HEART of God...which dwells within us, and from which we can NEVER be separated...a God far different than the one usually depicted in the "traditional" Christian narrative. We've got to return to the garden of Eden, he thought, back to the primal "blueprint" for biblical theology in Genesis 1-3, where human ego and all its fears turned that "blueprint" for Creation and our human essence (which God called "VERY good") into a fearful narrative of judgment, "original sin," and the sad., destructive illusion of separation from (and eternal damnation by) a Zeus-like, thundering, capricious God. And so, RETURN TO EDEN was born.

    "THIS WHOLE THING isn't working so well." That's what began to dawn on Barry one day in the church kitchen, while helping prepare an after-worship dinner. One of the church's key leaders said "I need to talk with you about Mom." And as the story unfolded there, over mixing the coleslaw, "Ralph" (not his real name) described with great confusion and anguish how his mother was DEEPLY afraid "of going to Hell when she dies." Ralph's mother "Martha" and his father, too, were true pillars of the church....the largest givers, two of its most loyal members, loved and respected by everyone. They NEVER missed worship or their fifty-plus year old adult class unless deathly ill. Martha served at every funeral dinner, every Women's Guild meeting, attended every Bible study, every fund-raiser, every social event, every special service. Since childhood (they were in their 80's now) she and her husband DEFINED service and discipleship. And despite ALL that, Martha was AFRAID of God, fearing "eternal conscious torment" inflicted by a judging, angry God when she passed from this life. As a result of this and similar encounters, Barry began to question many things, especially all the "usual" church teachings about faith, salvation, Heaven, Hell, and the very nature of God. The classic Christian story didn't hold water any more...and years later after meeting and befriending Glen (they're now called "brothers from different mothers), he also decided it was long passed time to RETURN TO EDEN!

  • RTE -- ON THE PATH FROM 'The OLD' vs. the NEW HUMANITY

    What would it mean for us if we happen to live during the decline of the old humanity, when a new humanity is in the painful, fragile process of being born? What if some of us are in the process of trying to resuscitate the old, while others of us are conceiving, gestating, and giving birth to the new? What if the growth of the new movement, the new humanity, the new social creation or construction depends on the old one losing its hegemony?

    -- Brian D.McLaren, Do I Stay Christian? (p. 186). St. Martin's Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

  • WHAT RTE IS...AND ISN'T

    broken image

    THE OLD, OLD STORY IS...WELL, REALLY OLD (AND TIRED!)

    We know the story of the Garden of Eden all too well. Adam and Eve disobey God, and God responds by cursing them and throwing them out of the Garden forever. The result? At least according to the narrative we were taught, it's the “curse” of original sin, the doctrine that humans are born sinful and are doomed to eternal separation from God – unless, of course, we “get saved” by Jesus. And jump through all the right (Christian) hoops...and check all the right (Christian) boxes...and live a life mostly devoid of awe, wonder, joy, mystery, questioning (Christian) authority, and worshipping ONLY the one true (Christian) God. *sigh*

     

    The nightmarish beliefs of original sin and our essential separation from God--that we're not much better than cow dung and deserve everlasting torture in a fiery hell--have been protected and perpetuated by the institutional Church, have done enormous damage to the psycho-spiritual maturity of countless people of faith throughout history, and severely damaged the spiritual vitality of the body of Christ. Bloody wars, horrible pogroms and persecutions, even genocide have been the result. *sigh*

     

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could Return to Eden and look at these primal narratives in a Way that would enable us to re-imagine the core narratives of our faith? What if we never really left the Garden of Eden? What if there was no such thing as the “fall” of humankind or the nightmare of “original sin?” What if we could never be separated from God? Could this really be possible? The answer is YES!

     

    RTE will help you discover “a more excellent way” of reimagining your experience of God. It is therefore primarily a way of seeing, an awakening to a new/old PATH...an unfolding exploration of God's nature as well as our own...a perspective and path that is not afraid to shed many (most?) traditional categories of Christian thought...and lifting up Jesus as the model for how to live a life of utmost intimacy with our Loving Creator. Rediscovering deep, joyfull intimacy with God in your deepest, truest self...that is RTE in a nutshell...and it's a theme we share in as many ways as possible.

