Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy

Now Available in paperback!

In this profound work, bestselling author and the former Episcopal Bishop of Newark John Shelby Spong offers a radical new way to look at the gospels today. Pulling back the layers of misunderstanding created over the centuries by Gentile ignorance of things Jewish, he reveals how a literal reading of the Bible is so far removed from the original intent of the Jewish authors of the gospels that it has become an act of heresy.

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“Forward to the Basics”

Forget going “back to the basics.” Time never goes backward. Instead, let’s go “forward to the basics.”

Specifically, let’s spend the next few weeks grounding ourselves in the basic “best practices” that, if implemented, will help your congregation to become healthy, to grow in mission, ministry and membership, and to do God’s desired work of transforming lives.

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Atheist Minister Fights to Keep Her Place in the United Church

Since its foundation, nearly a century ago, the United Church of Canada has famously been a broad-minded Christian denomination. Its goal at the outset was to unite the many strands of liberal Protestant practice under the same roof. And through the years it’s been widely seen as an open-minded and pluralistic institution. But now, one United Church minister in Ontario, is forcing the church to re-examine the limits of that approach…

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3 Glimpses of Grace

A stronger progressive voice is emerging. It is starting to push back against the determined and thus far successful efforts of right-wing Christians to claim the “Christian franchise.” Our nation needs a full array of voices speaking what they perceive to be God’s truth.

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Time for a “Christmas Truce”

I want to declare a “Christmas truce” in the growing chorus of worry about churches, complaining about churches, wishing that churches could get with modernity, and all the lamenting and fussing and blaming and bickering.

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Charting the New Reformation: The Twelve Theses

Can a living, vital and real faith that is true to the experience of the past, while dismissing the explanations of the past, be born anew in this generation? I believe it can and so to engage this task I issue this call to the Christian world to transform its holy words of yesterday into believable words of today. If we fail in this task there is little reason to think that Christianity, as presently understood and constituted, will survive this century.

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Two Statistics Demand Response

Statistics often create as much fog and distortion as clarity and accuracy. But sometimes salient stats leap off the page.

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Confessions, Revised and Updated: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography Confessions reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in the Catholic church.

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Decline and Dysfunction in the American Church

Decline and Dysfunction in the American Church, addresses the unprecedented and devastating decrease in membership, financial resources, respect and ministry suffered by congregations and judicatories throughout the nation and offers an explanation that has not yet been considered.

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Lose the Treasurer’s Report

We should train people to be good stewards. Train them in the Biblical tithe, for example. Train them to give without expecting to control spending. Train them to give to God, in gratitude for God’s blessings, not to the budget.

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Let the People Sing

The sound track of faith always matters, but never more so than during the period between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. This month expresses through music much of what we hold to be true.

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Stewardship Season: Time to Escape Three Traps

It’s that time of year. Caution and survival-thinking square off with boldness and progress-thinking.

The time, of course, is money time. Stewardship campaigns are in full swing. At the very time when Bible readings, sermons and liturgies compel us to anticipate God’s new things and God’s dramatic entry into human history, we tally up the pledges and double-down on old things and “realistic assessments” of what is possible.

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7 Steps in Being Custodian of a Narrative

There is, however, one more custodial duty that church leaders must take seriously – more seriously, in my opinion, than many do. That is custodianship of the congregation’s narrative. By narrative I mean the story by which the congregation is known, the values intrinsic to that story, and ways this story either attracts or repels other people.

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Drawing the Right Conclusion from Pew Report

Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center issued its 2014 study of the religious landscape. Headlines blared: “Americans reject religion.” Hand-wringing ensued.

The report itself was far more nuanced than that. It said Americans are turning away from religious practices grounded in family heritage or group affiliation. But overall, especially as they pursue faith as individuals, people are more spiritually active than ever. They pray, read Scripture, participate in small faith communities, and look for ways to serve.

What “smells,” as it were, is a steep drop in those who describe themselves as “religiously affiliated,” to 77% in 2014 from 83% in 2007. Also down is belief in God with “absolute certainty.”

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Getting beyond “Nones” and “Dones”

The labels “Nones” and “Dones” miss the point. People who aren’t in churches on Sunday aren’t saying No to God, No to Faith, or even No to Church.

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Being Church for the Millennials

Asking the question about how to be “church” to the Millennials, however, presents somewhat of a conundrum. How is one “church” to those who are not religious? After twenty years of working with and ministering to the needs of this audience, I believe there is a solution. I have learned that in order to support the spiritual needs of the Millennials, benefit from their inherent gifts, and prevent the ultimate demise of the Church’s mission, we need to think outside the box of traditional religiosity. Instead of expecting them to seek us out, we are invited to meet them where they are at.

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5 Lessons on Promoting Healthy Churches

Any human enterprise can succeed or fail. Silicon Valley startups, marriages, mall stores, schools, and churches — there are no guarantees, no reliable formulas, no ideal preparation.

The recipe for failure tends to be predictable. Conditions change, but for reasons ranging from sloth to distraction to inadequate resources, leaders don’t change with them. Early success teaches the wrong lessons. Leaders dread failure more than they want to learn from it. Worthy ideas implode from lack of support, while bad ideas develop loyal followings.

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The View from Job’s Dung-heap: Peering Beyond the Heavens Toward a Theory of Everything?

Ruminating over this Sunday’s prescribed reading from Job 38, my mind harkens back to 2012, when I had the privilege of attending a series of lectures given by the great Phyllis Tickle who described the current reformation that the church is experiencing as part of a cultural phenomenon that happens about every 500 years, which she calls “The Great Emergence”. When asked what skills religious leaders will need to navigate the information age, Tickle insisted that the best advice we could give to anyone considering a religious vocation was that they should study physics.

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