Bishop Craig Bergland was born and raised in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. He attended Marquette University and completed Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Biblical Theology and Psychology at Wisconsin Lutheran College. He did graduate work in Religious Studies at Cardinal Stritch University and earned a Master of Divinity Degree and Doctor of Divinity from the Anglican Divinity School.
Craig was ordained in 1999 at Community of the Living Spirit, an ecumenical faith community in suburban Milwaukee. In 2004 he was elected Presiding Bishop of the Universal Anglican Church. Having a passion for the full inclusion of all people in the life of the Church, Craig has been active in The Bishops and Elders Council, HRC’s Clergy Call for Justice, and has been a leader in religious outreach at Milwaukee’s Pridefest celebration. Craig has written Rite III, an inclusive language worship book that includes an inclusive language version of the Psalter.
In addition to his ongoing role as Presiding Bishop of the Universal Anglican Church, Bishop Bergland’s current project is Christ Enlight, a system of spirituality that recognizes Jesus as primarily a wisdom and enlightenment teacher and Christ Consciousness as enlightenment – something not unique to the one we know as Jesus, but in fact a quality of all the great Masters from all Traditions and available to everyone who chooses to pursue it. Christ Enlight seeks to journey with all people from all spiritual backgrounds and perspectives, and affirms all people as bearing the very DNA of God, from whom they can never be separated. Christ Enlight Gatherings are spiritual gatherings of those seeking spiritual tools to transform themselves, their communities, and the world. His first book, A Journey Toward Awakening, is scheduled to be published in 2012.
Craig lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife Erin; their adult children Peter, Tori, and Brandie; and their grandchildren Natalia and Greyson.
The Rise of the “Spiritual Era”
We live in a time of growing interest in spirituality. At the same time, we see a dramatic decline in attendance at and involvement with institutional religion. The evidence of this lies in the truth that less than twenty percent of the population attends religious services while at the same time more than ninety-five percent of people profess some sort of belief in divinity or transcendence. That represents a truly dramatic gap, and Craig believes that it represents the truth that we live in historic times. On the one hand, we are in the early stages of what he calls a re-formation of Christianity, while on the other hand a great number of people have walked away, with good reason, from institutional religion and are not likely to return.
As spiritual teachers, Craig and his colleagues offer an alternative path. Rather than perpetuating a situation wherein spiritual travelers are faced with a very dualistic response of either remaining within institutional religion or abandoning everything about it, Craig believes that a pluralistic approach best serves all people on the spiritual journey and so has developed the Christ Enlight program of spirituality with his friend and colleague Susan Gaines of Austin, Texas. Craig’s teachings transcend the Christ Enlight program, however.
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly pluralistic, and Craig and his colleagues celebrate that truth! Pluralism can be best understood as moving from an either-or perspective and allowing for a both-and perspective. We acknowledge that there are some very good and valuable things to be found in our “received faith,” or the tradition in which we grew up – and even if we didn’t grow up in any formal religious context we did acquire spiritual insights while growing up. We learned to share, how to work and play with others, how to build and nurture a friendship, and similar things. These may not have been explicitly religious teachings, but they certainly were spiritual teachings!
With the advent of the Internet, the developed world has the opportunity to learn about many different spiritual traditions with the click of a mouse. Prior to the Internet, we would have had to spend countless hours of research in libraries to even begin to skim the surface of world religions and spiritualities. Today we can research an overview of comparative world religions in an afternoon and never leave the comfort of our homes. In fact, we can accumulate so much information that it can become difficult to sort it all out! From within the traditions themselves we often hear clergy and other teachers saying that the great world religions are not compatible one with another. Craig couldn’t disagree more, and sees such statements as very understandable attempts by institutional religion to hold onto its members. The truth is that every religious or spiritual system has practices and beliefs that can be adopted by those of us with a pluralistic both-and perspective with great benefit and growth.
Craig experienced this for himself when, as part of preparation for ordained ministry in the Christian tradition, he struggled in trying to develop a Christian contemplative prayer practice. It was only when he was exposed to Buddhist meditation and its practice of using the breath as a focal point that the door to Contemplative prayer was opened to him. This is but one way in which developing an Inter-spiritual Practice (a practice incorporating the insights from more than one tradition) can be very beneficial.
Honesty and humility compel us to admit that, despite all claims to the contrary, none of us has all of the answers on the spiritual journey. At least part of the reason for this is that for each of us the answers are different. What provides insight for one person may not help another in any way. The job of a responsible spiritual teacher is to journey with you and assist you in finding your answers, your path, your truth.