     

    RTE IS NOT . . .

    To be sure, we are NOT about "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" when it comes to Christian faith., or the Church. But history has repeatedly born out the reality that our bathwater is very dirty and unhealthy--the poor "baby" has suffered much for too long. The bathwater needs changing--really bad! And, if church attendance and vitality these days are any kind of reliable indicators, well...more and more people are hopping out the tub as fast as they possibly can.

     

    RTE IS ALSO NOT NEW . . .

    Throughout Christian history, along side of--and mainly because of--all the "bad stuff," such as all those 'holy' wars and persecutions and and bloody suppressions of dissent...despite the myriad ways that the Church has crawled into bed with Empire, accommodated crusades and invasions and outright wholesale genocide of "pagans" and "savage barbarians," there have always been Christians rejecting the fearful narratives of separation from God and Christian hegemony. There have always been reformers and dissidents...mystics, prophets, and messiahs following the path of THE Messiah, the Master, Jesus of Nazareth--whose path is the Way of Love. For everyone. Everywhere. And for all creations and all its creatures. His is the "more excellent way" of Divine Love that is never conditional. In our time, RTE joins many other voices and fellow pilgrims who seek to awaken the world to what has always been true but largely forgotten--that we ALL divine souls, created in the Divine image, with a Divine purpose...to love and be loved...to reflect Divine love in the world and build the "Beloved Community." We can't begin to name all those fellow pilgrims and awakened seekers/teachers here...but we will continually draw upon and share the wisdom of folks like Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Ken Wilbur, Marcus Borg, Rob Bell, John Spong, Walter Brueggemann, Rachel Held Evans, Barbara Brown Taylor, Diana Butler Bass...to name a few. They and we join the mystics--classical ones like Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, and St. Francis of Assisi; and other modern/postmodern mystics such as Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Howard Thurman, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dali Lama, and so on. And we join with sacred hearts from other traditions such as Rumi, Siddhartha Gautama, Lao-tzu, Maimonides, Heschel, Buber...etc., to weave and share and celebrate a new non-dualistic NARRATIVE of the evolution of human consciousness, guided and empowered by Divine energy, ever flowing to greater unity, compassion, and peace. RTE may be a new, unique expression of spiritual Truth that's resilient and universal but it's not exclusive...it is INCLUSIVE and evolving.

    We know that we're all in this together.

     

    RTE IS . . .

    More than anything else, RTE is an evolving thing, a community, and a pathway, made up of several existing and emerging components. Here are the current elements that "make up" Return to Eden...

    • WORKSHOPS AND SEMINARS -- Periodically, Glen and Barry have offered weekly gatherings in the churches they serve, inviting anyone and everyone who desires MORE for their spiritual life...those whose souls are stirring them with questions, yearnings, a longing for the "good stuff from God" that they are not finding elsewhere in their churches, Bible studies, small groups, or their personal devotions. This July (2022) Glen and Barry are doing a Workshop at the WILD GOOSE FESTIVAL in Harmony, NC.
    • The usual RTE group lasts for 9 to 12 weeks
    • A closed FACEBOOK GROUP: "RTE365" -- for sharing thoughts. questions, and cool spiritual memes! We'd love to have you join us!
    • A weekly three-part SMALL GROUP EXPERIENCE (via Zoom); each week this small group gathering includes meditation and some spiritual practice, some teaching by Glen and Barry, and LOTS of lively discussion! Each of the three parts of this experience (we hesitate to call it a course or a class) lasts for six weeks. This year, RTE2 started with a group of "alums" who completed the first group experience in fall 2021--and they will attest to the power and spiritual; energy of RTE! (you can see a few of their comments below)
    • And coming soon: BLOGS, a PODCAST, RETREATS, and more RESOURCES for the journey!
     

    COMMENTS from Some RTE-ers!

    RTE has taught me to listen to my Soul. I now understand that God IS Love and a true Love lens changes your whole perspective!

