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Theatres of God: Confession of a Heritage Hugging Heretic

Theatres of God: Confession of a Heritage-Hugging Heretic
By James Alexander McPherson

Book review by Lynn Watson
When asked in a survey, “If you could send a “tweet” to Jesus, what would you say?” Jim’s response was: “Hey Man, get the hell back here and fix the doctrine!”

Jim spent many years feeling like a hypocrite, because the words he was being asked to recite or sing grated against his sensibilities.  Doctrines about man’s sinful nature, and God’s requirement of a blameless sacrifice, the virgin birth of Jesus, the literal reading of the Bible, the exclusivity of Christianity’s claim on redemption, and the environment in churches that silenced all questions, caused Jim to leave the church except for funerals and special services like the Christmas Eve service at the Black River Chapel with its oil lanterns and wood stove.

As clergy my bookshelves are peppered with numerous books on church growth and renewal: from Bruce Sanguin to Phyllis Tickle, and even a few by Brian McLaren.  All of them are written by insiders, those in the church business, and that’s what makes Theatres of God: Confession of a Heritage-Hugging Heretic so refreshing and so enlightening: it’s written by a layperson who left the church a number of decades ago, and who has found his way back.

James Alexander McPherson is a retired technology marketing consultant living in Prince Edward County Ontario.  I first met Jim when he attended morning worship at Bloomfield United Church.  His friend, Ken, had suggested that he might want to check out what was going on there.  Their interest had been piqued by a couple of articles that I had written in the “Pastor’s Column” in the local paper.  My conversation with Jim has transformed my ministry, by opening up the possibility that folks are still interested in Christianity, but they are looking for a different doctrine than has traditionally been preached.

This self-published work is a gem, and a book that I will refer to often, as a reminder of what God is calling mainline churches to do.  It reminds me of the possibilities held captive in the pulpits of most mainline churches just begging to be released on this nation.

Jim’s book had its germination in a couple of significant events: his reading of Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion and the demolition of a church in Picton, Ontario one Sunday morning in August of 2010.  These two things caused him to ask the following questions: How did it get this way; is Christianity worth saving, and how can surviving churches help to rebuild church vitality?

Book launch at Bloomfield United Church on Sunday, May 29th at 2p.m.This 80 page book is packed with insight as to why some people have left the Christian church since the 1960s, why they have stayed away, and what they’re looking for in a church today that will bring them back.

Jim also shares his interpretation of The Lord’s Prayer as well as a very thoughtful and personal credo.  He offers insight into the rituals of the morning worship as “theatre,” as well as an insight into the evolutionary nature of doctrine and faith and faith practice.

Any reader of this book, but especially church leaders, will be challenged to have the creative courage to proclaim a gospel that is refreshing and intelligent and relevant, even if it is a little heretical.

Theatres of God is available at Books and Company and on the Internet at  and at for 7.95.   Comments can be sent to

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