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Spong Rallies ‘Believers in Exile’

by staff writer, Oct 23, 2004


Bishop Spong speaks at Shove Chapel to “believers in exile.”

Colorado Springs, Colo. (BP)–Sandwiched between a visit by President Bush three days earlier and a public rally by Senator John Kerry the day after, retired Bishop John Shelby Spong came to southern Colorado to enlist a growing number of people from the “Church alumni” society to make faith a force against unreflective theism and injustice.

Bishop Spong is a leading spokesperson for liberal Christianity in the English speaking world. He served as Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ, for more than twenty years. Now retired, he is known for his naturalistic views on the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus and homosexuality.

On Friday evening Spong spoke for over an hour at Colorado College on why Christianity must move beyond theism, but not beyond God. Claiming that our “religious explanations of a tribal God now fall silent in the face of human morality,” Spong felt experiential testimonies to God’s power are still being created, such as in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. He cited the Bible as using less-limiting language and more immanent metaphors of God, as wind, as love, as rock.

During a 30-minute question and answer period, Spong labeled efforts to ban gay marriage as “political ploys.” He claimed the right of anyone not just to choose, but “to awaken to their own sexuality, whether heterosexual or homosexuality” had already been won. He said it was “only a matter of time before society recognized the problem was not two people living in a life-long commitment, but rather an old conciousness of homophobic fear.” Earlier in the day, while at a college faculty reception, Spong claimed a similar shift had democratically occured among Episcopalians in the U.S, who preferred to live in a non-sexist church, rather than a united church.

Near the close of the evening Spong announced that his Spring 2005 forthcoming book, The Sins of the Scriptures, will address why the Bible has “consistently been misintepreted on the wrong side of every great public issue,” including democracy, science, evolution, slavery or women’s rights.

Spong’s visit to Colorado Springs was underwritten by the Carl George Bjorkman Foundation and hosted by the Colorado College Department of Religion. He was introduced by Dr. David Gardiner, assistant professor of East Asian Religions, who claimed he had discovered an authentic church in Spong’s writings.

Spong is the author of 15 books, including Into the whirlwind: the future of the church (2003), A new Christianity for a new world (2001), Why Christianity must change or die(1999), Rescuing the Bible from fundamentalism (1991) and Living in sin?: a bishop rethinks human sexuality (1988). He writes a weekly column for “believers in exile.”

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