    -- SANDY

     

    RTE is an interesting journey with enlightened people!!! -- PETE (Sandy's husband)

     
    It seems impossible to believe the hymn that says “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” instead of judgment or self-righteousness. But RTE removes layers of institutional muck to reveal the ongoing reality of divine connection. Love grows wild.
    -- SKYLARK
     
    Having grown up in a conservative, southern home. I knew all too well that feeling of shame, chronic quilt, and self loathing that is generally acquainted with being a “good Christian”. No matter what I’d do or say I was never enough. There was no joy living this way, but for better or worse that was my destiny. After my divorce I was ex-communicated from my church all while I felt very desperate and needed love. I felt as if I had hit “spiritual rock bottom”. Feeling like “humpty dumpty” I am gradually, piece by piece, starting to put myself together again, but through a different lens where my soul is my guide. RTE has been validating, encouraging, and truly food for my soul… -- MELISSA
     
    ALL my life I felt like I was supposed to be doing something different. I was searching for something and I couldn't name what it was, but it's ABSENCE was palpable. I looked for God every way possible, but was never free from the fear of being judged and found wanting. I prayed for relief, for help with my addictions, literally screaming at God, begging God for help--and then being angry with God and horribly confused and depressed--in the midst of my fear--when my prayers were not "answered." For for the longest time, I was afraid of God, and of what would happen to me when I died. I lived with chronic fear of not being good enough, of being broken and incomplete and essentially unworthy of love. RTE changed all that...learning to understand and experience God as totally unconditional love was the more liberating than I could ever have imagined. Experience directly the inner "link" to God's sacred heart, even in the midst of suffering and despite all my failures and weaknesses made it possible for me to LIVE again...and to love God, who first loved me...embracing me, like a warm blanket around my soul with no judgement, only encouragement. It was life-saving. It was...rebirth! -- MICHAEL
     
    Imagine writing down everything that was once told you that you thought was true and that you found out later it was a lie. Imagine that you are a divine creation of the universe. And you are meant to follow that bliss.
    --- MARK
     
    Return to Eden is a returning to a new beginning. It is a new journey with the Holy One ~ Creator ~ God ~ Love. A journey with the One who has created all that was, is, and will ever be out of love, through love, for love . And each one of us is Love’s beloved. From this new beginning, we are safe to journey with fellow travelers who desire to walk the path of Love. A path with an unfolding new vision for the world in which we all live. Step on to the path, Glenn and Barry are welcoming guides. Step on the path ~ your soul knows the way. -- SUSAN
  • GOD

    Zeus may be a god but GOD is not Zeus! God is LOVE, before and after everything else--and not the sweet and sappy romance-novel kind of love, NOR the vengeful, "I'll kill all your enemies" kind of Hollywood blockbusters. GOD is a VERB, not a noun. GOD is creative energy and synergy, not a list-keeping judge and executioner

     

     “God” is NOT a noun (person, place or thing), but a VERB


     “God” is LOVE – unconditional Love


     “God” is eternal - not limited, restricted, confined, or defined by time or space


     “God” is the holy word that defines a process of unlimited imagination and creative energy, Love manifested in physical form, from the smallest of neutrons to the vastness of a still-creating
    cosmos. (God is not the candle, God is not the flame, God is the burning – “I AM”)


     “God” is the Source of All That Is, the Breath that gives and sustains life


     “God” is the Life Force which imagines, births, creates, and sustains All That Is and Is Coming Into Being


     “God” is the Source of Love’s Creative Energy that always seeks to transform and renew


     “God” imagined and manifested humanity to be in holy relationship, to experience the wonder
    and joy of the creative process, and to complete Love’s creative purpose through the ongoing process of incarnation

     

    HUMANKIND

    Two (Latin) words: IMAGO DEI...in the IMAGE of GOD. We are created in God's image...with the LOVE of God animating us at the very core of our being. I.e., our innermost self is HOLY. And we have divine power at our disposal--not to hurl lightning bolts (that's the Zeus thing again), but to be co-creators with the Divine Heart

     

     We are created (imagined) in the image of the Divine


     We are spiritual beings having human adventures


     As spiritual beings, our True Home is forever in the heart of the Divine


     As spiritual beings, we are one with our Divine Source


     As spiritual beings who are one with their Divine Source, we are eternal


     Being forever one with our Source, our inherent nature is goodness


     We are “little incarnations” of the Divine Heart – Spirit manifested in physical form


     We are given life and sustained by the Breath of God


     We live and move and have our being in God


     We are here to embody the Divine Love of God in this physical world


     We are co-creators with the Divine


     We are the conduit by which the Divine experiences the joy of creating


     We are one with our Source, with each other, and with all creation


     There is no separation.

