Bishop Spong Newsletter
In January 2011, ProgressiveChristianity.org took over the management and publishing of the Bishop Spong Newsletter- A New Christianity for a New World. Each week, Bishop Spong sends out a new essay as well as an answer to reader’s questions.
We are proud to be able to present this vibrant Progressive Christian voice to the world and partner with such a remarkable person. Bishop Spong has been an inspiration for hundreds of thousands of people evolving in their faith and we are honored to be working with him.
Who is Bishop John Shelby Spong?
John Shelby Spong, whose books have sold more than a million copies, was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years before his retirement in 2001. His admirers acclaim him as a teaching bishop who makes contemporary theology accessible to the ordinary layperson — he’s considered the champion of an inclusive faith by many, both inside and outside the Christian church. In one of his recent books,The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Discover the God of Love (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2005), this visionary thinker seeks to introduce readers to a proper way to engage the holy book of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
A committed Christian who has spent a lifetime studying the Bible and whose life has been deeply shaped by it, Bishop Spong says he was not interested in Bible bashing. “I come to this interpretive task not as an enemy of Christianity,” he says. “I am not even a disillusioned former Christian, as some of my scholar-friends identify themselves. I am a believer who knows and loves the Bible deeply. But I also recognize that parts of it have been used to undergird prejudices and to mask violence.”
A visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches worldwide, Bishop Spong delivers more than 200 public lectures each year to standing-room-only crowds. His bestselling books include Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, A New Christianity for a New World, Why Christianity Must Change or Die,and Here I Stand.
Bishop Spong’s extensive media appearances include a profile segment on 60 Minutes as well as appearances on Good Morning America, Fox News Live, Politically Incorrect, Larry King Live, The O’Reilly Factor, William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, and Extra.Bishop Spong and his wife, Christine Mary Spong, have five children and six grandchildren. They live in New Jersey.
An Authoritative Voice for Believers in Exile
For those seeking to experience Christianity in a new and vibrant way, Bishop John Shelby Spong offers fresh spiritual ideas. Over the past four decades, he has become one of the definitive voices for progressive Christianity. As a member of Bishop Spong’s online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives, access to Message Boards which will connect you with other believers in exile, and answers to your questions from Bishop Spong himself!
The Latest Essays:
Last week we traced the origins of the Jewish festival known as “Dedication,” but in our day popularly called “Hanukkah.”. It celebrated the moment when a guerilla army of Jewish people, led by man named Judas Maccabeus, dealt a series of hammer-like blows to the army of the Syrians led by their king, Antiochus Epiphanes …
23 October 2014: Part XXXII Matthew – Dedication and Transfiguration, Part I
Matthew, having provided Jesus stories for the Sabbaths between Sukkoth and the final major Jewish festival of the liturgical year, is now ready to relate Jesus to this last celebration. So we turn in our analysis of this gospel to the midwinter festival called Dedication. The Jewish word for dedication is “Hanukkah,” so this celebration …
I have read two of your books, Why Christianity must Change or Die and The Sins of Scripture and have started Eternal Life, A New Vision. I have gone to church all my life (Methodist and now Lutheran) and never had any doubts about what the church teaches until about the past ten years (I am 81). I have been afraid I was becoming a heretic until I read your books and found out a bishop also had my concerns. I could not understand how a loving God who has helped me so much all my life would say that people could not be forgiven unless Jesus suffered such a horrible death upon the cross. God never asked for a human sacrifice before. I have come to believe if Paul had not taken the Christian movement to Rome so fast- if it had stayed in Palestine longer – it would have grown much differently and not absorbed so much of Roman paganism. I said that to a rabbi one time and he said, “Well, you said it, not me.” When I read the Bible, it doesn’t sound to me like Jesus considered himself the same as God. He often prayed to God-always trying to show us what God is like and how to love and serve him. He even corrected the one who called him “Good teacher” and said, “Why do you call me good?”
