Friday, June 10, 2005

Lutherans Concerned Promotes Bishop Spong

A Lutherans Concerned Bay Area newsletter from last year makes for interesting reading, especially for us Fundamentalists. There we see our fears affirmed. Besides the opening that trumpets the growing number of RIC congregations and synods, gay pastors who do youth ministry, and more, we see a promotion of the ,Bishop John Shelby Spong. Now Spong, if there is anyone who is unaware, has denied almost every article of the faith, and ran his diocese into the ground so badly that they bought him out. I guess this answers the question, "Who buys all those books he keeps churning out?"

"Bishop John Shelby Spong, "speaks out on “cultural trendiness” vs. “Doctrinal Clarity”

"As one writer put it, every now and then someone “shines a refreshing light in the dark places.” Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong put the spotlight on fellow Episcopalian and Washington Post columnist George Will in his open letter response to Will’s criticism of the Episcopal church’s confirmation of the Rt. Rev. Eugene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. Bishop Robinson is a non-celebrate [sic] gay priest."

In his Post column “Nuclear fallout in the Anglican Communion”
(10/14/03), Will complained, among other things, that:

Episcopalians, the American adherents of Anglicanism, were once a formid-able cultural force–—the American establishment at prayer. But after years of pursuing communicants with political and cultural trendiness rather than doctrinal clarity, Episcopalianism is a small and dwindling faction of American Christianity . . .

Excerpts from Spong’s response follow (the full text is available widely on the Internet):

January 2004

Dear George:
You have a huge platform through television, Newsweek and the Washington Post to be a major influence in shaping public opinion . . . . I am, however, absolutely amazed at the profoundly uninformed positions you have recently offered the public on the questions that are currently the content of ecclesiastical debate in our churches. You seem to have no understanding of what it means to seek to bind together an ancient faith with the insights of our contemporary world . . . .

Yet you, George, in your Washington Post column, have characterized this debate as one that pits the "cultural trendiness" of the Northern Hemisphere nations against the "doctrinal clarity" of the Southern Hemisphere nations. I regard that analysis as breathtakingly naive and suggest that it is revelatory of nothing more than your own deep and abiding prejudice. For you to speak publicly about this issue, when you are as poorly informed as your words reveal you to be, calls either your competence or your integrity, perhaps both, into question . . . .

You pose the issues of this debate as between modernism in religion and the true faith of antiquity. You suggest that two thousand years of Church teaching about sexuality and family are being imaginatively construed in "a certain interpretive trajectory." You quote approvingly a Fairfax, Virginia, Episcopal priest who, referring to the debate at the National Episcopal General Convention last summer, said, "When the plain teaching of the Bible was referenced, eyes rolled, and with expressions of polite exasperation, we were told that it was time to move on. The Bible simply had not kept up." You appear to be saying that those who quote the Bible, as if it provides the last word on moral issues, are to be commended.

Well, George, perhaps you need to understand why it is that people who quote the Bible to undergird their own inability to embrace reality might need to be enlightened.
The Bible was quoted to support the divine right of kings when the Magna Carta made its appearance in 1215. History has demonstrated that the Bible was wrong on that issue and today no king rules on this planet by divine right. People have embraced democracy. You might think that represents "cultural trendiness," but I believe it represents an emerging consciousness that the writers of the Bible, bound to their time in history, could never have contemplated.

In the 17th century the church, acting out of what you call "doctrinal clarity," imprisoned Galileo and almost executed him because his study of the motion of "heavenly bodies" led him to the conclusion that the Earth was not the center of the universe and that indeed the Earth rotated around the sun. The "fathers of the Church," in their attack on Galileo, quoted a verse from the book of Joshua, in which the sun was made to stand still in the sky to enable Joshua to kill more of his enemies, as sure proof that the sun rotated around the Earth . . . .

We could go on and show how "doctrinal clarity" led the church to participate in, and to justify with biblical quotations, the institution of slavery as well as slavery's two bastard stepchildren, segregation and apartheid. Are you not aware that even the popes in history have been slaveholders? Is our present integrated society, which has opened the door to people like Colin Powell to serve in an office that was previously denied to any African American, just another example of "cultural trendiness"?

Women in this country were certainly treated up until relatively modern times with what you call "doctrinal clarity." The Ten Commandments defined the woman as property that, along with the ox and the ass, was not to be coveted . . . Women did not receive the power of the vote in the United States until 1920 and even that was accomplished against the opposition of the Bible quoters. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1876 that a woman could not practice law in the state of Illinois because "God has designed her for the more domestic role . . . .”

You see, George, the battle over the full acceptance of homosexual people in both church and society is like all of these other movements. It pits an old and dying definition, supported by appeals to Scripture, against an emerging new consciousness . . . . To discriminate against a person on the basis of something the person is must be seen as nothing more than prejudicial ignorance that leads to the willful destruction of another’s humanity. That makes it an overt act of bigotry. To quote the Bible to render bigotry acceptable is neither new nor is it any more convincing in this situation that it has been when used earlier in our history to justify other evils.

For you to suggest further that nations of the Third World, where such things as polygamy, female circumcision and second-class status for women are still widely practiced, ought to be listened to and respected when they speak out of the context of a discredited and dying definition of homosexuality is bizarre . . . .

Our church has done an audacious thing. We will not now tremble at our own audacity. This is, rather, a cause for rejoicing that another in a long list of human prejudices has begun to fall.


John Shelby Spong, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, has authored numerous articles and books throughout his career, including best-sellers Why Christianity Must Change or Die (1991) and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism (1998) and his recent book, A New Christianity for a New World : Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born (2002)."

Check it out yourself?

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