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John Shelby Spong Spong in 2006 Denomination Episcopal Church in the United States of America Senior posting See Episcopal Diocese of Newark Title Bishop of Newark Period in office 1979–2000 Consecration June 12, 1976 Predecessor George E. Rath Successor John P. Croneberger Religious career Priestly ordination 1955 Previous bishoprics none Previous post Bishop Coadjutor of Newark Personal Born June 16, 1931 (1931-06-16) (age 80) Charlotte, North Carolina, United States John Shelby Spong (born June 16, 1931) is a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church. He was formerly the Bishop of Newark (based in Newark, New Jersey). He is a liberal Christian theologian, religion commentator and author. He calls for a fundamental rethinking of Christian belief, away from theism and from traditional doctrines.[1] Contents 1 Background 2 Writings 3 Twelve points for reform 4 Publications 5 References 6 External links 6.1 Criticism Background Spong was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and educated in Charlotte public schools. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1952, and received his Master of Divinity degree in 1955 from the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. That seminary and Saint Paul's College have both conferred on him honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees. He wrote: "[I have] immerse[d] myself in contemporary Biblical scholarship at such places as Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Yale Divinity School, Harvard Divinity School and the storied universities in Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge."[2] Spong served as rector of St. Joseph's Church in Durham, North Carolina from 1955 to 1957; rector of Calvary Parish, Tarboro, North Carolina from 1957 to 1965; rector of St. John's Church in Lynchburg, Virginia from 1965 to 1969; and rector of St. Paul's Church in Richmond, Virginia from 1969 to 1976. He has held visiting positions and given lectures at major American theological institutions, most prominently at Harvard Divinity School. He retired in 2000. Bishop Spong during CrossWalk America, 2006 Recipient of many awards, including 1999 Humanist of the Year,[3] Spong is a contributor to the Living the Questions DVD program and has been a guest on numerous national television broadcasts (including The Today Show, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, Dateline, 60 Minutes, and Larry King Live). Spong's calendar has him lecturing around the world.[4] Spong is the cousin of former Virginia Democratic Senator William B. Spong, Jr. who defeated the incumbent Absalom Willis Robertson, the father of television evangelist Pat Robertson. A play about the life of Spong, called A Pebble In My Shoe, has been written by Colin Cox and produced by Will & Company. Spong has seen the play at least a half dozen times at different places in the United States. Writings Spong's writings rely on Biblical and non-Biblical sources and are influenced by modern critical analysis of these sources (see especially Spong, 1991). He is representative of a stream of thought with roots in the medieval universalism of Peter Abelard and the existentialism of Paul Tillich, whom he has called his favorite theologian.[5] A prominent theme in Spong's writing is that the popular and literal interpretations of Christian scripture are not sustainable and do not speak honestly to the situation of modern Christian communities. He believes in a more nuanced approach to scripture, informed by scholarship and compassion, which can be consistent with both Christian tradition and contemporary understandings of the universe. He believes that theism has lost credibility as a valid conception of God's nature. He states that he is a Christian because he believes that Jesus Christ fully expressed the presence of a God of compassion and selfless love and that this is the meaning of the early Christian proclamation, "Jesus is Lord" (Spong, 1994 and Spong, 1991). Elaborating on this last idea he affirms that Jesus was adopted by God as his predilect son, thus embracing (at least at linguistic level) a form of the ancient adoptionist heresy (Born of a Woman 1992), and yet in an orthodox way he says that this would be the way God was fully incarnated in Jesus Christ..[1] He rejects the historical truth claims of some Christian doctrines, such as the Virgin Birth (Spong, 1992) and the bodily resurrection of Jesus (Spong, 1994). In 2000, Spong was a critic of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church's declaration Dominus Iesus, because it reaffirmed the Catholic doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true Church.