My problem now is where can I go to church? I love my God and I want to worship God, but I can’t honestly say the creeds any more and some parts of the liturgy bother me. I recently moved and have been attending a church I like and I like the Pastor. I need to transfer my membership, but I know I will be asked to recite the creed to join and I can’t be a hypocrite and do that. I just say the first article in the service and some of the rest and hope no one notices. I am sure there are many with my problem, but there is nowhere for us to go unless one wants to join a house church group. I was told at a retreat I attended one time that there are several of those forming in the area. The church seems always to be talking about why church attendance is dropping and what methods or new tricks they can use to get people back, but they never seem to discuss how the church itself needs to rethink some of what it teaches. I hope your books and lectures will change that but I am afraid not in my lifetime. I am grateful for the work you are doing.
16 October 2014: The Emerging Church in Northern Michigan
Marquette, Michigan, sits on Lake Superior about 300 miles south and slightly east of Thunder Bay, Canada. While we were there, Christine and I were made honorary “Yoopers,” a name derived from the initials UP for Upper Peninsula. It is a remote part of Michigan since its land mass stretches over both Michigan and the …
In the early 70s my husband and I attended a Unity School of Christianity at the Unity Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. They seemed to be saying that the scriptures were to be interpreted metaphysically. Would you agree with that? If so, just what does that mean? I am a former Catholic nun and my husband a former Catholic priest. I find your writings clearly express what I can believe about the Jesus of history. For seven years now I have been an active member of the ELCA Church.
In this episode Jesus asks: “Can one read the signs correctly? Does a clear sunset today anticipate fair weather tomorrow? Do dark clouds announce the presence of a storm? Do you not yet understand about the loaves?” When will his disciples accurately perceive who he is? Those are the questions articulated as Matthew draws his …
My question to you is: Do you personally think that the universal church will ever get its act together in order and come into the 21st century? You have spent your entire life trying to budge the Episcopal Church. If the Roman Catholic Church is any example, with its recognition of Galileo only in 1991, I am skeptical. Where is the hope?
In Mark’s gospel she was a Syro-Phoenician woman. Matthew has changed her into being a Canaanite woman. That shift is significant because the term “Canaanite” carried so much more emotional baggage than did the term Syro-Phoenician. Canaanites first come into the Jewish story during the time of Joshua, Moses’ immediate successor. He was the military …
Though Mary Magdalene followed him around, I find no mention in the Bible that Jesus was married. Men of his age usually were. Further, he surrounded himself with a group of men; one of them particularly appeared to be his favorite. It is recorded that Jesus said repeatedly, “Do you love me?” Is it possible that Jesus was a homosexual? What do you think?
Also what about the apostle Paul?
25 September 2014: Part XXIX Matthew: Did Jesus Really Walk on Water? Of Course Not!
Sandwiched between Matthew’s two stories of Jesus feeding the multitude is another popular tale in the gospels. It is the account of Jesus walking on the water. Interestingly enough, in each of the four gospels this walking on the water story is coupled with the feeding of the multitudes. All of the gospel writers will …
In November I will be 76 years old. I grew up in one of the historic Peace churches – the Church of the Brethren, which I attended from childhood through my adult years. The congregations I attended were conservative, but not of the “Literalist” bent. Even during my college years and beyond I was unable to understand the gospels. None of my considerable studies proved to be of significant help. Not until I accidentally found your book: Why Christianity Must Change or Die? did I find a ray of light and an individual who wrote in a fashion that I could understand. Since then, I have purchased almost everything you have written and I subscribe to your weekly e-messages. You have helped me immeasurably to make sense of what has been a mystery to me for a long time. Thank you.
In your article “Christ and the Body of Christ” in the 2000 issue of “The Once and Future Jesus,” you write “God is real for me, a mythical, indefinable presence which I can experience but never explain.” Further in THE FUTURE OF THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION (“Beyond Theism but not Beyond God”) you identify God with the real and present “life force” in the universe (love). My very good friend, a former fundamentalist Christian turned atheist, claims that because you do not define God as a deity or Supreme Being, you are in fact an atheist (according to the dictionary definition) even though you said you could accept the label Christian Humanist. Could you explain to me and to my atheist friend how you can maintain your status as a Christian while at the same time meet the “dictionary definition” of an atheist?
Now in Paperback!