    COSMOS

    The Carl Sagan series...no, just kidding! BUT...that series (as well as Neil deGrasse Tyson's) revealed MORE of the truth about the nature and essence of creation than any religious text ...especially when those texts are interpreted "literally."

     

     The Cosmos is God unfolding everything, nanosecond to nanosecond...

     

     And holding it all altogether.

     

     The Cosmos is INCARNATION. Of everything--the elements, stars, galaxies, sushi, and you and I are made of--rather, we ARE-- the manifestation of God's imagination...

     

     You and I and everything else is star stuff...and we all have a lifecycle encompassing birth-death-resurrection -- or as Richard Rohr puts it: Order, Disorder (chaos)--Reorder

     

     And it ALL reveals the essence of the Creator! Or as Rob Bell teaches, EVERYTHING is spiritual!

     

     The unfolding of being that have been going on since the Big Bang... The evolution of God's self that had become expressed in ourselves
     

     Which is the to say the incarnation of on going Cosmic creation

     

     Moment-by-moment as we create other human beings, (with a little help!), as well as cars, toasters, computers, paintings & sculptures, concertos & arias, war, peace, nightmares, hopes and dreams we are fleshing out the empowering creating power of God

    JESUS

     Was one of history’s greatest spiritual teachers and wisdom-bearers.

     

     Was one of many throughout human history to inspire humanity to recognize and live into its highest and greatest potential.

     

     He was NOT a divine superhero--not an Iron Age Ironman


     Was not interested in creating a new religion.
    Sought to spiritually revitalize and reform the religious institution of ancient Judaism.


     Was not a divine superhero sent from heaven to rescue us from damnation.


     The story of Jesus of Nazareth is Our Story. Jesus IS Us. There is NO separation.

     

     Being “fully human and fully divine,” Jesus embodied everything we are created to be; he revealed our fullest human and divine potential.

     

     He sought to teach us that we, too, are fully human and fully divine.

     

     Jesus lived a Soul-driven life, free of distorted images and perceptions of God.

     

     Jesus transcended his ego and embraced his True Identity as a Child of God.

     

     Jesus sought to teach us that we, too, are holy Children of God.

     

     Jesus lived a life defined by unconditional love, not fear.

     

     Jesus embodied the intimate relationship with God we were created to experience.

     

     Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – through him, we remember our True spiritual identity, and are empowered to evolve into our Truest Selves.

     

     Jesus did not die to “reconcile” or “reunite” God and humanity, because God and humanity have never been separated.

     

     Jesus was not sacrificed to appease God or fulfill God’s “righteousness.”

     

     Jesus’ death was the product of human fear; his resurrection was the product of Divine Love.

     

     Jesus’ death embodies the death of our physical being; his resurrection is a proclamation that death is an illusion; we are not our bodies; we are spiritual beings.

     

     We are “saved,” not by Jesus’ death, but by his resurrection.

    BIBLE - SACRED TEXTS

    Although RTE is based in Christian tradition and theology, we do not believe that "Christianity is only one way to God," or that the Christian scriptures are the only valid sacred texts. RTE values and embraces the "Perennial Tradition"...sacred texts and wisdom traditions from around the world. We hold that the Bible is...

     

     written by people of faith, TO people of faith, ABOUT people of faith, and humankind's ongoing, always-evolving attempt to tell their stories and the search for meaning and their perceptions of the Sacred.