[6] Spong's ideas have received strong criticism from some other theologians, notably the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (when Williams was the Bishop of Monmouth), describing his twelve theses as embodying "confusion and misinterpretation".[7] Spong has also been a strong proponent of feminism, gay rights, and racial equality within both the church and society at large.[8] Towards these ends, he calls for a new Reformation, in which many of Christianity's basic doctrines should be reformulated.[1] Twelve points for reform Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt. The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age. There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior. All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination. Publications Anglicanism portal Biography portal North Carolina portal Religion portal 1973 – Honest Prayer 1974 – This Hebrew Lord, ISBN 0-06-067520-9 1975 – Christpower 1975 – Dialogue: In Search of Jewish-Christian Understanding, ISBN 1-878282-16-6 1976 – Life Approaches Death: A Dialogue on Ethics in Medicine 1980 – The Easter Moment, ISBN 1-878282-15-8 1983 – Into the Whirlwind: The Future of the Church, ISBN 1-878282-13-1 1986 – Beyond Moralism: A Contemporary View of the Ten Commandments (co-authored with Denise G. Haines, Archdeacon), ISBN 1-878282-14-X 1987 – Consciousness and Survival: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry into the possibility of Life Beyond Biological Death (edited by John S. Spong, introduction by Claiborne Pell), ISBN 0-943951-00-3 1988 – Living in Sin? A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality, ISBN 0-06-067507-1 1991 – Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture, ISBN 0-06-067518-7 1992 – Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus, ISBN 0-06-067523-3 1994 – Resurrection: Myth or Reality? A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity, ISBN 0-06-067546-2 1996 – Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes, ISBN 0-06-067557-8 1999 – Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile, ISBN 0-06-067536-5 2001 – Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love and Equality, ISBN 0-06-067539-X 2002 – A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born, ISBN 0-06-067063-0 2005 – The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love, ISBN 0-06-076205-5 2007 – Jesus for the Non-Religious, ISBN 0-06-076207-1 2009 – Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell, ISBN 0-06-076206-3 (forthcoming) 2011 - Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, ISBN 978-0062011282 References Career dates retrieved from Bishop of Newark official website and Spong's official biography on August 30, 2006. ^ a b c Interview. ABC Radio Australia, June 17, 2001 ^ John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, HarperCollins 2005, page xi ^ "The Humanist Foundation". Churchofhumanism.org. http://churchofhumanism.org/en/content/section/8/30/. Retrieved 2011-05-23.  ^ [1][dead link] ^ "Challenging the 'Sins of Scipture'". Interview with Bill O'Reilly. April 14, 2005. ^ Shelby, John (2010-11-05). "Dominus Iesus: The Voice of Rigor Mortis". Beliefnet.com. http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2000/11/Dominus-Iesus-The-Voice-Of-Rigor-Mortis.aspx. Retrieved 2011-05-23.  ^ Williams, Rowan (1998-07-17). "No life, here - no joy, terror or tears". Church Times (Anglican Ecumenical Society). http://anglicanecumenicalsociety.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/bishop-spong-and-archbishop-williamss-response/.  ^ Liberal Bible-Thumping The New York Times, May 15, 2005 External links This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. Please improve this article by removing excessive and inappropriate external links. (October 2010) Spong's official website Antonella Gambotto-Burke on John Shelby Spong ABC Radio audio interview with Spong "A Call for a New Reformation" by John S. Spong Compass interview with Bishop John Shelby Spong Minnesota Public Radio interview with Bishop Spong Scott Stephens' interview with John Shelby Spong: "I am very orthodox after all!" The Call of Jesus, an excerpt from John Shelby Spong's lecture "Jesus for the Non-Religious" Beyond Theism, an excerpt from John Shelby Spong's lecture "Jesus for the Non-Religious" Criticism Critical review of Jesus for the Non-Religious Jesus for the Non-Religious (review) - Sydney Anglicans website ‘Jesus For The Non-Religious’ Described As Gutting The Christian Faith What’s Wrong With Bishop Spong? Laymen Rethink the Scholarship of John Shelby Spong Review of Bishop Spong’s Jesus for the Non Religious:An Historical Approach by John Dickson (author) Persondata Name Spong, John Shelby Alternative names Short description Date of birth June 16, 1931 Place of birth Charlotte, North Carolina, United States Date of death Place of death