     

     ALWAYS filtered through human experience....which has over time created many differing images of "God"...some helpful, some hurtful, and some downright hateful

     

     An historical window through which we observe and process humankind's ongoing dance with the Divine

     

     Intended, like all sacred texts, to reveal TRUTH, and not necessarily what is historically "true"--because what is 'true" is relative and culturally-dependent

     

     Can be and often is used as a hammer rather than a plow... a weapon rather than a balm or guiding wisdom...a bludgeon rather than an invitation

     

     NOT an idol to be worshipped, does not possess supernatural powers, and is not infallible

     

     A collection of ancient writing that should be treated as a means to deeper spiritual discovery, NOT as an end in and of itself

     

     TOO important to be read literally

     

     An evolving "incarnation" of humankind's experience of the supernatural--from an archaic, tribal, ego-projection to the GOD of incarnate love shown in JESUS;

     

     NOT a cage which holds our anthropomorphic, static notions of a supreme deity--but an unfolding vision of a God Who is still speaking, creating, and evolving with Creation itself

     

     

    (HOLY) SPIRIT

    George Lucas was on to something--the "Force" is indeed always with us! The Holy Spirit is...

     

     a FLOW...a DANCE...a relationship in motion, never static, always creating, manifesting Divine Love every moment from the smallest quark to the largest galactic supercluster

     

     The "conduit" between the physical and the spiritual realms of existence--the Reality that ties them together so that there is really NO separation

     

     The helix of our spiritual DNA--the Pattern Maker and Process Keeper...the Presence embracing our Life, our Deaths (the little ones and the Big One), and our Rebirth; the Divine Alchemist of Being

     

     Known to us through prayer, contemplation and contemplative seeing, through mediation, through our BREATHING, through Love in all its forms...through empathy, compassion, justice, joy, and peace

     

     God's creative imagination at work in the Eternal Now

     

     Co-creating with us, in us, and through us

     

     The breath of God which creates beauty out of nothingness, meaning out of chaos, hope out of despair, and gives Life to stardust

     

     

     

     

     

  • WHAT IF...?

    Have you ever sensed that, somehow, there was MORE to your life (especially your INNER life) than you've discovered so far? Has something felt "missing?" If you're a church-goer, has that experience sometimes (or often!) left you less than inspired...and asking more questions than you were finding answers? Do you ever think about "giving up" on church or institutional religions altogether? Have you ever felt abused, judged, and/or beaten up by institutional religion...or felt "spiritually abused" by toxic rhetoric, dogma, religious practices, or fear-based, demeaning theology? YOU ARE NOT ALONE...

    broken image

     

    WHAT IF…

    You woke up one morning and knew Jesus didn’t die for your sins or to save you from hell?

    You discovered you’ve never been separated from God and never can be?

    Much of what you’ve learned in church all your life—about God, about Jesus, and about yourself—is at best incomplete, and at worse a distorted narrative?

    There is no heaven or hell, that heaven is not a place where God lives or keeps our loved ones safely tucked away?

    There is no such thing as “original sin”?

    You discovered that there is no such thing as evil…even though its effects are so evident and despite the overwhelming “reality” of it?

    After you die you don’t “go to heaven”?

    You realized there are two different stories of creation in the book of Genesis, separated by 500 years in their writing…and that only one of them tells the Truth as it has been historically interpreted by the Church?...

    …And that the other creation story is actually a deceptive narrative which distorts our perceptions of God, ourselves, and other in ways that can and have produced horrors beyond imagining?

    You are not the only one who’s ever felt or sensed all of the above… but have been afraid to ask or talk about it? Not the only one who’s been taught that your questions and yearnings are somehow bad?

    Our collective soul will no longer allow us to live in a nightmare of fear and illusion?

    Is all this sound too good to be true, to “pie in the sky” to be real? Well what if the pie in the sky is not some dessert we get when we leave this life, but is the main course of our existence? What if we are invited to eat dessert first?

    What if you never had to worry about or live in fear of death again, or worry about what comes next?

    What if you realize when you wake up every day that God loves you like you’re the only person in the universe…and always has?

    What if you never had to live in fear of punishment, abandonment, judgment, or rejection? Ever?

    What if all the things you been taught to hope for are all too small, and that you are not powerless or insignificant?

    What if your life is never ever without meaning or purpose...is in fact is meant to be drenched with it and in it?

    Do these questions simultaneously make your heart soar, while also making your mind and the root of all your cherished beliefs scream out “NO, this CAN’T be!!?

    Are you tired of living a living nightmare?

    WHAT IF God is not a mean, judgmental, vindictive, capricious, violent, impatient tyrant waiting to strike you with lightning bolts?

     

    MAYBE IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO RETURN TO EDEN!